I had full custody of my daughter until she was three years old. In those three years, I made many mistakes. Alienating her from her father was not one of them. It wasn’t a mistake, it was a choice I made—a choice I regret.
I didn’t unwittingly move her 300 miles away from my ex. I didn’t accidentally forget to tell him about important events. I didn’t absentmindedly reject his visitation requests. It didn’t slip my mind to allow my daughter’s father to be in her life on a consistent basis. I did these things intentionally, selfishly, maliciously. I did these things to the detriment of my child.
I signed custody over to her father when she was three and checked myself into rehab for my alcoholism. She is ten today, and she still lives with her father. Over the past seven years, I have learned so much, and grown tremendously. I will spend the rest of my life making amends to my daughter and her father for the pain and damage I caused.
“Parental alienation is an emotional act of violence that is aimed at an adult, but critically wounds a child.” Steve Maraboli
At the time, I was consumed with myself. I didn’t understand or have an awareness of the damage I was causing. I viewed my child’s father as a nuisance—nothing more than a mistake. I just wanted him to go away. This is the case with many parents who resort to this behavior: they wish the other parent would go away for good. Unforunately, with the power of custody on their side, some parents are actually able to make that happen.
I know that what I did to threaten the relationship between my daughter and her father was tragic. I am thankful that seeking help and ending the behavior allowed them to share a beautiful life together. It saddens me that many stories like mine don’t have a happy ending. Many parents who engage in parental alienation never see the error of their ways.
There is a plethora of information available regarding the negative effects that parental alienation has on children. Children should always be a parent’s number one focus. But I’d like to focus on the very real, crushing effects it has on the parent enduring the abuse.
I have a dear friend (Josh*) facing this exact battle today. He’s been facing it every day, for a little over four years, since his daughter (Lily) was born. Lily’s mother is now happily married with two new stepdaughters. Josh’s mere existence is treated as a huge inconvenience (to put it nicely).
Expensive lawyers ensured Josh was allotted the least amount of visitation and granted minimal rights as a biological father, yet forced to pay the maximum amount of child support each month.
I speak with him daily, and his story is heartbreaking. He works two jobs to be sure child support and medical expenses are paid on time every month. During his precious, short visits with Lily, he watches her call another man “Daddy” and act stand-offish. The way Lily’s mother speaks to Josh is condescending and insulting. She often finds ways to intrude on their sacred alone time.
Josh is one of the strongest people I know, but even the strongest have their breaking point. On more than one occasion, I have witnessed him broken down and defeated, claiming “she wins, I can’t do this anymore”. Of course—after he grieves and the sun rises on another day—he restores himself to fight again. Because he loves his daughter.
Because I love him, I often get the urge to give Lily’s mother a piece of my mind. Nothing good would come of that, though. So I decided to do this instead.
An Open Letter To the Alienating Parent
I’ve never actually met you, but I know you. I’ve read your words, and for four years I have watched what your actions have done to your daughter and her father.
I’ve been you: wishing that the person you consider a mistake would leave you alone and let you live the perfect life you’ve constructed, uninterrupted. Carefully crafting plans and putting into motion any practice that allows you full control over YOUR child.
Entitled. Selfish. Conceited.
Yes, I was you at one point; eyeball deep in self and denial. Obsessed—never once opening my mind to question how my behavior may be affecting others. Never thinking—maybe I’m wrong, maybe I don’t know what’s best.
I’d like for you to try something. Take yourself out of the equation. Admit that the father of your child is HUMAN, and worthy of acknowledgment and respect. Search your heart for understanding and compassion.
This relationship is sacred, and every day that goes by that you are intentionally denying them the opportunity to bond, the greater the damage you are inflicting becomes. I know you don’t see it. You don’t want to. But what you are doing is nothing short of abuse. You are purposely inflicting trauma into people’s lives, where nothing but love and trust should live, out of mere selfishness. You are slowly, steadily killing this man: mentally, emotionally, and even physically. I see it taking its toll on him every single day.
You can end this now, if you choose to. Any minute you wish—you have the power to make this right.
Here’s the thing: children don’t stay children forever. Your child’s father is prepared to fight this battle every day for the rest of his life if he has to. No matter what obstacles you place in the way of their relationship, HE’S NOT GOING ANYWHERE. He will not give up on his child. There will come a time when you will have to answer for your alienating behavior. When that day comes, and your child comes to you begging, “Why? How could you?” what will you say?
Do you want to be able to say you realized your mistakes and did the right thing? Or do you want to continue creating damage that will make this inevitable scenario even worse?
You have a choice. You have the power. Please. Use it to do the right thing.
*Helpful resource for anyone dealing with this issue:
*Pseudonyms have been used.