I know how bad you want it.
Believe me, I know.
It’s not just that they lie. It’s not just that they cheat. It’s not even that they degrade and humiliate us, purposely trying to hurt us.
It’s that they intentionally gained our trust first before doing these things.
It’s that they knowingly hurt us and looked us in the eyes while doing it.
It’s that they made us look and feel as if there is something wrong with us for feeling hurt and angry over being treated this way and make themselves out to be the victims.
It’s that they move on so quickly, completely unscathed by a relationship that left us in emotional tatters.
We’re left astounded by the magnitude of the wrongs done to us.
So is there anything we can do that can actually make them feel the consequences of their actions?
It’s one of the questions I get asked the most. So in this article, I will take a look at some of the ways that might be possible and why revenge in these ways is or isn’t a good idea.
These are all things–good, bad, and ugly–that I have either read or heard stories about partners using on narcissists, and some of them are tactics I tried to use myself in moments where I thought it might be beneficial.
I have collected these methods here all in one place and I want to go through them to get to the heart of what revenge really means when it comes to a narcissist.
Why Talk About Getting Revenge On a Narcissist?
This is obviously not just a whimsical thought. It seems to keep many people from moving on. That we can live in a world where someone can cause so much damage and “get away with it” seems so unjust. It’s hard to believe that they can just walk away from the destruction as if nothing happened and keep doing it again and again with new partners. So many people in their lives turn a blind eye and refuse to see what they’re doing, even enabling it at times and it can seem as if, just once, they should be made to feel the consequences of their actions.
It isn’t just about revenge. Vengeance just puts it in the simplest terms. If there was some way to inflict some “equivalent” damage, you think, maybe you could:
- make them have an epiphany and stop doing what they do
- ease your own suffering somewhat, if nothing else because you’d know they had stopped and wouldn’t hurt you any further
- know they wouldn’t do this to anyone else
- cause them to understand the damage they have done to you
- feel hope again that the world was fair and just (even as we know it is not)
- feel vindicated by the fact that others would have to see through their lies and finally understand what you have been through
All of this assumes, however, that a narcissist can suffer in the same ways and for the same reasons that we can and then, as a result, grow and change because of this suffering.
What Hurts a Narcissist?
As described in the narcissistic cycle of abuse, narcissists are sensitive to feeling criticized by practically everything, but what actually wounds them?
- Being exposed as frauds, that is, having their mask ripped off for others to see them as they really are
- Being humiliated
- Being manipulated and “played” (losing control)
- Being without narcissistic supply
- Being rejected
The problem with wounding a narcissist and causing a narcissistic injury, however, is that narcissists do not stay down for long.
Seeking revenge on a narcissist to do one or more of the things above should not be a decision made lightly, for it will likely bring about additional consequences on partners in response.
Let’s evaluate some potential methods of getting back at a narcissist to determine what goals would be met and how effective they would be.
Note that I’m examining these as thought exercises for the moment. I’m not endorsing that anyone should actually go out and do any of them, but in order to determine their effectiveness, it’s important to examine why people have done them in the past or might want to do them.
1. Expose Their Misdeeds
This seems like the first and most obvious way to hurt them. After all, it’s not just that it’s revenge. You’re just keeping it real. Everyone around them thinks they’re a saint, or just misunderstood. But you know the truth. They need to be stopped. Sometimes, you might even want to clear your own name.
- No one is likely to believe you and even if they do, the narcissist will soon smooth everything over.
- The narcissist can use it to make you look crazy or to justify treating you poorly.
- The best you can likely hope for is to plant seeds of doubt.
- It’s probably not as satisfying as you’d hoped and might make you feel even worse.
2. Criticize Them
Narcissists are known for being able to dish it out, but not being able to take it. Giving them a little tit for tat might actually show them what it’s like when they go around humiliating or degrading you.
You don’t have to verbally abuse them as they do you, just make comments about how the guy or girl across the room is more attractive. Or whatever they value about themselves, make an off-hand comment about how they’re not doing as well in that department as they used to. For double the fun, perhaps do it in front of one of their friends.
Since they hate being criticized and are going to get offended no matter what you do anyway, you might as well give them something to be offended about. Why play nice?
- They take many things you do as a criticism anyway and might not notice that anything has changed.
- You’re sinking to their level intentionally, not just because you’ve been provoked.
- They can use what you’ve done to play the victim to others, and because it was premeditated and intentional, now it is arguably justifiable.
3. Mock or Laugh at Them
This is similar to the previous tactic, but a little easier to claim innocence. Everyone laughs and teases others sometimes. It would be easy to accuse them of being too sensitive if they made too big of a deal out of it.
- It doesn’t matter if what you do is subtle; they are notorious for invoking double standards and will still invariably use teasing as an opportunity to turn themselves into victims.
- In addition, humiliating them is also likely to invoke hostility and unpredictable acts of rage and vengeance from them onto you. It’s dangerous to purposely cause them humiliation.
4. Treat Them How They Treat You
What are the things about how they treated you that hurt or upset you the most? The silent treatments or disappearances for days on end? Turning their backs on you when you need them the most? Making future plans with you and then carrying them out with someone else? Cheating on you or triangulating you with other love interests? Smearing you or providing information to others that they learned about you in confidence?
How about if you started to do the same things to them? Again, a little tit for tat to see how they like it.
- You’re not a narcissist or a psychopath; you have a conscience, so it’s probably a fantasy that you could keep this up for long enough to make much of a difference.
- Even if you did, the things they do are so blatant and heinous, as noted above with direct criticism, they can use what you do to make themselves into a victim to gain sympathy and support and to justify their poor treatment of you.
- Some of these things are just playing with fire and you’re going to invoke hostility from them. Yes they did these things to you and it’s not fair, but they’re mentally-disordered and unstable and that’s the point.
- It’s doubtful they would even recognize that you were treating them how you were treated to show them how it feels because they don’t have the insight to recognize that their behavior is a problem.
5. Say “No” or Blatantly Challenge What They Say
This is the sort of thing that can set off devaluation from them in the first place. You, just living your life, say to them, “No, I want to see my friends tonight. I don’t want to cancel my plans.” Or, “No, I don’t want to drive for an hour to come see you tonight. I’m really tired.” They expect to be catered to. Early in the relationship, little did you know that you simply not doing what they wanted you to do whenever they wanted you to do it meant that you were likely already injuring them and didn’t even know it.
But now you can do it on purpose just to show them they can’t control you. They hate not being in control.
- Again, because they already see many things people do as attacks, they probably wouldn’t notice that you are intentionally changing your actions to make a point.
- And, just as they do when you didn’t intentionally challenge them, they will continue to make you out to be the “bad person” and use what you do to turn themselves into victims.
6. Ignore Them When They Try to Get a Reaction
The narcissist does all kinds of things to constantly trigger you into being anxious or upset, including: calling you a name, mentioning how much better an ex was at making them feel, exploding because you took too long to text when you were out with your friends, telling you that you are a stalker because you provide proof that he or she is lying about their whereabouts the previous evening, and making a snide, cutting comment under his or her breath but where your mutual friends cannot overhear while the two of you are out about something that they know will hurt you.
Usually, you would respond with anger or outrage at this mistreatment. Instead, perhaps, you smile in amusement, maybe give a little shake of your head and walk away. Or cock your head and squint as if what was said did not make any sense. Or move away and begin speaking to someone else as if nothing was said at all.
- The narcissist might try harder at first to get a reaction from you; in other words, you might have to endure more abuse.
- The narcissist is not likely to even recognize this as revenge or a reaction to anything he or she did.
7. Leave Them For Someone Else and Let Them Know About It
One of the things narcissists hate most is feeling replaceable– ironic, since they use people solely to prop up their own egos and as such treat people as if they are completely and utterly replaceable.
So you may be thinking, what better way to kill two birds with one stone: abandon them and show them what it feels like to parade someone new in their face.
- It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way. How many times did you have to reassure the narcissist that you loved him or her and they were the only person that you wanted to be with? Running off with someone else won’t convey that you are getting revenge, it will confirm what they already believed, that they were “right about you all along.”
- Let’s be honest: it’s probably not fair to the new person in most cases to be used as “revenge” against the narcissist.
8. Walk Away and Live Your Best Life
Narcissists hate feeling invisible and worthless. Even if you react negatively to something that they do and tell them what you think about it, they still know that they matter enough to make you upset and to speak with them about it.
Therefore, although it is the most subtle statement of all in terms of direct confrontation or mentioning the narcissist’s behavior, in this method of revenge, you simply say nothing. It’s “saying no” and ignoring them rolled into one– with a permanent twist.
Why is this better than leaving for someone else? Without having to leave them for another person, you’re telling them you’re strong enough to stand on your own. Right now, they think that they have you wrapped around your finger and you can’t live without them. How about telling them you don’t need someone else as a crutch to stand on or to replace them in order to leave?
In fact, your best life may include dating many people down the road, not just settling for one as soon as possible. You’re not like them. You don’t have to swing from vine to vine just to avoid being alone.
Your best life, in other words, is anything without them in it and that’s all they need to know.
- It’s the hardest thing to do while we are still in love with the narcissist.
- It can be the least satisfying because we don’t get to witness all of the effects it has.
Examining these eight possible methods of revenge, the following statements seem clear:
- In order for something to be viewed as “revenge,” someone has to understand that they did something to warrant revenge in the first place. Narcissists don’t view their behavior as the problem. This is why so many of these methods backfire or cause more issues.
- None of the methods will provoke an epiphany from the narcissist about how they have been treating you and cause him or her to change and start to treat you better or even provide a sincere acknowledgment of the damage done.
- Because narcissists are eternal victims, they will view you as the attacker if you do many of these things, instead of viewing them as reactions to something they did.
- The fact that they will view you as the instigator means that even though it may wound them in the short-term, it will actually help the narcissist in many ways as they go get narcissistic supply from others in the form of sympathy using what you did. They can also use it to strengthen other relationships by bonding with others over what a bad person you are.
- If you are going to continue to interact with the narcissist or people that he or she knows, you can also cause yourself more harm either directly by the narcissist, or indirectly through your reputation.
- In the long-term, you won’t have wounded them at all, and may even have helped them to just keep doing what they do.
There is one of the methods that sticks out as a clear “winner.”
Out of all eight of these possible choices, walking away and living your life is the best possible way to get back at a narcissist. Therefore, if you want to take revenge, do this.
All of the other options either lead to additional pain or suffering for us or they provide more ammunition for the narcissist to use against us.
It may seem counter-intuitive because there is no big confrontation and we don’t get to see them self-destruct. If you think about what the narcissist thrives on, however, by rendering him or her invisible and giving them nothing, that’s the opposite of the drama that he or she craves.
Just by leaving we take all of our power back.
The win is truly ours because walking away shows them we no longer care about anything they have to say and they have no more control over our lives.
If you give them complete and utter silence and do everything you can to heal and become an even better person without them, it sends a message to them that they are insignificant in your life and that you don’t need them.
There is no better revenge you can get on a narcissist than that.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy the following:
- To Get Over a Narcissist You Absolutely Must Do This
- Stop Blaming Yourself! Narcissists Target Others Based on Their Good Qualities
- 9 Types of Narcissists and What They Want: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need Again
- Can Narcissists Love You? Part 1 – End the Confusion Now
- Using One of the Narcissist’s Biggest Lies Against Them
- Outsmart the Narcissist: A Guide to Breaking the Idealize-Devalue-Discard-Hoover Cycle