By Baila Sebrow
I have been reading a bunch of articles about parental alienation in this publication. My son was at the other end—the alienator. He is not a monster, but he had to protect his children from his demented ex and her cruel family who were trying to destroy him because he left his manic wife.
Let’s talk about why a parent sometimes has to keep his children away from an abusive parent. Nobody ever talks about it. Let’s talk about my son, to whom this is happening. How can he rebuild his life and get married again? Let’s talk about my friend’s daughter who had to alienate her children from their father because he was sexually abusing them. He, with his big money, managed to win his case and move on with his life. And my friend’s daughter is looking bad to everyone as an alienator, and this beautiful woman can’t find a shidduch because now her name is mud.
I spoke to a lot of people about this. Sometimes the children are the ones who want nothing to do with the parent, and it’s not even the other parent who says anything bad. Children are not stupid. They figure things out. They can tell who the good parent is and who the bad one is. I am not saying that there aren’t real mean alienators out there, but I want to bring to your attention that it’s not always the way it looks, and because you are a shadchan and have a voice through your column, I am asking you to please publish my letter so that good divorced people don’t get misjudged. Perhaps you can also help with ideas of what we can do.
There’s an expression: “Don’t trust everything you see; even salt looks like sugar.” There are individuals in all societies who are quick to demonize someone without investigating the circumstances from all angles. They deem their position to be such that they are of the authority to be the sole judge and jury of somebody’s verdict. And that’s the way it is with most big newsworthy stories that happen in a community, whether it involves divorce situations or anything that gives bored people something to talk about.
I am so sorry for what your son is enduring. The sad reality of most heartbreaking family circumstances is that no outside person knows the truth about what is really going on behind closed doors. Anyone can say or act one way, but the one putting on the big act and gaining the most sympathy is in many cases a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type.
That’s why there are usually three sides to a story: his, hers, and the truth. The problem with the way these things work is that both sides have their own group of allies who will side with them, whether it’s right or wrong. I sometimes find it mind-boggling how the allies will go to bat for someone in a situation where it is crystal-clear that they are protecting the one who is in the wrong. The best thing that friends should do for those who are in such disputes is to be supportive in terms of lending an ear; under no circumstances should they ever dare to make things worse by idle gossip and disparagement. That’s like pouring gasoline on a burning flame, consequently creating an inferno.
No matter what is going on either side, the catastrophic outcome of gossip-mongering is that it leaves casualties: the children. The children, who are blameless, are always the victims. I agree that the alienator or the one who is alienated suffers, but they are the adults fighting the battle. It’s the children who are caught in the middle and end up enduring long-term consequences, sometimes way into adulthood. It’s not necessarily always the case, but I’ve found that the party who makes the least noise, with regard to gaining allies, and is instead mindful of the children, protecting them from gossip, is the one who is oftentimes right. Parental alienation is painful for everyone involved, and at the end of the day, there are no champions.
When it comes to rebuilding one’s life, the messier the divorce, the more difficult it becomes to find dating possibilities. The allies who are most proactive on either side with regard to disparaging the opposing party are typically blabbermouths who find excitement through the lives of other people, and they continue staying involved not just to help their friend(s) but to do whatever they can to destroy the conflicting side.
My advice to you is to involve the least amount of people possible. There is no reason to gain allies in people who have no concept of the legal system, particularly how family court operates, which in some cases differs from other court systems. Moreover, it adds more problems to the case. For your own good, leave your friends and strangers out of it. They will ultimately do more harm than good.
When I published previous articles about parental alienation, I received lots of backlash from various people, each incorrectly assuming that it had something to do with their case. The fact is that I answer almost every letter I receive, and I expect that I’m going to get flak for your letter, too. But I’m a fair person, and if there is any injustice that negatively affects somebody in finding a shidduch, I will shout it from the rooftops, so to speak. I have no allegiance to anything or anyone other than objectivity. I will respond to and publish for both sides of any equation.
The sad reality is that not every parent behaves in the best interest of the children. Though it should be, it is not a given that every mother or father is a good, selfless, devoted parent. Some are abusive, narcissistic, and so ego-driven that they don’t care who gets destroyed in the process as long as they come out looking like what they assume is the winner. And so, yes, it does work both ways.
There are tragic cases where a parent is keeping his or her children away to protect them from a destructive ex and family. If a woman has witnessed or is aware that her ex-husband is sexually abusing his children, as in the case of your friend’s daughter, and she is the alienator, then until a judge says otherwise, as a mother she feels that she is doing the right thing in protecting her children. If a manic woman and her family act threateningly towards the children and they are in physical or emotional danger in their presence, then until a judge says otherwise, the father needs to do whatever he can to protect his children. No reasonable human being will disagree that children need to be protected. And nobody has the right to say that children should not feel safe and secure. The safety, health, and physical and emotional well-being of children come before loyalty to either parent. I also agree with you that sometimes it is the children who turn against a parent when they feel the parent was abusive to the other parent or to them. And although it was the kids’ decision, the parent is still accused of alienation.
Even if the judge rules in either party’s favor, that still does not give anyone carte blanche to wag their tongues. There are many reasons why someone can win or lose a case, and unless someone has clear legal knowledge about all the circumstances, whatever they gossip about holds as much value as dust in the wind.
Intelligent people know all this. The people who have turned against your son are not the type of people he should want in his life. Furthermore, why would he want to marry an ignorant, oblivious woman who sees the world as only black and white, with no shades in between? Ultimately, those who reject your son unfairly are doing him the biggest favor in the world.
I want to be very clear that I am not, under any circumstances, handing you or anyone the bill of rights to get involved in parental alienation. If you are seeking my approval for anyone who feels justified in alienating his or her children from their parent, I am not offering that either. If somebody has knowledge that a child is in danger, he or she must reach out to the correct authorities who will make a decision that is in the best interests of a minor. Everyone else needs to stay out of it.
What can your son or friend’s daughter do to find a shidduch? They undoubtedly cannot nor should they be considering singles who live in the same community. Whenever there is a divergence of any kind in somebody’s life, they need to seek outside their daled amos for a shidduch. They are best off looking in communities that are dissimilar from where they live. One can say that the world is small, and people know each other from all over, but it is still best for someone who is in the midst of major controversy to date those who are physically removed from the center of gossip. The people they reach out to as shadchanim to help them find a shidduch need to have no connection to those who gossip about them.
Divorced people who want to remarry and are proactive can be successful, irrespective of previous situations. However, it is best to do so when they are in a healthy mental state and free from court battles. Dating while going through upheaval leads to hasty and oftentimes unwise choices. People need to view a remarriage as turning over a new leaf in life. Your son deserves a fresh start, as anyone else who endured trauma earns the right to start a new life.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.