The Myth of Revenge

The end of a relationship, whether a marriage, or something else, almost always brings a great deal of pain.  There is mourning for lost time, lost dreams and lost potential.  Pain in losing a relationship is good.  It means you cared about the relationship, otherwise why would you have pain at its ending?  Pain and sadness are a natural part of grieving.

However, sometimes people resort to unhealthy ways of managing their post-relationship pain.  They assign blame, and they create a scoreboard in a never-ending battle to punish their ex-partner.  Feeling like you gave more than the other person, and that you were wronged by that person, is natural.  It becomes an unhealthy thing when you allow that pain and sense of being wronged to poison your relationship with your children and impair your ability to move on and be happy.  From my standpoint as an attorney, I see how pain influences people to needlessly prolong their case and make decisions that are not good for anyone.

I’ll give you an example of how this works.  Mother has an affair which leads to divorce.  Father is naturally heart-broken and angry.  In the divorce case, Mother offers to share parenting time with Father half and half.  Father says “after what you did to me, you’re lucky if I ever let you see them again!”  Father’s pain causes a distortion in the way he views his case.  He forgets that a custody case is ALWAYS about the best interests of the children.  He can only see that he is hurt, so he must punish Mother.  Punishing Mother could be punishing the children.  Maybe or maybe not, but Father does not even ask himself whether his position is best for the children.  Revenge that hurts children is never a good thing.

How about another example?  At the time a divorce is finalized, Father is sleeping on a friend’s couch so Mother can remain in the home with the children.  At the time of divorce, Father is not in a position to take on more time with the children because he doesn’t have his own place.  Consequently, the judge awards Father less time with the children.  A few years later, Father is back on his feet, with his own place, a better job, and an increased capacity to spend time with the kids.  He asks Mother if they can amicably amend their visitation order so that he has more time with the children.  Mother says “you didn’t care when we divorced, so why would you care now?”  She resents Father because she thinks he didn’t try hard at work while they were married.  Now that he is doing better, she wants to punish him.  Here again, Mother is not thinking about what is best for the children.  Her pain distorts her view such that she can’t see how keeping the children from their Father will hurt them.  She doesn’t even ask herself whether having more time with Father would be best for the children.

Another side of revenge is the myth that it somehow makes you feel better.  I have never seen anyone who took revenge on someone who truly felt better.  When they talk about the revenge, you typically can tell that they are still angry about what happened.  I view feeling angry and feeling happy as mutually exclusive.  If you have one, you don’t have the other.  So if you’re still angry, and still unhappy, what was the point of the revenge?

As an attorney, all I can do is counsel people.  That is why you refer to an attorney as “Counsel” in court because the clients in the case control what they want and an attorney merely counsels the client.  In my practice, I counsel people to try and put revenge aside so they can consider what’s best for their children.  I also encourage people to put aside revenge because it hurts them as my clients.  If you’re involved in a custody case, I suggest you ask yourself the question “am I doing this because it’s best for the kids or because I’m mad at my ex?”  Asking the question is the first step in changing your perspective.  A change in perspective just might lead to a happier, healthier life.