Keys to Surviving Alienation

Just sitting here thinking today how I am surviving this 7 month period without virtually any contact with my kids.  I’ve seen them at church and at Soccer games, and once driving to their gym, and I’ve texted them and emailed them extensively, usually getting angry responses or being ignored.  This after being a very involved dad for 17 years.  For those of you new to this experience, here’s a couple of keys to survival.

  1. Don’t ignore your feelings and cover the pain.  I’ve avoided any masking things like alcohol or drugs and I’ve tried to be very aware of what I am feeling, why I am feeling that and letting that happen.  That was a difficult thing to do in the marriage — without being ridiculed, so it has been refreshing to cry, to contemplate, to think through stuff.  If tears well up in my eyes during a TV show — why did that happen (9 times out of 10 its because I saw a Dad and his kids getting along in a way that I wish I had…).  So don’t ignore the feelings.  I think that can make you bitter and angry and neither of those things help.
  2. Write or be creative.  This blog and writing poems and writing letters to the kids with memories (that I don’t send, but save for future delivery) have been very cathartic as well.  I’ve broken out my guitar and played and sang for hours.  Maybe you paint or make pottery (or you should!), but find something to pour yourself into.  You’ll need this to avoid watching TV in the fetal position on your couch for days on end…
  3. Get out and do something.  I’ve begun playing Volleyball using in my area.  Literally, there are places to play volleyball every night of the week and all afternoon on Saturday and Sunday.  Some days I’ve played up to 8 hours in one day.  I’m exhausted afterward, but I had fun, I met new people, I exercised and my mind was occupied.  I’ve done tours of my city with Single Professional groups.  I’ve dated.

    Cover of "Yours, Mine & Ours (Full Screen...
    Cover via Amazon
  4. Listen and watch.  Find great music that can help you feel deeply.  Kenny Loggins  song “The Real Thing” has been very gripping for me.  I’ve listened to a lot of Country music lately.  It feels real, it helps me see hope for future relationships and realize other people have suffered and struggled as well.  Watching movies like “Les Miserables” and even stuff like “Yours, Mine and Ours” help give hope and let me feel and long for a positive future.
  5. Go out and enjoy nature alone.  I’ve spent a great deal of time praying and being silent in open fields, in places with views of water, on my back porch and other places.  I’ve begun taking pictures of these places (one is at the top of the blog).  I want to remember where God has met me.  These times are so constructive for working through things. Field and Fence
  6. Find Confidants.  People who can pray with you and hear your struggle and not judge but love you are so important throughout this time.  I feel like I have seen Jesus in my friends and my family that serve as “my team” over the last six months.  If you don’t have people like this in your life, you need to find some at church or in your family.  You will not grow or do the right thing if you don’t have these influences in your life.
  7. Re-connect with your family.  I’ve visited family more than I ever have in my entire life — getting ready for my 3rd trip to see them in six months.  The relationships there that I’ve rekindled have literally sustained me over the last few months.  My dad, mom and brothers and sisters in law have been such a huge support and encouragement to me.  I try to talk to them at least 2 x per week.
  8. Reconnect with old friends.  There’s a reason they loved you at some point in your life.  There’s varying degrees of re-connection, but at the least respond to facebook posts, message a few, chat a bit, find out about how their lives have changed.  You don’t have to tell all of them the extensiveness of the difficulty with your kids and your ex, sometimes its good just to have friends you DON’T discuss this stuff with — there’s no pressure to constantly complain and you can live vicariously through their kids and their lives.
  9. Re-connect with God.  If you don’t have a higher power to cast your cares upon, you might want to begin looking into how to have a relationship with your maker.  There’s no better time to do this than when you have absolutely NO CONTROL over how your kids or your ex act toward you.  There is release and peace when you relinquish your ability to control them, and ask God to change your heart and your mind and your approach to the situation.  In addition, talking out loud in my prayers has been such a powerful conduit to a relationship that has transcended any past connection with God.

I hope these things can help you as you struggle through a time of alienation or difficulty with your ex and your kids.  Thanks for all your input to me as I struggle through this.  I’m not out of the woods, I have constant doubts and heavy sighs.  I have not “made it” yet.  Divorce probably won’t be final for another month at least and even after it is, that doesn’t mean things will be better with the kids.


A Daddy Alone

Wrote this today.  Waxing a bit poetic as the month ends and the divorce nears finality…

A Daddy Alone

Living alone; white house
Living alone; white house (Photo credit: jonhoward)


Remembering the glorious sound of tiny feet rushing to the door
Seeing their hands go up high and the launching of their bodies
To nestle in close to the stubble on Daddy’s face
Needing a hug to welcome home the man of the hour
Chattering away about the excitement of the pool
Or the trampoline
Or the dogs
Or nothing

Seeing the proud smile on the faces of the other players
And knowing their coach is also their daddy and loves them
In ways he never will for the goalie or the center forward
Knowing he will lead and guide and direct the whole team
And the others will wish their dad was there through the process
But knowing Dad
Is theirs alone
And Smiling

Knowing the man working in the yard amid the heat and sweat
Is capable of doing just about anything he puts his mind to
And wanting to be just like him, working just as hard as he does
Arranging the rock, lifting the shovels, digging the holes
To make the house a home and create something beautiful
Out of dirt
Out of them
With them

Talking with him on the way to practice about little things
Hearing him listen as the days events unfold about him
There is a bit of advice, maybe sometimes too much fixing
But mostly there is listening and concern and the peace
Of knowing someone bigger and stronger than they
Cares a lot
Lives alongside
Loves Forever

These are the memories a Dad alone carries with him
And hopes his kids can someday remember as well.

What do you do when your kids are being lied to?

English: Colin Henderson's winning design will...
English: Colin Henderson’s winning design will be displayed on T-shirts and other items at this year’s Domestic Violence Awareness Rally, which is scheduled for Oct. 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just found out this morning that my son had told someone that he didn’t want to talk to me because he was worried he would end up in Juvy (I assume he meant Juvenile Detention).

Not sure how to handle this. Maybe a little background is in order.  I’m not sure how much of this I have communicated here on the site, so let me tell the story now.

I’ve struggled with my teens for several years.  I would try to help guide and direct them through teen questions and issues (yes, you must do homework before playing soccer or going to ride your horse or going on a date, no we will not take you to the summer camp of your choice when your church is already planning a big deal summer camp…)   There have been frequent battles between my ex and I regarding this. It reached its peak very early this year when I tried to speak to my daughter a bit about some issues we had experienced.

She immediately began to yell and I calmly said that we weren’t going to handle problems in our family any more by yelling.  I then explained that she’d lose her iPhone if she kept yelling like this.  She then attacked me and began beating me with her fists in an attempt to get her phone.  I’m not very strong, but I held tight to the phone, kept my hands to my side and got out of her room and went downstairs.  She followed me around for about 20 minutes as I kept trying to get away from her and calmly telling her  that this isn’t the way we handle things.  Her mom and brother joined in the yelling and her mom actually hit me twice as well through this ordeal.  I never raised my arms, just kept them to my side and tried to get into another room to stop this.  At one point my daughter told me she was going to rip my arms off and left a six inch welt on my bicep trying to do this (I have a picture of it).  After about 20 minutes of this I told them that if they kept it up I would have no choice but to call the police.  This is not the way any family should live and if they couldn’t listen to me and stop, I would have to involve someone they would need to listen to.  My ex screamed that she would just tell them I was beating them!  I had the phone in my hand and was dialing 911 and didn’t realize they answer even if you don’t hit send on the phone.  The operator heard my ex say this and asked if everyone was okay.

The police came and I repeatedly told them I didn’t want to press charges.  Apparently in my state once a domestic violence call is made, the onus shifts to the State to press charges and they don’t frankly care what the victim says at that point.

Somehow — the story I get from my ex is that the kids heard me say “I want them to go to jail.”  What I actually said repeatedly was, “I don’t want anyone to go to jail.”  At the conclusion, the police finally said if I left the house that night and went somewhere else that no one would go to jail.  So that was my last night in my home.

Once both my ex and my daughter went to court, the court system decided not to press charges on each of them due to the “first offense” situation for both.  I was asked if I was okay with this and told them yes.

So how my son thinks that he is going to end up in Juvy if he talks with me is very interesting.  Who’s telling him that?  His sister?  His Mom?  His counselor?  For the record, I have never raised a hand to my children and have very rarely even raised my voice especially in the last couple of years.  My son and I have gotten along better than I have with anyone else in the house.  And now he’s scared to talk to me because I will  put him in Juvy.

I’m not sure if you can detect the hopeless feeling that washes over me after writing that.  How do I change that perception?  It’s completely baseless when looking at the facts, but his statement is not about facts, its about emotion and the collective anger that has been nurtured and allowed to fester in the house where he lives.  How can you defend yourself against a lie that has been drilled into someone for so long?  Especially when there is no real way to prove it either way?  I have repeatedly written both of my kids to tell them exactly what happened that night.  IF they write back, it is in anger and telling me that what I have said isn’t what they heard.

A good friend of mine just told me that Only God can change hearts.  That we need to pray and that God is going to intervene here at some point.  If I didn’t believe that, I think I would be overwhelmed with hopelessness for this situation.

Annie’s mailbox: Happy Father’s Day, y’all! –

Annie’s mailbox: Happy Father’s Day, y’all! –


Annie’s mailbox: Happy Father’s Day, y’all!

Dear Readers: Happy Father’s Day to all the men in our reading audience who have had the pleasures and responsibilities of raising children. This includes fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers and those who have stepped in as father figures for those who needed them. Bless you all. Having a caring father is not only one of life’s great joys, but fathers also are tremendously important to a child’s emotional, academic and moral development. Please take the time today to let yours know you are thinking of them.

Dear Annie: Fathers love their children as much as mothers do. After a divorce, fathers want to be a part of their children’s lives but can find it incredibly difficult when they are viewed as deadbeats and potential abusers. But it’s the children who lose when they are cut off from their fathers.

So to family court judges, law guardians, social workers: Please help the children. Don’t automatically believe everything you hear. You owe it to the children to investigate and let the father tell his side of the story.

And to all those mothers who think it’s a good idea to remove a father from a child’s life or spread false stories about how bad he is: Think of your children. Please love them more than you hate their father. They need him as much as they need you. Allow them to love him. They take their cues from you, and if they see that you are upset when they show affection for Daddy, they will believe it is wrong and will stop in order to please you. You think you are punishing your ex, but you are actually punishing your children.

I’ve seen two boys cut off from their fathers and hurt by their mothers’ hatred of the fathers, two boys who are growing up fatherless and wondering why Dad isn’t there for them, two boys whose Dads don’t take them places, don’t help with school work, aren’t there for games, concerts and graduations, two boys with loving, responsible fathers who are missing so much.

— Sad Grandma

Dear Grandma: We have often said in this column that fathers are incredibly important for their children’s development. Studies have shown that children who maintain close relationships with loving fathers do better in school and are more likely to stay off drugs. Fathers need to remain in their children’s lives, and it is sometimes up to the mother to bolster that relationship. Both parents are essential for a child’s well-being. Please, folks, put your children first.

Contact the writer:

Father’s Day for Alienated Dads

Had my first pre-father’s day episode this morning.  It came in the wake of Randy Atkin’s song “Watching You” where he talks

Watching You (Rodney Atkins song)
Watching You (Rodney Atkins song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

about his son repeating his cuss-words and later, his prayers as he models himself after his dad.  It’s a tear-jerker, especially if you’re an alienated parent.


Several things I took from this.  First of all, I can’t just ignore father’s day because I probably won’t see my kids.  The wedding anniversary hit a couple of weeks ago and I honestly didn’t struggle much with it.  The marriage is over and should have ended many years prior, so I feel like I’m okay with that end of it.  Father’s day is a completely different story.  It will always have meaning and be an important day in the year, regardless of what the kids think of me.  I am a daddy.  I will always be a daddy. I grieve deeply for the wounded relationship with my children.  I would do just about anything to help rekindle that relationship.  I need to allow the grief and the sadness to be felt, and write about it and pray about it and then work through it.  I can’t choke it back or completely avoid it by filling the day with stuff to do.

That said.  I don’t think it helps to cry for a week in the fetal position on the couch either.  Interestingly enough, I’ve found that the less I fight the grief and the more I actually feel the pain and work through it, the quicker I’m able to emerge and be a productive member of society again.  The lows are less low and less drawn out when I’m actually allowing myself to feel the pain and not covering it up, ignoring it or allowing busyness to crowd it out.  I think in the past I was in an almost perpetual depressed state because I wasn’t allowing myself to actually feel.

Another thing that I’ve dealt with in preparation for Father’s Day is genuine anger at the ex-wife.  In a 1000 years, I would never consider not demanding that the kids do something for Mother’s day…  Not asking her to “force” anything.  That’s her constant mantra.  Just telling the kids that it is hugely inappropriate not to do something for father’s day.  That they will regret it later if they don’t.  That they need a dad in their life. That she went through not having a father in her life for 10 years and wishes she could redo that period in her life.  Stuff like that.  But, I’m coming to grips with the fact that she is not me and that she doesn’t think through things this way and that it is what it is.  Still hard not to get frustrated and angry about it, though.

Finally, the song was helpful to hear that my son and my daughter have picked up my characteristics and my approach to life at some point.  It’s not all from my ex-wife.  Half of their DNA and a good portion of their nurture was under my tutelage.  That is bound to affect them at some point and come back to them someday.  I just have to keep being their dad and keep reaching out and at some point they will realize their need for a dad and their need for a relationship, however small that might be.

Back to the long-term waiting, praying, loving, writing, patience plan of action.  With a heavy sigh.  Happy Father’s day to all of you alienated dads.  Hang in there.  Feel.  Then move on…



Good Faith Negotiations

Sign of good faith
Sign of good faith (Photo credit: GravitysAppleNZ)

I had asked in a previous post at what point do I stop doing kind things for my ex-wife if I get no response at all.  I have reached that point.

This weekend I received a call from the ex.  The house has sold, and her concern is that she doesn’t have any cash to put down on a new rental house.  She has looked at over 100 houses (I didn’t have the heart to tell her that seeing houses listed online is not “looking”) and she lost one this weekend because she didn’t have any money to put down.  I said I would love to help her, but would need some help from her in return with the relationship with the kids and with the settlement discussions.  She’s still asking for huge $$ per month and I have no contact with my teens still.

Wondering why she did not see about getting deposit money prior to looking for the new rental house?

She said she can’t “force them” to talk with me (her standard response) and that she deserves all the money.  So I said okay, I can’t help her.  She hung up on me, after some yelling.

I think it is time I stop being walked on like a well-worn welcome mat.  I made a list today of the ways that I have offered Good Faith olive branches to help during the divorce situation and the reciprocation received by the ex.  I came up with almost 20 different points in the last six months where I have paid bills I didn’t have to, solved problems immediately when she requested help and generally jumped right in to assist in any situation she asked me to.  From things like weeding the yard (and paying for a landscape crew to finish it) to paying soccer bills and resolving medical insurance situations to paying above and beyond the money due for Child Support, not getting credited for it and then being forced to pay more as a result.  I’m shaking my head in frustration.

Through all of this, I have asked for one thing — that she not alienate me from my kids, that she encourage them to have a relationship with their dad and that she get them into counseling. It’s been six months, and I’ve heard that they are now finally in counseling, though I don’t have the name of the counselor or her number and the counselor has not spoken to me — but apparently is already telling the kids that they shouldn’t have a relationship with me.

So my theory is — I will not do anything else for her until she shows Good Faith in the negotiation process.  She has done absolutely nothing to this point to show any good faith.  So I’m done negotiating with myself.

My brother told me last night that I’m finally setting up boundaries in my life with her.  That she will most definitely be very, very frustrated by these boundaries, but that they must be set up and held to and that it should encourage a quicker resolution.

That is my prayer. Thanks for all your notes of encouragement and comments of late.  Good to know I’m not in this alone!


Seeds of Discontent

A friend commented the other night that she doesn’t get why some moms and dads continually sow seeds in their families which cause their kids to doubt or think negatively about the other parent.  I replied that I wish only seeds were sown.  My ex backed up a flatbed truck and unloaded a fully grown tree which she proceeded to plant and water…  

But it got me thinking.  Unfortunately this “tree of discontent” has put me in a place where my kids aren’t talking to me at all.  They are calling me by my first name and work to disrespect me or treat me as rudely as possible whenever they get an opportunity.  

I went over to the house the other day to drop off a check for some yard work that was being done to help sell the house.  In an uncharacteristic and abnormal moment, the ex invited me in and we talked for a bit about the house selling.  The kids were out playing in the pool and when they saw Dad in the window, my 17 year old ran up the deck stairs (boyfriend in tow) and poked her head in with a panicked: “Mom, mom, are you okay?”  The ex looked at her quizzically and shook her off like she was being annoyed by even the suggestion that she wouldn’t be.  

That stuck with me.  I know my daughter wasn’t worried about mom being physically or even emotionally hurt by me — the only abuse that happened in the marriage went the other way.  So why make this “scene?”  I think the answer is that it is a direct result of the seeds/tree of discontent that was fostered in the home.  Dad is to blame for anything/everything bad and therefore must be made to feel stupid or awkward as often as possible.  It was a contrived “panic” induced to make Dad feel stupid.  She was a poor actress, but succeeded in making me feel a bit ridiculous.  Also, I think the scene was staged well for the boyfriend…  

These things don’t happen in non-alienated environments. Moms don’t put up with that type of behavior and dads are able to address it on the spot and still have authority to command some form of respect from their children.  

I guess what I am saying is that be careful the seeds you are sowing.  My ex was obviously embarrassed and very uncomfortable by my daughter’s behavior.  It was silly and senseless and obviously a show and she knew it as well as I did.  Hopefully, she realized that maybe this wasn’t the direction she wanted to raise her kids toward?  Maybe that’s wishful thinking.  

When I’m back in relationship with the kids, I need to be very careful to spray some weedkiller on any of the seeds of discontent my kids sow against their mom and be the standard for how we don’t go there.

Until then, still trying to navigate my personal reaction to these types of incidents.  I’m in the ignore them and focus on my love for the kids stage.  Not sure how long that will last or how helpful it really is.  That’s grist for another post.  



The Dog Days of Divorce

We’re in round three of negotiations for the divorce settlement.  I’m really curious if there are other men reading this site (or women) who have experienced what I’m going through and can bring some advice with regard to managing this negotiation process.

Round 1 was completely outrageous request from the ex:  Basically, I give her all my money and no access to the kids.  In fact, this month, if round 1 were enacted, this month I would have been in the hole $1,000 to her with $0 to pay toward my rent, groceries, or anything else for myself.  Oh, and she wanted me to pass this to her for 26 years (until retirement age — which may be 90 by the time I get there!)  Our marriage lasted 23 years.  

Round 2, I countered with 50/50.  We split everything (debt, income, house equity, 401k, everything in half).  For 8 years, which seems to be the standard in my state (total married years divided by 3).  

Round 3 (today, which happens to be the anniversary of our wedding), came with a basic restatement of round 1, no acknowledgement of any merits of round 2 and with the kids, “we’ll let the counselor help them reconcile, but no visitation or rights of any kind.”  Please understand, there has been nothing  abusive from me toward them (though it’s documentable the abuse that has been handed down from the ex toward me — and from one of the kids toward me).  There is no legitimate reason to exclude me from their lives other than the fact that Mom has alienated them from me.  

So we are back to Round 1 after 3 weeks.

I don’t think she understands that all that is happening is that I’m getting angry and hardened in my resolve to not let her have 1 penny over 1/2 of what I make.  

Incidentally, just got an offer on the house, which led her lawyer to say that since I’m not paying the $2,300 house payment and she will get a lower rent payment, that I need to pay her the difference.  

I spent about a half hour on the patio after the email explaining this offer just talking to God.  What do you do?  After another 8 hours in the day have gone by, I’m still very frustrated and feel completely backed into a corner.  And as we learned from Dirty Dancing, nobody backs Baby into a corner…(Maybe someday, I’ll be “baby” to someone again?)…  

So how do you respond?  I think I’m going to respond with a lower amount even then the original half proposal from round 2.  I would just as soon go to court and have a judge hear this (even if it is a female judge who usually decides in the woman’s favor).  I’m pretty much done negotiating, because I’m not going to negotiate with myself.

Please comment if you have any advice!