Ev­ery­one loses when parental alien­ation gets nasty

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - ARTS & LIFE -

DEAR READ­ERS: The ugly parental alien­ation is­sue blew up at Christ­mas­time with many hurt­ing and an­gry read­ers writ­ing in. The spark was a let­ter from a sep­a­rated man, Dad at the End of His Rope, whose heart was break­ing be­cause his ex had bad-mouthed him to his chil­dren (all over the age of 18) to the point they won’t talk to him any­more. Dur­ing the mar­riage, he made big money work­ing out of town. He was away three weeks a month and home one week. Dur­ing his time at home, he and his wife would fight of­ten. He sup­ported his wife and three kids then, and still does. He feels the kids have been taught to hate him and yet he pays and pays. He says he’s just the “bank ma­chine.” Here are some of the re­sponses from other read­ers.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: You wanted to know why Dad at the End of His Rope is still pay­ing child sup­port for off­spring 18 and older, ask­ing if they are go­ing to univer­sity. Then you asked if he was plan­ning to pay spousal sup­port for­ever. The way you worded it, a po­ten­tial dead­beat dad might take this to mean he doesn’t have to pay while they are in univer­sity.

As far as the spousal sup­port, this woman raised his chil­dren to adult­hood, and that was a job. He may have to pay her spousal sup­port ac­cord­ing to an agree­ment un­til she is 65, like an­other per­son I know who was a stay-at-home mom and wife. Why wouldn’t she de­serve this? Should she be ex­pected to live in a tiny stu­dio apart­ment now that he has de­cided he wants out?

I don’t re­ceive spousal sup­port, but I do get child sup­port, and it struck a sore point with me be­cause I have to go to a lawyer in Jan­uary be­cause my crazy ex thinks he doesn’t have to pay child sup­port while our son is in univer­sity and only gave me cheques to last un­til my son turns 18 next sum­mer. — Sore Point, Man­i­toba

Dear Sore Point: It’s un­der­stand­able you’re up­set. You need to see your lawyer and re­view your orig­i­nal agree­ment to see what terms you ac­tu­ally agreed to. As for the woman who has been fully sup­ported un­til now, yes, that was her job, as her hus­band was away 75 per cent of ev­ery month, but he was far from be­ing a dead­beat dad. Now th­ese par­ents have split, the kids are le­gal adults and expectations of this man need to change. This newly sep­a­rated woman, whether she likes it or not, needs to get train­ing and get a job or start a busi­ness for her own in­de­pen­dence, her self-es­teem and her new so­cial life. Why should she get a free ride from her ex­hus­band un­til she’s 65? She could be in her late 40s or early 50s at this point.

Ev­ery­body in that house­hold should have been work­ing at least part time by the time they were 18. It’s not good for grown kids, or even moms, to have no work ex­pe­ri­ence of any kind to put on a re­sumé. Maybe this well-heeled ex-hus­band would like to make a big one-time set­tle­ment of­fer that would cover his ex-wife’s ed­u­ca­tion or start-up money for a small busi­ness, and then be free.

Money talks for this bit­ter lady. Af­ter she is paid off, maybe then she can stop bad-mouthing him and the kids can start hav­ing re­la­tion­ships with their fa­ther again. Cou­ples coun­selling didn’t help be­fore; it really sounds as if the wife needs per­sonal coun­selling on her own to get through her anger and bit­ter­ness. See the im­por­tant let­ter be­low from a woman who alien­ated her chil­dren from their dad.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: Hope­fully th­ese chil­dren of his will come around and maybe parental alien­ation will no longer be the dark side to this sit­u­a­tion. This wife is a cat­a­lyst and needs ther­apy. He should stop making all pay­ments where law­fully pos­si­ble. It’s so sad the chil­dren can only hear when money speaks. Parental alien­ation is about love be­tween a par­ent and child, not a bank ac­count.

I, too, have first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence. Many years ago I went through a ter­ri­ble di­vorce and con­vinced my chil­dren their fa­ther was a hor­ri­ble per­son; they went years not com­mu­ni­cat­ing with him be­cause of me. A couple years ago, he sud­denly passed away. Now I’m left with bro­ken chil­dren who are in coun­selling, full of re­grets and blam­ing me.

I know of many other nasty di­vorces in which chil­dren have be­ing ma­nip­u­lated and con­vinced into tak­ing sides. I know a 10-year-old, a 20-yearold and even some­one in their 30s in this sit­u­a­tion. Too many par­ents like my­self be­come self- ish and want ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing their chil­dren, to hate their ex. That ben­e­fits no one, es­pe­cially the chil­dren. Par­ents need to keep the kids out of all the de­tails per­tain­ing to a di­vorce and stop bad-mouthing their exes. This just screws up their chil­dren’s heads and doesn’t en­able them to have healthy re­la­tion­ships in the fu­ture. You can’t erase re­grets. — Many Re­grets, Win­nipeg

Dear Many Re­grets: Your kids need to hear about your re­grets, and you need to cor­rect the ex­ag­ger­a­tions you made and tell them how sorry you are. Don’t try to jus­tify the nasty things you said; in­stead, help to re­build a re­al­is­tic pic­ture of their de­ceased fa­ther with all his good points. They may be fu­ri­ous with you at first, but if you can re­store a bet­ter im­age of their fa­ther it will help them heal. Af­ter some time, they will heal their re­la­tion­ship with you.

It’s hard to face up to the fact that you loved this man you ended up di­vorc­ing. You loved him enough to choose him above all oth­ers, to marry him and have chil­dren with him. You might start by writ­ing him a let­ter, which, of course, you can’t send, thank­ing him for the love you had in the be­gin­ning, the chil­dren and re­mem­ber­ing the good times. Some­day you might want to show that let­ter to your chil­dren, or you may not. Ei­ther way, it will help to melt some of the bit­ter­ness away for you, and per­haps for your chil­dren.

Please send your ques­tions and com­ments to love­coach@hot­mail.com or Miss Lonelyhearts c/o the Win­nipeg Free Press, 1355 Moun­tain Ave.,

Win­nipeg, MB, R2X 3B6


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