Why I Fought So Hard To Protect My Children From Their Father

It’s unnatural to have to shield your child from one of their parents, but that's what I had to do.

sad little boy Bricolage / Shutterstock

"We don’t want to take sides," said one of my friends.

Her comment shocked and annoyed me. 

I walked away and got into my car. People are so naive. No, scratch that. People who haven’t been through a divorce can be downright ignorant. They have no idea what they are talking about. 

Instead, they have textbook responses and actions. 

I am fuming. I sit in stunned silence until I literally find myself talking out loud. 


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"There aren’t sides. There are children," I say to myself.

I’m a mother. I’m not looking for anyone to take sides in my divorce. I'm screaming for help.

I am in the fight of my life to protect my children from their father.

Yes, it’s unnatural to have to shield your child from one of their parents.

I think of the day my seventeen-year-old son looked at me painfully confused.

"Mom," he says. "I know Dad is angry at you but what about us? We live here too and we need to eat."

My husband is brutally intent on punishing me for leaving him. He doesn't care if our children get in his way.


He will withhold food, health insurance, school supplies, transportation, electricity, and every other basic need our children have.

When our children get upset enough to confront him he shocks them more.

"It’s your Mother’s fault for leaving me," he says. "We can’t support two households."

It is, of course, a bald-faced lie. 

There is plenty of money.

Worse, he’s been hiding all of our assets and business income during the years I've exhausted myself trying to save our marriage. We aren’t talking about a little bit of money. We are talking about a tremendous amount of money.

I was upset and unhappy enough to want to divorce my husband.


But I had no idea what he was truly capable of or who he really was.

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A parent who can hurt their children to hurt their spouse is evil.

There’s no other word for it except what the psychologist and marriage counselor diagnosed my husband with during counseling. My husband lacks critical empathy.

Empathy is a developmental stage we receive during childhood. If you don’t receive this crucial developmental stage there is no putting it back in you.

It creates a severe deficit.

An inhuman one.

My husband has a narcissistic personality disorder on the severe end of the spectrum.


The average person thinks I went through a divorce. Albeit, a long and overly abusive five-year divorce. But I didn’t experience a divorce. I was in the fight of my life to protect my children from their own father.

Imagine how difficult it is for a child to process a parent who will hurt them to hurt their mother.

They can’t process it.

They understand how bizarre and unnatural it is. They cling to the memory and belief of the dad they once knew. At the very least, the father they thought he was before their hearts were shattered into a million little pieces. 

And they had to accept they had no father at all, except in the biological sense.


They had to grieve the emotional loss of the man they believed loved them and raised them.

A monster who felt nothing while watching their suffering.

It hasn’t been easy for my boys.

They not only watched their dad change, but they also watched their mother change. My stress level went through the roof with every foreclosure notice, repo guy, and other unexpected financial abuse and bullying.

For five years I slept an average of three to four hours a night. I never knew what was going to happen next.

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Recently, one of my boys said, "You react to stress."

Well, of course, I do.

But it’s not who I have been my entire life or their entire lives.


It’s a fabrication of an abusive man. I lived on an emotional battleground for five years and then with the games of the divorce aftershock.

I once read that it’s not uncommon for those who have divorced a narcissist to suffer a form of PTSD.

I believe it.

I don’t have PTSD but I believe I have a mild version of something similar to it.

Divorce shouldn’t be an excuse for abuse. It shouldn’t provide an abusive man a playground to wreak havoc on.

There should be protective mechanisms in the family law system. Kids should not get caught in the dissolution of an adult relationship. It’s not fair. They never had a dog in the fight.

They are innocent bystanders.


I didn’t get a divorce.

I was in the fight of my life to protect my children from their own father.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes bout love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.