Parental Alienation: The Creation of a False Reality
When the motivation for a geographic move sterns from the custodial parent's remarriage, the non-custodial parent's relationship is even more threatened.3 Whether associated with a geographic relocation or not, the remarriage of the former spouse shatters ubiquitous fantasies of eventual reunion. For the noncustodial parent, remarriage by the custodial parent may be perceived as a narcissistic injury involving not only the loss of power over the former spouse, but the feeling that the former spouse now has a new protector/ defender/supporter. The noncustodial parent also has the fear that he will become obsolete and redundant as the child develops a close
Many noncustodial parents faced with a former spouse's remarriage believe themselves to be in a disadvantageous and vulnerable position to sustain their parent/child relationships. For many, this results in repeated "motions to modify," citing changed circumstances favorable to increasing the times and opportunities for maintaining oneself as an enduring presence in the child's life. Some non-custodial parents who earlier had placed children rather than their careers on the back burner realize that they and the child have missed out. As a result, they may not be as important to the child as they would have liked. With the remarriage of the ex-spouse, the fantasy is that the stepparent will want to replace the biological parent in the child's affection (see chapter 12). Regretting their career aspirations, absences from the home, and hurried child caring, this parent feels extremely vulnerable to replacement by the "in house" stepparent. A parent so threatened, whether the threat is based in reality or resides more in fantasy, will often attempt to interfere with the former spouse's remarriage, with geographic relocation, and especially with the child's attachment to the stepparent. A postdivorce parent, threatened by anticipated and fantasied alienation and replacement by a stepparent, may retaliate in advance, with his or her own efforts at alienating the child from the stepparent.