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Posted Sep 18 2010 8:24am

Revenge is never a good idea. Even though it seems as if your anger needs an outlet and the ONLY possible one is one with a target and the ONLY possible target is your ex or your ex’s new love. Anger and outrage are normal emotions after you have been hurt by someone or led on or lied to or cheated on etc. It’s NORMAL to feel incredibly pissed off. It’s even normal to have a revenge fantasy or two, but it’s NOT OKAY (EVER) to act on it.

Revenge will not be the thing that makes you feel better (okay, maybe for a moment). In short, it impedes our progress to act out vengefully. It impedes our progress to retaliate against someone by smearing his or her good name to all they know. It impedes our progress to stay focused on them and the dirty, rotten things we want to do to them in our anger. It’s not okay and it’s not your place to make sure something terrible happens to this person or to be the instrument to make it happen. It’s simply NOT OKAY.

I’ve said on here that living well is the best revenge. A saying that isn’t mine but has certainly been my mantra for the past 20 years. Now before I sound like I’m about to preach from the mount, let me say this: I know how attractive revenge is.

When I was married and my husband was cheating on me, I used to do things to his clothes and the dishes he cooked. Nothing terrible but it was a feeling of control even though I had none. He would only buy clothes when he was cheating so I used to loosen the threads in them so that they would “pop” when he was at work or out on a date. It was the act of a desperate person and took my mind off what he was really doing. I would salt his food that he would be bringing to a picnic with his girlfriend so that it was inedible. He was notorious for oversalting so he thought he had done it. Again, the desperate act of a desperate person.

Also, I spent the first few months after my separation absolutely horrified that my husband took up with someone else and was dragging my kids over to see her. I had revenge fantasies so vile I’ve never shared them with anyone. I did tell people that I was almost consumed with revenge fantasies and people told me it was okay to think or feel anything but not okay to act out and by talking about it, it would dissipate.

Several months later I was still angry as all get out and speaking about it to anyone who would listen. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) a man in one of my groups knew a guy who knew a guy…and the guy specialized in revenge. If you know what I mean. On many scales…large and small.

And did I want him to put his sleazy friend in touch with me. I can’t say that I immediately said no. I said I would think about it. But I eventually (a few weeks later) said no. But only after thinking about how great that would be.

And then it hit me, and hit me hard, that I was completely ON THE WRONG ROAD. It hit me that I could have ruined my life. Gone to jail or worse…who knows what? Leaving my kids without a mother and he would STILL be with the girlfriend and I’d be completely screwed. How close I came snapped me like a twig and I ran back to reality and just became very very very determined to rise above all the muck and mire I had obviously been in on some level. Maybe I had to walk that close to the edge to realize it was just LUNACY, but I walked there and then I got my act together and let me tell you, doing well IS the best revenge. My life today is INCREDIBLE and I’m happier beyond my wildest dreams, not sitting in a jail cell somewhere. Even my small scale, I can do it, revenge fantasies struck me as wrong. Just not okay.

It isn’t that revenge is wrong because it hurts someone else. It is wrong for that reason, but that’s not the primary wrong. The primary wrong is to the person so consumed with anger and rage and feelings of injustice that they want to lash out.

You lose your soul.

You lose your grace and your dignity.

You lose your ability to concentrate on what you need to do for you.

And you lose your control over your own life. Someone else is dictating what you will do. And no matter how much revenge you ever manage to wreck, they have you in their crosshairs. They control the strings and you dance like a puppet…until you’ve ruined your life and your future.


The other thing that I find disturbing is that you are with Mr. or Ms. X who cheats on you or gets a new bf/gf immediately. You go to new bf/gf’s car and key it or you do something equally obnoxious to them and not your ex. WHY?? This person doesn’t owe a shred of loyalty to you. This person scooped up your ex who allowed him or herself to be scooped up. The ex is the one you should be angry with. Don’t displace your anger and go after someone who owes you nothing. Take the focus off the new boyfriend/girlfriend thief and put it back on you.

Stories I’ve read about revenge have been disturbing and a few columnists in the NY Daily News seem to find it disturbing as well. AND there’s actually a woman who I think is a nut named Christine Gallagher who is advising women to get revenge and saying it’s therapy and “karma in this lifetime.” (I will repost my Karma article…much different than hers)

Their piece is called “The Toxic Revengers”:


Kristina Caban, 23, was understandably ticked off when Samir Sara didn’t call her after they had sex. But the hotheaded School of Visual Arts student took her vengeance too far, literally scarring her ex for life.

Caban was sentenced to five years behind bars last Friday for masterminding an assault in which she lured Sara to the Chelsea Inn and had accomplices shock him with a Taser before branding the letter “R” on his torso with a scalding piece of metal.

This twisted sister has plenty of women scorned to keep her company. Last month, New Jersey police reported a Trenton teen torched her ex’s house after hearing he took another girl to the prom. Shanta Dargbeh, 19, was locked up on $250,000 bail and hit with 10 felony charges, including aggravated arson, after leaving the family of 10 homeless.

And who could forget the Williamsburg “Herpes Avenger”? The unlucky lady contracted the STD after an unprotected one-night stand, and effectively killed the offender’s sex life in a smear campaign, after plastering the hip nabe with posters of his photo reading “I have herpes!”

The city is rife with everyday women turned vengeful vigilantes. “I freely admit that I peed on my freshman-year boyfriend’s porch after he dumped me,” says Jessica Gross, 26, associate editor of women’s gossip and entertainment blog “Women want their feelings to be heard, and a lot of guys will just dismiss them without giving them a closure conversation or letting them express their displeasure. So these women figure the only way to get a dude’s attention is to do something outlandish.”

Revenge was sweet for Lakisha Atkinson, 31, a probation officer from Newark. She baked one ex an Ex-Lax cake after she found he’d been two-timing her for more than a year. “He ate the whole thing. He thought it was delicious,” she crows, adding that he was sick for three days. “I’m sure he’ll never forget it! And that was my goal.”

“We look at revenge as sort of therapy that you can do at home,” explains Christine Gallagher, founder of ” You’re giving somebody their karma in this lifetime.”

Gallagher personally tormented one former flame by unscrewing the door panel of his prized Audi GT and putting a marble inside. The car rattled for weeks. “It drove him berserk,” she says. “He kept taking it in, and nobody could find what the problem was. Finally it was torn apart, and I’d left a little note in there saying, ‘Oh you finally found it, f-er!’”

Yet even the Revenge Lady thinks there’s a fine line between “an eye for an eye” and all-out “bunny boiler,” such as Kate Dehnel, 22, from Brooklyn, who was dumped via text message and freaked out when she saw her ex, now engaged, in a bar. “I threw a full beer bottle at him and hit him in the head to get his attention,” she says. “He tried to walk away then, so I threw another beer bottle at him and my vodka tonic before my friends got me to stop.”

Gallagher references her “Rules of Revenge” in deciding how to pay it backward. “The punishment must fit the crime,” she says. You don’t go nuclear over something trivial, and obviously you don’t do anything illegal or that could hurt someone. “That’s crazy, because you’ll just cause trouble for yourself.”

Some contend that revenge is never okay, no matter how heinous the crime may seem. “It’s never justified!” exclaims psychologist Cooper Lawrence. “It feels good in the moment, but when you have a chance to really think about it in the long run, not only do you always regret it and realize what a stupid move it was, but now you become the psycho ex-girlfriend.”

Lawrence recommends taking a step back and confiding in your friends before doing something drastic. “You have to really think about how this is going to look to other people in a year from now,” she says. “Do I want this to be my legacy?”


I’m sure you can guess that I absolutely agree with Cooper Lawrence and think that Gallagher’s advice is dangerous and stupid.

The idea of bashing someone’s car because they cheated (Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood) or branding someone or even putting a marble in a car are just complete wastes of time that are better spent using the energy to HEAL.

In my opinion, Ms. Revenge Lady is a nut spreading DANGEROUS DANGEROUS messages and could possibly be culpable if something bad really happens.

People who are angry enough to seek revenge are usually too angry to figure out how much or how little. People who ARE capable of cold and calculated “just enough” revenge may be a lot pathological and maybe a bit sociopathic.

Most of my readers and students are not in revenge mode. And I’m glad to report that. But I read this article and it really bothered me.

Revenge is not worth ANYTHING. It isn’t worth your time, your energy and your focus.

Your time and energy and focus belongs on YOU and YOUR healing.

Living well IS the best revenge.

Copyright Susan J. Elliott 2010 All Rights Reserved

  1. roadrunner47:
    Thank you Susan. This post speaks to me. I did entertain thoughts about revenge. I never wanted to go after a woman my ex left me for; I wanted him hurting. And I must admit that my revenge plans were exactly what you called "cold and calculated, "just enough" revenge". I knew that he was all about money; that he was in a difficult financial situation and had very few life-lines. I was thinking about cutting off a couple of these life-lines but smartly, staying behind the scenes. Maybe I am a bit sociopathic at the end? (LOL) Wake up call came one day when I realized that I spent most of the weekend doing nothing but planning revenge. The BH was ruling my life. And THAT I simply could not afford.
  2. joyfulnow:
    Amen. Can’t think of a single example where someone exacting revenge didn’t look like a complete bunny-boiling lunatic. Even when what the ex did was heinous, that’s all erased when the other commits some sort of crazy act of retaliation. If nothing else stops someone from acting out, remember that people will now think you’re the lunatic, not the ex, even if they were sympathetic towards you before. Love the public cases of break-up dignity. I’m thinking of Sandra Bullock. Love how she didn’t comment. Just got her divorce and moved on. Of course, we have no idea what she went through privately but publicly she showed real class. Her revenge was simply that her husband looked like complete dirtbag in comparison. If you feel the need for revenge, let that urge be a reminder of how grateful you should be to not be with someone who acts so poorly they inspire vengeance. If you feel the need for revenge, remind yourself that revenge is attention and better to avenge yourself by showing the world that this person is not worth your time or attention. Rising above really is great revenge.
  3. marneygirl:
    I'm dying to read the karma article. I found out yesterday that my BF was cheating on me with a girl who is a freind of a friend. I don't know her, but my friend called me yesterday and told me that she had found out about it thru a random conversation. So, needless to say, he broke up with me. My friend was insisting that I call this girl and tell her all the gory details and try and ruin things between them. But, I refused. She said "What do you have to lose now?" And I said "my dignity." I'm not going out like that. To do that would only give his crazy ass more justification that he was right in lying, cheating, and leaving. No thanks. I want to know that when I look back on this horrible situation that I can say I exited it with as much dignity and grace as possible. It is strange how emotional pain like this can bring about the ability to think such awful things, and I'm not going to lie, I allowed myself to imagine what I would have said to her if I had called. But I know that in the end, they would still be together and I would just be the crazy ex that they sit around and laugh at.
  4. likestopaint:
    Wow I had no idea you could find articles like that in the paper! Just crazy. I know I felt a need for retribution during my breakup- I had a strong urge to confront the guy my ex was sleeping with. Mostly I just wanted to SEE him, to see what he looked like, but I must admit I also fantasized about beating him up :roll: . Luckily instead I just shared these feelings to my friends and family who really helped me see that this was the wrong way to go about things. To this day I never saw the guy. I also wanted to get revenge on my ex through defamation of her character. I wanted to tell everyone she knew the low down, rotten way she had behaved. I thought about posting stuff on her facebook page.. But I didn't do any of that either, everyone knew what she'd done anyway. Part of why I didn't do any of those things is because of a piece of advise a friend gave me. He said to try to think about how you'll feel about the way you acted 5 years from now. When you look back will you be able to say you acted nobly? Or are you going to feel guilt and shame? Well, I didn't want to give my ex any justifications for her actions, so I behaved as gracefully as I could. And I'm really glad that I withheld the urge for revenge. My ex had a restraining order against her previous boyfriend, and I didn't want to be in that category! Or have a criminal record. Now I feel absolutely no desire for revenge, and that's a good feeling.
  5. amireille1:
    While I have never felt the need for any sort of external revenge against my ex,I have certainly fallen into the trap of wishing him ill in his day to day life. Especially after dumping me unceremoniously, acting like I'm air from that day on, and then dating someone new only 2 months later. I have had to struggle daily not to yell at the top of my lungs about how little he deserves happiness in the wake of treating me so poorly. It is a difficult thing to stop letting myself feel like I am constantly "being punished" for his actions. I know complaining about how "unfair" this is, is another form of revenge that really just eats away at ME in the end, never touching him. He doesn't know what my thoughts are and continues to glide through life oblivious, and happy. And I am becoming unforgiving and bitter. No good. I have to constantly remind myself not to compare or compete with what he has going on, and also to find the balance between understanding I am not responsible for being happy for him, but that I walk a fine line when I allow myself a bitter pity party. Instead I should be focusing on my insecure/broken parts that get me stuck in an un-healing cycle.

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