Adult Children of Divorce, Advocacy, Anger, Blended Families, Child Abuse, Children of Divorce, children's rights, Conflict Resolution, Divorce, Divorce Poison, Dr. Amy Baker, Dr. Gardner, Family Law Reform, father's rights, Grief, Growth, Healing, Losing a Child, NJ, Parental Alienation, Parental Alienation Support and Advocacy NJ, Parental Alienation Syndrome
Shame, Shame, Shame! Why do we experience it? Why do the Target families of Parental Alienation experience most of the same emotions that victims of Domestic Violence experience? Isolation, Control, Dependency, Responsibility, Guilt, Shame, Despair, Helplessness, Hopelessness, Depression, Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Is this article about Parental Alienation or about severe Domestic Violence? Both!
As I continuously examine myself in a new light, I realize that although I was never physically abused as a child, or in my marriage (although, I did have one past relationship that I experienced much physical abuse for a period of about four years) I have experienced all of the above feelings that surround my relationship with 1) Mom 2) Dad 3)Step-daughter 4) Husband’s Ex-Wife and 5) Husband. Why?
This question came to me last night when I decided to post a link to this blog on my personal Facebook page. Up until then, I kept these two separate. Why? Well, I have exposed my life in this blog; my emotions, my perspective on my close relationships, my deepest thoughts. I’ve called out my own family in order to expose the realities of the effects of Parental Alienation. Although I did eventually post the link to this blog on my Facebook account, I “kept it private” from my mom, my sisters, and anyone who might forward the link to my mom. Not that I haven’t told my mother about writing this blog and advocating for Parental Alienation awareness; she well knows! However, I don’t want her to feel bad. I don’t want to end up with that guilty, yucky, not-right feeling that I did something wrong. My Mother kept me away from my Father for ELEVEN years and I don’t want her feeling bad about it. SERIOUSLY??!! I feel apprehensive about the guilt I would bring on myself in the event that I EMBARRASSED my mom with the reality of the situation. WOW!!! I’ve worked on this for years in therapy, but came to the conclusion that my mom is my mom, and I need her in my life, if only by phone (we have a great long distance phone relationship and it works for us). I am the VICTIM. Yet I still want protect my mom, AND I am fully aware of it. THAT IS THE REALITY, FOLKS.
I’m in my third decade of life, with beautiful children of my own and I worry about my mom’s approval and her feelings! (Not all the time, but specifically when it comes to Parental Alienation.) JUST THINK…if you have a child who is being turned against you, if YOU are the Target Parent, your child may have these same feelings (they may just be unaware of them still)! They may have no other choice but to ignore you, treat you horrible, or, if you are lucky, have a secret relationship with you; that is their PROTECTIVE shield. Despite the fact that my mother severed my relationship with my father, I’ve never once directly held her accountable, never directly questioned her motives , and never discussed with her how much pain it caused me to not have my father in my life for so many years! In therapy I’ve worked on myself; how to allow myself to feel sadness for what I experienced as a child, and how to work with those feelings so they don’t overwhelm me and cause distress in other parts of my life. I’ve worked on how to maintain a healthy relationship with my mother; one with boundaries and consequences for her current actions. I will not address her past actions because I know exactly where that will get me; NO WHERE. I understand that she is not emotionally intelligent enough to be empathetic or sympathetic for the sadness and loss that I experienced as a child; the discussion would inevitably turn around and focus on her; “Everyone thinks I’m a bad mother! I don’t need this guilt trip!”. So, I protect her….still.
My step-daughter has succumbed to the effects of parental alienation. She has cut off my husband’s entire family. They are all left behind, experiencing sadness, frustration, guilt, confusion, shame… “People will think we are bad parents/grandparents if we tell them what is going on” Gone are the days that relentlessly appeasing my husband’s ex-wife helped us to hold on to the relationship with my step-daughter, because once we all (myself, my husband, his parents, etc.) got on the same page and decided to set boundaries and enforce those boundaries my husband’s former wife completely severed our ties with my precious step-daughter, my husband’s princess, my in-laws’ beloved granddaughter.
We are left with feeling guilty “maybe we should not have set such boundaries”. We were accused of “forcing dear daughter to talk about her feelings”, which in turn “gave her issues when she had none and thus forced her in to therapy”. This, despite the fact that my husband requested for ONE YEAR that his daughter get help from a therapist because of his daughter’s apparent mounting depression and odd behaviors. His ex-wife stated that it wasn’t “a good time” for her (the ex-wife), and that dear daughter “would think she has issues”. Because my husband and I acknowledged my stepdaughter’s sadness and were curious as to what was making her depressed, we tried talking to her, like any caring parents would do, but we were made out to be the villains by her mom. By taking a proactive and empathetic approach with my stepdaughter’s feelings it consequently frightened my husband’s former wife, and that and put her on the defense. I truly believe that my husband’s ex was afraid that her daughter would begin to think critically and she would lose the hold that was in place for so many years. If we encouraged my dear step-daughter to be truthful with her feelings in a safe environment, my husband’s ex would put the fear in her that we “were trying to take her away from her mom”.
In the end, my husband’s ex-wife found a sympathetic therapist who believes “they are the victims”. Last year, when my husband and his daughter were in therapy, the therapist agreed with my husband about setting boundaries and reiterated this to his daughter (that is exact action that caused the final breakdown of my husband’s and his daughter’s relationship). So, we are left knowing we did everything we could, yet still punished because “it was wrong”. We are left knowing that my husband’s ex-wife is abusive and controlling, yet we’ve always known that, but we are left feeling responsible for “making her take extreme actions against us”. We go to therapy, but still have a feeling every now and then that creeps up on us and says “If only we did this…”, or “If only we tried that…” Why? Because we are victims of Emotional Abuse. The Targeted Family. The Child. Victims. Victims of Emotional Abuse.
How do I know Parental Alienation is Emotional Abuse? Because of what I learned from in the four years that I was physically abused in a bad relationship before I met my husband. Physical Abuse and Emotional Abuse leave me with that same feeling; that I was the one who did something wrong (even though I know that is not the case). My husband struggles back and forth and questions himself “Was it me? Could I have saved my relationship with my daughter if only I followed their rules?”
Oh, the complexities of what has transpired over the years to lead us where we are today, where I am today. I am only one human on a life journey, learning about myself and others, with a passion to help others. If one can not use their negative experiences to create positive experiences, then what good is a bad experience? I’ve stated this numerous times; I am NOT a professional psychologist, therapist,etc. But, I WILL be….just give me a few years. I am, however, an activist by nature and I can not keep quiet when I witness atrocities. So, I do what I can with what I know.