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‘I was the other woman in a marriage and never realised it’

Vicky Charles, 36, shares her experience of being the other woman

Words by Vicky Charles of Single Mother Ahoy and Jeyda Karamehmet

I was working in an office building for a financial services company. I worked on the first floor, and struck up a friendship with James, a friend-of-a-friend on the fourth floor. Over time we became friends and would email back and forth throughout the day. One day I bumped into him on the stairs and we got chatting; he asked me out for a drink.

He was (I thought) honest from the outset. He told me that he and his wife had been together through university and had only got married because of pressure from family and friends that it was what they should do. They were really just best friends, but now they were married and owned a house together. With the housing market as it was, they couldn’t afford to sell the house, and they couldn’t afford to divorce either – but they were pretty much just housemates, two people sharing a house who were married in name only and I believed him.

He was funny, and we got on really well. We started meeting for drinks here and there after work, and sometimes he would come back to my place. Once we went to a social event organised by the company – so all of his team were there. Nobody said anything to me, and I took this as a sign that he must be telling the truth. I knew some of these people better than I knew him.

As time went on, things became stranger – but there was always a perfectly plausible explanation to allay my concerns. We couldn’t go out so much because he couldn’t afford it. He preferred to sit in my flat and watch DVDs and I’m quite introverted so that suited me. I asked him several times if his wife knew about me; each time he said yes and that she was happy for him.

One time I was with him on our lunch break and we bumped into her, they had a brief discussion as to who would feed the cat that evening. He took that as an opportunity to convince me that she knew we were together.

When our office closed down for Christmas he took me out for lunch and showered me with gifts. He explained that he would be spending most of the Christmas break at his parents’ house, to get away from his wife as things were getting a bit difficult living together.

After Christmas, his excuses became more frequent. There was one evening when he was out having a meal with an amateur dramatics group, but assured me he would come to me afterwards. He didn’t arrive and texted to say he was too tired and would see me the next day. He then sent a message saying he had food poisoning from putting out of date milk on his cereal and was too sick to see me.

He was then signed off from work and became difficult to contact. When we did speak, he was full of remorse that he’d not been able to see me much. He would say how much he really liked me and that things were just difficult and he’d make it up to me.

After weeks of putting up with his excuses I finally had enough so I shoved all his belonging which he’d left at my flat into a bag and walked the couple of blocks to his house. When he opened the door he seemed pleased to see me and invited me in for a cup of tea. I handed him the bag and walked away without saying a word.

I called a friend to commiserate and we met up for a drink. She sat next to him at work, but was a good friend. She was so pleased I’d decided to leave him because she revealed that he’d been with his wife the entire time. He had been showing her photos on his mobile of their new kitten which had crawled into bed with them. I felt sick I couldn’t believe I had been lied to.

I asked why nobody had told me; she said it was a tricky situation and she felt it was best I figured it out for myself. I felt awful about his wife, he lied to us both. For a long while I thought about contacting her to tell her what had happened, but I was scared she would blame me.

I was angry and hurt but what bothered me most was that so many people had been complicit in his lies, by not telling me. All along I had kept telling myself that if there was something going on, if he was happily married after all, surely someone would tell me. I was the only person who didn’t know he was playing happy families with his wife for all of the times he stood me up.

Found yourself in this situation? Relationship expert, Annabelle Knight advises women to put themselves first in such situations and remember what they really deserve:

‘If you find out that you’re the other woman you’ll have to deal with a plethora of emotions and questions alike. Jealousy, sadness, anger, hurt and insecurity may be a few of the emotions you’re likely to feel, you may also want to ask yourself how trustworthy your partner is. Depending on how strict your moral code is, this will determine what actions you take. Some women will want to out their partner, others will settle into the role of mistress and not breath a word. In my experience this will usually end badly. The bottom line is you’ve been lied to, deceived and will undoubtedly feel betrayed. As a seasoned liar your partner may try and placate you with promises of leaving and choosing you. For the vast majority these are empty words designed to do nothing more than pacify you until the relationship becomes normalised and you become accepting of your position. My advice to any woman who finds herself the other woman is to leave. No woman deserves to be second best, if you’re the one he wants he will follow, if not then you’ve had a lucky escape.’

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