It’s a warm evening at the end of the summer when I walk into his apartment. I am immediately aware of a pair of earrings I don’t recognize sitting on the kitchen counter. The hairbrush in the bathroom holds three long, blonde hairs that did not come from my head. There are small reminders of a woman who is not me, in plain view all around the apartment, and I suppress my feelings of sadness, anger, and betrayal as I walk into the bedroom.
Right now, you feel bad for me, and you wonder who is horrible enough to put me in this position. You are hoping I turn around and run far away from this place. You are thinking, “She’s about to find her boyfriend in bed with another woman.”
You would be wrong, though, because I am the other woman.
I am this woman right now, and I have been this woman in the past. Sometimes, it’s an innocuous and too-long embrace, and sometimes it leads to more than that.
You never think you’re going to end up here. You think you’ll be stronger than that; stronger than a phone call in the middle of the night, stronger than the urgency of him after a few drinks. It’s very easy to think you’re never going to end up as the other woman, until you do.
I’m not entirely sure how I continue ending up in this position. I do know that I have a fear of meeting new people and having to embark on new sexual relationships, which means I end up sleeping with someone I know, regardless of their relationship status, before seeking out new men who are single. I never intend for it to be scandalous and I don’t set out to cause any harm.
Admittedly, I think I am turned on by the pursuit of a taken man. He has something to lose by sleeping with me…who’s not going to get off to that?
But, as every article and self-help book will tell you, he will never leave his girlfriend for the other woman.
The other woman has an empty bed. The other woman knows when a remotely suggestive text is off-limits. She knows to erase any tangible trace of herself in his life. It becomes second nature to keep her jewelry and underwear and makeup accounted for.
She can’t tell anyone in her life about the incredible person she spends her time with. The people she does tell are disgusted, but they don’t understand. The other woman cannot make demands in the relationship; she does not get flowers or a public embrace or even an acknowledgment of her own feelings.
The other woman knows her place, because who is going to believe her or respect her if someone finds out? We’ve all seen the movies; the man gets forgiven, but the other woman is labeled a whore and a homewrecker.
I hold no delusions that he will ever choose me. I’m not even sure I want him to choose me. Once a cheater, always a cheater, right? I’ve seen him work his magic; I fell for it. There will always be other women, and I know I cannot trust him. So, I do not ask anything of him. This works out, until it’s 2 am and he’s with her and I’ve had too much to drink and I want nothing more in this world than the weight of him in my bed.
I certainly never planned to fall for someone else’s boyfriend. I don’t like knowing that I’ve unwittingly made this person my whole world and to them I’m nothing more than a side piece. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how much he insists that he, too, has feelings for me. He’s only sleeping with me because I’ve easily slipped into the role of the other woman. I’ve allowed myself to be heard and acknowledged at certain times, and silenced when his girlfriend is around. I’m convenient for him, and honestly I will keep my mouth shut. I threaten to out him, but he and I both know that will not happen.
I’m in the process of trying to break off this toxic relationship. I wish I could say it’s because I feel guilty about the hurt I’m causing his girlfriend, even if she has no suspicions that I exist. I know that I should feel guilty, but I can compartmentalize my life and my feelings so well that I simply do not. I can see myself allowing this to go on forever because having any piece of him is better than having nothing. I need to walk away because I’m falling for him, and it’s so much harder to be the dirty little secret when he makes your world stop turning.