Trust is at the core of all meaningful relationships, but what happens when that trust is lost?
How does a parent move on after experiencing emotional betrayal by a family member in divorce and custody matters? How does a parent overcome the horrific emotional strife that sometimes accompanies custody and divorce while striving to maintain a meaningful relationship with his or her child? How does a parent overcome the emotional or physical betrayal of a spouse?
The answer is quite simple! Family is everything!
Divorce is destructive! Fighting over custody matters and the logistics of divorce has a tendency to bring out the worst in people. Working in the arena of shared parenting, there are constant reminders of the destruction caused by betrayal, deception, and disloyalty among family members in divorce and custody issues. Individuals engage in behaviors with the intent to ruin a person who was previously viewed as a competent and loving parent.
This is the wickedness of divorce!
Parental conflict in divorce is an unfortunate reality. Family members will go to great lengths to detour the parent/child relationship. In this case, a parent told vicious lies about her co-parent. The “untruths” were told a few days before going to court with the obvious intent to to thwart the dad’s efforts in seeking equal parenting time.
Surprisingly, his co-parent’s family readily participated in corroborating the untruths. Predictably, this led to the typical outcome resulting in a stay, preventing this father from having any contact with his ex or their child. His ex and in-laws worked together seamlessly, ensuring there was no phone contact or cyber connectedness. This went on for three months. All efforts to communicate with his young son were thwarted.
The shameless part of this story is that the in-laws were an integral part of this father’s family prior to the divorce. Basically, the family members who turned against him spent numerous holidays together as a so-called family. In fact, on more than one occasion the in-laws stayed in their home when visiting from out of town. Notably, summer vacations were spent together. This father even offered financial help to his family in-laws.
Somehow, the in-laws maintained their series of lies. They told lies about him. They called him a liar. They called him other names, too. He sent letters trying to communicate. All were ignored. Every member of his co-parent's family absolutely refused to communicate with him. Despite his emotional pleas, not one person reached out to him.
As typical in high-conflict divorces, many people fell for the accusations and the lies. He was ignored at community events in their small town. Bewilderingly, he was ostracized at the grocery store. In essence, this father's life was ruined! He was devastated!
This mother did not stand a chance in the family courtroom. Her husband was a prominent attorney. Despite the numerous motions filed with rulings in her favor, the father did not comply. Visitation with their son, age four-and-a-half years old at the time of the divorce, was titrated down to minimal contact. Eventually, actions were taken preventing any contact.
For several years, she maintained a steady course of attempts. She baked his favorite cookies and left them at the door. She mailed presents of meaningful emotional value based on their pre-divorce relationship. This loving mother sent cards and presents for all of the holidays and birthdays. Regardless of the mother’s attempts, this father made no effort to preserve the mother/son relationship.
This mother went five years without contact with her son! Sadly, the opportunity to ever see her son again was lost. Forever. He jumped off a bridge, killing himself at the age of 16. The parents’ inability to communicate and the efforts to keep this mother and son apart became too much for their son. He chose to escape the emotional pain with an exit that eliminates any chance for revival – suicide.
This couple married right out of high school with the promise of staying together forever. Life had a different agenda. They separated after 10 years of marriage and two children. In an effort to “find himself”, he began drinking and taking drugs and found a new partner.
One year later, the couple reunited. She lovingly and willingly accepted him back as a parent and spouse. She desperately wanted her family together again.
This couple was able to move on together, despite his wayward travels that put their marriage and family on hold. She did not want to be divorced, openly expressing that resuming their life was the right thing to do for her family.
Trust is not a simple dichotomy. The concept of trusting yourself and others is more complex. One does not “have” or “not have” trust. Similar to the idea of being a millionaire or going bankrupt, there are many levels in between trusting or not trusting. Trust is more like weaving the concepts of the self with existing and pre-existing relationships and seizing new opportunities. Demonstrating trust is a delicate balance and sometimes a convoluted and long drawn-out process.
Sometimes, the hurt and betrayal are lifted due to a change in circumstances.
Sometimes, the road is forever blocked with no detour in sight like the parent whose son committed suicide.
Revisit the question, “How does a parent learn to trust when betrayed by a family member?”
Amazingly, after the in-laws experienced a life-threatening event, the dynamics changed. Two family in-law members chose the right path, confessing their ill doings and changing their ways as quickly as the abominable behaviors began. This father was vindicated. Finally, the truth was out. Father and son were reunited! To this day, the in-laws actively participate in this boy’s after-school care.
For the mom whose son committed suicide, her life will forever be defined by the events that led to the moment her son chose to end his emotional pain and suffering on this earth. There is no coming back from this. Sometimes there is no possibility of hope or recovery, revealing the unfortunate reality that sometimes relationships are lost permanently.
Fortunately, the mom who accepted her husband back with open arms experienced a happy ending.
For the parents within the throes of divorce grappling with issues of trust, perhaps the better question is, “How does the parent find inner peace and contentment and the fortitude to re-establish relationships after blatant and unequivocal wrongfulness?”
The answer is quite simple: Family is everything!