Another Father’s Day came and went in our household.

For my boys, their bio dad has been gone nine years. Cancer took him when they were only four and six-years old. Mostly, it’s another Sunday in June for them. Sure, we celebrate my husband, however the day tends to carry an emotional heaviness with it. Not because of the deceased father, but because of the sad heart belonging to their stepdad.

For my husband, a biological father of three, the third Sunday in June is a painful day and has been for over a decade. His first wife divorced him in 2006, hence the beginning of the demise of the relationship with his children. It was a slow deterioration, like cancer. In the early years co-parenting was a mutually shared intention. In 2008 when he was ready to start dating, my beloved discovered there were repercussions for following his heart.

Original parenting agreements were no longer convenient for his ex-wife. Her attorney was brought back to the scene, along with visits to the county judge to modify various orders. One such court appearance involved the new female dating interest. It seemed the mother of these three children wanted to sabotage the budding relationship. Of course, it can’t be proven. That particular girlfriend was not able to withstand the stress and ended the relationship.

In 2009, I came along, innocently enough, not knowing what awaited me if I chose to stay with this man. Our connection was healing on so many levels and the adoration was mutual. Three months in, his ex-wife began to meddle. The two daughters refused to engage with their father unless he met their demands. The young son reluctantly participated in weekend visits with us. The experience was strange for me because he was close in age to my boys and I believed we could all joyfully share life’s adventure. The son’s mother vehemently disagreed when she got a judge to order the father’s parenting time be without his girlfriend. Me.

For the next five years, I found myself in court a few times. Had a protection from stalking (his kids) order against me. Was repeatedly harassed and bullied by my boyfriend’s ex-wife. It was brutal, yet I persevered. We learned to fight back when necessary and when to back down to avoid drama. It was tough! Tough on us individually and tough on our couple. We refused to give her the satisfaction of breaking up … because it really did feel that was her goal.

In 2012, the term parental alienation crossed our path. It is the process of psychological manipulation of a child resulting in displaying unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent or other family members. What a miserable blessing to discover a label for our horrid experiences.

It is an awful practice, one that requires more awareness for prevention. We express gratitude to men like Ryan Thomas, a child of parental alienation who reunited after decades apart, who shines a light on the subject. And, thankfully, there are women with voices who stand for men. Author, Suzanne Venker, says things about men, marriage, work & family that run counter to what the culture teaches. Her article, “It’s Fatherlessness Day again. What will we do about it?” truly sums up the damage caused by mothers who chose to behave in distorted ways.

“Father absence is an epidemic in the U.S., with over 24 million children now living in fatherless homes. Roughly 1.5 million children experience divorce annually in the U.S. alone, with 30% of kids losing touch with one of their parents—typically the father—within two years.”

Your first thought might be to blame these “deadbeat dads” for leaving. I’m here to ask you to consider another perspective. The Dalai Lama said it best, “The world will be saved by the western woman.” Let’s do our part to revive Father’s Day, as well.