The importance of bonding – keeping in touch

Even if you or your soon-to-be ex-partner do not move away then keeping in touch with the children is of paramount importance.

Bonding with the children is a continuing process that requires continual contact. Finding out how they are doing, what they are doing etc. – all in a way that is natural and unforced.

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Forgetting the past (sometimes)

I haven’t written or posted for the last couple of days for a reason. I have enjoyed half-term with my new family.

I think while it is important never to forget the past and its injustices, it is also important to concentrate on the present and enjoy what it has to offer. I am enormously lucky to have met a wonderful woman, who brought her 8-year old son with her into our relationship. I effectively have a new family. While she understands more than most what I have endured in the past, it is important for me and our new relationship to enjoy the present and plan the future.

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Moving – a perfect way to reduce contact

At the end of 2009, six months after I moved out we both moved.

I did something stupid and rented a house with my girlfriend in Munich – I know it seemed like a good (financial and otherwise) idea at the time, but afterwards it was very definitely a case of from the frying pan into the fire. But at the start it was great, and my children loved coming every two weeks to a lively house where something was always going on.

We even were able to spend Christmas Day together! Though that stopped later on.

My soon to be ex-wife moved to Eichstätt, north of Ingolstadt and around 100km (1.5 hours) away from Munich. And I didn’t try to stop it.  I could have, as the reason behind the move had nothing to do with her being nearer to work (It probably took her the same amount of time to get to work as before), but it was obviously down to the fact that her boyfriend had got a job at the local clinic. So she took the children out of their environment and moved them to a completely new area, away from me, their friends -everything. She even asked me to go to the last Parent-Teacher meeting knowing that she was moving and there was no reason to go.

This was the first major step of what I now know to be parental alienation.

In January they were established in a temporary flat in Eichstätt. And I encountered the first body blow. For which there is no excuse whatsoever.

As I had the children during the week and every other weekend till the move I made a conscious decision not to phone them that often. Once a week at most, sometimes not even that if they were with me during the week. As Jonathan especially was suffering due to the break-up I felt that this was better for the children. I included the phone calls I had made in my diary. After she had moved out I did not have an address or telephone number for my children. After a couple of E-mails (non-inflammable) to my wife I did get the address and a mobile phone number.

One day at work I called the the mobile phone number I had been given to talk to my children, to see how they were getting on – Martin answered (as it turned out it was his phone) and I asked politely to talk to my children, and he said no! I asked several times, trying very hard to keep my anger suppressed. Then he said something I will never forget:

Du musst Dich an die Spielregeln halten” translated: You have to play by the rules.

I asked him what rules he meant, but he was not forthcoming. I asked him again to talk to the children. He refused again, and I slammed the phone down.

When I got home the ‘Rules’ were waiting for me in the form of the first lawyer’s letter (yes she threw the first stone).

Apart from a long diatribe that the children should not spend a lot of time with technical gadgets. (At this time the only gadgets were the TV, and the odd game on the computer – no consoles, no smartphones, no tablets, no ipods) the tenor of the letter was quite clear “I am in charge – I make the rules”.

The letter detailed where and when I was to pick my children up every two weeks. Friday at 17:00 to Sunday 16:00, pick up at the car park at the clinic where you know who works! And I was only ‘allowed’ to ring every Saturday at 12:00. Which since the children were with me every two weekends – it meant I could only talk to my children twice a month, and more to the point at dictated times. Thus taking away all spontaneity from the calls that had been present before.

So to sum up, I was told to use the boyfriend’s e-mail address, phone number and pick my children up from where he worked. Could be she was trying to provoke me again – It didn’t work! In fact the venue was changed later to a supermarket parking lot, as the clinic’s parking lot was strangely enough very busy at that time on Sunday afternoon with visitors! And we always had to wait in the cold for my wife to turn up.

To put this in perspective, my lawyer’s response, as well as the second lawyer years later confirmed that this way of handing the children fosters distrust in the children, and is only usually reserved for couples that are completely antagonistic towards each other. And at this stage we weren’t.

I responded legally, but it took me several years to realise that nothing can be done. She could torpedo everything – especially phone calls. Phone calls can always be “at the wrong time”, and thus worse than useless – even adults hate forced telephone calls, children even more so on a sunny day when their friends are playing outside.

As a humorous aside (yes there really is one in this mess). My wife’s lawyer was based in Stuttgart, and a former state justice minister who had to step down after being embroiled in the billion euro Flowtex corruption scandal, and she was actually charged afterwards – Fits!

There was nothing to justify reducing the level of telephone contact in this way, and this was the start of an effective contact ban. Bonding with children relies on keeping in touch with them, and what they are doing. This reduces the conversation about current topics to a question and answer session every two weeks. I personally cannot understand why something like this is not seen by the court as de-facto proof of ongoing parental alienation.

A tip for anyone at this stage: All classes at school have a list of the parents e-mails and telephone numbers – Make sure you take a copy. My children were able to keep contact with three sets of friends of theirs. Which they really enjoyed. Needless to say the lack of routine in the visits to Munich later caused by my ex-wife led to these contacts drying up due to the fact that organising visits with a day’s notice is really successful.

Note: under German law, you can stop your ex-partner from moving away with the children if there is no good reason,  the principle of continuity for the children where they live holds, and can be used to prevent the move.

 

© lostdad, all rights reserved

The first summer

Even though I had split up from my wife I was happy it was over, and was enjoying deepening my relationship with my children without her influence.

I had planned to take them to the UK, show them the land of their father, but of course my wife put a dampener on that by not letting me know exactly when I would have the children. In the end I had them for two weeks and enjoyed every minute of it. It was a wonderful summer as far as the weather was concerned, and we spent quite a bit of time outside in the garden, or at the Spielplatz nearby. I wanted to have them for the full two weeks, but Iris decided that it would be “Too much for me”, and she took them “for me” on the middle weekend. Another lie, they went to her lover’s flat for the weekend! This was the time that Jonathan refused to go back to his mother after a visit. It broke my heart to effectively force him to go back to his mother.

We did eventually get abroad though – Austria!

We took the train from Munich to Salzburg and spent the day there. Some of my initial ideas for going to another country – to show them that other languages are spoken outside of Germany, and that learning English is a good idea, were taken on in a small way in that Raffi was asking me what language they speak in Salzburg – He understood it was a heavy dialect was after that. I remember they were also enthralled by the fact that the buses in Salzburg were powered by overhead pylons, and we also enjoyed the visit to the castle and especially the ride down from the castle on the funicular railway.

Having a meal at the end of the day, I said I was sad that we couldn’t go fly to England, Raffi mentioned “Mami doesn’t want us to fly anywhere with you“. Looking back on this as I write I should have become aware of what she was planning a damn sight earlier.

This also took on additional context as she later accused me  in front of the Judge of wanting to kidnap my children to somewhere they would never be found – The United Kingdom, home of the CCTV!

Parental Alienation starts earlier than you can possibly imagine – it doesn’t even have a name at this stage!

 

© 2017 lostdad, all rights reserved

Living alone with a visit from ‘Superwoman’

 

Finding a new flat was a dreadful experience. A single man nearing 50 years old looking at flats along with people in their 30s. The looks I got. Nevertheless I found a small flat (50m2) about 5 minutes drive from my old house.

I managed to furnish it with some furniture that I had inherited from my Aunt, some garden furniture, a very small TV from the house (we had two, but she wanted it back after a while!), an old mattress, my PC and the plates and cutlery from my bachelor days that me kept for barbeques. In addition she picked out some towels and sheets for me. I let her keep everything else. When she eventually moved out I asked her for one of the sofas and she kept the rest.

It only had one bedroom so when the children came I slept in the living room. Luckily I profited from the authoritarian regime of my still wife, and there was no real problem putting the boys to bed (7 & 5). Though I learnt quickly to put them to bed at different times, otherwise they would chat together too long.

Jonathan at this time was having a hard time of the split. We were always very close, and it hurt me to see him suffering this way. He used to wake up in the middle of the night and creep into my ‘bed’ (blow-up mattress). I stopped this after a while as it wasn’t good for him, and also with his restless legs I couldn’t get a wink of sleep!  Nevertheless, when he came I gave him a hug and a cuddle before taking him back to his own bed. Raffi was still only 5 and really had not really grasped what was going on.

The boys were with me every other weekend, and during the week on a regular basis,  they enjoyed it. I still took them to their favourite play areas, on day trips (especially the Salzbergwerk in Austria, where they dressed up as little miners before taking the trip down into the salt mines), and also just chilling in the garden.

After a while I thought it might be a good idea to get a bunk bed for the boys. I always regarded the flat as a temporary measure, so having a bunk bed in my bedroom didn’t pose a problem. I asked my wife if I could borrow the Zafira to go and buy the bed. She refused but offered to buy the bed on my behalf, as long as she got the money. Strange I thought. As if I would ‘steal’ my own car. But as I found out her lover was going through a very bad divorce – could he be responsible for the excessive lack of trust?

Anyway, she toddled off and bought the bunk bed at IKEA, and I got a phone call while I was out in the garden with the children that she was at the front of the house with the bed. The children wanted to see her, so we all went out to the front of the house to meet her.

She wasn’t there.

Instead there was an IKEA flat pack bunk bed in perfect condition on the pavement. Yes in the middle of the bloody pavement.

We looked for her but she was gone, what do we do now I thought?  I tried to drag the package but failed miserably. No wonder, according to the IKEA web-site it weighs around 60kg. So I asked the boys to help, we opened the package and brought the bits in piece by piece until the flat pack was light enough to move. The boys loved the action, especially as it was their bed. I was somewhat p****d off, especially after the fourth person had passed by giving me a dirty stare because I had the effrontery to block his way.

I rang her and asked what the hell was going on, she said she managed it all by herself without scuffing the packaging – The first of many lies I was to hear.  For a while thereafter I started calling her ‘Superwoman’ – I don’t think she got the sarcasm.

Loss of empathy is an important part of parental alienation. Be aware when it happens.

 

© lostdad 2017, all rights reserved

 

False accusations

When the decision is made to split it can be amicable, or not.

It is not uncommon that one party makes false accusations about the other. In my case, as with other fathers this happened as well. Even as we had three long months together before I had my own flat. I found out what she was saying, and more’s the point what she is still saying in front of my children.

All of a sudden I had turned overnight into a violent alcoholic that beats his wife and even found time to be a serial adulterer. It was so unbelievable that even my then mother-in-law rang me to say she didn’t believe any of it. Most people thankfully didn’t.

So, let’s pick the allegations apart then, just for the record: Nobody had even seen me drunk apart from at my stag night (and perhaps a couple of Oktoberfest visits – I do live in Munich after all), and Karola (her still best friend and my ‘informant’) supported me in our circle of friends and colleagues by saying that my wife had never mentioned that I was violent. And finally to be frank  a balding glasses wearing lanky git from the North-West of England with ears that would make Prince Charles nod in approval is not going to land the girls is he now!

In fact the allegations bordered on the incredulous when I was actually being blamed for the fact that she had an affair. An interesting if not uncommon form of argumentation that supports the narrative that the failure of the marriage was the fault of the person who was not unfaithful. She had to do it to break out! And this becomes part of the history passed onto the children, instead of what it was: a marriage about to break down due to ‘irreconcilable differences’, with no real ‘blame’ on either side.

The point here is that this is the point in a relationship that when the common friends make a decision. No matter how ludicrous the allegations are. This choice will also affect the children, and the evolving narrative of the soon to be ex-wife. For instance, when I picked my children up for a weekend years later they told me that Wolfgang and Anke had been visiting my ex-wife immediately prior to my arrival. I asked why they didn’t stay to say hello. I was told by my children “They don’t want to see you”. Naturally an understandable choice on their part of course, but nevertheless a point that they probably didn’t make to the children, but to the mother who gladly passed it on to the children thus supporting her overall narrative of: “Your father is not a good person”.

I had to see that some people I cared for believe these lies, and accept that there is nothing I could really do to change their minds – blood is really thicker than water! But the fact that they would also be (mis)used for the alienation process was something I did not see coming. Two (Klaus and Marianne) even pretended to still be friends in order to pass information back to my wife. But I shouldn’t really complain – My wife’s best friend came over to the ‘dark side’ and saved me from doing something stupid and quite literally acted as a telephone hotline in times of distress for years afterwards.

You will lose some friends, but ask yourself if they really were friends anyway? And no matter what you do, you will not be able to stop your children hearing these lies. The only way to reduce or cancel their effect is to be yourself when you are with your children, so they cannot believe these lies. The problem, of course is when your access is restricted or blocked. Then the children have only one source of information and that is against you.

Welcome to a modern day variant of  Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’.

 

© lostdad 2017, all rights reserved

Telling the Children

 

Any text you read about how to tell the children about the impending split requires that it be handled gently, absolutely no bombshells, and that the introduction of new partners should not happen too suddenly.

Guess what happened.

We were in the conservatory when she asked the children to come in and said simply that I will be moving out – no real reason given that the children (7 & 5) could understand and that was it. No discussion between the parents beforehand – quite simply a bombshell. The children were, of course shocked and quite disturbed. They started to cry because they thought that they would never see me again. I managed to calm them down by saying that I was not moving out immediately and that I would still be in the area. There was no discussion between us beforehand – she decided unilaterally when and how.

Phasing in the future step-father was also too bloody quick. I heard from the children as soon as I moved out that he started to stay in the house as soon as I had moved out. And that the children were required to go into the bedroom and do the ‘wake up the parents’ game in the morning.

You might think this is just bad feelings on my part, but there are ways of doing things to protect the feelings of the children. It also was an indication of how quickly she was trying to replace me. Looking back I should have been more pro-active and discussed the how and when with her. Don’t make the same mistake.

I remember having a steaming argument about the children’s feelings with her when the children were at school – water off a duck’s back. Anyway when she started to provoke me I just left the house.

© lostdad 2017

 

 

What did you do wrong?

As soon as parental alienation ‘takes hold’, and you start talking about it, sooner or later somebody – perhaps someone new to your group of friends, or even an old friend you have reconnected with will ask you this question – “What did you do wrong?”

The answer is of course in most cases simple – nothing. But what do you say to actually bring this across?

This happened, and still happens to me every now and then. The person asking usually falls into two camps:

  1. sceptical, and will listen with a view to changing their mind, or
  2. is convinced that you did something to deserve this abuse

Lets take the first case. I have noticed that the majority of people who have an open mind or have had some experience of PAS: either personally, in their circle of friends, or professionally. A good example was Silke a close friend of mine. I have known her the best part of 30 years, though we only reconnected around 5 years ago. She was quite sceptical to my story at the start, but thanks to the fact that my ex-wife used tricks instead of simply blocking, and that Silke was actually there when one trick ‘arrived’ per email (More in a later story) she started slowly to believe that my ex-wife was the source of the problem. It also helped that I was able to explain how the tricks functioned without recourse to insulting my ex-wife with the help of lots and lots of naughty words. A main factor was also the fact that she is a secondary school teacher, and told me that she has heard quite a few cases of PAS in her career. I personally think the key is to focus on the tricks, rather than the big picture.

The second case is a little bit of a problem and needs to be dealt with very carefully. A lot of people are not aware PAS even exists, and cannot comprehend that a parent would do something like that, or more importantly that a child is capable of being brainwashed to such an extent that they can deny one of the own parents. I have had this conversation so often, and always left it with the feeling that that person doesn’t trust me as far as they could throw me (I have put on some weight – but the the answer is still not too far!). I have come to the conclusion several years down the line that it is a sensible approach to assess someone before you bring PAS and estranged children into the conversation.

So the takeaway here is – be careful of who you tell your story to. Even those that like you need time to process it. Others will not even try.

It is also worth bearing in mind that even I took a while to see this all for what it was – emotional abuse directed against my children and myself. For those with no direct experience, this is sometimes a paradigm shift too far!

A last point (promise) is that I personally feel that for those of us that have lost contact with our children through no fault of own should tell their story. Only when enough people are telling their experiences, and bringing PAS into the public view will this dreadful crime (it isn’t anything else) gain the visibility it needs to be discussed in the public arena and for something to be done about it.

 

© lostdad 2017

The Power of Friends and Family

At the start of parental alienation, even before you are aware of it even existing, do not try to cope with this alone.

When I was splitting up the situation was so subliminally toxic (i.e. I didn’t realise in what a sh*t situation I was in) that I needed to talk often, practically daily just to try and understand what was going on. The only family I had were my sons, then 7 & 5 which of course I couldn’t talk to, so I turned to my friends that were absolutely amazing. I cannot remember a time when they turned me away on the phone, or said that I was getting on their nerves.

What everyone needs in this situation is a personal support network, not only groups of like-minded people but also friends available practically 24/7.

One point I would like to make here is that you are, surprise surprise not always right!  I remember back to my time that I was fighting the good fight, and I had fairness and justice on my side. That empowered me to perhaps write the odd e-mail I should not have (nothing nasty – not my style), perhaps reacted more sternly than I should have and more. The point is that friends and groups are there to help, they listen and give advice – take it!

To use a well-worn phrase one “Cannot see the wood for trees”. Somebody looking in from the outside can see the big picture and can give you better advice than you can give yourself.

Incidentally, if your ex is of the narcissistic variety then she will just do whatever she thinks is right without taking any advice. Which means logical arguments from you will not make the slightest bit of difference if it is against their way of doing things – for instance bringing up the children, splitting the household after the split etc.

If you are alone, or your friends are of the type “There but for the grace of God go I” type, then find some selp-help groups. Both in the UK and Germany there is help to be had.

So use your support network, take their advice. Learn that is it sometimes necessary to do follow someone else’s advice or just simply do nothing.

Another Birthday

Another Birthday, this time my eldest son, Jonathan who will be 15. It doesn’t seem 15 years ago since I was in the delivery room, waiting for you to arrive, and the overwhelming feelings that overcame me when I saw you for the first time.

I try not to think of all the things I could have taught you, and conversely you could have taught me – it hurts too much

I just hope that at some point in time you will see that I never stopped loving you, and hoping that all was well with you.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing Jonathan, my thoughts, feelings and wishes for a wonderful day are with you.

Never give up

© lostdad 2017