Words of wisdom from someone who's been there, done that, plus some hard-hitting truths on the reality of having an affair
You’ll have heard the phrase ‘being the other woman’: you know, being the other woman someone is with, in addition to their partner. It’s a term that’s long been used to refer to the mistress, the lover, or the single woman engaging in emotional or physical relations with a man who’s already taken.
It’s common to read tales from the perspective of women who’ve been cheated on: stories of heartbreak, despair and trust issues, shock, turmoil and deep, deep hurt. Hearing the version of events from the person who instigated the cheating is rarer.
Take it as a warning, mere words of wisdom or simply a life lesson, and keep reading for one perspective of what it’s really like being the other woman, plus a little on why people cheat, from someone who’s done it themselves.
Being the other woman: what it feels like
“There’s no way of saying it without sounding like a terrible person, but here goes: when my partner and I got together, he was involved with someone else. I was the other woman.”
“The words ‘other woman’ are already loaded. She’s a character, not a real person. She’s supposed to be a busty, peroxide blonde predator who goes after men in happy marriages for her own selfish gain. Of course, that’s not the reality. In truth, I was a slightly lost twenty-two-year-old receptionist with no desire to ‘steal’ anyone’s boyfriend. I fell for my now fiance, and despite being with other people, we couldn’t stay away from each other.”
“I don’t condone infidelity, in fact, I think it’s one of the worst things you can do to someone. It crushes your trust and usually ruins your relationship. If I discovered that my partner had cheated on me I would be devastated. So trust me when I say, I don’t feel good about what happened.”
Is being the other woman stressful?
“Being the other woman is not fun, whatever films and TV might tell you. I’d always assumed that mistresses lay around in silk sheets drinking champagne and waiting for their lovers to arrive laden with gifts. Not so. In fact my life looked the exact same as before, except for an increasingly sexually charged friendship with a man I knew I should be staying away from.”
“My other half was in a short term, long-distance relationship and I was in a long term, open one. The chemistry between us was pretty instant, from meeting to our first drink (which was, if I’m honest with myself, a date). There was no question that we were going to end up in bed together. It was just a question of how long we’d manage to resist it.”
The affair wasn’t physical, but emotional
“I can at least say that we didn’t sleep together until we’d broken up with our respective partners. In fact, we only kissed a couple of times. But that wasn’t the infidelity. The real wrong in what we did was emotional. Messaging constantly, meeting up to hang out without telling anyone and always thinking about each other, wishing we were together. If my other half was going to cheat on me, I’d far rather he indulged in a random shag with a stranger than kept it non-sexual but lay next to me in bed thinking about someone else.”
“One morning I woke up, after a party, and snuck out of the bedroom to avoid waking my ex. I went and lay in the spare room, where my now-boyfriend was sleeping. We didn’t even touch, we just lay there listening to each other breath. There was nothing physical about it, but that doesn’t mean it was innocent. Emotionally we were already being unfaithful, and of course, eventually our self-control failed, and it became physical.”
Breaking the news about being the other woman
“Once we’d kissed we knew we had to tell our partners what had happened, and that the relationships were over. My ex wasn’t especially bothered. We’d been in an open relationship that had run its course.”
“But my boyfriend’s ex was heartbroken, and her friends began to target me on social media in defence of her. We both felt terrible about what we’d done, I certainly didn’t need strangers using Twitter to call me an evil slut. Interestingly the abuse was only ever aimed at me, not at my boyfriend, which if anything is proof that the world still believes women are capable of ‘stealing’ men. Being the other woman is so stigmatised. Of course we can’t steal ‘men’. It takes two people to be unfaithful, and no-one can force anyone to do it.”
Does being the other woman ever end well?
“‘Once a cheater, always a cheater’ is a popular idiom to address the issue. I don’t think that’s true, but then of course, I’ve got a vested interest in not believing it. If it is true, then my relationship is in trouble. But I believe people cheat for a reason. They cheat because they’re unhappy in their relationship or they’re missing something they need.”
“Cheating, despite being an agonising experience, can act as wake-up call that a relationship has stopped working, and that it’s time to get out. Of course it’s possible to rebuild and move on, but that needs both partners to be invested in trying and understanding how things broke down in the first place.”