Morning friends,

How are you holding up? Share some things with our blog community on what you are learning, and how you are using your time now. I’ve been reading more, practicing my art, and taking long walks every morning with Addie (my dog). We’re up to five miles now and I hope we can continue to do this even when we’re not so stuck at home.  

These are the books I’m reading or just finished:

Defiant: What the women of Exodus teach us about Freedom by Kelley Nikondeha.  Excellent.  

Tiny Habits: Small Changes that Change Everything, by BJ Fogg. Just started.

American Dirt: By Jeanine Cummins. Novel about a woman’s escape from the Mexican drug cartel and her immigration to America – so far it’s riveting.  

The Next Right Thing: By Emily P Freeman. Excellent on decision making.

The Warmth of Other Suns: By Isabel Wilkerson. About the migration to the North after slavery – excellent.

I Am Pilgrim: By Terry Hayes. A scary novel about the release of smallpox in a terrorism plot. I read this just before the Covid-19 virus hit. Don’t read it now. 

Pachinko: By Mim Jin Lee. A novel spanning several generations of Korean life in the 40’s in Japan. Interesting peek into a way of life and culture that’s very different than ours. 

Captivate: By Vanessa Van Edwards. An excellent read about developing better social skills to improve your relationships.

The Dressmaker’s Gift: By Fiona Valpy. Excellent story about French seamstresses during WW2. Just started.  

Yep, I like to have a lot of books going on at the same time. Some are paper books. Some are kindle. And some I listen to while I walk. The variety helps as I don’t have a long attention span for any one book right now.  

This week’s question: I’m currently separated from my husband (7 months) and wanting out of this marriage desperately because he is emotionally unsafe for me. He has taken me down so low I thought I wouldn’t come back up. I am getting stronger with Christ as my center and your YouTube and Facebook videos.

My question is – I’m staying in this marriage right now because of fear of the unknown specifically with our kids.

His entire family (pastors) are controlling, manipulative, and spiteful people who claim to walk with God. They think so highly of themselves and their name, I feel certain they will try and turn our kids against me. 

If I file for divorce that would allow them to tell our kids “your mommy did this.” My husband has even told our 7-year-old that when he is 15 he will explain how mom wrecked the marriage. 

So there’s no doubt what other lies my husband will tell him. And his parents are the same. I know you focus on the individual – I don’t hear much about kid custody or co-parenting. Is there a place you could direct me to for help in this area? 

Right now I feel if I stay, I keep my children and lose myself. If I go, I lose my children and keep myself. I’ve met with 2 attorneys and of course, they say to get out! But I feel like I am throwing my kids to the wolves if I leave the marriage. There is No physical harm, but mental and emotional harm.

Any contacts or YouTube channels or Facebook groups that you recommend? ANYTHING you can think of please let me know when you have time.

Answer: This is a huge and real problem for many women who are in destructive marriages with toxic extended family dynamics especially when the family is prominent and powerful.

I can’t tell you what the future holds for you or your children. However, it seems like you are telling yourself there are only two possible outcomes. The first, you stay in the marriage, shrivel up and die inside but you’re able to save your kids from being harmed or alienated from you. The second, divorce, and rebuild your shattered self, but your kids will be alienated and harmed and it will be all because you left.  

Both scenarios sound awful. But I’m not sure those are the only possible outcomes.

For example, if you stay, lose yourself, and get beaten down again, how can you possibly protect your children? That’s not possible.  

On the other hand, if you choose to stay, what if you didn’t shrivel up inside? What if you grew stronger, and more resilient instead of reactive and depleted? What if you focused on raising your kids and being a woman of strength and dignity and stopped trying to convince anyone that your husband is emotionally abusive.  

Then if or when your spouse or his parents speak poorly of you to your kids what would they actually have to say? If your side of the street is clean and your kids don’t see any behaviors from you that look sinful or cruel towards their dad, his words or accusations won’t ring true.  

I’m not saying lie to your kids about the state of the marriage and pretend that you’re a happy couple. You can even say, “Daddy and I have some real differences and sometimes it’s hard to work through them. Right now, our marriage isn’t so good. I don’t know what will happen. But I do know that I can’t fix this all by myself. Right now, I’m trying to be the woman God calls me to be and take good care of you.” And leave it at that. They’re getting older. They can begin to see things for themselves as long as you don’t confuse them by allowing yourself to become beaten down, emotionally weak, or unstable. Taking this route is sometimes not possible. 

Option #2, getting divorced, and sharing custody. Co-parenting with someone who is bent on alienating your children and disparaging you is tough but not impossible. If your children have witnessed the emotional abuse towards you, or even experienced some of it themselves, it’s much easier to name it for what it is. 

However, If the abuse is more covert, all the more reason for you to learn how to disengage, detach, and not get hooked into his covert tactics. A covert aggressor wants to bait you in order to make you react and look unstable, ungodly, or unglued. The more he wins at this, especially in front of your children, the more he convinces them and others that his version of reality is the truth. This is where you must do your own work, and it’s not just leaving. You must get healthy and strong so his tactics do not work with you anymore.  

There are plenty of books, YouTube videos, and classes, both free and paid, on parental alienation. However, I think your first step is to continue your growth so that you don’t give him any evidence to smear you with. He wants you to look bad to your children. He will bait you, provoke you, and manipulate your words, your boundaries, and your actions to make it look like you are the unforgiving, uncharitable, ungodly, sinful person.   

You can get really clear on his strategies, but if you don’t do your own work to know how to stand strong in the midst of his games, you will fall and your kids will see it. This only reinforces his version of reality to them. 

Right now, whether you leave or stay, you need support, you need to educate yourself and you need to develop a battle plan so that you are not overcome with evil. Click To Tweet

Google parental alienation and you will find lots of resources for you to read. Tina Swithin wrote an excellent book on one mom's battle in her divorce with her husband called Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield and has some on-line resources on parental alienation.

Friends, when you were too scared to leave and too depleted to stay, what helped you to move out of fear and take your next healthy step forward?

10 Comments

  1. Janice D on April 29, 2020 at 7:43 am

    My heart goes out to this woman and her situation.For me,re-reading the book Necessary Endings by Dr Henry Cloud was key for me in moving forward.I chose to legally separate from my husband almost 2 years ago.I have not seen/ heard any change in him( other than a lot of religious jargon and platitudes) that give me hope for a different future with him.I am so grateful for the clarity I have now and am continuing to leave the future in Gods hands.I didn’t have minor children at home as my son was grown and was dealing with his own issues with his dad.I am so thankful to have a close relationship with my son and lovely daughter-in-law.

  2. Daisy Daniel on April 29, 2020 at 8:16 am

    I agree with you that not much is talked or written about in the Christian community when it comes to parental alienation.

    This is a topic I deal with on a daily basis, both personally and in my coaching practice.

    Due to the self-imposed shame, lack of awareness, and denial, many Christian women don’t come forth for help as you are doing. This happens frequently where spiritual abuse is the culprit. Congratulations on seeking help! This is huge!

    Here is a video that I uploaded on April 25 of this month to commemorate Parental Alienation Awareness Day.

    https://youtu.be/1Xzx0mfSWgQ

    I also have an article on my blog entitled, “31 Reflections of Abuse.“ on my website, http://www.mymomentlc.com. Many of the reflections deal with parental alienation.

    I am going to be doing many more videos on the topic of parental alienation as well as other forms of abuse on my YouTube channel, My Moment Life Coaching Services.

    I am a Christian Personal Resilience Life Coach. I hope this helps you, and I would be happy to talk to you personally about your situation.
    daisy@mymomentlc.com

  3. Pam Reinhardt on April 29, 2020 at 10:17 am

    I totally agree with Leslie. I would recommend immersing yourself with Leslie, Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Steve Arterburn’s teaching & recovery books, utube videos & radio broadcasts before you file for divorce. It seems to me that you are not emotionally healthy enough at this point. Stay separated & follow Leslie’s advice.

  4. Connie on April 29, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    I’m so very sorry. Parental alienation is one of the worst abuses of all. I left my first h about 25 years ago before there was much of anything in the way of information out there. He quickly divorced me but of course if was all my fault. The abuse was so covert that to this day our children believe much of what he says. Remember, children have magical thinking about this. They so badly want to be close to both parents, and subconsciously they know that your love is unconditional but his isn’t. So they bend to his whims and lies, and believe it’s a win-win. If I tell the truth about something, I’m slandering him. If he lies, well, he bats his baby blues and has mastered the innocent look so well… My son said to me, “Dad always makes us talk respectfully about you.” Uh-huh, with an attitude of ‘you know how mom gets’ (hint, hint). So they treat me with polite distance and condescension. Not all, but most. And are quite proud of themselves for being so benevolent towards me. I hate it. But I love them. Last year we all got together for a change (they live all over the world). They were with me for 3 hours, and then went to his house for 3 days and sent me pictures of what a lovely time they had. I’m thankful for the 3 hours and I was able to hang around and snatch some more time with some of them later in the week. I tried to talk to the oldest (45) last year and he said, “It’s ok mom, you don’t have to talk about it.” What he meant was “I don’t want to talk about it. I want to believe what I want to believe because it’s less painful for me.”

    My advice is to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, one day at a time. His way is often so different than what we would have chosen or think logical. Only God knows what is best for everyone, and it may never resolve itself here on this earth. I keep hoping but no longer hold my breath or plan and scheme how to fix it. I’ve spent far too much of my life trying to fix everything and figure it all out. Time for surrender and trust. Under His wings we find refuge. Revel in the small things, pray lots, ask the Lord to give you a ministry. Dance with Him, sing with Him, love and bless Him. He is worthy, He knows the truth, He will vindicate someday.

    You could say to your husband, “blah, blah”… sure, I bet you’ve said many things to him, and if he was the listening type you wouldn’t be separated. Talking just sucks you back into his vortex and feeds the whole mess to go on and on. Do the right thing and don’t question it afterward. It might not even be the right thing but that’s ok. Everything can be redeemed by the One who loves you. Look in the mirror and ask God what He thinks of you. Then all the rest fades. Love on those children and make sure they know that they know that you are a safe haven, and especially that their all-knowing Father is a safe haven. Blessings.

    • Cheryl on April 29, 2020 at 9:49 pm

      Beautiful

    • lg889775 on April 30, 2020 at 10:42 am

      It sounds like you are doing so well with your trust and keeping the Lord as your source, yet being so real and clear about the truth of how your adult kids relate to you. I see the pain. Yet, there is so much healing in staying close to our Lord. I pray you will have His favor in His time.

  5. Reclaiming myself on April 29, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    The biggest thing that helped me was to understand that I’m not crazy. Covert emotionally abuse can be so very confusing. But through Leslie Vernick, Patrick Doyle, Dr Cloud, Natalie Hoffman and others I have understood that it isn’t me. Knowing how to change my thoughts is what helps me stay for now. When H reacts to me in a hurtful way- that’s on him. It doesn’t change who I am. My kids are mostly teens and are seeing the truth now. Our minds can keep us in a dangerous spiral if we don’t look at the thoughts we are believing and then choose to believe the truth.

  6. Ruth on May 28, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    I am so sorry to hear this woman is going through this. It’s highly likely I would have been facing something similar if my children had not been young adults when my ex’s abusive behaviors began….the whole nine yards: gaslighting, infatuation with young women, emotional and verbal abuse, threats, smear campaign, and pathological lying, including slandering me to the kids and close friends.

    It’s hard to convey how confused was my thinking and how drained I was. Barely escaped PTSD. It took a year of no contact to get a grip on his tactics and face the truth of his abuse, confounded greatly by the fact that this behavior emerged after 25 years of marriage and was not a lifelong pattern.

    I agree you have more than two options. Educate yourself about codependence and abuse patterns. Learn boundaries. Detach. Find support online or at your local women’s shelter, or somewhere. If he is willing to hurt his own kids, his heart is dark. It might be hard to believe right now, but you can become so clear thinking that you stay and teach your kids what REAL kingdom thinking looks like. What real grace and truth looks like.

    I don’t presume to tell you to stay, just saying you have options, and that in itself is empowering.

    Don’t use negative emotions to alienate the kids against their dad. why? ONLY because Jesus told us to not make little ones stumble. He will honor this. However, pray about how and when to state facts. I thought not telling the facts was honorable, but later realized I was still just trying to cover the ugliness of the truth. It will depend on the age of your kids.

    If, like me, you thought proper submission meant glossing over deceit, I suggest the book “When to Walk Away.” The truth can be spoken with a good and true motive.

  7. Maria on June 27, 2021 at 11:33 am

    I was in a similar situation years ago when my kids were younger. My husband does not spend time with the kids and divorcing him would have meant much more time with them. My husband has lied about me at times, but thankfully my kids have not believed him. This is because I did my work and my kids have seen the contrast between my behavior and his. Because I did not repay evil for evil, spoke up when necessary, cared for them, but was careful not to over function, they were able to clearly see through my husbands behavior.

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