Is this Parental Alienation Syndrome? What can we do about it? - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

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Old 05-14-2009, 08:29 PM
 
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The trouble with this is that as soon as you decide that someone is 'toxic' and that it's your job to let the child know the 'truth'... you are doing exactly what the OP is protesting against. You think it's valid coz it's your perception, well so does the other party. 'Toxic' is kind of a ridiculous word, I see it used so much on this website, and basically it means 'someone who I don't get along with, who I think is wrong and I am right, I am a victim of them and they are an awful person with no redeeming qualities.' VERY dangerous territory, and a dangerous thing to communicate to a child about their other parent, no matter how right you *think* you are.
I'm not suggesting in any way, shape or form that the OP and husband badmouth the girl's mom, or attempt to "communicate" that her mother is toxic. However, it's every bit as much of a mistake to try to interfere the other way. If the mother is poisoning her own relationship with her child with her manipulative games, then trying to portray her mom as something she's not isn't in the best interests of the child...and is going to make her feel totally unheard. I absolutely think they should let the child know the truth...but I'm not using "let her know" to mean "tell her". I'm using it to mean "allow her to know", as in "don't try to hide it". I think the OP's husband is totally off track here. He seems to have an idealized idea of what a bio-mom is (probably understandable, since he lost his) and is trying to preserve that for his dd...even though it's not what she's got.

"Toxic" does not mean "someone I don't get along with" - not at all. There are lots of people I don't get along with, but I don't think they're all toxic. Heck - I've gotten along very well with a few people who were toxic as hell. Toxic people aren't that hard to spot and the mom in the OP has all the earmarks.

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Old 05-14-2009, 08:36 PM
 
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Agreed. It is one of that unfortunate things in a blended family. You really cannot just give the child the "truth" of the situation, or your opinion of the other parent because it will come back to bite you in court. You have to just support the child in their relationship with the toxic parent and try to find the safest way for them to have the relationship until the courts decide that the other parent has crossed the line.
The OP said they used to lie to her step-daughter, to preserve her relationship with her mother. What relationship needs to be preserved through lies, if it's not a toxic one?

Yes - the OP and her dh need to watch themselves, because of the courts and the legalities, but they cannot protect a relationship from its own internal pressures. This would end up with the OP and her dh "gaslighting" their daughter/stepdaughter, and denying her own reality, in order to "protect" a lie.

You know...I've slipped up a couple of times over the years, when I was unusually angry. But, by and large, I don't ever badmouth my ex. I do it privately with dh sometimes, but that's about it - never, ever, ever where ds1 can hear me. But, I'm also not going to try to protect a relationship that my ex threw away. The relationship between my son and his dad is between them. I won't obstruct it - but I also won't (and can't) make it happen. The OP and her dh also can't create or protect a healthy relationship between the dd/dsd and her mom...her mom has to do that.

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Old 05-14-2009, 10:34 PM
 
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"Toxic" does not mean "someone I don't get along with" - not at all. There are lots of people I don't get along with, but I don't think they're all toxic. Heck - I've gotten along very well with a few people who were toxic as hell. Toxic people aren't that hard to spot and the mom in the OP has all the earmarks.
This would be an interesting spinoff and in fact I'm sure I tried to start a thread on the subject a few years ago here. Labelling someone 'toxic' is a judgment on their whole character, their whole selves, as negative and poisonous only. And the person using the name is some sort of virtuous objective judge? Dangerous territory. It's an easy copout because it makes them all bad, and you (general you) all good, and implies no shared responsibility in the relationship. But it's inaccurate and in fact in this situation, ironically it does the same thing to the other party that the OP and her family do not want done to her.
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Old 05-15-2009, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm using it to mean "allow her to know", as in "don't try to hide it". I think the OP's husband is totally off track here. He seems to have an idealized idea of what a bio-mom is (probably understandable, since he lost his) and is trying to preserve that for his dd...even though it's not what she's got.
I think you're exactly right about my Hubby. He does the same thing with me- if my son's misbehaving, he'll defend me to the end of the earth, "You will not talk to your Mother like that.", etc. I think he never really got over his Mother's death (yeah, I know, you never really "get over" something like that, just learn to deal), and he could probably use therapy on the subject, but that's not in my hands. Unfortunately, my Hubby is a wonderful Father, and I hope someday my son will be a wonderful Father, as well, and my stepdaughter will grow up and her children will have a wonderful Father, but I get the impression that it's being subconsciously put into both childrens' brains that Fathers are second class citizens, to their children, that Mothers are the only parents who really count. Even if the Mother is a venemous one.

I pray for the day Family Court recognizes that CHILDREN have rights, parents only have PRIVILEGES.  Only then, will I know my child is safe.
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Old 05-15-2009, 11:28 AM
 
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The idea that only dads count is a false one but highly pervasive in our culture at large. Think of how many images are out there of mom and baby, for one. So fathers who are being alienated really have a lot of work to do.
About the toxicity. . . I think it's important to remember that as stepmoms in this situation, we only see one side--the worst side--of our steps' mothers. I remember overhearing my steps' mom by chance, and I almost fell off my chair b/c her voice was so kind and gentle!! I wouldn't have recognized it if I hadn't looked back!! I try to remind myself that my stepchildren are nice people, and since they are with her for the majority of the time, there must be many redeeming qualities about her that I simply don't see. I also see that she is highly, highly isolated. SHe can't share with others what she's doing, b/c they would not approve. (This woman is also isolated by having a bad relationship with her own family, and she doesn't seem to have long lasting relationships).
This doesn't mean excusing bad behaviour, of course.
Oh, also, an earlier post was advising all sorts of things for you to do, like contacting teachers, etc. Thsi is great--but it's not for you to do, but your husband. Do NOT insert yourself into a parental role. Leave that to your husband, and you will be less vulnerable and happier.
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Old 05-15-2009, 08:01 PM
 
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This would be an interesting spinoff and in fact I'm sure I tried to start a thread on the subject a few years ago here. Labelling someone 'toxic' is a judgment on their whole character, their whole selves, as negative and poisonous only. And the person using the name is some sort of virtuous objective judge? Dangerous territory. It's an easy copout because it makes them all bad, and you (general you) all good, and implies no shared responsibility in the relationship.
What shared responsibility does the OP's dsd have in this mess with her mom? Her mom is manipulating her dd, in order to have her own emotional needs met. The girl in question has no shared responsibility here. She is owed honesty from someone in the situation.

And, yeah - some people are toxic. Maybe you've been lucky enough not to deal with it, but when people are manipulating you (and you admit in one of your own posts here that the mom is manipulating her dd), to your detriment and their own gain, they're behaving in a toxic fashion. I've had toxic people in my life, and it has nothing to do with me being "all good" or anything else - it has to do with their attempts to make themselves feel better at my expense...no matter how much damage they may have done me in the attempt.

Maybe the mom isn't a toxic person...but her relationship with her dd is toxic. Maybe it's only toxic in this one area, but that really doesn't matter. She's poisoning her own relationship with her dd and the idea that anybody outside that relationship should - or can - "protect" it, is laughable.

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But it's inaccurate and in fact in this situation, ironically it does the same thing to the other party that the OP and her family do not want done to her.
I don't even follow what you mean here. What does anything to the other party? You think the OP and her dh should just go along and pretend that her mother's behaviour is perfectly acceptable and understandable and that her mother's happiness is totally dependent on this girl rejecting other people she loves? That's somehow "doing the same thing" to someone?

Do you think the little girl should be lied to and shielded from simple facts, in order to preserve her relationship with her mother? Should a relationship based on lies and manipulation be "protected" by third parties aiding and abetting the manipulator?

I don't give a crap about the girl's mom in this situation. Honestly - while I have a lot of sympathy for her, personally - I'm not worried about the OP or her dh, either. I'm concerned about a little girl who is being manipulated to hell and back...and a boy who is being treated like a potential predator, for no reason at all, except to pad his stepsister's mother's need to feel 'special'. The adults can fend for themselves, but the kids deserve to have an even playing field. And, one thing I know about toxic people and toxic relationships is that they thrive in darkness, fear and secrecy...and don't do so well when the light is shining on them.

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Old 05-15-2009, 08:23 PM
 
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By shared responsibility, I was referring to the OP and her partner's dynamic with the mother.

'Toxic' IMO is a copout. You nor I can decide if someone else is 'toxic' and that all responsibility for problems in a relationship falls to them. Life just doesn't work that way. Would be nice if it did. But if you call someone toxic chances are they think you are toxic right back. Kinda silly IMO.
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Old 05-15-2009, 08:30 PM
 
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By shared responsibility, I was referring to the OP and her partner's dynamic with the mother.
That's not what I'm talking about at all, so we're having different conversations.

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'Toxic' IMO is a copout. You nor I can decide if someone else is 'toxic' and that all responsibility for problems in a relationship falls to them. Life just doesn't work that way. Would be nice if it did. But if you call someone toxic chances are they think you are toxic right back. Kinda silly IMO.
If that's what you think, then it's a safe bet you've never met a toxic person. My grandmother was toxic. She did her level best to screw up my life, my sibling's lives and my cousin's lives. She did it to serve her own best interests, and did not care what she did to the rest of us. If she thought I was toxic, so be it...but I'd decided she was toxic (not that word, because I didn't know it) by the time I was 8. If she thought I was toxic at 8, then she had even bigger issues than I think she did. And, if she thought we were all toxic, why did she try so hard to force us to love her more than anyone else in our lives, including our parents?

And, yes - life does work that way, sometimes. My ex was toxic, but that doesn't mean I didn't make mistakes in our relationship. I did. But, I made mistakes - he tried to emotionally destroy me, in order to keep me around. When toxic parents are messing with their children's lives, then I think it's further evidence that said parents are toxic, if they think their children are "toxic right back". When you have to constantly manipulate your child, so that your child (or grandchild, for that matter) will fulfill all your emotional needs, you're toxic.

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Old 05-15-2009, 08:33 PM
 
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When I hear the word 'toxic' I think of two people both pointing at each other, with speech bubbles above their heads that say 'toxic.' And I will leave the convo at that coz it's derailing this thread.
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Old 05-15-2009, 08:36 PM
 
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When I hear the word 'toxic' I think of two people both pointing at each other, with speech bubbles above their heads that say 'toxic.' And I will leave the convo at that coz it's derailing this thread.
So, you think that manipulative parents are thinking "toxic" at little children, and you don't think that's toxic, in and of itself? People who manipulate children into fulfilling their own emotional needs, at the expense of the child's emotional needs, are toxic. There's more wiggle room in adult/adult relationships (although people can be toxic in those, too), but when it's adult/child, it's pretty clear. Honestly - if you've never dealt with any toxic people, I'm truly happy for you, and I hope you never do. I also hope your children never do.

Fair enough - we're definitely going OT.

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Old 05-15-2009, 08:52 PM
 
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Dude, the child is not calling the mother toxic. People are encouraging the OP to think of the mother as toxic and up the antagonistic ante as a result. Not a good idea IMO.
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Old 05-16-2009, 03:57 PM
 
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Dude, the child is not calling the mother toxic. People are encouraging the OP to think of the mother as toxic and up the antagonistic ante as a result. Not a good idea IMO.
The child probably doesn't even know the word toxic...but there are more than a few hints in the OP that she is thinking of her mother as toxic. In any case, when I call the woman toxic, it's based on what I'm seeing/hearing of her relationship with her dd, not her relationship with the OP.

I didn't catch the posts urging the OP to up the antagonistic ante. IME, identifying toxic people in one's life has little or nothing to do with upping the antagonism. It's useful in helping one deal with these people...because dealing with toxic, manipulative people as though they're acting in a rational fashion does not work. You were posting earlier about taking one's own responsibility in a relationship, instead of just labeling people as "toxic"...but when dealing with toxic people (and the OP's dh's ex does sound like one), trying to do that is frequently the least effective way to deal with them. Owning your own mistakes, when the person you're dealing with doesn't do the same thing, simply leaves you in the position of being manipulated and taken advantage of.

This little girl is in for a rough ride, if her mom is going to make her dd responsible for her own emotional state for the rest of her life.

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Old 05-17-2009, 12:20 AM
 
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"People are encouraging the OP to think of the mother as toxic and up the antagonistic ante as a result."

I don't think the one necessarily follows the other. In my own life, when I've realized that the person I was dealing with was just completely out of the realm of reasonable/fair/sane in their relation to me and/or my loved ones, I have actually been able to be more dispassionate about the situation and more effective at reducing the damage done.
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