I received the following e-mail in response to my post, “Ever Hear of Parental Alienation Syndrome? Neither Had I.”
I am currently going through a contentious divorce, and your post about Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) really hit home. I was married for sixteen years and we have two children, ages 11 and 15. I and made the decision to move out and pursue another relationship after I felt that I had exhausted all of my resources in creating a happy, healthy relationship with my wife.
Unfortunately, I know that I am a victim of PAS. In the past year
since filing for divorce, I have only seen my kids a handful of times and
my ex refuses to co-parent with me. She simply states, “The kids can make
their own decisions and see you anytime they choose to”. They decline
invitations to see me and rarely even return text messages or e-mails. I
have refrained from forcing the issue in court by advice of a counselor that
my kids are seeing.
My heart breaks when I hear stories like this. So, first of all, I am so sorry for you. I mean it.
Of course, I am only hearing your side of the story, so it is easy for me to talk about what an evil, sick, demented person your ex is for what seems like encouraging your kids to stay away from you. Also, what kid under the age of 18 is able to “make their own decisions to see you anytime they choose?” You are their father! That comment got me outraged. They are children!!
All that said, I don’t know the situation personally. I wasn’t there and your ex isn’t here to defend herself. But, I’m not sure there is anything she could say that would cause me to condone her behavior and apparent brainwashing of your kids.
Here’s what I imagine she would say (although I have no details, so just take from this the general idea.):
“My soon to be ex-husband left US for another woman. He is a cheater. He is a liar. He betrayed US and broke up our home for some slut. He’s a bad father for doing this and my kids are angry with him.”
I’m not saying this is how I feel about you. I’m saying that this is probably your ex’s perception of what happened.
I have no idea if you technically cheated. Maybe the marriage was over before you began your relationship, maybe it wasn’t. Makes no difference. No one should judge anyone in divorce. But your ex, regardless of how bad the marriage was, chose to selfishly bring your children into it, as if you left THEM for the other woman (which isn’t the case, obviously.)
Look, I know both men and women who were having marital problems, and one of them met someone else and initiated the divorce. It hurts. It kills, actually. It causes deep, deep hatred that takes years to go away (and in lots of cases, never does.)
BUT, you didn’t leave your children! Your ex should be saying to your kids, “I am really angry at your father and I think what he did is horrible. But, he is your dad and he loves you and it is important that he is in your life forever. He didn’t leave you and he never, ever will. He left me. I’m not ok with that, but eventually I will be. This is about he and I. NOT you. He will always love you the same as when we were married.” Make sense?
Here is my advice. NEVER give up with your children. I know dads who just couldn’t take the hurt anymore so they just stopped trying. I don’t think I could ever do that. So, what your wife ISN’T saying (above paragraph) you should say.
I’d suggest continuing to try with your kids to the point of being stalkerish. Remember, they are CHILDREN. They are being influenced. They are angry and upset about the divorce and they feel sorry for your ex. You have someone and she doesn’t. You are at fault in their eyes. They are seeing their mom unhappy and crying all the time and they need to blame someone, and she is encouraging them to blame you. At some point, you need to apologize to your children—not for doing anything wrong, but for the divorce. Say, “I’m really sorry WE did this to you.” Talk to them. Tell them what’s in your heart. Tell them you didn’t leave them and that you will love them the same as you always have, married to their mom or not.
Lastly, the therapist your children are seeing: I’m a bit skeptical. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t listen to a trained therapist, but was she hired by your ex? Is it possible she’s a little brainwashed, too? Something to consider. I hope I’m wrong, but keep in mind, I have so little information.
I wish you all the best for a good outcome. Remember that nothing bad can ever come of calm, open communication, with both your ex and your kids. No matter how difficult, try to be the bigger person, the one who sucks up his pride for the love of his kids.