On two separate occasions, I was the Other Woman.
I can just hear the gasps of shocked outrage across cyberspace now. Oh, the horror! Yeah, yeah, line up to stone me. Paint a scarlet letter on my forehead. I’m a Jezebel, a Delilah, a whatever other Bible name you can think of. I’m okay with your moral indignation because I just know that you’ve all been perfect and saintly your entire lives. Let me know when the Pope approves your beatification.
At any rate, I entered into both these relationships with my eyes wide open, knowing full well that I’d be sharing a guy who already had a girlfriend/wife. (One was married, the other was not.) I do not regret either situation because both provided me with some serious lessons I needed to learn about life. Besides that, they were both rather enjoyable (not for those reasons) until the relationships had run their course.
The first relationship was with a guy I’ll call Pierre. He had a girlfriend, a long-time girlfriend he’d known since forever. He flat out told me that he would never leave her and that it was expected that he should end up marrying this girl one day. He said he loved her, but he was interested in me. Our relationship was supposed to entirely sexual, but at some random point it moved way beyond that, and that was actually the downfall of the whole thing. We afforded each other a status much higher than we could really sustain. I kept hoping that he would leave the long-time girlfriend and he was jealous of me spending time with other guys. It just wasn’t a good situation to be in, so mutually, we decided to let it be.
For a long time, we could barely speak to each other, but a year later, we decided that what we had was too good to throw away. We never got back together, in that sense, and he did marry the girlfriend and now they have a beautiful daughter together. In the beginning I was jealous, but now I realise that it would have never worked out–not permanently. We were from two different worlds. We were going in two different directions. It was fun while it lasted, but you’re really fooling yourself at 22 years of age and you think you’ve found something sustainable. We are still very good friends. We talk occasionally on the phone, about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but we haven’t seen each other since that time. It’s been a lifetime since those days.
My second affair was with a guy I’ll call Kevin. I went away to military school a few years ago, and it was a lame hot summer in the Arizona desert. I was just looking for something to entertain me while getting trained up and Kevin offered his services. In the beginning, I told Kevin that I was not in the mood for anything long term. “Let’s just be friends,” I told him. It was a lot of fun sneaking around, doing stuff we weren’t supposed to do because we were both in a “training” status, which is like being in kindergarten according to the military, even though we were both grown adults. Somewhere near the end of the summer, I felt like Kevin was taking our relationship too seriously. I came from Maryland and he came from North Carolina, and I tried to tell him that a serious relationship was quite impossible. “Are we supposed to do this from long distance?” I asked him towards the end.
He said he would consider getting stationed in Maryland and I told him that I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to stay in Maryland much longer. He asked if I would come to North Carolina. That was not an option. I didn’t want to live in some backwater punctuated by a military base, and he got upset that I said that. When we finished our training, we didn’t really get a chance to say good-bye in that romantic sense like how you see in the movies, and that was just fine by me because I’m not really into all that. I guess for him, it wasn’t really good-bye, because he kept emailing me and kept calling, asking when we would see each other again. It became quite bothersome.
But Kevin’s clinginess is not what I’m here to write about. I was on CNN earlier this morning and I read a letter that a woman wrote to her husband’s mistress. The wife thanked the woman for having an affair with her husband because it gave her the impetus to get out of a dull, listless marriage. They had been married for a number of years after dating each other for an extended period of time and the marriage had just lost its spark. She wanted to leave but she thought that’s how all marriages were, so she tried to suck it up. When her husband cheated on her and the Other Woman got pregnant, the marriage ended. The wife talked about how she tried to speak to the Other Woman; she tried calling her, going over to her house, writing her letters, but the Other Woman refused to respond.
There were a lot of comments posted from women who said they tried to confront the Other Women in their lives, and I had to ask the question, “Why?” Why do you want to talk to the Other Woman? Do you feel like the Other Woman needs to explain herself? Do you feel that you’ll get answers, some closure, something from the Other Woman?
Kevin’s wife called me the New Year’s Eve I got back from military training. Apparently my phone number showed up hundreds of times on the phone bill which she pays. She asked, “Who are you and why does your number keep showing up on my husband’s cell phone? Are you the girl I met?”
Ooops, did I forget to mention I met his wife? Yeah, halfway through training she came to visit. Kevin told me that the were having problems and that he wanted a divorce. They were in the mandatory separation phase before the divorce could be finalised. His wife wanted to work it out, but he said the fact that he was in the military was destroying their marriage. He wanted to stay in but she wanted him to get out. They had been married since they were like 16 (apparently North Carolina allows that sort of thing) because she got pregnant. He joined the military to be a provider and ended up liking it and now he doesn’t want to get out. She came to visit him to see if they could talk things out because he had her served with papers. Their divorce, or impending divorce, or whatever, was not included in any part of my reasoning for getting involved with him. I just thought he was attractive and mildly amusing.
I told her that I was indeed the “girl” she had met when she came to visit her husband in Arizona, but in my smooth talking way I assured her that I was most certainly not the woman her husband was cheating on her with. I told her that my phone number kept showing up a million times because we were both class leaders and had to coordinate with each other about training all the time. “Accountability,” I lied. She didn’t know any better, or didn’t want to know any better.
To this day, I have absolutely no idea why I lied. I don’t usually lie about such things. Maybe I wanted to spare her feelings, which is equally bizarre because I don’t usually take into account other people’s feelings. I guess it was an anomaly. I think deep down she already knew the truth, and it probably didn’t matter one way or another if I had said anything. I guess it might have been like throwing gasoline on an already raging fire.
Then she started crying. “My husband is cheating on me. He said so. He said he met someone else and he doesn’t want to work on our marriage. I thought it was you. I was going to call you and tell you to stay away from my husband.”
As much as I wanted to laugh in her face, I didn’t. I don’t want anybody becoming suicidal or homicidal because of me, but the situation was really laughable. She was going to call me and tell me to stay away from her husband. Seriously? Okay, first of all, I didn’t really want her husband. I wanted him to stop calling me, but let’s say I did want her husband, did she think that calling me and asking me to stay away from him was going to solve anything? Why do women do this? Why do you call the Other Woman and warn him off your man? Your husband just CHEATED on you. He LIED to you. But you want me to stay away from him? You should call yourself and tell yourself to stay away from him because this is obviously not a man to be trusted! Yet you are ready to fight for him. You want to call the Other Woman up and meet her in the park for a dawn appointment. This is so lame.
I said to her, “What would that solve?”
“He’s my husband!”
“And he’s also cheating on you. The father of your children is sleeping around and you want to keep him?”
“Yes, because I love him.”
Oh, the love thing. Don’t get me wrong, love is important, but love hurts and just because you love someone don’t mean they’re good for you. I love chocolate and you see what that has done to my hips and thighs. Don’t use love as an excuse to stay in a situation that is bad for you.
So Kevin’s wife, we’ll call her Nanette–Nanette proceeds to tell me about her entire relationship with him. She told me about how they got together when they were so young. She told me about having to deal with him being in the military and he’d been deployed three times and volunteered for a fourth tour. She told me about raising their kids and how he seems to love them more than he loves her. She said she is jealous of her own children because when he calls home from wherever he is, he only wants to speak to them. She told me about all the fights they get into. She says this particular incident of cheating was not the first time. She told me that when she found out about the first girl, she attacked the girl at her place of business.
“Did that make you feel better?” I asked.
“For a little while.”
“So why are you blaming the Other Woman? They’re just capitalising on an opportunity. The real problem is your husband. Did you attack him?”
“No, I forgave him,” Nanette said.
“When was this?”
“So you beat up the Other Woman, forgave your husband and now he’s cheating on you again?”
There was a long silence.
“That’s why I’m confused why you are calling all these numbers looking for the Other Woman. You probably just want to attack her and she isn’t even the problem. Sure, she’s a homewrecker and she’s making a bad situation even worse, but the problem didn’t start with her. Even if she approached your husband first and gave him her best seductive routine, he could have said no, but he didn’t. He was interested, so he cheated and that’s his fault. Not yours or the Other Woman’s. You need to treat the source,” I said to her.
“What do you mean?” she asked me. Seriously? This is a woman who is in her late 30s and she’s asking this question. (This is why I don’t believe in young marriage.)
“If there’s a forest fire and all the trees are burning down, you don’t go beat up the trees for getting caught afire. You got put out the fire, the source of the problem. Your husband is a loser. He’s been lying to you for a long time and he’s going to keep on lying to you because you let him. You’re running around, slashing tires, beating up Other Women and your husband thinks it’s all so funny and he hops into bed with yet another girl. Your anger and rage should be directed at him, not these Other Women. Stop behaving like an idiot.”
“Excuse me?” I guess nobody likes being called an idiot.
“You’re an idiot. You think because you told some girl to stay away from your man that another girl isn’t waiting in the wings. You think it’s so admirable and faithful of you to fight for some piece of crap guy who just lies to you, lies in your face all day long? Look what you’re doing? It is New Year’s Eve and you’ve been ‘investigating’ all day long, looking at phone records, trying to find this Other Woman, wasting your time, like emptying the ocean with a spoon. And when you find this Other Woman, you’ll cuss her out, maybe try to kick her ass and then you’ll get this smug feeling like you handled that situation, but your husband, the real culprit is still out there, still lying to you and you think you solved the situation. You’re an idiot.”
“I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself.”
“Because this is what you’ve been socialised to do. Women have been brought up that the man can do no wrong, and it’s always some woman’s fault. It’s either your fault your husband cheated or the Other Woman’s fault. It’s never his fault. Most cultures pay homage to the patriarch, putting the man on the pedestal like he’s some kind of saint no matter what he does.”
“Never mind, what I mean is that this is what you’ve been taught to do. Weaker women don’t usually put the blame on men. They blame each other. That’s why women, especially black women, hate on each other all the time. We are self-conscious and defensive around other attractive women, or women who are smarter or more successful. We’re pitted against each other to make our position weaker, and all the man has to do is be his normal asshole self and since we’re so busy fighting each other, we don’t even realise what’s happening until it’s too late.”
“I can’t believe I let myself get into this situation,” Nanette said.
“Well, you’re the one who should be in control of yourself, but it seems like your husband has all the power right now. I don’t know, I have to get ready for a party now, so I have to go.” The conversation was suddenly just too intense.
“Thank you so much for talking to me. You seem like a really nice person. I don’t think you would mess around with someone’s husband. You sound really smart.”
“Uhm, yeah… something like that.” I felt a bit guilty, another weird sensation since I never feel guilty about anything. Even though I blame the husband for everything, that doesn’t mean that I’m a perfect little angel in this situation. I did wrong too. I wished Nanette the best of luck and secretly hoped that one day she would see the light. I doubted it though. Women like that…. they don’t usually learn.
We hung up. I had long since stopped answering Kevin’s calls and returning his emails. I was never in love with him, but I felt bad for being involved in this Bizarre Love Triangle. In March of 2007, I got an email from him stating that Nanette had signed the divorce papers. (Good for her!) He said he was gearing up for his fourth deployment and that he had met somebody and was thinking about getting married.
I didn’t respond.
As I am the Other Woman, an interloper in a marriage, I know that I am not morally inculpable. I’m not seeking absolution or even trying to explain myself. If I went back in time, the only reason I wouldn’t do this again is because Kevin was a weirdo-stalker, nothing to do with him being married. Most women will blame me and women like me for the failures in their marriages. They need a target for their rage and ineptitude, and it just makes more sense that the Other Woman be it. These women should realise that their marriage was already doomed by the time their husband decided to cheat. Sometimes a man cheats because of opportunity, and sometimes he cheats because of something much deeper going on, and sometimes he cheats just because his hormones tell him to (that’s a whole ‘nother blog).
Who knows what I would do were the roles reversed. I’m quite sure I wouldn’t blame the Other Woman. I also know I wouldn’t blame my husband. Knowing me and how my convoluted mind works, I’d blame myself. I would think I did something, or didn’t do something, that caused my husband to stray. Then I’d spend an endless amount of time trying to fix whatever it is in the vain hopes that he would see my efforts and stop his cheating. That makes me just as sad as these other women.
I’m not saying I didn’t do any wrong in these particular situations, but my problems are not their problems. I’ll get involved with whomever I want to get involved. Sometimes I’m the aggressor, and sometimes I am pursued. In the end, I make a conscious decision about what I’m willing to do. I consider my emotional faculties and how I’ll perceive myself when all is said and done. I don’t take into account what someone else will feel. I am not thinking about a wife, the kids in private school, their mortgage, their “happy” home. I know you all think it’s so selfish and I’m such a homewrecker and an evil person for destroying “happy” lives, but I didn’t do it alone.
Newsflash: If you were so happy, he wouldn’t step out. No Other Woman would be able to pull him away from this delirious happiness if it were really all that you make it out to be.
Don’t make those fatal mistakes. Don’t assume that because your husband cheated, the Other Woman wants to keep him. She may just want to borrow him. She also is not concerned about YOU, but neither is she purposefully seeking to destroy you. Don’t assume because you’re happy your husband/boyfriend is happy. Don’t assume it’s your fault because your man cheated. Don’t assume it’s the Other Woman’s fault. Put the blame where blame is due. Stop falling on your sword. If you want to make it work, then try to make it work, but if it ain’t fittin’, then it just ain’t fitting and know when to walk away.
And for those Other Women out there like me, there’s some lessons in this for you too. Most of the time, no good will ever come from being the Other Woman. Unless you’re an emotionless bag completely fixated on sex, you will almost always get caught up in the situation. When that happens, it’s all downhill from there. Don’t ever make the assumption that you’re actually important to him. Don’t make the rancid mistake that you’re the “only one.” Don’t assume he’ll leave her for you. You will wait and wait, and wait some more and the best years of your life will pass you by while you’re hanging on to some invalidated dream. Remember, if he can cheat on his wife, someone he made vows to, he’ll cheat on you too. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and how you get a man is usually how you lose a man. If you continue to pursue this course of madness, then be prepared for the consequences.
In which case, you deserve everything you get in life.