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A Family's Heartbreak: A Parent's Introduction to Parental Alienation Syndrome

by Michael Jeffries and Dr. Joel Davies

Excerpt from their book, A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation. It follows the story of Mike Jeffries and his family – wife Beth and sons Jared and Adam – as Mike realizes his post-divorce dream of co-parenting his children as they split their time between two households will bear little resemblance to a post-divorce reality consumed with trying to maintain a normal relationship with his 11-year old son Adam in the face of parental alienation.

You know what Parental Alienation reminds me of? Parental alienation reminds me of an old-fashioned western.

The good guy wears a white hat and throws his coat over the mud so the lady doesn’t get her shoes dirty walking across the street. The bad guy wears a black hat and snarls a lot. The good guy is truthful and honest. The bad guy is a lying cheat. The good guy leaves with the girl. The bad guy leaves in a box.

At least that’s the alienating parent’s perspective. The alienating parent needs clear-cut good guys and bad guys in order to alienate the child from the previously loved spouse. In this scenario the alienating parent and anyone who supports the alienating position are the truthful, honest, white-hat-wearing good guys. The alienated parent is the lying, cheating, and black-hat-wearing bad guy.

Alienating parents need this good vs. evil battle in order to justify their actions. They must convince the child the other parent is unworthy of the child’s love, respect and attention. They must convince attorneys, counselors and even friends that they, not the other parent, are acting in the child’s best interests. Finally, they must convince themselves that their alienating behavior is not motivated by anger, hurt and a need for revenge.

Ever hear of the KISS theory? Keep it simple stupid. Alienating parents combine the good vs. evil scenario with the KISS theory and approach the child with very simple, easy to understand concepts. “Mom/Dad’s the bad guy. She/he abandoned us. I’m the good guy. I’m not going anywhere.” The words may change depending on a couple’s situation, but the alienating concept remains the same – everything is the other parent’s fault. The family is breaking up and the other parent is to blame. If alienating parents understand their roles in the breakup of families, they certainly won’t admit it to anyone – especially to the children they’re alienating.

As Beth and I moved closer to the inevitable, Beth wouldn’t take any responsibility for the breakdown of our marriage. She wouldn’t do anything about it either.

Beth wouldn’t go see a marriage counselor. She wouldn’t go see an attorney. Beth wouldn’t compromise on any of our differences. We reached the point where Beth wouldn’t even discuss our differences. The blame, and the responsibility for moving forward, was squarely on my shoulders. The breaking point came when I was due to receive my annual bonus check.
Beth accused me of “playing games” with the check. I hadn’t received the check yet, but Beth thought I had. She accused me of hiding the check, keeping it from her. Beth’s paranoia over the bonus check was her third financial crisis in less than a week. She also questioned one of my ATM withdrawals and accused me of entering a lower payroll deposit amount into our joint checkbook.

Beth said she would hire an attorney to find out what “I did” with the check. We all have our breaking points and that one was mine. I suggested she hire an attorney to represent her during her divorce. I’m filing for divorce, I said, and I’m not turning back.  

It’s funny what people worry about sometimes. Okay, it’s funny what I worry about sometimes. The kids were away – Adam was at Boy Scout camp, and Jared was visiting family in Florida. I was closing the door on a 16-year marriage and turning my children’s lives upside down. But at that particular moment I was primarily concerned with not ruining Jared and Adam’s summer vacation. I suggested to Beth that we not say anything to the kids until the week before I move out.  

I should have known better than to expect Beth to agree with me about anything – especially at this point. Beth said she’d tell the kids “everything” when they come home from their trips. “They won’t want any part of you,” she said. “Go for it,” was the best I could do in response.

On the big-time comeback meter, my retort barely registered. Any fantasies I had that Beth would work with me to put Jared’s and Adam’s best interests first ended that night.  

The foregoing is excerpted from A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation by Michael Jeffries and Dr. Joel Davies. Published by A Family’s Heartbreak, LLC

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