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Dear Chump Lady, Revenge is a bad idea, right?

Hey CL,

Me again. God, I am overwhelmed with wanting to send Mike’s emails to Leah. Or even just the last one. WTF is wrong with me? I’m close to 30 days in – the SECOND time around no contact (NC). Surely I should be getting past this by now shouldn’t I?

I feel like I don’t want to send them because part of me feels like it would seal the fate of any possibility for a reconciliation with Mike ever ever again. (I know, its pathetic but something I feel). My spine and my mind know perfectly well that is a complete non-starter. I grieve for what was and what might have been. I feel so sad sometimes I can’t imagine ever having felt any different….. I’m 57 as of thursday last week – how could I be here again??

I also don’t do it because what if they allied themselves with each other, and ganged up on me, and he came to her defense blah blah blah. She could probably tell me a bunch of horrible stuff about me that could only come from him. So much could backfire.

I also don’t want to do it because it is such a petty thing to do. Revenge is such a low class energy  —  on the level of cheating, maybe even lower. Surely I am better than that and have more class, don’t I?

Shouldn’t I be getting better by now? I feel absolutely consumed by wanting to hurt them. Please tell me this will go away – and that’s it better for me to just walk and let the universe handle things from here.

Isn’t it better to act from one’s better nature? I like to think I have one. Although, right at this moment, I’m not so sure.



Dear Erika,

Hey, it’s only been what — a month of no contact? You’re in the bludgeoning hope stage — pure grief. It’s sort of like having the flu. You know when you have the flu and you feel like it’s never going to end? Tissues and snot and coughing. Dragging ass. You feel so crappy that you imagine vomiting just for variety. For novelties sake. Puking would so demonstrate how exactly horrible you feel, whereas blowing your nose, not so much. You want some operatic gesture — puke — that says I SUFFER!

That’s what sending Leah those emails would do. It’s puking your pain in her direction.

Now, we could argue Leah deserves to be puked on. And we could also argue that puking your pain to Leah is pointless, she doesn’t care. But more important, puking your pain to Leah isn’t going to end the pain. That’s your struggle. (We’ll get to that in a moment.)

Part of you wants to tell Leah that Mike is a two-time manipulative cake eater by showing her those emails because you want her to have INSIGHT! Look Leah! He’s a schmuck! You think you “won” but he’s playing you!

But Leah probably doesn’t lack insight. She can probably sense that he’s shady or that he was overlapping his relationship with you. Leah doesn’t AGREE with your assessment that he’s schmuck. She thinks she did win him.

To borrow from Dr. George Simon, his little rhyme, “It’s not they don’t see — it’s that they disagree.”

It’s very helpful to ask yourself in situations — is this person truly unaware? Or do they just disagree with me? I would put my money on Leah disagrees with your assessment of Mike.

And Erika — who can blame her — because YOU don’t even agree that Mike is a schmuck! How can you convince Leah of something you yourself don’t quite believe? If you had really internalized that Mike is a toxic waste dump of human capital, you wouldn’t want him. But you do. You still hope (that damn hope, DIE hope! DIE!) that you’ll reconcile with Mike. You still at some level think he is a PRIZE.

We all read that letter, Erika — Mike is not a prize. Mike is a mindfuck.

So Erika, I think you’re just grieving. And grief is hard work. You aren’t missing Mike, you’re missing who you thought he was, what you thought your future might be as a coupled, happy person. You’re mourning the dream.

Because actual Mike? That guy is a sicko.

Erika, dream new dreams. Reinvent. It’s okay to have hope. I only want you to bludgeon all hope for Mike. Not hope for your future. I just spent the holiday weekend going to a friend’s wedding. She’s 76. The groom was 73. It was one of the happiest, most moving weddings I’ve ever been to. It’s never too late for a new beginning, Erika. Never ever.


Ask Chump Lady

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  • Grieving is very hard work.

    There were moments when I felt better by feeling awful, because I told myself that, hey, I’m working through the pain. It hurts. It’s supposed to hurt.

    Take the high road, Erika! Refuse to roll in the shit with those two. The karma bus is a-comin’ for them–but you need to get to a healthy place so you can actually pity them when they climb on board.

    Trust us all–this does get easier, especially if you don’t do something ugly that you will regret.

    Be classy, be strong. Learn to like yourself so that you project and attract GOOD PEOPLE. That takes a lot of work–it is a great endeavor. Don’t be afraid to be alone, be selfish! What do YOU want in your life, Erika? Do you want to learn to knit, to build furniture, to paint your bedroom, to take up belly dancing, to join a book club, to get a kitten? Who are you, Erika? Your affinity for a man who would humiliate you and care NOTHING for you (he’s FUCKING SOMEONE ELSE!!) says to me that you have lost yourself.

    Who is your best you? What’s on your bucket list, and how can you make it happen? You’re young now–don’t waste this time on an idiot who steals souls. You will regret it if you do, and that will be tragic. Go read about narcissists. Be rational–you know better than to have any faith whatsoever in that “man.” So start acting like it. The thing is, they deserve each other. And they are poisoning each other. Keep out of it, let them destroy each other. YOU GOT AWAY WITH YOUR LIFE, ERIKA!!!

    • Somehow I did lose myself which makes absolutely no sense at all to me. I was single (never went out with anyone) for 8 years when Mike showed up again. I liked my life, I had good friends, I was still teaching and coaching ballroom (I had retired from competing) – I grew lots of vegetables and I was still painting and doing fiberarts – i liked my life and I wasn’t even looking… – and somehow….. all that went away. How did I get here? I just feel very sad and adrift. Altho of late I’ve done some very large mosaics which turned out really beautiful. Definitely something I would not have done had I still been hanging out with Mike. I don’t think relationships work very well for me…… I think I may be one of those people who does better alone.

      • No, Erika, don’t let Mike take away your ability to be in a couple. It’s not “Mike or nothing.”

        True, better to be alone than with Mike, but don’t write off any possibility of being in a healthy relationship.

        Do take this time to figure yourself out a little and figure out what it is about yourself that made Mike ok in your book. Why did you let yourself trust him?

        You’re not ready for a relationship until you figure that out. But that doesn’t mean you’ll NEVER be in a relationship.

  • In my opinion, part of the reason, the OW doesn’t want to believe Mike is a liar and a cheat and a deceiver because likely she is one, too.

    Also, she likely has narcissistic tendencies, like most women who date married men, and thus she believes, like most OWs, that she is better than the wife.

    The very fact that she was able to lure him into infidelity and take him albeit temporarily in most cases, from the wife, proves in the realm of the OWs warped logic that she is better than the wife. Based on that logic she has convinced herself Mike would stay faithful to her.

    Alas, it doesn’t typically work that way. Both will always be paranoid of each other. Also, just like you, she will never trust Mike. The OW in my case was already jealous and suspicious of every woman my STBX talked to for business. Even the unattractive women.

    I once met a man who had cheated with a married woman and then he married her. Within six years, he too learned she was cheating on him. He was outraged, but really what did he expect.

    Being that he was once the other man dating a married women, I didn’t feel sorry for him, either. It seemed to be the perfect universal retribution.

    • Interesting points. It’s kind of funny though that OW would operate from narcissism, that sense that they are “better” than the spouse (or in this case girlfriend), when in fact to be an OW is to put yourself in a pretty pathetic position — sidedish fuck. The dirty secret. The person you don’t introduce to your family.

      Of course, that all gets dressed up as star-crossed love, or a bit of something naughty and “special.” When really it’s a desperate grab at kibbles, at attention from someone invested in not giving it to you. Not fully and not in any real sense.

      Maybe that’s why a lot of OW want to seal the deal, to topple over the wife, and make their love “real.” And of course, as you point out Sara, that usually just leaves the affair partner in the position of getting cheated on (or cheating too).

      I don’t know about this Leah. It could be that Mike has her snowed, and lied about his status and she’s in the dark. Some OW are duped. But the point at which they know, is the point at which they should run like hell.

      The cheater does a weird dance. I think Mike gets off on telling Erika just a bit about Leah and his “feelings” for her (as if sociopaths had feelings). Probably does the same to Leah about Erika. All so both of them will compete for his affections and up their game. But he runs the risk of being outed by either woman. And so I get the temptation to out him.

      But really the only winning move here is to not play the game. To walk away. And that’s very hard. For narcissists, even blowing up their world, exposing, giving them a bigger challenge to explain their way out of — is ego kibbles. It’s attention and centrality. The best thing to do is starve the beast of kibbles. To go no contact.

      That’s easier to do when you see them for who they really are and not who you hoped they would be.

      We can see the evidence, that letter which was utterly deranged, and evidence is everywhere when you’re with a disordered wing nut, you know, that they suck. The hard (embarrassing) work to do Erika is tap into that part of you that wanted to believe. It’s OKAY to want a relationship, to want to be partnered — it’s not okay to sell your soul to a narcissist to get it though. It sounds like you made your way very well single. And if you shore yourself up a bit, I bet you’d make your way well too in a healthy relationship.

      • For the record – Leah and I knew each other – we had some very “intimate” moments – friendship moments….. I’d call them – I liked her actually and I think she liked me. There was no question that she absolutely understood that Mike and I were a couple. That adds a layer of pain to this in a way I don’t understand. I felt like over time, Leah and I would be friends. But, at the time, she was involved in a long term, very abusive (mentally and physically) relationship that she was afraid to leave because she would never find anyone else. The whole neighborhood was involved in Leah’s relationship dramas – and at the time, I thought that was awfully weird. It was all about Poor Leah and how badly she was getting treated.

        But, she lives down the road from Mike, they’ve known each other for 20 years. He was working for her (building a barn) and she started fixing him lunch, making sure he had beer in her fridge, making dinner – etc etc – I knew and I tried talking to him about this stuff but he made me feel like I was being crazy and he was annoyed at having to “reassure” me. God, I’m such a fool and I just want to create pain for them like I feel pain.

        I’m sure they both feel like star crossed lovers now, how poignant and special it is that they were so close to each other for all these years and now, they are finally together.

        I get that its just about me. Its my job now and when I finally walk away emotionally, my city life is intact.

        Its just hard to imagine right now.

        • Clearly Leah is fucked up and attracted to (or attracts) users and abusers. Maybe she equates drama with love. Maybe she herself is a manipulative, messed up person. Point is — don’t be Leah. Don’t be Mike.

          These are the sorts of people that healthy people are repelled by, not attracted to. It’s easy to imagine that they’re having a lovely life fixing each other lunch, but the fact is it’s two fucked up people making sandwiches. This is not a meal you want to sit at the table for.

          Really, the best thing is to walk (run) away. You have to WILL yourself not to give this space in your head. Distract yourself, fill your life up, volunteer for something — and I promise you in TIME all the angst and pain will fade. Let good things and good people come into your life. You have to let go of the bad people and the bad energy for that to happen.

          Now I will stop speaking in New Age cliches.

          But they’re true.

          • “The fact is it’s two fucked up people making sandwiches.”

            LOL–and so true!

            One of the few funny things about a cheater leaving to be with the affair partner is how the soulmate schmoopie, Bridges-of-Bullshit-County narrative inevitably must devolve into . . . Ordinary Life. And if there’s one thing that narcissists can’t handle, it’s Ordinary Life. Like garlic to vampires, that!

  • Chump Lady, you rock in EVERY way. Your advice is always spot on. I wish Oprah still had her daily show because you would have been an excellent monthly (or…weekly!) guest!
    Keep on, keepin’ on!!!!

    • Thanks Leslie. I think I’m better in type and pen & ink cartoons than on TV (judging by my HuffPo forays into Greater Media). But it’s a very flattering thought and kind of you to say. Thank you.

  • And another thing, Mike’s ex walked away with his health insurance coverage and his daughters live in different states. Leah is a flight attendant so she can probably get him health insurance as a domestic partner (if they move in together) which they probably will as his home is so chaotic as to be almost unlivable – and, she can fly him all over the place on “buddy” passes to see his daughters. Definitely things I’m sure he’s thinking about. God, it sounds so opportunistic – but I’m sure that’s part of what’s going on – how nice to be fucking someone who’ s that useful in the bargain.

    • Not your problem, Erika. I’m sure she’s of use. As were you. Hell, anyone with a pulse is “useful” to a narcissist. It doesn’t take much to be a kibble.

    • Oh Erika, this is what I mean when I posted my post saying you’re trying to figure out the why not you. 🙁


      As CL says: not your problem. There is nothing you could make yourself into that would change the way that he treated you or make him treat you well. The thing is, you can be his fallback girl (tm Natalie Lue) and continue to lurk in the wings and wait for him to come to you when he needs a boost of ego snack, but don’t do that. Don’t. Do. That.

      Is he chosing to be with her because she is more useful? No. He is chosing her for the same reason that he chose you — because she lets him. Healthy people don’t hang out with unhealthy people. Not once they know they are unhealthy.

      Some practical advice from someone who has been there (not with my ex-spouse, but in a subsequent romantic relationship): each time that my mind went to this bad man trying to figure out why he did what he did, I forced myself to say: “Okay, what about ME is making me want to engage in thinking about this very bad guy?” Not “why didn’t he choose me? or why didn’t he treat me the way I deserve” it was: “what is there in me that agrees that it is okay for him to continue to treat me this way and engages with a person who is really treating me badly?” I did that every time I started obsessing. It really helped me refocus. Because once I got to my own “why” I just didn’t care about his.

      • Yeah Kristina, it’s those pesky little internal questions that are sooooo difficult to focus on. I am looking forward to celebrating my one year anniversary of packing my car and driving away from a VERY bad situation. I spent a lot of time wondering “how could someone who I did so much for DO THIS to me?” “What did he think was going to happen?” Why wasn’t I enough?” Then, I realized that it was easier for me to ask what was wrong with him than to look at why I stayed so long. I am not in any way responsible for his behavior, but I am responsible for mine. I realized that it doesn’t matter “why” he did what he did, but the fact that he DID do it. Granted he, and most other disordered characters, are masters at making themselves look adventuresome and romantic, passionate in the extreme. But what that all comes down to is drama. Like Erika, I was tempted to keep the drama going because I thought that was how life was lived. Erika… it’s not. What we all thought was normal is not. What we all thought was exciting is actually pathetic. Our abusive exes are pathetic people that will have to live with their manufactured drama, and are destined to repeat it with others who will inevitably go through what we are going through right now.

        I have a date tonight for the first time in years…. I’m hoping life goes on and I’m trying everyday to heal more and also, to know myself better. Erika, I’m 51, and looking forward to the rest of my life whether it is alone or with someone else. But it has taken some time……..

        Hang in there baby, we’re all behind you!

        • I so need to hear all this – and thank you for taking the time to tell me. I am grateful. You know that stuff about boiling a frog (I’m not down on frogs tho) – if you throw the frog in hot water it will jump out – but, if you put it in cold water, and then slowly turn up the heat, it will allow itself to be boiled to death – I feel like this whole thing was suddenly hot water, I honestly don’t remember the heat being turned up slowly until I was being boiled to death like up to my eyeballs in drama – if you had described me now to me 5 years ago I would have say no way, no how, NOT POSSIBLE – can’t happen…… my bad.

          • Excellent analogy! I turned into the woman I used to think… how could she let herself be treated like that? where’s her self respect?

            Surprise! It’s me. Welcome to the other side.

            The truth shall set you free.

  • Erika — I’m very sorry you’re struggling with all this. I think CL has given you really strong advice, particularly Dr. Simon’s notion that “It’s not they don’t see — it’s that they disagree.” You are trying to control them, any kind of attempt by you to interject yourself into their relationship — or whatever it is that they are doing — is simply you trying to exert control over two other adult human beings and that is just a non-starter. Honestly, I think it is a huge waste of your energy and time to be plotting revenge on them. You should invest this time in yourself.

    The truth of the matter is: it may make you feel better, in the short-term, to project your angst about yourself and your situation out onto Leah and Mike, but you will never have a satisfactory answer to “why”, which is ultimately what you’re searching for. “Why does he do this? Why does she do this? Does she know what he is doing/saying to me behind her back?” All those potential questions that may be at work in your head (either consciously or unconsciously) are really time sucks and things that are keeping you tied too closely to the dramatical situation in which you find yourself. The thing is: who can guess why these people do the things they do? Of course you could label them both as disordered or whatever, and again, if that makes you feel better temporarily then go to it. But even that is not going to really give you a satisfactory answer to why. There will never be a satisfactory answer. There just will not.

    Because really, it seems to me that many BSs who speculate about why their spouses do such things are ultimately trying to understand themselves vis-a-vis the actions of people who are betraying them. As in: Why me? Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong that this is happening to me? Why is he/she doing this to me? Is there something wrong with me that this person is doing this to me?

    The thing is, their actions are nothing to do with you. You are being hurt by them, of course, but you control that. Remove yourself from the drama, do not get sucked in. And then they can no longer actively hurt you. The best way to get free of crazy is to get free of crazy. You can never control it by getting closer in. People make that mistake so often, like “If I can just get my arms around the crazy and bring it under control…” Nope. No way. Step away from the crazy and let the crazy sort itself out. You are not needed in that situation. They are living their karma. Let them. It is their turn to try to figure out their own karma, and it is your turn to figure out yours.

    Buckle down and focus on yourself. Not to figure out what you did wrong but more focusing on what in your personality, your psyche, made you engage with a guy like Mike and makes you STILL want to engage with him. There is a reason you want to engage with someone who has treated you the way he has. As you figure that out, you will soon see that it is easier and easier to just leave them to themselves. It will take time and a concerted effort to disengage, but as you really start thinking about who you are and what you want and what you deserve, the easier it will become to stay away.

    The sooner you stop projecting onto them and start focusing on yourself, the sooner you will be able to move on from this really bad-for-you situation.

    • Kristina – all of what you say is so true. Its just so hard to wrap my brain around it. What they do now has absolutely nothing to do with me – intellectually, I know that, I really do. You know how weird it is to be so absorbed with another person and then, they’re just gone. Seems kinda impossible is all – so now I’m the one who’s crazy – trying to interject myself into something i have no control over – WTF. I get it – but the roots of crazy go deep and I’m confronting them and pulling them one by one. I’m better at it some times more than others.

  • there’s no way I’ll break NC – I learned a long time ago in my life that NC is the way to go. I also learned that avoiding TALKING to someone is critical for me because actually having to TALK to them really throws me so that has to be stopped at all costs. That’s why when Mike called me from a number I didn’t recognize and actually got me on the phone was so bad – he wanted me to TALK to him – it was really so manipulative….. beyond my comprehension to think he would do something that low……

    But for the record, to all of you, for all intents and purposes, I have walked away – all this drama is only going on at CL’s site – that’s it – I just have these episodes of absolute crazy and I feel like my heart and my mind are just breaking – like I’ve been broken – the fact notwithstanding that I’m doing this on the internet….. I’m doing it in private – with my friends and you guys –

    I will never break the NC – I know how critical that is to getting away – everything else is just between us. And all the rest of the universe reading this site. ;>)

    Thanks for all the kind words and support – Actually, I know this will pass – I remember my life before Mike….. at least I think I do. And I hope to move on, back to that, without doing anything really stupid and pathetic – like sending emails to Leah.

  • I know exactly how you feel, Erika, in wanting to confront the OW, and also to answer all the whys. I feel your pain, friend. Keep strong and classy. Keep coming to Chump Lady. And keep the focus on yourself and healing the wounds that make you vulnerable to the Mikes of this world. You will be free — and — in the end, you’ll feel better about yourself leaving the two cheaters to their own karma, which is more than a bitch or any woman scorned. 😉 As my mom used to say, the mills of the gods grind slowly, but exceedingly fine. God’s justice comes to us all, so have faith it will come to Mike and Leah.

  • You know, all this talk of NPD — and karma — reminds me of OJ Simpson…

    Classic cases of both — and irony.

    God sure does have a mighty sense of humor as well as justice…

    Have no fear, Fellow Chumps, time has a strange, but effective, way of working things out.

    • And I have to truly internalize that it doesn’t matter anyway. The only way to look at it now is to look back at it. Its just so weird that it’s here one day and gone the next. It is crazy making…… tell me again, I can handle this, I can handle this, I can handle this…..

      • Or don’t look back at it at all. Focus on yourself and what you want to do next. As Kristina is advising you, and I agree, don’t waste time trying to figure him out. He’s a mindfuck.

        Yes, of course you can handle this. He’s a waste of human space. Not worthy of your love. But that does NOT mean you are not worthy of love. You cannot give him that power, to decide how lovable and worthy you are. Consider the source! He’s a jerk! A cheater! A loon! You’re going to let that wingnut pass judgment on you? No way!

        Love yourself, Erika. And when you do, you’ll see he’s no good.

        • Somehow, memory takes care of itself over time … For me, it’s been three years … and just recently I’ve noticed how my mind, thoughts, and imagination are beginning to bloom again with something other than … IT.

          I had a mentor who used to challenge me like this: “When you’re brushing your teeth in the morning, standing in front of the bathroom mirror, say, ‘I love you.'” At first, I thought, “Pah!” — and I really *couldn’t* do it yet — profess any affection for myself. Now, 23 years later, I can … and I do. Just yesterday, I danced …and today, I went out for a long walk. The loss of my mate devastated my health, which was already compromised by chronic illness. It’s been a helluva road … and if I meet another man who catches my eye, it’ll be an eagle-eye that assesses him.

          My ex has gone through at least three women since he left me, and he’s still trolling online. I’ve not given myself to anyone, and I won’t, UNLESS.

          Here’s a link I found today that you might find of interest … although it’s specific to deserters who leave when their mate is ill, the information about NPD is very helpful. It’s not about excessive self-love … it’s about a self that is a black hole of need, *need*, NEED. My ex left when my illness was determined to be ‘unfixable.’ No cure … but healing: yes. *I* define healing, and part of it is how I learn to be as well as I can with what I live with. I’m doing it! 😀


  • Actually, the best revenge is that the cheaters end up with each other. It happened in my case after I threw my unrepentent ex out. They are now married and renting a shabby HUD foreclosure in a gang-infested suburb of an American city most known for being Nothing Speical. Their finances are tenuous, their families embarassed, and they’ve burned so many bridges that their outlook for the future is very bleak.

    Worst of all: they have each other. After both of them were married for decades to co-dependents, they’re now both shackled to someone without compassion, empathy, or the inclination to do anything for anyone other than themselves. Yea! You win!

    Oh, and they both get to worry about being cheated on. Every day. Forever.

    So, have fun with that!

    There is nothing–NOTHING–I could do to my ex or the cheating bozo who married her worse than they did to themselves.

    • Nomar:

      I feel exactly as you do. I am actually disappointed that my STBX does not want to marry the OW.

      I would love for him to end up married to the Other woman. She is a spoiled, self absorbed, never worked, never accomplished anything on her own in her life. Went straight from her adoring daddy to a wealthy husband, is addicted to plastic surgery, spa treatments and hair salons, Spends money like it grows on trees and is a major, refuses to cook or clean, is annoyed by her parental responsibilities and is a whiner and complainer, and a serial cheater.

      My STBX and the OW deserve each other.

  • I came across this site, last night, for when a guy is trying to pick you up you give out this fake number and he gets this response:

    I thought of my x who was always trolling, even with me with him because it actually works better, then your not seen as a creepy loner, and yes, the girls he flirted with loved him! And he could return later and ask them out or get their #. He always had one stable (me for a while), 2-3 in the works and 2-3 on their way out.

    I’m NC so I won’t send it, but I was sooooo tempted to send it anonymously! Instead I’ve been playing it and cracking up! It’s good to laugh!!

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