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How to Get Revenge on a Cheater

After that comes judgment
Oh, and judgment will be swift
You will be eliminated
But here’s a parting gift
Oh, if you die fearin’ God
And painfully employed
No, you will not go to Heaven
You’ll go to Champaign, Illinois

Last post we discussed revenge affairs. Aside from the whole question of Are They Morally Wrong, Chump Lady rejects the idea of revenge affairs for the simple reason that — they don’t make for good revenge.

I don’t fault betrayed people for wanting revenge. Revenge is PRIMAL. It is the quest for vigilante justice –the desire to make that motherfucker choke on some of the humiliation for once.

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 revenge fantasies. My fat, hairy 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. Or with his head bashed in. Or pushed off a three-story ladder.

And here’s the lunacy of infidelity — I felt that and I STILL tried to reconcile with him. My emotions went from  — I want to KILL you! Don’t leave me. Did I do something wrong? How COULD YOU?! I HATE your GUTS. Get OUT!  — to — I feel nothing. I feel numb. I don’t care what the fuck 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 OW. 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 Midwestern to have gutted him like a walleye. But I do not fault the urge. What I did with all that rage and injustice is — I let it fuel me toward a new life.

I didn’t WANT the new life at first. I was fucking 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 violent, 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 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 from this. When you practice indifference, it unnerves them. They usually try to up their game with either “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 OM a giant bouquet of roses for Valentine’s Day with an colorful Hallmark fuck off — all you do is solidify the cheater’s narrative that you are Batshit 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 shittiness. Cheaters are really good at not taking responsibility. They pin the blame on you. They triangulate. But when you step out of the triangle (or rhombus) o’ dysfunction, they have to live with themselves. Divorce, of course, sucks. 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 crap 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. <Sputter!> “Frank lost 20 lbs, got promoted, and hiked across Nepal?!” That nobody they thought you were, the dupe they could cheat 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.



Ask Chump Lady

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  • Dear Chump Lady…. I love love love this! Couldn’t have said it better. Almost 7 years out from the day he drove his crappy car out of the driveway to move in with his girlfriend I am living a fabulous life. We are now divorced. He married her a week after the divorce was final. They have good jobs, granted they have great professional lives. But I have lost 70 pounds, moved out of the family home and purchased a little home in the city near downtown. I have found a group of great friends and started freelance writing. In January a friend and I are launching a new business and collaborating on a book. I’ve been doing all sorts of environmental advocacy which has kept me busy and in the media as a result. I am meeting people I never thought I would through this work. My kids are doing well and really don’t want much to do with him. Started dating and have a great guy with a terrific resume. Life never looked better! Oh…they have no friends and from all reports are miserable.

    • Yea you! Consider sending me your Happy on the Other Side story — I’m featuring them. Email to

      You know what my divorce lawyer used to say about people who marry “a week after the divorce is final”? They’re great for business! “I love a repeat customer.”

  • Ha…STBX will never be able to remember anyone’s birthday…except mine. I remembered everyone else’s for him but drilled mine into his brain for years. And he has never forgotten.

    Otherwise, you’re spot on as always: let them stew in their own rancid juices. Forget about them as best you can and go live a great life. Focus on your kids and yourself and one day you’ll probably meet someone great and even if you don’t you’ll be fine on your own. See your friends, make new ones, just make your life what YOU want it to be.

    Your ex? S/he will reap what has been sown. As chumplady says, it may take awhile and it may take longer than you’d like but it will happen. I don’t think I’ve seen a single cheater have it work out long term. Even one couple that’s been together for 40 years after their affair aren’t really happy: she’s spent her life worrying he’d cheat (he did a couple of times) and he still does whatever he wants while she goes along with it because she thinks she’ll lose the old goat, even now. What a fucking prize she got. Heh.

    • I don’t know of a single cheater that ended up Happily Ever After either. The stories I know where it’s years out are cheater — dies of alcoholism, is disowned by their family, is in danger of losing their home to a giant IRS tax lien…

      Cheaters just are not happy people IMO. They don’t practice gratitude. It’s about how they can game the system to get more… and more never feels like enough.

      Oh, and that’s your fault.

      • Isn’t everything our fault? We ‘made’ them cheat by somehow being inadequate, we ‘made’ them ignore their kids by ‘turning the kids against them’ (because we like fucking with our kid’s heads)…we ‘make’ them do everything that fucks up their lives.

        Sheesh…if only we would own it.

    • I KNOW this is true… But I still feel like I NEED to SEE him OBVIOUSLY bothered by something I do or say…
      I NEED to feel like I have the upper hand… Over HIS emotions… And I’m VERY emotional so it’s hard to hide what I’m feeling..
      He knows when he’s hurt me…

      • I’m so with you Kristen. Really want to show indifference and be classy about it but the rage bubbling in my soul wont be calmed right now. I hate that I can’t hide this from him ????

  • I should also add a note about why I chose this video clip. I think it nicely sums up Cheater Hell. It’s not Dante’s fiery pits, it’s not violent karmic revenge — it’s being “painfully employed” in a dull, Midwestern town — Champaign, Illinois. It’s mediocrity. It’s a great big banal spread of… ordinary. And they have to strive to even hold on to that.

  • The BEST way to deal with a cheater is to not notice them at all. My diagnosed NPD ex would get all up and torqued about this. “Don’t you DARE ignore me” was one of his favorites. Oh, and I dare. Lots.

    He’s the dog shit I have to wipe off before I come in the house.

    Got Catz.

  • Love it once again, Chump Lady.

    Especially this: “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.”

    But that’s my fault, too.

  • I’m feeling particularly bitter and angry today, you know, ups and downs blah, blah… This subject of revenge is so frustrating. I would imagine nearly every BS wants the cheater to suffer, but for me the only thing that would ever satisfy me is for her to have someone she loves and considers her best friend in the world do exactly what she did to me. Might happen, but I doubt it. She is great a being emotionally detached, so she probably will never experience that. Sure, she might regret her decision to leave my daughter and I, suffer financially, go through a slew of men, but I think it’s just as likely she might find that her new lifestyle is great, she could thrive. I have no idea, and the thought of her doing well after what she’sut us through sickens me. Guess all I can do is try to forget about her and make my life the best it can be, it just doesn’t seem like enough though.

    • I will be enough some day, Jeff. And while it might not feel like it now, your ex’s superficiality and inability to connect deeply with anyone IS her karma. You have the tools to love and connect and love again. She really doesn’t. And that is its own kind of hell.

    • Sorry people suck. Do you really think that a guy can change? My husband cheated andfor the past couple of years we have really tried to work things out but just when I think things are getting better he makes a comment about how aweful he thought I was so am I wasting my time? The only reason I have stayed is because we have 2 kids and he really tried to make it work but I wonder if it’s all a lie??? So doubtful at the moment and would love a mans perception …

  • Give it time, Jeff.

    I felt much the same way. Had to sit by and watch while my XW and her affair partner took the kids on vacations and seemed to be having a ton o f fun. Your XW sounds much like mine, a ture NPD who can discard folks.
    It’s been 6 years since my divorce and, in the last couple, things have gone really quite well for me.
    Meanwhile the affair partner is gone(she cheated on him with yet another married man) and, I can see this new guy has just about had it, too.
    One thing folks left behind by the disordered often strugle with is the fear that with the next guy or gal, things will be different.
    But, think about it. Why would it? These folks do not change.

    • I disagree. Unfortunately for those of us who’ve been cheated on or otherwise mistreated by a partner or ex, sometimes cheaters really DO change for the better with a new partner later on. Particularly if the cheater was young at the time, and still had time to grow up and emotionally mature. I’ve been on the shitty receiving end where I was mistreated and/or cheated on by a guy, and later on he grew up and treated the next few girlfriends a lot better than he ever treated me. I think this was a combination of the guy being young and immature at the time he dated me (e.g., late teens) + not being all that into me (incompatibility, lack of interest in me, never saw me to have long term potential, etc). Generally I do not think it’s likely at all that a cheater will become a changed, loyal person while staying with the very person he/she cheated on, especially if the cheating occurred more than once (serial cheating) and/or included an ongoing affair. I also do not think it’s very likely that the cheater will magically become a newly loyal partner to the very next person, or the affair partner he/she leaves you for. Usually when cheaters permanently change for the better, it occurs with a brand new partner (uninvolved and unrelated to the past cheating episode), and some time later. I’ve seen it happen before, and no it’s not fun to know that the new partner is being treated much better than I was, especially if that person seems to be putting in less effort and less tolerance with my cheater ex. I’ve seen guys string me along in a dead-end “relationship” riddled with cheating, “ghosting”/disappearing, or backpedaling…yet they go on to propose, marry, and procreate with someone else only a few years after stringing me along. I’ve seen guys cheat on me, and then end up with someone that they are head over heels for and never end up cheating on. It sucks but it happens.

  • Earlier on, since I guess I’m still pretty early on at 2.5 months in, I had a fantasy of playing “The Most Dangerous Game” with my STBXH. I imagined getting suited up in combat gear, piloting a helicopter even, and releasing him unarmed into the wild of some remote island to be hunted down by me. Of course there was a soundtrack of The Ride of the Valkyries that accompanied the endeavour. It was a very comforting fantasy.

  • I have to say that I’m getting quite a bit of satisfaction out of the fact that I’m already living better than the ex, and he’s already paying the consequences of his cheating.
    He’s stuck w/the OW, who doesn’t come up to my shins in many ways. And lives in another city and has refused to move here (and I think also refused to have him move there – I get the impression there’s an alimony situation that might end if she’s living w/someone), so he’s in chronically short supply of ego kibbles.
    He’s too big a coward to go after a more satisfying relationship.
    All our friends have ostracized him, entirely spontaneously. (He didn’t have any of his own, so I guess that leaves him … alone except for the OW.)
    His own family has ostracized him (the 3 siblings already weren’t crazy about him, I should have seen that sign!), except for his mom, who is so upset by the divorce that she makes him feel like shit every time he talks to her. So he hardly ever talks to her – out one more source of ego kibbles!
    He’s not satisfied w/his job – again! (We have a common e-mail for kid issues, he’s using that to apply to new jobs …. such a moron!) And this time there’s no one to support him financially if he decides to ‘do consulting’ (oh those gaps between contracts!) or be such a jerk that he loses one job before he’s got the next.
    He’s gained a significant spare tire around his middle. Don’t know if it’s too much food or too much booze or both, but it definitely reduces his sparkliness.
    The kids (early teens) have decided that 2 evenings a week and Sat morning to Sun evening every two weeks is PLENTY to see him, and they drag their feet even on that. He has hinted around and asked for more time w/them (because HE’s lonely), but they squirm out of it every time.
    I’m taking the long-planned trip to France w/the kids this summer. They don’t want to go on vacation w/him.
    (BTW, kids don’t even know about the affair(s), all this is just reaction to his crabbiness and neglect of them in the past.)

    I know someday I won’t know or care what’s happening in his life (bc of kids I do hear/see things), and that will be a healthy thing. But right now, less than a year after discovering the 2nd affair, it ROCKS to see that his stupidity is giving stupid-fruit!

    Meanwhile, I live a much more peaceful life, don’t have to deal w/his negativity, selfishness and criticism, have lots of fun w/the kids and friends, and even get to date some interesting guys! It hurt like hell for a while there, but once I understood his true suckiness, it got so much easier.

  • “You might have to wait years for them to nosedive, but they will. ”

    Sigh, this line resonates with me right now as I am in the mix of depression, anger, resentment, and grief over being freshly discarded by a possible narc (who may have some BPD tendencies also…..I’m not sure which of the 2 he is more of). Instead of working things out as 2 adults should, he piles the blame on me, and washes himself clean of any of abuse and lies. And my gut tells me he’s got a few girls he’s kept aside for sampling when he didn’t want to make time with me. He really has no maturity or depth to understand what love, trust and friendship are all about…… I was too beaten down & weary to defend myself, so I left. He didn’t bother once to check in afterwards to see how I was doing.

    He’s doing quite well right now, with the new physique, thriving on the attentions of new women, acting like a hero at his job. I’m silently holding the broken pieces and dealing with unanswered questions. This isn’t fair at all. The grief, confusion, and anger from the hurt of being brushed away has been scarring.

    I’m doing whatever I can to regain a portion of my life lost during this period of heartbreak, but it takes special strength to not wish to detonate his after what he’s done, and his lack of caring.

    If Time and Natural Circumstances are partners in how a life is carved, then I pray that mine will improve…and he learns some serious grand lessons along the way without my involvement.

  • “I’m silently holding the broken pieces and dealing with unanswered questions. This isn’t fair at all. ”

    I’ve been here too SbT, I am finding that the more time I give it, the less I care about the unfairness of it all. I am almost 11 months since I got the classic line (ILYBINILWY) and the need for revenge has also diminished with time.

    These forums at CL help a lot!!!! Thank ChumpLady.

    • Thanks for your reply, Rio72.

      It’s just so hard right now trying to redirect the anger towards something positive solely for myself when all I want is for him to get a nasty testicular disease, or crash face-first into a brick wall and ruin that fake smile he gives when he is manipulating what he wants — but life right now is roses for him (no remorse).

      It seems for many here in Chump Nation, most have had to resign to letting Time handle it, and maintain their own health and well-being for the sake of their children, or sanity. But it is also interesting to read how the other side has fared, if the culprit were oh-so-thrilled with their new-found freedom after ruining someone’s life in the process. There is definitely a sense of just dessert served somewhere somehow, if Karma does step forward. I’m working on healing myself while waiting quietly in the shadows for surprise news to come…..whenever/however it may.

  • Chump Lady, I find it ironic that you would end this blog entry with a quote from Frank Sinatra, who was not only a serial cheater but someone who had a Madonna-whore complex…which means he was likely withholding physical intimacy. to at least some extent, from his wife while he was banging other chicks. SMFH.

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