The songs and stories about the “other woman” didn’t prepare me for the reality of being one

Guest post by Liv

When I met my husband Harold, I was single and he was in a monogamous relationship. He was unhappy in his relationship, and he asked me to be the “other woman” until he could get out of his relationship and be with me. Against all my instincts, I said yes.

He introduced me to his friends, family, and girlfriend as his friend, while in private we were lovers. I fell in love while expecting that he would never leave his girlfriend. I expected to leave his life with my heart broken, with one more suitcase of damage to carry into my future.

Instead, after about a year, he and his girlfriend broke up. Harold and I dated for about a year, then we got married. Several years later, I’m happier and more in love than I have ever been. I don’t regret being the other woman, because I do believe it was the only way we could have started our relationship, but songs and stories about other women didn’t prepare me for the reality of being one.

Being the other woman is an inherently painful place. Unlike the other women in stories, I’m not evil, and I did feel guilty for hurting people… I hurt myself, Harold, and her. I had to suffer through seeing his love for her and her love for him. I had to tell everyone I was single when I was desperately in love. I had to pretend he was just a friend, and I’m not a very good actress. My acting single hurt Harold and me, and it also hurt the people who were interested in me. He was caught between two women, two loves, and that shredded him.

I’m an emotional masochist, so my pain was bearable. But I will never be pleased with the way I hurt a woman who had done nothing to deserve it. His girlfriend was a good woman who treated him well — she just wasn’t the right woman for him.

Once Harold broke up with her and started dating me, I thought the hard part was over. I thought we would be skipping-through-meadows happy. I didn’t realize that Harold still had to move on from his past relationship. All the things people do after a breakup are still necessary if you’re already in another relationship. So when she tried to get him back, I had to fight to keep him. When he cried over her, I had to comfort him. When he didn’t want to get rid of the mementos of their time together, I had to live with them. Eventually he got over their breakup and moved on, but those were horrible months to live through, and they hurt us both quite a bit.

Everyone has heard, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” Even though Harold promised he would never cheat on me, I didn’t believe him. Every time another woman called him or talked to him on Facebook, I wondered if she was the woman he would cheat on me with. That uncertainty does not make for a very stable relationship or state of mind. Combine that with the months of him getting over his ex, and I was kind of a nervous wreck for most of the beginning of our relationship.

As I said, Harold and I are happier now. We have a stable, loving relationship, and I trust him because he’s spent years proving to me that I can. Like all relationships, once you reach a happy middle, the beginning doesn’t matter as much. But it still matters. It affects our “how we met” story. It affects how long I can tell people we dated. The friends who knew us then are still in the dark, and the friends we’ve met since aren’t told the truth. I no longer worry about Harold’s ex-girlfriend, but I sometimes still dream about him going back to her.

So if anyone were to hear my story and think, “Here’s proof that sometimes cheating works out well,” they’re sort of right. I wouldn’t recommend anyone follow in my footsteps, though.

Cheaters, cheat-ees, cheated? Keeping in mind our comment policy, let’s discuss the value of the lessons you’ve learned from those experiences.

Comments on The songs and stories about the “other woman” didn’t prepare me for the reality of being one

  1. I was the other woman. He was married.

    I learned that no relationship that is founded on lies can grow into something healthy. I learned that while there are exceptions to “once a cheater, always a cheater,” genuine remorse, reconciliation, and reflection are required before a cheater can be truly self-aware and is ready for a healthy relationship.

    I learned that I am worth too much to be hidden, danced around, or explained away. And so I now have no contact with him. I spent time in therapy, found a twelve-step group, and did a lot of journaling and thinking and crying before pursuing another relationship. Now I have a healthy, monogamous relationship with my own husband.

    I still think sometimes about how it would feel if my husband had another woman on the side, and I get pangs of guilt over what I did to this man’s wife. I will never be fully free of that.

    • “I get pangs of guilt over what I did to this man’s wife.”

      Just remember that HE is the one who cheated. You didn’t do anything to her. The whole concept of the “other woman, home-wrecker, etc.” is yet another way that society shifts the blame from the deserving party, the cheater. And we tend to call a cheating man a “philander,” the root of which is “love.” These are the most common terms I hear; what other names has everyone heard?

      • While it’s true that he’s the one who cheated, it’s also true that the other woman also often (not always!) enters into these relationships knowing that someone else is going to be grievously hurt. Knowing that her actions have the potential to rip apart another relationship. So while it is the cheater who is largely at fault, that doesn’t leave the other woman as without blame.

        • Yes, that is also true. But I think the main responsibility of maintaining a relationships falls to the people IN it. You aren’t responsible for maintaining other random relationships, only your own! Potential nuance: I don’t think the reason for the blame should be what a person did to a different relationship outside themselves, I think it should be based more in the golden-rule scenario. Don’t be on the other side of cheating unless you wouldn’t mind it if someone cheated on you.

          This only applies to monogamous relationships, though. If this were an open or some sort of poly relationship I think all parties have a greater responsibility to each other.

          • I said this below, but I think it applies here as well.

            The responsibility for ending the relationship is not on the heads of the other woman/man, but the responsibility for the longterm pain and suffering caused to the other person in the relationship is at least partially theirs. They knowingly entered into a situation that has the extreme likelihood of causing MASSIVE and longterm pain to another human being. They bear that responsibility.

            And the golden rule doesn’t fit here. Just because you would be ok with someone cheating on you doesn’t mean that the other person in the relationship feels the same way and it isn’t your right to make that decision for her.

  2. This was really hard to read. Especially because it looks like she never knew. She might have suspected, but I feel really bad for the other woman in this situation. How awful to never know that the person you love, is in love with someone else. I understand your pain in this, but I don’t understand his need to take a year, and that fact that you let him. Your fears stem from the fact that you were an equal participant in the failure of his first relationship. And you wonder if the same will happen to you because you know that even though you felt guilty. You still did it. I wonder why, with all the pain you felt, and you knew you were causing, why you stayed in a relationship with a man who didn’t put you first. I am intrigued as to how it worked out? Because I would think that the minute he felt the need to ask another woman out on a date, he should have ended it with his current girlfriend. Did you ever ask him why? And did you ever think why you allowed yourself to be put second for a whole year? that would hurt my heart.

    • I also feel bad for the woman who was Harold’s girlfriend. As I said, she was a good woman who didn’t deserve what happened to her. My part in that still weighs on me and will be part of my karma for the rest of my life.

      To answer your question, I stayed because of love. I can second and third guess all the decisions I made then, but ultimately, I allowed my desire to be with Harold to dictate what decisions I made. I didn’t like being second. It did hurt my heart. But the idea of leaving him hurt my heart more, so I stayed. I wish I had a better or more noble answer, but I don’t.

      • This so many times. I don’t regret mistakes, including being a other woman also whilst married myself. However there’s no defending how toxic that is…sometimes love just had other ideas and it’s hard to stop that. It sounds so lame but for me that’s how it was.
        Sometimes writing it down and sharing like Liv has, just helps lessen the weight of the action that’s all. It’s not about seeking forgiveness or justifying, it’s about release.

  3. I was the cheater. I was married and I felt trapped with someone whom I didn’t really know and who really didn’t know me. I spent most of the relationship frustrated because I wasn’t getting what I wanted and in the end, I realized he wasn’t getting what he wanted as well. There were secrets in our relationship to begin with, by both of us. I left the relationship emotionally and a month later started seeing my best friend behind my husband’s back. Even reading this article I was in pain because those situations are hard, and the one who the cheater ultimately ends up with has the hardest time. When I left my husband in October, a month later I was contemplating going back to him. My now-fiancee had to deal with the possibility of losing me. Ultimately my husband and I just decided to go ahead with the divorce (in PA, that means a 3 month wait period).

    Some people come out of relationships knowing what they want and move on quickly. It’s never a perfect, “Let’s break up, spend 6 months getting over each other, and then find other people” It rarely happens that way and you cannot sit and judge others who have found their way to happiness. Life is complicated because humans are complicated. There is no formula to follow after a breakup. People are going to get hurt, especially if the breakup is one sided, and it doesn’t matter if there was cheating involved or not. As long as there is no leading on or other hurting being done while the breakup is happening.

    I’d also like to add that I’ve been with my best friend/fiance for over a year now and I have not cheated, nor do I want to. The “once a cheater always a cheater” is not a rule, but there are some out there who cannot be monogamous.

  4. My husband was married when we met, to his high school sweetheart. By the time I met them, they’d been having problems for years and had decided to try having an open relationship. I knew them both for months before I became involved with him. We had a large group of shared friends and all spent a lot of time together. Originally, I was asked if I was interested in being girlfriend to both of them, but I was only attracted to him. The day after he and I had our first “date”, she called me to tell me that I “can have him”. After a few weeks of him trying to make it work with her and not seeing me anymore, she moved out and they separated. He and I started dating, and eventually moved in together, though they weren’t yet divorced. I had to hide the relationship from social media for months, and my family still doesn’t really know the truth of how our relationship began.

    I understand the particular weirdness of comforting a partner who is getting over their ex still. Even while he cried over the end of his first marriage, he was sure to tell me that it wasn’t that he regretted leaving her or missed her, but was dealing with the pain of having been so wrong about her, and that his relationship with her had never been like what he and I have. I never worried that he’d cheat on me, because even though our relationship began unusually, I just don’t think he’s the cheating type. His ex knew about me from the very beginning, it had been her idea to approach me.

    We have been very happily married going on five years now, and are expecting our second child. While at the beginning of our life together I was battling the specter of the First Wife, it honestly doesn’t give me a second thought now. His family has welcomed me with open arms and tell me constantly how happy they are to see how happy we are. We have an amazing life together, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

    • This, to me, is very different from an “other woman” situation. All parties were open and honest with each other about feelings; that’s the opposite of cheating.

  5. If I didn’t cheat on my husband during our first year of dating, we wouldn’t be married right now. I had never been with a person other than him and I was learning that monogomy wasn’t right for me. I wish I could say that I would have figured it out without cheating, but I actually don’t think I would have. We took a short, but much needed break at that time and discussed more than we ever had prior to it – including polyamory, sexuality, & gender. I took that time to really get to know myself in terms of who I was, who I wanted to date, and how I wanted to date before committing myself to the one person I could easily spend my life with.

    If it didn’t happen, I definitely don’t think we would be together now. I would have never been happy. I have no regrets. We’ve been together almost 7 years now, married for 1, and are SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY.

    • Innnnnteresting. It reminds me of something that guy I married and I talked about in the beginning of our relationship. A girlfriend once confessed to cheating on him, and instead of blowing up at her, he just asked “what about this relationship isn’t working for you?” From there they figured out some pretty major problems. When he and I started dating he told me, “I’m not going to be mad at you for cheating [citing this example], but I will be mad if you don’t tell me about it so we can work on what’s wrong with our relationship.” I was like SOLD! This dude is awesome.

      • Cheating isn’t always a sign that something is wrong with the relationship, though. Even if someone si telling you that their SO doesn’t do ‘X’, it doesn’t mean it is true, or true to the degree they’ve magnified it too. Some people just aren’t built to be monogamous.

        • True, but that doesn’t mean you should be sleeping with other people when you’re in a relationship that is intended to be monogamous. If you find that monogamy isn’t for you, then you really owe your partner a long discussion on what being in a relationship means to you both before you wind up doing something that would really hurt them (and it would be worthwhile to know exactly where the two of you stand in such a relationship so you can determine if you will be happy in the long run!).

  6. I dated a guy for 9 months, he even proposed to me. Then I get a 4 am phone call from his fiancee that he lives with (I thought he lived with his brother). I found out I was the other woman, though I never set out to be. Then I had months of phone calls and messages calling me everything under the sun, including her telling me she had hiv. So, I had that scare as well. I told him to kick rocks. He was a liar and there was nothing that was going to fix that. Several months later I get a call from her wanting me to testify against him. He took their kid and split.
    I have friends that started off with the same situation as the author, after 20 years they’re still going strong. Personally I couldn’t do it, that knowing would eat me alive. I’m glad for her that they have been able to move on and heal, for that she’s a stronger woman than me.

  7. I was the other woman for almost 8 years. Yes, 8 years. I fell in love with my married man after we were friends for a couple of years. We spent a lot of time talking and he eventually told me that he was unhappy in his marriage and he wanted out but did not know how to leave. I knew his wife well and we had a close social circle. We stopped and started the affair for a long time and then he was going to leave. Then life got in the way. He lost his job and his wife was diagnosed with cancer. He was stuck. It was not a happy marriage in any way and everyone knew it. We kept seeing each knowing that he could not leave because of her medical condition and his guilt. I had to pretend that I was single, while totally in love with this man. It was torture. A couple of years ago his wife died and within a month we were living together. Now we are getting married. I don’t worry about him cheating anymore. It was hard at first. We went to therapy before his wife died and after. It helped us a lot. It is a horrible way to start a relationship and I would never tell a friend it was a good idea. We did end up telling a few people about us and some have figured it out. It is not something I would share. I am thankful that there are other people out there that have gone through the same thing. It makes the future seem even more possible.

  8. I was the other woman recently and for me it ended in heartache.
    I have a open relationship but made the mistake of getting involved with a married coworker at a brand new job I had just started.
    I had the mindset of ‘if it wasn’t me it would just be someone else and I should just enjoy the attention while it lasted’. He started getting the feels (or at least claiming to) and then so did I. The more time I spent with him I realized that he was in a emotionally and physically abusive relationship.
    When his wife finally found out after a few months she ended up targeting me and threatened to come into our place of work to humiliate both he and I. Fortunately she never did. Eventually she started telling him that I was harassing her on skype with a bunch of nonsense. Things became really strange and my husband and I offered him a place to stay if he was trying to leave her.
    He said he was moving away with family though he never did. They stayed together though now I hear they are getting divorced. I tried to reach out to him to see if he was ok and was instead blocked.
    It broke my heart because I cared about him as a person and he had made claims to feel the same many times. I know for me I will never be the other woman again. It wasn’t worth the emotional stress of seeing someone I care about be hurt and then in turn hurt me.
    I wish I could say that I feel bad about his wife, but she the rumors that I had heard from coworkers had ended up being true and she was a pretty awful person.
    Not to say she deserved it, but in the long run it seems as though the two of them intentionally hurt one another back and forth. I guess they deserve the misery they provide one another.
    I’m pretty certain that even though hes telling people they’re separated , that he is trying to get her back…
    So sad.

  9. So…. here’s a perspective that doesn’t get talked about much: I am the adult child of a cheater. My father cheated on my mother, he got caught, and now my parents are divorced. This wasn’t the first time he cheated on my mother, but I didn’t know anything until a year and a half ago when my parents sat the family down and told us. We were shocked and devastated. It changed the way I saw my parents, especially my dad, the way I saw myself, my childhood, and my own marriage. I had to reevaluate everything. It felt like my dad had cheated on the whole family.
    It’s taken months of therapy to cope with everything and to repair my relationship with my dad. Things are still not “all better”. I’m still dealing with trust issues and anxiety, and still trying to navigate the new family dynamic. I still have anger toward my dad and toward the other woman, but it doesn’t consume my life the way it did when we first found out.
    As far as the other woman, I know who she is but have never met her face-to-face, nor do I want to. She attempted to contact me to apologize, but it DID NOT make me feel better, just sick and angry all over again. The kindest thing she could do for me is stay far, far away. She and my dad are no longer together (ended right after they got caught), and even if they were, I wouldn’t want anything to do with her.

    • Man, this was so hard to read. My husband is in the middle of an affair right now and we’re getting divorced because of it. We have two kids. They’re young, and I don’t want to ruin their relationships with their dad – and I know the strain and turmoil this can put on their future romantic relationships – but I know at some point down the line things will come out. Probably not until they’re much older. Still. Some day. I wish I knew how to keep my kids safe and happy and whole through all this and in the future – but I know I can’t. So thank you for sharing your point of view. I know you only recently found out, but it’s still helpful (if painful) for me to read.

      • I wish I had some good advice for you, but you’re right that your kids may eventually find out the truth, and it’s gonna hurt. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this, it’s that secrets don’t stay secrets for long. I will say that the first time my dad had an affair, when I was a kid, my mom did an incredible job of keeping it from us kids and keeping our lives as normal as possible. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to hide that kind of heartache from us, but it was the right thing to do at that age. I am eternally grateful to her for that. The worst thing she could have done was make us kids deal with adult issues. So I guess for at least the time being, try to keep your kids out of whatever is happening between you and your husband, and support them having a positive relationship with their dad. Good luck.

        • I agree, AMC’s mother did a great job of handling this pain. But Kama, it’s true, cheating affects the whole family, no matter how much the innocent party wishes it wouldn’t. My paternal grandfather cheated on my grandmother (they divorced). My father cheated on my mother (they didn’t divorce). I cheated on my then fiance, now husband (was not an ongoing affair, happened while we were physically apart and I thought he was thinking of calling off the engagement. I told him before our wedding to make sure he still wanted to marry me, knowing everything). My brother cheated (once) on a serious girlfriend. I don’t know that I’d call we cheaters in my family “narcissistic” exactly. We’re all nice, compassionate people who want to do right by the people we love. But it is weak, thoughtless, immature behavior, and yes, it can be normalized within a family as an acceptable part of the “flight” response in a “fight or flight” situation. Just do your best, Kama, to model stability and responsibility, and I’m sure your kids will be fine!

      • My parents separated for 8 years due to my dad cheating (and fathering another child), and to this day I am impressed with how my mother handled the whole thing. I was eight years old.

        She was straightforward/neutral about why dad was moving out (she made him explain it to me), and why I was only going to see him on weekends, but she kept her own emotions about the situation private. This approach allowed me the space and facts so I could process all these big thoughts and emotions, and come to my own conclusions. Also, because she kept most of her feelings about the situation from me, I was able to really evaluate my relationship with my dad, and be furious with him for my own reasons, rather than simply hate him for making my mom sad.

        It’s now more than 20 years later, but after A LOT of work, arguing, patience, re-establishing trust, etc, we’ve all worked to a point where we’ve reconciled, and are even close again. My parents even got back together. I worked out some trust issues in men, and have since married an amazing man. I got to know my affair-originated half-sister, and she’s actually awesome. I call her my sister, because she is. Oddly, she and my mum have evolved a close relationship, too.

        It’s all an astoundingly happy ending to a terrible situation, and I’m grateful to my mother every single day for her emotional maturity, and for the trust she placed in me to work through complicated information.

        …which I guess is a longwinded way of suggesting that being upfront with kids about the facts isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

      • I would agree that being open and honest with them is the best way to avoid future heartache. I was in my late teens when my parents separated so the situation was very different in some ways, but the hurt was the same. Growing up I was very close to my Dad. He began to see another woman and moved out of the house while I was at University. I found out he had moved out when I went home for Christmas and he wasn’t there. His reasons for not telling me were that I was going through some issues at the time and he didn’t want to add more stress on top of that I was already experiencing. However, in doing so he destroyed any trust that I ever had in him. This happened over 15 years ago now, but the feelings are still very strong and I have never forgiven him. He divorced my mum and married the ‘other’ woman a few years ago, I have only met her twice and I do not want anything to do with her. My problem, possibly, but one that may have been avoided if I didn’t view her wrapped up in what is possibly the biggest betrayal I have ever experienced. The plus side of all of this is that it healed the often fraught relationship I had with my Mum. She was open and honest about the whole situation, she never spoke ill of my Dad but she did acknowledge his weaknesses and her hurt. In doing so she bolstered my trust in her and we now have a very close relationship that means an awful lot to me.

  10. I cheated.
    My intention was communicated before I did it, but I have so many “I should’ve” regrets. I should’ve communicated so much more, so much more directly. I meant to do it the right way, with full permission, but I failed at that. I should’ve asked and asked and asked exactly every thought and feeling he had–he thought I would get it out of my system, he thought I would come back and everything would go back to normal, he thought everything was about 500x more okay than it was. He thought he wasn’t really giving me permission in the first place, that being permissive would mean I wouldn’t go through with it at all. I’d only learn that after. If I had known before, it all would’ve been so different.
    Communicate. Even if you know you’re fully committed to the communication process, ask the other parties if they are really, truly committed to the communication process and the negotiated outcome. Push for everything they’re holding back. Search for what you’re holding back and put that on the table.

  11. I was the woman who was cheated on. I caught him out when my suspicions were confirmed by looking at his facebook messages – and at 29, our 10 year relationship was over. Yes, while he was the one cheating, and she was single, she knew I existed. She knew I had been with him for 10 years, we lived together, and I loved him. I don’t blame her entirely but she does deserve to bear a good amount of it.
    I am not entirely sure you understand what kind of pain someone in my position goes through in that situation – I moved out of the home I shared with him for 8 years immediately, visited my pets on my lunch hour, then went through the soul crushing process of going back to the house alone to pack and sort through the 10 years I had shared with a man I was sure I was to marry. How the tears welled up even driving down our street to go and pack more things. The depression of what I was sure was my future just being snatched from me. It affected every corner of my world. To hear of your pain in watching him with the woman he loved before he met you, well…. let me just say that I feel no sympathy.
    3 years down the road and I am engaged to a wonderful man, and while some people might say oh, well the pain was worth it for the reward you got in the end – let me tell you, that anything I could do to go back in time and avoid that level of pain, I would do in a heartbeat. That experience will never leave me.

    • I’m sorry to hear of the pain you endured at the end of your marriage, and I’m glad you’ve found happiness again. I can understand your lack of sympathy for me. I wrote this post simply because I hoped that it would help show people an angle that isn’t usually shown. Other women are often portrayed as she-devils who are trying to hurt people, and I hoped my story would show readers that that archetype isn’t an accurate portrayal of other women or their lives.

      • CB, it sounds as though you believe that you and your partner would still be together were it not for the other woman. Liv doesn’t believe that would have been true for Harold and his wife. No one really knows, but it is a big difference in perspectives: destroying a healthy, viable relationship vs. accelerating the demise of a dying one. The latter scenario is more a question of timing than anything.

        • The point is that even if he decided it was doomed, its very likely that his current girlfriend did not – hence their continuing relationship.
          I think I can speak for most people when I say that if someone catches their significant other cheating, they would probably end it. I was the one who chose to end my relationship upon discovering what was going on – I was still in love with him, but knew that if he was actively engaging someone else, that he was no longer in love with me. It is impossible to say – if his girlfriend had have found out what was going on between the author and her partner, chances are she would have felt very much the same as I did.

          • I dunno know if most people end it if they find their significant other cheating, just like I don’t know if most people will leave a spouse that’s abusive. I think there’s theoretical what people talk about what they’d do and then when they’re in the situation there’s the actual situation with all of it’s variety of thoughts to consider (children, length of relationship, length and nature of the cheating, first time, last time, etc). I mean we can look to everyone from politicians to people’s grandparents who stick it out for fifty years.

      • Even though you say you weren’t trying to hurt another person, you knowingly entered into and purposefully stayed in a relationship that was extremely likely to cause longterm pain and suffering to another person. I just don’t understand how you can say you weren’t out to hurt someone when you knew what you were doing could have consequences that might affect the rest of that woman’s life. I’m not trying to be inflammatory, I really just don’t understand.

      • And it’s so much easier for people who have been cheated on to hate the “other woman” than it is to deal with the complicated dual emotions of love and betrayal that they feel towards their significant other.

        • Not necessarily, it’s not that you’re replacing the feelings of betrayal by the one you loved with hating the woman he cheated with, it’s something you deal with on top of those feelings of betrayal. What you’re suggesting is really a bit of a stereotype on the part of the betrayed – the reality is that you feel terribly betrayed by your partner, but the emotion you feel toward the other woman (for me) is really just disbelief that they could be a willing participant in what is undoubtedly going to be a very painful experience for another.

  12. I guess I don’t understand cheating. If your relationship is bad enough that you are looking for solace/love/whatever in someone else’s arms, then why not just break up? I’m legitimately curious, not trying to be inflammatory but what’s the point?

    • I can only answer from the point of view of someone who was cheated on – but honestly, I don’t think my husband realized he was unhappy (which, sadly, meant that we couldn’t work on things to try and figure out what was *making* him unhappy). I think the day-to-day of married life with kids paled in comparison to the electric friendship and then affair he developed outside our relationship. I think he didn’t realize the things he wanted or was missing until they were being fulfilled elsewhere. I also think that it’s an addiction – once you are in that relationship, once you’re getting that excitement, it’s so hard to end, and so hard to imagine getting it from anywhere else. I’ve read stories where people talk about their affairs as addictions.

      That being said, I still can’t wrap my head around the idea of cheating, the actual act. I can’t get past the point where you stop and think about what you’re doing to the other person you’ve decided to share your life with… and decide that your immediate gratification is more important than them. I deeply believe it shows a complete lack of respect for the people in your life, and a level of narcissism that I can’t really grasp.

      • “I can’t get past the point where you stop and think about what you’re doing to the other person you’ve decided to share your life with… and decide that your immediate gratification is more important than them. I deeply believe it shows a complete lack of respect for the people in your life, and a level of narcissism that I can’t really grasp.” Especially when kids are involved. It is a total abdication of responsibility and shows no respect, not just for your family, but for yourself as well. I’m sorry this happened to you, Kama.

        • I had a hard time dealing with this as well when my dad cheated. The way I figured it, either he thought about how much he was hurting our family and did it anyway, OR he didn’t think about us at all. And I’m not sure which of those scenarios is worse. Because of this, for a while before I got into therapy, I really questioned whether or not my dad loved me. Because how can you do that to someone you love, especially your own kid? But what I learned in therapy is that most cheaters never think of those consequences. Not because they don’t care, but because it’s just too emotionally difficult to face the truth. Or they find justifications for their actions. My dad told my mom their marriage hadn’t been good for a long time, which was news to my mom. He even said he thought she was cheating, which is laughable if know my mother. He still finds ways of avoiding the consequences of his actions because (I believe) the guilt is too much for him to bear. I think my dad chose to have an affair because he was very unhappy with himself and his marriage, and felt cheating was just easier than dealing with his problems.

    • Same. While I rarely see things in black & white terms this is one of those situations where, to me, it really is a case of you either stay and commit to working on things or you leave. As someone who’s never cheated on anyone but has been cheated on more than a couple times, the act seriously baffles my mind.

    • Ha! Well, I was completely baffled at the behavior of a friend of a friend and started asking those same questions. This guy had a string of girlfriends, and they ALL overlapped – 4 of them in the 3 years I knew this guy – until finally the 5th girl he married. I don’t know if he cheats on his wife, but I lost contact with that interesting group of people. (For the better.)

      He didn’t like to be alone, so he would drag out a relationship until he found a new person. He needed an ego boost- the novelty of a person loving him wore off and he needed to be perceived as attractive and desirable by another person. And this is super gross, but once he didn’t even change his sheets… and a new gf found the last gf’s panties. Gross and disrespectful.

      Ooo! And another guy I know who (almost? depending on your definition?) cheated felt like he wasn’t getting enough support from his fiance… you know she was kind of busy with her father being in an out of the hospital with major surgeries, etc. So he sought out attention from a younger girl he met in a bar, no joke. Anyway, they went to therapy before they got married and worked things out, and everything seems to be ok now.

      And I think some people cheat just due to mismatched libidos, and it’s purely a physical thing. And they rationalize it with the “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” line. Which as other people pointed out, rarely works.

      So, yeah, I don’t think people who cheat always use logic.

    • This is just me spitballing here, but I think someone who wants to end their relationship but doesn’t want to actually be the “bad guy” and end it might cheat. Because if they get caught, then it forces the partner’s hand on whether or not the relationship continues. So even though the cheater caused the breakup, they weren’t the ones who pulled the trigger and actually made the final decision to split.

      • I think that’s quite common, and using other forms of mistreatment that way is too, I think.

        Then the one who’s been mistreating their partner gets to play the “s/he/they dumped me waaaaah” victim, and have people tell them “don’t worry, sooner or later you’ll realised you’re better off without him/her/them”, then get the credit for being “strong enough to get through that really bad time of being dumped” when they mysteriously decide that yes, they are better off without the partner *they persuaded, via mistreatment, to end the relationship in the first place*. Argh! Sorry. It’s just so cowardly. I haven’t had a partner do it, but I’ve had it from friends and relatives. I know much of it is subconscious, and that if people were encouraged more to be emotionally literate/emotionally intelligent etc. then it wouldn’t happen so much, but still. It just gets my back up.

    • From my experience, cheating is rarely “I’m going to go out and cheat today!” and much more the frog in the pot of water. It starts slowly, innocently, even sometimes (in my case) with permission, and then a few weeks/months later you look up and find yourself trapped in a boiling pot of really confusing emotions, painful and exhilarating at the same time. I was strongly attached to two people, and no matter what I did I would hurt someone – and myself – pretty deeply.

  13. I’ve never been the “other woman” but I’ve witnessed some friends who were ( and I played one on TV ). I got to see a lot of the stereotypes and platitudes play out but there were 3 things that really stood out to me as the “3rd party observer”:

    1) You’re not as sneaky as you think you are. People don’t operate on an “assumption of innocence” like a court of law. People, especially spouses, get suspicious over simple changes in behavior. Once suspicion takes hold, it’s over. You’re as good as busted.

    2) You have inadvertently entered into an intimate relationship with your lover’s partner. If your affair is discovered ( and really it’s more “when” than “if” ), the partner knows at least 1 secret about you and there is no guarantee he or she will be circumspect about it or value your privacy or even behave like a reasonable adult. In fact, there is every reason to believe this person will be hostile to you.

    3) Everybody is vulnerable to this. If I had asked any of my friends if they were open to the concept of being “the other woman” before they started their affairs, they would have answered firmly, emphatically, NO.

  14. im getting married in two months after a year’s engagement. A month ago I found out my fiancé cheated on me more than a year ago. His affair ended long before he proposed, and it was during a very turbulent stage in our relationship where we were faced with many crossroads. He says now that the affair ended because he realised he wanted to be with me, that I was the love of his life and a few months later he proposed. The wedding is still on. I’m angry, I’m hurt and he knows this, but I’ve also made a conscious decision to stand by him. It helps to think of him not as a cheater but as someone who cheated – I’m not letting what happened define him, define me or define or relationship. It’s difficult – and very raw and it’s been a tough few weeks. But we’re working through it and if there’s anything I know, this is the man I’m going to marry.

    I confronted the other woman. I sent her an email to let her know that I know what happened. Not to threaten her or to tell her to stay away – staying away is HIS responsibility to me. I just needed her to know that what happened had consequences – I cannot stand by and let her think that her actions don’t have any. She is married, she has a young child. I can take care of myself, but that child deserves better than a mother with no respect for her family or for others.

    I’m sorry for the long post. Like I’ve said this is all very raw to me. I’ve never told anyone about it – not friends, not family. It feels good to finally vent somewhere.

    • I never used to understand staying in a relationship where the other person had cheated on you. I always thought those women were weak, were… giving permission or consent for what had been done to them. I only recognized the strength it took to leave.

      Having faced the choice myself, I now realize exactly the kind of strength it takes to stay – to work at things, to establish a new understanding of yourself and your relationship. Because learning about infidelity changes so much in how you view… everything. I can tell in reading your post that things are still raw – but you are also showing a lot of self-confidence, and that’s so important. An affair can be so demoralizing and painful. It can really strip you down. If you aren’t already, I’d suggest seeing an individual therapist. It will really help you work through some of the pain you’re still feeling.

    • That really sucks, especially that you don’t have anyone to talk to about it. But I also understand not wanting to tell people. A friend went through a rough patch in her marriage (there were a lot of contributing factors, but I don’t think infidelity was one) but for her the hardest part was getting her family to forgive him when they got back together. She had forgiven him, they renegotiated their relationship, and she was ready to move forward with the new rules. Her family was determined to hold a grudge against him since they only knew part of the story.

      You cited “turbulent stage in our relationship where we were faced with many crossroads” as contributing to the fact that he cheated. Do you guys have a “game plan” in place for working though future rough patches? Or have you already worked through some rough patches in the interim? I’m not on board with the “once a cheater always a cheater” sentiment, but I am on board with being aware of tendencies and patterns and knowing how to replace undesirable behaviors with better and healthier ones.

  15. Health risks always seem to get forgotten in discussions about cheating. You do not have the right to put someone else’s health at risk.

    It doesn’t matter if you know that someone’s relationship is on it’s deathbed anyway and that the two of you have real feelings for each other. The other person in the relationship did not consent to being exposed to your germs. Even if you know you have a clean bill of health, he or she did not consent to being exposed like that. It is a horrible position to be in; one that no one should ever have to be in.

    • Actually, this is a great point to bring up, and it works both ways. The other woman never knows what illnesses could be passed along through her partner. When two people are in a committed relationship, they accept the risk of acquiring any illness the other has, but it’s completely possible they can pass that along to the people they are cheating with. This extends to even colds. Bodily fluids are bodily fluids.

      • The huge difference being that as the other woman, you weighed the risks and said yep I’m down. The person being cheated on doesn’t get that choice, but has to deal with the consequences.

      • But the other woman consented to this situation and any risks. The woman being cheated on did not consent to having her health risked. Its not acceptable for anyone else to make that decision for her without her knowledge. It’s not remotely the same as the other woman making an informed decision to accept the risk.

        And STIs are not remotely on the same level as a cold. Especially for those of us who are allergic to the medication that is generally used to treat the curable STIs.

    • For me that is a consent issue. If the couple are having unprotected sex they’ve consented on the basis of monogamy. If someone cheats and doesn’t use protection that’s voiding that agreement (even if it wasn’t explicitly stated).

  16. While I appreciate everyone’s posts, I think it only fair to say that this is about “the other woman.” I understand that everyone has personal experiences and that cheating causes heated emotions, but this is not the place to be talking about how much one was hurt by the cheater and the “other woman.” It is painful, yet it is not the aspect being discussed, and many of the stories–while very real and very heartbreaking–are coming from places of judgment. One could say, “Of course they are” since cheating is painful experience. I am certainly not saying your pain and experiences are not valid. I am, however, saying that your personal pain should not be used to make her feel bad about what she did. Asking her why just brings up the same questions she has already wondered and , hopefully, answered for herself. There are millions who cheat and millions who are the “other” in the scenario. Each one has a different reason. Why did she accept second place in someone’s life? Maybe it was the best she expected for herself at the time, or she was actually first in his life and his wife became second place. It could have been anything.

    I was cheated on by my husband. We started dating at 16, married at 21, had two amazing children, and seemed mostly happy most of the time. He cheated on and off over the years because it made him feel better about himself. (Honestly, I do not know what that means in this case, and I spent some time back then trying to figure out what I had done.) It started shortly after we were married. I think I know why, but after all these years and everything that has happened since then, I truly do not care. I tried “fixing” our relationship. Sometimes, he tried, too. When I was 35, things got really bad: He went crazy, became abusive and addicted to alcohol and drugs, and started carrying on multiple affairs at once. Why did I stay? By then I was trapped. He had financially ruined us and his great-grandfather–whom I loved–was living with us. I ended up falling in love with someone else. (That is a long, wonderful story, yet not one I would want to share.) In the end, my husband caused me permanent disabilities. Obviously, this is a bit extreme and goes beyond his cheating; however, his cheating started it, and it is easily argued that I cheated on him too in the end.

    My soon-to-be-ex-husband (who has been dragging out our divorce for years) has had two girlfriends who have at one point contacted me. I do not have anything to say to them really (they know what he did), but I do not have any anger or resentment towards them either. He cheated. They knew about me, but that does not change the fact they were not the ones who committed to my marriage: That was my husband. I am happy he did it. I am actually, strangely happy that he did the things he did. While I will say I would rather not be disabled or suffer from PTSD, if none of those things happened I would not have ended up with my fiancé.

    My children are currently 21 and 14. They do not like their dad because he became abusive and hurt me. However, they do not hold it against the couple of their dad’s girlfriends they have met. In fact, they rather liked the one who he was dating around the time I kicked him out of our home.

    Why did those women cheat with him? He is charming and handsome and was unhappy in our marriage. (Whatever his reasons, he was still unhappy.) Not one of those “other women” were second place to him: Our family became that. No one “stole” my husband: He left.

    One of his ex’s texted me because he had made it seem as if I was taking him back. She said he was playing my “jealousy card” and tried denying the fact that they had been together when the abuse was at its worse. (She also tried playing it off as if he had come to her with a broken heart over my affair.) It bothered her that I do not actually have a so-called jealousy card, but I think that she was just afraid and feeling guilty. I hope that she was able to let go of that guilt when she found out that I do not blame her for anything. Yes, she knew we were married and she knew that he was violent towards me. It did not place blame on her.

    I could be angry and hurt and blame any one of them for what happened. What would be the point? I hope that eventually he straightens up his life, finds happiness, and falls in love with a woman to whom he can be faithful.

    As I said, I did end up cheating on him with my fiancé. We have been waiting for my divorce so that we can get married. In the nearly six years we have been together, people have suggested that since I cheated on my husband that I would cheat on him, too. Instead of letting any of it cause him a moment’s concern, he remembers the circumstances. He hates my (ex)husband because of the physical pain I suffer, but he is thankful to him for not seeing how wonderful I am.

    To the “other women” and “other men” (or whatever your gender is): You played a part, but the responsibility is not yours. Too many factors are involved with the breakup of a marriage to place blame on any of you. Gage his (or her) actions by your experience. You may very well be the one with whom (s)he was supposed to be.

    On a side note: I get sick of hearing people talking about a certain famous couple that formed through infidelity. Get over it. He obviously wanted someone else and has found happiness. Why would the so-called jilted ex hold a grudge this long? Why would she want him back? Geez, people.

    • The responsibility for ending the relationship is not on the heads of the other woman/man, but the responsibility for the longterm pain and suffering caused to the other person in the relationship is at least partially theirs. They knowingly entered into a situation that has the extreme likelihood of causing MASSIVE pain to another human being. They bear that responsibility. Just because you were not hurt in a major way does not mean other people were not and does not absolve anyone else of the guilt of their actions.

      • I agree that they played a part in the hurting of another person. I do not think that I implied otherwise. I was hurt by my husband’s infidelity, and I doubt that there is an instance of infidelity that was completely without pain. Even though I am not a jealous person by nature, there was the assumption that he meant the bit about being faithful when we took our vows. The physical and mental abuse that followed was certainly painful. In fact, I live in constant physical pain and suffer greatly from emotional issues stemming from our relati0nship. Even a restraining order and moving across the state have not made me feel safe. His infidelity certainly made me feel like something was wrong with me. I have nothing good to say about the woman who was dating him during the worst of the abuse. She actually started the argument that led to an attempt on my life. I spent nearly 20 years with him, and ended up leaving a year after the abuse started. Even with the abuse, twenty years invested in a relationship has an impact.

        Regardless of my experience, Liv seems as if she found herself in a situation that caused her to act in a way that was completely against her nature. I believe that this happens more often than one would expect. The belief surrounding the nature of the “other woman” is that she is calculating, heartless, and selfish. The hurt involved and the stigma of “the other woman” lends itself to that belief. Despite the circumstances in which I found myself, I cannot believe that every “other” does so from a place of selfishness and without thought. I cannot believe that they do not feel guilt. Obviously, they were actively participating in deception and often knew that there is a spouse or partner when the affair started. Liv does not say that what she did was “right”, nor does she say that it was without consequences that have had a lasting impact.

        While he was the one who cheated, I know that there were times that I could have been a better partner. I worked a lot, was in grad school, and had two children. And I do not think that I loved him in the way that he needed. As difficult as it is to say, it is true. I, the cheated on wife, was not perfect or completely blameless in the downfall of my marriage. I tried to work at it, he sometimes put in an effort. That is not to say that I feel as if his cheating or abuse was in any way justified.

        At the end of my marriage, I discovered that my (ex) husband had a total of at least six affairs, two of which were long standing. I knew he had cheated, but I never would have suspected so many. (He even had lied to one who lived a couple of town away by telling her that we did not have children and that we were always on the verge of divorce.)

        I am not making light of the pain felt by anyone in this situation: I am acknowledging that the “other woman” is not always (or usually) a selfish spider who does not care about the consequence of her actions. Each one of us is human, each one of us is capable of behaving against our nature. No one deserves to have that choice held against them forever, and certainly, no one deserves to be forced to carry the guilt of something they did not do. By that I mean, it seems that most people who have felt the pain of being cheated on take the pain they have felt in their own situation and pile it on to the label f the “other woman.” No one deserves that.

        When infidelity happens, there are two major choices: Live with resentment or live with forgiveness. If you stay or go, it still comes down to resentment and forgiveness. I despise the man my husband became, yet I cannot live my life in resentment.

  17. There’s nothing wrong with telling your new friends the truth about how you got together. It can be a valuable litmus test.

    My husband was “the other man,” though we didn’t get together until I told my first husband that we were through. I wasn’t happy with it, but it was the best I could do for him at the time – I couldn’t help having fallen in love with someone else.

    I don’t hide what we did from other people, because I feel that for me, that’s one of the consequences of the way I handled everything. I didn’t hide it from my ex either, because it’s not as if he wouldn’t figure it out. Some people judge, some people don’t – some people like me enough that they judge more or less silently.

  18. last year I met a man who asked me to be the other woman (not those words tho). His wife had a condition which meant they’d not been able to have sex in a decade. That’s all I knew about her. She found out. He’s dealing with that now. The day she found out I returned a positive pregnancy test. While I sat with the doctor explaining terminations it hit me my previous resolve had melted. I was absolutely and undeniably in love. I had previously thought I was a-romantic and also infertile (although we used protection always) I knew I couldn’t have the baby but I wanted it so badly. I guess luckily a second confirmation test came back negative. I’ve talked to him twice since then. I’ve always assumed he loves her and that its just sex and affection with me. Obviously it’s over. Not only is it my belief that he loves her but they have a child with special needs so he won’t be leaving unless he’s told to. I never assumed he would and I never wanted him too, maybe weirdly I still don’t want him too leave her. Which may be odd because I love him. But I also feel so guilty. No one needs to tell me it’s what I deserve either, I knowingly made my bed and I’m not complaining just explaining.

  19. I am the child of a cheater as well. When I found out I don’t remember it having an affect on me and I don’t look at the guilty party negatively. I always remember knowing my parents were two people who didn’t work. I knew cheating was wrong though. I didn’t cheat on any of my boyfriends and was with my husband for 10 years, and then cheated. He found out and is devastated. We have decided to stay together for now for our son but I am totally torn. He says I am his everything but he is not mine. It’s a tough thing to go through. I hope I wake up one day and realize he (my husband) is the best thing that ever happened to me. Until then we will claw our way through and try to get past this.

  20. I have been both the other woman and the woman. When I was the ‘other woman’ it was just an agreed upon one night thing, and they were on a “break” (no excuse but still). My only question is why didn’t you ask him to break up with her first? I am guessing that you both seem compatible enough that you wouldn’t have had to have the sexual component of the affair right away (although I get it would still be an emotional affair). Why not just say, “I would love to be with you, but you need to end and grieve your current relationship first, or you need to speak to her about possibly being in an open relationship.”?

  21. Wanted to add that I think you are very brave you told your story and it was awesome of you to do so! The other woman is such a tough spot, and I remembering insisting on meeting the woman who cheated with my bf. I was very angry and shocked because she was a mutual friend, but that also helped me remain understanding. However, I did cut up a picture we had of her, so I can’t pretend I was a great person lol.

  22. My husband had a girlfriend when we first kissed… but the relationship was already falling apart and he broke it off for good a few days later, the next time he could see her in person. I don’t think I could stand to be a secret- not because I’d feel horrifically guilty necessarily (I do think it’s up to the person in the relationship to maintain a relationship) but because being someone’s second choice/back-up gal is bullshit.

  23. I had a surreal experience recently where I was suspected of being the other woman. The man, an acquaintance, got in touch with me to let me know that she might be calling me to scream at me. Or emailing. Or Facebooking. I was rather horrified both that he was doing this and that he wouldn’t even fess up the whole way, making this woman go through more pain even though she’d eventually find out. We had once had lunch because we worked nearly each other and that was it. It was a cause for me to severely chill relationships with him and the other woman. :-/

  24. Maybe I’d feel differently if I had been caught, but I was the ‘other woman’ for a brief stint and don’t feel guilty about it at all, AND he’s the husband of my best friend. It appeared to start as innocent texting, that led to sexting, and finally some physical action. And then it died down naturally over time. He felt guilty about it, which is probably good for his marriage.

    My husband knew the whole time, so maybe I don’t fit nicely into this category. I told my husband “I am going to do XYZ with him,” and he was surprised, but not upset, though he did caution me to not ruin a friendship. In short time it just fizzled out and now we’re all still friends.

    I guess everyone’s experience is different, but I don’t think you should not be ashamed of how you met. It worked for you, and while it’s maybe not traditional, and we aren’t championing going out and making people leave their spouses, I do think that sexuality and relationships are A LOT MORE COMPLICATED than general society would like to let us believe.

  25. I hate to say that I once cheated on my now-husband during the middle of our dating years because I was so angry about something he wrote on Facebook. Instead of talking it out like normal adults, I wound up seeing a classmate from another country (I was in college at the time.) behind his back. Eventually, I just felt too damn bad to hide all this from him, so I told him about my little affair and all he said was, “Well, at least you told me the truth.”

    For a while, my poor heart was torn between my then-boyfriend and the foreign guy I was continuing to see. Then one night when I was visiting Foreign Guy at his house, he started to touch me in places I didn’t want him to touch. Before I knew it, he was dragging me to his bed so he could sleep with me, though I didn’t want him to do that to me either. Then he told me that if I wanted to be with him that I would have to quit my student job at the campus library, stay home and raise an army of kids. Hell no was I going to give up my career for a man.

    But I stupidly continued to see him after all that shit. In fact, the last night I was at his house, we ended our affair on what seemed to be good terms. Later, he messaged me on Facebook asking for me back. I told him no and to eff off due to the misogynist way he was acting towards me at the moment.

    In the end, my silly little affair with the foreign classmate would have never worked out, even if I had decided to leave my real man for him. We simply wanted very different things in life. Besides, I will always regret my relationship with Foreign Guy, even though I have since moved on like it never happened.

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