The Lesson of Anna Karenina: Vengeance is Mine; I will Repay

One of my favorite novels, and the inspiration in both theme and plot for my second novel The Seducer, is Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina. The nineteenth-century novel explores not only the pitfalls of falling prey to a seducer, but also shows what happens when one sees vengeance as the answer to unhappiness and injustice. The epigraph of Anna Karenina reads: Vengeance is Mine; I will Repay (from Romans 12:19).

Ultimately, the heroine, Anna sacrifices her family, her son, her reputation to pursue the fantasy of happiness with her lover, Vronsky. She ends up unhappy, rejected by her family and social circle and alone with a man who quickly loses interest in her. Unlike the lead character, Michael, in my novel The Seducer, however, Vronsky is not a psychopathic predator. He’s more of a dandy; today we’d say a player. He doesn’t cause deliberate damage and has no malice towards Anna, as a psychopath would. However, like his mistress Anna, Vronsky can’t think a step ahead of his momentary passions and pleasures. In committing suicide, Anna believes she can make Vronsky pay for the unhappiness he has caused her. Not being psychopathic, Vronsky does suffer, but not as much as Anna’s family: especially the young son she has abandoned. Vengeance is not the answer for Anna Karenina, and it’s even less so the answer for victims of psychopaths.

As we’ve seen, psychopaths cause deliberate harm. They’re malicious social predators who target their victims in order to use, humiliate and destroy them. While Vronsky greets Anna’s death with sadness and even anger, a psychopathic seducer would experience glee and triumph at such news. He’d feel like he has won the match in completely obliterating his victim. Just as  suicide is not an answer, no act of vengeance is either. Psychopaths thrive in skirmishes, battles and all-out wars with their former victims. For instance, they enjoy drawn-out custody battles  and use their children as weapons against their ex-spouses or as leverage to get financial support. We have heard several heart-wrenching testimonials about such situations on this blog. Some victims lose, unjustly, all custody and visitation rights to see the children they love.

In these cases, it’s difficult for victims not to feel resentful and filled with thoughts of vengeance. It’s difficult to resist the impulse to seek justice and get involved in lengthy court battles with a disordered ex. Similarly, victims who have been conned out of a significant amount of money also rightfully try to retrieve their losses from the psychopath. Sometimes the efforts are successful; at other times the psychopath has money, luck or the justice system tipped in his or her favor.

One of the most painful lessons we learn in life as we mature is that life is not always fair. Victims can and should try to pursue justice and retribution against the illegal or wrong actions of the psychopath. However, when that process has run its course and failed, sometimes victims have to learn to cut their losses and abandon the fight before all of their financial resources and emotional energy are depleted in futile battles against the psychopathic ex. Don’t bang your head against a wall. Whenever possible, move forward and open the next door in life.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction


  1. Claudia

    This article is very critical in underscoring the importance and relevance as to what it means to “give up the fight”. In a relationship with a psychopath, this means letting go. It means letting go of the relationship, in a fight for the self, to start to heal from all that is lost. in the judicial system, this can mean giving up everything fought for, in order to pick up what is left of the victims to move into being survivors. The most excrutiatingly painful thing for me, is trying to assist victims who are making extremely challenging choices in order to restore what is left of themselves or to continue on in the fight, whatever that fight may entail. Some I’ve had to let go because they choose to keep fighting with the psychopath in court, or they choose to go back to the psychopath in a relationship. I understand it so well, and I can’t judge them because I’ve gone back too many times to count. Everyone hits their bottom in their own way and some hit bottom and stay there. The intentional harm that the psychopath wages upon his/her victims is unfathomable to most and is the hardest to accept so that the letting go process begins. It’s at those moments when talking to someone who is trying to make a decision, who wants to get out, but feels an addictive pull to stay, who is tired of fighting yet knows no other way after years of it, when I WISH I could take them by the hand and LEAD THEM to healing. But I can’t. Each one of their stories and their lives mean something to me. It is excrutiating to hear or see others suffering at the hands of a psychopath.

    Giving into vengeance, or a need for justice in whatever way, is giving the psychopath more BAIT. This is where understanding the concept that Sandra Brown teaches in that “they are sicker than we are smart” is to be heeded. Accepting fully that the addictive force of the psychopath is to harm others, that this is how they “survive”, and the victim will always be the mouse that the cat (psychopath) bats around mercilessly, will help the victims make choices that say their lives are as precious and important and that they deserve peace and a life free from intentional harm. Sometimes, those decisions are gut wrenching, but once made, and the healing begins, watching them walk free of the psychopath, means more to me than anything. I’m so humbled to be in a place to listen to their stories and advocate for them. Kel

  2. Kelli, I think both extremes are dangerous, as you state. Giving into a psychopath’s pressure and giving him chance after chance he or she doesn’t deserve can only lead to disaster; but not giving up and pursuing either retaliation or justice at one’s own expense can be equally devastating. The best thing one can do is let go of the pathological individual and relationship and move on. This is especially difficult to do for those who have lost relationships with their children as a result of the psychopath or who have lost a lot of money (or both). Then the stakes are high, but the risk in battling with a disordered individual to the bitter end is even higher. Claudia

  3. Claudia: Suicide would have been the ultimate rush, high and destruction for my x path to KNOW that his power and control took the life of one of his victims. It brings back something he said during one of our NC episodes way back when we started talking again he asked me why I quit talking to him and then said: I thought you must have had a breakdown of some sort and went off the deep end. Those were his exact words!! You can see the concern he really had as he NEVER ONCE tried to contact me to see if I was ok – it was I that broke the silence in the last round of NC – a year back –
    The lack of remorse in this man is so profound that he would always be waiting in the wings and take me back to give me MORE then he would sit back and probably PRAY it would drive me to suicide he would know then he accomplished what he set out to do, TOTAL and COMPLETE destruction of me. I have often wondered if any of his past victims were driven to suicide if that would have made him stop his predation of others – the answer is clear – not in the least he would be too busy making sure all his tracks were covered— that would be his only concern. Revenge is making your life better – that is what will eat at them if they saw your achievements – they will know they did not have the power and ability to destroy you and therefore they are NOTHING – “be gone before a house falls on you too”

    Its imperative to understand the mindset of “Evil” and even as difficult as it is for me to wrap my head around how these people ENJOY destroying others, I knew I had to force myself to understand why they enjoy destroying, they basically live and can only survive and thrive if they are destroying someone, they must have this in their lives at all times in some form or another. You can know the psychopath that was destroying you is also destroying others, at that given time, you were not alone. This excellent article serves to remind us we must fight to rise above this evil and recognize them for what they were; evil and sick x0x0 Linda

  4. Linda, you’re right, psychopathic seducers are more like Michael, the main character in my novel, The Seducer, than like Vronsky in Anna Karenina. They would be thrilled if their partners committed suicide; it would mean game over and victory for them. Same thing if they murder someone and make it look like an accident. Unlike Vronsky, psychopaths are out to use and destroy their targets.

    But what I’m also talking about in this article is Chris’s situation, if you recall, and that of many other men involved with psychopathic women: with a custody battle that has been depriving him of energy and resources and that he can’t win. The world is unjust, tipped by the courts in the psychopath’s side, so sometimes you have to accept that and rebuild your life before you’re destroyed.

    At any rate, moving on, better and stronger, is the best answer to any relationship with a psychopath. The focus can never be on the psychopath, but on what’s valuable in your life and for your life. In fact, like so many of you, I’ve reached the point of indifference towards my ex and have been focusing more and more on the positive elements of my life, like my family and artistic/literary endeavors. Claudia

  5. Claudia – Its difficult enough in a normal custody battle in its usually the mother that gets the main custody of the children, but when you are up against a psychopathic woman/mother in a custody battle I cant imagine the nightmare her pathology and disorder would bring into the battle; you are up against sheer evil; just as I have read the horror stories in divorcing these monsters be it a woman or man. My heart goes out to Chris and what this evil woman has done to his life; using the innocent children as pawns to further try and destroy him. Children are used as tools to psychopaths. It is my hope that these children will know who the parent was that truly loved them and/or the one that was even capable of love and that would be Chris x0 linda.

  6. Claudia and Linda,

    I can assure you that I believe in Chris’s strength to move beyond all of this. I believe each victim has the ability to become survivors. Claudia, I’m really glad you brought up the issue of men who have been so wounded by women psychopaths. I’m meeting more of them and what is so astounding to me, is how much more perverse they can be. The manipulation is unbelievable and society perpetuates this notion of the helpless abused woman by a man. This has been such a good experience working with the men because I’ve learned so much about how psychopathic women operate and that they KNOW how to use victim mode against the men they target, but in such evil ways, it’s shocking. It truly is. This has also been a very important lesson to me in that there are really good men in this world who love their children, who loved their partners and go through excrutiating pain, just as women do, as a result of their experiences. I realize we’ve seen this on the blog, but I’ve also had the experience of being able to talk to them privately and the stories are just nuts. Last night, there was a woman who was sharing with me a story about a psychopathic woman who BRIEFLY did business with her, in the form of purchasing of an item. This woman managed to rip her off, and when the woman sharing this with me, found out about it, she went after her for the money for the item. The psychopathic woman reported her to the better business bureau as well as to 911 FOR STALKING HER. It is amazing to me how these women turn it around!! This woman sharing with me was furious! I shared with her to do nothing more and let the loss be a loss because psychopaths feed off your reactions. Clearly because of this woman’s anger, and her wishing vengeance, it made things WORSE. It only set fire to the psychopaths ass to FURTHER destructiveness. Seeking vengeance can be very dangerous when it comes to a psychopath. They are not going to see the wrongs they’ve done, and view exposure as a narcissistic injury. She promised she would not pursue it further recognizing that what this psychopathic woman wanted was a reaction and well, it was time for this lovely person to go “grey rock” as is the term spoken in LF circles. I think if you can bring a psychopath to accountability and are sure this would be the outcome or at least that it would be in your favor, particularly with regards to child custody issues, then it’s worth the pursuit. But most of the time, it’s not. I really believe Sandra Brown’s “they are sicker than we are smart” is completely applicable in most cases and that seeking justice only leads to more injustice. Many good issues you bring forth here, Claudia. And I DO think Chris will be okay, but it’ll take some time. Kel

  7. I considered trying to destroy my psychopath socially. It would be so easy to whisper true stories in ears that would spread the message, either because they want vengeance against him too or because they simply love to gossip. I felt like I would be justified in warning other women that he is a user and abuser.

    I had to ask myself if it would be worth it and the answer was absolutely “NO”. He is far more devious than I and the retaliation would surely be more damaging than anything I could do. I would still be a part of his life in even more unhealthy ways than our original “relationship”. And frankly, he probably would have really enjoyed it and there would have been no end to all of it.

    Living a peaceful, productive life is so much more important to me now. This man has nothing and he will die never knowing that he lived a wasted life and only “won” by losing everything and everyone. That’s revenge enough.

  8. Dawn

    Beautiful post. Kel

  9. Dawn, you’ve made the right decision. The only people who stick to psychopaths are either equally evil and disordered or hurt and duped (or both, since psychopaths end up, like snakes, turning on their own accomplices). In the case of their disordered defenders and followers, I say let the poisonous snakes bite each other in their pit. Let me put it this way: not all followers and cronies of psychopaths (those who are brainwashed by them) betray the psychopath; however, it’s guaranteed that the psychopath will betray them. Psychopaths know only one love and loyalty–themselves–and worship only their own altar.

    As for their genuine victims, who don’t collude with them in harming and duping others, unfortunately there’s an endless supply of them: especially for psychopathic sex addicts, as many of our ex’s are, who consume sexual partners the way people do potato chips. It’s impossible to keep track of them, warn them, etc and counterproductive (a waste of time and energy).

    The best thing you can possibly do with your life is precisely to focus on YOUR life and all that you care about, as well as all those you care about, which definitely excludes the psychopath! Claudia

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