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On Life As The Other Woman

August 8, 2011

While my previous post on infidelity covered that I do not condone nonconsensual extramarital affairs because of the pain they cause for all parties involved, recent conversations with several close friends have led me to realize that my experiences as the other woman may provide a very human perspective to a role that is traditionally classified as the source of all evil. I have always been fascinated by the mentality perpetuated by women that when there is “another woman” she somehow is a husband-thieving hussy who tricked and seduced away a man and caused him to behave somehow contrary to his character and desires. It seems to me as if this shifting of the blame occurs because it is somehow easier to believe that the man succumbed to a moment of weakness than it is to admit that he made a willful decision to step outside his relationship. The truth of the matter is I have never found it to be accurate. The men I’ve known who have stepped out of their relationships only once are an extremely rare exception to the rule. Most have done it many times, they are the pursuers, they use these new and shiny women in their lives to escape whatever is negative about the relationship they are in. They want me, they need me, but they have no intention of leaving their wives. “I love her but…” they say, then tell a sad story of what is missing in the relationship. This is not to say that all of these men are predators out for the newest kill, although some are. The majority is a group of men who are hurting, lonely, trapped in relationships where they waffle back and forth on staying or leaving.

You would think that having an affair would seal the deal that a relationship is over, however I have found the opposite to be the case. In most instances, having an affair can actually prolong the marriage for months or years longer than it would have lasted if the couple’s issues were forced to a head. The other woman provides a distraction. She is fun, she brings laughter and romance and aventure and makes him feel alive and happy once again. He gets to have his cake and eat it too by maintaining a marriage that is fundamentally broken and feeling less guilty about getting his needs met elsewhere because at least everyone is now happier. He may develop great love for this other woman, dream about having her as his own forever, become jealous and possessive if anyone else tries to take her away from him. Yet, he will make no move to end the relationship he is in to pursue something legitimate with her.

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship where their partner left another person to be with him/her will tell you that it is extremely difficult to carry on that relationship. I never want to be in a relationship where someone else was left so my partner could be with me. It drags all the issues and baggage from the previous relationship into the new one and automatically sets us up for failure. You have to begin and end relationships for you or else you will find yourself always chasing the mythical happy relationship and leaving a path of destruction in your wake. You will find that while the person was wonderful when s/he was a dirty little secret, now that person displays all the characteristics of the partner you were running away from to begin with. You project onto him/her everything that you disliked before because you never dealt with it at the source.

The other woman is a human being with good, bad and ugly character traits, just like everyone else. She wants to be loved and cherished, just like everyone else. They say that you cannot help how you feel, only what you do about it. She becomes a pariah  because she chose to act on a mutual attraction with someone who was already committed elsewhere. You do not have to give her sympathy or agree with what she has done, but it does not make her anything other than another flawed human. You can never understand the position, the reasons why or how it feels unless you’ve been there.

What does it cost to be the other woman? You fall in love with a man and cannot tell a soul about it. You’ve never able to call him when you need him. You cannot go public places together and act as a couple. You cannot proudly proclaim to the world that you are happily together. You get to sit and wait for him to contact you, when he has time and can get away. You have to watch him act like a wonderful husband to another woman. You get to listen to him talk about his life as if you’re not a significant part of it. You get to lie through your teeth and say that you are just friends. You get to have him tell you how much he cares about you and never wants to lose you, then watch him go home with her. You get to suffer as one who is being mentally and emotionally abused, but you cannot tell a soul because the truth will get you crucified instead of sympathy. You get to be more alone than you could possibly imagine, but until it is harder to stay than it is to go, stay you will. You get to hear every gory detail about how terrible his relationship is and left to silently wonder that if you should ever get the chance to be something legitimate if he will just tur around and leave because it isn’t all fun and games anymore. You get to wonder if he loves you or the idea of you.

It is hard to explain that the moment he decides he wants to be with you and does something about it will become a catalyst for walking away. The longer you’ve been left waiting and always being second to someone else, the more time you have to feel insignificant and used. The more perspective you get on the other relationship, the more you wonder if once you stop being shiny and entertaining for something serious and that requires work, if he won’t just leave because you’re more like her than he thought. You dread having serious relationship conversations because you have to sensor yourself, after all, you aren’t in a real relationship. You get to wonder if and when he’ll get tired of you and do the same thing to you that he did to her. Trauma causes people to cling to those who support them through a bad time more than they would under normal circumstances. It becomes easier to walk away when he is finally leaving his wife because he will cling to you more desperately. He cannot imagine life without you, you’re his savior. In that moment it becomes abundantly clear that if you want to have something real, you are going to have to step away and give him time to end and grieve his previous relationship before he will ever be able to genuinely choose and devote himself to you. There is the conundrum. He is devastated because he feels you are abandoning him because he cannot understand what it costs you to say. Many times it takes a very long time to articulate the ideas and feelings you have, which them makes him upset because “you never said anything before”. Maybe you did say something and he didn’t listen or maybe you didn’t say anything because you didn’t know how. Really, it doesn’t matter. Turning an affair into a real relationship involves a thousand times more communication than entering into a normal relationship. There have to be no secrets, trust has to be built and reinforced constantly, you both have to be willing to compromise on things like privacy because it will take a lot of time to prove that patterns of behavior won’t be repeated. Can it work? Yes, if you are both genuinely dedicated to making it and you understand that just as he had no timeline for if/when he might leave his wife, neither will she be able to give a set timeframe for when she will be comfortable enough to declare the relationship official.

How does it feel to be the other woman? It hurts, but I love him and I would rather have him like this than not at all. So I stay. I just wish he could understand how it feels before I take away his right to have a choice to keep me.

Until Next Time,

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