Targeted Parent: Taking a Risk

Living with someone who is the target of parental alienation isn’t easy. I know you know this. There’s a particular roller coaster targeted parents and their families ride — one that’s missing the steady climb to healthy blended family relationships. Instead, there are hundreds of loop-de-loops and vortexes. It’s enough to make even the strongest person sick to his or her stomach.

In our house, the targeted father tried to alter the path of this coaster seven months ago when he told his tweenage child that he wouldn’t “force” him to come over anymore. (And by “force” I mean that he wouldn’t beg, cajole, and spend every week wondering if he would get to see his child. He would let the child decide to come over when he felt comfortable with his father’s new life with us — which is what the child requested.) It was the hardest thing he’s ever done, but he did it in hopes that the son would value the relationship enough to change his mind. Some PAS experts might call his decision counter-rejection. This father called it self-preservation. The son didn’t change his mind and retreated further away.

The child also used this estrangement as an excuse for  behavior that would be unacceptable in most normal families. Maybe it’s because he knew he didn’t have to see his dad in person, but he felt free to point out to his father all the things he’d done wrong, going back years, and how much he was hurting him by changing the way things were. He said he wouldn’t come see his father unless he moved back into his old house and out of mine. He accused his dad of loving me and my children more than he loves him. And what was the father to do? He had no way to “prove” his unconditional love except to give in to unrealistic demands — the same pattern that hasn’t worked up to this point. So, the past seven months have been strained. There have been only a handful of phone calls between the two of them. Even though the dad has tried to call at least once a week, the answering maching is off. There have been just as few email exchanges. There has been no forward progress in the father-son relationship and no end in sight for this long, sad wait.

So, armed with the steadfast belief that there is value in trying to rebuild the relationship (and on the off-chance that the child’s silence is really a cry for help), this targeted parent took a risk and demanded his parenting time back. He stepped up and got back on the ride, crazy as it will be for all of us.

We don’t know how this segment will end yet. I am sure, though, that we’ll know in the next few days whether the son will be allowed to visit. If he does come to visit, the risk the dad took by putting himself back on the hardest ride of his life was worth it. If he doesn’t come, this won’t be the dad’s last attempt — of that I’m sure.

There hasn’t been any benefit to giving in to the alienator’s demands up to this point; he was alienated anyway. Now he’ll see if there’s benefit in demanding what is ethically, morally, and legally his to have: a relationship with his child.

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