Tag Archives: separation

Love. That is all.

20 Jul

A few months ago I wrote here about spending time with my seriously ill husband, and my experience of coming to terms with the end of a love that had been everything to me.

It took years to accept that love was over, and what I eventually took from that lonely, arid time was painful instruction on the power of human attachment.

When I visited A last year,  desperately ill after a massive stroke, unable to speak coherently and only intermittently recognising me, our life together did indeed parade itself before my eyes, and I laid many things to rest as I sat for weeks beside his bed, holding his hands while he struggled to tell me he loved me and always would.

The miracle was, that after everything that went wrong we did still love each other. I wasn’t altogether surprised to find that in me, because I am very bad at endings. The life may no longer be a shared one, but something in me, deep in my belly, refuses to entirely let go of the love. I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing, it just is. So I can look at someone I loved years ago and think  oh, yes, I loved you and oh yes, the ending was hard and I hated you for a while, and oh yes, though I don’t want to do anything about it and my life has changed, still there is tenderness, and gratitude for what we knew together.

Grief is an altered state. It can take you by surprise, long after you think you’ve done with it. It becomes less wild, less consuming as time passes. It can take on a sorrowful tenderness that for all its softness, still wrenches the heart. Grief can be triggered unexpectedly, long after you think you’re done with it, and you find yourself needing to hide away while you work out what has suddenly gone wrong with your breathing, and why out of nowhere you badly want to cry.

For example, I walked into a room today where someone was playing Mendelssohn’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, #2 in D Major. I listened to this Sonata, along with the Brahms #1 in F, during a very rough period in my marriage, during the last of many journeys A and I made together, down the Mekong, through Laos. I’ve heard both many times since, of course, but never without some emotion, the power of which has lessened over time. Yet today, for reasons I can’t explain, I heard the familiar first movement as if I was back on that long boat, sitting on my backpack beside A, both of us silenced by the misery of knowing it was too late for this journey or any other journey together, and neither of us able to end it.

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I don’t have a list of things I want to do before I die. At times I think, vaguely, of travelling to places I’ve never been because it would be excellent to leave the earth having seen as much of it as possible. At times I think I want to go back to the place where I was born one more time, because every time I return to that North Yorkshire country I feel a primitive and powerful sense of belonging that I have never felt anywhere else.

But lately I’ve been thinking that these things come a poor second to love, in all its frequently unexpected and varied manifestations, and it’s likely love that tops my bucket list.

Today my friend said, there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship is there?  There is, I said, after a while. The perfect relationship is the one where you care enough to bother struggling through the shitty bits and find you still want to stay in it. The perfect relationship is the one where you don’t want to struggle through the shit, and you have the decency and the courage to leave before you cause anymore damage to yourself and the other. Love is required for both. Isn’t it?

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Today I re-learned that nothing ends when you think it has. This annoys me, because I don’t live easily with loose ends. Somewhere along the way I’ve got it into my head that one must have “closure,” resolution, well-defined endings in order to move onto anything new. But actually, I’m coming to think that’s crap. My life is a chaos of ongoing love of varying kinds and depths, and I can’t think how to tidy up any of it. Perhaps I don’t have to? Perhaps instead I must learn to live with the disorder of a functioning human heart? Perhaps for years to come I will unexpectedly feel grief for my husband, for my dead mother, for my friend, for everyone I’ve  loved and will love, with various degrees of complexity and difficulty, success and failure.

There is a human being. There is love. That is all.


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Fools for love

19 Jun

In love, the person is always the fool, emptied of prudence, his (sic) desires evident to the world, his transgressions revealed to all, especially to himself. Thomas Moore

Fools for Love is a collection of stories about love that went wrong.

Practically everyone has a break-up story, or knows someone who has. Break-ups are commonplace, but the individual experience of a break-up is unique. Even though everyone going through it describes similar emotions, one of the characteristics of an ending is that it feels as if this is the first time any human being has suffered in quite this way. Just like it felt when we fell in love.

Here is Bernard’s story in his own words, minimally edited for continuity. Names have been changed.

Well, we were married for thirteen years, fourteen years probably because our daughter Josie was about 13 when we separated.

She’s my oldest, then there’s the boys. It was always hard work but I just assumed that with six kids that we’d always be together.

I expected that to happen. Being Catholic made it a bit more “that’s the way it is.” If you’re unhappy you put up with it and Marianne was Catholic too.

Anyhow, we had some bad times, hard times because my ex wife’s a really, really bad spender. I’d think we owed no money and we owed ten thousand dollars or five thousand dollars and we wouldn’t have it to pay. Credit cards and blah blah blah, so we were always under pressure financially, always looking for something better and more money. There was non-stop pressure.

So we’d hit a brick wall and then she’d say “Well, you go and have a couple of days at your brother’s place,” or something like that. “That will give you time to think,” she’d say. So I’d do that.

One night when she’d said to do that (my brother lived not too far down the road) I was sleeping on his lounge and a client rang and said he needed some information that I kept at home. I said, “OK, well I’ll go and get it.” So I rang home and got my daughter and said along the lines of, I said “Where’s mum?” And she said (she was about 12 or 13), “Oh she’s gone out with a girlfriend.” So I said, “Well, tell your Mum that I’ll come home and pick up John’s file ‘cos he wants something out of the file.” She said all right and then she went to bed. Well, when I got home my wife was in bed with another bloke.

So. I was. I was out of the house to help pay off, help our problems and she just had a boyfriend and that shattered me.

I stayed awake all night.

She told me to go, he was in the bed with her. He was a guy called Martin, and I was just devastated so I went back to my brother’s. I couldn’t sleep. First thing in the morning my sister in law Claire gets up and I started to talk. I said, “I had to go home last night to pick up something and Marianne was in bed with a bloke.” And she said “Well, obviously she’s got a boyfriend.” I hadn’t thought of that, I just thought we were having a bad time so everyone sort of knew bar me that I was a mug.

So I rang Marianne’s mum and dad up and said, “Well, I’m going back home I’m throwing her out of the house. Bugger this.” And then they stepped in and said, “Well these things happen,” blah blah blah and Marianne put on the tears so I moved back home and let her stay.

Anyhow that was the beginning of the end of the marriage and I don’t know how long it had been going on before that. Obviously for some time cos it wouldn’t have been the first time she’d organised me to get out of the house because she’d had this bloke lined up again. Instead of her going to his place he came to my place.

All the kids were there, but they were little so they were in bed. So a few months later she did the same sort of thing again. She said, “I’m going to stay with my girlfriend.”

I always believed her, yeah. I only found it out to be lies later. If she’d catch herself out she’d just tell lies. It was so obvious. She’d forget how many lies she told. It was easy ‘cos I believed her but it wouldn’t have been so easy for her to get away with it if I’d been the third party looking in instead of being the injured party.

So a few months later don’t know how many to tell you the truth, might have been three or four she said, “I’m going to my girlfriend’s to spend some time with her.” They were all people she used to play golf with and I got a phone call and I answered the phone and they said, “Is that Martin?” I said, “Oh, no.”

It was my phone.

It was a travel agent and then the people on the other end sort of twigged and got a bit evasive so they didn’t say much but it just made no sense it was a travel agent on the other side of town and I said to my friend who had access then to information he shouldn’t have, but it happens, and he checked for me.

I thought something’s not right, Marianne’s supposed to be at a girlfriend’s. He checked the aircraft departures and she’d taken off  with some bloke again for a week’s holiday and told me she was at a girlfriend’s.

So that was the sort of thing and then she’d come back and say, “I’m leaving you,” and I still tried to get her not to leave. But that was how she left me, then she moved out and we had no money. I had a small income, a reasonable income, but with six kids we had no money and her spending would make sure anything we had had to pay the debts and so she moved out but she rented a place for three or four hundred dollars a week and she just didn’t have it. I used to help her out and go round there and give her money and try to get her to come back home.

A big house, a lovely house and then she said to her bloke, I don’t know for sure, I’m surmising, “I’m free now.” And she took Kyle with her who was then two and a half or three he’s now nineteen or twenty so that’s seventeen years ago, and the girl she used as the babysitter and as soon as she was available all the time the guy shot through.

I don’t know what happened there. All I know is from the time she walked out on me for this bloke he was hardly around. They broke up almost straight away cos why would you want a woman with six kids? It was all right as a bit on the side but no value when she’s available as a full time partner so that hardly lasted and then there’s this old bloke called Bob that Kyle used to talk about who was on the dole

I asked Kyle “Who’s Bob?” and he said, “Oh, he’s an old bloke that’s helping around the house comes and does a few things around the house.

Bob turned out to be another swimmer she was screwing who she ended up marrying because she got him on the rebound. Bob was somebody else’s. She told another set of stories about here’s Bob doing this and this, helping me out.

Bob had a partner I don’t think he’d broken up with his other girlfriend. Bob was a swimmer but he’d left swimming as well, cranky old bastard. He was a schoolteacher and once Mark left Marianne Bob was on the scene.

So next thing you know she got kicked out cos she didn’t pay the rent for all this time. Next thing you know she had to let go of the house so she did a runner and moved in with Bob.

I didn’t have Kyle he was with his mother. My daughter was staying with my sister in law and I had the other four boys who were like 7, 9, 11, and 12. I was looking after the boys and working.

 Yeah. And when Marianne said she was moving out I said, “Well, take what you need out of the house because you’re moving.” So she took everything. All we had left in the house was an esky with some milk and a broken down toaster and three beds for five people. I just slept with the boys. Nothing else in the house. Oh, and the dryer, no, the dishwasher, not the dishwasher, the dryer and the washing machine. There wasn’t any room on the truck to take them so she come back and I said, “You can’t have them I need them to wash the kids clothes.” So we had a fight about the washing machine and the dryer so I had a washing machine and a dryer and a foam esky to put some milk in and a broken down radio. TV and all the furniture in the whole house was gone. A few broken cups and saucers that’s all we had. Very interesting time.

Oh, I don’t know.

I was distressed and then she moved in with Bob. I found out about Bob because what did she do, she did something, oh yes she embezzled money from a company she was working at. She was writing cheques and taking the money and the police come looking for her and this detective rings me up and says, “Blah blah blah,” and I said she wasn’t with me she left seven months ago to live with her girlfriend and the cop said they were looking for her and I said, “Well she’s living with her girlfriend,” cos she’d told me that in Hampton or Fernleigh or somewhere and he said, “Well she’s not living with her girlfriend she’s living with her boyfriend in Kingston.”

I said, “That can’t be right.”

He said, “Mate, I’m telling you.”

So that’s how I found out where she was living. So I was dropping her off to go to her girlfriend’s and she was just walking round to Bob’s place but I didn’t know that for a month or so. Till the police told me. So she ended up getting arrested for embezzlement. I don’t know how she got out of that. Cried poormouth, her Mum and Dad did something about it, but she was guilty of stealing checks and cashing them.

So then she moves in with Bob. Next thing you know she’s pregnant to Bob and she didn’t tell me she was pregnant my brother in law told me. I’ve got no sense of time here but it was five or six months after she moved out. I’d lost my job I had no money, I’d no work I’d sold the house because the house had such a mortgage on it that we had no money at all. Rented a little dump and I mean a dump, a little timber cottage with the boys and I had no source of income cos I’d lost my job. So I had a few clients, about a hundred clients or so and I was working at the dogs as a bookmaker’s clerk and anything else I could get just to a bit of work. One of my cousins worked at this shipping company and he gave me a few hours work doing this and that so that was my source of income. Nothing consistent.

I’d drop the boys off at school and because I didn’t have a job, oh I had a job for a little while and I put them into day care at first go to work then pick the boys up at five and go home. Then I couldn’t get another job cos everyone wanted me to work stupid hours and I had to get the boys to school and pick them up. So I made sure I had no appointments at two o clock or finish at two o clock make some tea for them and maybe go and see someone else in the evening or whatever so I just worked around what had to be done.  Brendan was the only one in high school the others were in primary school and my brother in law then who’s also divorced from Marianne’s sister now said to me, “Oh Marianne’s pregnant.” I said, “No, she can’t be pregnant.” I said, “Everyone knows except me, she hasn’t told me she’s pregnant.” He said, “Oh sorry I didn’t know maybe I shouldn’t speak.”

So I was talking to her Mum and they all knew and I said something along the lines, “Oh now that Marianne’s pregnant.” So she was, it came up when I saw her mother and she said, “Oh you now these things happen.” Again. It’s always when it’s their kids these things happen, when it’s you you’re the worst one in the world, that was the really funny part about it. When Ed and Tania broke up Ed was the biggest bastard in the world because Tania gave him a bad time and he found a girlfriend and got a second job because he was trying to keep things going and it was impossible and Ed was the biggest bastard they’d ever met because he did that to Tania. When Marianne did that to me “These things just happen”.

So it was good to see how the rules changed for people. Anyhow so I was never going to get divorced, never believed in divorce but then when that happened I rang my lawyer and I said, “Look, Marianne’s pregnant, just file for divorce. This is stupid. I don’t believe in divorce but this is ridiculous. She’s pregnant to somebody else, just file for divorce.” I filed for divorce she didn’t bother to come to the court. We put in an application to the judge to say I’d had the kids all the time, this is what I do.

Marianne never refuted anything cos she was busy getting on with her new life with Bob. She had Kyle, and then when she got pregnant, my daughter  went to live with her for a while. That didn’t last long because of her and Bob and we set it out, there was nothing to refute in the Family Law Court I got the kids and the judge said, “Well, can you do that?” and sort of laughed so I got the kids. Course I only had the kids as long as she’d let me have them the father can’t take the kids if the mother says she should come back and look after the kids you just lose them.

Well, she said she was going to come back but she didn’t. She never wanted the kids anyhow she just said she wanted them. So I got the kids and then every six months I’d make them go and see their mother because she’d never take any time to come and see them. So I’d take them over to her place and go and see mates while I dropped them off for a few hours. If I didn’t do that she virtually never came near us.

In all that time I was working on getting her back all the time. She’d sort of leave the door ajar to make sure she could manipulate me. I still loved her. Yeah, I’d say so. Yeah. Um, I really didn’t but I thought I did because she’s my wife and so on and this took about five or six years.

Well I thought it was love. But I looking back now, if we’d have stayed together she would have destroyed us. The best thing she ever did to me was leave me. It just took me seven years to realise it.

And we had tos and fros and she’d manipulate me any number of times, she needed money, she need this and I’d help her out I’d do that and she’d just manipulate the situation.

After about two or they years they moved. They bought a bakery. Bob couldn’t boil water let alone be a baker so it was a recipe for disaster but they had the bakery. Plus Marianne had no head for business.  Michael, who’s now 22 was about 8 or 9, they’d had him for a couple of years she’d talked him into coming up for a holiday with them then she talked him into staying with her so I lost Michael then, so she had Michael and Kyle and I had the other three boys and my daughter was in Sydney. So I didn’t see much of them, the kids would come down for a holiday now and then I just had the three boys and the others were with her for two years but any time she still manipulated me when she needed something.

The business failed and they came back.

I hadn’t given up hope because I was still trying to get her to come back. I wasn’t seeing anybody else as I had the kids I didn’t have much time for anybody else and I had no money then, renting, kids were at school I cooked and washed and blah blah blah so my life revolved around the kids really but I had to still leave them to earn a living so I’d feed them of a night and then say to Michael who was about 12 or 13, mind the kids I’ll be back in two hours. I’d go out and see a client and come back. Course my boys got a bit wild in that time because they didn’t have dad around and they took advantage of it you know what teenagers are like, 11, 12 year olds are like.

I still had my dream of getting her back and having our family again. Yeah.

Anyhow this went on for about six or seven years. And what happened was, I met Christine she used to do massage at the squash club. Christine and I have been together about well it’ll be eight years in December. I’d known Christine from squash so I knew her fairly well but she was married to Morgan then who she came back from overseas with, but then she separated from Morgan and she had the children. We had a Christmas party at the Ram’s Head hotel and she’d been single twelve months or so and we were just together and we were all at a table talking and I don’t know, we just got together chatting and I asked her out the week before Christmas and Marianne was coming back to live nearby, she said and then she didn’t come back again. Her and Bob were just separating then some domestic violence from what I understand.

At that time Morgan was about to be posted overseas, they were separated so it was a bit awkward cos he’d moved out of the place he was renting and was staying with her before he moved cos they got on fine, he’s a nice bloke. So we went out and then she said, “We can’t go out for a while, Morgan’s here till the end of January.” I used to still get massages from Christine because I was already doing that every fortnight sore from squash and everything else and that was her job. So we started going out and then we only went out two or three times and I was very hesitant. I liked her and she was a good sort and she said to me one night, “Well I’ve got something to say to you.” We were out for dinner and I though ah well, here we go nobody’s going to stay with you that long you’ve got these kids. I thought oh well, it looks like I’m getting the flick here.

That’s all right, I was going out with someone else I knew, I was just dating it wasn’t that serious and we’d been out two or three times. Christine says, “Oh, well what do you want to do with us?” I said, “I don’t know what you mean?” She said, “Well I don’t want to muck around, what do you want to do?” I said, “Well I like you, I want to keep going out with you OK?” So we didn’t muck around and we started going out together and then, barely after that, Marianne rings up and she says to me, “I’m coming back to live you’ll have to give me a hand.”

So I said, “I’ll help you set up and live near the boys.” I thought that’d be good if their mother came back and lived near the boys cos she had two young kids to Bob, so it’d be good for the boys if she lived somewhere near us and they could see their Mum. Which never eventuated. She said, “Well I need you to give me a hand to get started,” and I said, “Well its no good anymore, I can’t do that I’m going out with somebody I’m with someone, I’m sorry its just not right now I can’t do it.” And she blew up. “Go on,” she said, “ignore your children and your family and kids and worry about your girlfriend.” I thought that was a good call, she’d left me for two or three blokes had two more kids, remarried had another boyfriend in the meantime and was coming back and I was the one who did the wrong thing.

So she abused me. So then I didn’t hear from her. I was seeing Christine, I’d go over there we’d go out, but I’d always come home. Christine didn’t like that much. I just wouldn’t move in. I did my own washing, even though we were together I’d been single than for six or seven years and the boys were fairly young then compared to now, teenagers so we just gradually stayed together longer and the boys got older blah blah blah.

That was the first time I said no to Marianne. Yeah. I suppose it was a relief yeah.

I’d never been interested in anybody else before Christine I went out with a few people but I wasn’t interested it was more like friends, and I’d also decided never to get married again. I’d been married, I wasn’t going to get married again. And Christine’s the only other person I would say, that would have had me, I think, decide to get married again. So then we just started as a couple and by the time I was fifty we were a couple. But I wouldn’t leave anything at her place she had the shits about that. I didn’t take the kids to her place either. We had our house where they stayed they were older now so I’d go back everyday and be there in the morning and everything else, watch the boys, do everything.

Marianne never said anything about Christine. Not about our relationship, I don’t know what she said to the kids but we’ve had a couple of words about some of my boys. We’ve sat down and she goes into tears and carries on. My ex wife’s still going on 17 and she’s fifty this year I think.

I don’t think she’s with anyone now. No, not that I know of She’s been re partnered a couple of times but after Bob there was a guy called Jim, she was with him for some time, she’s bad with relationships because she’s such an air head she’s so manipulative that people just walk. You can’t defend Bob, he belted her I’m sure I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, you can’t defend it but I can understand why, she pushes you to the limit all the time. She was of those people that does push you to the limit. She told Kyle he ruined her relationship with Bob and then he was ruining it with this new bloke so Kyle rang up and said can I come home to live with the others, and I said course you can.

But Christine said he’s too young to live with his brothers he has to come and live with us cos we’d finally moved in together. So she was really good. So he did and that strained our relationship for a few years. It took a long time for Kyle and Christine to get on. They get on good now, but it took a long time so she took that on. He was in all sorts of strife at school, smart arse.  Kicked out of school but we got him in another school and that was fantastic for him, turned him around.

So that’s pretty much the story and I’m good now life’s good now with me and Christine and all the kids are grown up doing their own thing and business is good. I never hear anything from Marianne the boys go see her sometimes. It wasn’t easy but I never want to go through any of that again.

Ξ

The fool and the lover are inseparable, so much so that if a person doesn’t behave at least a little foolishly, perhaps they aren’t really in love.  

In love people rediscover the fool’s childlike innocence. In love, that innocence is expressed as trust. It’s frequently one of the things people take themselves to task for when love goes awry. Then we can feel like the worst of fools. Naïve, stupid, childish and humiliated to have believed we could trust someone who’s betrayed us.


When children become weapons

19 May

Broken heart

As children continue to be murdered by parents caught up in divorce, separation and custody battles, courts and counsellors struggle to establish environments that put the child’s needs first. This can be an impossible task when some parents, blinded by their own emotional turmoil, use their children as heavy ammunition to win a personal battle against a spouse they perceive as the enemy.

Murder is the extreme point on the continuum of co-opting children as weapons. Far more common, though regarded as contentious among some mental health and legal professionals, is a concept known as Parental alienation syndrome. This is a term used to describe a situation in which a child is encouraged to identify with one parent and alienate the other. The child’s behaviour reflects the emotions and perspective of the alienating parent, rather than his or her own feelings. It’s thought to emerge as a consequence of separation and divorce, however it’s apparent in some on-going dysfunctional relationships in which the mother or the father attempts to garner support for his or her position against the other parent from the child. These are general PAS criteria as defined by some psychologists:

Children who succumb to the pressure and ally themselves with one parent against the other often exhibit a set of behaviors that have become known as parental alienation syndrome: 

(1) The first manifestation is a campaign of denigration against the targeted parent. The child becomes obsessed with hatred of the targeted parent (in the absence of actual abuse or neglect that would explain such negative attitudes). 

(2) Weak, frivolous, and absurd rationalizations for the depreciation of the targeted parent. The objections made in the campaign of denigration are often not of the magnitude that would lead a child to hate a parent, such as slurping soup or serving spicy food. 

(3) Lack of ambivalence about the alienating parent. The child expresses no ambivalence about the alienating parent, demonstrating an automatic, reflexive, idealized support of him or her. 

(4) The child strongly asserts that the decision to reject the other parent is her own. This is what is known as the “Independent Thinker” phenomenon. 

(5) Absence of guilt about the treatment of the targeted parent. Alienated children will make statements such as, “He doesn’t deserve to see me.” 

(6) Reflexive support for the alienating parent in the parental conflict. There is no willingness or attempt to be impartial when faced with inter-parental conflicts. 

(7) Use of borrowed scenarios. These children often make accusations towards the targeted parent that utilize phrases and ideas adopted wholesale from the alienating parent. And, finally, 

(8) The hatred of the targeted parent spreads to his or her extended family. Not only is the targeted parent denigrated, despised, and avoided but so too are his/her entire family. Formerly beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are suddenly avoided and rejected. When children exhibit these 8 behaviors the most likely explanation is the manipulation of the favored parent.

On the other hand, accusations of PAS are seen as frivolous and dishonest by some opponents of the syndrome. Some go so far as to claim that a court’s acceptance of PAS causes children to be exposed to on-going abuse from the so-called “targeted” parent. In reality, they claim, the “alienating” parent has attempted to protect the child from the parent perceived as harmful, and the symptoms of PAS are also consistent with those exhibited by children who are enduring real abuse from the targeted parent.

There is no clinical research into the syndrome, and it remains anecdotal.

I’v seen situations in which children have lost contact with a “targeted” parent, and that parent’s family. I’ve seen situations of dysfunction when the parents don’t separate, but the hostility and hatred of one for the other is conveyed through the indoctrination of the children against one parent. The “target” parent is alienated from his or her offspring within their own household, usually most acutely during the process of an adult dispute. Children take the alienating parent’s part, and when the fight has been temporarily resolved and the parents have made up, they are then permitted to re-engage with the targeted parent. The emotional chaos this causes in the children is enormous and long-lasting.

It’s surprisingly easy to persuade children to take against a parent, particularly when they’ve been taught that the “alienating” parent is the only one who really loves them, and the only one who will look out for them. The target parent is constructed as anything from incompetent and unreliable to dangerous and threatening, while the alienating parent presents as their competent and loving protector.

However, distinguishing between so-called PAS and abuses actually perpetrated by the “target” parent can be difficult. Evidence of abuse can be hard to establish if it isn’t blatant. Too often it comes down to which parent is the most articulate, can tell the most convincing story, and has the best lawyer. Children are collateral damage in such circumstances, as the parental focus makes it “all about me” with scant if any regard for their child’s well being.

I’ve known circumstances in which a “targeted” parent has walked away from his or her family rather than fight the wrath of the “alienating” parent, and continue to live with the acute distress they experience when a child or children turns against them on a regular basis. As well, the targeted parent can feel that his or her continued presence in the family will only serve to confuse and distress their children, and in an effort to prevent their children being further emotionally torn, they give up and leave the alienating parent in total control.

The targeted parent is then described as having abandoned the family, and as confirming the alienating parent’s position that he or she is the only one who really cares about the children. After years of clinical practice there’s no doubt in my mind that these are relatively common practices to varying degrees, between parents caught in conflict and dysfunction.

Parents don’t have ownership over their children. We have a responsibility to do our best for them, but we don’t own their feelings and their hearts and minds. Children are entitled to form and enjoy relationships with their family members, especially both parents. To sever the connection between one part of a child’s family is to do violence to that child’s knowledge of him or herself, and to their sense of belonging. Alienating a child from any family member without good cause is emotional abuse and emotional violence, regardless of whether it is identified as a legitimate mental health syndrome or not.

While the murderous extremes of parental manipulation make headlines, children daily suffer greatly in ways that go unrecognized and unacknowledged. The tragedy is that this suffering has long term consequences, and can be generational. One manipulative parent can tear an entire family apart, leaving children without access to grandparents and extended family members. It’s tough being a kid.

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