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When He is a Cheat Revenge Seems Sweet

Teri Garr is known for her acting roles in "Tootsie" and "Friends," but one man in Hollywood will probably remember her best for the way she wields a hammer.

"My phone rings at 4:30 in the morning," says Garr, "and this woman says 'Is this Teri Garr? Because I've been sleeping with your boyfriend since August.''"

The caller had decided to spill the beans after catching the guy in bed with yet another woman.

"I went into the closet to get some of his stuff because he'd practically been living with me," says Garr. "I threw it all in a box -- I even had his baby pictures. And then for some reason I saw a hammer and I threw that in the box, too."

Enraged, Garr says she drove to her boyfriend's house in 1990 and did what many a scorned woman has only dreamed of: She smashed all his windows.

Vengeance can be appealing when a relationship ends badly. But should you indulge?

Revenge fantasies are normal, says Jeffrey Kaye, a San Francisco psychologist who specializes in couples counseling. "There is a certain element of wanting to set things right according to some universal truth -- an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But when revenge is acted out on the other person and not just fantasized about, it can be quite destructive and self-defeating."

Writer Anna Holmes encountered her share of vengeful stories while editing "Hell Hath No Fury," an anthology of women's breakup letters, but she's glad she never acted on her own payback fantasies. She recently saw fliers in Brooklyn, New York, bearing pictures of a woman's ex scrawled with "I have herpes."

"I don't think there's anything dignified about behavior like that. And you can't take back that kind of thing," Holmes says.

Some, however, find it empowering: When Mylissa, 30, of Reno, Nevada, learned that her boyfriend had been unfaithful, she rigged his phone so calls would forward to a gay-sex hotline. She cut out the pockets of his pants. Then she sneaked into his house on a hot night, turned his radiator all the way up and super-glued the switch.

"It's OK to break up. But it's not OK to string someone along and lie," said Mylissa. "I think my ex knew he deserved everything I did to him," she argued.

Men have taken their share of revenge. In 2005, a British man hung a sign over a highway telling his wife he wanted a divorce. In 2006, Nicholas Bartha, a New York City doctor, blew up his townhouse to avoid giving it to his ex after he was ordered to pay her several million dollars in their divorce case. He died from injuries caused by the blast.

But as the saying goes, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

"Women aren't afraid to go for the jugular," says Christine Gallagher, founder of RevengeLady.com and author of "The Woman's Book of Revenge: Tips on Getting Even When 'Mr. Right' Turns Out to Be All Wrong."

The book, a compilation of vengeful acts carried out by women against the men who wronged them, also includes a "Rules of Revenge" code of ethics that says the punishment should fit the crime -- and that you should never break the law.

Gallagher, who says she thinks women find revenge empowering because "they no longer feel like a foolish victim," carried out her own vengeful deed: She unscrewed the door of her cheating ex's Audi, inserted a marble in the frame, then screwed it back together. It took mechanics months to find the cause of the rattling. At last they pulled out the marble and a note: "You finally found it, you f****r."

Raoul Felder, a New York City divorce lawyer, has seen it all, from people ripping up closets of designer clothes to microwaving their spouse's pets to committing murder.

"Wanting to strike back is part of the human condition for a real or perceived wrong," he says. "But once you are possessed with these emotions, just get rid of them as quickly possible."

Whatever you do, be careful not to cross the line into illegal behavior. Leon Borstein, who does matrimonial litigation in Manhattan, says many forms of revenge could be considered criminal.

"I've heard of women cutting up men's suits and ties. That's illegal," he says. "In theory, you could go to jail, but I've never heard of anyone actually being prosecuted for that."

In divorce, vengeance often takes the form of acrimonious litigation, he says. "If one person has more money than the other, then pressing claims to the utmost is a form of revenge. It doesn't have to do with the merits of the case itself. If the difference between you and your spouse is only $5,000 or $10,000 but you're willing to spend $50,000 in legal fees in order to get that difference in money -- that's a common form of revenge," and while spiteful, it's legal, he says.

On the other hand, he says, "if you break into someone's house or car, that's breaking and entering, which is a violation of criminal law."

The law came into play when Terri Garr was in the middle of her rampage inside the house: Her terrified ex dialed the cops.

"But the policeman arrives and says, 'Oh! Ms. Garr! Are you OK?' the actress said, 'Now I am.' And I left," she says, adding that no charges were pressed. The police officer "thought I was the victim," says Garr. "And really, I was." 

Source: www.cnn.com