I have been the other woman.
Sounds like a pretty big confession, right? It’s a big deal to say that you were “that girl”; the one who was with someone else’s boyfriend, who knew that he was in a relationship and went there anyway. Even the phrase – The Other Woman – tells you how constantly she is villainised, almost as though it’s her fault that he can’t remain faithful to his partner. What it says is that she must have seduced him, what guy in his right mind would simply want to cheat on his girlfriend?
Here’s how it really goes: there’s a guy who clearly likes you. You’re flattered, so you flirt a little (hey, he’s pretty attractive!) and you respond when he calls to find out if you’d like to go for a drink, when he invites you for coffee, when he checks to see if you’re home. Then, you find out that he has a girlfriend. How do you find out? Well, he tells you. He tells you that he feels bad, but he can’t help it. You consider minding. You don’t.
You go along with it when he wants to show you exciting places, when he wants to celebrate important events, when he calls to say that he misses you. It’s funny, guys can be so much nicer when you aren’t actually dating them. And you don’t even want to date him.
You hear about all of the reasons why he’s terrible at getting out of bad relationships, about how his girlfriend is crazy (you don’t believe him), about how unhappy he is with her. You don’t even want them to break up, although you do think that he should probably stand up for himself and do it if he is as unhappy as he says he is. You have no vested interest in the success or failure of his relationship, you’re just “The Other Woman” with no desire to be “The Girlfriend.”
That’s the biggest problem with the way that people think about the “Other Woman.” They always assume that she is settling for being someone’s second place and that she wants a promotion to “Real-full-time Girlfriend” (with a capital G), but in my experience, this isn’t the case.
Everyone likes to be liked, and as long as the person doing the liking isn’t gross or a sociopath, it probably doesn’t even really bother you that he’s in a relationship or your friends don’t approve or he’s moving to Iowa. It’s not an issue. You literally don’t care. And it’s not really your responsibility to ensure that he stays faithful to his girlfriend – that is all on him.
It’s about that little buzz of excitement of shared attraction, not a long-term commitment (in many cases, long-term commitment is precisely what kills the buzz of excitement). It’s about stolen moments and the thrill of what is forbidden. People need to stop assuming that every woman (and every “Other Woman“) is simply out to nab herself a man – your man, if you aren’t careful. It’s nonsense. The “Other Woman” may secretly be hoping that he’ll leave his girlfriend, but then again, she may not. We don’t all lack self respect or settle for second best in the hope that one day we’ll be best, sometimes we will just go with what is most exciting.
And sometimes, that’s okay.*
* (As long as no one gets hurt. You should never let that happen).