By Baila Sebrow
I am dating a divorced man who seems to be so kind, nice, and soft-spoken. Our relationship has developed, and he has started to introduce me to his children who live with him because he is fighting for full custody. He says that the children need to be with him. I like him so much that I am willing to have them live with us full-time if we get married.
However, on a few occasions that I was present when they were on the phone with their mother, I found them to be extremely rude, disrespectful, and dismissive of her.
I noticed that the man I am dating seemed perfectly fine with their behavior and made no attempts to correct it. I was very taken aback each time, and he acted like it’s no big deal that his children do that. Do you think this is something I should be concerned about?
You definitely will be doing yourself a huge favor by taking this concern seriously. From what you are disclosing about this man’s reaction to the way his children treat their mother—the woman who brought them into this world—a significant aspect of his personality is highlighted. It sounds like behind this man’s kind, nice, and soft-spoken demeanor lies something sinister.
Children are naturally drawn to their biological parents, especially their mother. It is a fact of nature seen in humans and animals alike. It is only when there is emotional disruption that young children will turn their backs on their birth parent. It is ominously disturbing that the father witnesses the disrespectful manner in which his children are treating their mother and shrugs it off. The children’s behavior is likely the result of what is referred to not only as parental alienation but malicious parent syndrome.
In the March 24, 2021 issue of this publication, a man who was suffering from parental alienation had written to me, pouring his heart out about his ex-wife poisoning his children against him to the extent that they treat him like a monster. Within the past two weeks, Larry Gordon, esteemed publisher of the 5TJT, covered the topic of parental alienation, drawing a tremendous response from readers all over. Parental alienation is horrendously abusive, and society is no longer complacently sitting back and accepting the torture. Much is being written and openly discussed with regard to this topic, and the support and validation is improving because victims are refusing to be silenced anymore. If their screams are not being heard, they need to scream even louder.
However, this is the first time that a person in a relationship with a parent alienator has had the courage to convey her concerns about the behavior of the person she is dating. My response to your letter may enlighten you—and others—about a matter you are perhaps unfamiliar with, generating more awareness of this problem from the perspective of the new person in a parent alienator’s life. Kudos to you for your astuteness.
Parental alienation has always existed. In years past, however, people had no clue what was taking place behind closed doors. The alienated parent had no idea how it could be happening. All the alienated parent knew was that the children hated him or her. Society would typically blame the alienated parent for the children’s rejection, assuming that if the children want nothing to do with their parents, then it must be because the parent is a bad person. Can you imagine the piercing pain in the heart of the afflicted parent? Can you fathom the excruciating loneliness such a parent is enduring? It is unimaginable, except for those who are experiencing such unbearable anguish.
Baruch Hashem, nowadays, the scheming alienators are no longer deceiving the world as in years past. We now know that they are parent alienators. We now know that such men and women are using whatever personality they show to the world to hide their evil ways. We now know that there is such a concept as the “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Yes, these soft-spoken people can quietly cause as much devastation as a suppressor sometimes used to muffle the sound of a firearm.
How do they do it? How can a parent convince his or her children that the other parent is bad? They manage to convince their children that the other parent is so bad that he or she deserves disrespect and rejection. It is a malicious parent syndrome when one parent wants to hurt and punish the other parent during a divorce and custody lawsuit. They do not take into consideration that what they are doing is just as bad as if they would be depriving their children of physical nourishment. Deliberately keeping children away from their parent is robbing them of emotional sustenance. And what makes this even more wicked is that the parent is well-aware of what he or she is doing and gleefully enjoys it. I will go so far as to call such a parent a terrorist!
The parent who commits this atrocity will usually deny the other parent visitation rights and will cunningly create situations so that the children will not know that the other parent tried to reach them. This is one of their successful attempts at manipulation. They are pointing out to their children that the other parent is so bad that he or she wants nothing to do with them, nor does the parent care about them. Sadly, the children will feel that the only parent who loves them is the parent who is always physically there. And that will also bear weight on a judge’s decision when he or she hears that that the children do not want to be with the parent who is not with them. Eventually, the alienated parent sometimes steps back to spare the children from further painful conflict. There are many tragic consequences from this type of abuse, namely that the children are the ultimate sacrificial victims and are affected for years to come as a result of growing up in a warped environment. The psychological effects are enormous and can leave them damaged for life, G-d forbid.
From your perspective, you should be asking yourself what type of man wants to estrange his children from their mother and encourages rude behavior. Is this a frum man we are talking about here? I will assume so, but even if he does not hold by the halachah of kibbud eim, respecting one’s parents is a universally accepted value of family life.
Do not kid yourself into believing that he will never turn on you or somehow manipulate and control you. I have a strong hunch that the signs of who he really is might very likely be staring you right in the face. I am sure that when he talks about his ex-wife and whatever went wrong in his marriage, he paints a picture of himself as the righteous and wronged party. I doubt that he takes any responsibility for anything that went amiss during the time he was married. He must be all dramatic when he talks about his relationship as a husband to his wife, even if in a soft-spoken way. He likely uses every opportunity he can to demonize her, not just in the eyes of his children, but to everyone with whom he comes into contact. Not only that, but I have no doubt that he has managed to gain allies to his cause.
Yes, these characters are quite convincing, and there are gullible people who buy into fictional stories without investigating the true natures of the one they are protecting and the one they unfairly oppose. An alienator feels safety in the number of people on his side. I can also imagine that your man friend comes across as moody, and when he does, he probably blames it on whatever is going on in his life.
If you choose to continue with this man, you can expect to walk on eggshells your whole life. Do you really believe that you will remain unscathed living with such a man? An abuser abuses. That is his pathology. He will not change. You are clearly concerned about how he interacts with his children. You must know that in healthy parent–child relationships, each parent builds up the other. He or she does so for the children’s sake, regardless of what is happening in the marriage. Children deserve an emotionally stable home. This man is demonstrating to you what type of dysfunctional home he currently has and plans to have in the future.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to email@example.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.