Friday 23 February 2018

Break-up revenge: why it's the best medicine

Valentine's Day can be particularly tough for those nursing heartbreak. Getting your own back can prove cathartic, finds our reporter

Hell hath no fury: Leslie Mann teams up with her husband’s mistresses, played by Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton, to gang up on the cheater in The Other Woman
Hell hath no fury: Leslie Mann teams up with her husband’s mistresses, played by Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton, to gang up on the cheater in The Other Woman
An angry man burns a photo of his ex-girlfriend
Getting even: Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler in First Wives Club
Thelma and Louise
Death Proof

Tanya Sweeney

It's one thing being at a loose end in the run up to Valentine's Day; it's quite another to be nursing heartbreak or dealing with the sting of romantic rejection. And given that we've just passed 'Red Tuesday', the most popular day of the year to get dumped, according to research from a UK dating website, there are likely to be many getting over a break-up this week.

Proving that there's solidarity - and catharsis - in numbers, one Dublin venue will be running the perfect Valentine's Day bash for the heartsick.

Shred Your Ex, which will take place at the Liquor Rooms, Dublin (this Saturday), has been described by its organisers as a chance for scorned exes to "turn the most romantic day of the year into the most fun you've had in ages".

Certainly, what they've got planned shouldn't disappoint: bring a photo of your ex (to use as a coaster, naturally) and admission is free. Revellers can also share their stories of rejection and heartbreak, and bring along keepsakes and gifts from old relationships to swap or donate to a charity. Yet far from being a stew of rumination and humiliation, the planned vibe is positive and life-affirming.

"We've done the lovey-dovey thing, and I hate Valentine's Day myself and got to thinking, 'why does it have to be just for couples?'" says Beibhinn O'Reilly, events and music booker at the Liquor Rooms. "The one thing we don't want it to be is a night full of women scorned. Instead, it's about seeing the funny side of things. If you can push past your heartbreak, it might be a good way of working through some stuff."

On the idea of providing catharsis to Ireland's lovelorn, she adds: "It's much more freeing, and a good opportunity to start with a fresh, clean break. Usually it's best to move on and get over it, but some people are stuck on others, and they need the closure."

Post-break-up, taking the high road may be sensible, but boring. And many are in agreement that the alternative has its psychological plus points.

Tess Stimson, author of Beat The Bitch: How To Stop the Other Woman From Stealing Your Man, is one advocate of revenge. "If you're into revenge, I think it's a question of pinpointing the thing that drives him mad, even if it's something as trivial as changing the dust jackets on all his books," she says. "I think that sort of small gesture is the best type of revenge, plus it doesn't end up in court."

Elsewhere, the internet is positively teeming with hair-raising tales of the romantically spurned seeking an eye for an eye.

In 2009, an American woman famously exacted revenge on her cheating husband by hatching a plot with his three mistresses to superglue his penis to his leg. The foursome lured the cheater to a hotel, tied and blindfolded him and did the dastardly deed.

Another anonymous message-board poster writes thus: "Whenever he does something horrible or mean, I do spiteful little things he never knows about. I have scrubbed the toilet with his toothbrush, blew my nose on his pillow, stuffed his dirty socks in his pillowcase, spit in his food, flicked cigarette ashes into his coffee and even peed in his shoes. He has never known any of the evil things I have done and we've been together for eight years. I warned him early on - don't mess with me…I'm a bitch!"

Stateside, the website is a phenomenon that has attracted well over a million members. Another, (with the tagline 'Make that bitch itch') will send a vial of pubic lice on to your ex's new girlfriend.

It (almost) pales in comparison to the YouTuber, beanyneilpudsey, who took revenge on his cheating girlfriend by staging an elaborate marriage proposal before presenting her with all kinds of evidence of her infidelity; texts, Facebook messages and skimpy clothing. The 16-minute long video, posted last year, has already racked up well over a million views.

It all makes Taylor Swift's tactic of immortalizing old lovers in songs seem positively angelic.

Tony Moore, a counsellor at Relationships Ireland, can see the upside of seeking catharsis after a breakup.

"We know from evidence-based research that sharing an experience is extremely good for your emotional and mental health," he says. "Exorcising an old relationship can actually be very energising, as opposed to feeling sadness which can be immobilising.

"Anger and revenge are instinctive responses to being hurt and humiliated," he adds. "But holding on to a finished relationship is not healthy and usually means the person has not worked through the natural stages of loss... they get stuck in the 'if only' and wallow in the negatives."

Alas, the trick to moving on after your ex is to resist acting on these feelings of wanting revenge. Rather, says Moore, immerse yourself in friends and trusted ones for a good old-fashioned (and harmless) bitching session.

"You allow a sense of control to come back into your life once you have let off some steam," he says. "If we don't speak about these things, they end up running around inside our heads.

"With revenge, we feel as though we were hopefully hurting someone as much as they've hurt us. It gives us some light relief in the short term, but those who are desperate to hurt their ex-partners will find that it comes to back bite them in a very big way. It's understandable we all want revenge, but be warned; it could backfire and really crucify you down the line."

Shred Your Ex takes place at the Liquor Rooms, Wellington Quay, Dublin on Saturday. For more information see

Four of the best revenge films

Thelma and Louise

Thelma and Louise

Slighted by one controlling husband, rapists, thieves and cat-calling truckers, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon wreak vengeance on the entire gender before driving off a cliff together to escape men trying to bring them down.

The Craft

Horror films and revenge go hand-in-hand, as exhibited in this cult supernatural flick, in which the teen witches use their powers to take on the kids (and stepparents) that bullied them, before taking down one of their own.

Death Proof

Death Proof

Kurt Russell plays a psychotic stalker who slaughters young woman with his "death proof" car, but finds himself out of his depth when he tries to attack a group of stuntwomen, resulting in a stunning final battle.

First Wives Club

"Don't get mad - get everything," Ivana Trump trills in this fantastic revenge comedy, in which Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton's characters get back at their husbands, who have left them for younger woman. Divine.

Irish Independent

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