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“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Confucius

Once upon a time, a beautiful set of twins were born. The mother had been very eager to deliver her children. Tragically, the husband died in the middle of her pregnancy, and she did everything she could to assuage her grief so the health of the unborn twins would not be compromised. The older twin arrived several minutes earlier than her sister. When the mother held the older twin for the first time, her heart expanded with a love and affection she could not put into words. As the younger twin arrived, exhaustion ensued, and the mother mustered just enough energy to hold her newly born child. As time went on, the mother and children settled in their home and received much assistance from friends and relatives during those early months as well as the years to come. The mother excelled in her maternal role, but although she was dutiful to the younger twin, the older was the apple of her eye. This did not go unnoticed by the younger twin as well as those involved supports, and because of the unfairness of the situation, they went the extra mile for the younger twin.

Over the years, the twins relationship waxed and waned. The older twin was vivacious and studious. The younger twin was extremely intelligent and introverted. They had different friends, and eventually led very separate lives. The younger twin married earlier than her sister and had two daughters. The older twin married later, and uncertain early on, discovered she desperately wanted children. After a series of complicated events, it was evident this was not to be. As her nieces were growing up, the older twin tried to establish a relationship with them. The younger twin who had been quite blessed never recovered from the injury of not feeling love from the mother. Envy and anger resided in her heart, and the younger twin made sure her sister would not have a separate relationship with her daughters. 

Over the years, the older twin resigned herself to the fact that she would not have the kind of relationship she yearned which she observed between other aunts and nieces. When she raised the issue with her sister, an argument would ensue, and the younger twin would blame the older for the way things unfolded. The older twin loved her sister and did not wish for an acrimonious relationship. In addition, she often intervened on the younger twin’s behalf with their fiery mother whom she loved but realized was uneven in her displays of affection. The younger twin claimed she appreciated it but never shared these actions with her growing daughters. In fact, it became clear to the older twin that it was the opposite and a distorted narrative was being fed to them. As they got older, the nieces repudiated anything the older twin might suggest to them. They took no interest her life or her offerings. 

Because of the mother’s favoritism towards the older twin, family harmony was often disrupted. During one of these schisms, the older twin sought the spiritual guidance of a medium who had given her accurate readings in the past. The older twin asked if she would ever have a relationship with her nieces. The medium informed her that one would reach out, but the other, not a surprise to the older twin, was a lost cause. The medium ultimately proved to be correct. On the older niece’s thirtieth birthday, the older twin gave a party with the younger twin.The niece acknowledged and thanked her mother but withheld any nod towards her aunt, the older twin. For the next few years, this behavior continued to a point where the older twin felt increasingly invisible in her niece’s presence. The younger niece did reach out but was not able to overcome the influence of her mother and sister. Sporadically and unpredictably, the younger niece increasingly let the older twin know through mean-spirited actions and words that she is not special in any way.

The older twin has sat with me for many years. For what seems like perpetuity, she has turned the other cheek. A recent event on top of all of the others was the straw that broke the camel’s back. As always, the older twin discussed this matter with her loving connections which includes me. All of us recognize she has been more than tolerant of this behavior of alienation. We support the older twin’s need for distance from such abusive behavior. She seems to be at peace for now but recognizes the ongoing loss is like a lodged splinter ever so often permeating her heart.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Alienation of affection is a difficult phenomenon to detect. It is an act of, sometimes unconscious, revenge. The person who perceives themselves as aggrieved and victimized use children their most precious asset as a weapon. It is stealth and complex eventually severing any possible attachment with the other party or parties involved. Parental alienation is by far the most egregious. As this woman’s example reveals, however, it can occur in other relationships including grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles often causing great heartbreak and inconsolability. Sometimes controversy surrounds this phenomenon because there are times when a child must be shielded from an abusive situation. Consequently, it must be examined closely, but I have never witnessed this to be the case. In fact, all of the people whom I have seen involved in this disturbing pattern are no less than loving and devoted parents. Sadly, the  perpetrators of this great injustice are people who feel victimized by a spouse, parent, in-law or sibling, and as a result, of their need for dominance and revenge, unknowingly, they remain stuck all the days of their life. The great Confucius was correct. His quote about revenge is a lesson for all.