I don't fault betrayed people for wanting revenge. Revenge is primal. It is the quest for vigilante justice -- a desire to make that oppressive jerk choke on some of the humiliation for once.
After you discover you've been cheated on, the thirst for revenge can transform the sanest and most mild-mannered of us. I am not a violent person. In fact I'm a pretty hippy-dippy, granola, liberal arts major. But when infidelity happened to me, I found myself channeling Chuck Norris. Suddenly, I was prone to the most gruesome fantasies. My cheating husband would lay there asleep, snoring into his pillow, and I'd imagine just gutting him like a fish. Stem to stern. These thoughts didn't even disturb me. I'd just stare at him and imagine what he'd look like disemboweled.
And here's the lunacy of infidelity -- I felt that and I still tried to reconcile with him. My emotions went from, "Don't leave me! Did I do something wrong?" to, "How could you?!" "I hate your guts! Get out!" to, "I feel nothing. I feel numb. I don't care what you do."
And when I thought of leaving him, all I could imagine was this Super Fabulous Glamorous Romance he was going to have with the other woman. I saw it as they would win and I would lose.
It took too long for it to dawn on me that I'd be much, much happier without this idiot in my life who I frequently wished dead.
Besides a strong streak of self-preservation, I'm too sensible and moralistic to have gutted him like a walleye. But I do not fault the urge for justice. What I did with all that rage and darkness instead is let it fuel me toward a new life.
I didn't want the new life at first. I was miserable that I was going have to reinvent myself all over again. But in moving forward and rebuilding my life, I learned a few lessons about revenge. They may not seem as satisfying as a dramatic, karmic reckoning, but they register and reverberate in the cheater's life. And are a lot more healing for you.
1. Practice indifference. Cheaters are usually flaming narcissists. The cruelest thing you can do to a cheater is pay no attention to them. When you engage in drama, you're filling the trough with ego kibbles for them to feed. They feel central! Pretty! Fought over! If you show them your pain the only thing that registers with them is that they matter. They feed on this. When you practice indifference, it unnerves them. They usually try to up their game with either feigned "remorse," or more in-your-face antics with the affair partner to get a rise from you. (Feed me! Feed me!) Do not feed the beast. They hate this.
Also, remember, if you do something dumb but satisfying -- I know a guy that sent the other man a giant bouquet of roses for Valentine's Day with an colorful Hallmark eff off -- all you do is solidify the cheater's narrative that you are batsh*t crazy and jealous. When you don't do that? Worse, if you're all classy and business-like? The narrative can't stick.
2. Let them live with the natural consequences of their crappiness. Cheaters are really good at not taking responsibility. They pin the blame on you. They triangulate. But when you step out of the triangle of dysfunction, they have to live with themselves. Divorce, of course, sucks, especially with the financial hits and the mortification factor. But more than that, they have to either live with the crappy prize that is an affair partner, or go to the considerable trouble of finding a new sucker. It gets harder, especially when you aren't there to clean up their messes, pay the mortgage and remember their mother's birthday for them.
You might have to wait years for them to nosedive, but they will. These are people who have lousy life skills. The older they get, the less they sparkle. It becomes harder to operate on pure entitlement. And it just catches up with them -- the debt, the lack of investment in relationships, the booze. Whatever it is, chances are they aren't going to wise up, get healthy and face it. They'll use their same old crappy manipulations -- with crappy results. Only you won't be around to pin it on. Their soulmate schmoopie gets that honor.
3. Succeed. As Frank Sinatra said "The best revenge is massive success." Go be awesome. You'll enjoy that in its own right, but I promise you, it will get back to the cheater. "Bob lost 20 lbs, got promoted, and hiked across Nepal?!" That nobody, the chump they cheated on, you've got game? It will eat at their guts. I know you should practice rule one -- indifference -- but sometimes indulge in the glory that your life is sweeter without them.
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