Dear Em & Lo, How Can I Get Back at My Boyfriend for Dumping Me So Cruelly?

Dear Em & Lo,

I thought my boyfriend and I had a good relationship: we lived together, I took care of him, I took care of everything.  He said no one took care of him like I did, even though he’d had plenty of women before me. I thought we were happy. But he found another girl. 

I was really upset. He didn’t respect me. Everything he’d said before about me, and our relationship, meant nothing to him now.

He still wants to keep in touch with me but I am so tired. I want to take revenge on him for all the insults he gave to me with this breakup. What can I do to give him a taste of his own medicine?

— Fury Road

Dear F.R.,

You should dream up all the creative ways you could get back at him. Putting up “Wanted” posters of him all over town that charge him with the crimes of heartbreak, stupidity and bad breath. Scrawling his phone number on every dive bar bathroom stall with the line “For a good time calll…” Leaving a flaming bag of poop on his doorstep, ringing the bell and running. The possibilities are endless.

Write down your favorites in lurid detail, describing the pain he’ll endure and the regret he’ll surely feel when he realizes how he wronged you, the only person who has ever truly loved him, the only person who ever truly will.

And then crumple those pages up, light a match, and watch them burn. Say goodbye to him forever as you watch the little ashes dance in the air and you test the batteries of your smoke detector.

Everybody wants to return the pain and humiliation of a heartless dumping by someone whom we thought loved us and whom we (thought we) loved back. You get punched in the gut, you want to punch back! But revenge is a dish best served in your fantasies. Immediately after a breakup, indulge in them, embellish them, write them down. But ultimately, you’ve got to let them go, lest you risk growing bitter, losing your dignity,  and/or becoming a stalker.

The best revenge you can have on an ex is to become a better version of yourself than you were with them. Learn from the mistakes of this relationship. Consider it a stepping stone on the way to the better relationships you deserve. Was communication a problem in this one? Then vow to work on that in your next one? Did you lose yourself in this person? Make sure you hang onto your identity the next time you start falling for someone. You can even try to be the bigger person by thanking him (in your head, let’s not go crazy here) for the good times you had together that you’ll cherish, for the bad times he caused you that will make you stronger, and even for the mistakes you made that he’s given you the chance with this breakup to acknowledge and learn from. (If your feelings are still too raw  for this kind of highly evolved spiritual stuff,  feel free to opt instead for drawing devil horns and silly mustaches on all your framed pictures of your ex.)

Figure out the practical changes you can make in your own life that will make you feel better about you, from the micro to the marcro, such as:

  • Get a new, cool haircut
  • If you’ve been wanting to lose some weight, do it!
  • Retail therapy is not a thing, unless you’ve just been dumped, so indulge.
  • Volunteer
  • Adopt a new hobby
  • Pursue old passions
  • Go back to school or take some adult ed classes
  • Proactively take the next steps to find your dream job

Basically, become the person that will make him rue the day he dumped you, should you ever randomly run into him at the grocery store a few years from now. (Please note: you should not be trying to run into him, you should not be doing these things for him, you should be doing them for yourself — his hypothetical rueing would just be icing on the cake.) For more details, see our post “10 Things That Feel Better Than Getting Revenge on an Ex.

You can certainly use all your current boiling hatred for him as fuel for pursuing these self-improvements, but only initially. As you start to grow as a person, you should feel less inclined to give a shit about this obvious loser who clearly didn’t know how good he had it. In fact, the ultimate goal should be not to care about where he is and how he’s doing — you may even wish him well one day, but you certainly won’t have the time or energy to spend wishing herpes and hemorrhoids on him. After all, you’ll have bigger and better things to concern yourself with than old what’s-his-name.

Hmmm, what is his name? Oh, can’t remember? Good! That’s the point.

Em & Lo

Writing really helps:
10 Journal Prompts to Get Over a Breakup