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The Worst Thing You Can Do to a Narcissist

I know how bad you want to get revenge. But what’s the worst thing you can do to a narcissist?

Believe me, I know. You’re wondering.

You’re probably not even a vengeful person! If you were, you probably wouldn’t be here because a narcissist would have found you an undesirable partner.

So where has all of this come from? What do you do with all of these feelings?

There’s some sort of indignity in everything you’re going through right now. So many emotions, so much loss.

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.

There may be a material loss as well, and we may be dealing with financial or legal consequences or struggling to put our lives back together after our stability has been disrupted in areas such as our housing or jobs.

Yes, I know… there’s a part of us that wants to see it all come crashing down for them. How is it possible that we gave them everything and they can walk away, not only as if it doesn’t matter, not only leaving us with so little but with so many around them not even knowing or understanding what happened?

So we are left wondering: is there any way to make them feel the consequences of their actions?

 

Why Talk About How to Get 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 feels as if there must be something you can do with all of your anger at the injustice. You want others to see through their lies and feel vindicated.

But it isn’t just about revenge.  If there was some way to inflict some “equivalent” pain, you think, maybe the narcissist would have an epiphany and stop doing what they do.

Maybe you would feel some validation that they would finally understand the pain they caused and could relax knowing they couldn’t cause you any more pain.

You could even feel relief knowing maybe they wouldn’t do this to anyone else.

Something about the thought of getting even makes you feel as if you are one step closer to getting closure.

But here’s the problem. Getting even is no easier than getting closure, because narcissists don’t suffer 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 react very strongly.

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.

revengepin

Note that I’m examining these as thought exercises. I’m not endorsing any of them or suggesting that anyone should actually go out and do them. 

The reason why is that many emotions were manufactured in us over time through the relationship, and some of these urges will stem directly from those emotions. Giving in to them might cause us to create situations that would make things worse for ourselves and play right into the hands of the narcissist.

So, by going through all of these ideas one by one, I do not suggest them seriously.

I think it’s worthwhile to think through where the urges come from, what is likely to happen, and whether or not they are good ideas.

Only then can we reject them and understand that there is vengeance that we can take, but not in using the traps that the narcissist has laid for us.  

 

Reactive Methods of Vengeance

These methods are highly rooted in emotion. They are likely to be noticed and elicit a strong and dangerous response from the narcissist. I don’t recommend them. But let’s examine them anyway as a theoretical exercise and determine what it is about them that’s so attractive and why they are unlikely to work.

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.

Cons:

You may make the narcissist angry and put yourself in danger. 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 Intentionally to Antagonize 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?

Cons:

You may have lashed out in anger at the narcissist in the past. In this case, however, you’re sinking to their level intentionally to get a reaction, not just because you’ve been provoked. 

Furthermore, they take many things you do as criticism anyway and might not notice that anything has changed. If they do, 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.

Cons:

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 When They Devalue 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. 

Cons:

They are manipulators and you’re not. 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.

Responsive Methods of Vengeance

These methods of vengeance may not look like vengeance at all. In fact, they look closer to boundary-setting. When the narcissist is behaving inappropriately or making demands, you decide you won’t deal with it anymore. To a narcissist, however, this is highly upsetting. 

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.

Cons: 

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 uses many covert acts of abuse and manipulation that individually seem minor but over time can constantly trigger you into being anxious or upset.

Examples can include 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, making a cutting comment under his or her breath but where your mutual friends cannot overhear about something that they know will hurt you.

Usually, you would respond with anger or outrage or tears 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.

Cons: 

The narcissist might try harder at first to get a reaction from you; in other words, you might have to endure more abuse.

Yet he or she is not likely to even recognize this as revenge or a reaction to anything he or she did.

7. Leave Them For Someone Else

One of the things narcissists hate most is feeling replaceable. This is 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.

Cons:

There are two ways this can go: either you will confirm that the narcissist was “right about you all along” that you were no good and would eventually just run off with someone else or they will think you’re so hung up on him or her that you had to run out and find someone else immediately to get over them.

In other words, no matter what you do, they will find a way to spin it and make it about themselves. They won’t view it as revenge, but you’ll be giving them more narcissistic supply.

 

The Worst Thing You Can Do to a 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 their 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 live apart from them?

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.

Cons:

Yes, I 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 any effect it might have. But part of what keeps us from moving forward is a need to know what the narcissist is doing and whether good things or bad things are happening in his or her life.

Free yourself of that desire to know, and you free yourself of the chains that bind you to the narcissist and “do your worst damage” at the same time. It’s ironic, but that’s the way it works.

Why Getting Back at a Narcissist in Traditional Ways Doesn’t Work

Through examining these methods of revenge, the following statements seem clear:

1. 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 usually accept responsibility for their behavior or view their behavior as problematic. This is why so many of these methods backfire or cause more issues.

2. None of the methods will provoke an epiphany from the narcissist about how they have been treating you. They don’t cause remorse, validation, acknowledgment, or change because they don’t view you as anything but an extension of them, not as an equal who is entitled to your own pain.

3. 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.

4. The fact that they will view you as the attacker means that even though it may wound them in the short-term, it will actually help the narcissist in many ways. They gain narcissistic supply from you, even if it’s negative. They may gain narcissistic supply from others in the form of sympathy by using what you did.  They can also use it to strengthen other relationships by bonding with others over what a bad person you are.

5. 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 from the narcissist, or indirectly through your reputation.

6. 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.

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.  

It’s the only way. Every serious life coach and mental health professional who understands narcissists and treats survivors will tell you the same thing.  Watch this short video from Stephanie Lyn that I hope will help to motivate you:

 


 

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.

Walking away is the worst thing you can do to a narcissist because it’s the best thing you can do for yourself.

 

Don’t forget to check out these resources:

 

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Kristen Milstead

Kristen Milstead is a narcissistic abuse survivor who has become a strong advocate for finding your unique voice and using it to help others find theirs.

28 Comments

  1. What about when children are involved? My grandchildren are 9 and 7 and the mother excessively involves herself in every conceivable way. Just constant horrible behavior while the divorce is going through. So so sad

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi Ralph: So there is a version of no-contact called “grey rock” which is more like an emotional no-contact. You give no emotional reaction and no information about yourself and you emotionally move on with your life just as you would if you would if you would never see them again. You may want to look up some articles on this to see how other people have gone about doing it. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I wish you continued strength on your recovery journey. -Kristen

  2. All I’ve learned from being married to a narcissist for almost 5 years in which I just started realizing he was a narcissist little under a year now is trying to expose them is the worst. He makes me look like I’m crazy, stupid, and horrible. For example: He has convinced me to quit multiple jobs because “it’s to stressful” ,” they treat you so bad”,”let me support the family for while.” Then turns it around that I’m crazy and stupid for quitting and how selfish I was. Wow that’s a huge slap in the face. Won’t admit he took weeks convincing me to quit. He also gets drunk every night then gets crazy on me in front of my kids saying horrible things to me and even goes as low as accusing me of cheating on him with his own brother!! I called his parents one night to get advice ohhh that backfired he then calls his parents convinced them I bought the alcohol for him and that I was cheating with his brother. There is no winning at all with a narcissist. They are horrible and manipulative it makes me go crazy. I’m married to one and currently trying to get away but scared of him.

    1. Dear sarah..
      forgive my poor english nut i can feel what are you going through..the situation is complicated due to the children..if you were alone..ou can easily leave him to win you life back..but having children with him make you obligated to stay on contact with him for the rest of ur life..even if you get divorce..narcissist person is always childish..if you play his game you will never be free..so the best thing you can do is make him feel like winning ..like you do with the kids..and play cold..intel he get’s tired..if you really scare of him that match..
      but in some point you have to face him to get out of this ****..the reason why i said that i feel you..is because i go through the same thing with my mother..and she did fight for us..and im thinkfull to her for the rest of my life for being soo brave to leave..as your kids..they will be greatfull to you..i hope happiness find you where ever you go.

      [Edited by admin]

  3. I did the same thing, Kristen. Only it was with the other woman. You’re right. It doesn’t work. Nothing does. Just to get away from it all is the answer. Completely away.

  4. I did the same thing, Kristen. Only it was with the other woman. You’re right. It doesn’t work. Nothing does. Just to get away from it all is the answer. Completely away.

  5. How do you “throw someone under the bus with love”?

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi. Others might have a different idea, but I’ll explain my version of how I feel I sort of did this. I exposed my ex by putting up E-mails and texts on Instagram that he had been writing to me after he got married asking to see me and telling me he loved me. I wanted to expose him because he was living two lives and trying to keep this a secret, pretending to be a perfect husband to everyone while telling me that he hated being married, did it only for his family, etc. So I was tired of all of it. I exposed it knowing people would see. My caption was saying that he needed to stop hurting people, and his lives need to meet and I hoped that by doing this he would change and come clean and stop lying to everyone and his wife and start over. Then I went silent. And by the way, it didn’t work. It did expose him but he didn’t change. Of course… lol

  6. How do you “throw someone under the bus with love”?

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi. Others might have a different idea, but I’ll explain my version of how I feel I sort of did this. I exposed my ex by putting up E-mails and texts on Instagram that he had been writing to me after he got married asking to see me and telling me he loved me. I wanted to expose him because he was living two lives and trying to keep this a secret, pretending to be a perfect husband to everyone while telling me that he hated being married, did it only for his family, etc. So I was tired of all of it. I exposed it knowing people would see. My caption was saying that he needed to stop hurting people, and his lives need to meet and I hoped that by doing this he would change and come clean and stop lying to everyone and his wife and start over. Then I went silent. And by the way, it didn’t work. It did expose him but he didn’t change. Of course… lol

  7. Very good post. There is one way to get back at them ‘a little’. And it is so subtle that they will have a hard time getting back at you or possing as the victim. I heard of this somewhere and it is genious. The method was called ‘Throwing him under the bus but with love.’ Even the name is so genius that it’s hard to resist.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Oh, yes, you’re right. I like how you put this. Now that I think about it, I did try this one time, and it is a little different than just straight exposure, because even though it angers the narcissist at first, it helps you avoid the smear campaign if your proof is tight. Excellent point!

  8. Very good post. There is one way to get back at them ‘a little’. And it is so subtle that they will have a hard time getting back at you or possing as the victim. I heard of this somewhere and it is genious. The method was called ‘Throwing him under the bus but with love.’ Even the name is so genius that it’s hard to resist.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Oh, yes, you’re right. I like how you put this. Now that I think about it, I did try this one time, and it is a little different than just straight exposure, because even though it angers the narcissist at first, it helps you avoid the smear campaign if your proof is tight. Excellent point!

  9. This is so complex. There’s nothing more I want then to move on without ever thinking about him but how do I do that when I’m constantly reminded. The limitations and deficits that impact every activity I do is overwhelming. Personally, I think we are getting revenge by being online exposing ourselves and sharing our true story. I haven’t been brave enough to list my last name but both of you have so we aren’t anonymous. Let’s start a movement and force society to change its views on abuse that forgives and allows these vile humans to do what they do! Just a thought.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi V! Thank you for commenting. Yes, moving on is not easy and that’s why I put it as one of the biggest “cons.” It’s the hardest thing to do when everything inside you is telling you to do something else. Just my opinion but I think that trying to do whatever we can to heal from what happened to us *is* moving on. It doesn’t mean we won’t ever be reminded as if it never happened. What happened to us will never go away, it just means we won’t be controlled by it anymore. And that’s exactly why I write too– to get my control back. So to me it isn’t about revenge or him at all. It’s about empowering myself. So maybe it’s all about in how we think about it?

      1. Absolutely! For me too. It’s about not being under his control, and able to talk about what really happened. For me, it feels good to have the muzzle off.

  10. This is so complex. There’s nothing more I want then to move on without ever thinking about him but how do I do that when I’m constantly reminded. The limitations and deficits that impact every activity I do is overwhelming. Personally, I think we are getting revenge by being online exposing ourselves and sharing our true story. I haven’t been brave enough to list my last name but both of you have so we aren’t anonymous. Let’s start a movement and force society to change its views on abuse that forgives and allows these vile humans to do what they do! Just a thought.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi V! Thank you for commenting. Yes, moving on is not easy and that’s why I put it as one of the biggest “cons.” It’s the hardest thing to do when everything inside you is telling you to do something else. Just my opinion but I think that trying to do whatever we can to heal from what happened to us *is* moving on. It doesn’t mean we won’t ever be reminded as if it never happened. What happened to us will never go away, it just means we won’t be controlled by it anymore. And that’s exactly why I write too– to get my control back. So to me it isn’t about revenge or him at all. It’s about empowering myself. So maybe it’s all about in how we think about it?

      1. Absolutely! For me too. It’s about not being under his control, and able to talk about what really happened. For me, it feels good to have the muzzle off.

  11. Basically you are saying there is absolutely NOTHING you can do but “get over it”. Getting revenge doesn’t really help you get over it. There are other ways to get over it.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Yes, I’m saying that basically the only way to get revenge is to leave. “Getting over it” is a very difficult process that I’m not trying to gloss over here, but I think you make an important point. I think sometimes we think that if we get revenge, that will help us to “move on,” but I think that trying to get revenge can do just the opposite. Not only does it not have the intended effect, we just have more fallout to deal with because we are the ones who end up hurt by it when the narcissist responds to what we did, and it just keeps us engaged with them longer.
      Thank you for your comment!

  12. Basically you are saying there is absolutely NOTHING you can do but “get over it”. Getting revenge doesn’t really help you get over it. There are other ways to get over it.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Yes, I’m saying that basically the only way to get revenge is to leave. “Getting over it” is a very difficult process that I’m not trying to gloss over here, but I think you make an important point. I think sometimes we think that if we get revenge, that will help us to “move on,” but I think that trying to get revenge can do just the opposite. Not only does it not have the intended effect, we just have more fallout to deal with because we are the ones who end up hurt by it when the narcissist responds to what we did, and it just keeps us engaged with them longer.
      Thank you for your comment!

  13. pascaleshealingjourney

    Very good post and very good advice. Taking revenge on a narcissist is pointless. They have no boundaries, so if you sink low, they will always sink lower. The only possible outcome is narcissistic rage.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Thank you and thanks for reading! Yes, you are absolutely right. That is a very good way to put it.

  14. Very good post and very good advice. Taking revenge on a narcissist is pointless. They have no boundaries, so if you sink low, they will always sink lower. The only possible outcome is narcissistic rage.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Thank you and thanks for reading! Yes, you are absolutely right. That is a very good way to put it.

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