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Family Court Strategies: When Your Partner Has BPD OR NPD Traits. Practicing lawyer, Senior Family Mediator, and former Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience and an expert on navigating the Family Court process.
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Author Topic: Unsolvable - but advice welcome  (Read 456 times)
yeeter
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« on: May 19, 2022, 01:51:28 PM »

My daughters, D13 and D15 have been alienated by my ex.  They do not participate in visitation nor engage with me to any degree.

I have started going to some of their extra curricular events.  Their position is now that they will drop participation in any event where I might be in the audience.

This includes my youngest 8th grade graduation and an upcoming state athletic competition of my oldest.

I believe it is very likely they will follow through with not attending.  Because they have the need to support moms narrative (who is using this to make it look like it is about 'me' and not what is in my childrens best interest, else I would stay away).

There is a lot more to the dynamic of course, have been on this board for a long time.  But I have this pending decision whether to go to events or just stay away to reduce trauma for them (knowing they do not really have freedom of choice, they have been psychologically manipulated into it).

Spare me the legal suggestions - there is an active DCF investigation due to two separate reports of concern of emotional abuse and neglect against the ex.  My son ended up moving in with me full time and no longer communicates with his mother.  But short of the child standing up to her for themselves, there is no practical outside help/support.  (they cannot 'force' counseling - which is what I was advocating for - DCF has 'offered' counseling and this is it.  But again they do not really have freedom to accept the offer of counseling, because mom is violently against any type of counseling)

Any opinions/thoughts?  It is not 'solvable', but I need to make decisions on my own behavior and whether to go to these events or continue to stay away such that my daughters can participate.

Some say it is imperative that a parent does continue to show up after divorce.  And that it is best for the kids to have both parents in their lives long term.

Others say in this case that is not a viable option, so I should stay away and just let them know I am still around and some day when they are older they might see things differently and decide to re-engage.

« Last Edit: May 19, 2022, 02:07:03 PM by yeeter » Logged
yeeter
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« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2022, 02:11:30 PM »

...
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zachira
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« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2022, 02:18:24 PM »

My heart goes out to you having to deal with the parent alienation of your two daughters by your ex. This is a very serious situation and something to get some qualified professional advice about while learning as much as you can about parent alienation and how to reverse it. There are many experts on this subject from many different fields who have articles on the internet, who have written books, and who can give you a consultation for a one time fee. Parent alienation is one of the worst forms of child abuse, one parent alienating the children from a parent the children formerly liked, as a means to have power and control, and the complete opposite of putting the needs of the children first.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2022, 02:24:26 PM by zachira » Logged

yeeter
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« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2022, 02:44:19 PM »

My heart goes out to you having to deal with the parent alienation of your two daughters by your ex. This is a very serious situation and something to get some qualified professional advice about while learning as much as you can about parent alienation and how to reverse it. There are many experts on this subject from many different fields who have articles on the internet, who have written books, and who can give you a consultation for a one time fee. Parent alienation is one of the worst forms of child abuse, one parent alienating the children from a parent the children formerly liked, as a means to have power and control, and the complete opposite of putting the needs of the children first.

Yes, and I have read and consulted extensively with some of the worlds experts even.  And have some dialog ongoing about it.

The general feedback from the legal system is that 'it is unfortunate, but happens.  Not really anything that can be done about it given the ages of the children'  (you can not 'make' a teenager do anything).

So - I still have to make decisions.  Choose between two equally terrible choices.

?
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« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2022, 02:46:56 PM »

Talk about a no win situation. If you go, you become the reason they give up something important to them like attending graduation or a sport.

If you don't go, then BPD mother can tell them "your father didn't even care enough to see you graduate".

I am not a lawyer, so please take my comments into consideration. I think what to do would require legal advice in this situation.

My own personal opinion is that this sounds like the "King Solomon" decision in that, a loving parent gives up their parental role in order to spare the child being divided- that is, if attending these important events means the child will not be able to participate in them, then for their benefit,  stay away.

But- I would want it documented somewhere that this is the reason, so that it isn't questioned and that they have some way to access this information. One idea is to keep journals "for my daughters" about your feelings towards them- one for each of them. Write in them at these events. "My daughter, I so wish I could have attended your graduation but I wanted to respect your feelings and for you to enjoy it. Keep it- and don't send it to them, they will hand it over to their mother. Do not mention their mother. This is how you feel. Maybe one day there will be a chance to reconnect with them, let them see it then with you present.

What their mother is doing is horrible. Keeping them from a connection with their father. What a sick, twisted woman to do something like that. One day though, I believe they will see that side of her, and begin to question. I hope legal intervention is possible, but also know the children are not able to see the whole picture.
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« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2022, 03:31:58 PM »

Does the school know there is nothing bad about you (at least from legal perspective) to prevent you from parenting?  Do the school staff and counselors know about your daughters' demands about you being in the audience?  (How would they know?)

notWendy made a good point that whichever you choose, go or not go, will be used against you.  If you decide to go, bring your son with you and stay in the background.

If your son is living with you then that is evidence you're not the ogre you've been cast as.

Dilemmas such as yours are rare even here.  I'm reminded of the father of quintuplets who was here several years ago.  His ex was a strict vegan and the kids had emotional and nutritional issues.  For years the kids were split but eventually as the kids got older he ended up with all 5 kids and as I recall a baby with his new marriage.  We had plans to meet when I visited his state but never managed do it.
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« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2022, 04:18:06 PM »

Yeeter, it is a really tough situation you are in. I agree with the others to get legal advice and back it up with documentation in some form. Did your daughters text this or how did the communication happen.

For years I tried to mind less when my pwBPD split me. This is, after all, a tactic by your ex using the children as intermediaries. I used to wish that I took this time to myself, to do something I really enjoyed. Years of setting boundaries and doing the self-work around my healing has finally brought me to this point. She dysregulates (which is much rarer these days), I take off and spend some time on self-care. Plan something really special for yourself during those times you wish you could have been there. If your son is going, well and good, if not spoil you both rotten for those hours.  Your daughters will get to hear of it and wish they were there, they probably do already. When they are ready they will come. You will do much better with them  if you put in some self love now.
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kells76
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« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2022, 04:30:02 PM »

It's excruciating when the kids are at that age and yet you cannot explain to them what is going on and have it get through to them.

A few thoughts for navigating this :

-Do the kids have cell phones and do you have the #'s? If so, I wonder what would happen if you texted something like: "Hi D13, congrats on your 8th grade graduation! I love you and would love to be there to celebrate you. Let me know by Day/Date if you DON'T want me to be there, and I will totally respect that. If I don't hear back from you, it sounds like we're good to go, and I'll be there for you!"

I hate putting this stuff on the kids, but I really get where you're at, where there is absolutely no cooperation with the kids' mom, and the kids are getting to be at an age where they can see that they are choicemakers and at least theoretically can connect the dots about "I said this and then that happened". So instead of you being the decider, you give that choice back to them. If they don't want you there, they need to own that and communicate that -- this move would take them out of the "well everyone just knows I don't want you there so I don't have to actually say anything" zone where Mom gets the win-win. Instead, you return that choice to them -- then there is less of a way for Mom to say "Ugh, just like your dad, he doesn't care, he didn't even come", because at some level, D13 (&/or D15, just using 8th grade grad as an example) would have to think about "I did text Dad and told him not to". Plus it would put D13/D15 in a position of "having to" communicate with you, and it makes both options show that you care -- option 1 is you love her and want to go, but option 2 is you care enough about her to listen to her and respect her desire.

Again, I would not normally recommend putting that choice on a kid in every situation, but yours is uniquely difficult. I hate that our kids have been placed in these positions by disordered parents, but that is how reality is, and so we have to make really different and unfortunately "overmature" decisions about what we have the kids do. I would never have wanted any of our kids to be in these situations but now that they are we have to go with it and make it the "least worst" possible, and I think having D13 have to face that she is the one who told you "don't come" -- that she is a choicemaker -- may be a "least worst" way to go.

What's tricky is if Mom has access to the phones. So you may need to brainstorm about the most guaranteed way to get that message to the kids, because it does hinge on them seeing it and deciding for themselves what they want, and -- key part -- actively choosing to tell you that. So if not phones, there are probably other ways (school email, etc).

-Second thought, similar to ForeverDad -- have you been in touch with your kids' coaches? I wonder if you could have a conversation about "here's what I've been hearing from the kids, what have you been hearing, what are your thoughts, what are the kids required to do if they are on the team" type stuff. Getting at least a cordial/professional relationship going with the coaches I think will be a supportive and positive move for you, if you haven't already. Maybe pick their brains about "have you had this happen before, how did you handle it, how does the team handle it" -- that would both give you some problem-solving ideas and also lay some groundwork with them that there is a really weird dysfunctional thing going on. I don't know how to put words on it exactly, but for us the more "normal" people we knew where they "got a hint" about the insanity (I am starting to mean that literally) we were dealing with, the better. You don't have to "advertise" it but there are ways of talking about the situation that communicate a lot. If the kids are 13 & 15 I'm assuming they are sticking with the same coaches/teams for the next few years, at least your D15?

-Same as Notwendy, in parallel with ideas 1 & 2, if you are up for it emotionally, create a record of how you wanted to be involved, and keep it.

...

What disordered parents do not only to the kids but to us is traumatizing and toxic. I'm so sorry this has continued. It's exhausting and eroding. DH's kids are 14 & 16 now and I am having a really difficult time because "the end is in sight" but still so far away, and the insanity has continued and escalated (in certain ways), and because the kids must psychologically survive at Mom's, there is no way at all to explain to them that they are being exploited and manipulated to "perform their anger" at DH by Mom and Stepdad. I had to sit and watch yet another iteration of it go down last night. It's sick.

It is good to hear from you despite everything going on. I'm glad your son is with you.
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« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2022, 04:39:17 PM »

Does the school know there is nothing bad about you (at least from legal perspective) to prevent you from parenting?  Do the school staff and counselors know about your daughters' demands about you being in the audience?  (How would they know?)


I have full parental rights legally.  So school, medical, etc - technically a right to have a say.  In practical terms, I have to chase around to even learn what is happening.  And most people do not want the drama - want the parents to 'behave and work it out'  - or buy into her narrative (that she tells to anyone and everyone that will listen).

We had reunification counseling where it was recommended to continue and also to get them individual counseling.  Its not clear that is enforceable either (the court system really has no mechanism to force behavior)

DCF contacted the school once during an escalation to let them know I would be picking up the kids.  That is a different saga.  But means that most of the professionals have some insight into the situation.

And other parents for the most part figure it out quickly and have distanced themselves from her. 

Blah blah blah.  It is not 'solvable'. 

But choose I must...

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yeeter
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« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2022, 04:49:26 PM »


-Do the kids have cell phones and do you have the #'s? If so, I wonder what would happen if you texted something like: "Hi D13, congrats on your 8th grade graduation! I love you and would love to be there to celebrate you. Let me know by Day/Date if you DON'T want me to be there, and I will totally respect that. If I don't hear back from you, it sounds like we're good to go, and I'll be there for you!"


Alienation means they have adopted moms distorted narrative (and her rewriting of the entire history of the relationship between me and my daughters).  So at least outwardly, they now despise me and want me out of their life.

So they have deliberately communicated to me that they do not want me at any of their events.  Ever.  And they have communicated to teachers that they will not attend graduation unless I give them specific intent to NOT be there.

It is pretty extreme (at even the possibility that I might show up).  So everyones radar goes up immediately and some have even started pressuring me already to just stay away to reduce the drama (trauma really).

But is that really what is in kids best interest?  Others say no - some have even experienced a parent showing up at their events as a child, and they hated it, but then later in life remembering that the parent always showed and they appreciated it even though they treated the parent like crap at the time.

Some say it is not the choice to give to the child.  Others say respect the childs wishes even though the child really doesnt understand whats going on or whats driving their own emotions/position.

The idea that 'someday they might see things differently' is just a hope.  At the same time, they may not.  Disappearing until they are into adulthood is not the healthiest answer.

I appreciate all the thoughts.

(oh, and mom reads everyones phone texts)

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kells76
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« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2022, 05:47:37 PM »

How do your daughters view your son?
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zachira
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« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2022, 05:59:26 PM »

I do think that both legal and therapeutic advice could be invaluable from the right experts. In my challenges with my disordered family members and their flying monkeys, I have had to dig deep, interview several professionals in different areas, fire some professionals and go searching again for someone who could help me, to get outcomes that were more in my favor and actually helpful. I have generally found there are professionals who can really help, make big differences in the end results, and it can take going through quite a few people and resources to find them. One of my siblings hired the best lawyer and legal firm around, yet I was able to eventually win that legal battle because of her narcissistic behaviors that destroyed her case, and I found a lawyer that knew how to deal with her and come up with some incredible creative solutions.
In my family, there are several generations of scapegoats and I am one of them. My parents and other family members did everything they could to make me dislike the scapegoated aunts and uncle, who were the people who actually loved me and were kind to me. I can imagine the kind of pressures your daughters are under, and they really need you to have much of a chance at being able to have healthy loving relationships with others. Whatever means you can use to be a part of their lives, even if it is limited like a father teacher conference which the girls would know about and could refuse to attend, speaks volumes about your unwillingness to abandon them and that you care about their wellbeing, which may not sink in now, and could years later. You could also show up at their events unannounced, and see if they leave, and keep coming nevertheless. The message the girls need to be hearing, is you do care about them, and are not willing to give up.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2022, 06:05:58 PM by zachira » Logged

kells76
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« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2022, 06:20:57 PM »

Couple more questions:

Has your kids' mom remarried / dated again?

What is the "unspoken consequence" of you going to one of their events? I get that explicitly it's that "if you go then I won't", but I sense there is something implicitly "threatened". Is it that "...I won't go, AND things will be worse for you than before"? Or "...I won't go, AND I'll blame you even more for it and for everything"? Basically, how would you articulate the implicit threat, beyond just "then I won't go"?

Also, is your kids' mom still pulling the "if I see you I'll die of an allergic reaction to you" move?
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« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2022, 06:27:17 PM »

The message the girls need to be hearing, is you do care about them, and are not willing to give up.

Yes, that is the general wisdom.  Then the question is - exactly 'how' to do that and what decisions/actions to take.

I havent really found anyone helpful.  My son had a couple therapists that were able to establish boundaries and enforce them with mom, but that was extreme circumstances that enabled it.

As you say though, it may take going through many to find one that is effective.  Back when working on the marriage with counselors, it was in the double digits before I found one that was helpful (and some can actually make things worse).  So that is good encouragement to keep looking.

I had two different very well respected lawyers.  Top tier.  They both had similar stories - said they had one other case in their careers that was as extreme, that they pushed through the court.  The one got nowhere because again you can not force behavior change.  The other one said the judge conceded that removing the kids from the environment to be with the functional parent 'might work', but would cause so much trauma/damage to them going through the process the judge felt a wash so just left it alone.

It is like being in the twilight zone, everyone says one thing ('best interest of the kids') but then nothing practical to help the kids.  Rings quite hollow.  So maybe I havent found the right help yet.  Or maybe I just back off from trying and give it a decade and see if someday they are interested in re-engaging.
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zachira
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« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2022, 06:34:30 PM »

Your having a very limited presence in your daughters' lives may not seem like much. Maybe it will only be once in awhile that an opportunity presents itself for you to be visible and your daughters to know you are there. I can't tell you how many complete strangers helped me when I was an abused child, with just a look on their faces showing they felt compassion for me and were sorry for how I was being treated, or a few minutes of kindness. A little bit of your presence can mean a lot so don't underestimate the long term benefits for your daughters. Also it can help that other people see you there showing an interest in your daughters and counteract the narratives that you are a terrible uncaring father.
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« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2022, 06:36:23 PM »

Couple more questions:

Has your kids' mom remarried / dated again?

What is the "unspoken consequence" of you going to one of their events? I get that explicitly it's that "if you go then I won't", but I sense there is something implicitly "threatened". Is it that "...I won't go, AND things will be worse for you than before"? Or "...I won't go, AND I'll blame you even more for it and for everything"? Basically, how would you articulate the implicit threat, beyond just "then I won't go"?

Also, is your kids' mom still pulling the "if I see you I'll die of an allergic reaction to you" move?

No new romantic partners.  Too obsessed with destroying me to have any other life (2.5 years now).

Yes she still claims to have a life threatening reaction if she sees me - this is brought up as another reason I should not attend kid events but I did offer to work on a process with her so we could protect her health.  (She claims 'controlling and intimidating behavior' by my suggestion of showing up even.  

Really good q on the implicit portion.  I am not sure.  It may be nothing more than mom exercising power and control, and there really isnt an underlying threat.  Or it might be... 'see, your actions are detrimental to my well being since you kept me from a healthy activity.  You really are a terrible person'.  Hmm... good q.  (because even that comes back to mom wanting to demonstrate me doing bad things).

That is one approach that was suggested - try talking to the daughters like an adult on their underlying reasoning.  I have done that, and their reasons are not substantial (like I didnt go to every event when married so no need to go to any of them now) - or they are quite distorted/inaccurate.

There really isnt any reasonable justification for their decision.  So a direct conversation about it doesnt resolve anything.
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yeeter
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« Reply #16 on: May 19, 2022, 06:37:59 PM »

Your having a very limited presence in your daughters' lives may not seem like much. Maybe it will only be once in awhile that an opportunity presents itself for you to be visible and your daughters to know you are there. I can't tell you how many complete strangers helped me when I was an abused child, with just a look on their faces showing they felt compassion for me and were sorry for how I was being treated, or a few minutes of kindness. A little bit of your presence can mean a lot so don't underestimate the long term benefits for your daughters. Also it can help that other people see you there showing an interest in your daughters and counteract the narratives that you are a terrible uncaring father.

This is true.  And has happened already.  There are many that just want to help the kids.

And every now and then a small thing/gesture I am able to provide (like dropping off a pastry for them in the mailbox).  If this escalates to where they become more angry at me, then these small moment opportunities may be less.
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« Reply #17 on: May 19, 2022, 06:43:24 PM »

And none of this is a surprise.  But I was unable to prevent it.  From my introductory post in 2011:
______________________________________________________________
What are the top reasons you want this relationship to work?

I believe it will be better for my children with me directly involved in their day to day lives

I believe that as an ex, my wife would be insanely difficult to deal with, would brainwash my kids against me as a bad/evil person, and would make life difficult at every opportunity she had (which would be a lot, and would involve a lot of legal time).  So in effect, fear.


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« Reply #18 on: May 19, 2022, 07:32:02 PM »

yeeter, have you tried explaining to your daughters that their mother is mentally ill and taking her side will only result in a poor mental health outcome for them?

Or that losing a parent is an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and the research is clear on ACEs?

If so, how did it go down?
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« Reply #19 on: May 19, 2022, 08:48:19 PM »

https://lifelessons.co/critical-thinking/kafkatrapping/
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« Reply #20 on: May 19, 2022, 10:57:58 PM »

How do your daughters view your son?

I like this question.  While it seems the front door is closed and booby trapped, could your son be a side window into the girls' lives and in subtle ways be an advocate for you as father?

I don't specifically recall the details of how he came to live with you.  He must be 17 now, the older brother.  I came to the boards back in 2006 and I recall some comments back then that a disordered parent could reject a child of an unfavored sex.  Just wondering how two girls have been so captured and yet not the boy...
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« Reply #21 on: May 20, 2022, 05:59:46 AM »

Forever Dad- the boy may be the "scapegoat child". I read somewhere that the scapegoat child is also the truth teller- they see through the situation ( maybe not clearly ). The girls may be in "golden child" position and more enmeshed.

It's possible that their mother treats the girls differently than the boy.

I also agree that the "open door" may be through the brother, eventually. However, that's a lot of responsibility for a teen ager- I'd let it evolve as they mature rather than ask him to be the go between. It may also backfire on his relationship with his sisters if he has one if they feel that what they say to him gets back to you. ( as it does between them and their mother ).

I wish I could offer a helpful suggestion. I experienced this in reverse- BPD mother interfered with my relationship with my father and her family members. This was between adults at the time, but still- the parent- child bond is important at any age, and I think it's a terrible thing their mother is doing. Still, it seems she's covered all her bases by setting it up that if you attend, it will have negative consequences for the kids. ( and a no win situation ). Not attending doesn't mean you give up on them. It may even be upsetting to them if their mother makes a scene if you show up. My BPD mother has done some attention getting things at events like that.

My BPD mother also read emails to my father and listened in on his conversations. If you leave goodies for them- do they even get them? She may throw them away.

I assume you are still paying child support. Do they have plans for college? Are you obligated to pay for that? While I don't think money should be used for control or to "buy" their attention, I do think at age 18 they need to meet with you to discuss college expenses if they expect you to help. This may be an open door which begins with the older one.







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« Reply #22 on: May 20, 2022, 06:17:40 AM »

I like this question.  While it seems the front door is closed and booby trapped, could your son be a side window into the girls' lives and in subtle ways be an advocate for you as father?

He was splitting time between households, and trying to maintain a relationship with me.  But couldnt, and decided after a suicide attempt that the environment at moms was not healthy for him and he has cut off communications with her and now lives with me.  It took the help of the psych ward counselors for him to draw that line.  (it is not possible to maintain healthy boundaries with mom - for anyone really, but for sure not a child)

The girls are upset at him and no longer talk to him.  They are being trained to adopt moms interpretation of the world and also how to manage through relationships.  In this case, ending communications with their brother also.  There are other unhealthy behaviors they are being trained for, and are also very much moms emotional support system at this point.

He just wants 'away' from it all.  I am trying to give him a stable, calm environment and plenty of time to heal.  He is slowly getting better and yes may some day be useful support to his sisters but no time soon, he needs to focus on himself.

Enabling them to get out of the house and spend as much time with other healthy people is a key strategy.  Thus the importance of extra curriculars.  And a car once driving age.  And for sure, college.  Many people come from divorced homes and kids talk to each other and compare parent behaviors.

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« Reply #23 on: May 20, 2022, 08:48:34 AM »

yeeter, have you tried explaining to your daughters that their mother is mentally ill and taking her side will only result in a poor mental health outcome for them?

I have not.  I have always taken the high road and avoid criticizing mom.

They 'know' some aspects are not normal.  But do not understand the dynamics to it (it takes experienced professionals a fair bit of time to understand even).
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« Reply #24 on: May 20, 2022, 09:04:24 AM »

yeeter, try studying attachment theory and how to activate the attachment system.

What alienation does is highly engage the attachment between the alienator and the child at the cost of the attachment between the target and the child. Taking the high road almost certainly results in your attachment getting destroyed since you're not engaging the attachment system. You're leaving your attached open to be attacked.

To explicitly engage your children's attachment system, you need to not engage in alienation yourself, but rather engage frankly about their mother's shortcomings and how that impacts their future. Start off by explaining what splitting is, how they're doing it to you, and how splitting destroys executive functioning. Explain how she is a pathological liar and cannot be trusted. Explain the ACE study and impact of losing a parent. Explain if they do this, they'll most likely do it their children. You need to attack her factually but with a lense on the implication to your children. This will engage their attachment system to you.

Also, it is worth reading:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Amy-Baker-2/publication/265450917_Beyond_the_High_Road_Responding_to_17_Parental_Alienation_Strategies_without_Compromising_Your_Morals_or_Harming_Your_Child/links/56a8b07e08ae0fd8b4000ead/Beyond-the-High-Road-Responding-to-17-Parental-Alienation-Strategies-without-Compromising-Your-Morals-or-Harming-Your-Child.pdf

www.turningpoints4families.com/uploads/2/2/5/4/22545256/amicus_brief_that_pa_is_child_abuse.docx
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« Reply #25 on: May 20, 2022, 09:52:42 AM »

Thank you Big, very good material and quite relevant.  Especially since they are 'older' children and able to make some of their 'own' decisions - they need to educate themselves to the degree possible to make decisions consistent with the person they want to be.

This is to a large degree the path I am on - it will be piece by piece step by step, and may take time.  But they do need to develop their own healthy processing and perspective at some point.

In effect this is what my son did - but it was very costly and damaging to him.

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« Reply #26 on: May 20, 2022, 12:06:19 PM »

Excerpt
Really good q on the implicit portion.  I am not sure.  It may be nothing more than mom exercising power and control, and there really isnt an underlying threat.  Or it might be... 'see, your actions are detrimental to my well being since you kept me from a healthy activity.  You really are a terrible person'.  Hmm... good q.  (because even that comes back to mom wanting to demonstrate me doing bad things).

I am still curious about this. I wonder if structuring the question as follows would help:

What is the worst thing that you think would happen (short term, medium term, and long term) if you went?

Here is what I am picturing:

Let's say you decide to go to the graduation and the athletic event. Let's say that the kids follow through and either don't ever go, or go and then leave when they see you.

Is that the worst thing that would happen?

I am good at catastrophizing  Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post) so here are my thoughts:

Short term: worst case is they don't go, Mom reinforces the delusion that "you MADE them not able to go", and they complain about how awful you are.

Medium term: they keep not going to events where there is even a hint you may be there. Mom tries to get a RO on you.

Long term: as adults they adhere to the delusion that you are the cause of all their choices and problems, and never see you again.

Is that close to the "worst case"? I feel like for me, what I was most afraid of was DH never seeing the kids again, and them being brainwashed into believing "it was what they wanted" and "he should just have been more sensitive and listened, but now he needs to be punished forever", with absolutely no possibility of them growing older and seeing nuance, just doubling down on the insanity.

What interests me as I write this out is this:

the idea that -- is it really the worst thing in the world for you to go, and the kids to angrily not go and believe you are the source of their problems? I mean -- is that worse than what is going on now?

It's weird that they almost want and are "engineering" scenarios that can be pointed to as "The Event" that "proves" who you are. Like... have there not been any yet? You know what I mean? There is a real ambivalence under the surface, like they can't quite believe at a core level what is going on, so they need certainty and almost want you to "do the bad thing" so they "know". Which indicates to me that they don't fully believe Mom's stuff, in some aspect of their being. It's just a really weird feeling, like if they were totally Team Mom, then ... it's like it wouldn't matter if you were there or not. The level of active hostility taking that much energy to maintain, says to me it is taking a LOT of work for them to maintain the psychic walls. IDK. It's not helpful in the moment necessarily or for problem solving, more just some "huh" observations.

There's a part of me that would also be curious about "pushing Mom to the limit" and while I don't know whether that would be strategic or wise in real life, I think it's important to play out here.

So you go to the events and the kids are angry and blame you irrationally for "not being able to do something important to them". Let's say that Mom gets activated and decides to pursue this legally. Let's say getting an RO against you so you can't be around the kids is what she decides. In a way, would that be the worst thing in the world for her to pursue? I mean, you're already not seeing the kids, so the worst case outcome is... the same for you? But the best case scenario isn't a zero probability -- if she wants to try some crazy legal stuff, then that will shine light on what is going on. She would have to vault some serious hurdles to make it happen and it would involve exposing her "evidence", right? There is a way in which I don't see a downside to "pushing Mom to escalate" (again, with qualifications).

Or, what if the worst case scenario is that after you go and the kids are angry and blaming, that she gets them in to see a counselor that is a total pushover and parrots Mom's views and is ineffective? Is that also worse than what is going on now?

I don't mean any of this lightly. I'm mostly just curious if there are ways to act in accordance with your values (of staying in the kids' lives) where interestingly enough the "worst case scenario" is not worse than what you are going through.

...

On a more practical level, couple of questions & thoughts:

-When your Ds have done this:

Excerpt
they have deliberately communicated to me that they do not want me at any of their events.

was it by text? or with Mom in earshot? was it at all in a 100% private setting where it was guaranteed only you and them?

And did they say/imply that it was you in person they did not want?

-Some members on these boards have had "success" (however you frame that) with... IDK how to describe it, but kind of a "tongue in cheek" approach, or a "light" approach, where you sort of balance "listening to what they have to say" with "proceeding with a natural interpretation" where you are "befuddled" that they could be angry about your "solution".

What I mean concretely is -- your value is to stay involved in your kids' lives. They have angrily told you "don't come to my graduation/event". So:

you don't go in person, but for the graduation PowerPoint, you make sure you have slides in there of pictures of you and D13 and a message of "so happy for you, I love you" etc. For the sports event you don't go in person, but you (again just brainstorming) hire one of those planes with the flag on the tail with a message of "Go D15, you can do it, I love you", or you make big posters and have the coach put them up at the finish line saying something similar.

Then, when you get the angry call/text of "I told you not to be there, I told you I didn't want you there", you are "befuddled": "I'm a little confused, I respect your input and even thought I love you and wanted to be there, I made sure not to attend... I'm confused, did you want me to be there in person?"

Similar "vibe" to "pushing Mom to her limit" where it's not that I'm advocating being provocative on purpose, it's more to "take them at their literal word" and then do your thing, and it's on them to be irrational about you respecting their desires.

A lot of this feels "tacit" or "vibes" so most of these ideas you can take less literally if you want. I think mostly I'm trying to get at ways where:

you can elucidate what you fear would be the worst case scenario, and

you can decide if that would be worse than now, and

you can find ways to act out your values while "respecting" the input from your kids, and if they don't like it it's on them.

...

Just a lot of brainstorming... curious about your thoughts.
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« Reply #27 on: May 20, 2022, 12:22:55 PM »

Would just like to add:

I am definitely not saying that it is not a big deal to agonize over going to the events, given that part of your fear, and possible reality, is that it would traumatize your kids whom you love (even though you see that it would be an induced trauma versus a "normal" trauma, if that makes sense). I get that there is a real world difference between the reality that "you shouldn't be afraid of me, there's no reason for you to hate me, I love you, and your mom is doing this to you and is the actual source of your trauma" versus how your kids experience things as they are trapped in Mom's world. That even though it is normal for a dad to go and support his kids, and normal support is not traumatic, because of where they are "stuck", it could be. So I want to acknowledge that that's what you're dealing with, and I don't want my brainstorming session to sound flippant, like "well just go, what's the worst that could happen" (even though that's a sort of analytical perspective I'm trying out with you).

It is a real thing for parents and stepparents in family systems with disordered other parents/stepparents to routinely encounter situations where it seems like the choice is between having integrity/commitment to core values but "traumatizing the kids"/losing those relationships, or capitulating on values/integrity to try to save the relationship. It is really, really, really difficult when the kids are minors, and even more so (in a way) when they are mid to older teens. I feel for you and recognize that this is beyond difficult.
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« Reply #28 on: May 20, 2022, 01:58:17 PM »

The concern for me about showing up is that they asked you not to. Of course, their mother likely put them up to that ( I know my BPD mother puts people up to saying things ) but still, showing up when they asked you not to may send a wrong message. This doesn't mean you give the impression you don't care- of course you do, but there could be other ways besides attending these events to do so. I hope so.

Unfortunately, it seems that their mother is the gatekeeper between your communicating with them. My BPD mother did this between me and my father.  Ultimately, my mother had control of the situation.

I am glad you were able to support your son in separating from his mother.

I think this is key as well: Enabling them to get out of the house and spend as much time with other healthy people is a key strategy.  Thus the importance of extra curriculars.  And a car once driving age.  And for sure, college.  Many people come from divorced homes and kids talk to each other and compare parent behaviors.

Experiencing other family situations did show the contrast. I wish I had better advice to offer you. This is hard.


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« Reply #29 on: May 20, 2022, 02:16:33 PM »

What Notwendy suggests makes sense, too:

Excerpt
The concern for me about showing up is that they asked you not to. Of course, their mother likely put them up to that ( I know my BPD mother puts people up to saying things ) but still, showing up when they asked you not to may send a wrong message. This doesn't mean you give the impression you don't care- of course you do, but there could be other ways besides attending these events to do so. I hope so.

So as much as I'm open to brainstorming about "what's the worst that would happen if you go", at the same time I see where she's coming from.

In fact, it could tie in to the thought that you have about "treating/talking to them like adults" and that I had about "help them see that they are making choices".

It could "reset" some causality experiences for them. Part of BPD and its fantasy world is misattribution of causality. pwBPD are great at noticing if there is conflict/drama, but for whatever reason (can't, won't, don't, doesn't really matter here), cannot accurately place where/who it is coming from. Yes, there is yelling going on in this interaction, but even though it's them yelling, they say it's you. There is a missing ability to attribute causality correctly.

If for whatever reason (put up to it by Mom, brainwashed, genuine, whatever) the kids say "Don't come to my thing", and then you hear what they say and don't attend, there is a small way in which that acts out appropriate causality. This is what real adult life is like: I treat you like you mean the words you say.

So then the question goes back to -- if the kids are saying "if you attend I won't do it", then how do you stay involved in their lives in a way where you can live out your values (of being there for them) and yet also not be roped into "creating" a traumatic situation.
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