Romantic Revenge Refined
But don't worry! You don't have to deny your anger, "forgive and forget," or even "live well" and leave it at that. The key is to focus not on making him feel bad, but on making yourself feel better. Try these suggestions:
- Decide whether he truly "deserves" revenge. Did he do something objectively despicable -- two-time you, lie, just stop calling after six months -- or, well, just break up with you? The latter is awful, but, alas, it's part of love life. In this case, you might try some secret, victimless revenge, like penning a viciously nasty letter -- and not mailing it. Or doing some arts and crafts: cutting your ex's head out of happy-couple photos of you two and replacing it with Brad Pitt's. Or writing your ex's name on the bottom of your shoe. "That way at least you know some sort of cosmic balance has been established," says Barreca.
- Ask yourself: Is there something I need to say to him? The urge to communicate something specific to him -- as opposed to just wanting to scream in his face -- may be what's giving you that unfinished-business feeling. If so, have a calm conversation with him (tip: calm anger is more intimidating to the listener than loud anger), or write a letter (one that you may send only after writing several revisions and checking with two friends), instead of staging a stunt.
When you communicate with him, "Emphasize your reaction -- say 'I was really hurt' -- instead of what he person did -- 'You hurt me!'", advises Charles Hill, PhD, professor of psychology at Whittier College in Whittier, California. That way, you'll know he got the message in plain English -- and you'll come across as sympathetic.
- If you're driven to hatch an actual plot -- say, intercepting his clothes at the cleaners and returning them in tatters -- run it by a friend first. If she says she'd be embarrassed or horrified (as she should by this one), stop -- and enjoy the fantasy instead.
- If you must do something, think elegant rather than destructive. "I had a garage sale and sold my ex's leather jacket -- which he'd given me as a gift -- to a friend of his, very cheap," says Bonnie, 37, of Pittsburgh. "I knew my ex would see it, and find out how much it was worth to me."
Barreca describes a woman whose husband took up with a 19-year-old -- and got the house in the divorce. Her response? She sewed dried shrimp into the curtains; her ex and his new honey tore the house and the septic system apart looking for the source of the stench. They finally had to move -- and they took the curtains with them.
- Live well -- and let him know about it. "Have a friend spread the word that you're doing great -- or be seen with someone new, even someone temporary," says Alison James. "He might not care, but it makes you feel better." (Notes Barreca: "Alumni Notes are also an excellent tool.")
Bottom line, says Dr. Hill, "Instead of thinking, 'I'll show him,' think, 'I'll show him -- that I can get along without him.'" Sooner than you think, you'll get to the sweetest revenge of all: Living well not because you're getting back at him, but because you've truly gotten your life back.