Some Really solid Psychological Work on Parental Alienation

Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: Treating the Split State of Mind in Children and Young People Affected by Parental Alienation

If you haven’t read this article and Karen’s work, I encourage you to look through it.  It’s sobering, but deep work, focusing on the concept that Alienated kids are “splitting” — quite literally pushing their alienated parents out of their conscious mind.  This actually makes a ton of sense.


5 year Divorce Anniversary, What’s changed?

Sorry to all the followers I’ve accumulated on this site.  I’ve not written here for quite a while.  A lot has changed since my last update in 2016.  I’m re-married now, have the good fortune of having 3 step-daughters — all in their 20s and three grandchildren – 11, 9 and 4.  What a joy that has been over the last few years, getting to know them and being a part of their life.  I’m a Papa to three incredible kids.

Don’t get me wrong.  All of that comes with its problems as well.  Life is not unicorns and rainbows and bunnies.

I think that’s why I’m writing again.  I’m thinking that a lot of us struggling through the problems inherent in Parental Alienation are thinking that if we could just get this one single problem fixed, our lives would be incredible again.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting old — I’ll be 50 this fall.  But I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that all of our lives will always have some hope and some joy and some despair and frustration.  I know we have this image of Bill Gates and rock stars like Bono and other people that have “made it,” and we think that their lives must be so extraordinary and so much better than ours.

Then we read stories of those caught up in the #MeToo movement and we wonder what happened to people like Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, and even Bill Hybels.  These people were at the top of their game, but their lives must not have been the perfect world we imagine, otherwise, why would these things occur?

I’m sure the subtext on this is not lost on most of you.  No, I haven’t heard from my kids.  It’s been almost 5 years since the divorce was final.  Almost six since the parental alienation began in a completely open, unapologetic, unrepentant way.  I send out cards at birthdays and Christmas.  Via amazon, because I don’t know their addresses.  The last time I heard from my son was when I crashed his graduation (surprising the heck out of his mom and sister and him).  They didn’t give me any heads up where he was graduating, and even switched schools on me mid-year (his mom had him attend 4 different high schools, his sister attended 4 different schools as well — believe me, not my plan — but it was part of her way of ensuring that they are attached to her, and no one else).

The beauty of having three step-daughters (two have lived with us, the other we live about 20 miles away from) is that there is new joy — and frustration and agony — involved with having somewhat of a father/daughter relationship again.  There’s similar beauty and agony with the grandkids as well.

I think I’d dreamed that a future like this would be all big hugs, helping the kids grow in wisdom and life.  I think I had a romantic, completely unrealistic view of the future.

It’s hard to be a step-dad.  It’s hard to be a Papa.  Even in the best of circumstances, each of these kids is struggling through their 20s (much like I did).  There’s dramas with each of them that encompass all around them.  Breakups where no one wants to go on.  Money troubles where help is needed urgently.  Housing issues (one of the reasons are new house has 3 guest rooms!!!).  Anger at Mom, Step-Dad step-dads in to help, then there’s anger at Step-Dad AND Mom.  Both of us overstep non-existent boundaries, both of us don’t help like we should in the eyes of the kids.  It’s interesting to note that even where there is not parental alienation involved, life with children is hard.  As we know all to well, the alternative, Life without children, is also very hard.

I suspect that many of you out there are clinging to the hope that there is a future with new kids or grandkids or your own kids coming back to you.  Hope is not wrong.  Hope is what keeps us going through the most difficult times.  Without hope, we wallow in despair and can’t go on.  So, please, Hope and pray for a different future.  Hope and pray for reconciliation with your kids.  Hope and pray for peace and joy right here, right now.

What I encourage you NOT to do is this:  Don’t put your Joy on hold, waiting for the reconciliation.  Don’t negate the places in your life where you can find friendship, love and happiness because you’re waiting for a future that won’t meet your expectations.

My new wife and I have talked a bit about what reconciliation may look like with my kids.  The last couple of times I saw them, I was completely rebuffed by the changed way they acted in front of me.  It was not real.  They weren’t themselves.  They were completely different in the way they acted, in the way they interacted.  I felt like I was viewing a parallel universe.  What if we finally do reconcile and this is the version of the kids that comes back?  I’m not sure if I would want to even be around them.

Here’s the other side of that:  There has been so much anger and pain and animus directed at me from them and their mom over the last five years, I’m not sure how easy it would be to forgive them immediately.  The longer they don’t have anything to do with me, the harder that gets as well.

The one key to mastering this life is to learn to have hope amid the struggle –– Learning to rise from the murky depths of life’s issues and make progress in spite of them. 

So what I decided to do waaaaay back (in the first several months of the separation and alienation), was to move on with my life, seeking truth and love and hope where I could find it, not demanding that my kids or ex-wife be the deliverers of any of that.  The result was that I was able to move on and find hope and truth and love in this new life.  I found an incredible, beautiful woman to love and believe in.  We have our issues.  Just had one today — something about my driving — imagine that, guys.  But there’s a long term settledness within us. There’s a peace.  There’s an honesty and joy we have with each other that I haven’t had before in my life.

And then, there’s all kinds of problems.  Money issues (still dealing with Alimony), family issues, aches and pains of being almost 50, concern for our aging parents, lack of friends in the new area we moved to this Winter, Too many pets that don’t get along, job concerns.  It’s funny how we can never get away from problems in our life.

And that’s the whole point of this.  Don’t expect you’ll get through all your problems.  More will creep in from somewhere.  That is life.  You’ll never be free from this until you take those steps into the hereafter.  The one Key of mastering this life is to learn to have hope amid the struggle — Learning to rise from the murky depths of life’s issues and make progress in spite of them.

Here’s to you in your attempt to do just that.

Letter from a stay at home mom

I was always committed to allowing my wife to be a stay at home mom.  It was our dream from before we got married.  Sad that this fact was used against me by my ex before and during the divorce.  “I haven’t had a job in 17 years — I need full support for the next 22 years.”  And comments made to the kids while we were married.  “Your dad just can’t be there for you like I can.”  But not said in a way that made them realize it was because I was working to support our income, instead, it was a comment made with derision as if I didn’t want to be there for them.

I would have given my left arm for a letter like this from the wife.

Cutting the Ties

If you saw the previous post, you know I was once again basically attacked and cast off by my 20 year old daughter because I got a notice about her healthcare and inquired how she was doing.  I responded in the way I typically respond to these types of rude notes — with sort of a quiet measured loving response.
And I sat for two days knowing it was not right.  It is never right for a parent to give and to give and to be completely insulted and belittled by their children.  I would never allow my kids to treat their mom in this way (and quite literally never did — when I was married there were consequences and discipline when they treated their mIF I cut you offom disrespectfully).  For me to sit back and let them continue to treat me with disrespect while I pay for their insurance is both silly and I think causes me to be the butt of further ridicule and anger.  I’m their patsy.  They can get away with treating me however they want and I’ll keep feeding the engine that gets them healthcare, alimony and (in the past at least) child support.  The alimony I have no control over — though I have filed for removal of alimony because the ex is living with her boyfriend — but the healthcare — now that is.  I looked at  this issue during these two days and discovered that, you know what?  It is now under my control.  The kids are graduated from High School and over 18.  The divorce decree states that I must cover them with healthcare until then.  So the last two years for my daughter and the future for my son are all purely at my whim.

In my research, I discovered that it cost me $783 per month to furnish healthcare for the kids.  Add to this the fact that the ex testified in court last month that she “pays for their healthcare,” and the fact that I don’t have to pay for their healthcare legally at all and their attitude and treatment of me over the last three years and I knew what had
to happen.

I talked it over with my Dad and brother and girlfriend and other friends first.  Didn’t make the decision rashly, and sent a letter to my daughter first explaining that I didn’t want to do this, but that she had made it very clear that she didn’t want any ties to me, so I was finally saying…. heavy sigh….OK.  It was written with Love in it, but also with clear $$ as to how much I’ve paid in Child support and alimony — something  I don’t think the kids were ever told.  And with a heavy emphasis on following their wishes.

The key point my father made was that he would have probably done this a long time ago.  He said, “Taking away money or support has an interesting way of changing the dynamic.”

I got a pretty quick response from the daughter.

“Ok that’s fine. It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t cancel. And please Don’t bring xxxx into this tho. It has nothing to do with him. “

That was it.  And with that the battle of 3 years ends in a whimper. The saying goes that hate isn’t the opposite of love, apathy is.  That’s what I’m getting now.

I sent a similar letter out to her brother the next day and have had no response.  Truth was, he had been consistently ruder and more demanding than his sister.  I’d at least had some actual conversations with her in the past two years.

Haven’t slept very well over the last week.  Keep waking up at 2-3 am and then finally getting back to bed at 5-6 am.  Feeling it in my back, neck, daily headaches and with a mysterious cough.  My girlfriend said she thinks its because of the finality of all of it.  There’s no connection with them from my side at all.  Every hope of reconciliation is basically in their hands.

Am I feeling the physical affects of that despair?  Maybe.  But in a sense, I also feel like I finally stood up to the bullying of the ex for good.  I will not be walked on any longer.  I will be alone if I have to be, but I will not be anyone’s patsy, and I will not let anyone — especially my kids — treat me with utter contempt and disrespect.  I do not need anyone like that in my life.  Ever. Never again.

That sounds empowering.  And it is.  I guess.  It’s also reality.  And it’s life. And I’m basically a father without kids.  By their choice.  And that.  Is hard.


Now What Do I Do?

Those of you reading this blog have seen my ongoing odyssey with my alienated children.  You’ve heard of the attempts to get them to counseling, and to visitation (all basically failures), you’ve heard of my attempts to create a blog for them of the things a dad wants his kids to know.  I’ve got over 60 entries on the blog and still don’t really know if the kids have ever looked at it.  If they have it’s had no impact that I can see.

They are 18 and 20 now.  It’s been 3 1/2 years since the initial separation where they initially declined to see me.  It’s been a month longer than that since I had a meaningful conversation with my son.  My daughter (she’s the 20 year old), has had  a couple of phone conversations with me that were actually pretty positive.  Then 2-5 days later, calls me up screaming about some completely fabricated (by her mom) issue.  I’ve not had similar meaningful conversations with my son, but do get calls and emails from him chastising me for ever wanting a relationship with him.

So  I now have 2 adult kids.  2 kids who act like they don’t have a father (at best) or at worst, as my son once said, that he has a father who’s worse than Satan.  Now I get that many teenagers overexaggerate and hate their parents at times.  I get that many teens can be rude and unloving.  I worked with teens for over 10 years in a previous life, so the difficulties teens have with their parents is not an unknown for me.  That said, I never saw anything like what I’m dealing with in anyone I’d ever come across in my life — until it hit me.  Then, suddenly, I’ve got 5-6 friends who all have bizarre issues with one or two kids (usually not all of them).

I’m writing this today because I just got an email back from my daugher to “stay out of my life.”  The occasion?  Oh, I got a notice from the insurance company that she’d been approved for a special drug to treat a condition she has.  So I dropped her a quick note to let her know and tell her I was concerned about her condition and would love to hear how she’s coping with it.  To which I got the “stay out” email.

I replied with a simple explanation:

“Since you’re on my insurance, I get a notice when you are approved for things like this.  I truly hope someday you will realize you have a father who loves you more than you could imagine and would love nothing more than to just spend time with you.

I will always love you and could never stay out of your life.  It’s not something a real dad can ever do.”

…as per usual, but I don’t normally get replies to these responses.  This happens maybe 1/3 of the time I email or text them something.  The other 2/3 of the time, there’s no response at all.  I see that they’ve opened the email (I have a tracker on them for this reason), but there’s no indication back to me of any kind.  I sometimes take a little solace in the fact that they do open and re-read many of these notes multiple times.  One time I think my son read a note I sent him 12 times.  I really don’t know what that means.  Unless he’s reading it to his mom, then to his grandma, then his sister, a friend or two, etc.  All to just mock me?  I really don’t get it.

And at this point, I don’t know what else to do.  They both live in other parts of the state, I’d hoped that my daughter living 3 hours from her mom would change the dynamics a bit and make her see that maybe mom’s not right about everything about her dad.   But it doesn’t seem to have happened yet and its been a year.  I’m strongly considering moving a long way away.  I have family with niece and nephew on the west coast and assuming everything comes together over the next few months, I may find myself there by this time next year.  It’s good to be around family.  I miss that.

But I really don’t know what else to do to reach out to the kids.  I’ve prayed and prayed, I’ve had huge numbers of people praying for me as well.  I’ve written a ton and thought a ton and talked it over a ton with really smart people, counselors, family, friends, pastors, etc.  I don’t have any answers.

It feels like I’m just being pitiful and puppy-dog-like in my response to my daughter up above.  But I honestly don’t know what else to do. I don’t know if I can “stay out of her life.”  I’m not the kind of dad that could do that and sleep at night.  But I also don’t know if it is helping us build any kind of relationship, by reaching out to her periodically.

I’m curious if and when any of you have just stopped reaching out.  At what point do you just go — “Hey, you’re an adult.  If you don’t want a relationship with me, I’m past the point of being able to do anything about that — it’s now up to you.”  My thought is if I do that, then I’m essentially just telling them I’m done with them.  Which I will never be.  Done.  With my kids.

So is there a change in tactic I should consider?  Is there something else I can do?  I’m kinda at wits end here.  I just don’t have any answers.

I’d created this blog in an attempt to share the experience with many of you.  To share the successes as well as the failures.  The “how to survive” in the middle along with the way to get to a point of reconciliation.  I have to apologize at this point — I don’t see paths to that point right now.

Not trying to be a downer, just coming to the sad realization that there’s very little I can do.

Do you tell your kids about PAS?

Question for Parents dealing with PAS:  

In seeing this article about PAS, I’m seeking some advice from the community here.  At what point do you explain to your children what PAS is, show them an article like this, and explain that this is what’s happening to them and to your relationship to them?

I have resisted doing this even thought my kids are 18 and 20 because I have felt like telling them there mom is doing this is in affect, blaming her for the the problems and sort of trying to alienate them from her as well, if that makes sense.  I imagine that there response will be something conditioned from Mom like, “there’s Dad blaming Mom for all of his faults again” (ironic, because I’ve worked very hard to never do that to her, and she’s done that even in the years prior to divorce and ever since, yet I’ve heard the kids say this directly to me).

I feel like they need to know the insidious and subtle nature of how their mom is twisting their world, but then again, don’t know if they will ever be able to hear that from me.  If I could just get a Psych 101 teacher to talk about this in their class at school, or a trusted friend to share this with them, I think it would be much more effective, but I don’t have anyone that could do that (that I am aware of at this point at least).

When and how have you shared the concept of PAS with your alienated kids?  How did it go.

Please comment!



A Brave Journey

BRAVE-2016-WebAdI have written before about the struggles that I have had in my prayer life and with God regarding the parental alienation situation with my two children, now 18 and 20.  My struggle has been to continue to believe that God will change the situation.  I know that he can change it and I think I believe that he eventually will change it, but I’m very resigned to the reality that it may take 20 years.  This, I am beginning to realize, is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If I think it’s going to take that long I’m essentially giving up.

That said, I haven’t given in completely to that thinking.  I continue to email and call the kids periodically (usually a couple of times per month) — and I track the views of my email (via a program called hubspot sales — google it if you need something like this).  I see through that tracking that each kid usually opens and reads these emails an average of 4-8 times.  That is somewhat encouraging.  I choose to believe it’s the kids that are reading this and not their mom that is repeatedly opening and viewing the emails.  No way to really tell for sure, but that’s the way I choose to look at it.  And I’m also putting together the website with memories and letters and notes and poetry and videos from me in it that I hope will be something they can come to and see that their Daddy really wanted a relationship with them the whole time and he was not the man their mom made him out to be.

All that said, I’ve had a hard time praying about them, I’ve struggled with talking much about it to friends and family and I’ve even gotten angrier about it over the last several months.  I’m not a very angry guy, so that comes out in snide comments to friends about the ex, typically.

My church is doing what they call a “Brave” Journey this Spring where you get in a small group for 6 weekly sessions, the message is about the journey and there’s some individual work as well.  It’s actually pretty cool and I’m leading a group at my house with about 10 friends, some of which are brand new friends for this particular journey.  It’s a great group and as each of us embark on our journey, there’s a support team for us.  Originally, I was going with a “heading” about my finances and getting out of debt.  But then in yesterday’s individual work, there was a line about picking a direction for your journey that you really need God to show up for you to be able to get there.  I realized my financial heading (though needed), was really something I could do on my own — and pray for and involve God, but that there was one really significant thing that I needed his help to resolve:  My relationship with my kids.  THAT was the real Brave Journey.

Please understand.  I don’t have any idea about how to change what I am doing to improve the relationship, but I’m going to follow the process in this Journey, I’m going to aggressively pray for God to change this; I’ve asked about 12 of my closest friends and family to pray every day at noon for this; and I’m praying for God to actually help me believe this can change and will change by the end of 2016.

Some of you will appreciate the level of Miracle that this would be for me.  I’m not trying to diminish the pain and struggle of the terminally ill, but it feels to me like this is akin to praying for someone in Stage 4 cancer to not die and be healed.  It really does feel that drastic to me.

I’m putting this on the blog, because I think it will help me be bolder in this process and I think maybe others of you may need to take a similar coordinated, planned, definite step like this and work hard on your unbelief.  I’m reminded of Jarius, the man who wanted Jesus to heal his daughter.  To paraphrase, Jesus asks him if he believes that Jesus can heal his daughter.  His response feels exactly like where I am at this moment.

“I Believe, but help my unbelief.”  (Mark 9:24)

So I step out in day one of this journey, with no idea where my feet will land, but expecting God to do something miraculous in the next 8 months.

Parental Alienation description

If you haven’t seen this article, it’s a very good analysis by a psychiatrist regarding what Parental Alienation Syndrome really is.  I think the estimate that it happens in 60% of divorces to some degree actually diminishes the harsh reality in the 10% of the divorces where it is absolutely wrecking the lives of children, however.  This is a very thorough analysis with a lot of resources.  If you don’t believe PAS exists, or you’re not sure if the Dad you’re talking to is telling the truth about what’s happening to him and his kids, maybe this is a good place to start.  This is very, very real.

PAS Article

Parental Alienation Syndrome


In Between

in between5 dates into a new relationship.  You’re getting to know someone.  She’s into you.  You’re into her.  Sure there’s things you don’t know if you are going to be okay with in the long term, but you’re working through some of them and trying to figure out if it can work.  But in that timeframe, you’ve got someone to kiss, you’ve got someone sitting next to you at the party with her hand on your leg, you’ve got someone to call at the end of the night when you’re on the road.  There’s hope.  There’s excitement, there’s the thrill of getting to know someone and finding ways you complement each other.  It’s all an adventure.  It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride, and it’s exhilarating.  Until the sudden stop at the end.  I’ve had two of the experiences in the last few months and both ended because we were too far away. Needless to say,  I changed my dating preferences to like 15 miles.  Not going there again.  It’s painful.  You invest time and energy and money and you begin to commit and then the rug get pulled out from the table and a few glasses break.

So I accepted the news and agreed.  I had similar thoughts and worried the distance was going to be an impediment and when she confirmed it (and my travel) had been concerning to her, I figured that was reason enough to end things.  So, instead of a date on Friday night.  Volleyball and going out with friends.  It was fine, and okay.  But there’s this nagging feeling of “what could have been.” Not to mention that whole thought process of “How long until I find something?”  So just to be clear.  I’m not desperate at all.  If I was desperate, I would have gone on multiple dates with a number of girls I had the option to do that with or I would be dating someone from my friend group.  They are great people and they are great friends and I truly love them, don’t get me wrong, but it just seems to me that it wouldn’t work with any of these ladies for a number of different reasons.

So that leaves me in between.

Have I mentioned how much in between sucks?  I’m sure there are probably many of you out there right now that are “in between.”  I think to some degree or another, we’re all in between something, right?  It’s that whole thought process we go through about how life will be better when “X” happens.  X can be anything.  Graduation, babies, marriage, new job, new house.  I think X has been all of that for me at one point or another.  So the rest of this blog is not about how in between sucks.  But about what to do when you find yourself in between.

First off.  Re-read the last paragraph.  We’re always in between.  So if you aren’t in between relationships, you’ll be in between something else and it will nag you.  I think that is why I have worked really hard since my divorce to find contentment in whatever situation I find myself.  Yes, the alienation from my kids sucks and I’m in between when they loved me and when they may have a relationship again.  Yes, the job is difficult right now.  I literally made half the income I did last year and gave my ex-wife more money than I made.  Yes I’m not quite finished with the re-hab of my house that I moved into more than 2 months ago.  Yes, I’m in between relationships.

But this is the 2nd thing.  Take stock in what you have.  This weekend (in spite of the “breakup”), I had dinner with 15 of my guy friends and like 20 of their kids for Easter.  Pandemonium in the house, chaos when it came time to eat, kids squirming everywhere during communion we had and the short talk that was given.  But.  Heaven.  Kids, friends, great food, good conversation and just love for one another.  It was beautiful.  Later, went out to hang with some of the ex-girlfriends brothers.  I love these guys and their friends.  I missed hanging with them.  We had a great time and I introduced the old friends to some of the new friends and there was just a good time from everyone.  Then two friends brought over breakfast to the n0t-quite finished house and we cooked  bacon and eggs and sausage and cinnamon rolls.  I did have too many cinnamon rolls.  I confess.  Then Easter dinner with more friends on Easter Sunday night.  Bad karaoke in the living room. Duck lips pictures (of which I did not participate — I do have morals…) and just a great time by all.  I have friends (something i have not had the last few years and something I treasure).  I have a job.  I travel to cool places in that job — San Francisco as I’m writing this… I have a great Cat.  Don’t judge.  He’s awesome.  I have a family who loves me and lets me pontificate about how frustrated I am to be ” in between.”  I have areas to serve at church and people who love me.  I’m a very, very lucky and blessed man.

3rd.  Improve the heck out of yourself.  Get better at what you do.  You have free time that your “in-between” is forcing on you.  Take advantage.  Work out more, pray, find a small group, cultivate better your friend group, join a team, learn to dance.  All of us have these things nagging us in the back of our heads that we’ve always been too scared to do or we’ve dreamed about but never attempted.  Go do those things.  Become a better, more well-rounded you.  Chicks dig that.  Guys love it.  Become a more fascinating person.

4th.  Get back on the horse.  Had a fascinating discussion with one of my girl-friends the other night.  I think I felt I was being a bit judge by being on the dating sites again.  I get the impression that she’s disgusted by it.  But I told her this.  I know what I want.  I want to be in a relationship.  If that’s the case, then I need to go get what I want.  I need to work towards that goal, I need to become the best me I can be in that process, but I also can’t sit around the house and wait for Ms. Wonderful to knock on my door.  I do see a lot of women who either are doing that or have just given up and don’t seem to care anymore.  I think that may be logical for some people, and I don’t judge them for their decisions, but when my friend said, “I’m content where I am, I don’t think I need a man to make me happy.”  I said to her, “So if I told you tomorrow a man would come into your life and you’d begin a great relationship that lasted a long time, would you say, No thanks, I’m good.”  She said, “Of course not.”  And I then told her I thought that was a true indication of what she wanted, and if she did want that she should do something to reach that goal.

I’m not sure if that’s a guy’s approach to the problem or it’s just a personality thing, but I can’t imagine wanting something as important as a relationship and literally not doing anything to pursue that or get there.  So that’s the 3rd thing — get back in the mix.  Whether that means online dating or just going out with the friend crew to places you have a shot at meeting someone, it does mean not hanging at your house wistfully imagining what you are not trying to achieve.  That’s a bit like hoping you’ll win the lottery without buying a ticket.

So that’s what I’m doing while I’m in between.  Anything you’d add to that list?


  • Jim