dating

'I was dating a man and his wife found out. She was shocked to find he had a plus size mistress.'

My daughter’s dad pursued me online when he was still married. I was following his blog and Facebook page when something I posted to my own timeline caught his eye.

It was 2013 and I’d lost a lot of weight, but I was still fat. As a woman with lipedema, I often found myself frustrated by the way people talk about fat women on social media, so I decided to post this naked picture:

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Image: Supplied.

Maybe it was silly, but it was something I needed to do back then. Although so much of the world wrote me off as another “fat bitch” any time I spoke up for myself and took up space, I was proud of my progress.

I walked two hours a day on the treadmill and ate a mostly raw, vegan diet. I weighed about 130 kg, but the number on the scale didn’t really matter. I was feeling good about myself again.

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Image: Supplied.
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Unfortunately, I was also dealing with an undiagnosed borderline personality disorder. In those days, I’d been misdiagnosed with bipolar II. I knew I didn’t have a handle on my life and that I was still driven by my own rollercoaster of emotions, but I didn’t know what to do about it.

For the most part, I white-knuckled my way through life and simply hoped to be happy one day.

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And back then, I genuinely believed that “love” was synonymous with happiness.

When you’ve been deeply wounded (and have yet to fully heal), it often feels like more of the same sort of trauma seeks you out. In some ways, I think that it does.

We are frequently drawn to people who’ve been hurt in the same way or those who know how to hurt us in ways that feel familiar.

That’s why so many of us keep repeating train wreck relationships that seem so great in the beginning. Trauma cycles if we don’t break through it and heal.

In early 2013 after losing more than 35 kg, I came to the uncomfortable realisation that I needed to get out of my current relationship. The truth was that I felt ready for love, but I was in a pretty loveless five-year-long relationship with a friend’s brother.

We were “engaged,” but I knew we wouldn’t get married. We couldn’t. There was too much baggage, too much disappointment, and if I was honest with myself, I should have exited the relationship much, much earlier.

I finally got out when it occurred to me that I was ready for more. I wanted to be deeply loved.

And that’s exactly when my daughter’s dad, a married man, found me. I wasn’t exactly looking for love, but in my head, I was desperate for it.

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So, I wound up attracting the worst sort of relationship for me. The codependent kind that pushed all of my buttons just right.

I’d never dated a married man before. Some of my former relationship timelines were a little sketchy, like when I tried to end things and a guy kept trying to change my mind. I also imagine that some of the men I’ve chatted with on dating apps were lying about their relationship status.

But this was the first time I ever knowingly dated someone who was bound to someone else. And truthfully? It scared me.

I was scared by how easy it was. Don’t get me wrong -- it was often painful and I had massive guilt. But when he told me that he was “unhappily married,” I surprised myself by not running away right then and there.

That should have been a huge red flag, but, this connection to him quickly became a compulsion.

As a result, our relationship moved fast. It was strange because when you begin an affair online, it doesn’t feel “real.” At least, not until you spend time together in real life.

We began chatting on February 11. Three days later, he told me he was falling in love with me. Had my mind been healthier, I would have run far away and never looked back.

But I had untreated borderline personality back then. I thought I was falling in love too.

We had a virtual affair for about four months, and then I flew down to Tennessee to finally meet him in person. When that happened, I felt there was no turning back.

What previously seemed so surreal was suddenly my real life. I couldn’t change the fact that my affair with a married man was suddenly official.

And it was abruptly, the end of sorts. Within a week of our first meeting in real life, my married boyfriend left his wife.

Yet he wasn’t honest about me or any of his other affairs.

When his wife found out about me a couple of weeks later, she was understandably angry and upset. He had insisted that there was no one else. That he wanted a divorce for his own happiness.

So, she spent the next several days out of state with her parents and children, thinking that she’d have an opportunity to repair their marriage.

Once she knew I existed, I became the reason her marriage was over. None of their existing problems mattered. And certainly none of his.

She found me on Facebook and began comparing her appearance to mine. She was always slim and conventionally gorgeous. A cheerleader, a homecoming queen. When she saw my photos online, she told her husband that she apparently should have gained one hundred pounds and dyed her hair black like me.

That’s what nobody could believe. That the other woman would be so fat.

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Fatness among women is a damn safe joke. If you want to hire a nanny or secretary but keep your husband faithful to you, the standard joke goes that you should hire the fat woman.

He will never go for “that.”

Fat women are frequently looked down upon or treated like second-class citizens. As if we’ve somehow shirked our womanly responsibility to the rest of the world. The world that wants us to be conventionally beautiful, lithe, smiling, and agreeable.

Among the “worst” things we can be is fat. And when somebody wants to insult us, it is very easy for them to latch onto the “f word” and never let go.

You might think that it’s enough to be the mistress or other woman. Or “homewrecker.” Doesn’t that say it all? If there must be a character defect you’d think it could be related to our actions rather than our appearance.

But as it turns out, “fat bitch” is somehow much more satisfying for the folks who want to hurt us.

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I was recently reminded of my fat bitch status when I caught up on FreeForm’s Good Trouble. In the latest episode, there’s a character named Davia who previously had an affair with a married man, an old flame from high school.

Although she came to her senses and ended that relationship, the wife, er ex-wife, found out after the fact and she took her beef to Instagram, calling Davia “a fat bitch.”

In response, Davia made a clapback video, embracing the term. It was a good moment, I think. Good for body positivity or fat acceptance. And it was honest.

Davia doesn’t always like being fat. And she hates how people often use the word against her as an insult. She understands why her ex-lover’s wife was upset and wanted to hurt her, and it worked.

It hurt.

But Davia dusts herself off and moves forward. Clapping back with the phrase “fat bitch” is powerful because it’s something everybody’s heard.

Nobody ever expects the other woman to be fat, though the truth is that she doesn’t even have to be fat for others to ask, “How could he cheat with her? What could he see in that fat bitch?”

Women are frequently groomed to compare themselves to others to determine their worth. Who’s prettier, who’s fatter, who’s the supposedly better catch.

So, maybe it’s only natural that we frequently jump to calling a married man’s mistress a “fat bitch.”

But it’s petty. People say it as if being fat is actually some moral failing. And as if men can’t possibly be attracted to women with fat bodies.

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My fatness didn’t make me any more susceptible to falling for a married man than a slim woman. My insecurity didn’t make it happen either.

If anything directly contributed to my poor choice to stay when I should have run, it was my misdiagnosed mental illness and my terrible views about love.

Like a lot of other people, and many other folks with BPD, I didn’t think I was worthy unless I was romantically involved with someone. I spent most of my life believing that the high point of my existence would have been falling in love and staying in love for forever.

The best way I know how to explain it is that I was a lot like Rebecca Bunch on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Just fatter and not a lawyer. I put love on a pedestal and wound up attracting only broken men who would keep repeating these codependent and otherwise unhealthy relationships.

In those days, I would have done anything for love. So I did. I moved across the country for a married man I only knew online for four months and in real life for just a week. I did things for him against my better judgment only to please him.

And I quit seeing myself as anyone worthwhile… not because I was fat, but because I was so dependent upon him to tell me who I was. Because I didn’t have my head screwed on straight.

The truth, of course, is that men love fat women. Not all men, obviously, but more than you might think.

When it comes to fat female bodies, I think that women and society are the hardest -- not men. Plenty of men enjoy sex and healthy, loving relationships with fat women. And more of them would admit it if they weren’t so worried about what their friends or family might think about them.

Yeah, some men are jerks to fat women. They want to use us as fuck buddies or pretend that we don’t exist. Some guys only see a woman’s worth through her outer appearance, and then they only think she’s worthy if she’s acceptably slim.

To be honest, I don’t care about those men. I find life too short and too fragile to see others through such a narrow lens. And I’m not interested in dating a man who can’t value a whole woman.

Our bodies are such a small part of who we are and how we love. Yet when we think about steamy, scandalous extramarital affairs, nobody expects the mistress to be fat. They either think we’re safe in a matronly way or bitchy in a fat way.

In reality, we’re just people who love and make occasionally shitty choices like anyone else.

This post originally appeared on Medium and was republished here with full permission. 

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

Feature image: Getty.

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