Shifting Towards Peace & Acceptance

I was talking to a client the other day about the nature of revenge. She had watched a series on Netflix that showed genuine retribution.

Her grown son had been a bit appalled by her choice of viewing material, but frankly, after her 4 years in the trenches of a high conflict divorce, I thought it was probably a much healthier route than putting a machete in the skull of her ex bring.

At the beginning

My clients are all similar in presentation when they arrive: confused, quick to apologize for themselves, and happy to negotiate. They’re usually between 18 and 2 years old and wonder if they’re going crazy.

This is understandable because those around them tell them so. They tell them helpful things like, “Haven’t you settled your divorce yet?”

“Why don’t you just sit down and get on with your life?”

Or “damn lawyers, if they get involved they cost a fortune and last forever”. Trite and unhelpful but ultimately forgivable soundbites.

For the clients I see, I’m often the first person they’ve spoken to who understands their position. And even better, I don’t just understand them, I believe them as they tell some of the more extreme wacky things their ex has done and is doing.

From things like telling the village they are promiscuous to canceling passport applications, “selling” their home to a family member for nothing more than the cost of the legal transfer fee, to avoid property sharing, and to blogging their ex- Woman publish on a professional social media site to play the victim. I heard everything.

My clients all share these glazed rabbits in the spotlight when they come to me. Often times, they stopped telling people their story because it seemed so incredible. Bank accounts robbed, credit cards blocked, savings searched. The shock of finding out that their partner was blindly robbing them while they naively tried to reach an agreement.

I have to get them to see all of this behavior during marriage: those screaming tantrums about nothing, all these defeats, to the point where it is explicitly stated that they have no value, all these times when they were neglected and also afraid to complain, that was never excusable.

I need to teach them that abuse is not just bruising on the skin, but also bruising on the soul.

Hold up the mirror

It’s hard because my clients are mostly loose strains that have a high tolerance for bad behavior. They quickly apologize for their partner’s more extreme behavior.

They are ashamed and humiliated and cut off from themselves – they have to cut themselves off or they would see what happened to them is wrong. They have generally spent more time examining and understanding their partner than they have understood themselves.

And by that I mean something very, very specific. I mean I understand why they would accept such disrespectful treatment.

This doesn’t mean how to change my partner to be nicer to me. or ‘how can I shape my behavior so that it is friendlier to me?’ I am asked these a lot at the beginning, often in a veiled way, but essentially the same question that is asked in a million ways: “How can I change my partner?”

No, the question they really have to deal with is, “What the hell have you done to someone who treated you like dirt?”

Because in a high-conflict divorce, it is imperative that my clients fully and completely understand that every stall, every negative, every contrived tactic is intentional.

These individuals are not innocent bystanders who have been manipulated by greedy lawyers. Nor are they aware of Asperger’s innocents who are ignorant of social norms. They are individuals who are totally focused on winning.


Many years ago I came across a colleague of my ex who had refused to divorce his ex-wife for 10 years. At the time the meaning went over my head. Now I see it differently. He was so determined to win that he would rather wait a decade than let go and move on. Maybe he was happy that he could hold out for so long. Maybe he thought he had won.

Winning in these terms is such a strange concept to many of us. We may think we’re competitive, but until you find yourself in a conflict-ridden divorce, you have no idea what competition is.

This is about dealing with people who have been arguing for years about trivial parking tickets, creating error lists, scrolling through page by page, spending hours on the phone over a minor, incorrectly calculated bill. The really competitive ones will fight their own shadow for a skanky bone.


This is of course incredibly mentally unhealthy for these people and likely leads to all sorts of health problems: heart, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure. Unfortunately, her extreme craziness is also a health warning to those around her due to two factors: time and shock.

You see, my clients don’t really see who their ex is in the beginning. They are still in a bubble of reasonableness so every single discovery of the depths of their ex’s desire to win at any cost, with a high preference for destroying their partner in the process, is like being made by one 2 hit by 4. And it doesn’t stop. It goes on for years. And that takes its toll.

Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, physical breakdown are common.

And why?

Because my customers are realizing that this won’t end anytime soon. They left the marriage, where they were constantly “shocked” by psychological, emotional and physical aggression. but they thought they escaped only to find out no it was still going on. And worse, now the legal system has joined.

Turning points

I remember my lowest point when I realized that I wouldn’t be lucky enough to wake up dead. When I realized I had no way off that conveyor belt. When I realized that I had to deal with the disbelief of others and move on. When I realized that I had to keep fighting, not because I wanted to, but because he didn’t want to stop. He didn’t want the game to end.

I often think I should have realized it sooner. But I was my first client, so I had to wake up just as I was waking others.

Anyone who knows me will tell you when all the food was taken out of the cupboards, I still haven’t seen the madness of the situation.

I shouted, “Why the hell would someone take half a bottle of Tabasco?” but even then I couldn’t see what was happening. I couldn’t see the mere cold urge to destroy myself because I had ended the marriage, and that meant I was one and the required score was matched.


So yes, I encourage my clients to have healthy fantasies of violence. After years of emotional, psychological, physical and ultimately legal violence, they need an electrical outlet.

It is foolish to assume that forgiveness is lukewarm sitting in a lucky circle and singing the worship event, not after years of relentless personal assault. No, true forgiveness is full of blood and heat and cries out for vengeance until there is finally true acceptance and peace.

And this place is true vengeance for me.

Moving to a room where my clients or I are still forced to continue this nonsensical pantomime by underdeveloped characters no longer matters to their behavior: they are seen for who they are and pityed for for it. People so far from decency that they are alone forever and are mistaken enough to believe they will win.

Comments are closed.