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Author’s note: My recent article on the darkness of being the other woman received many comments, both on the article and privately through social media. Some from the men who have found themselves living a double life. I thank those who have shared their story with me.
You see her from across the room.
Perhaps it’s a crowded bar, maybe it’s at the checkout of the local supermarket, or perhaps she walks into your workplace one day.
You stop dead in your tracks; she captivates you. You can’t take your eyes off her; there’s just something about her. An energy, an essence, whatever it is, you feel your body react physically. And all you want to do is move closer, be closer, breathe her in.
There’s just one catch, one very real and important detail you are trying desperately to ignore.
You are married.
You start reasoning with yourself, it would only be an introduction. Maybe a conversation at most. You have plenty of female acquaintances, co-workers, and friends. You meet and talk to other women all the time; it’s part of life and means nothing.
Until it does.
Until you fall into a relationship with her. Until you fall in love with her. Now you have your life at home and your life with your lover. Two distinct and separate lives. Perhaps they don’t know about each other. Perhaps the other woman knows about your wife. Whatever the situation, you are now betraying your wife, betraying your lover, and betraying yourself.
Dear unfaithful man, this other woman cannot fix you. She cannot fill your gaping voids.
I know you don’t want to hurt anyone. You stood before family and friends and made promises to your wife. Perhaps things have changed, she has changed, or you have changed. Perhaps you love this other woman and now you’ve made promises to her. She makes you feel incredible; she has woken you up. You cannot remember ever feeling this good. But you still love your wife or are at least committed to her. You are torn. You are confused. You are guilt ridden. But you cannot f*cking stop.
Dear unfaithful man, you are addicted to the validation she gives you. You need her to feel better about yourself. You need her to feel good about life.
Now when you wake up in the morning, your first thought is of her. She’s your first thought, your last thought, and most of your thoughts throughout the day. She consumes you, and she’s all you can think of, all you want to think of. You lie still,in the taking these few moments to daydream about her, as your wife sleeps beside you. Perhaps you have kids and they are starting to wake up.
You spend a few minutes with your family before you grab your gym bag and head out the door, smiling at your wife as you go. Smiling, knowing you will soon be with her, as you drive straight to her. You let yourself in with your key and you crawl into your lover’s bed, giving her a good morning kiss and cuddle. You tell her you miss her, and your body reacts to her bare skin. You spend your morning making passionate love to her, and you look deep in her eyes and tell her you love her.
Dear unfaithful man, I know she makes you feel amazing. You can’t get enough of her. You do love her and in these moments you vow she is the one you want to be with.
Until you get home that night. You look at your wife and think maybe the passion is not the same, maybe the love is not the same. But you do love her and you have built this life with her, maybe had a family. You are comfortable here. You made promises, and the thought of hurting your wife in this way is filling you with a sickening shame and guilt. The thought of family and friends knowing what you are doing is almost too much to bear. You know this is where you belong. You know this is your home.
You wake up the next morning, kiss your wife on the cheek, grab your gym bag, and drive straight to her place. You let yourself in with your keys and as soon as you see her, your heart skips a beat. You just want to spend as much time as possible with her. She smiles at you and you know you belong with her. She is your home. You ask her to have faith and be patient. You say you can’t just leave, you need time, and it needs to be done in the right way. But you tell her she is the love of your life and your time together will come.
Dear unfaithful man, you don’t understand this yet, and maybe you never will—but you need to heal. You need to spend time alone and dance with your own messy darkness, because this need, this desire to have these women fulfill you, fix you, is wrong.
You sit at work and you message her, a lot. You just want to talk to her. You send her a funny pic and you both laugh. Your wife finds this recipe that she thinks would be delicious and sends it to you. You immediately think of her, the other woman, and her making it for you, so you send the recipe to her and she promises to cook it for you.
You drop in to see her after work. She’s in the kitchen—you wrap your arms around her from behind, and kiss her softly on the neck. You tell her you can’t wait until you can be with her all the time. Until you can do this every day. But you need to go, as you need to get home. You call her in the car on the way home because you already miss her. You call her “my love” and tell her again how much you love her before hanging up. You call your wife to tell her you’re on your way home, and you say “see you soon my love.”
Dear unfaithful man, I know it’s hard to choose, because you need them both. But you are already heading down the path of destroying two women and maybe yourself in the process.
You arrive home and you are distracted. Your wife questions you as she has many times, and you brush her off. You are starting to wonder whether deep down she knows something. Part of you wishes she does and the other part of you is f*cking terrified that this comfortable life you know could come tumbling down. But you are thinking of her; you are weighing up your options. Wondering what she is doing right now. The thought of her with someone else damn near kills you, but you are not ready to leave your marriage regardless of what you tell her.
Dear unfaithful man, stop lying. To your wife. To her. But most of all, stop telling yourself these sweet lies. The lies you tell yourself are the most damaging of all.
You sleep restlessly. You dream of her. You dream of your wife. They become one and the same. Your life is on replay as you think of your wedding day, your family, all your mutual friends. Your joint bank accounts, your home, your life, your comfort zone. Then you see her. She is in the distance and she’s looking at you—uncertain, confused, with sadness in her eyes. But she waits because she has patience and faith, just as you asked her to have. You call out “my love,” and they both turn around.
You wake up in the morning with anxiety swelling inside of you. You decide today you need to end it. You cannot go on like this. Today you will tell her you cannot leave your wife, you cannot leave the life you know. You will tell her you are sorry for hurting her and you never meant for that to happen, but this is the way it needs to be. You will tell her you still love her and maybe one day in the future things may change, but for now things must end. You grab your gym bag, kiss your wife on the cheek, and drive straight to her place.
Dear unfaithful man, your indecision, your “maybe one day in the future,” is selfish and you know deep down, you know that if you give her the smallest of hopes, she will wait. You need to think about others’ feelings.
You let yourself in, ready to tell her it’s over. You see her face, and her eyes light up as she says, “Good morning my love.” Your resolve weakens. She wraps her arms around you and your resolve is completely shattered. You love her. You want her. You need her. You kiss her longingly, with all the pent up desire of a man obsessed. A man who in this very moment knows exactly who he wants, and she’s standing right in front of him. “I love you, my love,” you say.
And then the ping of your phone. Your wife and seven simple words: “I love you, have a great day.” F*ck, the reality of your life punches you straight in the gut. You look at her and see but the briefest of pain flicker in her eyes, but she never asks or expects more than you can give. You mouth “I love you” again in a whisper, as you respond to your wife’s message.
And the cycle continues. The deceit continues. The double life continues. The lies continue. The guilt continues. The shame continues. And you receiving all your wants, needs, and desires from these two women continues. And all the while your wounds get bigger. Your darkness grows and you become less of the man you want to be.
Dear unfaithful man, you hold the beautiful, beating hearts of these two loves, and at any moment they can be destroyed in the most painful of ways.
You think she is your weakness. You simply cannot help the way you feel. But you are your weakness. Your strength of character left you the day you told two women you loved them. Your courage disappeared the moment you decided to live two lives. The trust you had in yourself vanished the instant you lay in two separate beds next to different women, and your self-love went missing long ago, which is why you’ve found yourself in this painful mess.
It’s time. It’s time for you to dance with your shadows. It’s time for you to confess your secrets. It’s time for you to stand on your own two feet and dig deep, go within, and find out what makes you bleed. What’s causing you to bleed all over yourself and these two women you profess to love.
What makes your voids so big that you need them both to try and fill them? What makes you crave this validation? What makes you need her and her? It’s time for you to f*cking love yourself enough so you stop looking outside of yourself for love. It’s time for you to be honest and let these two women choose what they want, and if you lose them both, those will be your lessons and your teachings. But at least you will be living authentically, on a foundation of truth.
Dear unfaithful man, it’s time for you to do the right thing. Speak your truth. Fall on your sword and let the pieces fall where they may, and then, and only then will you be able to start the process of healing.