Knowing his ex-wife's allergy to catsup, an Alabama man proceeded to smash a bottle of it on her apartment balcony every morning on his way to work.
A Washington woman humiliated her husband by suing him for his toupee, claiming she paid for it. She knew that without his hairpiece, he would not date.A Tulsa man, who happened to see his ex-wife driving around with a strange man in the passenger seat, rammed her car, with her in it, at 40 mph.
Those are examples of the guerrilla warfare that can ensue when a marriage ends, according to an article in the current issue of Cosmopolitan, and, sadly, a divorce war is always a war without winners.
"A craziness takes over," said Matti Gershenfeld, a family therapist and president of the Couples Learning Center in Philadelphia. "It's really the evolvement of two people going insane. You escalate your actions until you're doing things you wouldn't do to your worst enemy.
"There isn't even an effort to be rational. Winning is everything, because you feel like you've been stabbed in the back by someone you've been closer to than anyone. These kinds of feelings almost defy reason."
California couples therapist Gerald W. Piaget said the process by which everyone goes off the deep end may be similar, but the precise reasons vary.
"In many cases, these people haven't dealt with their emotional garbage on an ongoing basis," he said, "and it builds up over time. Finally, the aggrieved person may ask himself, `Why not? Why can't I act like a nut? Who cares what people think of me? I have nothing to lose anyway.' " Most experts agree that divorce wars are rarely just about money or possessions.
"It's not just about the silver or the house, because you know you can always get more of it," said Washington divorce lawyer John Karr. "The objects are just a metaphor for the pain and passion and rejection and loss. A few hundred years ago, we might have thrust swords into each other, but now we at least try to go through legal channels."
This kind of nastiness drew movie audiences to "The War of the Roses," in which Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas battled it out, and in real life ugly celebrity divorces capture headlines.
Almost all people involved in divorce cases that start out in rage end up in therapy. Analysts say the process of rebuilding is long and arduous and involves:
- Learning to look at yourself through the other person's eyes.
- Returning to a regular routine as soon as possible.
- Trying to get a handle on the bigger picture, not just the immediate pain. "People lose the broader perspective," Piaget said. "And then they react the way cornered animals would - without thinking. I try to help them restore perspective."
- Trying to understand that, if you think the other person is out to get you, perhaps the best revenge is to become a whole and happy person. The worst thing you can do to an enemy is to win in life.