Are You the Other Woman?
The “OW” Doesn’t Carry The Same Stigma That It Used To
Sarah J. Symonds knows all about what it meant to be the other woman.”For years, mostly in her 20’s, the author and lecturer was a serial other woman.
I was thrust into a world where cheating and affairs were a way of life,” says Symonds who has now literally written the book on affairs. Her recent release, Having an Affair: A Handbook for the Other Woman” offers practical advice to women who are currently involved with married men.She hopes it will empower women who are in these kinds of relationships.
Although Symonds describes herself as reformed, she does not judge the many single women who enter into affairs. I hear everyday from women in this situation,” says Symonds. And it is always the woman who ends up getting hurt.”
But millions of women ignore this advice, deciding everyday that having a relationship with a married man is a viable option for them.And although no two women have the exact same reasons for entering into an affair, many of the outcomes are similar: despair.
In popular culture, the other woman” has traditionally been portrayed as the home wrecker, the person who comes in and ruins families, leaving a mess of pain and devastation in her wake.But many times, it is she “ not the family — who suffers the most heartache, says Symonds.
Why would a woman consider this kind of relationship option? Any person enters into any relationship to get their needs met,” says Karen Card, a Florida-based relationship coach who has seen dozens of women over the years who are involved with married men.
Their reasons may vary, but like Symonds, Card feels it is often the other woman” who suffers the most. And although Card does not openly tell her clients to end relationships, she does steer women in the direction of ending things by working on the woman’s own issues in prioritizing her needs and why she is willing to settle for a relationship that does not meet all of them.
Card says she is not surprised, though.So few people are in relationships where all of their needs are being met and, in fact, many have become so accustomed to relationships that only meet five of our 10 needs that when one that meets six comes along they may jump on it, even if that man or woman is unavailable or otherwise involved.
These relationships almost never work out in the long run,” she says. Many times, the man fuels the fantasy that he is leaving the wife, anything to get her to stay.”
This was certainly true for Symonds whose own path to infidelity was paved by the notion that there are so few decent, single men,” according to her. Other women might be enticed by the danger. Some do not even know the man they love is taken until it is too late.But either way, Symonds has never seen an affair end well.
After a series of affairs with married men, Symonds had what she describes as her comeuppance” when the successful, married businessman she was dating and had fallen in love with, refused to leave his wife, despite his promises and assurances to the contrary.
I ended up calling his wife,” says Symonds, who remembers the process as one of the more painful episodes of her life. And although she shared the truth with the wife, his wife was unwilling to leave. The wives want to accept the husband’s affair because it is easier,” Symonds says.
According to Card, this is not uncommon. The wife often decides to stay because she has believed his lies all along,” Card says. If he uses the same tactics he has been using, it will work. All she has to believe is that it won’t happen again.”
In her book, Symonds cautions women to avoid being used.There are reasons to have an affair, she says.But she hopes that women will get something out of them, instead of just heartache.
According to Maryland-based family therapist Julieta Macias, it is entirely possible to get something out of the affair, but not when a person wants a complete relationship. In her practice, it has been the other men” who are often the most adept at walking away from their married lover without feeling too devastated.
Men are better able to separate the emotions from the action,” she says.For them, there might be a host of reasons to cheat that have everything to do with sex and little to do with love. On the other hand, Macias has also seen men who are very hurt when their married lover chooses her spouse.
According to her, there are many reasons a woman might cheat, but one of the keys is often a sense of inferiority, a concern that even if there were good men available, they might not choose her.By dating a married man, a woman is able to feel superior to someone.
They often feel better than the spouse,” says Macias who has seen numerous clients become their lover’s confidant only to be shocked by their refusal to leave the spouse they have been badmouthing all along. At the end point, there is often just a lot of anger,” says Macias.
For Symonds, her anger drove her to want to help other women in similar positions. But not before her boyfriend had come back to her again. I don’t think an affair is ever truly over,” says Symonds. Ninety percent of the time he will call again once his marriage is going again.”
She cautions women but stops short of telling them not to do it. Everyone is so different,” she says. We all have to do what is right for us.”
And sometimes cheating is not bad for women, says Professor Marcel Morales, a sociology professor at East Los Angeles College. We call relationships like these ‘atypical relationships,'” says Morales who points to pop culture icons like Samantha from “Sex in the City” or the characters of the new show Lipstick Jungle,” who talk openly about their conquests with married men and who do not apologize for it.
The taboo of dating a married man has broken down a little bit,” says Morales. Marriage itself is a social construct and its value is changing in our society.”
Morales suggests that for many women, the choice to be a mistress may be one of convenience.Perhaps it better suits their career goals or their personal interests to not have to be in a committed relationship. There is freedom,” he says. There is no need to meet children or family.It is all excitement, all pleasure without all the downsides of commitment.”
For the first time in the United States, there are more single people than married, says Morales.And that means that being single is more widely accepted. Marriage is now an option, not a must,” he says.
He looks at relationships where the couples both take other partners or polygamous relationships that work.He pointed to a recent article he read where the man had two wives, one who raised the children and the other who continued her high-powered law career. More and more, people are starting to accept the kind of relationships that work for them individually,” he says. Some people just want to make their own definition for love.”
But Card is not buying. It takes more than love to make a relationship work,” she says, likening love to the frosting on the cake.The whole thing has to work together to make it worth eating.Eventually, someone will want more, she says.
Symonds, on the other hand, feels that it is possible for women to call the shots and make their own rules, but it is not easy.She encourages women to do whatever feels right for them, so long as they are the ones making the decisions. Many of these other women just end up helping the married man get by in his bad marriage,” she says. That is not really helping anyone, is it?”
Disillusioned by her own experience, Symonds says she no longer believes that men leave their wives for their lovers. But she says women who go into the relationships knowing that will fare better than the ones who wish otherwise. Just know that he is never going to leave his wife,” she says. Then you will be ok.”
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