Excitedly I told family and friends. People certainly laughed at my reaction.
I guess it would have been politically correct to ‘grief’, but they know the hell I’ve been through and the relief I feel. I’m extremely lucky and thankful for all the support I have from family and friends! Without them, I would not have been where I am now.
Making the rounds in telling people, I called 1 of my friends, who started the divorce proceedings about a year ago. She had filed for divorce as she suspected her husband was sexually abusing 2 of their children. I was shocked, didn’t see that coming at all. In my first conversation with her, I warned her, she should get real solid evidence. If she could not really proof it, this would work against her in the divorce proceedings and she would lose custody. I had just witnessed how an acquaintance who had rock solid proof, including a confession of the perp, had an incredibly hard time protecting the kids. A very disturbing situation to say the least and absolute hell for her and the boys (I’m still FUMING when it comes to this situation!).
As my friend updated me on her situation since we had not spoken for quite some time, it became clear, even to me, that there never had been sexual abuse. A lot of parents would end up in prison if her allegations would be called sexual abuse. Fathers would not be able to wipe a daughters bootie when potty training (I guess a diaper rash is preferred over proper hygiene), a mother can not take a son into a public ladies room (I guess leaving him outside without supervision is preferred). Yes, it was that absurd.
As our conversation progressed, it is became more and more clear this is a situation of parental alienation and my heart sank. To paraphrase Orwell, “All Alienators are Equal, some Alienators are more Equal then other Alienators”.
There are 3 types of ‘Alienators’. All parental alienating is bad, but some is just devastating. Parental Alienation affects all relationships; between the child and the target parent, between the child and the alienator and most importantly the relationship the child has with him/herself; the self-esteem.
The Naive Alienator
“Naïve alienators are parents who are passive about the children’s relationship with the other parent but will occasionally do or say something that can alienate. All parents will occasionally be naïve alienators.” – Douglas Darnell
Admit it! You have said things about the other parent you should not have said on an occasion, especially in the beginning of the divorce proceedings. When the heat is on……. I have, I admit, and I have apologized to the kids. It came out of my mouth and the kids were within hearing distance. I should have kept it to myself. I immediately apologized to the children. It was wrong and I’m not proud of it. Since then I have been very conscious of my words and actions, as it is very harmful to the kids, who are innocent in all of this.
The ‘good’ thing is, naive alienators are ignorant of what they are doing and are willing to be educated and to change. Once made aware of their actions, they regret and make a concise effort not to do so again. These parents can separate their needs from the needs of the children and care enough to make things right. To naive alienators the relationship between the child and the other parent is not a threat, but they welcome it. For the benefit of the child.
The Active Alienator
“Active alienators know better than to alienate, but their intense hurt or anger causes them to impulsively lose control over their behavior or what they say. Later, they may feel very guilty about how they behaved.” – Douglas Darnell
Active alienators lose control.
Generally these parents mean well, there is no malicious intend. They do facilitate a relationship with the other parent, and do see the tremendous benefit it has for the children to have both parents in their lives.
But the hurt takes over; the frustration, the bitterness and they lash out. The lines between parent and child blur. These parents know right from wrong, but momentarily lose control. At those moments they cannot separate the needs of the child with their own needs. I guess you could call it a ‘momentarily insanity’. And I’m writing this with tongue-in-cheek, at it is never right to exhibit this behavior and I’m certainly not justifying the behavior.
When the overwhelming and intense feelings are over, theses parents settle down and feel guilty or bad about what they’ve done. There is remorse.
This oscillating between impulsive alienating and then repairing the damage is confusing and unsettling especially for the younger child. There is no stability in the relationship or the view of the target parent, and the child doesn’t know how to respond. (S)he lives in the world of confusion and has a hard time adjusting to the divorce.
Active alienators can be very rigid and uncooperative with the other parent, though they do comply with court orders. This is usually a passive-agressive method of dealing with their own emotions.
These parents are open to and would benefit from counseling. Therapy can help them to work through their negative emotions towards the other parent and maintain control of their outbursts.
The Obsessed/Delusional Alienator
“Obsessed alienators have a fervent cause to destroy the targeted parent.” – Douglas Darnell
These (grand-)parents have all the characteristics of a personality disorder; splitting, denial, blame-shifting and distortion of reality (including delusional twisting). I understand that researchers, psychologists and custody evaluators want to be politically correct and not ‘label’ the parent, but that is doing a disservice to the child. It is abandoning the legal standard of ‘Best Interest of the Child’ in favor of parental rights.
These parents split; there is the all good parent and the evil target parent. They deny; they fail to acknowledge or even recognize their part in the problem. They blame-shift; all problems are the fault of the target parent.
And then there is the most harmful aspect for the child; they distort reality. This is particularly harmful to the child, as it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish between right and wrong. It skews their whole world.
The delusional alienator has poor boundaries between parent and child. They cannot separate the needs of the child from their own needs. These parents align the children and enmesh their personalities and beliefs into the children. Children, who naturally put their parents on a pedestal, are vulnerable to these manipulations.
And then the heartbreak starts.
These manipulations and distortions of reality turn the whole world upside down for a child. What is right? What is wrong?
Delusional alienators are convinced of their reality and nobody can change their view. If you try then you become the enemy. Or as my friend said; “All these so-called experts are stupid, they have no clue what they are talking about”. Sure, 1 person can be wrong, but if you are told the same thing by several experts……………
The delusional alienator will use the court to punish the target parent. When the courts agree with them they will flaunt it and use it. When the courts disagree, they will violate court orders and they will defy the authority of the court.
Goodbye my friend, I wish you well.
I spoke with my friend for several hours, several days in a row. I listened carefully, hoping that perhaps I was wrong about my friend. But her arguments and stories just made no sense. She is a well-educated and smart woman, yet there was a complete disconnect in her stories. I tried to point out the inconsistencies to her, but she didn’t get it. She is absolutely convinced, and can not see what she is doing.
At first she tried to align me with her, but when I put up too many questions and counter arguments, I became the enemy and our conversation turned sour. At that point I knew this was a lost cause. We hung up and haven’t spoken since.
I think of all the (grand-)parents that have such a hard time of protecting the child from a perp when there is clear evidence. They are viewed with skepticism because there are parents out there that use sexual abuse as a tactic of parental alienation.
It’s a sad situation.