I have been the other woman twice. Once I was taken by surprise to find out that the person with whom I was sleeping was married, but in the other instance, I was fully aware.
While now that I’m married I look back on that time with utter disappointment in my younger self, I can admit that then, as I was in the midst of it, I loved it. As if ripped from a movie, I had this secret with another person, and with just a look, even in front of his wife, so much was communicated.
Am I an awful person for this behavior? I’m not sure. But it’s something I’ve thought about a lot, as I’ve gotten older.
It started off simply enough: We worked together. And, as people do, we became close having to spend nine hours a day in the same office.
Combine that with drunken happy hour work events and it was the perfect recipe for deceit. He was also miserable in his marriage, or at least that’s what he told me, and even when she, his wife, would attend some of these work events, they seemed miserable together.
Her personality was flat, and to quote a fellow co-worker at the time, not only did she not bring anything to the table, but she actually sucked the life from the table.
By this rationale, albeit immature and superficial, I basically gave myself carte blanche to continue along the path that was headed directly to the affair. I had convinced myself that she wasn’t worthy of him. I, however, was.
And so it happened.
We’d go out after work together, and when she was out of town we’d have sleepovers at their apartment, in their bed. I delighted in sleeping in the space that she thought was entirely hers, with her husband whom she had no idea had strayed (and, as I would find out, I was not the first), and was spending so much time with another woman.
There was something intoxicating about the secret of it all and the fact that I was helping someone who wasn’t satisfied with his situation. I was providing a service to this man, a man whom I’d grow to love, so how could it be a bad thing?
I got him at his best; she did not. He argued with her about money issues and whose turn it was to take out the trash. He argued with me about whether or not we should get another round of sake before we went out dancing. When he was with me, he was free of all that and the marital obligations that bog people down.
We had a language all our own, code-speak for everything, both in and out of the office, and our interactions became fodder for speculation and rumors at work.
Comments were even made in passing during office meetings, but each time we played dumb, with a smirk on our faces.
We were a unit; two people who had a connection to each other that was separate from the rest of the world. We had our own little world and we were happy there.
And through it all, I felt special. I felt desirable and unique in some way. I had a man, a gorgeous man mind you, who was taking risks by sneaking around with me. I was as happy as a woman can be who has to share the man she loves with someone else.
When he finally left his wife, he moved in with me. I thought that I had gotten what I always wanted, but then reality kicked in and I realized it wasn’t going to be a fairytale at all. After all that sneaking around, it became another story entirely.
While I do look back on those years with a bit of disappointment in myself, I also realize now that I was not entirely to blame.
It was he who cheated, and I was the idiot who went along for the ride. While I would never condone cheating, having been the other woman, I can understand the thrill of it.
There is something enticing about the drama, and the constant, “What if your wife finds out?” sort of thinking. But then it gets old. Or, as it was in my case, he leaves his wife and you’re forced to realize what was fact and what was fiction.
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I used to think I’d rather be a mistress than a wife, and part of me still thinks it would be fun.
But the reality is that even though you’re getting that person at their best, as I used to tell myself, you’re still also getting the lying, deceptive cheater who, even if you could lure him away from his wife, is likely to do the same to you.
It’s only in accepting that truth that a mistress can be truly successful at being the other woman.
That was something on which I could never get a handle.
Amanda Chatel is a regular contributor to Bustle and Glamour, with bylines at Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Forbes, Livingly, Mic, The Bolde, Huffington Post, and others.