Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Case Against Online Dating

The Washington Post just published an article about January being one of the busiest times of year for online dating. I've had some really odd experiences with online dating. Not with online dating, per se, but with the men I've dated. Some were really generous, nice men. Some had some serious quirks. I made some great friends. But I didn't meet a person there who wanted a real relationship, or even what they said they wanted. They kept falling short in some way or other, or  I was in a weird place too and fell short myself. In the spirit of starting off the new year really devoted to change, I got off those sites to really ask myself why I was on there and what was the point? I don't want to be one of those people who just keeps repeating mistakes, and the whole thing has bothered me for reasons I could not fully articulate. Here are some of my reasons, written from the viewpoint of dating in your forties and fifties:

1.The setup is too much like shopping.
When you are just another option among options, you become a commodity, a menu item, a pair of shoes to be sent back. It's dehumanizing. I am not the cheese plate that doesn't satisfy and you have to send back. I'd rather be treated like a human being among human beings, and while it is true that many human beings would make suitable partners, having a shopping mindset makes others (and me) TOO picky and does not allow one to truly commit to one person and be happy. It makes me overly judgmental and critical when I don't need to be. If I am to open my heart fully to one person, I cannot have the presence of twenty other suitors in the back of my mind.

2. I cannot compete with "Dream Girl" and the illusion of a soulmate/the ONE/a magical unicorn appearing
Soulmates do not exist, at least not in the way some people think of it. In the minds of some, there is this perfect ideal who is lurking behind one of those online profiles and will be the ONE who will carry out with you all the Disneyland fantasies of romantic love and who you will feel bliss with forever.  This kind of love does not exist except in the context of certain personality disorders. It's always a grand illusion that allows a person to blame others for not living up to an impossible ideal and to ultimately prevent real connection. Real, grown-up love is a choice people make based on feelings, yes, and also based on thinking straight and making sure core values that make a relationship work are there. Things like honesty, reciprocity, openness, trust, consistency, friendship, and emotional support are important. Then that person becomes your soulmate based on things you've built and shared together.

3. I am too old for middle school dances
I really get tired of playing games like pulling the petals off the daisy: "he loves me, he loves me not." I get tired of online dating being an issue in a relationship, and in my mind, there does come a point at which you become grown-ups and say "We're not shopping because we are clearly in a relationship." Any ambiguity from anyone is a sign of immaturity and basic insecurity or just lacking the balls to pull the plug because you like the sex and all of those are jobs for therapy. I get tired of awkward text-back tempos, or lack of texting back to the point that it creates instability and disconnection. I no longer have any tolerance for lack of reciprocity. This is middle age life, not middle school. As Mark Manson wrote, "Why would you ever be excited to be with someone who is not excited to be with you? If they’re not happy with you now, what makes you think they’ll be happy to be with you later? Why do you make an effort to convince someone to date you when they make no effort to convince you?

What does that say about you? That you believe you need to convince people to be with you? (Hint: it implies that you wouldn’t even want to be with yourself.)"

Let that level of disrespect stay in middle school, runners.

4. I'm a feminist
As a feminist, I want to stay away from any place where women in general are disrespected and either placed on pedestals or used for sex or used to work out misplaced anger towards all the women who have hurt you. Two words: hookup culture. While there are wonderful men on there who do deeply value women, the set-up lends itself well to misogyny. I want to be able to talk with men about patriarchy and gender roles and our shared experiences and frustrations with that setup. I want to have deep conversations with men who are oriented towards social justice and are willing to practice what they preach (meaning they are not misogynists disguised as helpers of humanity.)

5. I'm tired of dating through the Abnormal Psychology textbook
I have dated so many people that fit into a textbook list, simply because so much dysfunction is crammed into one prepackaged online space. Just like you don't need an MD to know that the person coughing and sneezing in the back of the bus is sick, you don't need a degree in psychology to tell you when something is "off" about a person. I do have a degree in psychology and it's an area of deep interest for me. So, curiously enough, through dating, I have learned a lot about the following personality disorders: avoidant personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and/or schizoid personality disorder. I dated someone who most likely had undiagnosed ADHD. I learned about attachment theory and attachment theorists are brutal on avoidants (probably because they are so protected they won't seek professional help for their issues) and even more sad was to learn about alexithymia, which to me, as a person with trauma issues, is just another form of dissociation.
 The behaviors are so extreme and so prevalent among men in their 40's and 50's it leaves you wondering "what the hell?" Psychology can help figure it out and then learn it and move on. Let the issue-addled men figure out how to get therapy.
I've learned to pay attention to the following red flags: when a man says an ex has abandonment issues and cannot explain his part or have compassion, when a man contemptuously says an ex needs to be in relationship all the time, when a man brags about his sexual prowess,  when a man writes "no drama". Often, these are the men who create drama through their abandonING issues, lack self-awareness, can't tolerate feelings, and are not relational. It is a setup for a one-sided relationship. One-sided relationships suck. And don't work.
Let's look deeper at the abandonment issue complaint, because there really are two sides to that story. A woman would not have abandonment issues if she had not had a crappy childhood. So those issues are not her fault and only someone who lacked basic empathy would not feel for that. Having contempt for a woman's needs means a man also has contempt for his OWN needs and parts of him that feel dependent or needy. That being said, it's a two-way street. A man having compassion for a woman will most likely make her feel secure enough to be able to turn off the needy childish behavior. AND it is completely her responsibility to heal her wounds so she has something deeper to bring to the table. I completely understand how hard it is to date someone who is needy. But in my experience, handling my abandonment triggers on my own does not make a man more emotionally available, interested in relationship, or empathetic. It just teaches me to handle my triggers and prompts my therapist to tell me, "stop dating men who need therapy."

6. I'm tired of superficiality. 
I want to look hot but I also want to be able to be my beautiful mess of a growing, creative, spiritual issue-addled self without worrying that some guy will bolt if I have a hair out of place or drive a crappy van or I have feelings or have my share of life disasters. I am a human being who makes mistakes, who gets anxious when I know I am being judged, and who blossoms and thrives when loved. I am also beautiful, talented, caring, kind, intelligent, funny, and supremely curious about life. I blossom and thrive when giving love. And while I work hard on any anxiety or "abandonment issues" I have, personal responsibility has to go both ways for a relationship to be rich and deep. The deeper conversations happen with men who understand this work of the human heart, and who understand there is more to a woman than looks or sex, and who take the task of awakening a woman's heart very seriously. I also come from a less materialistic place, in that a man is worth more than what he drives or owns. I'd rather a man have a good heart than all the goods.

7. I fucking need a break
Going back to number 5, part of my education has been about my own repetition compulsion. If there is a guy who is textbook avoidant, narcissistic, emotionally unavailable, misogynistic, uncommunicative, or unavailable in some way, I will be fatally attracted to that person and replay yet another rejection story. My trauma history means I got a lot of neglect and abuse heaped in with what I know of love, so it's time to change that association and use my good sense. Because my heart will take me to men who reconfirm the shame messages given during my shitty childhood, and that's just reliving dysfunction. Or trauma bonding. Or re-enactment. If you do what you always do, you get what you always got. When I'm in a pattern for choosing men whose goal in life is to avoid intimacy, I know there is a part of me invested in repeating patterns of neglect and disconnection, and so I need to engage in some really yummy self-care, deep reflection, taking ownership for my part, and making art in order to open myself up to a more secure, realistic love. I can't feel safe with people who remind me of my abusers or who can't put in to a relationship at the same level I put in. I don't want to become an obsequious woman who acts like she has Stockholm syndrome all the time, or who acts like a teenager to get some distant man's attention. Opening to what is real in love means setting aside my shame enough to know I am worth good treatment and not crumbs. I don't need to be a victim or a child to gain those crumbs, either. I also need to interact in the REAL world and learn to trust my intuition again so I can choose people I feel safe with.

8. This town is small and it recycles
I can get off of dating sites and jump back on in 3 years and I will see the same people on there. Women talk to each other and after a few years, your dysfunction becomes apparent to everyone and you just can't hide. Not even on a dating site. For me, I need to work on NOT being one of those people who stays on an online dating site for years and years. I want to push myself past whatever issues are keeping me stuck. I want to learn from my mistakes.  I've had a LOT to overcome and realize this is the next level of growth for me.

Now, on to receiving delicious love and good luck out there!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018



Every day the little boys at my school
build a city and take it down
make another city the same way, only different
they are not really building, it is a game they play
based on power deferentials
I, too, do this with men
I take the arc of painful love
build a city, tear it down with my little girl
The one I house
she needs too much concrete
to walk safe in your city's men
she needs bones, marrow
and to pick the sidewalks clean

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Attachment and IFS

In dating world, I get my triggers triggered, which is par for the course and helps give me practice to speak up for myself and my needs, and in a model I will explain later, to become a healed and strengthened person. Life after divorce means that you have to take responsibility for your part in any disasters of the relational kind. Trauma plays a big part in this, for people who have had an upbringing that modeled reciprocity, grace, consistency, healthy boundaries, and an ethic of love are said to be securely attached (according to attachment theory) and according to research, they make up roughly half of the population and will most likely stay married. If you consider that the divorce rate is roughly half, it makes sense that divorce can be correlated to insecure attachment styles. Therefore, it also makes sense that when you go out into the dating word post-divorce, you look to heal through yourself so you have something to bring to the table for another person, and hopefully find one who is consistent and secure.
In brief, in attachment theory, there are three main types of attachment styles: avoidant, anxious, and secure. Secure people have no trouble being dependent and no trouble being independent-both states are pleasurable and they easily attach to people. They have longstanding, stable partnerships that are ultimately satisfying. There is a lot of information on the internet about attachment styles, and you can find brief overviews here, here, and here.
BUT that is not the good part. The good part is not just awareness of your attachment style. Many sites tell you how you can heal and change your attachment style, but do not acknowledge that often, the extreme beliefs and patterns we form as a result of attachment comes from trauma and extreme, rigid beliefs in our families.
For healing, I look to Internal Family Systems. Bear with me, for this can be heady stuff, and IFS is truly innovative in its approach to therapy. For that reason, it goes against a lot of what we've been taught through self-help or modern psychological concepts that have made their way into the common vernacular. 

IFS holds that each of us is multiplicitous in that we have different parts of ourselves we use to adapt to different situations in life. Many people recognize an inner child or an inner critic, but we are so much richer and deeper than we knew, thanks to the development and discoveries of IFS. We get in trouble when we act from extreme inner parts instead of from our core Self. From this book:

“…a major tenet of IFS is that everyone has at the core, at the seat of consciousness, a Self that is different from the parts. It is the place from which a person observes, experiences, and interacts with the parts and with other people. It contains the compassion, perspective, confidence, and vision required to lead both internal and external life harmoniously and sensitively. It is not just a passive observing state, but can be an actor in both inner and outer dramas. Because most of us have had experiences in which we learned not to trust our Selves, its resources are often obscured by various extremes of our parts. In addition, while through imagery I can see my parts, I cannot see my Self because it is the me that is doing the seeing, and in that sense is invisible to me.”

IFS holds that each person’s Self embodies the following characteristics when leading a person through life: calmness, curiosity, clarity, compassion, confidence, creativity, courage, and connectedness. The Self is aptly able to lead a person's parts with vision and strength. When parts arise out of adaptations to extreme circumstances and take on extreme roles, a person is said to be blended. Parts are divided into three categories:

Managers: Managers are about control and keeping the internal and external worlds in check. They protect the system from intimacy, dependency, criticism through self-criticism and judgment of others, or they control through caretaking and focusing on others’ needs.

Exiles: Exiles are the parts managers protect everyone from. Exiles carry the burdens of shame, blame, and guilt placed on the system and are younger, child-aged parts. They are exiles because managers work so hard to keep them “out of sight, out of mind” by denying their needs, feelings, and desires.

Firefighters: Firefighters come when the big feelings of the exiles override the managers’ protections. They, too, serve to distract from the pain of the exiles but instead of managing and looking controlled, they lose control through addictive, extreme activities: bingeing on food, sex, drugs, stimulation, work, or self-harm.

The way to heal is to address the breaches of connection within one’s Self. Connecting Internal Family systems with attachment theory, an anxious attachment style could be seen as a system led by exiles- exiles who flood with their feelings, are needy and clingy, and who look outside themselves for validation and security. Avoidant attachment style could be seen as a system led by managers, managers who seek perfection, who distance through looking for an ideal that doesn't exist, criticize, withdraw, and dissociate. They don’t trust that anyone can meet their needs so they deny them and stay rigidly guarded against their significant exiled needs. They have the same strong exiles anxious people do, but their managers do not tolerate the feelings or wishes of exiles since they also deny those needs in themselves. Secure attachment style is a system that is led by Self energy, and an ambivalent attachment style is a system that is led by firefighters. When avoidants and anxious people meet, they trigger each others’ most extreme manifestations of the parts they are already blended with, and oftentimes this will lead to firefighter behavior. An ambivalent person is already locked into a pattern of exiles overwhelming managers and subsequently going into firefighter activities.
A dating pair can then become a replaying of childhood wounds and patterns, and reinforce each others' parts. They aren't relating to each other as each other, but as managers to managers, as managers to exiles, as firefighters to managers, as firefighters to firefighters, and throw some exiles in there since they are the ones crying out so desperately for peace and healing.
Sounds pretty gruesome, doesn't it? All that protection and fear happening.
In practice, it goes something like this. I just had a situation where a man full of managers triggered a bunch of my exiles through neglect and abandonment, and where before I'd been dealing with his distancing behavior some with my firefighters, some with my exiles, some with Self, I brought in a crew of managers to put the kibosh on the relationship because of a serious breach of contract. My manager stepped in and was mad as hell. I told him I'd lost trust and respect for him (which I have). His own managers came up and deflected blame to me and projected his issue on to me. It could have gone better had I been more in Self energy, and not let my managers be so charged. But I did speak up for myself, and know better now to push for trustworthiness in a partner, so that all my parts feel cared for. And angry parts protect us from further harm from people that are not safe.

Exiles hold burdens in a person- burdens such as unworthiness, shame, disconnection, and fear. The way to stop unhealthy patterns and heal attachment wounds is to heal the exiles and unburden them, and assure them that there is a loving adult (you) who will take care of them and love them, just like you would take care of any hurting child. Staying in Self energy is truly a practice that is lifelong for those of us with attachment wounds. More to come...I know I've thrown a lot of theory out there but it can be put into practice.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A New Way

bell hooks' statement that there was not a day that she was not set upon by a predatory man really stuck with me. I asked her about envisioning a new way, and she agreed that was part of our work.
I think many people envision feminism as making females equal within the structure of patriarchy. But females becoming good at stereotypical male values still occurs within a structure of dominance, what bell calls "dominator culture." It's still "Father knows best"- the best way to do something and you'd better keep up and break OUR glass ceilings if you are a woman.
What if more stereotypical female traits such as collaboration, mutuality, nurturing, reciprocity, empathy, beauty, intuition, etc. were placed within a structure that allowed those traits to be valued above the traits of dominance, competition, conquering, power-over, blind ambition, ruthlessness, etc.? It would take some doing to unseat patriarchy. The thing is, patriarchy limits men and creates in them emotional cripples. They lose touch with the parts of themselves that are vulnerable and emotionally available, and parts of them that are other-protective rather than self-protective and self-serving.
I have never thought equality with men meant I try to be "male" just as well as a man. My feminism centers around an ethic of love, where people are valued for who they are and happiness is found in altruism.
I think one path to imagining new structures is to look at existing structures, especially those that existed before neoliberalism and colonialism. Use-value versus exchange-value. In the following video, the pride of the tribe was wrapped up in how much they could GIVE, not how much they usurped in the name of power. It's an interesting way to structure power in a community:

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Solstice churched

"There hasn't been a time in my life as a female that I haven't been set upon by a predatory man."
Thus began my note-taking during Bell Hooks' Q&A in Lexington. I think she is a national treasure, and ever since I read "Understanding Patriarchy" I have been a fan.
Some tidbits from my notes:
"Our job as teachers is to teach critical thinking."
An audience member spoke of all the anger she had. I could relate, since I have an ongoing harassment situation from a predatory man. She quoted Thich Nhat Hanh: "Hold on to anger and use it as compost for your garden." She said there is a place for anger that we can come to to be rejuvenated and resurrected.
"Violence is crucial to the maintenance of patriarchy."
"There is always room for redemption"
She spoke of how people will often choose power over critical thinking and pointed out that awareness is not the answer. Insight is not the fix. She pointed out how raising awareness of incest and the harm it causes actually raises incest rates. I'm sure there are complicated reasons for this, yet I couldn't help but think of the nature of abusers to feed off others' pain, and that awareness was simply blood in the water and sharks came to feed. It's like the #metoo movement, where we bring to light all these abusers yet do nothing to address the system within which it happens. She pointed out how abusers suffer no consequences...they enjoy your company at dinner, you play golf with one shuns them for being abusive. They are fired with bigger pensions and payouts than any woman will ever see over years of a career. Until we give them consequences, and create a place where it is safe for #metoo participants who are triggered to be received with love and support, we are still living within the confines of patriarchal dominance.
And as she points out, that is the opposite of love.
"Any time we do the work of love we are doing the work of ending domination"
"breaking from a dysfunctional childhood is the beginning of growth."
"Let my life be a living embodiment of what I believe" This really spoke to me of having integrity and living in love and compassion.
She discussed musing what it would be like to have masculine energy in her home, since most men have not been raised to love bold, truth-telling women.
She was a big advocate for conversation and learning the art of conversation- as in, face-to-face conversation. She said conversation is the best place to learn.
"Love cannot coexist with abuse and dysfunction."
She pointed out that change starts within the family, and this is where patriarchy has its stronghold.  "We know when we are not being loved."
"Who are you opening a space for that lifts them higher?"
Someone asked her about modern art, and she said, "I am sick of installations."
She read this poem:



We, the forgotten delta people.
The dry riverbed people,
Hair calling always for rain,
Skin turned skyward wishing for clouds,
We stand for blood.
We kneel for water.
For oil, we lay down,
Fingers spread, as if in this way
we might skate across the yellow clay of it all
Like lagoon insects.
So it is written:
Heal yourself, baby.
With the tree and the touch, with the turmeric.
In this world, nothing brittle prevails,
So in this world, grease is a compliment,
No, it’s a weapon,
No, it’s a dream you had, where it was cold
And your mother, seeing the threat of gray at your elbows
And knowing that ash is the language of the dead
knelt, and put her hands on your face like this
And anointed you a protected child, a hot iron in a place of frost.
Recall this, and
Fear no thickness.
Be resurrected, glistening in the story of you.
Be shining.
I love those last lines. "Be resurrected, glistening in the story of you. Be shining."
She quoted the Buddha and this stuck with me: "Do not seek perfection in a changing world. Instead, perfect your love."
I felt like I'd had church...the church of Grace, of God of love, of Goddess of Light, with the High Priestess of Love.
I know what I'll be reading for awhile.

Monday, December 18, 2017


Last night I found myself in the arms of my true dearest friend I made before I even lived in this town, and we have seen each other through all kinds of life changes. She remains, in every way, my true sister of my heart. Two more male friends, who have not a whiff of asshole in them and remind me of the capacity for men to be emotionally available, to not be threatened by my womanhood in any way, who lend a hand to support, and who will meet me in the depths of creative endeavor. I absolutely love living in a stream of ideas, of coming up with ways to work together and partner to bring some grace and beauty and community to the world.
I have felt the weight of my humanity so strongly lately...the places where I strive to maintain some semblance of my self when assaulted by a taker who would always seek to narrate the story, make me small, make up shit about me just for fun, control every aspect of my life. It has been a huge wrestling to know I am human and make mistakes, and to think somehow on some level I deserve this ill treatment, that I truly am less than. It is then I realize I am listening to shame and blame and it becomes a spiritual issue at that point. Where there is shame and blame, there is no room for love. Shame and blame coming from another person whose intent is to diminish and injure me in some way does not require me to take on that thinking for myself. If I do, I betray myself, and I betray him as well, for in holding to myself and saying I deserve, as a human being, consideration, kindness, time, attention, and basic respect, then I say he deserves that too. Enemy-makers do not respect themselves. They can't possibly. Nor can they truly know love.
I am not broken by these actions. Set off-base temporarily, maybe, but these actions drive me straight into the arms of true kinship and love, into the arms of grace, into my worth as a person. It drives me to a reality check that normal, reasonable people don't have a need to scapegoat and control. Normal and reasonable people would care if they'd created a toxic shitstorm of a situation and take responsibility, rather than manipulate the story to leave themselves blameless. Normal people don't say things like, "she NEEDS to be controlled" or "it's too bad I have to take you to court". It drives me straight into the arms of the know that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) It drives me rest and lean on the goodness that allows even evil in our midst, and to trust more deeply that there is a purpose for my life in traversing this hard path to healing.
I was speaking with someone who said they feared that if someone knew who they truly were, they would not like them. This fear is common, especially among those of us in trauma recovery. But I can honestly say I have friends who have experienced the fullness of my humanity and have never shamed me or blamed me, who have loved me fully, and who I can rest with and be completely accepted as myself. These friends have unflinchingly and compassionately witnessed my pain, anger, insecurity, doubt, and fears without rejecting me. Quite the opposite...they have held me while I've fallen apart. I cannot imagine what it would be like to go through this lifetime never having known that kind of love. And of course, my grateful heart returns their love, without the burdens of unrequited engagement. Maybe this is my Christmas miracle, to shake off a shamer's toxicity and come to the Divine, found in the steadfast love and acceptance of true friends.

From "The Flowering of the Rod", H.D.

I go where I love and where I am loved,
into the snow;
I go to the things I love
with no thought of duty or pity;
I go where I belong, inexorably,
as the rain that has lain long
in the furrow; I have given
or would have given
life to the grain;
but if it will not grow or ripen
with the rain of beauty,
the rain will return to the cloud;
the harvester sharpens his steel on the stone;
but this is not our field,
we have not sown this;
pitiless, pitiless, let us leave
to those who have fashioned it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Family Court, let me introduce you to Psychological Science

A woman once sat in a psychologist's office, a therapist's office, and an attorney/LCSW's office at different times. She was told her husband had an incurable disorder, one that leaves him lacking in empathy, full of arrogance and selfishness, controlling, critical, and demanding. These experts showed her the DSM definition. They explained his behavior was consistent with this definition and he was unlikely to seek help or even recognize his problem behavior.
Later, in family court, this same person who had been identified as most likely having a disorder, was treated as if he were normal and his superiority was assumed. The same superiority that was labeled disordered by adherents of psychological science was labeled as normal and even preferable by a court of law, and the court granted near-automatic compliance with his wishes. It became confusing and maddening for her to navigate the two worlds, one where disorders are praised and the other where disorders call for treatment, most often of the person victimized by the disordered person.
A person whose personality is defined by abusive manipulation and selfishness and whose decisions are based on a compulsion to control, no matter how good or benevolent they look on the outside, is seen as equal in capacity to someone not disordered in family court.  In other words, the rights of the disordered, buoyed by gender bias, trumps the rights and needs of children.
Family court, I'd like for you to meet Psychological Science. It's been identifying ways to help people live fuller, more satisfying lives for years using principles from science, philosophy, and humanism. It has a long history of research and enriches our daily lives. But for some reason you do not recognize nor do you care to be educated about psychology. Instead, you embrace useless platitudes such as "it takes two to tango" over a more useful platitude such as "it takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch." You allow the destructive dynamics of abuse of power to be carried on under the guise of seemingly civil proceedings. There is nothing civil about poverty, abuse, or continuation of trauma. Instead of dealing with these problems, you silence women and do not allow them to speak. Women are routinely told not to accuse their ex husbands of abuse, despite the research that shows women rarely lie about abuse issues.
I am assuming every cluster B disordered person that goes to family court is abusive, just by virtue of the fact that demanding automatic compliance but not being able to reciprocate is abusive. Needing to control time, finances, and what the children do, and using all available resources to gain power is abusive. Going farther than that, not every man who abuses is disordered. There may be other reasons for their dysfunction.

"Experts and litigants alike report that custody courts commonly do not recognize domestic violence and child abuse,6 fail to understand their implications for children and parenting,7 and turn against mothers and children who insist on pressing claims of abuse by a father in custody litigation.8"

Your very own Department of Justice has just published a study that it funded. This study has exposed one of your most barbaric practices-upholding the rights of disordered men who sexually and physically abuse their former partners and children. Not just upholding, preferring they have more rights.
"Where MacKinnon pointed out the male-gendered assumptions often hidden within law and culture, an extensive scholarly literature and thousands of reports from the field suggest that men’s violence in the family is often rendered invisible by family court practices."

 "Scholarly and practitioner critiques of courts’ treatment of women and children alleging abuse by fathers are legion."

"More in-depth empirical research has examined the lack of expertise in domestic violence and child abuse—particularly child sexual abuse—among forensic custody evaluators, who are relied on heavily by the courts.19"

"The two professional spheres—domestic violence and protective parent experts and advocates on the one hand, and family court researchers and practitioners on the other—remain largely distinct, and disinclined to trust each other’s perspectives.49 Consequently, domestic violence and child abuse concerns remain only minimally integrated into standard family court practices.50"

Despite having no standardized training or knowledge of abuse, family court seeks to place its own labels on psychological phenomena. For instance, it is well known that physical, sexual, economic, emotional violence will impact a woman negatively. There is a researched and documented cycle of abuse and a researched criteria for personality disorders. However, this research is ignored in favor of terms like "alienator" or "alienation", concepts which have no scientific validity. An abused woman protecting her children from her abuser is a smart, thinking woman. Why wouldn't she? It's not alienation, it's protection.

"PA’s role in custody and abuse cases has been widely decried by the domestic violence field. By re-framing a mother who seeks to protect her child from abuse as a pathological or vengeful liar who is severely “emotionally abusing” her children by falsely teaching them to hate and fear their father, PA theory makes a self-described  “protective parent” persona non grata.33"

If a woman can walk into family court and have no protection for herself or her children against an abuser, the problem is larger than law-it's misogyny. This trickles down into other aspects that will ultimately place advantage with men and disadvantage women, such as custody and economics. Even if the pay gap is decreasing, cultural affinity towards fathers remains high at the exclusion of mothers. Women are routinely dismissed and not believed (see the #metoo movement). But we can't just change believing women about one thing and then dismiss everything else.
Instead of science-the science of attachment and abuse (scapegoating, c-PTSD, trauma bonding, Stockholm syndrome, cluster B personality disorders) the court plays out politics, archaic biases, fabricated syndromes, and playing psychologist without actually being one. Ultimately, the interests of white men are upheld, even by other women.