I was the other woman. Yes, there I said it. I was involved with a man who was in a committed and exclusive relationship and it was horrible. It all started before I knew he was dating someone and we went out a couple of times. I soon felt myself falling for him hard and fast. There were some red flags early on like he would never instantly reply to me, he would be ‘online’ on Whatsapp for a long while without acknowledging my texts and would be very specific about when he could meet but I brushed them over thinking he was busy with work. I was almost five years younger and he was someone I looked up to intellectually and as a mentor, my feelings for him muddled up becoming a massive romantic mess.
Soon I found out that he had a girlfriend... A whole lot of fights, heated arguments and a full-on confrontation later I continued seeing him. Sneaking around, talking in hushed tones, and not talking about our torrid love story to anyone became a part of my life too. We would meet in hotel rooms, spend a few beautiful hours nuzzling together and forgetting the world. My heart would break when he would step out to the corridor to take an ‘important call’ but somehow I learned to silence that part of my being and focused on my deep feelings for him.
Needless to say, the relationship ended badly but after months of teary nights and sobbing in the mornings, I am finally better and can see the relationship for what it was. I convinced myself it wasn’t on me but let’s be honest, it kind of was. Here are some of the things I’ve learned now about cheating, heartbreak, shame, and guilt.
Everyone would like to believe that they’re good people at heart. What happens when that basic sense of humanity is questioned by your own conscious actions? Nobody coerced me into being with him, people told me to get away but I chose to stay with him as long as I did. Falling for him wasn’t in my hands but staying with him even though I knew about his girlfriend was and the guilt of that decision is something I still have to live with.
The whole situation hurt the girlfriend, a lot. Obviously. I felt hurt in the long run too. In the beginning, I felt lied to - he portrayed himself as a single man and then later I just felt used. I felt used for sex and I questioned who I really was. In the end, I think he was hurt too though I don’t know if he cared enough. He lost me, he lost his loving and adoring girlfriend and also lost many of their common friends who found out what he was up to. Cheating is lying and deceiving and breaking of a sacred promise, nothing good can come out of it.
There will always be reasons to cheat- ‘she isn’t as open as you in bed’, ‘she doesn’t satisfy me emotionally’, ‘I can’t talk to her like I can talk to you’ but the point is that if things are bad in a relationship two people should talk about it and sort it out or if they’re really terrible then two people don’t have to be together. Breakup or work on it.
For so long I told myself that I wasn’t the one cheating. Every time I lay in bed in silence with my thoughts, I rationalised to myself that I hadn’t made the commitment and so I wasn’t in the wrong. But the truth is, I made it easier for him to cheat. I was an accomplice in deceiving her and that’s a horrible thing to do. I knew the decisions I was taking was hurting her and causing her pain and I continued to do them.
More than anything, I realised my relationship was screwed up. I truly believed that I deserved this kind of love. Part of the reason that I allowed myself to be the other woman was because I had low self-esteem. I thrived on the ‘I miss you’ texts or those hushed five-minute phone calls when he would be hiding from her and telling me ‘I’m thinking about you’. It was almost like he liked me more, at least that’s what I told myself.
Once I stopped rationalising the reasons why I did it when I finally saw the equation despite myself, I felt so guilty on two accounts. I had wronged someone who didn’t deserve it and I had sold myself short and wronged myself too in the process. I would think about it all day, sob silently, dream about it and wake up with crippling anxiety. I have forgiven myself now and learned to deal with it but the guilt still stays.
I’m not judging people in polyamorous relationships. They are honest with each other, they both know that they will be seeing other people and that’s what their relationship is built on. Cheating, however, is lying to someone and breaking a sacred promise you’ve made to someone. The reason ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’ exists because if a person could be untruthful and deceiving to one, he can do it to another.
In the end, I finally thought about it rationally, if he did like or love me as much as he said he did then he would be with me. He would leave her and stay with me. That wasn’t happening and I had waited long enough. I deserved better than this and that’s how I got out.
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