What happens when staying in the marriage has become a grudge match between the parties? What happens when all that is left between the couple is their battle of wills, to see who will cry uncle first? What happens when divorce is not an option because divorce means capitulation to the other side?
Each party is engaged in a strategy of exhibiting as much cruelty, of exacting as much punishment as can be levied to force the other party to wither and die in some fashion. And the other party is just as entrenched, just as committed to the game to the finish, the game of chicken where, so far, no one is blinking.
This is the War of the Roses scenario, played out in real life. Pity the poor dog. Anything and everything is fair game. No prisoners will be taken. Only the casualties of battles strewn about the field offer testament to the daily slaughter of anything and everything that is fodder for their toxic relationship.
How do people get like this? I think it builds slowly over time. One transgression begets another. It is living the old testament addage of an eye for an eye. Soon the mutually traded smaller affronts becomes the larger affront and larger still until the couple have no boundaries and no shame in the lengths they will go to to “get” the other, to hurt the other, to harm the other.
And the funny thing is, neither person is probably really like this. They once were nice people. They once not only loved each other but had a decent respect for decency and never thought they would cooperate and contribute to such a mutual enmity society.
It’s ugly, but it is their battle of wills. Who will win? Who will blink? Who will tag out, run crying, quit? Who will be first to have had enough?
Sometimes I get to meet that person who is first to escape, to begin to realize that they don’t know who they have become and they don’t know how their relationship got this bad. But they do know that they don’t want to act that way anymore. And they know that blinking in the game of wills is the first step toward not participating in the otherwise inevitable crash that will leave both parties dead, figuratively or, sometimes literally. They have come to realize that, through divorce, they no longer have to play the game. No winners. No losers. Match over.