Huffpost Divorce
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Mark Banschick, MD Headshot

When It's Too Late To Divorce

Posted: Updated:

Recently the case of a woman by the name of Selamawit Negasi's brutal murder resurfaced. The trial is ongoing. Negasi's husband himself confessed to the gruesome murder when he turned himself into the police and revealed the location of the mutilated remains. The daughter of the couple, Elan Negasi, testified that the night before the murder, her mother confided in her to tell her that she finally made an appointment with a divorce attorney, to end her 28-year marriage.

At first glance, it seems pretty easy to conjecture that the cause of the murder was a fit of uncontrollable rage. But where does rage like this come from? What brings about this all-encompassing anger?

In this extreme case, the rejection of his wife probably triggered Tsfai Negasi to attack because he felt abandoned. People like this deal with rejection by going on the offense. They are angry. They are wounded. And, unfortunately, instead of growing up and dealing with their issues, they aim to destroy what they believe is the source of their pain.

We classify people like Mr. Negasi as avengers. Revenge is a powerful motivating force that surfaces when they feel attacked. And, avengers are so damaged that they often misperceive rejection as an attack. Rejection is just rejection. It is a bad experience for anyone who has experienced it, but it is not necessarily an attack. For the avenger, however, he or she is psychologically assaulted, which triggers a fight or flight response. Tragically they choose to fight; they don't just want to yell or scream - they want to destroy.

Mild forms of the avenger are more common, but either way, this behavior is unacceptable. We see people calling Child Protective Services when they know their spouse hasn't abused the kids, calling the police when they know their ex hasn't been threatening or poisoning the children against their other parent, because they can get away with it. They feel frustrated and they attack rather than absorbing the shock, and grieving their loss.

There are many factors that can cause people to want retribution. First, the rejection of divorce can reawaken an insecure relationship as a young child. Some people have psychiatric problems that reoccur because of the stress of rejection or act out while drinking or abusing drugs. And, some people simply have few precious tools to deal with hurt, frustration or anger - violence is a fail safe of sorts. Ultimately, it all comes back to the same issue. When a person feels rejected, they take it as an attack.

So, what can you do? A successful divorce means protecting the innocence of your children. Punishing your ex for the sake of revenge will hurt your children and you may get yourself into legal trouble, or worse, for doing so.

If there is a violent trend in the relationship, in cases like the example of Ms. Negasi, it is usually a good idea to seek out professional help right at the beginning. You can tell your soon to be ex the bad news in a public place, where the immediate threat of violence is reduced. You can work with an attorney and get a restraining order or come up with other strategies to deal with the avenger's predicable anger. The key is to be realistic and hopeful that if the acute moment passes, he will refrain from doing the unthinkable.

Perhaps divorce might have been the best solution early on. As difficult as the thought of divorce is, domestic violence is always wrong. Always. No husband should ever harm his wife or vice versa.