Feb. 2, 2007 -- Getting revenge against an ex isn't just the stuff of movies and television dramas. Not only do many people fantasize about revenge when their relationships end, you might be shocked by just how many actually act on those fantasies.
New York divorce attorney Suzanne Bracker cautions couples about their dark impulses, but says that unfortunately, they don't always listen.
"In every single case I have my clients tell me how he or she wants to exact revenge on their ex," Bracker said.
Bracker says that both ordinary people and celebrities want revenge against their former lovers. One person who says she experienced the devastating impact of a lover's revenge is rapper Eminem's ex-wife, Kim Mathers. Recently divorced for the second time, Mathers sat down for an exclusive interview with "20/20's" JuJu Chang to set the record straight about her bad girl image and her near 20-year love-hate relationship with the rap icon.
"Money is great, but it doesn't make your husband stay at home with you," said Mathers. "Or sleep in the same bed with you … Him being on the road and on tour … that was like the big one. I mean … constant infidelities, all the time," she said.
The difficult times were a far cry from the early years of the couple's relationship. When the two first met, Mathers was 13 years old and Eminem was 15. They were two kids from troubled families who vowed to always protect each other.
"If he got kicked out, then I would walk the streets with him until he found a place to live, or if I got kicked out, he was always there for me. It was just a close connection," said Mathers.
But that connection suffered when Eminem found stardom as a rapper. When he hit, he hit big. Success transformed him into hip-hop royalty, and with fame, came trouble.
"He would constantly try to belittle me and make me think, like, I should be grateful, basically, that he was with me," said Mathers.
Through two marriages, their volatile bouts of jealousy and revenge played out under the glare of the media. Eminem pistol-whipped a man he claims was kissing his wife, and was slapped with a weapons charge. Mathers' public struggles with cocaine kept her in and out of court and rehab. And Mathers admits to having had her own affairs.
"I had low self-esteem," she said. "I just really wanted attention and love from somebody."
Couples therapist and author Terrence Real says men and women express revenge differently.
"When women do seek revenge, it is often sexual revenge. With guys, it's out-and-out harm," said Real.
'I Was Humiliated'
Mathers said she felt the most powerless in the summer of 2000, when Eminem called her a tramp in his song "Kim." The graphic and violent lyrics, which Eminem says were never intended to be taken literally, depict him pretending to kill her.
"I was embarrassed. I was humiliated. I cried," said Mathers. "This is supposed to be a man that loves me, and is supposed to protect me … from being hurt, and here he is disrespecting me in the worst way possible in front of millions of people, and in front of our kids, my family, my friends," she said.
But Mathers adds there was still more revenge to come. Soon after the song's release, she says Eminem promised her he wouldn't perform it at a hometown concert.
"And sure enough, he decided to do that song, and not only perform the song, but use blow-up dolls to re-enact … me being choked … just [doing] disrespectful things to the blow-up doll and then [throwing] the doll into the crowd," said Mathers. "Just watching everybody else singing the words and laughing, jumping around … I couldn't take it."
Mathers says that the betrayal drove her right over the edge.
"I made it home," she said, "and I went upstairs in my bathroom and I slit my wrists and ended up in the hospital."
Real says that performing the song was a clear example of an abuse of power on Eminem's part. "Well, it's saying, 'I own you, I'm lord, you have no power, and I will do with you what I what I want to with you,'" he said.
Getting Past Revenge
Real says the most important lesson is that lovers' revenge might sometimes feel good, but it's never a winning solution.
Mathers believes she is finally free from the destructive cycle of jealousy and revenge. She's now a suburban single mom, raising two daughters along with a niece and nephew, all the while working towards a career in interior design.
"I am not trying to bash Marshall or make him look bad, [I] just, you know, want people to know, I am a person, too,"said Mathers. "I am trying to move forward with my life."
Eminem provided this statement to "20/20" through a spokesperson:
"For the sake of our children that we raise together, I have made a decision to not participate in matters such as this."