Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Satanism. Violence. Arrests. Probation. STIs. Paternity cases. Divorce. Debt. Dole. Suicide attempts.
This was the shock that hit my husband, Rhys, with tsunami force when he was reunited with his long alienated children. Though barely out of their teens, their young adult lives are already riddled with problems and dramas foreign to our staid, simple middle-aged existence.
To say it was a shock is a grave understatement. We hadn’t anticipated all these problems. We weren’t prepared for it.
Rhys spent the first week of reunion with his five children weeping, catching up on everything he’d missed during alienation.
By the end of the first month, the theatre of their lives had become so dramatic, we found ourselves fondly reminiscing over the simplicity, the serenity, even the boredom of those pre-union days. Days, weeks and months when the most pressing problem was ‘What’s for tea’.
During the years of alienation, Rhys’ five children became adults. Instantly, their lives became prematurely riddled and obfuscated with adult-size problems they bumbled into with no guidance or wisdom from their ‘good’ mother. Problems they struggled to disentangle and she only served to exacerbate. Mounting debts incurred while turning over the bulk of their incomes to her.
Rhys and I often discuss over a cuppa how differently the children would’ve turned out if their mother had not chosen to alienate and isolate the children from Rhys. How differently he would have raised them. He would have shared stories from his missteps so they could learn what not to do from his mistakes. Lovingly guided their steps. Helped them avoid the many pitfalls of life.
But Satanism was something we never anticipated and never saw coming. There is a wedge, unspoken of course, a distance between Rhys as a Christian man and his child who embraces the other side of the religious spectrum. It’s a divide no one talks about but everyone feels. The reunion, once so joyful, has become politely and silently strained.
One child has an incurable STI. Call us old-fashioned but we didn’t see this coming either. Did their mother warn them? The schools? Were they taught anything? Rhys would have at least mentioned safe sex to his children, if he’d been given half a chance.
Of course we didn’t know about the arrests either. The alcohol. Drugs. Violence. Arrests. Magistrates. Fines. Probation. Offender manager. We were blindsided.
Years and years worth of catching up with all the drama, pain and tragedy of Rhys’ childrens’ lives were packed into the first few days post-reunion. It nearly destroyed Rhys. It brought him to his knees with tears, regret, empathy for his suffering children.
So why am I airing our dirty washing to you?
To warn you. So unlike Rhys and I, you are prepared.
Being reunited with your long-alienated children will be one of the most joyful, intensely emotional events of your life, second only to the joy of their births.
But it may also be more painful than you anticipate.
The drama will not be over. It will be just beginning.
You’ll trade the drama of Parental Alienation for different, more adult, more terrible dramas. Dramas which will strain you as much as Parental Alienation, but in a different way.
One of my adult step-child assumed they could move in with Rhys and I, live off us and the dole watching rugby on the telly for the remainder of their natural life without even trying to become an independent adult.
One of my step-sons is now my step-daughter, a transformation I never saw coming.
One of my step-children is committing incest.
Another is abusing their children.
Would you be prepared for learning all of that? What would you do? Rhys wasn’t prepared and neither was I.
These unforeseen stressors have put a strain on our usually peaceful marriage. Is your spouse ready for the drama of being reunited? Are you? Can your marriage handle more stress? Can your finances?
Yet, had we to do it all over again, of course we would’ve welcomed Rhys children back into our lives. It was the right thing to do.
It was being blind-sided that hurts. We were naive. Simplistic. We didn’t anticipate all the drama.
By all means, reforge the bonds with your alienated children. But don’t be blind-sided as we were. They’ll come back to your arms fraught with all kinds of problems. Adult problems. Help them where you can but have your boundaries in place.
Remember: You didn’t cause Parental Alienation. You didn’t cause their adult problems. They and they alone are responsible for their actions and for untangling their own messes.
Support them. Advise them. Help if possible. Pray for them always.
But don’t lose yourself in your childrens’ messy lives. Keep your identity. Set those boundaries and defend them. Don’t allow codependence and guilt, deserved or not, to make you lose your identity, your life savings, your home, your partner, your happiness.
Being reunited after Parental Alienation is a wonderful thing but it comes at a high price.
Are you ready?
Photo by Rochelle Hartman