dating

'Six years ago, my lover left his wife for me. Then he left me while I was pregnant.'

Everyone has an opinion about who you are and what you’ve done. They like to think they know the whole story, but few people ever will.

They don’t know that you were just a naive girl who fell in love at the wrong time. And gave your heart to the wrong man because nobody ever taught you what good love really looks like.

So you spent your whole life thinking you had to love in secret.

See, I was the other woman.

It’s not something I set out to be or do. In fact, I hated my inability to walk away from the web that wrapped its sticky tendrils around my throat. The web I thought was love.

When you’re the other woman, you think you’re lucky to have found this incredible, rare connection. You fall for him and you fall hard because he presses all of your buttons as if he was made for you. It’s utter bliss — until you discover the truth. He’s married.

The Mamamia team discusses emotional v.s. physical cheating. Post continues after video. 

Video by MMC

The truth comes swift like a knife, but you’re too naive to walk away. You think you’re already in too deep. You believe your fear to let go is love. It’s not.

Fear becomes an enormous part of your life. The joy of falling in love is eclipsed by the frightening roller coaster that is now your life.

What if something happens before you can ever really be together? You think you’re running out of time with this person you love.

You stay because you’re scared.

Your life revolves around this person and their whims. Their schedule. You answer their calls like your life depends upon it. Your needs don’t matter.

He gets upset when you miss his calls. “Where were you,” he pleads. You couldn’t have a life. You were far too busy with your secret. Too busy making sure you were available for him when he needed you.

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When you tell him it is too hard, or too much, he gets angry and says, “It’s harder for me,” or “you knew what this was.”

Except you never really did. You didn’t know what you were doing. You never did anything like this before.

Any problem you try to talk about gets turned around on you. He doesn’t want you seeing anyone else. Even though you know he isn’t sleeping alone.

He tells you to give him the benefit of a doubt. When you see him, you pay for everything — plane tickets, hotels, dinner. He can’t spend the money because it would be missed.

And yet, you fall in love with everything he says he wants. As you overlook every selfish red flag.

You spend your holidays and nights alone. Waiting. Attached to your phone. His attention is your next breath, and you never know when you will get to breathe again.

Everything is complicated, but that’s exactly what you thought love was.

You tell your therapist about the affair. She says it sounds like you feel as if you can’t trust love unless it comes with a big, sweeping gesture. She says it’s part of the problem with feeling you have no voice. No power.

You think you need huge proofs of love.

And it’s true. You were already cheated on in your other relationships. You don’t know how to believe love might be for you unless it comes with secrets and drama.

So when this person comes into your life and says they will leave their life for you… it is strangely enticing.

But the guilt? Horrific.

It’s over. But the scars remain.

When people call you someone’s mistress, a homewrecker, or worse, they don’t know that there’s nothing they can say to you that you haven’t already said to yourself.

You’ve said much worse to yourself every day. Every time he hurt you, every time you cried, you told yourself you deserved it.

Every day you secluded yourself just a little bit more.

People believe in the story of the Jezebel, the homewrecker, the conniving other woman. That was you, or at least that’s what people thought of you. Think of you. And when it all came out, when he ended his marriage, people really let you have it. People you never even knew had some choice words to tell you what you’re all about.

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Once you’re the other woman, that’s all many people will ever see.

Mia Freedman chats to couples therapist Esther Perel about why people cheat on the No Filter podcast. Post continues after podcast. 

Six years later you’re still the woman who broke up a family. Who broke three little boys’ hearts. Who had the nerve to get pregnant herself before the divorce was even finalised.

All these years later, you still get hateful messages from strangers in this Bible belt town. They tell you that you’re scum. They tell you how they hope you will never be happy, never find love, and never know the joy of a faithful partner.

This is all, of course, because you once loved the wrong man.

You will pay for this lapse of judgement for the rest of your life. You are paying now as a single mum.

When you’ve been the other woman, It doesn’t just change the way other people see you. It changes the way you see you.

You think you’re dirty and can’t come clean. You think you’re unworthy. Unlovable, of course.

You think you deserve whatever hardships you get.

Everything you get from here on out is payback for being the other woman. Though sometimes you wonder how long you must pay.

There is a reason why everyone talks about the other woman. The homewrecker. The slut. The whore. The mistress. The skank. The Jezebel.

Just like there’s a reason we don’t talk about the other man.

We don’t have too many slurs for the cheating husband and father. The one who had more than a dozen affairs in his 10 year marriage. We don’t label him the homewrecker.

And that’s how he moves on so easily. New affairs, new relationships, new marriages. The chronic cheater who gets his kids every other weekend. Somehow, fatherhood will never be a full-time job for him.

It’s different for the other woman turned single mom. Motherhood never ends. Work never ends. Unless you’re exceptionally lucky to have great parents or a hefty support system, you’re not out there meeting new people and moving on. There’s no time for that with a small child. You have to be present.

On the other hand, the man who started all of this, the man who targets woman after woman only to complain he’s the chronic victim of seduction? He moves on while the other woman is still pregnant.

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You.

People assume the other woman is always some type of succubus, tormenting innocent men. Sirens victimising helpless families. Sucking the life from others.

So you wonder if that’s true. You pull away from other people daily because no one can understand you. No, because you don’t understand you. You’re worried that it’s all true.

When you’re the other woman, it might take years to forgive yourself. Years to accept that you could be worthy of good love. Real love. The kind that doesn’t poison everything. It might take years to understand that you don’t have to be what strangers say you are.

You might have been the other woman and made a world of mistakes in love, but it’s okay to move on and wear a smile on your face again.

People could misjudge that smile for the rest of your life, but one day you’ll learn you live with that too.

This post originally appeared on Medium and was republished here with full permission. The feature image used is a stock photo. 

You can read more from Shannon Ashley on Medium, or follow her on Twitter

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