For many of us taking a long look in the mirror can be daunting. I don’t mean just a surface view of our hair, makeup, or skin. I don’t mean just a passing glance as we walk out the door to begin our day. I mean, a soul-searching look to examine who we are and where we are going. I mean, the deep penetrating stare that forces you to own past mistakes and to acknowledge the hurt you may have caused.
Recently, a friend confided in me that she had been in a long-term relationship with a married man. She went on to explain that it didn’t hurt anyone because the wife never knew. It was a win-win situation. She was treated nicely and he never left her apartment dissatisfied. While he never said it, she felt that he truly loved her. She went on to explain that it was perfect for her because she’d given up on the fantasy of having children and a husband long ago. She said all men were cheaters and that they had to cheat with someone. Why should she be lonely? It wasn’t fair. There weren’t enough good men to go around so married women should expect to share their husbands. She ended with it’s not her responsibility, it’s the husband’s. If he wasn’t cheating with her, then he would be cheating with someone else.
Wow! I thought to myself. Did she consider herself lucky to have him? Did she think she was fortunate to even be in a relationship? I was more than a little surprised that this woman who always appeared to be self-confident actually thought so little of herself. I was surprised that she was o.k. with being treated as some dirty little secret. I was astonished that she could rationalize her actions to the point that it made sense not only to her, but she expected everyone else to be on board with her way of thinking. I wanted to tell her that she was wrong: wrong for dating a married man and wrong for rationalizing it. I stopped myself. She didn’t want judgment; she just wanted someone to listen. So, I prevented the words that I so desperately wanted her to hear from being said out loud. I just listened to the whole story of how they met and how happy he’s made her these last two years. I listened to her explain that essentially her life was good and she had everything she wanted. I listened quietly as she tried to convince me that she was happy.
I can’t say for certain how blissful her life was, but sharing a man and all that entails seems so self-defeating. Sexuality and intimacy should be treasured and revered, not compromised. I understand loneliness and I understand that many women feel as if they are lacking something in life without a partner, but I just don’t understand the low standards we set for ourselves. Why is it that we don’t reach for the stars? Why would we ever rationalize being second best? Why do we not place a higher value on what we have to offer?
I know that my friend isn’t alone and women all across the world can rationalize being the other woman. I am well aware that there are many who would say that the wife is to blame and she should be conscious of what is happening in her own home. For this reason, the blame should not be placed on the other woman. And yes, the husband took a vow to remain faithful and to respect his wife and their union, but don’t we as women have a responsibility to each other? Infidelity is as old as time and will always be rationalized, but isn’t it true that this way of thinking lends itself to the status quo and perhaps adds legitimacy to the act of betrayal?
Afterwards, I couldn’t really look at my friend without feeling sympathy. We have all heard these stories before and we know that they do not usually have fairy-tale endings. I did not want to judge her but I couldn’t help myself. I knew that sooner or later this relationship would end. I also suspected that she would be wiser but more damaged than before it began. These are not things you can forewarn a person about. Sometimes, it’s just a journey that we all must take on our road to self-discovery.
I want to believe that sooner or later my friend will become discontented and frustrated and she will expect more from a relationship. She will be forced to look in the mirror and I suspect she will not like what she sees. I hope she will come to believe that it is not a victimless crime and that someone has gotten hurt and I am not only thinking of the wife; I seriously doubt that my friend can come through this unscathed. I hope she questions if it was worth it and recognizes that maybe it wasn’t. I anticipate that she will believe that she deserves so much more and that she doesn’t have to settle for being second best and I look forward to the day when she chooses not to be anyone’s dirty little secret.