A Taste of One Dad’s Journey to Parental Alienation
A Journey of Perseverance
A father’s journey is one of perseverance. A journey where each passing day – whether bright and hopeful or dark and pressing – allows for the joys of life, the celebration of milestones, and a reckoning that as a father, you have done everything in your power to keep your child(ren) happy, healthy, and safe.
For seventeen years I was a dedicated, loving, and involved parent to my daughter. I was there for her birth, every birthday, every graduation, every parent-teacher conference, and every doctor’s appointment. I played the Easter Bunny, Santa, and the Tooth Fairy. When she was ill, I was there to nurse her back to health. As recently as a few months ago, we toured colleges and universities together.
I willfully paid child support for a decade as it was the only way to ensure no less than 50% of parenting time. After child support orders ceased, I continued to make sure my daughter had health insurance, life insurance coverage, supplies for school, clothing, and adequate social connections (dance, softball, camp, time with extended family).
Those I have spoken to have predicated their thoughts regarding this situation by acknowledging the sacrifice a parent needs to make. I never sacrificed anything – I chose my occupations and geography carefully so that they would align with my trajectory of being a single dad. The joy of having a child should not lead to sacrifice – it should lead to sanctuary. My daughter has made me proud in a million different ways.
While there is much to this story that cannot be told just yet, for both legal reasons as well as the ensuing completion of my book, “The Dragon & The Hare” which outlines my personal divorce and custody journey in great detail. I hope that someday it serves as a roadmap for others to navigate the perils of parental alienation.
That journey has been stifled by immeasurable change and trauma which happened slowly yet diligently at the hands of a parental alienator. Children are meant to trust their parents, instinctively. When the trust is tethered in the unfortunate circumstance of a parent dealing with Borderline Narcissistic Personality Disorder, everything changes.
I too have suffered from mental health challenges throughout my life, however, in the seventeen years since my daughter’s birth, I have managed – with therapy, exercise, and medication to live in relative bliss.
When I received the WhatsApp call on Mother’s Day of this year from my daughter – with her mom “and advisor” in tow – things became unhinged and erratic. I began to feel encumbered with helplessness almost immediately and for the better part of two weeks before picking myself up and getting to work on the understanding. I spent every spare minute researching and learning about parental alienation, narcissism, triangulation, lack of ambivalence toward a targeted parent as well as weighing several governing factors of our collective pasts to find the pattern. This has quietly been going on for years. It wasn’t until I retained new counsel that I learned that in many states, parental alienation is akin to child abuse.
I am grieving and I have guilt. There were plenty of warning signs dating back to the initial divorce proceedings where I had to exercise my rights (continuously) in court just to obtain legal guardianship of my daughter including visitation. I could not see, however, the strategic “behind the scenes” maneuvering that would eventually alienate my daughter and me. Blindsided, I felt a need to ascertain whether I was feeling grief as a component of the loss or as a component of guilt over the signs that I overlooked. After all, I only had one job: Keep her happy, safe, and healthy.
It’s a mix of emotions. Most of my closest allies still cannot comprehend what is happening despite over 20 million American children suffering from some type of parental alienation. They know that since about 2012 we (myself, my daughter, my ex-wife, and her new husband) spent most of our holidays together, vacationed together, attended shows and assemblies together, and planned and executed birthday and other commemorative moments together.
I feverishly found and spoke to several attorneys shortly after Mother’s Day. I consulted with mental health professionals, parental alienation specialists and all have concluded that this is clearly a case of contempt, parental indifference, and alienation. The issue is that my daughter will be 18 years old in a few months and no court will likely hear this case prior to her emancipation.
I have learned that trauma comes in many forms and has many intricacies that I am still educating myself about. I know one thing. The loss of a child is innumerable at any stage of parenthood whether it is a child’s death or the dismembering of a healthy father-daughter relationship.
My personal trauma embodies the fact that I was not expecting such an event. Like 9/11 as a New Yorker, it was something unanticipated and unrivaled in terms of impact and resolution. Perhaps the fact there is no resolution is the difficult part. There are few ways to compartmentalize the events that took place. (20 years ago on a sunny day in Manhattan or during a routine WhatsApp call that occurred several times per week.)
This trauma was caused by a mother who purposely used me to punish the sins of her own father, who incidentally left the family at the same age as my daughter is now. This is not a coincidence. Despite being there, involved in every aspect of child-rearing, raising, and development for almost two decades, the words of the alienator have been portrayed on the flag as fact.
I guess. I wouldn’t know, I haven’t spoken to or seen my daughter in months. It’s been difficult to discuss these feelings and emotions with friends and family as it is almost impossible given the past for them to understand it. One of my closest friends with whom I lived during custodial time with my daughter explained to me the virtue of truth: With it on my side, I have nothing to lose by telling this story. It’s all about evidence. The testimony of countless people who have witnessed my unwavering love for my daughter along with the experts. I have the truth on my side.
I am sorry, my love, you’ve been manipulated. I’m sorry dear, it is my fault. Through all of my battered emotions, I cannot imagine the torture you must feel thinking your father is anything less than loving, caring, and with you every step of the way.
“It sounds like settlin’ down or givin’ up
But it don’t sound much like you, girl
I wanna grab both your shoulders and shake, baby
Snap out of it (snap out of it)
I get the feelin’ I left it too late, but baby
Snap out of it (snap out of it)
If that watch don’t continue to swing
Or the fat lady fancies havin’ a sing
I’ll be here waitin’ ever so patiently
For you to snap out of it…”
– Arctic Monkeys
Paul Michael Marinello serves as a writer and blog editor for CPTSD Foundation. Previous to this role he managed North American Corporate Communications at MSL, a top ten public relations firm where he also served on the board for Diversity & Inclusion for a staff of 80,000. Paul Michael grew up in New York and attended SUNY Farmingdale before starting a ten-year career at Columbia University. He also served as Secretary and Records Management Officer for the Millwood Fire District, appointed annually by an elected board of fire commissioners from 2008 – 2017.