For 13 years of my life, I had an affair with a man. It was a relationship, an involvement, a connection – call it whatever you wish – in which I was always the other woman. We were kids when we met – 19 years old and totally free of responsibilities. Our relationship continued, on and off, well into our early thirties.
Despite his shortcomings, he was a dear friend and was completely terrified of being alone. The whole time I knew him, he was always in a steady, long-term and “committed” relationship. As committed as one can be when sleeping with other women.
Despite his “good intentions” I found myself regularly frustrated, hurt and confused by his behaviour. In hindsight, of course, I am fully aware that I alone am responsible for creating him and this situation in my life. I allowed myself to be kept in an ambiguous situation by another’s inability to decide.
Spoiler alert – he never chose me.
Was it really ambiguous, though? Or was I actively blind to that which was happening around me? I now know that people show you who they are in every single situation. Every interaction. Every moment with another is an opportunity to see. To see with your eye, not your mind. Most of the time we are simply choosing to ignore what is being communicated to us by others.
Promises of the future and a life together were peppered with demands on me to be patient. Requests for time which he needs in order to sort out his life.
The reddest flag of all – when he purchased a house with his girlfriend – almost didn’t deter me.
However, I came to my senses shortly after and ended this relationship. I promised myself that I would never again get involved with a man who was already otherwise engaged.
Girlfriend. Fiance. Wife. Friends with benefits. Whatever.
Nope. I’m not doing it. Not gonna happen. Not going to be the other woman. Not again.
… and then I met a man.
Spoiler alert – he has a girlfriend.
I didn’t immediately know this, of course.
What I did know, is that I was going to meet this man before I ever laid eyes on him.
The relationship went from professional to not quite professional (extending meetings from 1 to 3 hours) to totally unprofessional (texting til midnight) as something between us developed. And quickly.
I was just as quick to name it. To give it form. Shape it. Naming it went a little like this: “This man could be my husband and the father of my children.”
How did I feel this so deeply? Well, “they,” say it happens like this. That when you know, you just know. Sounds absolutely fucking batshit insane, yet here we are.
(Who are “they” by the way, I always wanted to know?”)
After 10 days, he told me he has a girlfriend. A girlfriend with whom things are not working out. They no longer live together. You know the drill – I’ve heard it all before.
After 10 days, we named that which was between us and what followed was a process I could not have imagined.
I’m not going to bore (or entertain) you with the details of the last two months, but it’s quite the story. Believe me.
What I will tell you is this.
It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you are not cheating when physicality is not involved.
It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you are not the other woman when all you do is talk to him.
It’s easy to spend two months getting to know him and fall into the same patterns of the spiral you lived through before.
It’s easy to compare two men, separate them and be blissfully unaware of all the signs you have seen before.
A week ago, after 18 months of silence, my dear friend with whom I shared a magical and difficult 13 years, called me and told me he got married in July. He married the woman he cheated on with me for 9 years. The woman with whom it was “not working”. The woman who did not fuck him. The woman he said did not give him what he said he needed or wanted.
Despite the fact that my emotions for him and that situation have long since subsided, this phone call was a reality check for the current situation I found myself grappling with.
The past had come to teach the present a lesson.
Life is easy. We make it difficult. We sit in prisons of our own creation.
What I learned is patience.
I was an impatient woman, wanting everything now. Actually, yesterday would be better, if you could.
What I learned is everyone is experiencing their own process and we must let it be. It has nothing to do with us.
What I learned is that even if he leaves her, he’s not mine anyway.
What I learned is life would be easier if I focused on repairing my relationships with my family, completing processes with past lovers, before embarking on new adventures with potential husbands.
What I learned is that nothing is worth even a temporary disconnection from myself thus allowing myself to slip in the acts of self-care and discipline that make my life so smooth sailing.
Most of all I learned to not name things. Naming something limits its form – it gives it a shape that can be difficult to transform and let go of. Especially if it doesn’t end up looking like how you wanted. Naming creates falsely something that isn’t – and throws us into a future that doesn’t exist.
Words are magic – they can destroy or create – but naming things becomes a fine line between creation and destruction.
When I woke up – I remembered – that I am a queen. And as such, from this day forth, will only allow kings to step to me.
Oh, spiral of life, thank you for this experience.