All posts by katswink


Read More: Welcome to Life as a Single Independent Woman

So, you’re newly divorced, never want to marry or date again and decide it’s time to become that wonderful vision of a Single Independent Woman owning your own house? No more little Cinderella-waiting-for-the-prince for you. Here are some pointers to becoming a Single Independent Woman, from one who has done this for decades:

Do you realise when you buy your own house that besides the transfer costs, lawyer’s costs, insurance and all the other hidden costs, you have to consider the following:

Do you realise shopping will never be the same again? From now on hardware stores take preference over Woolies, shoe shops and boutiques. Tools and especially power tools, top your birthday present wish list, and believe me, you appreciate these much more than another bottle of bubble bath, especially if it’s lavender flavour.

Do you know you have to replace the batteries of the electric fence and alarm systems – so they remain activated when there is a power failure. Do you even know where these alarms are and how they work? Do you know if you have 5 remotes it will cost you a fortune to replace all and have all of them calibrated again, even if you lose just one? A handyman has to come to your house to calibrate them all again. Remember to replace the remotes’ batteries.

If the previous owners rewired the bar fridge themselves, you can’t get a normal electrician to fix it, it has to be a refrigerator man because it involves gas. Here’s a tip, look on the fridge for the manufacturer’s telephone number instead of paging through the yellow pages. Take his (and all other handymen’s) personal cell numbers, for often enough you have to call them back for a job half-done.

The electric cable of your electric garage door runs in a shaft and this needs to be greased regularly or the motor will burn out. Did you know that you need a special grease called Brana grease and that you cannot use normal car grease as it erodes the whole thing? You would have to pay to degrease it if you used the wrong grease and reinstall the remote. You can’t get Brana at hardware stores, only at manufacturers of garage door motors.

Do you know to replace that little fan belt of the electric garage door shaft costs a fortune because it is imported? Do you know you would not have to replace it if you used the right grease? It’s still cheaper than buying a new motor.

Do you know if you do not secure your electric gate motor with a huge round padlock costing a fortune then thieves will unscrew the motor and steal it? A new motor costs another fortune, and you can claim this motor back from the house-insurance at the bank, but you will pay for the vat and anti-theft bracket, which will cost you a fortune plus another fortune for the padlock and you have to take the day off work to go to the police station to make the statement about the theft before you can claim the insurance and you have to take another day off work and be at home when they install the new motor. So just buy the padlock for the fortune from the beginning.

Do you realise you don’t have a husband who can do all of this for you and there is no-one at home when you arrive after dark who could have switched on the lights, checked the pool’s the Creepy Crawly and the filters, changed the light bulbs, fed the cat and started dinner. If you arrive after sunset – you arrive at a dark house, an annoyed cat and risk being hi-jacked in your driveway.

Do you have your Security Company and Mr Delivery take-away’s numbers on speed dial on your phone? Some security companies are kind enough to wait for you in your driveway if you give them a call on your way home, but they won’t feed the cat.

Do you know you better stop for milk, bread and cold drink on your way home, for there is no secretary, no husband, housekeeper and no flatmate etc to buy this for you and your cat doesn’t do groceries. Do you know that Mr Delivery can deliver milk and cold drink, even alcohol as well, but not cat food?

Do you know if you do not regularly clean all three filters of the swimming pool and check the Creepy Crawly’s throat for pebbles, the motor can burn out and a new Creepy Crawly costs a fortune? Regular means every other day, so this is another reason why you want to be home before sunset. If the creepy is not working, clean the filters, check if a section in the pipe has a hole in it and replace only that section or replace the big round rubber flap instead of buying a new Creepy. I fixed a hole in the creepy with Pratley Putty – silicone doesn’t work.

Do you know once you made it home before sunset, attended to the garage door that makes an awful noise and refuses to close (if the springs on the side are worn out, they can be adjusted with a screwdriver instead of replacing them), checked the Creepy in the pool, changed the broken light bulbs, fed the cat and switched on the alarm system, you are allowed to watch soaps on television without disturbance and without answering your cell phone or feeling guilty about it. This is why you became single in the first place, right?

Do you realise when you get up in the middle of the night due to a strange noise and you have to check the property for burglars with a weapon in one hand and cell phone in the other and the car – and house keys dangling in between your fingers, that it is better to wear a dressing gown / track suit with pockets and not do this dressed in your underwear, shortie pajamas and bunny slippers, specially if you live next to a student commune or across a men’s hostel like I used to do.

Do you know if the previous owners rewired the irrigation system themselves, you have to have it rewired and have your lawn dug up in the process? And these guys are most likely to puncture a water pipe or the pool, as in my case.

Do you know if you have wooden floors it will cost you a fortune to have the termites checked and killed. If you ask nicely, they will do the lawn for you as well, but this does not kill big black ants.

Can you prune the roses, de-weed the garden and mow your own lawn without killing yourself? Do you own a lawnmower, weed-eater, garden hose, wheelbarrow, shears and garden tools?

Do you have a friend who is a fundi on computers? Get one. Anti-virus programmes need to be updated annually.

Do you know even a simple job such as changing a light bulb is a major effort? I had high ceilings and had to buy one of those fancy ladders that fold open, because there is no-one to hold a normal ladder for me. Also even the fancy ladder is so damn tight and difficult to open that I regularly break my nails. Spray-n-cook is not a good replacement for oil, no matter what people say.

Do you know that a woman’s hand is too small to open the anti-child proof swimming pool pod and that you can hold the bottle between your knees and struggle till you open it, but don’t do it with your teeth because it is poisonous. Also you will hurt your hand and break your fingernails every time you switch the pool motor from filter, to backwash, to rinse and when you clean that inside filter, so don’t expect not to get hurt.

Can you take your pool’s temperature and administer the right medicine if it is green after a thunderstorm?

Do you also strew lawn feed on your lawn during a thunderstorm, because if the chemicals don’t get enough water very soon they will burn the grass? Wear a raincoat and no bunny slippers when you do this.

Can you make a decent fire in the fireplace and have you discovered firelighters? Do your friends laugh when you add a bag of firewood to your birthday present wish list?

Do you know that it is your responsibility to check when your driver’s licence expires and that you have to take a day of work to stand in the queue to have it renewed and what it will cost you? Do you know they don’t accept colour photos although it says so on the notice boards, so you have to take off another day from work and come back the following day.

Do you check when your passport expires? What about your firearm licence?

Do you know how much it costs you to have a vehicle registered on your name and you still need to pay the insurance monthly?

Do you know you have to ask your vehicle tracking company to check you car every six months, else your insurance is invalid and they won’t pay out – check the small print.

Do you know besides checking oil, water and petrol you also have to check brake fluid and if the brake fluid is empty (and you have no brakes) you can’t just buy a bottle and pour it in, your brakes have to be bled by a professional. I don’t know how much this costs, but I have a friend who did it for me.

Do you take your car for regular services every 15 000 km as the booklet advises? You should. Your husband used to do this for you. You have to first phone the garage and make an appointment. Then you drive to the garage before 08h00 and hand in the car and the keys. Then get a cup of coffee, sit down and wait for one of the drivers to take you home or to your work. The same driver will fetch you at about 5 o’clock and make sure you have your chequebook ready. At least your car is washed when you fetch it, because who has time to wash it?

Do you know the number of a tow-in service or do you have such a sticker on your car?

Do you know that you are not allowed to touch those long shaped light bulbs/globes for the spotlights with your bare fingers and you have to use a clean rag, whilst balancing on the stepladder and biting the star screwdriver between your teeth. Don’t get up there with a normal flat screwdriver, you are just going to have to get down again and fetch a star screwdriver. You do know the difference, don’t you? If you lose (or accidently swallow) the screw, you can use one of those black plastic tie-thingies, but then you have to climb the ladder with the globe (held in a clean rag), scissors to cut the old black tie-thingie and a spare black tie-thingie all in your hands and beware that the glass pane does not slip out, because the rubber around it disintegrates, faster than cheese go bad in your fridge.

Do you know your house’s gutters have to be cleaned once a year before the rain season, at least? Invest in that ladder and plastic gloves.

Do you know the wooden window frames that look so expensive and all other wood have to be treated at least once every six months, else they will rot and that they are very expensive to replace.

Are you on first name terms with the shop assistants at the hardware store? Do you have a fully equipped toolbox and do you know you can get a fixture for screws, which fits on your electric drill like a bit and you don’t have to buy an electric screwdriver? You don’t have to have an electric screwdriver of course, but stock up on band-aids and expect tough blisters on your hands, if you don’t. Also invest in a Hilti.

Do you know a tube of silicone can fix the leak in your shower top, plug up a leak in the irrigation system and seal a hole in your roof? You can also get rubber stick-on strips to seal window frames from drafts.

Do you have your own lawyer, financial adviser, personal banker and auditor? Get them and remember their birthdays. Do you have a retirement plan and do you pay through your nose for premiums and would you rather eat sardines for a month than skip any of these payments, for you are now a single income family – you and your cat – and there is no second income salary or hubby to take care of you when you are old and decrepit?

Do you have a medical aid fund that costs you a fortune per month and do you have Professional Income Protection for if you dare to get sick and you are self employed, there is nobody to earn money to pay the bills at the end of the month and buy the cat’s food? You may send yourself flowers if you are sick and you can afford it.

Can you fill in a tax form? Do you keep all your slips, invoices etc and file them for your auditor and hand it in just after end of February?

Can you pay your accounts on the Internet and do you have all the security requirements updated as stipulated by the bank. Do you know about pin codes, passwords and extra security and do you check your bank statements every month, including cheque, credit, car, house bond, savings etc? Come again… savings – you think you can save? You’ve got be kidding!

Do you remember to refill the big gas bottle for the gas barbeque and make sure the gardener is there that day, for how the dickens do you think are you going to manage to off load that thing on your own? Keep the slip for the refill and remember to turn off the gas when you have finished the barbeque or become a vegetarian like me and leave the barbeque for your male friends.

A new tyre for your car costs a fortune or more and remember to stand in the queue again to renew your car registration every year, because they no longer send you reminders.

Do you remember your cell phone contract needs to be updated every 2 years and you need to take another day off work to do this?

If you ever think of DIY building, rather shoot yourself in the knee or chew off your left breast. It is less agonizing.

Do you have a contract for the tenant? Who fixes the geyser? Do you know that you cannot use a domestic violence interdict against a paying in-house tenant and an eviction order will cost you thousands and take months, so you have to screen very carefully whom you allow to live in your house? Beware of legal-wise old ladies, who work on your sympathy, move in with their dogs, drive into your car and cost you a fortune to evict. Check with your lawyer.

Do you know if someone shares your house and you do not charge him/her rent (and you have proved it with receipts, even if it is a minimum amount per month), they can claim a domestic relationship and move out with all your furniture, although you bought everything? This includes husbands, boyfriends, relatives and friends. Draw up a contract or get one at a stationary store. Check with your lawyer.

Can you replace a windowpane, putty and all? Can you replace a door lock, fix a leaking faucet and replace a floor tile?

Do you know the value of Clean Green?

Do you remember to put the garbage bin out on the evening before collections or else you have to do it early that morning, even though you are all prettily dressed up for work and smell like garbage once you have done it? Do you know they don’t remove garbage bags placed next to the bin? The bags have to be inside. And these guys still have the audacity to ask for Christmas boxes!

If your tv/ decoder blinks out, do you have your smart card number, do you know where the smart card is in the decoder and can you actually get a picture back on the screen without having to phone the emergency number, because everyone is phoning that number right then and you are going to wait in a long queue and miss your soaps. PS you should be watching international news – not soaps. You need to make an impression as an intelligent well-informed woman at that next dinner party and not sound like a spoiled housewife hooked on soaps.

Do you know where to take your decoder for an upgrade?

Do you realise if you work a full week you have no time to buy, fix, change and exchange all these things during the week and therefore you never get to tan next to your beautiful sparkling pool, because you spend the whole damn weekend driving around and fixing things.

Do you realise at least once a year, you deserve a hot rock massage? Forget the manicure – you have no nails left.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone opens a pub and install laundry machines and tumble dryers, so single women can have a drink, relax and get their laundry done on a Friday after work? Then we might have time to watch International News programmes on Sunday evenings and sound clever at work on Monday mornings.

Do you realise despite all this, you hope you have an understanding boss who does not expect you to work after dark; a regular salary increase; gay friends who double up as handymen and do not expect sex as payment; a sense of humour and in the end you still like to be a Single Independent Woman, because there is nothing like watching television at six o clock in the evening, bathed and dressed up in your Garfield jammies and bunny slippers, eating whatever you feel like and not having to please the whole family. Except of course your cat, who thinks you are the cat’s whiskers, because he just got fed that scrumptious imported expensive cat food, which you remembered to buy on your way home. Congratulations!

PS: If you happen to be a husband reading this, show it to your wife and she might appreciate you more. I know I would appreciate it.

Take me back to Break-Up And Divorce – Parenting Plans


Break-Up And Divorce – Parenting Plans

Parenting Plans

Divorced parents need a Parenting Plan where such details as the education, religious matters, names, nicknames, maintenance, medical requirements, visitation rights etc. are agreed on by both parents. A registered mediator, lawyer, psychologist or other professional acknowledged by the Act can mediate this. For instance parents can introduce a child to a religion, but it is against the Constitution that any religion be forced on any person.

A Christian mother can take her son to church on her weekend and the Muslim father can take the son to Mosque on his weekend. Neither may prevent the other from exposing the child to a particular religion. The Parenting Plan can decree that children will not refer to stepmothers or stepfathers as Mom and Dad.

The law stipulates that the Best Interest of the Child prevails, and that the Child’s voice be heard. It is required that a person trained to work with children, such as a mediator, psychologist or social worker discuss this Parenting Plan with the child and if the child disagrees with it, the child can actually postpone the act of divorce. Of course the child’s age and developmental phases are taken into consideration – leave that to the experts.

Parenting Plans can be registered with the Family Advocate’s Office, that acts in the Best Interest of the Child. Ultimately the State is the upper custodian of all children in South Africa. Parents have rights and responsibilities. Unmarried fathers have rights and responsibilities too but they have to formally apply at the Children’s Court, if they have not been living with the mother.

Maintenance and their involvement in the child’s life is taken into consideration. If a mother disputes paternity, then a DNA test can be done with a pathologist to determine paternity. All law firms can supply the Family Advocate’s Office number and parents can contact the Institute for Mediators – who are not lawyers, but trained to mediate and registered by the State, as a less expensive option.

Ultimately it is in every person’s best interest if divorces can be conducted in a mature, rational manner. I know this sounds impossible, but eventually people do recover from the emotional hurt and they move on and deep down, no matter their initial justifications or motivations, they will feel ashamed of their selfish, childish behaviour.

Years down the line their adult children will want to know why the parents’ spite was more important to them than their childrens’ best interest at that time. When we have children, it implies that we become parents and parents put their childrens’ best interest first. Grow up.

Read more about: Single Divorced Woman


Break-Up And Divorce – Maintenance for children

Maintenance for children

Some women are ignorant of the fact that both parents have a financial responsibility towards the children and they become highly indignant when the court expects them to make a financial contribution. It is not just the father’s baby, when it suits the mother, so to speak.

Some women are quite aware of the fact that they are also expected to pay maintenance for their children and therefore they fight nail and tooth to keep the children with them, so they can live off the maintenance the husbands are paying for the children and they can avoid paying for the children.

These women are usually very reluctant to provide cash slips or receipts for the children’s expenses, because they use the money for their own benefit. Many women buy toilet paper, household detergents, her expensive shampoo, perfume and make-up on the ex-husband’s pharmacy account, which is supposed to be allocated to the children’s medicinal requirements.

“Because he can afford it, I am entitled to it,” they justify their actions! One woman was quite willing to give her children up to the father, provided he claimed no maintenance from her and continued her monthly allowance.


Case Study

One woman and her children moved in with husband no 2, who was quite affluent. Husband no 1 paid maintenance for the children, which she deposited in a separate banking account. Basically husband no 2 covered the children’s live-in expenses, without ever referring to the maintenance.

One day when husband no 2 needed a cash amount for something, the wife offered him the accumulated maintenance. He was indignant. She could not understand why. I explained: “You should have offered him or paid the money over to him from the beginning to cover the children’s costs. He was too much of a hero to ask you for it and silently provided for another man’s children. He is a good provider.

He will do this. Now you want to offer him your first husband’s money, to help him out. Of course he will be offended. Firstly because you kept the money, secondly because you are trying to help him financially which is an insult to him and thirdly the first husband is a nemesis to him.”

The husband explained if she had offered him the maintenance to cover the children’s living expenses from the beginning, he would have appreciated the respect of the gesture, but he would have refused and suggested that she saved the money towards the children’s further education, or pay it to them when they reach 21. By not offering, she denied him the opportunity to be the magnanimous hero. Her offer came too late and too much silent resentment had accumulated, just like the interest on the money.



Read More: Parental Alienation Syndrome

Please take note that the following should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult with lawyers on these matters. Laws may change and there are different laws applicable in different countries. The following research is added to this book as part of an awareness campaign and not indented by any means as legal advice.

In the 1980’s psychiatrist, Dr Richard Gardner first described and identified the concept of Parental Alienation Syndrome, referring to a practice almost exclusively within the context of divorce proceedings, where one parent embarks on a subtle or overt campaign to alienate a child from the other parent. Eventually the child is indoctrinated to such an extent that the child buys into the denigration campaign, avoids the other parent and perceives or believes the other parent to be bad or dangerous. The campaign has no justification, and the alienating parent has no insight into the extensive damage caused to the child, nor does this parent show any guilt or regrets about the behaviour.

Most common behaviour would be for the alienator to block or frustrate the child’s contact with the other parent. Examples would be organizing family outings, sleep-overs or play dates during the other parent’s weekends, booking expensive luxury holidays for the child during the other parent’s vacation time, not being at home at pick-up time, not telling a child that the other parent had called, not answering phones, claiming the child is sleeping or in the bath, or studying when the parent calls, pulling faces when the other parent calls, not informing the other parent of school functions or plays, etc.

Reasons given for blocking or frustrating access are usually that the child is unsettled or unruly after visits to the other parent, the child is unsafe, the visits disrupts the child’s routine or that the other parent is morally or mentally inferior, whilst the alienator is morally superior. This attitude creates a sense within the child that one parent is better and that the other parent is not equipped to take care of the child. In mild cases the alienator expresses irritation at the inconvenience of the other parent wanting to see the child and in severe cases the alienator expresses: “over my dead body will he / she see the child again.”

Some academic literature on the subject:

Gardner’s (1999) definition

“Parental alienation syndrome (PAS, Gardner, 1985, 1986, 1987a, 1987b, 1989, 1992, 1998) is a disorder that arises almost exclusively in the context of child-custody disputes. In this disorder, one parent (the alienator, the alienating parent, the PAS-inducing parent) induces a program of denigration against the other parent (the alienated parent, the victim, the denigrated parent).”

PAS implies that the child incorporates the thought patterns and behaviour of the alienating parent towards the absent parent.

Ward & Harvey (1993) on PAS

“There is a continuum of alienating parental behaviors which cause harm to children, and all positions on this continuum need be of concern to the professionals and the courts. Some of the behavior is scarcely detectable with the result that attorneys and the court system gloss over the alienation as a “normal” part of the divorce or litigation process. However, such barely evident alienating behavior marks the beginning of an alienation continuum.

The Continuum: Differentiating between “Typical” Divorce and “Alienation”

Alienation occurs when a parent uses the child to meet personal emotional needs, as a vehicle to express or carry his/her own intense emotions or as a pawn to manipulate as a way of inflicting retribution on the other side.

Parental alienation occurs along a broad continuum, based on the level of internal distress of the alienating parent, the vulnerability of the child and the responses of the target parent, as well as on the responses of the external system (family, attorneys, mental health professionals, the legal system). The range may be from children who experience significant discomfort at transition times (mild), through children who feel compelled to keep separate worlds and identities when with each parent (moderate); to children who refuse to have anything to do with the target parent and become obsessed with their hatred (severe).

B. Mild

At this stage, despite the seeming sincerity, the alienating parent’s view of the other parent is compromised, as indicated by behavior. He/she is not aware of the beliefs and feelings that motivate his/her unintentional alienating behavior (internal) or of the effect that statements and behavior can have on the child (interactional).

Because the statements of the alienating parent will not give the lawyers or the courts clues that there is alienation in process, it is important to look at the underlying messages that are given directly to the child. The communications to the child of the regard with which the other parent is held is the key to detecting alienating behavior.

C. Moderate

The alienating parent has some awareness of emotional motivations (fear of loss, rage) and little sense of the value of the target parent. Sometimes, an alienating parent will understand the theoretical importance of the other parent in the life of the child, but believes that in this case, the other parent, due to character deficiencies, cannot be important to the child. Their statements and behaviors are subtle but damaging to the child.

D. Overt

When the alienation is overt, the motivation to alienate, the intense hatred of the other, is blatant. The alienating parent is obsessed and sees the target as noxious to self, the children, and even the world. A history of the marriage reflects nothing but the bad times. The target parent was never worthwhile as a spouse or a parent and is not worthwhile today. Such a parent shows little response to logic and little ability to confront reality.

Many alienating parents at this stage entertain the overt belief that the target parent presents an actual danger of harm to the children. They present this belief as concrete knowledge that if the children spend time with the target parent they will be harmed in some manner.

E. Severe

By the severe stage, the alienating parent no longer needs to be active. In terms of the motivation, the alienating parent holds no value at all for the other parent; the hatred and disdain are overt. The alienating parent will do anything to keep the children away from the target parent.

At this stage the child is enmeshed with the alienating parent and takes on the alienating parent’s desires, emotions and hatreds and verbalizes them to all as his own. The child too believes that the target parent is a villain and the scum of the earth, and sees the history of the target parent and family as all negative. The child is neither able to remember nor express any positive feeling for the target parent.

“Weapons” are the false allegations by the alienating parent of behavior on the part of the target parent inimicable to the welfare of a child. The most commonly used weapons are false allegations of:

  • threats of or actual domestic violence;
  • sexual abuse of the child;
  • physical abuse of the child;
  • emotional abuse of the child;
  • mental illness on the part of the target parent;
  • alcoholism/drug abuse/homosexuality on the part of the target parent; or
  • threats of moving or flight by the alienating parent.

If it is unclear that there is in fact abuse (sexual or physical), then the allegations may have been produced by the intensity of feelings about the divorce, fear of abuse and a misreading of particular situation.

However muddled the waters are, the court must establish a factual basis upon which to proceed legally (either abuse did or did not occur) or the system will be paralyzed to the advantage of the alienating parent. Unless disproven, the allegations will cast a pall of potential harm to the child that no one person, institution or agency will be able to ignore, and an accused will always be treated as guilty unless proven innocent with regards to contact with the children.”

Rand (1997) on “brainwashing”

“Brainwashing” was defined as the interactional process by which the child was persuaded to accept and elaborate on the program. Brainwashing occurs over time and involves repetition of the program, or code words referring to the program, until the subject responds with attitudinal and behavioural compliance. According to Clawar and Rivlin, the influence of a programming parent can be conscious and wilful or unconscious and unintentional. It can be obvious or subtle, with rewards for compliance that were material, social or psychological. Noncompliance may be met with subtle psychological punishment such as withdrawal of love or direct corporal punishment.

Some cases of PAS, especially those with false allegations of abuse, may have important features in common with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSP) in which parents fulfil their needs vicariously by presenting their child as ill. In cases of classical MSP, parents repeatedly take their children to doctors unnecessarily, often painful tests and treatments which the physician is induced to provide, based on the parent’s misrepresentations. “Contemporary type MSP” occurs when a parent fabricates an abuse scenario for the child and welcomes or actively seeks out repeated abuse interviews of the child by police, social workers and therapists.

The concept of contemporary-type MSP elaborates on the idea put forth by Sinanan and Houghton that new types of MSP behaviour will evolve in parallel with the evolution of new medical and social services, eg. the child protection system. MSP parents may change or come up with new “symptoms” for the child as to better elicit the desired response from a particular care provider or an institution offering specialised services. Thus, the same child may be receiving attention simultaneously for fabricated physical symptoms from several medical providers and for fabricated sex abuse from therapists and public agencies who specialise in abuse. Careful evaluation and thorough investigation of sex abuse allegations which turn out to be questionable or false will sometimes bring a parent to the attention of authorities for practicing “classical” as well as “contemporary-type” MSP.”

Warshak (2001) on PAS

“In some cases of moderate PAS, when the parent is more intensively programming the children and there is a high risk of the alienation becoming more severe, Gardner recommends a different legal approach. In such cases he recommends courts consider awarding primary custody to the alienated parent and extremely restricted contact between the alienating parent and child, in order to prevent further indoctrination. Similarly in the most severe cases of PAS (which in Gardner’s experience, comprise about 5 – 10 percent of all PAS cases) Gardner recommends that the court remove the children from the alienating parent.

The importance of separating the child from the alienating parent, ensuring the child’s exposure to the target parent, is consistent with treatment methods for victims of brainwashing, including prisoners of war and members of cults… “One of the most powerful tools the courts have is the threat and implementation of environmental modification. Of the approximately four hundred cases we have seen where the courts increased the contact with the targeted parent… there has been positive change in 90 percent of the relationships between the child and the target parent, including the elimination or reduction of many socio-psychological, educational and physical problems that the child presented prior to the modification.”

Bone and Walsh (1999) on PAS

A marked deterioration in the relationship between the child and the absent parent. A previously healthy relationship will not rapidly deteriorate. On the contrary children miss the absent parent and usually cannot wait to see him / her. Normal healthy relationships do not erode easily, despite the parent’s absence. A rapid deterioration indicates the alienator has been poisoning the mind of the child against the other parent. Children eventually voice abuse against the estranged parent because they fear the wrath of the alienating parent.

They know they face disapproval or even punishment should they contact, side or even express that they miss or would want to see the estranged parent. The alienating parent usually has a controlling “my way or the highway” attitude. When children misbehave they are accused of being “just as useless as your father / stupid as your mother.” They alienating parent also manipulates the child to feel guilty for leaving “your sick mother at home”, or “remember I love you more”, or “remember I am waiting all weekend for you to return and I know you are going to miss me as much as I miss you”, etc.

Especially young children fear that they will be abandoned by the primary care-giver, if they dare to visit the estranged parent. The alienating parent refuses to attend sport or cultural activities if the other parent is going to be there, the child is not allowed to have photographs of the alienated parent nor to mention the parent’s name or family.

The impact of PAS on the child

Gardner (1999)

“PAS Parents who induce PAS in their children are often oblivious to the psychologically detrimental effects of the progressive attentuation of the child’s bond with the target parent. In extreme cases it appears that the alienating parent would be pleased if the alienated parent were to evaporate from the face of the earth–making sure, beforehand, to bequeath an annuity for the remaining family. Such alienators basically believe that absolutely nothing would be lost to the children under such circumstances.”

Read Richard Gardner’s article on Differentiating between Parental Alienation Syndrome and bona fide abuse neglect in The American Journal of Family Therapy, vol 27,no 2 p 97 – 107, April – June 1999.

Ward & Harvey (1993)

“There are three underlying premises regarding the development of children that underlie this article. First, all litigation concerning children can affect their healthy growth and development negatively. The greater the acrimony and the greater the part that the children need or are asked to play in the litigation, the greater the potential for harm.(2) “[T]he persistent quality of the conflict combined with its enduring nature seriously endangers the mental health of the parents and the psychological development of the children. Under the guise of fighting for the child, the parents may succeed in inflicting severe emotional suffering on the very person whose protection and well-being is the presumed rationale for the battle.” Johnston, J.R. B Campbell, L.E.G., Impasses of Divorce “Forward” by J. Wallerstein, p.ix (1988).

Second, it is psychologically harmful to children to be deprived of a healthy relationship with one parent. There is a substantial body of research that indicates that children need contact with adults of both sexes for balanced development.”(3)

Third, with the exception of abuse, there is no good reason why children should not want to spend some time with each of their parents, and, even with abuse, most children still want to maintain some relationship with the abusive parent. It is the job of the parents, the professionals and the courts to see that such contact is possible under safe circumstances.(4)

Alienating messages and behavior, whether intentional or not, place the child in a severe loyalty bind, a position wherein the child believes she must chose which of her two parents she will “love” more. To have to choose between parents is itself damaging to the child, and, if the end result is the exclusion of a parent from the child’s life, the injury is irreparable.”

Rand (1997)

“Gardner was among the first to recognize that involving a child in false allegations of abuse is a form of abuse in itself and indicative of serious problems somewhere in the divorce family system.

Cartwright poignantly describes the psychological effects on the child of being involved in severe PAS. “The child experiences a great loss, the magnitude of which is akin to the death of a parent, two grandparents, and all the lost parent’s relatives and friends … Moreover… the child is unable to acknowledge the loss, much less mourn it. The child’s good memories of the alienated parent are systematically destroyed and the child misses out on the day-to-day interaction, learning, support and love, which, in an intact family, usually flows between the child and both parents, as well as grandparents and relatives on both sides. The child may encounter insurmountable obstacles if, later in life, he or she seeks to re-establish relations with the lost parent and his family. The lost parent may be unwilling to become reinvolved. The parent or grandparents may have died. Some of these children eventually turn against the alienating parent, and if the target parent is lost to them as a child, the child is left with an unfillable void.”

Johnston (2001)

“Alienated children are likely to be controlling, distrustful and easily disillusioned. They enter into therapy, often reluctantly, with a scripted story and a demand for the therapists’ immediate allegiance to their position. The child’s challenge is “Are you for me, or are you against me?”

The therapist is placed in a bind – the cost of a therapeutic alliance with the child appears to require the sacrifice of his or her therapeutic objectivity. Moreover, the therapist remains on trial – any hint of subsequent disloyalty threatens to precipitate his or her dismissal by the child…A feature of alienated children is their bland, stripped-down and simplistic black/white thinking and poor reality testing.”

Warshak (2003)

“Irrationally alienated children harbor hatred for a parent that is dissociated from their earlier love for that parent. Their internal mental state has a rift that cannot heal until it is acknowledged.

Adults who have truly suffered at the hands of inadequate parents and subsequently resolved their feelings are able to express a wide range of feelings about their parents… this is something a pathologically alienated person is unable to do, and it handicaps them in their most personal relationships.

A man who is out of touch with his loving feelings for his father has more difficulty promoting the highest-quality loving relationship with his own children;

A man who cannot appreciate the importance of his father in his life and of what he loses by not having a father, has more difficulty appreciating his own importance in his children’s lives;

A man who cuts himself off from his own feelings is less sensitive to the feelings of his wife and children;

A man who has no contact with his father and extended family deprives his own children of a grandparent and his wife of the support available through the extended family.

The saddest consequence of divorce poison occurs when a rejected parent or grandparent dies before the child has come to his/her senses, given his/her love, apologized for his/her mistreatment and expressed regret for the lost years. It is at this point that a child is most apt to resent the brainwashing parent whose efforts deprived the child of a relationship that cannot be recaptured.

When alienated children, as adults, eventually realize what they have missed out on and the immense magnitude of the hurt their behaviour has caused their loved ones, they suffer unbearable guilt and sadness. This suffering has a direct effect on their marriage and their children…If children of divorce are more likely to end a marriage rather than work out conflicts, this risk is multiplied for children who have totally rejected a parent.”

Hillaker (2010)

Early identification of a child suffering from PAS can diminish a child’s psychological damage. Early identification will allow a child to recover their true relationship with the targeted parent. There is a point of no return for the child psychologically. Enough psychological damage can be done to the child wherein the child may never recover from the indoctrination of falsehoods and vilification of the targeted parent. Early identification and treatment diminishes the harm caused psychologically to their child and the targeted parent. PAS primarily manifests itself in divorce and family separation cases.

The younger the child, the more severe the psychological damage can be to the child, if PAS is not identified and treated early.

“A secondary syndrome in divorce that has emerged in the last twenty years is Sexual Allegations In Divorce (SAID)… Austin also claims that the false allegations coupled with leading questions or suggestive counselling result in children: developing false memories; being fatherless; becoming depressed; becoming suicidal, losing self-esteem ( … Children who have been subconsciously engaged in SAID and PAS may engage in acting out behaviours in adolescents and early adulthood and have psychological problems for a life time.

Introducing PAS to child is a form of emotional child abuse. Emotional abuse is of course psychological abuse, which can be more damaging than physical abuse. When the child grows up, they may not realize what actually happened, and how PAS affected them and the alienated parent psychologically. The PAS child/adult may have lifelong psychological problems. Children may not be able to outgrow their own pain and the humiliation they experienced as a PAS child. If PAS existed for a long period of time between the PAS child and the alienated parent, the PAS child may experience lifelong psychological problems. PAS children who have experienced PAS more than likely will have relationship problems with other children, significant others, and in their private and professional peer group. The normal bond and psychological attachments between a PAS child and their parent has been altered and possibly destroyed.

The PAS child, now an adult, will have a relationship between the alienating parent and the alienated parent. If that PAS child/adult can recognize previous PAS issues in their prior relationships, it may put them on a recovery path, to discover what actually happened to them in their childhood. Childhood memories of family dynamics, of pre and post family separation can be fluid and disposed of memory errors. Though the child will have varying memories, their true memories may never come out. The only mental health answer is therapy.”

A common criticism against PAS is since it is not categorised in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (textbook for psychologists and psychiatrists) it does not exist. In 2010 I testified in a court case in South Africa where the Honourable Judge Claasen found that it did exist and after my testimony he ordered that the boy be removed from his mother and placed in the care of his father that very same day.

The S.A.I.D. (Sexual Allegations In Divorce) Syndrome

Another abhorrence that rises it’s ugly head in divorce cases is when one parent makes false allegations that a child has been sexually abused by the other parent.

Blush & Ross (1986) on said:

“This acronym describes the particular phenomenon which occurs when a sexual abuse allegation develops within a pre- or post divorce context and when a family unit has become dysfunctional as a result of the divorce process.

“it is true that children have imaginations and that they sometimes lie, as do adults, but it is a very uncommon occurrence for a child to fantasize or make up a sexual assault incident… Observe physical and behavioural signs… extreme changes in behaviour such as loss of appetite. Recurrent nightmares… and fear of the dark. Regression to more infantile behaviour such as bedwetting, thumb sucking or excessive crying… Fear of a person or an intense dislike at being left somewhere or with someone. Other behavioural signals such as aggressive or disruptive behaviour, withdrawal, running away or delinquent behaviour, failing in school.

Information source after information source being presented by various social and health organizations take on this common message format. The hazard in these instructional messages is that over generalized statements concerning behavioural signs, which may mean sexual abuse, can just as realistically be symptomatic of any number of other problems occurring in a child’s life. Divorce, peer problems, school related problems, and general developmental processes are all equally competing clinical hypotheses for such behaviours and should be treated as such in investigative stages.”

Typical pattern


The allegation almost always surfaces only after separation and legal action between the parents has begun

There is a history of family dysfunction with resultant unresolved divorce conflict. This usually involves “hidden’ underlying issues both spoken and unspoken

  • There are often unresolved visitation or custody problems
  • There are often unresolved money issues relating to the divorce
  • Personality Profile of the Presenting Parent – Female:
  • The personality pattern of the female parent often tends to be that of a hysterical personality
  • She often presents herself as a fearful person who believes she has been the victim of manipulation, coercion, and physical, social or sexual abuse in the marriage
  • She also tends to see the man as being a source of physical threat, economic punitiveness and retribution, or an individual who simply has not understood the physical safety and psychological needs of the children.
  • She is also often the “justified vindicator”, a hostile, emotionally expansive, vindictive, and dominant female who has directly appealed to “experts” in both the mental and health and/or legal communities. She frequently insists on formal punitive legal measures be taken via prosecution before reasonable proofs have been demonstrated. She will often have concurrent criminal action pending with her domestic legal action.

Another personality pattern which requires clinical consideration is when the reporting adult is possibly psychotic.

Conclusion: Regardless of whether the female pattern has been that of the passive, fearful, apprehensive individual, the “justified vindicator”, or even that of the psychotic, she is emotionally convinced of the “facts” and will not be dissuaded from her perceptions. The intensity with which she relates to the world through her emotions significantly overshadows her use of a rational reasoning or problem solving approach to the situation. This emotional appeal can become convincing and very misleading to the inexperienced and/or “well-intended” professional.

Personality Profile of the Presenting Parent – Male:

  • He is often intellectually rigid, has a high need to be “correct”.
  • He has been hypercritical of the mother throughout the marriage, and verbalizes in a number of “nit-picking” ways the suspicion that she has been a non-vigilant and borderline unfit mother.
  • He typically makes allegations more against the males with whom she has become involved rather than necessarily making direct allegations toward her as the actual perpetrator of the sexual abuse. The male sees her as the person whose passive or silent endorsement of the perpetrator is her contribution to that situation.
  • He also makes statements about the frequency with which she leaves the children unsupervised, in the care of incompetent or inappropriate babysitters, or generally “at risk” in the home.
  • Personality Profile of the Alleged Perpetrator – Male:
  • He is an inadequate personality with marked passive and dependent features.
  • He presents a socially naive perception of the adult world.
  • He initially takes a “caretaker” role toward the female during courtship and the early stages of marriage.
  • He needs to “earn” love by yielding to the wants and demands of the spouse.

Because of these dynamics, it is this type of male who typically finds himself in a relationship with a more dominant female, regardless of whether her dominance is due to emotional hysteria or self-centeredness and vindictiveness.

Personality Profile of the Child:

  • The child has a limited verbal ability with which to articulate their own agenda
  • The child’s immaturity causes him/her to be unable to test and comprehend the reality of the situation in which he/she finds him-/herself, ie the politics of adult divorce
  • The child is often a female under the age of eight who controls the situation. Additionally, this child may show behavioural patterns of verbal exaggerations, excessive willingness to indict, inappropriate affective responses, and inconsistencies in relating the incident (s).
  • The child’s responses appear to be coached or rehearsed
  • The child spontaneously initiates conversation during interview by quoting the same phrases accompanied with the same affect as did the controlling parent who presented the complaint
  • The child uses age-inappropriate verbal descriptions with no demonstrated practical comprehension of what they were saying
  • The child offers a spontaneous and automatic reporting of the act (s) perpetrated upon them in the absence of any direct questions soliciting this specific information
  • The child offers inconsistencies in various aspects of reported incidents. These variances may involve specifics (who, what, where, when); frequency (only once or twice, exaggerated to many times); and subjective perceptual experiences (very frightened, not scared, hurt, not hurt, etc)
  • The child lacks the appearance of a traumatized individual both emotionally and behaviourally.

As children approach adolescence, they develop a more vindictive agenda, and they often speak in absolutes with exaggerated emotional content. The basic agenda is one of not getting their own way, or the other parent has been imposing limits which the adolescent disagrees with.

  • The allegation is first communicated via the custodial parent, usually the mother
  • The mother takes the child to an “expert” for further examination, assessment or treatment
  • The expert then often communicates to a court or other appropriate authorities a concern and/or “confirmation” of apparent sexual abuse, usually identifying the father as the alleged perpetrator

This typically causes the court to react to the “expert’s” information by acting in a predictably responsible manner, eg suspending or terminating visitation, foreclosing on custodial arguments, or in some way limiting the child-parent interaction.

The professional as Potential Victim of S.A.I.D. Syndrome

All too often, the intervening professional sees the case on a preliminary basis in a limited and biased perspective and frequently responds to the presenting parent’s report rather than viewing the situation as part of the family’s marital and divorce conflict.

Too often the therapeutic community accepts this “presenting process” and creates a clinical focus on assumed trauma and thus the need for immediate treatment of the child.

This process of accepting a presenting complaint as valid and truthful without sophisticated inquiry or clinical challenge creates the vulnerable expert opinion.

Once the initial distortions are communicated by an expert and reinforced through further contacts with the child and/or other involved adults, “facts” are created which then shape the outcome of the situation. This can occur to such a degree that the presenting parent, the child, the therapist, social and legal agencies, and any other involved persons accept this “created reality” that has become the truth.

Experience in the field investigation and follow-up of SAID cases reveals that the therapist is reluctant to change his/her perception once their professional opinion has been formulated.

A further concern is that the clinical focus has been so heavily predicated upon the belief that “children do not lie” so as to make any other considerations secondary.

The ignoring of other information is often justified in the name of “saving” the child from permanent traumatic damage.

It is ironic it is that the intervention agent or therapist who misdiagnoses a SAID case literally creates a scenario from which the family may never recover. This damage, once done, will, in our opinion, perpetuate itself throughout the rest of the history of the family. It may only partially be undone through skillful intervention of a qualified family therapist who, under the most difficult of circumstances, may bring the family members together and help them understand the dynamics of how the SAID phenomenon occurred.

Conclusion: A proper investigation/evaluation in which the collection of collateral information, background information, awareness of conflict, unresolved issues in the divorce is of the utmost importance.

Please read more: Blush, GJ & Ross, KL 1986. Sexual allegations in divorce, the SAID syndrome.

Blush, Gordon J & Ross, Karol L (1986), Sexual Allegations in Divorce, The S.A.I.D Syndrome,

Cowling, A, The S.A.I.D. Syndrome, Sexual Allegations in Divorce.

Bone, J.M. & Walsh, M.R. 1999. Parental Alienation Syndrome: How to detect it and what to do about it. The Florida Bar Journal, vol 73, no 3, March 1999, p 44-48.

Gardner, RA 1999. Differentiating between parental alienation syndrome and bona-fide abuse-neglect. The American Journal of Family Therapy, (27)2 p 97 – 107 Identification of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and Sexual Allegations in Divorce (SAID) and Child Custody Evaluations: An investigative Literature Review.

Holman WD, 1998. The Fatherbook: A document for Therapeutic work with father-absent early adolescent boys. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal (15) 2.

Johnston, JR. 2001. Rethinking parental alienation and redesigning parentchild access services for children who resist or refuse visitation. Administration of Justice Department, San Jose State University.

Rand, DC 1997. The Spectrum of Parental Alienation Syndrome. American Journal of Forensic Psychology. (15) 3

Warshak, RA 2001. Current controversies regarding parental alienation syndrome. American Journal of Forensic Psychology. (19) 3

Warshak, RA 2003. Divorce Poison. New York: Harper

Ward, P & Harvey JC 1993. Family Wars: Alienation of Children. New Hampshire Bar Journal (34)1.

Take me back to Break-Up And Divorce – Suffer the little children


Break-Up And Divorce – Suffer the little children

Suffer the little children

Many men do not want to walk out of unhappy marriages because of their children. I have often explained to them the best Dad is a happy Dad. Children adapt. No person is left unscathed by a divorce, but neither do the children who grow up in marriages full of strife and spite. I have met children who literally begged their parents to divorce.

It is true that primary residence is often granted to the mothers. Some women tend to think this implies that the children belong 90 percent to the mother and 10 percent, or less, to the father. They regard the father’s visitation to the child as a cumbersome irritation in their lives, as if the child is her puppy, and he is only allowed to play with her puppy when it suits her, or worse, when he pays her for the privilege.

They will make it most unpleasant and sometimes virtually impossible for the father to visit the child. Some move to other towns, some just don’t answer the phone when the father calls, some organise sports, family events or sleepovers on the father’s weekends.

I agree that some fathers do the same. One father would arrange expensive luxury vacations abroad during the mother’s allocated vacation and invite the children. The mother felt bad depriving her children of these opportunities and forfeited many of her vacations.

She had to work, because she was one of those women who got the raw deal in the divorce settlement and often that would mean the children would just have to accompany her to work during their vacations. She lost out with the divorce settlement and she lost out on her time with her children. Children grow up and eventually they uncover the truth. Now they adore their independent, gorgeous, mature mother and soon enough they will treat her to vacations abroad.

When children are denied access to a parent this can constitute Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). I have testified in a court case where the mother attempted to alienate their son from his father. The judge ordered the lawyers to fetch the child from his mother’s home and have him relocated to the father before 8pm that night and for the mother only to see the boy under supervision, henceforth.

Take note. I have also testified in a case where a father battled for five years with very expensive court costs to regain access to his daughter, after the mother made a false allegation of sexual abuse. This is called SAID (sexual allegations in divorce syndrome). The little girl had thought her father had abandoned her, because restraining orders prevented her from having contact with him. The allegations were totally false, but it took five years to disprove.

 Read more about: Parental Alienation Syndrome

I am astounded that many divorcing couples have not been advised by their lawyers to read the Children’s Act. For example, it is not just a parent who has a right of access to a child, it is the child who has a right of access to the parent, and to the extended family of that parent.

It is not up to the mother to decide whom the child will see, where and for how long. The courts will decide this. Mothers who use children as weapons by sabotaging the father’s access, do not realise in her petty attempt to spite the father, she is CONTRAVENING THE CHILDREN’S ACT.

Some mothers tend to reason if he is not paying maintenance or enough maintenance, she has the right to withhold him from seeing the child. Again, this is a contravention of the law. The child has a right to the father.

She cannot sell that right. I agree it is a contravention for him not to pay maintenance, as well, but that issue is not linked to access. It is a separate issue, for which she can sue him, or attach an order to his salary. In both cases the child suffers.

The mother may be the holder of the primary residence, but she does not own 90 percent of the child. If the child has sports activities on a weekend, the father can still fetch the child on the Friday night and take her to the hockey match on Saturday. There is no reason for him only to pick her up after the hockey match. There is no reason either for a father to return the child shortly after lunch on a Sunday because the child has to do homework for Monday.

The father can supervise the homework over the weekend. If the father arrives 10 minutes late in collecting the child and the mother withholds the child “because the decree said 17h00”, is she honestly acting in the best interest of her child, who has rights, or is she manifesting her bitterness, to the detriment of her child?


Case Study

One woman delighted in telling me how she punishes and humiliates her ex- husband before she allows him to see their son. He had finally divorced her after having had a long standing affair, which she never knew about.

I could understand her resentment and anger towards the man, but demanding he send her an SMS explaining in graphic detail what a “low down, s**t, bast***, son of a b***, useless slug of a father he is,” every time he wants to speak to or see their son, is spiteful, childish and unlawful. This is a typical example of a child being used as a weapon to punish another parent.



Case Study

One man explained: “When I am married, my wife and children are family and I will protect them and woe to any enemy who tries to threaten them. When I divorce, my children remain my family. I will protect them and if the ex-wife tries to take them from me or prevents me from seeing them, she becomes the enemy.”



Break-Up And Divorce – Man-down (continued)

Phase five: Establishing himself as a male by working and working out may last about another year. We have now progressed two years. He has recovered in a sense from the financial blow of the divorce and adjusted his financial status. Perhaps not to where it was, perhaps better, but it stabilises. He might find a new place to stay and move out of his buddy’s garden apartment. He lives on his own, because he may not acknowledge it to anyone, not even to himself, but he is sort of going to need a place to bring a girl home to. He justifies this by saying he needs his own space.

Phase six: He is happier at work, he is fit and he is living in his own place. He has the ex reasonably under control.

He does not suffer an anxiety attack every time her name features on his cell phone or in his inbox. (He has dubbed her The Complainant.) He has learnt to cook. He is tired of socialising with his single buddies, because they drink too much and he finds it meaningless.

There must be more to life than that. His other buddies are doing exciting and interesting stuff with their girlfriends and they get sex. He does not get sex and he does not do exciting stuff, like weekends away. He actually realises he is a bit lonely. He misses the camaraderie that a marriage is supposed to bring. He would not mind seeing a girl, perhaps a girlfriend. Just for a while. As long as she does not get serious, or bossy, or expects him to report to her. So he starts dating again, discerningly.

Phase seven: Then one day, he meets a woman. He falls in love. So does she. He gets lots of sex. He is all over her. He is “catnipped”. He loves pursuing her, feeling like the hunter, like a man. He loves being someone’s hero again. He makes her laugh and they make love. She responds to his extensive attention and she assumes this is a relationship that may lead to something more permanent. And she mentions the L word… and he runs like hell.

Back to the cave

Phase eight: So he is back in the cave. He digs up all the pain of The Complainant. Because loving her brought him pain and admitting he actually may love the new woman, leads him to remind himself that he can get hurt and become the anti-hero again. So he sits in the cave reminding himself why it is a bad idea to be with the new woman he has fallen in love with. He hopes if he avoids her and keeps busy, the feeling of being in love will go away.

Meantime, the wise girl will not follow him into the cave. I asked a man what a woman should do when a man retreats into his cave. He said if she retreats and becomes distant herself, he will experience her as unreliable or tell himself that he was right to leave her because she is not interested anyway. If she follows him into the cave, she is needy and persistent and an insecure stalker. He will just retreat deeper into the cave or attack her. If she keeps herself busy doing nice exciting things, but he is not invited, she may revive his interest, depending on his level of healing and maturity.

Where he sits there in the shadow of his cave, he can see her dancing among the butterflies in the sun. If he is ready and healed, he will come out and join her. If he is not healed and still attached to the pain of the previous relationship ( I say attached to the pain, not necessarily attached to the woman who caused it) he will watch the new woman, but not join her and tell himself she deserves someone better. He may lose her, he may even lose the love of his life, but we have already been through that discussion.

Hopefully he will man-up and take her, because at this stage of his life he should realise that the right woman, who has also been tempered by life, might just be the best thing that can ever happen to him. It may just be the right woman at the right time, but he is so scared to take the plunge and risk it. He missed out on the love of his life before, does he really want to do it the second time? You do the maths. Last chance at happiness, Odysseus, wake up, nobody is perfect.

Getting back to the process of divorce

Seldom do both parties agree to a divorce simultaneously. Usually one party wants a divorce and the other does not. They may benefit from marriage-termination therapy. Few people realise divorce implies an emotional divorce, a financial divorce and a lifestyle divorce.

Emotional divorce

Emotional divorce implies that the person you relied on is no longer there. The person feels betrayed, angry, sad, lost and perhaps hopeless. This may lead to vindictive, desperate and irrational behaviour. (One woman removed the light bulbs every time the father spent the weekend with the children in the house. He retaliated by disconnecting the geyser.) Years later, people are embarrassed about how they acted out during a divorce.

Many women remain emotionally dependent on their ex-husbands. They still expect him to come to the rescue when they encounter problems and many women actually create problems to force the men to come to the rescue. They still expect him to come and help when the car breaks down. (Call the AA).

Some men remain emotionally dependent on their ex-wives and need her approval on every major decision he makes. Part of the emotional divorce is to learn to cope on an emotionally independent level, to deal with the loneliness and to find new meaning in life, cultivate new friendships and eventually to re-establish and redefine a different relationship with the ex, especially if there are children involved. It also implies establishing some sort of relationship with the ex’s new partners, respectively.

Financial divorce

Financial divorce implies maintenance, setting up trusts, changing wills, transferring ownership of cars, title deeds, selling and buying properties and disentangling often enmeshed financial arrangements. Divorce usually means a lowering in the living standards of all involved. Financial implications also imply some of the women who were dependent on their husbands, now have to learn to manage their own finances and retirement portfolios. It may imply setting up her own medical aid, car and house insurance, bank accounts, etc. This may be daunting at first, but ultimately liberating too. It may also imply returning to or entering the job market.

Lifestyle divorce

Lifestyle divorce implies breaking up the home, and resettling the various parties into new homes. It is sad to lose communal friends and the in-laws, who may have become cherished during the marriage.

Making new friends and socialising is often hard work and difficult. Separate single vacations and negotiating Christmas and New Year’s alone are milestones. Pets may be lost and missed. Learning to make decisions on your own, without consulting a partner, but also without needing the approval of a partner can be frightening, but also a relief.

Even the simple daily routine of waking up and finding there is no one to share coffee with, is a major adjustment.

BUT people do survive this, and they get over it, and they move on with their lives and they do find happiness or at least new meaning in their lives.


Break-Up And Divorce – Man-down


mandownFew women realise the absolute hell men endure when they divorce. I have walked this road with some of them and believe me, it is ugly. It reminds me of the aftermath of a battlefield. Women see their heroes going off to war in their shining armour, full of bravado. Women do not walk the aftermath of a battlefield. It is carnage. Men put up a brave face when they divorce.

For a week or so they have a sense of bravado, realising that freedom is a viable reality sometime in the future, but soon enough they retreat into their caves. As a therapist I have been privileged to be allowed into this man-cave. Initially just as the silent witness to their pain, and then slowly, gently to remind them of the lost hero inside them and to guide them to find it.

I have seen men remain in marriages with women who will just never ever be happy no matter his effort. Men stay, because it is the right thing to do. He suffers in silence, he pays his dues and he does not cheat on her. He stays despite her total narcissistic, deep seated, sullen unhappiness. He stays because good men do. Then one day, he says: “Enough.”

Cave mode, phase one: He walks out of the marriage, straight into the cave. No matter how much of a calculating, manipulating, scheming shrew she was, he blames himself for failing. For not trying harder to meet her standards, no matter that she kept moving the goal posts. He blames himself for leaving and walking out and being the anti-hero. He paid her a generous settlement, he gave her a house, he pays maintenance and yet he stills feels like a failure.

For three months he can’t even lift his head and look people in the eye. These men seek therapy and just sit and sob. They excuse themselves from work because they can’t cry in front of their colleagues or personnel and they sit on the couch and they just cry and cry and cry. They feel embarrassed, but they also feel safe with a therapist. Then they mumble a thank you, and they snatch their keys and they go home and take a sleeping pill. Two days later they are back on the couch and they sob. Because they failed. As providers. It was just too hard. Like a field nurse in a war zone, the therapist sees them emotionally naked, stripped of their hero armour, vulnerable and bleeding. Part of the healing process is for the man to admit that he is bleeding and to cry, because it hurts.

Phase two: Then they get angry. They need to re-establish themselves as men who are not ruled and controlled by women. This is when they fire their secretaries, cut their adult daughters’ allowances and some may go on the rebound and seek hard core sex. Contrary to popular myth, most of them don’t seek hard core sex, because their libido’s are depleted and they know it will only exacerbate the anti-hero feeling. They know indiscriminate hard core sex will actually make them feel worse. However some do go out with the boys and for some reason the boys think it is a good idea to get the men drunk and then they may allow themselves to be seduced by a woman who throws herself at them. They usually feel ashamed once they sober up and will avoid her at all costs.

(Pity the poor woman who thinks a man in this state is a good catch and that he will stay with her.)

Phase three: Then he retreats deeper into the cave for he has disappointed himself again. He is a bad man, he thinks. Disappointment and guilt are bedfellows, remember. The continuous calls and SMSes and whats-apps from his ex-wife, hell-bent on revenge, just confirm his disappointment in himself. He may be drinking too much, or sleeping too much and missing work, which exacerbates his low self-esteem. So there he sits in his cave. Smelly, consuming copious amounts of alcohol laced with self pity, which erupts into a physical and emotional hangover, feeling at his lowest ebb.

Then one day, just like at the end of his marriage, he says : “Enough.” He gets up, stretches, takes a shower and walks to the edge of the cave. There is a world out there and he actually misses being a part of it.

Phase four: He exits the cave and he gets active again. This could be about a year after the divorce, or later.

At this stage he avoids all women and fraternises with men. Suddenly he attends gym, and enters an iron man competition. He needs the testosterone to restore his depleted male reserve. Male bonding makes him a man among men once again. Then he may date here and there. Not because he is actively seeking female company, but usually because his friends’ girlfriends or wives set him up. He agrees to the date because maybe he could score sex. He would prefer just the sex with no emotional ties and the sooner the woman shows any emotion or any expectation of long term possibilities, makes any demands, tells him what to do or expects him to report to her – he is off like a lightning bolt. He seldom progresses beyond a second or third date. He becomes one of those guys who doesn’t call. This makes him feel bad. Coming up with excuses or avoiding her calls, also makes him feel bad. This triggers the anti-hero button. So he stops dating.

During this phase men begin working very hard again. Work makes men feel good about themselves. It is an action. He feels competent. Like the proverbial Phoenix, his self-confidence is slowly rising, but it is fragile.


Break-Up And Divorce – Tell her everything

Tell her everything

Most women, however will go into detective mode, find the facts and confront him. Most men initially try to deny it. This is futile. By the time she actually confronts him, she has the evidence. She asks him to tell her everything.

Men don’t tell women everything, because they fear her reaction. He knows she will explode and he will be the anti-hero. So he tests the water, by telling her a little, just to see what her reaction is. Then she finds out something else, or she already knows something else. That is when she will explode.


Case Study

A wife confronted her husband with his philandering. She invited him to tell her everything and promised that they could continue the marriage. He confessed. She forgave him. Later she found out that he failed to mention that he came on to his best friend’s girlfriend. When she confronted him in a fury for keeping this from her, his answer was: “It didn’t count, because she said no.” She did not forgive him again.


The fact that the man is lying to the woman makes her more angry than the fact that he slept with someone else. Sleeping with someone else is a major betrayal, and excruciatingly painful to her, but she may just forgive him. He will be in the dog box for a long time, but remember women put the highest premium on the love of their lives, so she may forgive him and be willing to try again. However, if he lies to her, he is negating her feminine intuition.

He is making her doubt her own safety alarm. Her safety alarm is a primitive primal mechanism. It overrules love – remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If he threatens her safety in this manner, she turns animal. Now she goes for the jugular. She goes for the money, because it makes her feel safe and she knows she is hurting one of the heroic elements – provider.

If she hurts him financially, if she makes him pay for her hurt and the emotional threat and humiliation of losing her safety and security, she is stripping the hero of his armour in public. She does not want him to be in a position to be the provider and hero for another woman. Few women are rational when it comes to divorce settlements. They do not consider their actual expenses, they want to be compensated for the emotional hurt. They feel entitled to his money (manhood), because he rejected her womanhood.

Bitter witches

When a woman divorces, she not only loses her man. She loses her protector. Now she becomes a single woman. She becomes prey to predators. She is not safe when she drives her car alone at night, mechanics and handymen are going to take advantage of her, she has to cultivate a new set of friends, couples no longer invite her for the wives fear she wll steal their husbands, and the husbands fear she will lead their wives into temptation.

She has to attend to her own financial affairs and learn new skills, she has to trust strange men, fight her own battles and heaven forbid, she may even have to work. This makes her feel unsafe and she will make him pay for it.

When women divorce, some of them lose their providers too. These women develop an indignant, self-righteous entitlement to his money. “I deserve more than what is offered in the divorce settlement, because I kept his house and raised his kids and sacrificed my own career for him,” they argue.

These are the same women who employed au pairs and nannies, who enjoyed the privileged lifestyles of manicures and tinted eyebrows and weekly hair dresser appointments, who spruced up their tans on exotic beaches and skied in the Alps, who drove fancy little German sports cars, who never smiled at their husbands, always had headaches and basically bored their husbands into a divorce. Now she is out to financially ruin him? I said it is not fair.

Women regard divorce as losing their freedom. Men regard it as gaining their freedom, eventually. But first they go through hell.


Break-Up And Divorce – Cheaters


Some men cheat and have affairs. Some men hope their wives will forgive them. I asked the men how they would prefer their wives to react when they find out that the men were sleeping around. Except for the one man who said he would like it if his wife joined him and his girlfriend, most of the others concluded that the wife should not feel threatened about him sleeping around. “It’s usually just sex,” one explained. “I would not want to sacrifice the stability of my family life for the girl I am sleeping around with.” A man may be sexually turned on, but emotionally turned off.

Men seem to distinguish between “just sleeping around” and having an affair. An affair is more serious and involves emotions and can be a threat to the marriage. I asked the men how they would react if their wives were having affairs. Unanimously they agreed that they would take it seriously, because “women’s emotions are involved when they sleep with a man.” Do they ever consider the emotions of those women they are just sleeping around with?

Many men cheat. Some people say it is in a man’s nature to want to “sow his seed.” Some men may cheat, but then he meets one woman whom he will never cheat. He loves her, he does not want to hurt her and she fulfils him emotionally and sexually. She is the ONE he stays true to.

Let us explore a woman’s typical reaction to her husband cheating on her. Her reaction is basically the same to any lie.

I explain to men a woman’s intuition (that little alarm that tells her when something is wrong – when something threatens her safety – for that is all that intuition is) is as deep seated as a man’s aversion to being the anti-hero.

That scares a man. For he knows that awful, devastating, debilitating feeling of being a disappointment, being the anti-hero. It is unbearable. The difference between men and women is, when he is the anti-hero, it drains his energy and debilitates him. The hero’s battery is flat. On the other hand, when women feel insecure, they get active.

Their minds go into turbo mode and they tell themselves all kinds of nasty things and then they act on those nasty things. They check his phone, hack into his emails and laptop, open his mail, track his car, follow him and hire a detective. They phone people, threaten people and sometimes they even poison people. I kid you not.


Case Study

I listened to one man describing his wife’s paranoid jealousy and possessiveness. I asked him why he did not obtain a divorce. He said it would crush them both financially.

His wife and children were beneficiaries of a trust and it would be a very difficult process to extract his finances intact. This raised the alarm for me. “So your wife would gain more by your death than by a divorce. Are you sure she is not poisoning you?” He assured me she would not go that far. A week later he came to see me.

His face was ash white. His domestic helper had confirmed to him that the wife had asked her to procure muti (poisonous plant material) to poison him. He moved into the garden apartment on his property and only ate meals he prepared himself.


This man did not cheat on his wife, but some men do. Men often hide the truth from women because they want to “protect” them. Believe me, she knows already, or she suspects and a suspicious, insecure woman is a dangerous woman. TELL HER.

If a man cheated on a woman, he thinks he can hide it from her. She knows. Deep down, she knows, because her intuition warned her. Some women may prefer to ignore it, because she is not strong enough to confront it, or she may believe she can’t live without him and she does not want to lose him at any cost, or she may not want to sacrifice the lifestyle they share, or she protects the children. Or she had an affair herself.


The Anti-Hero – Break-Up And Divorce

Don’t kick the bunny


Remember when I said no-one kicks the bunny? Remember when I said men hate to be the anti-hero? Men tend to stay with women, not because they like her or want to be with her, but rather because leaving her would imply kicking the bunny. And that makes him feel like the anti-hero. So he is trapped in a no-win situation.

He yearns for his freedom on the one hand, but he weighs this up against being the anti-hero. Being the anti-hero is worse than staying in a bad relationship. So he stays. Often he convinces himself it’s not so bad. Often he just shuts up. He feels guilty if he disagrees with her. One man told me he stays in his 30-year unhappy marriage for if he divorces, his children and friends would find out about his affairs and that would make him an anti-hero.

Men often start behaving badly, hoping she will break up with him. Now he mistreats her, acting like an anti-hero.

Then he feels guilty about his despicable behaviour and he does something nice to relieve his guilt feelings – not due to any feelings he has for her. It’s about HIM feeling better about himself, not about making HER feel better.

She, unfortunately, sees this act of goodwill as hope for the relationship, so she desperately clings on. He tries to break up, she cries, he takes her back. Not because he wants her, but because he hates being the anti-hero who kicked the bunny. And she sleeps with him.

In effect, this woman is keeping the man attached to her by manipulative emotional blackmail and sex. We can try to fence a dog in, but the moment we give him a gap, he will make a run for it. If he does not stay on the veranda willingly without a fence, he does not want to be there. Does a woman not rather want a man to stay with her willingly, because he wants to be there, because he adores her, rather than he stays because she manipulates him? So the man begins behaving badly, hoping the woman will kick him out. Remember men don’t talk, they do. They seldom say: “I want to break up.” They behave badly, so the women will say the words. Kick him out ladies, he is begging for it.

To the men staying on in such relationships, due to some misguided sense of obligation or guilt, I ask: “Would you want a woman to stay with you if she does not want to be there? Would you want to be one of those guys who keep women tied to them by threats and fear? Of course not. So why do you allow her to keep you tied to her by manipulation?” Go.