Good Morning, Friends! My name is Susan King, a coach on the Leslie Vernick & Co. team. I have the opportunity to fill in for Leslie by addressing today’s blog question.
As I let my dogs outside this morning, I was reminded of the coming fall. The morning air was cool and crisp; children were getting up and out for school. Like many midwesterners, I am sad to let go of the beautiful summer weather and all the fun that summer brings.
Last month, I was able to spend a week relaxing on a lovely beach with friends. This month, I have been participating in back-to-school night, the town picnic, and varsity football volunteer opportunities. As the seasons transition, so do my responsibilities, my schedule, and my wardrobe.
Taking time to transition is important to me. I find it helps me to remain centered and brings a sense of calm. And I don’t just mean transitioning from one weather pattern to the next. Life is full of transitions, some are welcomed and some come with protest. For me, transitioning means letting go of one thing and preparing for another. I like to take a pause to consider my thoughts and feelings connected to the letting go. Then I notice my thoughts and feelings about what is to come. When I pay attention to myself, I discover who I am and what I need. This process allows me to know how to best help myself and find the right support.
Perhaps you are in a life transition, where life was one way and it is shifting to something different. Maybe it's a relationship that once felt loving and safe but now you are noticing destructive patterns. If that is true, don’t stay in those patterns holding on to what once was. It may be time to transition into the reality of what is now and get more support or learn new skills to help yourself be well.
Today’s question: Do you have any advice on how to create a safety plan when your husband parentally alienates during a disagreement? My husband will often say “Why is mommy so angry? Or, go away mommy! Mommy is mean! Mommy is angry” When I am oftentimes not even raising my voice, I am just disagreeing and standing my ground. My husband will keep this up for hours! Any advice? Thank you.
Answer: Your question is much appreciated. I am sure many readers can relate to this issue, which is very common in destructive marriages. The tactic of parental alienation can be effective, and you are wise to seek out ways to help yourself with this problem.
I will assume this is a long-standing pattern that you have already tried to address head-on with a conversation. For the sake of the readers, I will give an example of having a private, assertive and respectful conversation with your husband about how he communicates to the children.
You might say “I have noticed lately that you are directing your questions and comments about me to our children. It seems like this may be causing them to think poorly about me. Is that your intent? I would prefer that you address me directly about these things. I don’t think it is helpful to our family for them to hear these messages from you. Are you willing to talk to me directly when you are upset with me?”
By inviting your husband into healthier interactions, you may find that he is willing to make changes. You are also letting him know that what he is currently doing is not okay with you.
Your husband’s voice isn’t the only one influencing your children. You also have a voice in your relationships with them. You can talk to your children directly about your truth without dishonoring your husband. You cannot control what your children believe, but you can make sure they have the opportunity to know your character by being intentional about the ways you interact with them and others.
It sounds as though your children may be young; your truth to your children in the moment may sounds like, “Mommy isn’t angry or being mean. I have a different opinion than Daddy. Disagreements can be hard, but they are normal in relationships. We can still love others who disagree with us.” Or perhaps you are angry; you may want to acknowledge your feelings. “I will own my own feelings here. Mommy is angry because Daddy is speaking to you about things that are between him and me. I am not going to go away just because we don’t agree. We can be together even when we are different or have big feelings.”
Your truth to your husband in the moment may be, “I am willing to talk to you about how I feel. Are you interested in listening to me about my feelings? When you tell me to go away, it seems like I am only welcome in the room if I am reacting the way you want me to react; is that true?”
If you are using your voice and the parental alienation persists, document what you are experiencing. You may want to seek legal counsel in order to learn your rights and how to protect yourself in the event of a divorce or separation.
The most important way to plan for your safety from parental alienation is to get support, get counsel, and make sure you don’t allow your voice to be silenced by your husband’s attempts. He may be trying to devalue you or make you seem crazy. Don’t lose yourself in the midst of this problem. When you are provoked by a harmful person, it can be easy to react in ways that do not align with your character and values. Get the help you need in order to keep your own integrity.
Beloved readers, how have you managed your situations with a destructive person who tries to alienate your loved ones from you?
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