It's not as cut-and-dried as it seems.
Just about every person who writes on this topic and self-identifies as a former Other Woman says, Don’t do it. It’s horrible.
Well. I’ll be the first to admit, it is horrible, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
Allow me to explain myself.
Most of the people who condemn the Other Woman put themselves in the place of the cheated-on spouse. I read a column recently from the point of view of a formerly cheating man who pointed out, and quite rightly, too, that the living instant an affair is discovered, all sympathy shifts to the person whose pain is fresh and raw from the shock of discovering such an awful betrayal.
And all sympathy shifts away from the person who suffered in silence for years prior to that, leading to the betrayal.
We all know the cheated-on spouse is destroyed. Keeping that in mind, can we look at the other aspects of the situation, please?
Would I choose to do this again?
I think it depends on which me you ask: The me of six years ago, or the me of today.
Me, Six Years Ago:
Six years ago, I was still the destroyed little person with zero confidence in her ability to even pay for her own life alone, who idolized my married man because he was so handsome, so smart, so well-rounded, and such a success. I believed he was better than me in every way.
And when we do that, the person’s approval means we aren’t such a loser. Powerful inducement, that.
Also, I recall that six years ago, I had NO clue just how hideously, hideously codependent this person is, or what a terrible death knell that is for a relationship.
So, what if the Truth Fairy appears at the very beginning of the relationship and shows me that I will be dumped, and what horrible, horrible emotional pain I will go through for the next five miserable years as a result?
I think that Six-Years-Ago-Me would quail at the prospect and chicken out.
I still love the guy, of course, and I want to make that gesture that says, You are not repulsive. You are not worthless. You are lovable. All relationships are not like this. You could be treated better. Someone exists who wants to treat you better.
But … I’m going to get killed anyway. If I know the person I consider the Second Love Of My Life is going to dump me anyhow, and I’m going to spend the next five years in the most horrible pain imaginable — worse than losing my husband — I think I’d probably chicken out. I’d already been through quite a lot by then anyway.
(There are reasons we aren’t allowed to look ahead and know for sure what the future will be!)
As I am now, I understand that there was an awful lot I needed to learn through this experience, and if I hadn’t had this experience, I never would have learned it.
And I needed to learn it.
And if I hadn’t learned it now, I would still have it ahead of me to learn. And it would have happened one way or the other.
The reason for this is that we wounded people — those of us who are still six years old, making decisions a six-year-old would make about how to get six-year-old developmental needs met — are going to keep doing that unless and until something triggers the need to learn the things we do not know, and to grow up.
Part of this is that we are emotionally immature.
But the other part of this is: there are obscure truths about these situations that are not commonly known, and that if you want to know, you must dig for them.
And most people aren’t motivated to do this level of digging unless they’ve been very badly hurt and need to understand all about it.
This is the reason we have judgmental people hopping all over the cheaters and unquestioningly taking the side of the wronged spouse.
This is why people who really don’t know one damned thing about the inner workings of a marriage still think they do, and create even more pain by taking sides.
This is why we have people whose parents cheated pouring out their pain years and years later.
This is why some marriages break up after an affair instead of doing the work required to resurrect their relationships.
People do not know everything they believe they do.
This is a big point, here.
Because it is much, much easier to grow up emotionally when your understandings reflect the whole truth of something, and not just naive tropes about it.
So, part of the reason this person came along is I had a lot to learn and he was supposed to wake me up to the need to ferret it out and learn it.
From this vantage point, six years on, I can see that I was immature and needed to grow up, and that there was a lot about affairs I needed to know and learn about. And that I might as well go ahead and get it over with.
Also, the affair gave them an opportunity to reconnect and restore their relationship. Not something they would have done any other way that I could see.
So, from this point of view, I would probably go ahead and do it again anyway.
There is also, as an afterthought, the fact that I actually did reach in and touch a person, alone in a pit of confusion, despair, and self-loathing; someone I loved.
And I did get the chance to be the one to transmit to that person: Hey, you’ve got this all wrong. You’re not repulsive; you’re not unlovable. I love you. All marriage does not end up this way, and if it were up to me, I would treat you better.
At the time, this was my main reason for doing what I did. I adored this guy so much that, at the time, I thought the opportunity to leave him with that was worth any heartbreak I might undergo.
I cannot, however, recommend that as your main reason for exposing yourself to the pain I’ve just been through over the past five years, because, as I’m very sorry to have to report:
It doesn’t appear to have done much good.
This is very bad news. Very, very bad.
It is, in fact, the reason I am no longer in contact with my mother. Because I suffered like hell with my mentally ill mother for some thirty-eight years, and it never did her a lick of good. I suffered; she never got better. I suffered; she never got better.
Every time this happens, it takes more and more out of you. You can literally beat the living shit out of yourself for a person like this, and find that it hasn’t made a damn bit of difference.
It’s easy to tell yourself going in that you can handle it and you will be all right … but as a general rule you are doing a lot better going into these situations than you are coming out of them.
Which is all right if it actually does make a difference — it was for something, after all — but you really don’t know, going in, who it’s going to make any difference for and who it won’t. Especially if you grew up with someone mentally ill.
I sure couldn’t tell it ultimately would make no difference. It would be nice to know it had, but I’d bet real money it hasn’t. And that was one of the biggest things I had to learn.
Sadly, we tend to keep repeating mistakes unless and until we learn better, so, as I’ve said, I might as well have taken the opportunity here.
I also got a novel out of it that no one reads, and I’ve come to understand why things happen a lot better. I understand astrology now. (Actually, I understand why things happen a lot better, partially because of learning astrology through all this.)
So, I have reaped some benefit through all this pain — and I hope I don’t forget any of it. It was a tough way to learn.