I first heard about Parental Alienation years ago when actor Alec Baldwin went public with his difficulties with ex-wife Kim Basinger. At that time there was some debate as to whether Parental Alienation was real or just a normal consequence of parental behavior. Today, it is generally accepted as a real and potentially very damaging situation.
In Esther’s case, her ex used religion to alienate her children. Far from advocating tolerance and acceptance, Esther says her ex has used their faith to brainwash her children into ostracizing her. Here’s Esther:
I realize that on the occasions I am with with my kids, they don’t want to be with me. They’re being taught, and not just by my husband. He used religion as a tool. Now, alienation is not the son of religion, and my husband would have used another avenue if religion was not something he wanted to explore, but religion is a very powerful tool because men are the stronger ones, the dominant ones in all major faiths.
There is also a sense of community with religion, and the community actually is part of the alienation. His rabbi is paying his legal fees. The community taught the kids that the community will adopt them as a mother because I’m a bad influence because I’m not religious. So it’s not just him that has alienated my kids, it’s the whole community, and that is so hard to fight. There’s just no way to fight that.
It’s all the subtlety. He never once said I’m a bad mother, and he’ll be the first to say that. He said it to the court, “I never once put her down.” But he makes me out to be wrong: “This is the only way to live, you can only buy this chicken. Mommy doesn’t buy that chicken so she’s really bad.” It’s stuff like that that he uses to turn me into like almost an evil monster.
When I tell the kids, “Hey, I know you want to live with Daddy most of the time. Do you want to come with me this summer?” I can see in their eyes their love, they want to be with me, but because they’re being taught I’m bad, they don’t know how to answer no or yes, so they don’t give me an answer, they just shrug their shoulders and look down because of him. I literally have to walk away from them and cry. It’s very disturbing what they’re being taught and how it will affect them as adults.
I’ve always kept a kosher home, so that wasn’t the problem. I grew up in a religious environment so once the kids became religious, I created a home environment that would suit them. But that wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t religious.
They were actually taught that because I was not religious they couldn’t trust the food I make in my home. I drive a car on Saturday so they can’t trust me. My home became an unsafe environment for them. No matter what I did for them it wasn’t good. Inviting them to come to a kosher friend’s home for a few days where they would be “safe” would not be good enough for them, just because they’re with me.
All I do when I do visit them is take them out to a kosher pizza store for like two hours, and they’ve had enough. Then they’re ready to come home. They’re very, very controlled. It’s unbelievable.
My oldest son, I used to be so close to him, we used to have these conversations. He would say that he knows we had to get divorced, he just doesn’t really understand it, and he wants to be with both of us. He used to cry on my shoulder and now, he’s turned into a robot. He doesn’t talk to me, he just answers questions real quick. I know part of it is his age. I completely understand that as children grow up, their relationships with their parents change, but part of it is definitely due to the alienation. He has become this disciplinarian toward his siblings, his two younger sisters, specifically with the religion, and it’s unbelievable. It’s turned into a cult, and it’s just painful to see that.
Even though my kids don’t want to be with me, the relationship I have is only love right now because I’ve learned how to surrender and accept what was happening. It doesn’t mean I’m loving it, it doesn’t mean I’m like ‘oh yay, I’m not with my kids,’ but I accept it and I surrender to the present situation, knowing that the only constant in life is change. Because of that, when I do speak with my kids, all there is is love, there’s no bitterness. Is there sadness sometimes when I leave? Absolutely. But there’s no bitterness.
The Divorce Coach Says
Listening to Esther, I can understand how religion can be used to alienate a parent. Much of the power in it comes from the support and reinforcement that comes from the supporting faith community. When the children hear other respected adults in their community advocating against a particular lifestyle, it’s harder for the children to second guess what one parent is saying. As Esther says, it’s must be very difficult to fight this. I admire her for being able to accept this and not let it eat away at her.
Coming next, Esther shares how her experience has caused her to re-evaluate what it means to be a mother …
Do you and your ex or STBX have different religious backgrounds? Are you concerned this could happen to you? How would you respond to your children? How would you support a friend who was being alienated?
You can read more about Esther Adler’s book, Breaking the Chains to Freedom and her work at Esther Adler. Her Twitter name is @EstherWarrior. Esther Adler, author, speaker, trainer helps you turn the most devastating events in your life into your biggest opportunities. She focuses on letting go of grief, trauma and pain, through unique movement processes, helping you gain true freedom and ultimate peace.
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