I was involved in an online discussion about infidelity and divorce some time ago and listened with interest, and a little discomfort, when talk moved on to the topic of the ‘other woman’. Or more specifically, the role of the other woman in marriage/relationship breakdowns – breakdowns which could be attributed mostly to the husband’s infidelity. It was a touchy subject to say the least.
Some of the women involved in the discussion indicated that they could care less about the other party – after all of the pain they were just pleased to be rid of their exes and to begin new lives for themselves. These women primarily blamed their exes for their infidelity and whilst not exactly pleased with the existence of her – they chose not to blame the other woman.
Some of the other ladies, however, seemed to be filled with vitriol towards the other woman. The ex-partner barely got a mention in the conversation - it was all about the woman and how she both betrayed and destroyed the family. And this got me thinking, thinking about pain and grief and how these two things affect our beliefs and views. It was then that I realised something important:
It is much easier to demonise the other woman than the man we still hold out hope for.
Yet it is here that the question needs to be asked – why do we hold out hope? If our partner has CHOSEN to be with another woman, does that not tell us that he wants to be with her, for whatever ill-thought reason, instead of us? He has made that choice. Sure, he may be in a ‘trance’ or ‘spellbound’ by this new updated version of you, but it was still fundamentally his choice to be with her instead of his family.
We can safely assume that he was not threatened or held to ransom by this new lady. At the end of the day, he made a choice. I had to face this very brutal truth when my husband of seventeen years chose to begin a relationship with another – much younger – woman.
Initially, I reacted with anger towards this woman. I went through all of the standard reactions and thought processes – ‘she’s younger than me’; ‘she has a better body than me’; ‘she has more potential than me’. And I hated her. I hated her for being all of the things that I thought I wasn’t; I hated her for taking my husband away from me. I hated every single inch of her and what she represented. But I didn’t even know her.
One day, before my husband had made the final decision to leave me, I decided to phone her. I found her number on his phone and decided I wanted to speak with her. I wanted to know what her intentions with my husband were. Part of me wanted to scare her. I won’t go into all of the details of that conversation, but at the end it was obvious to me that she wasn’t the ruthless, cold-hearted or evil bitch I so wanted her to be. She was very young. And she was single. My husband was not.
It goes without saying that the thing between her and him didn’t last long. I believe that he wanted out of the marriage and that this girl provided a catalyst to do so - the idea of her gave him some further impetus to leave. I am NOT excusing her, but try as I might I cannot escape the fact that she was not the one who made a vow to me – he was. He left his marriage. At the end of the day, she was nobody.
When we are in the midst of heartbreak and pain, we naturally want to lash out. We want someone to blame. And in our grief we choose not to lay all of the blame on our ex, because doing so would be akin to admitting that he actively chose to betray and hurt us. And this knowledge would hurt us even more. How much easier to apportion all blame to the other woman.
But, if we can take a minute to look past the woman, and look instead at the reality of our marriage and our partner’s choices and decisions, we may just accelerate the healing process for ourselves.
Why? Because whilst ever we maintain the illusion, even in our heads, that our partner was not fully responsible for the choices and decisions he made, we are keeping ourselves in a state of limbo. We are telling ourselves that there is a chance he will change his mind about the other woman and come back to us. We continue to hold out hope for our broken relationship.
Of course, this may happen. He may want to come back. And if he does, we will need to decide if we will take him back. But in all likelihood, he won’t be back. In all likelihood, he knew the marriage was over before he left, and he used the other woman as a catalyst to leave.
Accepting the fact that the marriage is truly over – regardless of the presence of some other woman – is painful and confronting. But out of this acceptance comes healing and closure. And healing and closure is what is needed, not months or years of living in a state of anger, grief and false hope.
What do you think? Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!
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