There is no question that divorce is a time of stress and can bring out the worst in us for a period of time. There aren’t many people alive who don’t have the ability to respond negatively to divorce.
But sometimes the negativity and stress go beyond normal and develop into what is now being called a “malignant divorce.” It’s one way of describing a divorce that involves high-conflict and often toxic behavior. Fortunately, most divorces don’t descend into the kind of hostility and potential danger that malignant divorces do.
What Are Characteristics of a Malignant Divorce?
Hostility perhaps best defines a malignant divorce. Instead of legal negotiation when it comes to issues such as child custody and how to divide marital assets, a couple resorts to hostile confrontation. Malignant, high-conflict divorces typically involve the following personality types and the resultant behaviors which come with each:
The Victim. When one of the parties in the divorce is obsessed with the idea that they’re wronged – as well as the certainty of it – then they’re acting in the role of the victim. He or she believe that they’ve wasted years of their life being with you, or that you’re now unfit to take care of your children.
Control Freak. He or she may have been a control freak during the marriage and is now taking it to a new extreme during the divorce. He’s now planning every detail, such as documenting your incompetence, so he cannot lose in court.
Narcissist. This is a common type of behavior type when it comes to malignant divorces. The person is completely self-centered and self-serving, and even more so now during your divorce. He or she will completely dismiss your needs and all of the history of devotion and companionship you once had.
Avenger. This is the most dangerous type of participant in a malignant divorce and the behavior can be a natural extension of the traits listed above. The avenger is not just interested in winning, but is obsessed with you losing and, hopefully, losing in a miserable way.
What Else Characterizes a Malignant Divorce?
The speed at which it occurs, as well as the ferocity, are two common characteristics of a malignant divorce. What was once an ordinary, functioning couple, is now two people at each other’s throat in what seems like the blink of an eye. Resentments that have festered over the years are suddenly out in the open, and with a vengeance. Pent-up anger comes pouring out and what was once love turns quickly to hate. A person that you were once sexually attracted to now seems repulsive.
As previously mentioned, the ferocity of a malignant divorce is enough for both parties to renounce the good history they had together, including the family you nurtured, to be swept away in anger and victimization, and an obsession with being the one who ‘wins’ when the divorce goes to court. Normal communication dissolves into accusations, blames and threats. Everything, from the house, to the kids, to dividing of the assets becomes an issue.
A reasonable divorce, on the hand, occurs when the couple value what they had and mourn the loss while recognizing that the relationship has ended. But one of the ironies of divorce is that the force needed to blow apart what was a close-knit family is enough to bring on the ferocity of a malignant divorce.