My half brother grew up with stepparents after his mother divorced our father. He was only seven. There were problems in the marriage, but our father tried to make it work for the sake of the boys (my half brother had a half brother whose father had passed away). His mother had found somebody new and was moving on. Our father had adopted his now ex-wife’s son from her first marriage now hoping to raise him into a fine young man. It didn’t turn out that way.
Eventually our father met my mother. Meanwhile, court hearings were attended and lawyers were getting paid to settle child support and custody. My father’s ex wife made outrageous requests, leading the judge to favor our father in most cases. He ended up happily paying $400 a month to the boys and seeing them a few hours one night a week and every other weekend. It wasn’t long before our father’s adopted son started expressing his desire to skip their visits. It was clear his mother had been bad mouthing our father in her new home.
Shortly after they had gotten into their new routine, our father got a job in another state, about a day’s drive away. He moved my mother there and that’s when my younger sister and I came along. Growing up, I got to see my brothers during Christmases and summers. I loved them both equally as far as I can remember. I adored them. I looked up to them. I was overjoyed whenever they came to visit, but I was five when my brother turned eighteen and his brother was three years older than him so the visits I got at home with them didn’t last very long.
They weren’t cut out of my life, however, my father found all the time he could to go back. I was always excited to go with him and my brothers were always excited to see us…I thought. I was about twelve when my father’s adopted son got married. We all drove over for the wedding, including my seventy-five year old grandmother, when we found out from my brother that the groom was changing his surname. Not to his late father’s last name, but his current stepfather’s last name. As one might expect, we were all deeply hurt by the news. Personally, I was shocked. His stepfather had not taken him in as his own when he was a child. He had not raised this boy from the age of one to ten and then every visit/chance there was until age eighteen. All that was followed with continued love and support up until that point. We stayed in town, but did not go to the wedding and neither did my biological brother and his new family.
Many years later, when I had become my own adult, I found out about a lot of other things. It made even more sense why changing his name had been so offensive that it meant cutting off ties with the boy my father and I had loved so much.
When it came time for him to go to college, my adopted brother wanted to go to a good one; an expensive one. His mother had convinced him that my father was obligated to pay for it. He took my father to court thinking he was entitled to an expensive education on my father’s dime. My father won. My adopted brother was furious. He ended up attending a regular good college (on some of my father’s dime). He got a regular good degree and a regular good career. (I must say here that my estranged brother maintains that my father forced him to court at the young age of nineteen and that my father wouldn’t pay because his new family was his new priority. He states that my father hired a lawyer and he did not, suggesting that be the reason for my father’s “victory”. He says he feels manipulated by my father and is convinced my mother, sister, and I were the only ones important to him now.)
When he had his first child, my father made an attempt at reconciliation and wrote his adopted son a letter. My father never received a response. That was the end for them. I still had unresolved feelings. How could this brother, whom I adored, and I thought had adored me, just abandon me? Even if he was angry with my father, I didn’t do anything. Didn’t he know that? Didn’t he miss me? Didn’t he still love me? Or did he EVER love me?
Many more years later, I met my husband who was estranged from his sister and also still feeling the pain and asking the same questions. He told me how they had been very close growing up. He wanted to reconcile and he thought I should try to do the same. I wanted to try, but didn’t know anything I could say to make my ex brother feel the same.
Eventually, I did write him a letter of my own. Unfortunately, it was an angry letter, but I’m not sure I would have gotten a better response had I been kinder. There is something to say for the fact that I even got a response at all, but I’m not sure what that is exactly. I had caught him trying to use his new name along with my father’s name on a social networking site. I was instantly upset. He had thrown it away and been so cavalier about it, and NOW he wants to use it again? At that moment, I felt it was my duty to tell him off, there was no way around it. It was unacceptable and I would never get over it if I didn’t fix this “problem”. Now I know better and am a little embarrassed at how I reacted.
I can tell by his behavior and the feelings he conveyed in his message to me that many signs of Parental Alienation have been a large part of his life. Most psychologists will tell you that when one parent tries to alienate the child from the other or “target” parent, the child will grow up to resent the alienating parent. For my biological brother this is true; for his half brother it is not.
NOTE: I would like to state that my estranged brother claims he changed his name for his future children’s sake. He said he thought it would be better for them to “inherit” the name of the family that would be “close by and part of their support system” than the name of a family “they would rarely see”. I can almost see the logic in this had my father REALLY not been supportive of my brothers. Also, his mother is now remarried again, although she didn’t change her name this time.