Friday, May 2, 2014

The Other Woman

Last weekend I saw The Other Woman. It was quite amusing and often hilarious (in my opinion). Of course much of the humor was over the top, but I expected this. What I did not expect, however, was the beautiful depiction of the power of female friendship in the midst of a life-changing crisis. I was holding back tears during one scene when the wife came to terms with her husband’s betrayal, and her best friend sat by her side, holding her hand as she accepted the unacceptable. Sometimes the silent presence of a friend is the sweetest salve to unexplainable pain.

All week I’ve been thinking about my “other women.” One in particular contributed to the deepest pain I’ve experienced in my 30 years. Whether intentional or not, she was part of a series of actions that changed the course of my life forever. I wonder if she knows that. I wonder if she cares. I wonder if she gave one thought to me, or if she was blinded to my existence altogether. I used to think about her quite often, first with anger, then with pity. Today my thoughts could best be described as “dumbfounded.” And that goes for all the mistresses out there.

I know every relationship is different, every situation unique. I do my best not to cast judgment on anyone for the choices she makes because I prefer others show me the same respect. And I’m not singling out women because I have more grace for men; rather, I have higher standards for the female gender.

Ladies, we’re on the same team. We’re in this thing together. Relationships are hard work, love is a battlefield, men can simultaneously be annoyingly simple and absurdly confusing. The friendships we strike and the support we provide one another is powerful. Please, let’s put each other first. Let’s think beyond ourselves. Those intoxicating emotions telling you a taken man is fair game? They are not sustainable. That scenario you’ve rationalized as supposedly “different” in an attempt to free yourself from guilt? It’s not. You are playing with fire; back the fuck off. This road leads to pain—and rarely does he get a share of that grief. It’s usually the shes who are left betrayed and broken. Both shes.

Thankfully there’s another side to the “other women” coin. It’s the women in my life who have stood by me through unspeakable grief. Women who cried with me, listened to endless rants and emotional vomiting, and helped me to laugh in the midst of it all. These ladies depicted loyalty in moments when trust was an empty, meaningless concept. These friendships are one of the greatest reasons I am proud to be a woman.

Ladies, let’s stay on this side, together. Let’s look out for each other by honoring the boundaries in play. Let’s uphold loyalty above lust and show each other the respect we deserve. Let’s love fairly and love fully—we are worth it.


Victoria Mason said...

Amen! I just love you and that is all. This might be my favorite post by you.

Tuttlebug said...

I love you my Annie. I am proud of how you were able to rise out of your darkness into this stronger and more resilient woman. I am thankful formthe winefilled talks on your couch and the tears we shared. I love you so much. I am happy to see you smile again. Smoooches cuz!!

Dawn said...

First, thank you for sharing this. It’s deeply personal and that takes guts. On the cheating thing - have you read "Mating in Captivity" by Esther Perel? I think you'd find it very interesting. Esther is a relationship therapist & talks at length about the power of eroticism & how often times cheating strengthens a primary relationship.

I wanted to offer another point of view. No judgment. Simply personal experience.

I was cheated on in college & it was heartbreaking. Not so much because of the cheating, but because it was proof that things weren't working & I hadn't had the courage to face that on my own.

I have cheated. I spent 7 years in a relationship with someone that I loved very much, but again, things weren't working. I felt like I was dying, suffocating, & wanted to rip my skin off at points because I felt like I had no way out... my partner couldn't support himself without me, & I felt trapped. We went without sex for three years & talked about it endlessly. I cheated on a whim & for the first time in YEARS, I finally felt wanted. I felt sexy. I felt like a woman again. I never imagined I'd be the kind of person to do that, but this stranger brought to life something that had slowly died an agonizing death inside of my relationship. It gave me the nudge that I needed to have some tough conversations. We ended our relationship a few weeks later, & I've never been happier. But I needed that nudge to wake me up & show me just how bad things had gotten.

And yes, I've slept with married men. The men I choose are good men. Men who feel the way I did - they love their wives & their families, but they feel neglected, dead inside or trapped. When they try to talk to their wives, they are shut down or it starts a fight. They are exhausted & broken. My relationships with these men will never turn into something serious. I do not want them as a committed partner, & they do not want me. They want their wives. They want their families. They love them. But they also want to feel wanted.

One of my lovers is a wonderful man. God he loves his girls. He loves his wife, but she won't touch him. The last time she gave him a BJ was 2-3 years ago. The first time we were together, & I told him I wanted to touch him, he nearly cried. He didn't believe he could be wanted by a woman anymore. He really thought I was lying when I told him how much I loved tasting him. He was frozen with terror that I was going to reject him. Because his wife rejected him every single day & he'd internalized it the way I internalized that self-hatred when my partner rejected me time & again. This man could not believe I actually wanted him. It took us a few times of seeing each other before he began to believe me - that he was wanted & sexy & sexual. He looks at me with stars in his eyes - not love, but with thanks. And he makes me feel sexy & desired. It's a mutual exchange.

Esther Perel says there are two kinds of cheating - one that serves as a bridge & one that serves as a wrecking ball. The bridge helps to fill a hole in someone's life that allows them to find strength inside their primary relationship. Instead of focusing all of their time & energy on this lack of sex & feeling resentful & angry at their spouse, they can let that go & refocus on all the other things their spouse offers like stability, intimacy, friendship, a future. The wrecking ball cheating is when the relationship is going to end no matter what & so one partner seeks out an external reason to blow it all up.


Dawn said...

It's complicated. It's a choice I make. It's a choice these men make. It's a choice these women make. Because trust me, women cheat on their husbands just as much as husbands cheat on wives. Cheating is simply a symptom that needs are not getting met. It's not necessarily the end of a relationship. It can be the jumping off point for something even stronger & more resilient. Now that I've had the experiences that I've had & I've become a sex educator, I also see how toxic monogamy can be. It's rare that we consciously choose it - it's forced on us by social expectations. But that's another conversation for another day.

I have given a great deal of thought to my lovers’ wives, to their lives, to their children (if they have any). I wonder if he neglects them as much as they neglect him. And we talk when we’re lying together about their marriages, about their feelings and what they wish was different. It’s never something I sweep under the rug or ignore. We talk openly about their marriages and wives and what is broken. I don’t know if that makes you feel better or not, and I also don’t think I’m the norm because I’m very conscious of my decisions and careful about my lovers. I’ve heard from the men that I’m quite rare in that regard. But I do want to share my perspective because I don’t want us shaming each other, regardless of the choices being made.

Regardless, I admire your bravery for sharing your story & your heartbreak. Betrayal, in whatever form, is never easy, & having friends around to help nurture us through the pain is sooo important. I am thankful every day for the strong, beautiful, powerful women in my life. We should all be so lucky to have those friends who will be there with us through thick & thin.

Best to you!

Laura said...

I love reading your words. Thank you ... i needed to hear this .... Love you... proud of you. :-)