Recently the country has witnessed the difference between demanding justice and demanding revenge. The lens of 2020 made it clear that they are two distinct things that may overlap in places, but differ in fundamental ways. The toll wrought by the desire for revenge was far more destructive than anyone seeking justice through peaceful protests.
Divorcing people are all too familiar with the murky, gray area where justice and revenge overlap. All too often the initial desire for justice transforms into a yearning for revenge for one or both spouses. Maybe one spouse looks like they’re really enjoying life and it just rubs the other spouse the wrong way. What’s worse, anxiety — in no short supply nowadays — amplifies every other negative emotion and inches us ever closer to the edge.
I happen to be working on a case in which the mother made it very clear that she wants a 60/40 split on custody. The father wants a 50/50 arrangement, but the mother held firm. There was no monetary benefit attached to the 60/40 arrangement; the mother would receive the same support package either way. As it turns out, life just unfolded in a way where the father was getting the 50/50 split he initially desired. Then, out of some kind of desire for revenge, the mother started to alienate the youngest child — who is the most vulnerable and malleable. This is incredibly unhealthy, and none of the members of this family can be said to be thriving.
Sometimes the revenge dynamic takes on a more competitive quality. One spouse might look at the other and, based on something like their spending, feel left out of an apparently amazing life. It may look like the other is spending a fortune on what seem to be luxuries, like going for massages or buying an expensive humidor. (Meanwhile, neither one of them has reined in their spending!)
A much more simple way to get revenge is to live well and enjoy your life. The idea of living well encompasses more than just meeting the marital standard of living. It is forward-looking, previewing what you need to live well in the future. That includes physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Even though support packages are based on the standard of living during the marriage — in other words, hindsight — a lot of what we seek in support packages or equitable distribution has to do with projection into the future. Traditional “wisdom” says the best projection of the future is the past, but in a divorce, you may be doing things you’ve never done before, so the past isn’t much of a guide.
As an attorney, it is my duty to make sure a client never settles a case with terms they later regret. Invariably that leads to a feeling of betrayal, creating an environment for things like vengeance to flourish. And what the vengeful person does not release on their spouse, they release on the rest of the world.
Realistically speaking, the best revenge is getting the best deal. To ultimately live the best life, and create a support system that includes everything that you need to bolster and support yourself — whether it’s therapy, job training, education, or a new wardrobe for presenting yourself to the world.
Cheryl Stein, Esq.
The Law and Mediation Offices of Cheryl Stein
745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 500
New York, NY 10151
Phone: (646) 884-2324