I was an Adult Alienated Child – LONG version!

This post is long. I describe how and why I became alienated from my parents, and how and why the alienation ended. I write about how about the alienation distorted my thoughts, behaviour and feelings – how it felt hating people I used to love. Although the particulars of this story are unique, you can extract much that will be applicable to your situation. I hope it will give you some insight into how your alienated child thinks and feels. I will offer some suggestions about how to interact with your alienated child based on my experience.

As an adult, I was alienated from my own parents and siblings for about five years. It’s painful for me to remember how horribly I behaved, and painful and embarrassing to face the reality that I was brainwashed, or allowed myself to be brainwashed. I’ve thought a lot about my own experience, and how it fits with the literature about cults and mind control and the psychology of how we influence each other. I’ll write later about mind control in general. Here is my experience.

I was alienated from my parents (and siblings and all other relatives) for five or six years, when I was 37 to 43 years old. In my case, the alienation was not caused by a parent but by my then-husband. I was so old then that you’d think this would be impossible, but no, it really happened. Before the alienation, for all my life I had a happy and loving relationship with my mother. We went through periods of varying closeness because of geographical distances and the normal busyness of life, but generally I felt very lucky to have her for a mom and any observer would see a warm and comfortable relationship. My relationship with my father was not unfriendly but it was not close.  He could be bad-tempered and irritable; dictatorial, mean and intimidating. Essentially because of these aspects of his personality my parents divorced when I was 25, but they always spoke of each other respectfully and communicated sincere goodwill toward and about each other.

My relationship with my ex was happy for the first 10 years. We never fought. I would describe myself as agreeable, positive, and flexible…all great qualities when balanced with a good sense of self and self-confidence, but that can become problematic without that self-confidence. My ex was insecure, thin-skinned, and at first just mildly paranoid, but this got worse over the years. He couldn’t tolerate anyone disagreeing with him, would interpret it as criticism, and was a very black-and-white thinker. At first I found ways to cheerfully compromise so that I could always agree with him. I thought that my love and devotion would mend his suspicious heart, soothe his fears, and solve everything. (I was wrong.) There was also a great insecurity in me, and it turns out that many partners of alienators share this quality. Fear of conflict, passivity, and anxiety for approval are traits common in many target parents. Anyway, I was flexible and accommodating, and for a long time the compromises I made felt reasonable and worth making, as no relationship is perfect, right? However, I kept on making compromises and sacrifices. I supported the family financially. I cut off friendships with people he had conflicts with. I did whatever was required to make things comfortable for him because it was too uncomfortable for me otherwise. He could not accept any opinions not in accord with his own. When a rift developed between him and my sister, in order to maintain peace with him and keep his “love” I eventually chose to cut her off. Then “we” asked my parents to join in denouncing my sister. They wouldn’t, so they had to be cut off too.

This was a gradual process. First there were many long, agonizing  “talks”. My ex would have to “explain” to me over and over why my family was so bad, because I would disagree and try to change his mind. He wouldn’t stop talking until he had convinced me, even if it took hours, and I was a willing listener. I wanted to be on the same page with him. Over time he began to get angry with me for having doubts and challenging him, which I would do less and less as I became more afraid of upsetting and offending him.

When we would talk to my family members it would basically be basically us criticizing, blaming and making accusations. They were baffled, confused, and hurt. Sometimes they’d be outraged and angry. They tried reasoning with me, and they tried to appeal to the empathy and compassion I used to have.  When they agreed to go to counseling with me, I just complained and attacked and didn’t care that I was wounding them. I found fault with everything they said. Whenever they questioned or said anything critical of the alienator (my ex) I became  defensive and furious. Every instance of their not admitting their wrongness and choosing not to agree with me and him was seen by us as a new crime, and the negativity just grew and grew. As well, alienation made it “us against them”, so every interaction with them was automatically a fight, even when they so obviously wanted just to reconnect. Every interaction became another occasion to take sides against them, which would become an intellectual and emotional pledge of allegiance to my husband the alienator, and another investment in his version of reality. Finally my mom & sister gave up and backed off. My dad kept trying to continue as if nothing was different, which sometimes angered me, and sometimes pricked my conscience.

My then-four year old would say “I miss granny!” and this would pierce my heart, because – “out of the mouths of babes” – I knew he spoke the truth, and that he missed her because she was sweet and loving and fun and was not at all the monster I had convinced myself she was. Interestingly, the older boys did not mention her. They had absorbed the message that they were no longer to love her, to miss her, or even to speak of her. Eventually the younger one forgot to miss his granny any longer too.

My love of my then-husband was intense, and my loyalty to him was fierce. I think  that being forced to choose and give up so much for him polarized and intensified my feelings, both my feelings for him and my commitment to my rejection of my family . I kept trying to prove my love to my husband, but at the same time he was never satisfied and I could never do enough. I had to make many sacrifices to keep his approval, and also to convince myself that I was doing the right thing by following his opinions and beliefs. Deep down I did know I was wrong.  I remember allowing this into my consciousness for a few seconds on two occasions, and also having the conscious thought that I was not ready to deal with it and pushing it away. I continued to invest in the choice that I had made. I was not willing to accept the reality that this was craziness and could not get better, but I was always arguing with my ex’s opinions in my mind, trying to expunge the doubts. I was secretly in turmoil, 98% of the time.

As time went on my ex found more & more wrong with me, and criticized me for not doing enough to keep my alienated family members away, and then he decided that that I was responsible for the way they thought in the first place, and in fact just as bad as them, and so on. Whenever a letter or call came from them it meant I was in trouble with him unless I could come up with a really good response. I’d write angry notes back to them, and show the notes to my ex like a student offering homework to the teacher for grading. Usually what I wrote was not good enough, but the angrier I made it sound the more likely he was to be satisfied with it.

For this reason I dreaded any communications from my family. Perhaps if they had had a means of communicating with me that he wouldn’t know about, it might have been different, it might have helped me break free of the abuse sooner, although earlier on when I was still receiving approval and “love” from him I voluntarily told him about any letters I got. (A “culture of confession” and a lack of privacy is a hallmark element of cults and cultic relationships.) I ignored all of my relatives. I missed weddings and funerals. I didn’t send holiday cards. I avoided places and events where I might meet people connected to my family and former friends.

It is strange to try to reconstruct how I thought at that time. I saw everything in a very two-dimensional, black & white way. My sister says I had an extreme personality change and became hard and tough. She said I had a different look in my eyes.

I was tense and exhausted, arguing with myself constantly in my own mind, trying to convince myself that my then-husband’s views were correct, and worried about him detecting my doubts. When I mentioned aspects of my family life to other people,  or just answered the usual politenesses of coworkers, for example, they tended to ask questions that would expose the irrationality of my actions. I found this disturbing so I tried not to discuss my life. I had no close relationships anymore with anyone other than my ex and our children. Gradually I had broken off most of my friendships because my ex had conflicts with my friends. I still loved him. I had to work hard at it, but I did convince myself to believe what my ex told me – that he, so misunderstood! was the wisest, kindest, most genuinely caring person in the picture,  the one with real insight into everyone’s true motivations and who understood what everyone really needed, unlike all those other people out there “faking it”. Then I’d be able to believe in what I was doing. I could believe that my mom really was awful and that she deserved the heartless treatment she got from me.

My ex got worse. He eventually had conflicts with basically everyone he got involved with. I hung on, trying to “earn his love” even after he told me he didn’t love, want or even like me any more, (but he still wanted to share the same house & parent together – it’s all about control!). He had begun to involve the children against me about 2 years after our marriage problems started, first just the oldest, then the others at progressively younger ages. At a certain point I was getting nothing positive from the relationship to outweigh the anxiety and fear and misery I was living with, and had lost hope that it would get better. Little by little I found the strength to start trusting my own judgment and and to resist his influence and control. A few months after I made the decision that my relationship with my ex was over I called my parents & sister, secretly, and apologized and reconnected with them. Still, my fear of my ex’s disapproval was such that I hid the the fact that I was in contact with them for another year.

I can see much of my behaviour while alienated in my own children now.

Their intense devotion to their dad is not what you’d see in a typical child-parent relationship, especially with teenage and young adult children. The normal ambivalence that you would expect at their age is not there. I see the same ferocity that I used to feel, as if he was both victim and hero. They are compelled to obey, champion and defend him. I think the crux of it lies in the forced choice. They CAN’T love both their parents. He has made me his enemy, and how could they possibly love his enemy? I was alienated from my sister and parents because he saw them as his enemies, and loving his enemies was an impossibility. He forced me to choose. When I would not choose him any longer, he forced our children to reject me. Not only has he forced them to choose, but they have been forced to make a huge investment in his reality. They too have had to make enormous sacrifices that have further deepened their commitment.

Of course every situation is different, but based on my experience here are three important ways you can make things much better or much worse in dealing with your alienated child (By the way, I myself still forget and fall into all of these traps):

1. Do not let your child make you lose your temper! Whenever I was able to provoke my “hated” family members into getting angry and behaving imperfectly I would feel great relief, even joy. Then I could feel some justification for my beliefs and renew my faith in the alienator’s judgment, and feel that I made the right choice in sticking by him and rejecting them. I could be cold and hateful without a tortured conscience.

2. NEVER criticize the alienator. This is guaranteed to backfire and cause your child to reflexively entrench more deeply in loyalty to the alienator, no matter how illogical or irrational this is. Strive to avoid talking about the alienator at all. When you have to refer to him/her, or to something he/she did, be as neutral as possible.

3. Do not argue or attempt to reason with your child about the alienation. Just tell your child that you love them, miss them, care about them. When my “hated” family members tried to reason with me, I got defensive, even enraged, and fought them. When they stopped trying to convince me of anything and just communicated that they loved me, I was disarmed. Although I tried not to show or acknowledge it, the message got through.

Just for the sake of completeness I will end with the summary of my experience of being an (adult) alienated child that appeared in the previous post.

What caused it? Nothing my parents did. It was completely, 100%, caused by my ex demanding that I reject them.

Why did I comply? I loved him. I wanted his love. I wanted to believe in him. I wanted to keep my family together. I wanted to maintain a happy relationship with him for my children, and overcome our conflicts to make it worth it in the end.

How exactly did he get me to shun and hate people whom I really loved, and when I knew that shunning and hating are wrong? 1. Relentless, persistent, unceasing messaging. 2. Suppression of argument by any means necessary – sympathy, flattery, gentle coaxing and “discussion”, anger and outrage, criticism and emotional abuse, and the threat of being shunned and rejected. 3. Isolation from others, removal of outside support and influence, increasing my dependence on him. 4. Requiring me to INVEST in my “choice”, and to make sacrifices and commit more and more heavily to that choice.

What ended it?  His criticism and emotional abuse of me finally became too much. Although my investment had been huge, there was no more payoff, and no more hope of a payoff in the future. To maintain my willingness to perpetuate my alienation from my parents and relatives, I would have had to enter a deeper level of insanity, to give up even more self-respect. Perhaps if he had treated me just a little more kindly, had given me some scraps of affection, I might still be alienated.

How did the alienator react to my defection?  With intense anger and outrage that continues today, and by alienating our children from me.

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About Claire Brett-Moran

I am an alienated parent; heartbroken about the damage done, angry and frustrated at the injustice, curious and fascinated by the unfolding mystery, eager to help make things better. In order to protect my children I will not post any details about my identity at this time, but you can contact me if you want to know more.
This entry was posted in Alienators as Cult Leaders, PAS Families as Cults, Effects on Children, Effects on Targeted Parents, Mind Control, My Story, Personal Actions, The Psychology of Alienation, Understanding the Alienating Parent, What NOT to do, What Should I do? and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to I was an Adult Alienated Child – LONG version!

  1. Louise says:

    Claire,

    It’s so helpful to have this perspective. I know I will read this post over and over again when I need to be reminded of what’s really going on with my step-daughter.

    THANK YOU for sharing this.

    • Dear Louise – I’m so glad that you find it helpful. Actually I’m amazed how much it helps me to re-read it myself. Even having been through it, I forget to put myself in my alienated kids’ shoes and remember what it was like. I guess because it is so irrational. Irrational, but real.

      thanks!!

  2. PAPAS says:

    Thank you for providing readers with this glimpse into your side of what appears to have been a very troubled relationship. From the direction of your piece I suspect there is a great deal more detail, and from my experience it is the subtlety of the alleged instigating factors that speak the loudest about the true underlying causes.

    I do not – – – even for a millisecond – – – doubt any of your pain and the anguish you’re experiencing. I am not so accepting, however, of where you find the blame for it. Your need for love and, hence, your willingness to alienate your family for 5+ years due to your ex’s alleged inability to cope with your unresolved dispute with a sibling sounds more like your conditional acknowledgment of just a small part of a much bigger issue that you are not yet willing to acknowledge, rather than being the entire cause for your experiencing the entire anguish.

    I’m not entirely certain whether an unresolved intrafamiliar dispute between adult siblings and spouses has anything whatsoever to do with PA/PAS, but I’m still sorry you feel unhappy as a result of whatever occurred. I only caution that defining it as PA/PAS may not be appropriate but, rather, your try at fitting the proverbial square peg into a round hole.

    • Hi PAPAS, thank you very much for taking the time to respond! You bet it was a troubled relationship. I think I was not clear enough that it was my ex’s conflict with my sibling (and parents), not my own, that led to my choosing to alienate myself from them. My relationships with my siblings and parents are certainly imperfect, but there is and has always been enough love, and maybe more important, enough everyday enjoyment of each others’ company that my severing all contact with them was extraordinarily wierd and would never have happened had my ex not forced me to choose between them and him. And you are correct, it’s not PA or PAS exactly, but it was brainwashing, not unlike Stockholm syndrome, and in my opinion the mindset I experienced is very much like that of an alienated child.

  3. Jackie says:

    My teen and young adult children have been alienated from me by their father. It is helpful to hear from someone who has experienced similar brainwashing and managed to reconnect despite it. Your suggestions are also very helpful; I will keep them in mind as I continue to reach out to my children. Good luck to you with your own children.

  4. Well Aware of Parental Alienation says:

    Wonderfully written blog! I really enjoyed catching a glimpse into the world of living with a narcissistic alienator. It is all very common. Thank you for writing this. I live in NJ and organize support groups around the state, you can check out our website at http://www.pasanj.org. Check out my writings sometime at: http://parentalalienationnj.wordpress.com. You can reach me by e-mail at parentalalienationnj@gmail.com.

  5. Claire,
    You are a very brave woman to over come this kind of brain washing and control. Thanks for sharing your story. You are not alone in this kind of situation. You broke loose and sharing your story will help others gain some insight and find the courage to break loose as well.

  6. catherine71 says:

    WOW. I have just read my own experience through your words. I was shocked to read that this man managed to do it to you as a mature woman of 40ish. I have just come out of a toxic 14 year marriage and am now dealing with an ex-Husband who now takes pleasure in trying to pit our 13 and 8 year old against one another.

    I too, was my husband’s greatest advocate, promoter and all time sucker until I came out of the fog of B******t last year.

    These people are sick, and they target nice people to do this to. They do not want you to have a loving, supportive family network because it threatens and undermines their power.

    Thanks for your post.

    • Hi Catherine,

      Thank you for writing, and for your straight-up summary of our stories. Good for you, and stay strong for your children. Lots of love to you!

      • catherine71 says:

        It’s been almost two years now since I wrote that impassioned reply and wow … have things changed for me and my kids. They refused to see him or spend time with him not long after I wrote that reply (as a result of his disgusting, selfish behaviour towards them and I during the separation months when he got them alone and vulnerable) …. and we have had 18mths of happy, contented bliss – free of angst, mind games and sibling alienation. I’m in a much, much happier place now and it’s been nice to revisit your post. Your experience was so parallel to mine it’s amazing. My beautiful, generous, forgiving family have supported my kids and I for 2 years now and we are all happy and very blessed. The cancerous experience of what he did to us all diminishes a little every day and it just gets easier and easier ( though I still feel anger at myself for allowing to be manipulated and led astray so badly). Thanks for you kinds words and hugs to you from Australia xx

      • I am thrilled to hear this.
        Thank you for taking the time to write Catherine – it gives us all hope!

  7. Walt says:

    Claire – this was incredibly helpful to read. We are going through a similar situation with my brother-in-law. His soon-to-be wife has completely isolated him. She is bipolar and has borderline personality disorder. She was so nice and kind, up until they got engaged. We have virtually no communication – he’s changed his phone number, they live in a gated community and we are on the not-allowed-in list, and his parents are not even invited to their wedding. I have a phone number for him, that she controls – she checks the messages, etc. He did call a few days ago to tell me how he’s felt put on the back burner, not an important part of our lives, not supported or respected, blah blah blah. I know from previous conversations that he’s told me he needs to say certain things in front of her, so as hard as it was to hear all those things, I just kept telling him that we loved him, we supported him and we were not going anywhere. We would always be there for him. I have two toddler girls (he’s the godfather for both of them) and it’s been almost 4 months since they’ve seen him. I’m sad for him and the life he’s chosen to live, but I’m mostly sad for them. They didn’t do anything wrong. I’m just praying and hoping that he realizes, as you did, that this is unhealthy. Life is way too short to be so unhappy.

    • Hi Walt, thank you for writing. I’m sorry my reply is so late!
      It’s amazing how insane people can take others down with them. Compel them to act as if they believe the fiction.
      I would guess that your brother-in-law will reach a point where his sacrifices for her will not be worth it.
      In any case he is lucky to have you!

  8. Melba says:

    It is uncanny how similar your current situation is to the situation we are currently facing with my sister. Your article has helped us come to terms with our situation so for that I thank you. My question to you is, if you had read this article when you were in the midst of it with your ex-husband would it have opened your eyes even a tiny bit, or pushed you further away from your family? Thanks.

    • Thank you for writing Melba,

      I did my best to ignore or discount anything that threatened my view of the alienator as good and correct. I gave up wonderful friends and loving family members and my self-respect to do that.
      However, if I had read this, it would have been another straw on the giant haystack of denial. It’s hard work maintaining a lie, but I had invested so much in my relationship with him, that each sacrifice dug me deeper.
      So maybe the answer is: Both! It would have opened my eyes a bit more and challenged me, but I was not ready for that challenge for a long time, and in the short term it probably would had made me retrench further into unreality.

  9. Rhonda Shlanger says:

    This is very much what our son appears to be going through with the DIL.
    I admire the courage it took to finally become aware of and to act on re-connecting with your family.
    Your pain is unimaginable and it gives my husband and myself insight into how the alienated child feels. We go from feeling bad for our ES to anger and frustration. I pray as a mother, that one day our son will re-connect with us. We miss him every day and although we do see him once a month which is “allowed”, it is closely monitored as well as seeing our granddaughter is. We can only see her once a month. We are loving parents but did make some mistakes along the way. (discussing our feelings with people that ended up going back to the alienator.) So now we are more careful but do not want to lie when asked specific questions. Thank you and G-d Bless.

  10. Journey To Estrangement says:

    Hi Claire, I’ve just seen this blog and would like to ask if I could repost on Reconciliation Or Estrangement on Facebook? What you say is so important and unfortunately happening so much in society. Thank You.

  11. Diane says:

    Thank you clair, this has been very insightful. I have been alienated from my D&GC for 2yrs &3mnths. I had a very special bond with my darling GD as my D & GD lived with me before he came along, not only was I cut out but my GD step dad even changed her name, as her second & last were mine.

    • Hi Diane, Thank you for writing.
      This is so sad. As horrible as it is to say so, the alienator will probably eventually make things so miserable for your daughter that she will break free of him and seek you out.
      Stay strong!

      Lots of love to you.

  12. Pam says:

    Thank you for sharing.

  13. The Bridge says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. We have a very similar situation in our family. My parents have been slowly cut off from my sisters family over the last two and a half years. I have tried to be the bridge that stands here waiting to help reconnect them one day. I try to stay neutral and understand (which has gotten me in some tight spots as well). I know that my parents aren’t perfect but I also know that they aren’t the evil people she now believes that they are. So many times when I read something like this I want to send it to her. My question is…when you were in the depths of your alienation, how would you have received an email article like this? I’m afraid it may crumble my bridge, but there’s a hope that it may also prick at her conscience?!?

    • Hello The Bridge, thank you for writing. I’m sorry to be responding so late and I hope it’s not too late to be of use.
      Generally I avoided and cut off anyone who threatened my view of my ex and his opinions, because I wasn’t ready to face the truth. On the other hand, I argued in my head constantly about what was right and wrong. I was miserable, scared and anxious.
      Part of me knew that I was lying to myself, but more of me wanted so badly to believe that my ex was right, so that I could wholeheartedly be who he wanted me to be so that he’d be happy, and then he would love me and we’d live happily ever after.
      I suggest that you try to maintain your good relationship with your sister, and do not challenge her about your parents. Do not agree with her, but say that you won’t talk about them, and change the subject. Of course this may not be possible. If her alienating partner puts demands on her to force you to take sides, it will be tricky. Try to find neutral areas to sincerely connect. The less isolated she is and the more sources that can reflect reality back to her the better.
      She is lucky to have you! very best wishes, Claire

  14. Susie says:

    My family and I are are currently alienated (me completely, my parents on egg shells) from my Brother; his wife is a narcissist. It’s been years of varying degrees of hurt and we’re still struggling with this everyday. Your post has been so helpful – we often wonder if our messages of love get through to him and your post has given me hope that they do. Thank you for putting it all out there and I wish you all the best with your situation.

  15. Marc Lemay says:

    Claire,
    Thanks so much for your work and writings. I am one year into the journey through the nightmare – divorce still ongoing, alienation (from the oldest of our three children) moderate to severe but only a year old. Yesterday I met a man who won what is touted as the only cure for severe PA, sole custody, and whose children only became, like yours, more severely affected after coming to live with them. Would you provide an update on how you are doing today? Have your children at all begun to see the light?
    Warmest Regards,
    Marc

    • Hi Marc,
      Thank you for writing and I apologize for the long delay in responding. I’d love to hear how things have progressed for you!
      I’m sorry to say that things are not better for me yet. In fact my long silence on this blog has been because I found it too sad and found all kinds of excuses to avoid writing.
      However, I am back now.

  16. Charlotte Bell says:

    I have a daughter going through this and I have not seen her nor her child for almost 3 years. It is impossible to speak with her because any effort only brings on accusations and anger. My granddaughter and my daughter lived with me for 10 years while my daughter completed her Masters in Social Work. She is a good person. My granddaughter dearly loves me, but my daughter has the support of a group in another town (in the name of “God”) and insists that I am the evil toxic person they cannot allow in their life. She chased me last week as I was driving down the Highway and posted on Facebook that “My mother is having a very difficult time knowing her boundaries.” and she got many supportive hate messages – all wanting to put me in jail. She is extremely intelligent, but something happened to her brain, and I believe it is due to relationship with the Managing Editor of a Newspaper, with money, that keeps her alienated and convinced that I and her two sisters are the evil toxic people in her life, in Jesus’ Name.

    • I’m so sorry that you are going through this, and I’m sorry for your daughter, and especially sorry for your granddaughter. It sound like she is been influenced by a cult-like group that has convinced her that someone who truly loves her is her enemy. How awful.
      I can’t imagine that there is anything you can do except continue to be your sane and loving self, at a safe distance.
      I send you love and best wishes.

  17. Carla says:

    It seems that the alienation by my daughter began with a bizarre outburst towards me by her then fiancé. It was right out of left field and I thought he was joking at first, I’d done nothing to annoy or insult him that I was concious of. More insults followed at the dinner table, I was stunned as were the other members of my immediate family present. No idea what brought on this venom . So stunned that none of them stuck up for me, nor did I stick up for myself. At the time my daughter was incensed by his behaviour and left the room in tears. Then a few months later a couple of other incidents , plane tickets bought for us for their destination wedding without even calling or asking us but expecting us to pay up immediately although we already had our own plans for travel. A phone call to me from him telling me off and putting me in my place. Finally a year or so after that he purposely twisted something innocent I said about something to him when daughter was not around into having been an insult to him. When I told her it was absolutely not an insult she wouldn’t accept my version and soon after sent me an email with an ultimatum to do something my health would not allow at the time OR she would be detaching. I’m sure that as I was unable to do her bidding ( even though due to poor health ) that she is telling herself that it was my choice for her to detach. Her mantra has always been ” I’m not stupid” but alas in this case either she is stupid or she is in deep denial. It is disturbing that someone who used to boast about her close ties to her immediate family was now cold and unempathetic towards us.

    • Hi Carla,

      Thank you for writing. I can picture the scene you described, the outrageous outburst and no-one responding. People are often confused and stunned into silence by that kind of craziness. And when a person is completely unembarrassed and has no sense that his behaviour is awful, what could anyone say? A volatile narcissist can wreak so much havoc. Unfortunately he knows how to draw your daughter in sufficiently that she feels bound to him. Makes her feels sorry for him, is sweet to her sometimes, plays on her generosity and kindheartedness to make her feel responsible for him perhaps..
      I expect that she knows that she is lying to herself, and that your close and loving relationship will ultimately give her the strength to break away from this man. No doubt he has problems with many other people and life with him will be very difficult.
      Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated. When you have the opportunity, let her know that you love her as you always have. You have done nothing wrong, and she knows it. Meanwhile, take good care of your own health and happiness to maintain your own strength, as this will probably get worse before it gets better.

  18. Nick Child says:

    Hello Claire

    Many thanks for all your steady patient work on this blog and for this two-part story. I run http://thealienationexperience.org.uk blog. I am particularly interested in your story here.

    One line of thinking I’ve followed has been to include Parental Alienation as one of a wide range of coercive patterns under the name “undue influence”. Amy Baker and here the link between PA and cults is made, for example. One of the key features of any undue influence pattern is that it “takes you in and cuts you off”. That’s a description of alienation, isn’t it?

    But undue influence also would include the coercive control well-known in intimate partner abuse. Usually that’s men abusing women, but not always. So I’m interested that the first part of your story.

    You call it Alienation (which is entirely accurate, I think). But it might equally have been called “coercive control” by the dominant view just now that looks at domestic abuse.

    I wonder what stage you decided it was Alienation rather than Domestic Abuse and Coercive Control?

    I hope it’s ok to use your blog on my blog – both in general as a link to an excellent resource for those who are affected, and the specific stories like the one above.

    All the very best

    Nick Child
    Edinburgh

    • Hi Nick,

      Thank you so much for writing. What an interesting question. I guess just like the proverbial frog being gradually boiled to death that does not perceive the water getting hotter I did not recognize what was happening to me, the “coercive control” or abuse, as abuse until YEARS later. While it was happening I was slowly conditioned to take responsibility for our and my ex’s problems and unhappiness. It was too subtle and gradual. To be honest I may still today be taking too much personal responsibility for what happened to me, blaming myself for allowing him dominate me; not having more courage and self-respect. But the alienation of the children was dramatic and obvious. I knew that the alienation of the children was absolutely wrong and terrible, when I was barely aware of any wrong done to me.
      The alienation of my children made me panic and sent me frantically looking for information and solutions, while the abuse to myself made ashamed, withdrawn, shut down and isolated, not likely to seek help or even information.

      I highly recommend this book, which includes a section on intimate relationships as a cult of two: Captive hearts, captive minds : freedom and recovery from cults and other abusive relationships /
      Madeleine Landau Tobias and Janja Lalich. imprintAlameda, CA : Hunter House, c1994.

      Yes please, feel free to share my blog, I’m delighted that you find it useful.

  19. Linda says:

    I read your entire post and have to congratulate you on your courageous decision to reunite with your family and leave, finally, your abuser. I hope you are eventually reunited with your children. God love and keep you!

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