There’s an age-old saying about predicting the evolution of your other half “Want to know what she/he will be like later in life? Take a look at her/his mum/dad”.
In fact it’s spawned a whole “like father like son, like mother like daughter” genre of articles.
But what few of us properly appreciate about this “truism” is that it transcends pure physiology or what we will most likely look and age like. We’re probably all too obsessed with our own self-determinism to realise that it also applies to our behaviour, given more of our behaviour than we probably realise is driven by our genes. But more importantly how we behave, especially within families, is driven by what we have learned and continue to learn from our own prime teachers, our key role-models, our parents.
Yes. most of our norms, morals, values and behaviour, especially with regard to rearing children, is driven by what our parents tell us or what we see them doing, how they behave with us and others.
So if your ex is an alienator, even if their parents may not have divorced and perpetrated the same evil post divorce, it is highly likely they would have played out the alienation dynamic inside the home with a “men do this BUT a woman’s job is that” approach. In order to control their children and doubtless their other half, they probably role-modeled the cold, controlling, empathy-devoid, child abusing pattern we are becoming too familiar with in our generation where actual divorce is so much more prevalent.
Think about it.
Consider the case of the modern, successful woman who was head girl, went to an ivy league University, pushed hard by her mother who never graduated from high school herself. Her father, the sole bread winner, was not there for the birth of his kids and always away on business. They presented the classic, “he does the work, golf and gardening” while “she does the child rearing and home-making” combination of the 50s and 60s.
Her mother wanted different for her daughter, but then didn’t know how to cope when she got it. So she never really let go.
Their daughter may have excelled compared to her peers at the school down the road. But the tight maternal control exerted to help her fly, couldn’t help when she strayed beyond her mother’s range. And she found the contradictory messages of equality vs traditional roles at home so hard to square in her own mind.
So she struggled at Uni and dropped out of her favoured sport after losing only her first, high-level sports event. She couldn’t sustain romantic relations or friendships and then she nearly failed her exams.
After nearly breaking down at Uni, she scraped a degree but soon after arrived back at the maternal nest with no idea what to do for a career.
Again her mother’s close control didn’t work in territory alien to her mother’s own experience. So after a few months of moping in her room, her mother opted for cruelty, made her start paying rent, taking over her household chores and found her a job as a nanny, which, of course, she loathed.
So her father stepped up at this point. He pulled some strings and got her a job in finance, because that was what he did, was all he knew and it was a “proper job”.
She hated it. Again, she failed the exams, scraped through on the re-sits but started a relationship with one of the senior managers and moved in with him.
Within a few months, the chance came for a role overseas. It required skills she had from Uni. So she left the guy she just moved in with, breaking his heart and soon set up house with one of the senior managers abroad instead.
She almost found her own wings this time. Almost. But her mother resented the fact that she was abroad, for who was to look after her in her dotage? So she subtly, but relentlessly, pressurised her to move back.
So she did. She left the finance company and somehow found a role in Operations back in her home country, this time forcing her partner to move countries to stay with her.
Her new role, however, didn’t go well either as she made few allies, until, that is, they had to make people redundant. She then found she had a penchant for that as she could be factual in the face of much emotion and in the process became “close” to the MD who hated firing people.
So she abandoned her foreign partner who had just emigrated for her and moved in with the MD.
When her latest man met her mother, he was a little surprised by how she always spoke through her daughter and gave the impression of being every bit the “little woman”. He personally liked to cook and enjoyed giving her a rest when they visited, rustling up exotic fare as an alternative to her husbands stock “meat and two veg” that she insisted that he insisted on.
They were a little old fashioned but he quite liked it as an alternative to the stresses of their normal lives.
But one cruel story haunted him.
On a rare occasion when he had more than one glass of wine, the father told a story of how his wife’s mother had two sisters. The great grandparents were suspicious of banks and it was rumoured that they kept the family savings in the house. When the great grandmother who had outlasted her husband died, one of the sisters came to the house in the dead of night and allegedly took those savings. This left nothing for the other two. The sisters all blamed each other but never spoke again. Seemingly one of the sisters suddenly moved to a bigger house, got rid of her husband and he was never heard of again, never seeing his children after the day he was forced from his new home.
But now, her great grand daughter, the Ivy League princess, had married her businessman prince. It is reputed that, the minute they reached the end of the aisle, that “little woman”, now his mother in law said to him “well, our feet are well and truly under your table now”. Again, he laughed it off. Confident in his own abilities and their relationship.
They had a child two years later.
They managed to spend several months in a state of bliss, the happiest any of them had ever been. All bar the mother in law, of course, who was 200 miles away. Desperate to get her hands on the new source of power, the fresh child, she confronted the new dad about this, demanding they spend time up north. But he was not one to be bullied, calmly stood his ground on behalf of their little family, offered an open house but gently put her in her place.
Or so he thought.
Not uncommonly, the new dad went away on a business trip, But when he returned, all had changed. The little old woman had moved in for a few weeks and suddenly he was left out of schemes and plans until. the next time he went away, he returned to an empty house, drained bank accounts, a few toys to remember the child by and a cold note.
Once again, the family treasure had been stolen. But this time they stole a living, breathing legacy, more precious than the money taken two generations before.
And yet they destroyed a family all in the name of “family”.
Now, we can’t say what happened in the “ever after” for they are still trying to survive a very bleak, here and now made worse by the family courts. But the moral of this true story so far, you see, is that the apple really doesn’t fall far from the ancestral tree. And even if you move away, just as in Snow White, evil behaviour will travel with the poisonous fruit.
This is one of the reasons why alienated parents battle ceaselessly for the return of their children.
They are not the aggressors of the story. That’s the language of alienators. But they are distressed and desperate that their own flesh and blood is not brought up to repeat the abusive patterns of those who now hold them captive in dark places and high, cold towers of hate.
The shut-out parent has no choice but to fight through the impenetrable garden of thorns to the dark orchard of malevolence. For if he doesn’t reach the children in time, the cruel legacy of poisoned fruit will infect another generation, then another….all in the name of “family”.