A Special Seat in Hell

September 12, 2013

in Relationships, While Perched upon my Soapbox

“Your dad is a good person, but we aren’t good together.”

toxic parentingThis is the greatest level of detail my children received from me regarding their dad, our problems, and the resulting divorce. There was more to the ongoing discussion about our change in family structure, but that was the standard line given to answer the ‘why’ question. My ex and I had our battles in the early attempts to mediate and through the negotiations using a lawyer, but we ultimately arrived in court with a signed agreement, amicable relationship, and two children unscathed from the process.

I always give my ex equal credit. I could not have taken a positive, principled approach alone and garnered the same results. Had I experienced a hate-filled, selfish, child-like ex, it would have been impossible to accomplish what I have for the children.

While I try hard not to judge others, it’s challenging when I see the games being played by ex-spouses using children as pawns, manipulating the kids to turn against a parent, and speaking ill of their former spouses in front of the children. It’s bad enough when it happens during the divorce process, but even more so when it continues years after the finality of the divorce process.

I have seen this type of toxic behavior from battling spouses over the years, but recently I have experienced it close up with someone I care about. The anger I feel is on a different level as a result. I am tired watching it with people I love, and my disgust over the offending behavior continues to grow.

When a parent takes a slash-and-burn approach to poisoning their own children against the other parent, choosing to impede a good relationship, and play other destructive games, they are not only hurting their children and ex, but they are also setting themselves up for relationship problems with those kids as they mature. Telling an innocent, wide-eyed, three-year-old terrible stories about a parent is taken as truth. But as the child matures, positive experiences with the “evil” parent continue to add up, and the child learns more about life, the bad-mouthing parent will find strained relations with the older, wiser child.

Communication cannot be undone, and the words and actions taken against an ex have a lifelong affect. I can speak with authority, not just because I am witnessing it firsthand through a few people I care about, but because I too was in a similar situation growing up. And while the damage already done can’t be reversed, the parent can own up to the wrongs, ask the children and ex for forgiveness, and move forward as a better human being and parent.

Having children who lose respect for the ill-speaking, manipulative parent is of no concern for me; the adults who choose to do this are making their bed for later in life. What concerns me most is the negative impact it has on children involved as well as the hurt the innocent parent feels as a result. I wish I could shake people doing this until they internalized these thoughts:

  • Take a unified approach to parenting.
  • Be kind, honest, and respectful.
  • Move on, live your life, and do what’s best for your children.

And, if the fear of the longterm impact to their own relationship will have on their maturing children isn’t enough, I am confident there’s a special seat in Hell reserved for them as well.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

lisa thomson September 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I couldn’t agree more,Kelly. I’ve been through this very thing. I discuss it in my book as well. You wouldn’t believe how things have changed and evolved since then. Children become adults and see through their own eyes. As the parent who is being attacked it’s important to keep loving the children even if it means ‘tough love’ because you all will get through it. I like the photo :)
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm

“Children become adults and see through their own eyes.”

Yes, they do. And it never works out for the toxic, ex-bashing parent. Thanks for your words of wisdom on this important topic.

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Brook September 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Well said! The impact on children will be felt for many years to come if the parents don’t ‘get it together’ for their sake!
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I couldn’t agree with your more, Brook!

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Joe September 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Wow.

I never cease being astonished by the things some people will do to each other, and continue doing over time, rather than just moving on. And when they involve and use the kids as you illustrate here, I become relatively speechless – a rare thing for me, as you may have guessed by now.

It makes me sad.
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 12, 2013 at 1:24 pm

It makes me sad and angry, too, Joe, that kids are used like this to get back at another adult. Like I said in my post, I am sure there’s a seat waiting for them in a much warmer climate.

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jen September 12, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I’ve asked myself so many times, what is a parent really thinking, what warped logic justifies telling your babies-the children you gave birth to or fathered and presumably love things that will surely scare them forever?

My husband got custody many years ago because of this very type of situation. I might add his ex did an immeasurable amount of damage on those weekends. And because he (my husband) wouldn’t engage in the same behavior she targeted the kids and used them as her outlet.

This is a trauma, a betrayal of trust of the most basic kind and the kids who are victim of parents who do this surely carry the scars into adulthood; this I know because we saw it with our kids.
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Thank you for sharing your story, Jen. It is a tragedy, and I am sorry you have had to live with this in your own life.

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Marie Nicole September 12, 2013 at 4:56 pm

It’s a shame when squabbling parents use the children as peons in their “game of thrones”. I had that happen with my parents, and it sure made my life absolutely miserable in my tender teen years.
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 12, 2013 at 5:55 pm

I am right there with you Marie, which is why I am particularly sensitive seeing it as an adult.

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Vinny C September 12, 2013 at 8:29 pm

It’s selfishness, pure and simple. The parent doing the bad-mouthing isn’t thinking about the relationship their child can have with the other parent, who can still be a positive influence in that child’s life. They are simply trying to have their unresolved anger validated.

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Naked Girl in a Dress September 12, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I agree Vinny. They want to lash out at their ex and using the children as weapons with no regard of the impact on the children. I know I am pretty sensitive to this topic, but I see it as a form of child abuse–from an emotional aspect.

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Lonesome Jackalope September 13, 2013 at 10:14 am

Couldn’t agree with you more. On a related note, I just got a reminder e-mail from Satan. They’re holding a table for my wife in a sub basement room just below the main dining hall in hell. Sweet! ~ Jack
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