Or you can say, The Other Man. Either way today’s post is about how it feels to be the person your significant other is cheating with. Surprisingly I have had a few people come to counseling because they are in this position. It’s easy to hate and judge this person. Most people think, “How can you get involved with someone when you know they are in a relationship”? There are some people out there with evil intentions. This is true. But don’t automatically judge without investigating a little further.
So, why do people choose to be with someone when they know they are in a relationship already? Well let’s start with the most innocent people in this situation. The ones who didn’t know, at least at first. I have met with a few people who come in because they have fallen in love with someone only to find out this person is in another relationship. Some people will leave immediately after finding out they’ve been lied to, but not everyone is so brave. Some people are so blinded by a person that they give up their morals and values to please them. They start to rationalize in their own head that they didn’t know so it isn’t their fault. You also don’t always know what your own partner may be telling them. They may think your partner is about to get out of your relationship. I’ve met with men and women who have been manipulated into thinking that the other relationship is about to break up and they so they wait. They really do hope and believe it is going to work out for them. It is rare that it does work out, but hope can have a strong hold on a person anyway.
This also happens to people when they start listening to a friend, co-worker or someone from class talk about your relationship. If your boyfriend or girlfriend starts opening up to someone else about your problems it can start to create intimacy between those two people. The person who is at first just trying to be a good friend may start to develop feelings, even though they know your boyfriend or girlfriend is still in a relationship with you. If your significant other reciprocates those feelings it doesn’t take long for things to develop. Yes, both people are wrong in this situation. However, I’ve talked about how emotions can make people do very illogical things. This is one of those things. People give into their feelings. This other person hopes like the person above that your relationship will break up as sad as that sounds.
I know it sounds crazy from an objective point of view. However, good people can make bad mistakes. Some people really aren’t trying to hurt anyone. They really get caught up in their emotions for someone that may cause them to cross lines they never thought they would cross. The people I talk to come in and are full of guilt. Many have tried to pull away, but it is easier said than done. Unless both parties agree to never see each other or communicate again at the same time and remain vigilant about it, things start up again too easily. If one person breaks down in a weak moment it can be very hard for the other person to say no. These types of affairs can be just emotional or both sexual and emotional. They are rarely just about sex. That is what makes them so hurtful to the person being cheated on.
I also see people who are drawn to someone because they are in a relationship already. This can happen subconsciously because they aren’t ready for a commitment, so they are attracted to people who can’t commit to them. They may not think they deserve more so they are okay with being someone on the side. Again, what they are doing isn’t okay, but their intentions really aren’t to hurt anyone. Fear or low self-confidence is usually the motivating factor in this case.
I’m not trying to excuse the behavior of someone who is cheating, but I’m hoping to help you understand how someone can end up on this side of cheating and have a hard time getting out of it. It seems like a person should be able to control who they fall in love with, but like anger, it is best controlled before it goes too far. This is why I warn students to be careful how much they talk to someone who may be in a relationship. Feelings can develop even though you meant to see someone just as a friend. Once feelings go too far, it is hard to be more logical about the situation. It is easier to walk away from someone sooner rather than later because attachment only grows. If you are cheating with someone’s partner and feel guilty about it, find someone to talk to who can help you pull away without making you feel even worse.
Then there is the “other woman or man” who is just looking to take what they can get regardless of who is involved. Some don’t even ask if your partner is in a relationship or don’t care. They are only looking for sex and don’t really want to know any details about your partner. Some may know your boyfriend or girlfriend is involved but are too selfish to care. They only worry about themselves in the moment. They believe it isn’t their responsibility if your boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating or not. To be honest, it really isn’t.
This situation is complicated. It can be easy to throw around blame. You may think this person went after your boyfriend or girlfriend because they wanted to break you up. Maybe this is true, but ultimately your partner is responsible for what happens in your relationship and how it affects you. You have choices to make when you find out your partner is cheating on you. Find out how it started, how many times it happened, who was involved, whether it was it just sex or if an emotional attachment developed and then decide what you want to do. If you need to get back at your partner then do it by breaking up with them. If you choose to stay, then find a way to forgive them and build your trust again. No one can tell you what is best and only you know if you can handle staying in the relationship after your partner has cheated. There is no right answer. Just remember to focus your energy on you and your partner and try not to waste too much anger on the other woman or man involved.
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Given the numbers on how many people cheat, there are thousands upon thousands of women (and men) who have had the experience of being the “Other Woman.” I would love for all of us to “come out of the closet” so to speak and start talking about our experiences. But I think we may be burned at the stake.
It’s so easy to judge people like me (yes, I was a mistress) and to call us selfish and immoral. It’s so easy for people to see people in terms of good or bad people. And while I appreciate your attempt to discuss this topic in a balanced and fair way (many of your points were excellent), you still tend to pathologize the “Other Woman” in a way that doesn’t seem right. You seem to suggest that we fit into only 2 categories – innocent or selfish/evil; and the selfish people apparently do not have any or the right kind of morals.
As someone who really loved being a mistress and felt no guilt or shame (in fact, I felt very special – I did not feel “undeserving of more”, I had all that I wanted), I can say that I am not a sociopath, predator, nor do I lack empathy or consider my behavior a mistake. I am not afraid of commitment – I simply do not want to commit in the way that our culture expects we should).
I would say that my morals have always looked different from the majority culture in that I do not value monogamy, I see people as free human beings (people do not own other people), I like lots of space in my relationships, and I try to live as authentically as possible. And while I do not go our looking for married men, I do not necessarily avoid them or limit my friendships (as you would likely recommend).
Thanks for emphasizing that the situation is always complicated and that over focus on the “Other Woman” is not going to help (in fact, it is often a distraction or defense against dealing straight on with the partner).
Thanks so much for sharing your point of view. I appreciate you speaking up because it is a position a lot of people judge because they’ve never been through it. I like how you explained your situation. I’m sure there are people who can relate, so thanks for sharing!
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Thanks for sharing, You made your point. too many people are more on the verge of cheating and it seems like its a cycle that can not be broken, you tend to try and not work with feelings but when the feelings are there you can not pull away. I have tried to end this 6 month relationship that i have been having but every time i do the other person wont let me go. It’s a hard and ugly cycle that i wish i could just end but for some reason something keeps holding me on to him.
It is very hard to leave someone you are attracted to or care for. The brain is sometimes wanting to be selfless but when it has selfish moments, it can be hard to resist. Hang in there. It either gets easier, or it becomes so painful that you finally are able to let go.