A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, follows the story of Mike Jeffries and his family – wife Beth and sons Jared and Adam – as Mike realizes his post-divorce dream of co-parenting his children as they split their time between two households will bear little resemblance to a post-divorce reality consumed with trying to maintain a normal relationship with his 11-year old son Adam in the face of parental alienation.
ONCE IN BED, Beth and Adam huddled together as if they needed each other’s body heat to stay warm. I stood near the foot of the bed. Beth called me every name she could think of – liar, abuser, cheater, loser, trash, and bastard – and encouraged Adam to repeat everything she said. He did. When I told Adam not to talk to me that way Beth countered and said Adam could talk to me any way he wanted. Adam didn’t have to listen to me, she said. He didn’t ever have to talk to me again.
I told Adam over and over I loved him and that we’d work things out. Beth shouted over me – one filthy name after another. Every time I moved closer to Adam she threatened to call the police if I touched him.
Beth was doing a great job of destroying me in front of Adam. The only problem was she was also destroying Adam. The kid was torn beyond belief. The pain was etched on his face. At one point, I asked Beth to at least tell Adam that I was a good father. She refused.
During my next visit with my therapist, Dr. Joel Davies, we talked about that night.
|Dr. Davies:||That was a rough night.|
|Mike:||Worst night of my life. Was it inevitable?|
|Dr. Davies:||What you described was the climax of a situation that was predetermined long before it happened. Once a person disengages and removes himself from a spouse with poor object relations, separation anxiety and unresolved abandonment issues, the abandoned spouse’s reaction is inevitable. The only surprises are when will it occur and how bad will it be.
What you saw was an adult coming face-to-face with her darkest demons. You saw total panic, anxiety and a loss of control. Lots of people with abandonment issues address those issues long before middle age. But you saw a 40-year-old woman who had never dealt with her unresolved issues. She was falling and trying to regain her balance any way she could.
|Mike:||So Beth looked to Adam for balance?|
|Dr. Davies:||Yes and no. A person in Beth’s situation looks for anyone at that point. She wasn’t consciously looking for Adam to save her and make her feel better. He was accessible, available and a willing participant. You were leaving. Jared was emotionally detached from Beth. Adam was the closest one to Beth who had not betrayed or abandoned her, and she was going to make sure it stayed that way. Adam saw her fears and did everything he could do to take care of her.|
|Mike:||Adam was torn apart. I’ve never seen so much pain on one child’s face.|
|Dr. Davies:||It makes me sad to think what goes on in an 11-year-old head at a time like that. A child is typically dealing with his own issues of loss and abandonment. His security, comfort, and stability are being ripped away. This is a time when the child needs both parents’ reassurance. The child needs to hear that both parents will continue loving him and taking care of him. Your child didn’t get that reassurance. Instead, one parent sent the message that the child needed to take care of her. The abandoned parent may threaten to hurt or kill herself if the child doesn’t side with her. Sometimes the comments are subtle like, “If you ever leave me, I will die.” This type of parent literally burdens the child with her lifetime of betrayal and abandonment issues. What choice does a child have in a situation like that? Either he sides with Mom against Dad, or something bad will happen to Mom. The child feels that he has no choice.|
A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation by Michael Jeffires and Dr. Joel Davies. Published by A Family’s Heartbreak, LLC. www.afamilysheartbreak.com