Everyone loses when parental alienation gets nasty
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Miss Lonelyhearts c/o the Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave.,
Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6