In high conflict divorces that stay high conflict long after the dust settles, more often than not at least one parent, if not both, exhibit narcissistic personality characteristics. In my case, I had finally broken free of my cage, just to be continually pulled back in and controlled. I fought back hard. I was sick of being controlled.
During our two years with the (very inept) parent coordinator, I APPEARED to be every bit as narcissistic as Ted, because I fought back with everything I had. He stole our children with lies and I was bitter. He continues to this day to twist as much as he can to make me look like a bad parent. The parent coordinator couldn’t tell the difference, much like the family court system, between who was on offense and who was on defense. Now that I think about it, I think no one really cared, because Ted would cause problems, and if I would fight back in the slightest, I looked as bad as Ted.
I have spent the last two years learning how to stop fighting hard, and how to start fighting smart. I have also learned that sometimes, it’s just not worth it to fight. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn, and in the process I started to heal. The healing quickly snowballed with the research. I want to do everything possible to help Grant and Kristy heal too, so I started researching how I can be the best parent possible in the middle of constant conflict with an ex-husband who exhibits many characteristics of a sociopath and narcissist. Ted will not allow Grant and Kristy to go to counseling and has them completely turned against the idea, so it is up to me to find out how to help them.
Dealing with parental alienation has been the hardest obstacle. According to Duhaime.org, the legal definition of parental alienation is “A form of emotional child abuse where a custodial parent belittles or villifies the other parent to the child.”
Ted goes through periods when the bashing and constant put downs are worse than others. When he has something to focus on, like a vacation coming up, he seems to let up a little and just bash my vacations vs. his with the kids. In the last year, Kristy has been accused of “taking my side,” accused weekly of “keeping secrets from dad,” and is constantly drilled about happenings in my home then fed to dislike everything about me. Ted has pulled up satellite pictures of Dane’s farm and drilled both kids about it, all while slamming Dane.
The alienation attempts wear on Kristy, but Grant jumps right in with the bad mouthing of Dane and me to dad. He has admitted lying to Ted about me in order to make me look bad, something he promised he would stop doing. Grant’s promise was a lie, too. Grant has been lying a lot lately, which has pushed me to delve into researching parental alienation and why children lie.
I have done everything I can think of to get Grant to stop lying. I have tried the “God is watching” guilt trip…which you think would work when dealing with a child raised in private Christian schools, but much like daddy, speaking and doing are two different things. Grant just regurgitates the same nonsense Ted spews, that he is a sinner and he will just pray to be forgiven. I have recently read that the guilt trippin’ rarely works, anyway.
I have pretty much covered the full spectrum from crying and yelling and grounding (in the early days) to calmly addressing WHY Grant lied. So, with everything failing, I started Googling.
I have found in my research that it is common for the alienating parent to play emotional games with children toward the target parent. They will emotionally reward for alignment with their thoughts and feelings toward the target parent, and punish alignment with the target parent. This is exactly what Ted does to Grant and Kristy. So, Grant lies easily to me to show his alignment with Ted. This brainwashing can lead to parental alienation syndrome, where the child creates their own set of negative beliefs against the target parent, essentially finding their own reasons to “hate” the target parent. Grant has not reached the stage of hating me yet. When I go a long period with no parenting time, it takes a few days for Grant to let down his walls and relax around me, but it does happen. It is during these times that I tread lightly and concentrate on quality time with them and having fun. I find the more I do this, the easier it is for him to feel more relaxed around me. Then they go back and Grant is right back into “daddy pleasing” mode. If I make my home warmer by expressing love instead of conflict, at least I know that for 10 overnights a month, Grant and Kristy can relax a little.
Grant also bashes me in order to show his alignment with Ted. He knows he is doing it, but feels he needs to be loyal to Ted. He also knows I will always show him unconditional love. So, in his mind, life is easier if he aligns with the parent pushing the most conflict. Ted has spent 6 years of playing the victim to Grant, playing on his empathic emotions to the highest degree. Both kids are constantly pulled between doing what is right, and what is easiest.
This is where my struggle lies. How long do I actively sit back and watch them take the easiest road, learning to lie and use people easily? How hard do I push them to choose doing what is right vs. whatever makes life easiest? How hard to I punish for the lies when I know WHY Grant is lying?
All I know is when I add a lot of pressure, even when it is to choose the right thing, I visibly see how it hurts them. Grant squints his eyes and Kristy literally shrivels. So, from now on, I will add the least pressure to their lives possible. I must be the light and show them with my actions instead of my words, how to be a good parent. I have to believe they will grow up and know the difference.