‘There Are Huge Highs And Severe Lows’: Confessions Of The Other Woman

What's it like being the girl who is sleeping with your boyfriend? One writer discusses the pros and cons...

'There Are Huge Highs And Severe Lows': Confessions Of The Other Woman

by Amy Elizabeth Hill |
Published on

As a teenager I was sociable but awkward, and prone to bouts of anxiety. I was the last person in my circle to have a boyfriend, and the first to have my heart smashed into pieces when I discovered that he’d been cheating on me, proceeding to dump me via text, while he was still in bed with one of them (there were several). That same year, I met Craig* and became the other woman in his relationship. It wasn’t something I actively sought out, it just… happened.

Before you automatically write me off as a home-wrecker, you have to understand that I don't possess any magical powers. I didn't lure these men away with advanced wiles, I didn't ensnare them or hold them against their will. I was pursued mutually and it was a choice – albeit a selfish one – made by both parties.

I developed a crush on Craig for the same reasons his girlfriend did – he was funny, attractive, smart and talented. Beyond that, I didn’t mind that he had a girlfriend; in fact, it almost made it easier for me, after coming out of a monogamous relationship where my own paranoia had been so absolutely justified. I was the other woman out of convenience. Our flirtation graduated to texting (and sexting), which moved on to ‘hanging out,’ which became a secondary relationship. We saw each other most weekends, never discussed his girlfriend, and when I moved away, I wiped the slate clean and haven’t spoken to him since.

The next time I was older, and it was harder. Between a string of disastrous relationships and feeling like a failure at work, I was struggling to come to terms with a near-death experience. Instead of admitting that I needed help, I found myself turning to Rob*, who I consequently fell head over heels for. We had a beautiful but catastrophic on-off relationship that ultimately ended with sour words. I was never naive enough to think he’d leave his girlfriend for me, but I realised I wanted something more than I was settling for.

You won’t always feel guilty…

Unless a) the girlfriend is someone close to you or b) you’re the other woman with an unsuspecting boyfriend at home, most of the time you’ll feel like the cat that got the cream. Why? Because 99% of the time, being the other woman means exclusively experiencing the glittering parts of a relationship; you’ll laugh until tears are rolling down your face, he’ll be attentive, you’ll wear good lingerie. It's all the good stuff, without the reality.

…But when you do, it will be unbearable

The highs of being the other woman are addictive but, like any drug, there are lows. Severe ones. Being the other woman isn’t just a roller-coaster, it’s the emotional equivalent of spinning teacups; one minute you’re having the time of your life and the next you’re spiraling out of control, too dizzy to make sense of anything, unsure as to whether you’re still enjoying it or not.

The guilt would start to creep in when I was run down, and would hit me at unexpected moments. Like the time a guy I had a crush on asked me the dreaded question: 'Are you seeing anyone?' and I burst into tears because I couldn’t find any words, or the time I had a panic attack on a night out with friends and spent most of the evening in the bathroom.

When Craig’s girlfriend had her suspicions, she drove to a gig he was playing at and waited in the car park all evening. Craig and I walked out among a sea of strangers, but the look on her face when she saw us together told me she knew. Even though we’d never met, seeing her reaction made me feel terrible, like I was betraying my gender by breaking the ‘girl code’.

You’ll be horny. All. The. Time.

Seriously, the smallest things will turn you on. An innocent hand on the small of my back while we stood at a crowded bar would make my heart beat right out of my chest. When you’re unable to be together publicly, you end up living in an overtly sexual suspense bubble which thrives on the risk of getting caught and results in constant blushing.

It’s lonely as hell

Until you’re in the eye of the storm, you never realise just how alone you’re going to be. Being the other woman isn’t just about keeping a secret – you ARE the secret, and you’ll struggle to find the support system you need to deal with that. I confided in two friends, and although neither turned their back on me, it was crushing to hear them say things like: 'But wouldn’t he have left his girlfriend by now if he really liked you?' There is no difference between biting your tongue and telling the truth - they both hurt.

It’s not Hollywood

There’s a strange allure to being the other woman. Think of all the other women you’ve seen in movies; they’re always sexy, earth-shatteringly confident, and out to steal your man, right? Allow someone who has actually been there to firmly call bullshit on that stereotype. The illegitimate relationships I found myself in all happened when I was emotionally spent and my self-worth was at rock bottom – it’s not always the case, but in my experience, the men who cheat and the women they cheat with are drawn together because they’re, for lack of a better word, broken. I think Chbosky sums it up perfectly in The Perks Of Being a Wallflower with the line, 'we accept the love we think we deserve.'

Moving on is hard

The one thing I never did was juggle. If I began dating someone else, I stopped being the other woman, which of course leads to jealousy because, to the men who cheat on their girlfriends, you are their possession. You are an escape from their reality. When you try to move on and have a ‘normal’ relationship, don’t be surprised by tempting out-of-the-blue messages declaring feelings that you’re trying to put behind you. I can’t say that I never faltered. Rob and I drew a line under our relationship on countless occasions only to find ourselves back where we started weeks later. But – and it’s a cliché – time heals all wounds. The same goes for distance, self respect, and love.

Ending a relationship sucks whichever side you’re on

I was a lucky other woman. Not because I ‘won’, but because each time ended mutually and with some semblance of amicability. I never threatened to tell their girlfriends or expose our relationship, because in a dark and backwards way, I liked the way it was. It was private, it was ours. That doesn’t mean it didn't hurt like hell when we severed the ties – I went through the same grieving period as anyone whose relationship has ended; I cried a lot, spent months going through the motions and came out the other side a slightly different person to who I was before.

You won’t always be the other woman

There are hundreds of reasons why people cheat. Loneliness. The want of connection. Sex. Sometimes, they're just assholes. Whether you're the unfaithful boyfriend, the innocent partner who finds out but turns a blind eye, or the other woman who fell in love with the wrong person at the wrong time, you can’t let your choices define you or affect your future relationships – if you do, you’ll waste a lot of time hating yourself, never trusting anyone. Those of us who’ve been down that path know that nobody can function like that forever. I’ve been with my current boyfriend for five years and without wanting to sound trite, he’s my best friend. He’s never judged me by my mistakes and I’m a better person with him. If things didn’t work out between us, I don’t think I could be the other woman again – not now that I know what it feels like to be the only woman.

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Follow Amy on Twitter: @amyandelizabeth

***names changed **

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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