The Best Way To Get Revenge – Without Hurting Someone

By Jon Jaehnig|Updated June 16, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Aaron Horn, LMFT

When someone hurts you, it can be natural to express yourself - possibly through some revenge. However, if the person who hurt you is close to you, you don't want to do anything drastic. Even if they aren't close to you, you shouldn't try to hurt them.

So, what's the best way to get revenge - without hurting someone?

Is This Feeling Natural?

To want revenge isn't a great reaction to being hurt or wronged, but it is natural. That's why we have so many great quotes about it: "a man with revenge in his heart must dig two graves," "eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind," pick your favorite.

Here, you'll read about some safe, healthy, and even constructive ways to "get back" at someone.

Getting Revenge - Without Hurting Anyone

When you think about "revenge," you might think about the elaborate - and sometimes deadly - revenge plots that we see in novels, on primetime real-life, true-crime documentaries, or the silver screen. However, there are ways to get revenge without doing too much damage. After all, you don't want to hurt anyone - or do so much damage that they want to get you back.

The human desire for revenge is natural and can even help us to establish boundaries in our relationships. This is best done through "giving others a taste of their own medicine." Communicate to them that something that they did hurt you by letting them know how that treatment feels.

Why Do Humans Want Revenge?

Psychologists believe that many of our emotions are evolutionary tools that helped our ancient ancestors to survive. Revenge is no different. Studying how these emotions came about and what purposes they served - or still serve - is the realm of evolutionary psychologists.

Evolutionary psychologists believe that the desire for revenge in humans was a sort of primitive desire for peace and justice. By ensuring that those who did bad things were punished, revenge may have allowed our ancient ancestors to establish some semblance of order even before establishing societies capable of things like organized law enforcement.

In fact, this attitude is still the backbone of some modern-day political philosophies, most notably anarchy. Anarchy believes that humans would be the happiest and most productive if there were no laws or governments. People who support anarchy believe that people would not carry out crimes if they knew that the victims - or their friends, family, and the general community - were free to exact retribution. As a twentieth-century writer, Alistair Crowley put it, "Let 'Do what you will be the extent of the law."

Revenge In Relationships

As alluded to above, just because something served our ancestors doesn't mean that it can't continue to serve us today. We may have society-wide laws and law enforcement, but there are some aspects of our lives that they can't - and shouldn't - extend to. One of these is a personal relationship.

If your significant other does something that you don't like or don't think is fair, who will you call? The relationship police?

Without the relationship police, primitive forms of establishing - read "exacting" - justice is sometimes our only tool for creating and maintaining boundaries in our relationships.

So, how do we use revenge to improve the relationship rather than to make ourselves feel better?

Using Revenge As A Tool

When used as an educational tool, revenge can be legitimate and useful. While we may not all be comfortable talking about revenge in this way - and most of us certainly aren't used to it - revenge can be a method of "peer-to-peer discipline." After all, we're okay with discipline - the system through which people of authority enforce societal norms. However, as mentioned above, relationships don't have people of authority.


One of these rules is a little hard to define, but it's one that we're probably all familiar with. It's often referred to as "reciprocity." Reciprocity is the idea that punishment should not be more severe than the offense. The "Western" tradition has its roots in the same "eye for an eye" biblical passage as revenge. However, it has a rich history of debate and development in philosophy and ethics. The medieval writer Augustine of Hippo even included a version in his criteria for a just war. It has since been used as an argument for and against different court sentences to respond to various crimes.

While you may not be preparing to wage war or pass sentencing on your significant other, you can still learn from the principle of reciprocity in your relationship. If you think that your significant other needs to clean up after themselves more, it wouldn't be fair to throw out all of their belongings.

Reciprocity does two things. It prevents you from going overboard, but it also prevents you from being too petty. The idea of revenge as a constructive relationship tool is to communicate your feelings more relatable. So, if your partner does something that bothers you and you retaliate through a drawn-out series of passive-aggressive microaggressions, it can hurt rather than help the situation.


Another important metric for constructive revenge is that it should be relatable to the offense. To return to the above situation, if your partner leaves their messes around, eating food that they were saving probably isn't the best way to communicate your feelings. You should find a way to relate your action to theirs.


Another helpful principle to stand by is timeliness. This means that you should voice your concerns when they happen. It can be tempting to let your grudges mount until something big happens, leading you to vent your frustration all at once -even if it means acting on things that happened ages ago. But that's not the best way to respond if you truly want someone to change their behavior.

Like relatability, timeliness helps to turn revenge from an act of catharsis to a mode of communication. Further, like reciprocity, timeliness helps to keep your response from being too extreme.

Communication, Communication, Communication

Revenge can be more satisfying than just chatting out your problems. However, revenge is a fine line, and walking it is more dangerous than just talking. Poor communication is a problem in many relationships, and it might be an underlying problem in yours too.

Getting Help

If your communication is in such a state that you've resorted to revenge over talking, it might be time to call in some help. One option is to call in a neutral third party, like another couple who seem to have things together. They can help you to establish boundaries in your relationship or suggest methods for better communication and compromise.

Another option is to look for professional help, like a relationship counselor.

Reaching Out To A Relationship Counselor

It's important not to panic. It's a common misconception that calling a relationship counselor signifies that the relationship is on its last legs. This isn't the case. Even if your relationship only has one seemingly minor problem, talking to a relationship counselor can help keep the problem escalating. In fact, some couples talk to relationship counselors when nothing is wrong to help keep things running smoothly.

Depending on where you live, you might have access to relationship counselors in your community. Then again, you might not. Or, you might have access to a local relationship counselor but not be comfortable talking to someone that they might see on the street. Even if neither of these is an obstacle, relationship counselors can be expensive, and fitting them into your schedule can be a hassle.

One solution is to reach out to a relationship counselor over the internet. Through quality platforms like Regain, you can be connected with thousands of licensed and professional relationship counselors in a more private, more convenient, and more affordable system than meeting with relationship counselors in person. Via these systems, you - with or without your partner - can communicate with a licensed and professional counselor through secure, on-site video or voice calls, chatrooms, and even messaging.

For more information on how online relationship counseling can help you and your partner, visit

Moving Forward

When you and your partner are on the same page but not reading the same line, a little revenge can help you vent your frustration while helping your partner understand what you're going through. However, if revenge is the only way that you feel you can communicate your feelings, you might have bigger problems than you know. Consider reaching out to a licensed mental health professional that can help you in your relationship today.

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