Diane – “Dumped at the Altar”

I’m so glad I found this site. My story is a continuation of what everyone else has said, with a twist. It’s a bit long but since I really need the advice of you all, who have lived through parental alienation, I hope you’ll read it all and help me. In fact, I just realized that my son has been a victim of parental alienation instigated by his step mom for years.

Many years ago, when my son was 10, my ex-husband married a very insecure, selfish, manipulative woman who did everything she could to alienate my son from me in order to secure her position with his father.

She had been “dumped at the altar” prior to meeting my ex and was desperate to get married to prove that someone wanted her, so when she met my ex (who is fairly weak and needy), she latched onto him and began controlling all of our lives. My ex and I had just started becoming supportive and friendly with each other when she met him, but she quickly came between us.

Right from the start, this woman constantly criticized me to my son, his paternal grandparents and his father. My son, who lived with me, and was very close to me, would come home from visits with them and tell me the horrible things the step mom was saying about me to them and that she was telling everyone at his school and on his sports team that she was his mother.

Both my son and I were very upset by this, because we were always very close and I used to tell him as a child that “our hearts are connected by a golden thread that will always be there.” He was the sweetest little boy and people called him my sidekick because we were so connected.

Anyway, I knew if I confronted the step mom about the things she was saying and doing she would make things worse for my son, so I just told him that it was her opinion and we both knew we loved each other, and he knew who I was, so we’d just have to ignore it.

This went on for many years and got worse–for example, she told me I was not to call my son when he was at their house and that they didn’t want me on their property so I wasn’t allowed to pick him up at the end of his weekend visits, instead they would drop him off to me. A few times when I did call him at their house he’d tell me “mom, don’t call here, Suzanne doesn’t like it,” which he told me quickly, in a whisper, then hung up before she discovered he was talking to me.

I was very intimated by this woman and my ex, because when I tried to stand up to them they would threaten to get custody of my son. Of course they never even tried that, but the threat of losing my son was so frightening that I didn’t challenge them.

There were way too many hurtful, horrible instances to cover here, but needless to say, she made our lives miserable in many ways, and finally was able to convince my son to withdraw from me and my daughter’s lives. He was angry and hateful a lot of the time with us, even though we loved him dearly and I was there for him each and every day, and did everything I could to create a warm, loving, family environment.

I never understood his behavior, how mean he was to us, and chalked it up to teenage angst. But over the years we also noticed how he hardly attended our family’s events or came to visit me and my daughter after going to college and moving out on his own. But he came to live with me recently and now many things are making sense.

My son has been living with me for the past 3 months (he’s now 33) after quitting his job and breaking up with his girlfriend of 3 years. He lived in San Francisco, near his father and stepmother, and I live in Southern California. He texted me a few months ago saying “mamma, I’m coming home.” Of course I was delighted because I’ve wanted to regain our closeness.

Through many conversations we’ve had since he came home, I’m now seeing how much damage the step mom did to him and our relationship–which I knew before but didn’t realize the full extent.

The most upsetting part is that he sometimes defends her and accuses me of “not getting over it.” I realize now that the step mom was constantly criticizing me and my family, making him think we were inadequate or dysfunctional or whatever, and that’s why he didn’t want to participate in our family events and kept a distance from us for so many years.

I realize that every time he was hateful it was because she told him we weren’t good enough in some way and that he deserved better.

In spite of all of us this, my son always turns to me when he needs help or comfort, so I know that our closeness is still there. But I also know that he’s got to recognize the damage she caused. When I try to talk to him about it he gets angry and defensive, so I also believe he carries a lot of guilt about accepting her criticism and turning away from us.

He recently told me that “as a kid you think you have to be loyal to one person” so I guess he chose her, since his father, grandfather and grandmother all hated me. And I know that he feels guilty about this and now is trying to make up for it.

My question is, how do I dilute this horrible woman’s influence on my son? She still is in contact with him and sends him money and offers gifts to keep him in her life, which is her way of manipulating him—she buys his affection and he feels obligated to respond.

BTW—my ex left her last year, finally admitting he never loved her, which she is very bitter about. Unfortunately, this has only made her hold on even harder to my son.

Also, my dear sweet son has suffered from depression and anxiety for many years, which I know in my heart is the result of the horrible things this step mom did. I’m so angry with her but don’t know what to do about it.

At times I feel angry with my son for letting her come between us, but I know that he was a child, overwhelmed and controlled by her, my ex and his grandparents, and he did the best he could. I’ve told him a child should never be put in the position of having to choose between parents—in this case a step parent and a mom—but I’m not sure he understands this.

I don’t want this woman to continue to influence our relationship and I want my son to be happy, healthy, and guilt-free. And I want him to see what she did to him. But when I try to talk to him about it we end up arguing.

Do any of you have advice for how to handle this?

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