I fell in love with my (now ex) husband very quickly. He had his share of problems and resentments, but who doesn’t? He was funny and smart and full of great qualities and I was sure that my love would fix everything else. It’s easy to see now how the holes and pegs of our respective weaknesses attracted us to each other. The attraction became a strong and happy bond that was sustained for about ten years, but then evolved into a miserable dance of fearful dependency on my part and paranoid control on his.
The typical rejected parent is a certain type of person: very “nice”. Kind, concerned about the feelings of others, ready to give the benefit of the doubt, willing to consider his or her own contributions to problems, willing to take responsibility; all positive qualities. Unfortunately many rejected parents are too willing to take responsibility for others’ feelings and problems, too eager to please, fearful of conflict, passive, excessively accommodating, enabling.
Not all target parents are like this!!! But I was.
Most alienators share a set of personality traits too. They tend to be extremely narcissistic, controlling, lacking in empathy for others, capable of shocking cruelty and coldness, selfish and manipulative. They also appear to have no insight into the destruction they cause and the inappropriateness of their actions, leading many who study this issue to describe them as personality-disordered and mentally ill. More about this in another post.
Anyway, in order to maintain peace and keep my husband’s “love” I had to agree with everything he said and did. This was not obvious at first, because we did actually did agree about so much and we were young and optimistic and life was fun and full of promise. As time went by problems and conflicts with other people slowly increased. Eventually we had ended many friendships and were quite isolated. I still loved him, worried about him, wanted above all to make him believe that I loved him and to restore that happy family we had had. He had conflicts with my relatives. To please him I convinced myself to end my relationships with them. (I will write about this later. It is a very important aspect of my story because this experience of being alienated myself helps me to understand my children now).
I could never do enough in his eyes, and more and more fault was found with me. I became more and more insecure, self-doubting and anxious. Always on walking on eggshells. I got lots of lectures and criticism, would try to defend myself and my opinions, but would invariably end up apologizing, crying and exhausted, but forgiven. Then there would be peace for a while.
The children were certainly aware of these episodes. Most of the time they would happen when they were in bed, but often not. They would be in another room, quietly not interfering with our “important discussion”. I felt ashamed and upset about this but didn’t have the strength to do anything else. Despite this, for the first couple of years into the serious marital conflict my relationships with my children were still loving and secure.
Next installment: The alienation begins.