If you’ve stumbled upon this blog entry, you’ve more than likely made a google search seeking answers to resolve/absolve the issues brought on by the dreaded, shameful love triad known as an extramarital affair. Whether you are the ethically corrupt Jezebel, the philandering husband or the poor, sweet innocent wife/victim, an affair leaves all THREE parties (that’s right, THREE) with negative feelings that run the gamut between mild regret and self-destructive thought patterns. Hopefully, a little truth from the third party’s perspective can provide insight to all persons involved.
I’m not going to exhaust my energy discussing how an affair affects the married couple. After all, there are a zillion and one websites, books and support groups providing information on everything from why spouses cheat, all the way to repairing a marriage after the affair is over. I can almost guarantee that the other woman will never be treated as a human being with legitimate feelings when it comes to marital counseling. She is often a two-dimensional object symbolizing the emotional or physical desires of the wayward husband. At best, she is a science project, a sociology experiment merely gauging the unaddressed needs or personality flaws of the husband. Through this litmus of indiscretion, a dishonored wife can learn to understand the needs of her husband and work towards building a stronger marriage for the next twenty years.
Twenty years of rebuilding.
This means the damaged union must embark on a twenty-year journey of self and couple realization through couples counseling, workshops and individualized therapy. That’s also twenty more years of self-help authors, therapists and retreat programs staying in business through enabling many couples to tire their arms beating the same dead horse over and over again.
But what do I know? I’m no therapist. I was, however, the other woman and I am writing this for other “other women”.
First and foremost, YOU MATTER! Don’t let people gaslight you into feeling that your emotions are not legitimate. Here’s a list of truths that no one wants to acknowledge when it comes to the other woman:
- IT IS POSSIBLE FOR LOVE TO EXIST BETWEEN A MARRIED MAN AND ANOTHER WOMAN. The married woman doesn’t want to believe this because it pretty much shatters everything her marriage probably stands for. Nor does she want to believe that her husband could possibly utter those three golden words into an ear that doesn’t belong to her. The fact is, you know what you feel when you’re with him and he knows it, too. Holding hands at a café during lunch at basking in the electricity of a comfortable silence is not a moment to be discredited. There are more moments I’m sure you can think of, too. Don’t let anyone take that away from you. It was real. The wives, friends of wives and therapists will try to chalk his affair up to a mid-life crisis, insatiable libido or some other crap. The truth is, men are human and they have hearts and their hearts can sometimes be as complicated as our own.
- The downside is that even though the emotion exists, it isn’t love in action – which is where people seem to get confused. When you’re sick, he won’t be there to pick up your cold medicine from the pharmacy or make you tea with extra honey and lemon. When it snows, you’ll be the only one there to clean off your car and shovel your walk. When your father dies, you’ll be alone at the funeral. He won’t be there to hold you hand and see you through the good and the bad. He can’t. He already promised that to another woman. It sucks, but you deserve to be actively loved and not just “told” that you’re loved.
- 2. HE’S HAVING THE AFFAIR. YOU’RE IN A TOXIC, ONE-SIDED RELATIONSHIP. Let’s face it: you made no promise under God or Zeus or whatever to lead life as one with two other people. He made a vow to one woman that isn’t you. Therefore, this is his extramarital affair. You, my sister, are in a toxic relationship with a selfish jerk. You’re making yourself available 100% of the time to a man that has next to no availability. Basic things couples enjoy like an impromptu dinner and a movie, retreating to a bed and breakfast during a winter holiday or even just spooning before slumber and waking up next to your love daily are denied to you. Instead, you find yourself living for the next moment that you see him and depressed during the days, weeks or even months between those times. He has to consider the feelings of his partner and preserve his marriage, which will take up most of his time. When he does this, he places importance of another woman over you. This is not good for your self-esteem, my darling friend. When a man is loving you the right way, he will put no other woman before you. If one of your friends were going through something similar with a single guy, I’m sure you would say the same thing to her.
3. YOU’RE NOT A TRAMP. A lot of long-term affairs are not the result of a drunken fuck in a bar bathroom during the tail end of happy hour. Long-term affairs are cultivated and they start with friendship. At some point, perhaps months or years of connecting, the line is crossed emotionally. By the time many married men and other women realize they’ve hit dangerous ground, it’s usually too late to turn back. They’ve already become emotionally vested in each other to some degree. This level of friendship is hard to end because it is also hard to come by.
It’s unfortunate that the mass consensus of the “other woman” is that she’s some home-wrecking, desperate, amoral slut. Personally, I engaged in an emotional affair that didn’t involve any sex at all for almost 2 years. My assumption, again, goes back to item number one. No married woman wants to believe that her husband is capable of loving someone else. Please don’t let her fear and the support of others coddling towards her victimized role mar the unseen truth: Intimacy CAN exist between a married man and a woman without sex involved. A married man CAN make love to a woman that isn’t his wife.
4. IT’S OKAY TO BE SELF-SERVING. No one else, outside of a few amazingly non-judgmental friends, is going to lend you the support needed to get through an affair. It seems like the entire world will tell you to think of the wife and how she feels while vilifying you. Respect their marriage and be the bigger person. Guess what?
Their marriage is NOT the most important thing in YOUR world and neither are HIS feelings or HER feelings.
Once you understand this, you can start to reclaim your power. Getting out of his affair and your toxic relationship with him takes more selfishness than altruism. In retrospect, you’ve been anything but selfish. Broken dates, disappointments, spending nights alone, waiting for his call… sound familiar? While you’re crying in your Cherry Garcia, you’re also being considerate of his situation and allowing him the space he needs to maintain his marriage. Every moment that you fight the urge to send an emotionally charged email to his wife or plaster their front door with every love letter he’s ever given you proves your consideration. Bottom line, you don’t want to cause him any distress because you love him, oh, so much, right? You are considerate of his wife and her needs because he is, too. Why? While you’re looking at old pictures of him or tearfully lost in the memory of the last time you saw him, he’s off actively loving his wife. She’s getting all of the consideration, support and love she needs and more. What about you?
Face it, no one is thinking of your feelings. Now is the time to be selfish. Put on your Queen B crown and cut off anyone and everyone that can’t get with your program. You are too great of a force to be put on the back burner by any man for any woman. Besides, there is a world of men out there ready to accommodate your needs on your terms.
5. THEIR MARRIAGE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN. If you felt at all powerless before, let this be an affirmation of your Titan strength. You have turned their world upside down and they will never be able to be what they were ever again. At best, they can start fresh and try to reinvent their marriage. Nonetheless, your presence has forever shattered truths their marriage was built upon. Personally, I think those "truths" are delusions. If they carried weighted honesty, there would have never been room for an affair in the first place. These people will not have an easy road ahead of them. They might succeed. They might fail. They might learn to be honest or they might continue to lie to themselves. Either way, their outcome is no concern of yours. Hand the burden of truth over to them and move forward. The other woman has the luxury of starting fresh with newfound knowledge of herself. How awesome is that?
6. YOUR PAIN IS VALID. You are a woman. You are a human being. You are entitled to being healed from the aftermath of an affair just as much as that god-awful married couple getting everyone’s prayers. You, my sister, carry the biggest burden in this love triad. You have to find the room to heal amidst the surrounding shame that you’ve been given the responsibility of carrying. While the married man and his wife move onward in recovery, they have each other for support through a shared purpose. Their efforts to maintain strong ties with each other will be supported and applauded by their loved ones. Whereas you, my sister, will have lost your pride, chunks of self-esteem, optimism all while losing the man you loved. As they move forward towards healing, you have to get through the process of the pain of his absence. Every passing day after the affair, you wonder if he’s forgotten you. You wonder if he’s in love with her all over again. You start to question yourself and you feel another layer of your self-esteem crack off of your armor and crash to the ground. This is a dangerous time for many women left behind after the affair. Suicides, addiction and self-destructive behavior are dangerously common reactions to such heartache. Before you exit the affair, have a support network ready. Trusted friends, a therapist and a support group will help you steer towards a positive future and a healthier you. Don’t fall into the abyss of the aftermath. If that couple is permitted to move forward, so are you.
If you are still involved with a married man, I strongly recommend leaving the situation as soon as possible. The longer you hold on to him, the harder it will be to recover in the inevitable end. After a while, your self-esteem will be a foreign concept and you will rely on the inconsistent attention given by a man who will never be able to give you all that you deserve…thus, destroying your self esteem even more. He might not intentionally try to hurt you, but he will and he does. Don’t make excuses justifying why he breaks your heart and why you allow him to do so.
You can grow from the experience of being the other woman. What positive aspects have you learned about yourself? What happened in your past that left you open to receive a toxic relationship? What negative aspects have you found within yourself that you’d like to change?
We all make mistakes. We live, love, learn and grow. We are all human…no one woman is any better or any worse than any "other "woman.