I am the "other woman." Fourteen years ago I met a man who summoned a part of me that I had not yet met: catlike, courageous, passionate, fearless and very, very physical. Unfortunately he was married, and I was committed to another. After an amazing night together at a professional conference we agreed that we had screwed up and that we would not see each other again. So began a 14-year struggle between the call of duty and the call of the wild. It was never my intent to hurt his family, and as far as I know, his wife has no conscious knowledge of our affair.
Recently, he decided to end our relationship, but this time it was because his feelings had changed toward me, and he was relatively cruel in the way he told me. He hurt me, and I feel very wounded.
My problem is this. The few people who were aware of my situation, and maybe even you as you read this, have an underlying "that's what you get" attitude because of the nature of our affair. People who purport to care about me seem to prize the vindication of their own beliefs about the impropriety of my affair with complete disregard for the fact that I am obviously suffering. While I certainly don't expect anyone to condone in retrospect what occurred, is it really too much to ask that my friends set aside the morality judgments long enough to realize that I am in pain?
Part of me is relieved to believe that this is behind me and that I can truly begin to heal and move on, but in the dark I remember long conversations, the sensation of my legs curled against his in the night, an amazing trip through a crashing thunderstorm, and I realize that I have lost something of value, no matter what society thinks about it. Often you give me a new perspective on other people's problems, so I thought maybe you could do that with mine.
The Other Woman
Dear Other Woman,
You are suffering and that ought to be enough to kindle the caring instincts of your friends and loved ones. I don't think it's too much to ask that your friends recognize your suffering and treat you kindly. On the other hand, your women friends may be forgiven for thinking, "What if it was my husband she was seeing for 14 years?" So you might have to say your Hail Marys. You might have to admit that you knowingly broke the code. But they are two separate issues.
It's tough to see somebody we love do something we disapprove of and then, when she suffers the consequences, bite our tongues and offer support. But that's friendship. I don't think it would be wrong of your friends to level with you and say that they never approved of the affair. But that's different from saying you got what you deserved. I just don't believe that there is wisdom in such a statement; there is more cruelty in it than anything else. You're in emotional pain and you need your friends' help. It isn't their responsibility to punish you by withholding their love. It's not their job to judge you. It's too late for that. If they were going to judge you or try to force you to change, they should have been honest with you long ago and told you that they thought what you were doing was wrong. Now is not the time.
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