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Whoever said "Alls fair in love & war" was totally off the mark. I know that I'm personally dealing with the question of staying strong in my marriage or throwing in the towel. I don't have concrete evidence of infidelity...But do I really need it to justify my hurt and pain? I have to admit I don't hate the other woman...I feel completely disgusted at him. How dare he take our vows and basically throw them in the gutter while worrying about his own selfish desires...then come home to me and act as if I hung the moon. I'm not mentally handicapped and realize that there is more to his fairy tales than he's telling me. Its happened before...and its happening again to me...I did think I could get past it all...but this time...I'm not dealing with it...

I will just say this..I've had more than my fair share of friends/family/complete strangers tell me that I need to make me happy. I totally agree. You hit the nail on the head when you said the sentence of "for the sake of the children" should also have "at the expense of yourself". I have a child and I know that if I'm not a happy person, no matter how confused I seem...I'm not going to be a wonderful parent as I could if I were happy. I have to love myself. I'm facing that now. I'm trying to do that...at the same time while trying to muddle thru whats right or wrong or indifferent.

I don't have any glossed or black & white answers that have a massive amount of psychology & research to back it up...I can only say this...what brings my heavy heart up for air is when I have a sturdy shoulder to cry on...a loving voice tell me that she's there for me no matter what decision I make...things like that take the shattered pieces of who I was and help me see who I really am.

Tertia, you're truly a Gorgeous and Divine friend and I'd give anything to have someone who can be so forthright, yet so loving. You'll know whats right to say when the situation occurs...if not...then give a strong hug and tell her you're her friend thru thick & thin...even if you don't understand whats happening.

I am so sorry for that being so damned long and confusing. I'm sorry...I hate that I can't edit!!! It was however my heart writing moreso than my "lets be nice & sweet & short messages" normal self.

again...so sorry...

I, too, have never understood why "the other woman" always gets all the blame. I think that it is because you usually don't know her. It is so easy to make someone you don't know into a terrible person who came and ruined your marriage. Even if your partner messed up big time by cheating, he/she is still the person you chose to be with, the person you love and also thought that he/she loved you. I think people who are cheated on want to hold on to that, don't want to see all the negative qualities that it takes to cheat in your spouse. Also, many cheated on partners might fear that they are somehow to blame for their partner's infidelity? That somehow they drove him/her into the arms of another. That thought must come up at some point. But if you blame it all on the other person, if it is their fault that your partner cheated, then that would mean it is not in anyway your fault and you can also try to grip to the image of your partner that you had, that they are someone who wouldn't cheat. I hope this all makes sense.
Also, I think it is so important to see each case of cheating individually. It is always a terrible thing to do and to have happen to you. But there are differences in how to go on. Some people can forgive and live a happy life together (My cousin's boyfriend cheated on her when their daughter was one year old. They broke up, but later got back together. They just got married and are expecting their second child. I really think she forgave him and they were both able to move on and are very happy together). In other cases, continuing together is not possible. But that decision is up to the people involved, I don't think that anyone can really put themselves in their shoes.
What I am also thinking is, why does the woman always get so much blame? If it is the woman who is married and the man she is cheating with is single, I feel like he still doesn't get all the blame the way it would be if it were the other way around. Does anyone else feel that way?
Wow, that was long. Tough subject, Tertia. Really makes you think.

Coming out of lurkerdom:

I have dealt with this on a very minor scale (we're not married, we have no kids, and it was a one-off incident when my partner was drunk, not involving sex). Because it was such a minor scale, it seemed silly to end a six year relationship with someone I really love for the sake of a few minutes of drunken stupidity, so I didn't even consider ending the relationship. But I was angry, and that anger had to go somewhere, and while, rationally and intellectually, I knew perfectly well that both my partner and the other woman were equally to blame, it was a hell of a lot easier to channel that anger onto a woman I didn't know, and was never likely to meet, than onto the man with whom I was trying to rebuild a relationship. Did he get off easy? Definitely, but it allowed us to salvage our relationship, and stopped making living together a constrant row of arguments and anger. Was I unfair to her? Definitely, but she doesn't know me, she doesn't hear when I call her a bitch, and she's already shown in the most certain terms possible that she doesn't give a fuck what I think of her, so I don't think I really owe her any fairness.

Just my 2p (I'm in the UK). I imagine my reaction would have been very different if it had been long-term, ongoing infidelity, because in that case I would have had no doubts that I wanted to end the relationship, and could have afforded to be equally angry with both of them.

I just do not understand blaming the other woman, sure its a bit off on her part but the only person that promised you fidelity was your partner. Obviously it also depends on the circumstances but she may not have been aware that it was adultery. Speaking from personal experience I think it is possible (again depending on circumstances) to forgive and move on. HOWEVER I don't think I would ever be able to forgive or trust again someone who risked my health. I also can't see myself moving on from my partner lying to me. I also think that once is a mistake and the second time is a pattern. I can forgive a mistake, I would never live with a pattern of infidelity. So I guess the circumstances in which I would forgive and stay are pretty narrow, but I have done it and absolutely do not regret that decision.

Oh, it's totally the cheating spouse's fault, in my opinion. Yes, the "other woman" was incredibly disrespectful to her fellow human being by sleeping with another's spouse, but you're right that it's the spouse who vowed fidelity.

This is coming from someone who has been tempted to be the other woman, actually. I was very attracted to my boss at an old job and it was really easy to see that his wife didn't appreciate how amazing he was. (Of course, it was also easy to see that he put his job ahead of his family.)

In the end I left the job partially for other reasons and partially because I just didn't want the temptation. I would HATE myself if I were to become "the other woman", and it goes against everything I believe and hold sacred.

As far as what constitues infidelity...that's a REALLY tough thing to answer. Obviously I can't forbid my S.O. to look at another woman...that's impossible and unrealistic. I can expect that he not ACT on anything, though. If I were married, I would find it totally unacceptable if my husband kissed another woman, much less slept with her.

I also, after watching a friend deal with this in her marriage, believe that "emotional affairs" can take a huge toll on a marriage. I don't know how to define one except that in this situation my friend's husband was getting all of his emotional support from another woman, was going to her over his wife for advice, for his joys and sorrows. Very sad situation.

I also really, really hate it when people use the "in love" excuse for having affairs. "Well, I never wanted to hurt my spouse, but I was IN LOVE with this other person." Not an acceptable excuse...love is not so much the giddy feelings of infatuation as it is the actions of acting lovingly towards another. Feeling "in love" with another person does not erase the vows you made to your spouse, and plus, how did you get into a situation where you fell in love with another anyway? If you feel yourself being tempted it's your responsibility to run in the other direction.

A married friend of mine recently had an affair with a married man. When it was discovered, it ended her marriage, but not his. His wife has focused all her energy on blaming my friend - to the point where she is totally vindictive and vicious. I think my friend made a bad judgement, but she is in no way a man-eating slut, etc. She was just very, very unhappy, saw her shot at happiness, and grabbed it.

I don't think we as women owe loyalty to other women that way. It's more of an ethical dilemma and certainly you can bring up issues of karma, etc. But the vow that is being broken is the one between husband and wife.

As for staying in a marriage vs throwing in the towel...if I was pushed, I could never leave my marriage because of my son. I am too selfish to want to be without him for every a day, let alone split custody. So, no matter what my husband does (hopefully nothing bad), I can't imagine him pushing me to the point where I'd leave him. That's just me. On the other hand, a few marriages in my family have ended (siblings and siblings in law) and, for the most part, everyone seems much happier. Kids worked out okay, too.

My thoughts -

Long before my dh and I got married, we had a 2 year long distance relationship (he was in the military and I was attending college) While he was stationed in another state he cheated on me for a period of 2 months. I didn't find out about that until over a year after it happened, and I found out about it the week before our wedding. What I also found out was that the "other woman" in question hadn't even KNOWN about me. (I got this not only from dh but also from another person who was stationed at the same location and knew both dh and the girl) Therefore, as much as I WANTED to be angry with her, I had to admit that it was as much of a shock to her to find out about ME. So I unleashed my fury and hung the responsibility on dh alone, and he deserved it!

However, as you may have noticed, I married him anyway. So, what about the old adage "once a cheater always a cheater" ? I chose not to destroy a years long relationship over a 2 month escapade. Yes, it was a gamble, but 12 years and 2 beautiful children later it's one I'm glad I made. And no, he's never cheated again. Not even when an old school friend popped up and started chasing after him (and this was a lady he'd had the hots for in school, but never had the opportunity to date!)

Does that work for everyone? No. Therefore I think saying "anyone who is cheated on should leave their partner" is like saying "I didn't like that red wine, so I'm never drinking ANY wine again." WAAAAY too many variables. You must do what works for YOU, and your family if there is one. My inlaws have manage to survive an affair and are stronger for it. However, I've seen the marriages of two different sets of friends end over affairs (in fact, in both cases it was the woman who cheated, and in both cases she ended up MARRYING the guy she cheated with!) So who knows. I don't think there can be any hard and fast rule.

As far as being there for a friend who is dealing with infidelity - it's like any unhappy happening - be there to listen, but don't offer advice unless it's asked for.

Interesting topic!

I truly believe that no one else can know what two people have or don't save for those two people. Negative or positive - only they can know.

As a friend I feel one can only listen and be a friend. It is so easy to say "leave the bastard." but the implications are deep and we cannot know what is true for those people.

It is much easier for people to blame the other woman/man -- that way they don't ever have to admit that they have been deceived - or that they have been living with a shit for so long...it is easier to say it is someone elses fault. (I think)

god bless and keep what I am lucky enough to have.

I've always thought it was ridiculous to blame the "other woman" or "other man." Unless your spouse was tied up and raped, or seduced by someone dressed up as you, then there's no doubt in my mind the cheating spouse is the guilty party. No one can steal a faithful spouse. Now, I still think sleeping with someone who you know to be committed to someone else is a shitty thing to do, and I don't have a lot of sympathy for those who do it. But I do not blame them for breaking up anyone else's relationship.

I cannot speak from personal experience, but my parents divorced because my father was cheating. He eventually married the other woman. I think there's something to be said for blaming the spouse, but I also think that the other cheater deserves some blame, especially if it is a long-term relationship where they *know* that they are likely ruining a marriage (and the lives of three young children, for instance). I see the other woman (or man) as an aider and abetter, but not the prime mover. Every situation is different, but that's how it was in my parents' divorce. My father told her all kinds of lies about what a terrible person my mother was, so definitely he's more culpable, but I still think a person who knowingly carries on a long-term, secret relationship with a married person is blameworthy in some respect.

For obvious reasons, I constantly wonder whether I would be able to forgive infidelity in my own marriage--my mother was not able to, and I am not sure I would be able to do the same. It depends on what the adultery signifies about the marriage--I guess a long-standing adulterous relationship would signify to me that the marriage was probably over. A one-night fling, maybe not as much. But it's still my worst nightmare.

I totally agree with you. I never understood why women blamed the other woman while acting like their spouse was this poor injured soul who could do no wrong.

Although, in my case, I got to be mad at both... it was my best friend that my ex slept with. Who then went on to marry his brother and become my sister in law.

Needless to say, I cut them both loose.

Seven years ago, DH and I split up for 6 months. We were still married, not even legally seperated, and he "cheated". I consider it cheating because we were still married. I could have taken the opportunity to sleep around as well, but I didn't because I WAS STILL MARRIED. When I asked him about it, he was honest and told me the truth. I was devastated. However, I never asked for any details about "the other woman". He did something wrong. He was gonna stand alone and deal with all the emotions this situation created in his wife. It took me a long time to forgive him. And I think the only thing that saved this marriage was the fact that we weren't together at the time. If he ever does it again, we're through.

Yeah. This is a tough one. I know 3 women who have dated married men. I have to say that across the board, the women were just so desperate to find someone who "loved" them that they would take anyone - even a married man who presented himself as a victim (and they all did, it was never the women as predators).

These women are strikingly independent, smart, funny and talented - one of them looks like a Barbie Doll, never had a problem finding a date. I would never have guessed that they would do this. I was disappointed to discover it, too. But the guys all claim that their wives are no longer interested in sex since the kids arrived and they (the men) feel "neglected and unloved."

Amazing to me that men are so controlled by their dick that 10 months or a year without sex would send them outside a marriage (I mean really - god gave you hands and a shower boy. use em!)

It's hard enough to find someone you LOVE to be with in this world. Why compromise that for a freaking orgasm? I just don't get it.

In any case, I think we as women do have an obligation to not fall prey to the "victim" routine I've seen SO MANY men try to play (especially guys I work with who travel a lot). I think we owe it TO OURSELVES to wait for a man who is not committed to someone else.

Because when you become a mistress, the equation changes immediately and that man is no longer asking himself the important question - which is (say his wife's name is Debbie and mistress is Annie) "Debbie or not Debbie" - instead the question becomes "Debbie or Annie" and that sets up a whole competition thing that I think results in us all blaming the other woman.

Great post, as usual, T.

I think it is a matter of energy.

It is easier to grow the excitement of an affair than be drained by the negativity of a divorce.

From the experiences I've witnessed, the divorce would have been the healthier alternative if folks didn't communicate ahead of time. If people were up front about their unhappiness and sought fixes for their problems, then the cheating might not have happened. I'm not blaming the cheated on spouse, but I am saying that something pre-existed the cheating that either should have been dealt with or divorced away.

However, I have seen twice where multi-time cheaters truly loved their families, but were still compelled to find more. I can't defend it, but they had good marriages otherwise. (Neither wife has found out and I feel no responsibility to tell them.)

In my divorce after 17 yrs marriage, which did not involve cheating, therapy did not help a bit. Both partners have to want to try/communicate and if they don't, then it is impossible. If anything, I was cheated on by his job, the US military, who I assure you was not a bit remorseful. She is a society-accepted mistress, the bitch/slut/whore/time monger.

Think about it. There are all sorts of mistresses and many don't involve sex.

I think it's easier to blame the other woman because we don't know them in the way we do the spouse. The spouse is a 3 dimensional person who we can see all their lives in totallity. We don't judge them by this single act. Most of the time we don't know the other woman by anything other than she has fucked a married man.

I had a really good friend two years ago, who found out on her birthday that her husband was having an affair, and that he had many, many affairs. They actually went through counseling, but in the end she decided to leave him. It was hard to hold her hand the times she was calling him a bastard (which he was) and not jump up and down and say you bet. What if they reconciled and I called him a bastard? So I didn't. She told me once she was worried if she went back to him that I would think she was an idiot. I assured her I wouldn't, but in my head I would have.

Sorry in advance for the length of this, the topic doesn't allow a brief responce.

I won't give you my opinion on who's at fault, and who should be held accountable for their actions. I think there are too many factors involved in each individual incident of infidelity for me to make a blanket statement like that, but...

You are absolutely right, women owe each other something. I look at it like this, in high school you had the unwritten rule that the guys your girlfriends dated were off limits, right? Didn't everyone have that rule? Anyway, I did, and it worked well for me and my friends. No one was ever destroyed over their relationship ending and then later finding out that the guy they "loved" was going out on Saturday with her best friend.

So why can't we extend that high school rule to our adult lives? Just don't touch anyone else's man. I would never be in a relationship with a man who had a spouse, or even a long term commitment. Now if the man dissolved his relationship on his own and after some time he still wanted to be with me I might consider it, but I would never want to be the reason for a relationship ended. Just my personal thoughts.

Now as for friends in relationship crisis, I have one in a major one right now.

Her spouse was emotionally removed from their relationship during her pregnancy. She would talk to me about what a difficult time they were having and at the time I suspected he was cheating on her. She told me he wasn't, that she had asked him, and he denied it. She trusted him.

She finished out her pregnancy and had a very difficult birth of an 11 lb little boy. 4 days after giving birth via c-section her husband admitted to a year long affair with a co-worker. He said he couldn't live with the guilt anymore and had to come clean.

(In my opinion that was the most hideously selfish thing he could do. While she was healing from surgery, and trying to care for a brand new baby he dumped on her his indiscretions.)

She moved in to her parents for a week and then decided she and her son deserved to be in their own home, with all of the comforts she had prepared for the baby's arrival. So she moved home and demanded that he leave. He never did. He slept on the couch for a week and then gradually wormed his way back into her bedroom.

Over the last year they have gone through a few months of couples counseling (with the counselor he (the cheating husband) was seeing pre-admission of guilt to her (my friend). This counselor was not very helpful and in the end told my friend, "He's said he was sorry, what more do you want? Don't you think you should get over this?" That was their last appointment with HER (yes the counselor another woman)!

This year has been a major challenge for my friend, even when things weren't going too badly for them as a couple he has managed to have a terrible year with medical needs. She feels like he has been higher maintenance than their now one year old and she's at a breaking point.

And now, he's in the hospital recovering from a major injury he received while dirt-biking 2 weeks ago. A tree limb went through his foot, destroying most of the bones and requiring major reconstructive surgery. Now he has a serious infection and they are worried he might lose his foot. She feels trapped to stay with him and care for him during such a major health crisis, but at the same time she emotionally bankrupt in their relationship.

We went away last weekend, despite his medical condition for a girl’s weekend and while we were gone she talked about it some. I realized my best advice for her is to get herself healthy. I have no opinion (to her) on whether she should try to save her marriage or not (that's her choice), but I do want her to mentally healthy regardless of whether it's with her husband or without him. She owes her mental health to herself and her son. Once she is mentally strong and healthy she can make a decision about the rest that she can be confident is the right one, not one made out of anger, pain, frustration, emotional bankruptcy.

So my advice (assvice) on how to talk to your friends, is not pass judgment on who is wrong or right, or an asshole or a saint, but just take care of your friend. Help her find a route to get herself healthy.

At least that's what I'm doing in my situation.

May none of us ever have to be in the situation our friends are in and never have to know first hand how difficult it is to make a decision about who is worse, the cheating husband or the women who tempted him.

I've never fully understood why the other woman gets blamed, like someone mentioned above - I can only imagine it stems from not knowing them like you know your husband/wife and wanting to offset the blame elsewhere.

I think if the person cheating with someone's husband/wife knows of the marriage, then she is to blame as well to an extent, but I think often times, the cheating spouse probably never mentions their wife/husband.

While I'm not married, and not sure I'll ever be - I'm not new to "life with cheating" so to speak. My parents have been married quite a long time, and my father has routinely cheated on my mother from pretty early on in the marriage. My mother knows about this, and has for many, many years, and chooses not to do anything about it. I think I was about 10 when I put two and two together, and my life from that point on was made v. complicated due to it.

My mother won't leave the marriage as she's very religious and feels that divorce is one of the most awful things ever (apparently adultery is just fine though!) and feels she needs to stay for better or worse. Part of me wonders if when my sister is grown and gone, if she'll finally get fed up and divorce him.

My teenage years were spent often running in to him, and whatever "other woman" he had at the time while I was out and about with friends. Try explaining that one to your friends! I have half siblings I've never even met. My mother, very naturally, has spent the last 20+ years being very angry with my father. That was often taken out on us - both in forms of physical punishment for insignificant things because she was angry, but more mental "punishment" - we were often reminded we weren't good enough/worthy enough to keep him, as if it was somehow our fault he did this.

Sometimes I wish finding out a spouse was cheating, was enough to make EVERYONE up and leave the relationship. And this is regardless of kids/no kids. Most kids would rather have their parents happy, than miserable. I think in a very rare circumstance, the whole thing can be overcome, but I think that's probably once in a blue moon.

I'm not sure I'll ever get married. After growing up with that going on, I've been left with very little faith in men, and in the institution of marriage. I'm sure if I met the right guy it'd be another thing - but I forsee myself being a paranoid mess most of the time for fear of what he may be doing that I've yet to find out about.

Sorry to come out of lurkdom and leave you a novel, Tertia. I just thought "another view" on it might interest someone, somewhere. :)

Teria, I have to agree with you 100%:

the person who took the vows is responsible for his own marriage.

We tend to blame "the other woman" because it sort of helps (we think) restore the marriage; blaming the other women helps us think there was nothing wrong in this marriage until SHE came along & fouled everything up.

I have to say, though, some women, for some reason, feel compelled to chase after married men. They do it habitually.

I don't think those women can be blamed for ruining someone else'e marriage (the husband ruined his own marriage).

But I do think that chasing other people's husbands is wrong.

Tertia, I have to say it agasin, you really are gorgeous & divine. The comments this post elicited were all brilliant & moving (except for my comment which was dull).

I loved Blondie's comment, it was so brave.

I also loved the comment by the women who said "I totally blamed the other woman, and no, it wasn't fair to her, but she doesn't deserve fairness from me because she's already demonstrated that she doesn't care what I think of her." Brilliant! Totally convincing and makes me understand her situation very deftly.

Thanks for the great topic, T.

Okay, two personal anecdotes and then a more general thought.

First. My father had an affair in the year before my parents were separated. Having the affair was wrong, he should have waited until they were officially separated. But there are several factors which complicate this. I won't go into the psyche of my father here, but will say that that though it was wrong, it was the best thing my father could have done for himself -- and I think, in the long run, his family. Not the affair, but the leaving. Anyway, dad is still with his girlfriend 8 years later, and they are now going through homestudy to become foster parents (girlfriend is much younger than dad, in her mid-thirties.)

Second. When The Boyfriend and I first started dating, I go extremely drunk one night and ended up sleeping with The Boyfriend's good friend. I have exactly 5 seconds memory of this night. I could have not told, but that isn't a good way to start a relationship. And I felt terrible, absolutely terrible, and panicked as I realized what I would lose because of a stupid, stupid indiscretion.

I told The Boyfriend, we had a rocky week or so where essentially he broke up with me because a friend told him he should just leave my cheating ass (despite not knowing me at all, despite not knowing that this was not in my nature and I was torn up not only because of what I did, but because of what it said about who I was. It shook me, made me question whether I was a good person or not. The Boyfriend and I hadn't even slept together yet. The guy I slept with? Only the third person I'd ever slept with.) We got back together though. And we are still together, 4 years later.

There are so many "shades" of infidelity -- someone mentioned emotional infidelity above, which I agree is just as devestating for some, if not more so, than physical infidelity (and I imagine a combination of the two is the worst). I don't know that we can or ever should suggest to a friend that they should leave a certain situation. A person's reasons for staying or leaving are extemely personal, all you can do is try to understand them and support them in whatever decision they make. Your friends have made their decisions, Tertia, all you can do is support them. And ask how they came to make their decisions. You may find that though the results were very different, the reasons behind the decisions are the same.

As for blaming the other woman? Someone also mentioned above that if it is a reverse situation -- the wife cheating on the husband -- the woman is still blamed. It isn't that we attack the person outside the marriage who "threatens" a marriage, we attack the woman. It is really that simple. We have internalized so many negative things about women that we do it without thinking for the most part. It makes me sad. Sure, a woman should stay away from another woman's man, but what about the reverse? Why is a man who sleeps with a married woman never seen as an evil, family-wreaking seducer, yet a woman who does the same is all but pilloried?

Oh well. Sorry this is such a long comment -- it seems most of us have a lot to say on the subject.

My mother-in-law is messed up (I have posted about this before). Also I hate her (that may be irrelevant, but it's therapeutic to write).

Anyway, My husband was conceived because she was dating a married man (had a wife and 2 kids) who she wanted to trap into the relationship. She stopped taking her birth control pills without telling the man and got pregnant (surprise, surprise). Then she was shocked when he moved away with his wife and kids.

Throughout my husband's tortured childhood, she had several other affairs, always with married men, and always on purpose. One of her longer term men once told her that he would leave his wife and move in with her. She said "No," because "if he can leave his wife, he can leave me too." Other wonderful single men have offered to marry her, help raise her child, etc. I don't know what was wrong with these man that they would want to live with a woman like her, but in any case, she turned them away because they were unmarried.

Now mind you, MIL is evil and mentally ill (in and out of mental hospitals, etc), so she is not totally logical. She claims to be religious and when my husband once confronted her about "Thou shalt not commit adultery" she said SHE wasn't committing adultery because SHE wasn't the one who was married.

That is crap. She is stupid, evil, manipulative, and doing wrong on purpose.

HOWEVER, this is the outside-the-marriage view.

From inside the marriage, I think someone like her should still be categorized as stupid, evil, etc. The blame for the betrayal, though, MUST be on the husband. As Tertia (and most previous commenters) say, HE is the one who pledged loyalty. He is the one who has broken a commitment. When DH speaks highly of some of these men that were in his life, I remind him of how they got there. He only knew them because they cheated on their wives.

One of them even CAME TO OUR WEDDING AND POSED AS HIS FATHER IN PHOTOS. I had to tell the guy "Thank you very much but please get OUT of the rest of these group photos. I do not want my wedding pictures to all contain a man who is violating the sanctity of his own marriage by his mere presence here."

God I hate that guy, too.

So, after that long and rambling mess, I agree. Wives, you can reserve some anger for the other-person. In a good world full of good people, no one would date a married person (other than their own spouse). So be upset that you've discovered yet another bad-person. But also be realistic - the world is full of bad people for lots of reasons. The one who has really wronged YOU is your cheating partner.

Frankly, the women who totally blame the OTHER woman while making their partners into the victim are weak, stupid, and unable to cope with reality. That's my judgmental statement of the day and I believe it deeply.

I think that infidelity is bullshit and I can't think of it without getting super pissed off. If you are that unhappy in your marriage, get divorced (obviously not directed at you T ;) ). I have a zero tolerance policy for it. And ALL parties involved are at fault.

Cris, how long have you been married?

Anyway, it's the human condition, and marriage is a construct of the church (we all know how other constructs of the church tend to go against what is essentially "human," with the goal of making us god-like. It doesn't always work).

Unlike Cris, I have sympathy all around. I can't say it's a good thing; murder and stealing goats aren't good things either. But we all struggle to be law-abiding and to not cause pain to others. And in the case of someone who trespasses against us and has no remorse, or who makes no effort to accommodate our needs, I say: dump their ass.

Men are given more of a pass with this sort of behaviour: they are assumed to be sluts by nature. Women are punished enormously for straying, or luring men away. But with either sex, no matter how you slice it, no one can "wreck a home" without being inside it. We wreck our own homes.

I have mixed feelings about this so I will just say that every situation is different. You have to go with what is best for your family. T, just be the best friend you can be. I believe that friends want other friend's opinions, but it is hard to give when you have never been in that situation. I am sure you are being a great friend to these ladies.

What nobody tells you about divorce is - any vice you are trying to escape will haunt you 10 times worse (where children are involved). If he shouted in the marriage - he will shout 10 times more when he comes to fetch the kids. If he was financially irresponsible he will be 10 times more so and withhold maintenance. If he was filandering he will filander 10 times more and each visit your children will find another person in their home and fathers bed. If he was late he will be 10 times more often. If he shirked his father duties he will shirk 10 times more. If you picked up behind him you will pick up 10 times more. If you made excuses to protect the kids you will make 10 times more. This is what if means. It fine to talk about regaining your dignity or sense of self but it can also be the most exhausting thing in the world. You get to the place where you would rather the devil under your nose than in the alley and dragging your kids there every second weekend.

Divorce is not the end - where there are kids.

My advice is to just listen and never be shocked - mostly people just want someone to talk to not heaps of assvice.

Humans = mammals

I don't think we're genetically meant to be monogamous

That being said, I wouldn't stay with someone who cheated (and have left two that have). I deserve the respect back that I give to my partner.

It's totally unfair to heap all the blame on the other woman, but I do think that we, as women, DO owe each other some respect / loyalty / ethical duty. In fact, I think it comes to empathy and self-control. Human beings are animals but one's with self-control. We can have urges and wants, but not act on them. That is called self-discipline. If we have learnt empathy as children, it shouldn't be too hard to put ourselves in the shoes of the cheated-on-spouse and imagine how it would feel if it happened to us. Besides, part of the social contract of living in a stable society is that we don't try and destroy it. I'm afraid that I might appear as old fashioned, but I think that having affairs with other people's spouses does tug at the underlying confidence and trust we have in each other. I want to be able to let me husband go to work and be confident that the majority of people won't be throwing themselves at him. (I also expect him to act in a married way so that he doesn't give people the wrong impression or encourage inappropriate behaviours)

Having said all that, I think that the cheating husbands are the ones that we should really expect more of and be really angry at, but sometimes it is too painful to admit that our choice in life-partner may have not been as good as we thought that they were. That fear of admitting that I'd made a humiliating mistake kept me in TWO really crappy relationships long after I should have left. It took me quite a few years, but eventually, I came to see the role my own behaviour had in the affairs. I'm not even trying to blame myself for the fact that my two partners couldn't keep their pants zipped, but I enabled that behaviour in so many ways that I have since wised up to. I know that for many people, however, nothing they did caused the affair, it was just the lack of loyalty, maturity or self-control on their partners part.

None of the above is meant to imply any judgement on anyone elses' relationships. I hope I've worded it so that it doesnt' appear too judgemental. While I believe we all have an ethical responsibility to each other, I am also a strong believer in not judging others until I've walked a mile in their shoes (sorry about the cliche.)

My first husband had an affair. It started shortly after we got married. I didn't know about it for 6 months, after we seperated, because he mistook me for a punching bag. The woman he cheated with knew full well that he was married.

I might have been able to forgive him, but I would never be able to forget. It would always be there- the worry that it was going to happen again. I realized- it's impossible to truly forgive if we can't forget.

But sometimes there is justice- the woman he cheated with got pregnant. He did the "noble" (HA HA HA) thing and married her.

When the baby was born 6 months later, it was very obviously Hispanic. Both my ex-husband and the other woman are as white as the day is long.

Not only did she cheat with him, she cheated ON him.

Gotta love karma. :)

I don't think women SPECIFICALLY owe other women SQUAT. I know there is this "Shared oppression" sort of feeling among some women but I'm a firm believer in just because I look like you, like the same things as you, happen to have the same naturally assigned genitals as you doesn't mean I'm AUTOMATICALLY part of some club with you. I don't like some women, I don't like some men, I don't like some of the fans of the Television show House, whatever, and since I'm not going to like every single person graced with a pair of breasts I'm certainly not going to lay down some law where I'm going to watch ALL of their backs just CAUSE.

That being said, I do owe it to other people not to be an ass. Plain and simple. I should maintain my day to day life in which I don't go around being a total jerk and making other's lives miserable. I shouldn't put myself in the position of "Taking" or "stealing" the "posessions" of another person including their spouse.
(I put little quotes around posessions see ^_^)

So, should I do that, said lady would have every right to think I'm a total bitch. Aditionally, her husband would be JUST as responsible as me.

I guess what I'm saying is the cheater and his mistress are equally culpable in this matter. And the anger is usually reflected on the mistress more for the reasons listed above, that it's easier.

Tertia, I agree with what you've said, and much of what others have already said.

On a related note, I wanted to share a comment about mothers and fathers, infidelity and divorce when children are involved. About a year ago, my mom's group had a woman speaker talk to us about husbands/fathers (including ex's) and how we treat them. She shared the story of two women she'd known, both with children, and both with cheating spouses. Both marriages ended in divorce. One of the women took every opportunity to tell her children what a lousy father they had. She always pointed out all of his flaws and mistakes. The other woman, never spoke poorly about the children's father (at least never to them). Years later when the children were grown up, the first woman's children were not close with their father and strongly disliked their mother as well. The second woman's children had a very close relationship with their mother and a so/so one with their father. Even though she had never said anything bad about him, he had hurt his children several times over the years from his own selfishness. She would comfort her children without belittling him in the process, and when they were older, they understood why she'd left him without her saying anything negative.

I found this story to have such a wonderful lesson for all mothers. And I guess the bottom-line is that our children have a certain connection with their fathers (no matter what kind of person he is) and as mothers we need to be careful to make sure that we don't hinder or break that connection with our words. If the child's father is truly a selfish, lying jerk, the children will unfortunately figure that out all on their own. So while leaving is sometimes the best option, it is also important that we have someone other than our children to talk to about the feelings and frustrations we have with their fathers. And Tertia that is where you, as the friend, play an invaluable role listening to all the upset and grief that your friends are grappling with.

I used to be one of those who said that if my spouse cheated I'd pack my bags, leave, & never look back. That was before kids.

My husband cheated on me while I was pregnant and for a long time thereafter. I knew in my gut what was happening. I even asked him about it several times but he denied it (I found proof positive later but he still denied it). He was verbally & emotionally abusive to me during this time. He was such a bastard while I was pregnant that our daughter recoiled in instinctive fear from him for months after she was born (as she did while in-utero).

I had a horrible, bedridden pregnancy, a difficult c-section with lots of blood loss, and a very long, hard recovery afterwards. Through it all I was in no shape to leave my husband. While pregnant and for a long time afterwards I was physically unable to leave him. As I regained my physical strength I realized that if I did leave him I would only be screwing up my kids. Divorce courts these days give fathers 50% custody. Did I want to put my kids through that, making them shuffle back & forth between homes? I would have to go back to work because I wouldn't be able to support us. Did I want to put my kids in daycare? Why have kids if someone else is going to raise them? And if we were divorced that would mean DH would be handling the kids by himself. He's not capable of that, he can't even do a diaper properly, he has no idea of anything related to parenting that I don't teach him & model for him. I feared he would literally kill the children through neglect or stupidity. Or worse, he'd have who knows what kind of floozy at his house. Do I want unknown women having unrestricted access to my kids? No way!

It's been over two years since that time. DH has ended the as yet non-admitted-to affair (he's alluded to it, though). I think it ended during the first post-partum year. I've watched him wrestle with his inner demons, and am glad for it. At this point I don't love him anymore, but am willing to stay together for the sake of the children. He once again professes to love me, but I need to get a confession & apology out of him before I can even think of forgiving him. We are not intimate, I could not possibly be intimate with him at this time. I feel that if I was intimate with him I would be betraying myself. Plus, I'd want him to get tested for STDs. Getting divorced will not solve anything. We are at least friendly to each other, and I think we parent the children well together. We still have some aspects of our original friendship & relationship left. Yes, staying together has cost me an awful lot, but I feel it's worth it to give my children a relatively stable home with two parents who love & adore them. And who knows, perhaps some day DH & I will be able to get past his infidelity & repair our relationship. Miracles still happen, right?

It has never occurred to me to blame the other woman (or women, I don't know). My husband is the cheating bastard. If she knew about his family then yes, she's an evil person who I hope gets what she deserves, but my husband is the one who broke our marriage vows.

For my 2 cents: Definitely be there and listen to your friend(s), T. When my (now ex)husband was cheating on me, my girlfriends were right there with me, getting drunk with me, listening to me call my husband and his mistress all sorts of names, and yelling, "HELL YEAH!" in support. Do not get into the act by also calling their spouse(s) names. Simply agreeing with them is support enough. I know I married a jerk, but I *chose* that jerk. Having you remind me of how stupid I was in choosing that jerk by your calling him a jerk is not helpful.

That said, my husband was the one I primarily blamed, but his (married) mistress knew me quite well, and therefore, knew he was married. Her participation was nearly as much a betrayal. My husband was unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied in our marriage, which is, he said, why he opened himself up to this relationship. That's bullshit. Yes, he was unhappy, unfulfilled and unsatisfied. So was I. He should have asked for a divorce, or gone for counselling, or both.

It turns out we all split up, the husband and mistress got married and lived happily ever after (I guess). Her husband and I both remarried and, I don't know about him, but I am deliriously happy with my new husband. Splitting up with my ex was the best thing that ever happened to me until meeting my current husband. He's just an ass for letting it take an affair to make him look at his unhappiness, rather than being a man and facing it full on.

I have absolutely no tolerance for infidelity. However, I know every situation is different, and do not grudge anyone else their decisions. I know women who trust that the affair will be a one-time abberation and therefore are willing to try to make things work; I know others who walk away without a second thought. Everyone has to make their own decision about what is right for them and their relationship.

As for women having a responsibility of loyalty towards other women, *shrug* I think we as individuals have a responsibility to our community. And part of that responsibility is recognizing that if a person is married, you as an individual need to respect the sanctity of that union. It's not your responsibility to make sure the spouse doesn't cheat, but it is your responsibility to make sure YOU don't participate in someone else breaking their vows, or commitment of loyalty.

Also, to anyone out there who knows that a friend is being cheated on and you're not sure whether or not to tell the friend - I would want to know, but only if you know for 100% sure without a single shred of doubt! Please tell me gently, with perhaps another beloved friend along for comfort. Don't resort to name-calling, don't say, "I'd leave the sob..." just be there.

/end soapbox

I have/had a cheating dad, who my mother stayed with for over 20 years, even though the cheating involved women she knew and saw regularly. Even though he had a child with at least one of these other women.

In most cases, I think the blame is somewhat evenly spread around, for both the husband, the other woman and, yes, the wife. And it's taken me a while to see it that way.

I love my mother, so it's hard to hold her responsible for something my father did. But I can clearly see that she didn't protect herself, and allowed him to act in a manner that was quite destructive, both for her and for himself. She married an alcoholic who abused her, and cheated on her. She had evidence of this in the beginning.

On the other hand, the other woman/women in this case, often clearly knew my mother, knew of her seven children. I think they even sometimes knew about each other. So, clearly there is some responsibility there.

But this is all a percentage game. If I hold my mother responsible, and the other women, to what degree? 15%? 20%? It's definitely less than 50%. Or maybe it's 100% for each party.

I know my father is 100% responsible for not honoring his relationship with his wife, or his duties to his children. We were aware of his indiscretions too, and often quite earlier than children should be aware of these things.

In my adult life, I've been involved in more than one indiscretion of my own. Never the cheating partner, thank god, but I've been pursued (not consumated, thank god again!) by married/committed men. It's devestating to me to think that I could be responsible for damage to these relationships, yet clearly, there are big problems here, and I'm not the cause of them.

I now firmly believe that a cheating partner has a problem. It could be a problem with the relationship or it could be a problem with themself. Regardless, there are more issues than just cheating. Often a cheater is in a relationship that is already dead. It's over, but for the ending. Cheating is wrong, but timing is often more of the issue.

I met my husband as he was divorcing his wife, as a matter of fact, within days of his final decision to divorce. Her father had already contacted a lawyer (without her consent or knowledge). My husband hadn't contacted a lawyer until a month after we met. Was I responsible for the end of their marriage? no. Was there an inconvenient overlap of a relationship starting? yes.

After all of this, do I hold her (his wife) responsible for the end of their marriage? Yes. Do I hold him responsible? Yes. Does what I feel really matter? Nope. But, sadly, we all live with the aftereffects of poor timing. She believes I caused the end of their marriage. I could give clear evidence that I have nothing to do with it, but people self-delude.

Basically, all of this is a way of saying that it's not just the cheater or the other woman, it's the cheater, the other woman and the partner. They're all equally respnsible.

p.s. as a precaution, I'm not entering an email. I'd rather not get hatemail. Feel what you like, but don't spew venom my way.

I am the other woman.

i don't think i have ever had a relationship where the man was wholey 'mine'. I've been married, 7 years, even.

My mother was the 'other woman'. I can hear my mom saying such things as 'she (wife/girlfriend, whatever) was doing laundry while i was doing him (husband/boyfriend) or 'if she caint make him happy, i can...'

My grandmother lost her kids (back in the 40's-50s) because she was caught having an affair. My great grandmother? Same story.

Present generation? I have six sisters. All of them have either been unfaithful or been cheated on.

I had to leave the house and consider whether or not i would even respond to this even.

I never consciously realized how intense early life experiences are, how we are 'programmed', if you will. I was never aware of how the family heritage was so strong, when i was slugging all this stuff out in my earlier life.

My first bf cheated on me, i was very young, i think about 15. it was painful. he cared, i think, but he cared for ALL of us. What can i say?

My family was very disjointed. I never learned that 'bonding' stuff, never learned how to have a real relationship, never experienced or understood 'intimacy'.

You can't give or live on an empty baskette.

I was generally in so much personal pain that it never occurred to me that i was inflicting pain on anyone else.

I sent him back, didn't i?

I wasn't 'wanting' him to move in or anything. I just borrowed him. No harm, no foul.

Cept one day i woke up and realized what was going on. It was a chilling moment. I think i was about 30. I still remember it.

It's like having been sleep walking all your life and running into a cold shower.

So i quit. Boom. just like that.

and it was hell. Every time i was attracted to someone i made very sure that i found out their 'status'. sure enough they ALL had someone else on the hook.

you know my personal observation? Men are wimps in relationships. They don't shop unless there is some reason why they thinkk they want to jump ship. if they jump ship, it is only because they found somewhere (read: someONE) to jump TO.

I quit being the someone.

I have been divorced since 1989. None of my friends have seen me w/a guy since.

I decided to get my head on straight. Went into therapy. Stayed there till i 'graduated'. Met a 'nice' ALONE male, started to warm up.

Life crashed on me and he disappeared. Ten years later, life is coming together, i meet a guy, life crashes AGAIN...he disappears.

Little over a year i meet someone else. Takes me about four months of 'chatting' for me to discover that he, also, has someone who he isn't just quiet 'sure' about, they are 'having fun'.


'Cept I had lost my heart to him by that time. I used his 'presence' (non) to really look at life from a totally different aspect (spiritual) and discovered so much unaddressed garbage i had to take out.

It was hard for ME. it was hell.

I still wasn't ready, obviously, for a REAL relationship. I could have jumped, but i see now i was just a mess waiting to explode. He is either engaged to his 'unsure' of girlie, or just recently married.

Believe it or not, it really hurts, however, i would rather be here, in pain then have stepped into another experience like my history has been.

Sometimes the other woman is just a novice in life. She is oblivious to your pain because hers is so great, and if/when she wakes up, her personal burden of shame may well overwhelm her.

This is a very honest post. If you hate me for what i have voiced, that is your right, but please respect the honesty.

Sincerely, bp

I'm too lazy to read all the comments, so forgive me if I'm being repetitive.

I think the most important thing is that your friends both know that you love, accept, respect, and support them, no matter what they choose to do. I think it's also important to let them know how strong and brave they are, and that you have every confidence that they will make it through the tough times.

I dealt with this once, and it was so hard for me to listen to my friends bash him and tell me I'm better off without him. The old "better now than after you married him" thing was awful, too - as if to say that the last year I'd invested in our relationship was insignificant because we weren't married. After much soul-searching, he and I got back together, and are still together today. The most wonderful reaction I got when I told friends and family came from my mother, who said, "I'm so glad to hear that. I know how much you love him."

The girl he left me for was my closest friend at the time. It's strange to me how I've managed to forgive him and move on, but I still seethe with anger whenever I think of her. I still feel that sharp pang of betrayal. Perhaps the difference for me is that he owned up to his shit, and apologized, and he was sincere and has been wonderful ever since. She, on the other hand, has made no attempt to contact me at all. She actually had the gall when I originally confronted her to blame it on me. *deep breath*

It's different for everyone. I'm sorry that your friends are suffering this, and I'm sure that you're saying and doing all the right things.

Delurking here for a subject near and dear to my heart...

Tertia, I have a child who is about the same age as your twins. We tried for almost 4 years (3 IVF's) and ended up using donor sperm, which my husband was totally on board for. When I got pregnant (with 1st IUI), he slowly abandoned me to the point where I didn't think he was going to show up in the delivery room.

I knew something was wrong, but he never admitted anything to me, and I was having a difficult pregnancy so couldn't focus on him. He verbally and emotionally abused me, mostly with manipulation and confusion. I knew it was over when I came home the first night after my c-section, and he left me alone with a baby I could barely pick up.

Anyway, long story short, the new girlfriend showed up at my house and I got to meet her. I thought I'd be angrier at her, but he also lied to her (told her we were getting a divorce before I even knew anything was wrong). This person made no commitment to me, HE did. I don't like her behavior, but he's the lying, cheating jerk.

About staying together for the kids... I briefly thought about it, because it will KILL me if this man gets any major custody of a child that is not his, whom he doesn't really care about. However, I want my child to see me as a strong woman who cares enough about herself than to put up with that kind of behavior. I deserve more, and so does my baby. I'm putting my faith in the court system that they will know I'm the better parent.

I have a question: what role do friends play? My husband's friends supported this relationship with the girlfriend. All the while I was pregnant, they were out having a good time at my expense. (it makes me physically ill to think about it.) I feel that the friends should have had loyalty to our marriage first, us as individuals second. Even it meant they couldn't tell me what was going on, I feel that they shouldn't have been supporting the other relationship. What does everyone else think?

Tertia, I think you must be an awesome friend. I have a couple of those myself, and they are a huge blessing. Best of luck to your friends.

I suppose in a sense, I was the other woman.
I met my husband while he was separated but still married to his ex-wife. We fell in love instantly but there were a few occasions where I left him for a while, insisting he get on with his divorce because I felt not only that I was "sharing" him on some level but also that I was possibly betraying a woman I didn't even know. I mean, every story has two sides, and I was only hearing one. I wasn't needy nor pathetic enough to believe for one second that I was "saving" him from his loveless marriage- it takes two to create a conflict. Over time however I learned his true nature and character and 6 years later I'm confident he did all he could to salvage his former relationship before giving up for good.

That being said, yes, I felt I did owe something to his ex- - I did feel a strong sense that I should step back and let them resolve their business before I became involved - and not because she was a fellow downtrodden female, but more because she was a human being and entitled to some dignity. I had found love- she was losing love - I felt I was the lucky one in this scenario, and so it felt right to keep a certain distance and let the divorce dust settle before I moved in for the kill.

She couldn't have blamed me for any of their problems as they were separated long before I arrived on the scene. But in the usual scenario, I think it's a natural tendency to blame the "other person" before admitting to yourself that your partner went to such an extreme to get his/her needs met elsewhere. Cheating generally requires lots of energy and creativeness - it is also the ultimate betrayal and usually a shock to the cheated-on. I think it's just easier to believe someone unfairly tempted your husband away from you than to acknowledge he went willingly. I think believing the latter just hurts too damn much.

You know, maybe it's my age, but I'm really struck by how few people are talking about the responsibility women bear other women.

I can't imagine not having a sense of owing something to my sisters--meaning all women. It may be corny to say this, but we suck at being friends with each other, a lot of the time. Yes, we form close relationships with each other, but we still see competition and sniping and boyfriend/husband stealing. I could never, ever cheat on my boyfriend (and if he cheated on me, he'd be gone in an instant, no matter the circumstance. I hate to say it, but once a cheater, always a cheater. If he can let the trust lapse once, what's to say he won't do it again?), but furthermore, I couldn't cheat on my friends or another woman even. Because at the end of the day, that's what it is. Even if you're single, you're cheating on someone by seeing their partner. No exceptions.

Instead of viewing our friends as competition, or "just friends" we owe them the exact same respect we owe our partners. And that means no cheating of any type. I don't care what feelings are involved. Cheating hurts every single person involved in the situation, and no amount of "love" will change that. Again, the woman who cheats with your partner is as much to blame as your partner. Both people are cheating you.

I'm back to add, after reading these awesome posts, that I guess the real "infidelity" in my mind is the lying. If you are really in a loveless, dying marriage/relationship that has no future and find yourself in love with someone who is not your partner, that probably can't be helped. But lying/sneaking around for months on end is really unfair to the partner, and a worse betrayal than the physical "cheating." If you're lying to your partner about an affair, you probably think you're doing something wrong, or want to have it both ways (partner+extracurricular) without dealing with the emotional fallout. And I think Day is absolutely right: no matter how much the non-cheating partner has appeared to contribute to the demise of the relationship (and there are always two sides to THAT story), he/she is still entitled to some dignity.

My boyfriend of 4.5 years cheated on me while I was away for the summer. I was so unbelievably angry, mostly at my boyfriend, because we had always agreed that if one of us fall in love with someone else, we would tell each other and break up. But to find out from a friend of his was devastating. It was the finding out from someone else, more than anything, that made me erase him completely from my life.
I would consider kissing definitely cheating, but in a (very) few circumstances forgivable. Sex, however, would just end it for me. The most basic ingredient and most important ingredient in a relationship for me is trust, and when that is violated, I can never trust again. Maybe that's narrowminded of me, but that's how I am

ps: i never played w/a married man.

i don't think that makes it much better, tho, i just never did.

If you're not comfortable telling your partner about an/any interaction that you had with someone else, then that in a sense is "cheating", even if it's not intercourse. If it would hurt them, it's cheating.

I feel for your girlfriends Tertia. One blessing is that they have you as a friend. I agree with what most people have said. Just being there for them, listening to them and holding their hand. Your friends need to work out for themselves what they're going to do. Sometimes when women have been cheated on, it can take out a chunk of their own self-esteem. I know this is really superficial but could you suggest a new hairdo or makeover together with you, as a fun thing? Plus for the friend who is leaving her husband, it wouldn't hurt for him to see how gorgeous she is.

It would be nice to think that there is a universal solidarity amongst women, but it comes down to issues like personal choice, temptation, self-esteem (sometimes lack of). I know of a situation where an older married man had an affair with a younger woman (classic mid life crisis) and years later told his wife about it. His wife and the woman he had the affair with ended up meeting for lunch to talk it all about (they never knew each other before). To my amazement, they ended up liking each other. A rare story, I know.

Tertia - just be yourself. Be a friend. be an ear to hear and a shoulder to support. That's the best thing you can do.

(I'm not writing anymore on this because at some point before I posted, someone or several someones said my thoughts exactly - and it took me soooooo long to read through all these! Wow, what a well-versed group!)

I totally agree with Robin. I went out with a male friend of mine one night spontaneously after leaving a message on my boyfriend of a year's cell phone telling him what I was doing. He broke up with me (for a week, but he still brings it up all the time almost a year later) over that because he couldn't believe that I hadn't cheated on him, but had just gone out for a late night snack with a really good friend. He considered just going out with a friend cheating, even though I hadn't done anything remotely sexual. And I haven't seen or talked to my friend since then even though he was one of my best friends.

I think it's both the adulterers' faults. Granted, the married one took the vows, but in my mind the unmarried one should respect them. I definitely agree the married party is more to blame, but I don't think the unmarried one is blameless either. And that goes regardless of which party is male/female. It isn't a question of gender, it's a question of betrayal.

I am totally with you. It's the cheating partner who should bear the blame of infidelity, not the one who "lured" them away. But it's easier to hate the other person, since you made the choice to marry/trust your partner.

I also believe that, while it depends on the situation, often it's the right thing to do to "forgive" your partner and try again. As long as there's open communication about what's wrong that enabled the partner to cheat, and how it can be remedied.

I had a dream a few weeks ago that I cheated on my husband, and it bothers me still.

I agree, it's the cheater in the relationship that's at fault.

BUT, my sister (whom I'm very close to) was in a relationship with a married man for TEN years, every year there was anther 'reason' for him not to leave his wife, and my sis ALWAYS blamed the wife-she was a bitch, it was her fault the kids were so messed up, she would 'take' him for everything he had, etc. It was very difficult to keep my mouth shut, in the end he is still with his wife and my sis is grieving her lost 10 years. Oh, and she just celebrated her 52nd bd-not a 'young stupid thing' by any means, and had been through a bad marriage herself.

Yes, I think us women/men need to stick together and not have affairs with married/comitted people.

Hmmmmm.......my point is that sometimes the person that is cheating with the spouse makes all kinds of 'excuses' in his/her own head.

I don't care how awful the spouse is, the cheater needs to get out of the relationship before they start up with someone else.

Just lend an ear T, I don't know how to "make it better".

You're awesome T!!!!! and your babies are g&d!

As others have expressed, I think women whose husband's have cheated on them blame the other woman because it's much easier. If it's the other woman's fault, then they don't have to go through the incredibly painful process of coming to term with the fact that their husband freely chose to break his marriage vows.

People are not unfaithful because they are mammals, because their spouse gained weight or because they were drunk. People cheat because something inside them says it's okay to put their pleasure ahead of their spouses pain.

My spouse of 16 years is in the Marine Corps and has done four 6 or 7 month deployments, plus countless training missions that lasted from 3-8 weeks. I do not cheat on him not because of who he is, but because of who I am. I am a woman who is faithful to her vows. I expect the same from my spouse. And if my husband broke his vows, then he would have ended our marriage, not me. And vise versa.

I realize this is not a one size fits all solution. I simply cannot imagine how completely shattering it would be to live through the end my marriage, to no longer be joined with the man I love so deeply. But, for me, there is nothing to save once adultry has happened. The marriage is over.

I'll say one last thing...I've known plenty of men who got caught cheating or confessed to it and swore on a stack of bibles that it was only that one time. In almost every case, that was a lie.

bp, thank you for sharing your story, I found it very powerful.

I also wanted to add that I've been friends with quite a few "other women." That makes it impossible for me to paint them all with the same brush.

Also, I think saying that the cheater, the other wo/man and the spouse all share equal blame is insulting to the spouse. I've know women who were pregnant and raising a small child while their husbands were deployed half way around the world for 6-12 months. How in the world was it their fault that their spouse decided to cheat? That makes no sense to me. I realize that context is important, but to say the spouse is always as much to blame as the other wo/man is shocking to me.

I also do not understand the idea that the other wo/man is "cheating." The other person did not make a vow to you to "forsake all others." On a human level, it would be nice if no one chose to hurt anyone elses marriage. In my opinion, the idea that no women should cheat with a married man out of loyalty to other women misses the point. If men took their vows seriously, if they respected their wives, they wouldn't be out there cheating. It almost sounds to me like the underlying idea is that men can't help but cheat, and so we need the women to be moral for them.

Sorry to go on and on. I've just seen so many people hurt by this issue. Even in this thread, I'm struck by how many people have been so deeply effected by their parents behavior.

To get back to the original question (finally!) I have found that what my friends in this situation need was for me to just listen. Maybe that's why I've go on so much, I've not been able to express these feelings to any of my friends.

Just to put my own $.02 in the pot...

My husband was married right out of high school due to his girlfriend becoming pregnant unexpectedly. We had been on and off before that point, and discovered our true feelings during their engagement. I purposefully backed off after their marriage because I thought he owed it to her to give it a shot. We reconnected during a period of a few months to talk on the phone and go on one date, but I backed off again due to his marriage and his child. A little after their one year's anniversary, she walked out on him and their daughter to have adventures of her own. He called me the day after she left, and we've been together ever since.

I don't regret what I did, because I know that I stayed out of their marriage. In the end, she was sleeping with various men, while he was sacrificing for her. While he worked to pay off their debts, she squandered money for her escape.

I also don't agree with the phrase, "Once a cheater, always a cheater." Living in a hellish marriage can lead some people to cheating, and yes, others may be chronic cheaters (ever read "The unbearable lighteness of being"?).

In answer to your questions, I find cheating to be not only physical but also emotional. If my husband invests his emotions into another woman to the degree where he has opened his very inner being to her, then sex would not even be the issue. As his wife, we should be partners that are capable of sharing with each other. If in fact we are so incapable of that, I would question if we should be married in the first place.

I always believed that if my husband ever cheated on me, I would be straight out the door. He never has, but my opinion has changed now that I'm pregnant. Dealing with split custody is hell for us. From Sunday-Sunday one week we have his daughter, then the next week we don't. Now that she's getting near school age, we have to make a joint decision with her mother. We are unable to move to another state without forfeiting custody (it would show abandonment). For the next 14 years we will be bound to deal with the woman who did not much more than carry this child. (As I mentioned, she walked out. She didn't bother to walk back in until the child was 3.) I can't imagine going through that again. I am not prepared to raise a child on my own, and I have no support from my own family. I am also not prepared to give up the child. I can't say staying together for the sake of the child is always the best option, but the constant shuffling of environments can't be good, either. I would, however, confront my husband. By this point in our relationship, I believe that both of us have the capability of satisfying the other's desire for companionship. If I'm falling short somewhere, it would be a situational issue, not a mismatch of personalities.

I believe living with the scars of infidelity is difficult. Even though my husband did not love his first wife, it was still painful to deal with her complete disrespect of their vows. But on the other hand, throwing children in the mix makes the whole thing a nightmare.

With a friend dealing with this, I would say listening would be the best, simply because the woman may not be ready to leave. But to be honest, if she's constantly coming to you because he's hurt her, tell her the truth.

This entry seems to inspire some long responses :-)

This is a complicated, varying issue. There are as many right answers as there are relationships in existance. I do believe that having an affair does not have to mean the end of a marriage, or relationship. That is a sign of problems, not the originating cause. Happily married, truly in love, content, secure people do not have affairs. There are always underlying issues that lead to such an event.

If you can approach the true problems in the relationship and fix those, the affair may not matter in the end. Of course it does depend on the strength of the people involved and their desire to work on their relationship...and it is WORK. Every relationship is. Sure, there are times when things are fun, the sex is fantastic, nothing is wrong - and then there will always be times when one partner is tired, or grumpy, or in a funk...it just happens.

I have had experience with the affair front - from both sides. I certainly don't think it fixes anything, but it restored some self-confidence in a strange way to a life where I didn't feel wanted or loved. At the same time when my partner had an affair I felt devastated and wondered why he wouldn't come to me first to try to fix things. In retrospect, we both ran away from problems and pretended that another relationship was what we truly wanted. Not the wise choice, but the choice we made none-the-less.

I agree that staying together for the sake of children is a cop-out. But I also feel so bad for children that have to deal with a divorce and suffer because the parents didn't want to work on their relationship. They had nothing to do with the situation and yet they truly suffer the most.

As for who's fault it is - I think that the two people having the affair are the ones to blame, but also you need to look at the underlying issues. Problems in a marriage shouldn't give anyone a green light to cheat, but it helps to understand what is leading to the infidelity, as opposed to simply judging the people based on the affair.

If my husband is having the affair, my anger should be directed at him - if I am having the affair his anger should be directed at me. The other people involved have their own issues - I think it is best to leave them alone and deal with the person you have the relationship with. Everything else just doesn't matter.

Long winded...but you sorta asked for it. :)


I will probably piss off alot of you. I was the "other woman". Yes I knew he was married, yes I told him to go home. We were great friends at the time and still are. We di dnot have any sexual relationship until after he seperated. In fact we married 3 years ago and are having our first ivf baby. He has 3 children from his previous marriage. We do not have custody, but his children and I get along great! I am the 7 year olds "Best Friend".

I think to judge anyone without knowing the full story from both ends is horribly unfair. Was it his fault? Maybe some. but BOTH partners have to work together to make a marraige work. Is mental abuse a good thing to do to someone? Do kids really need to see their mother constantly harp on and belittle their father? When someone has been diagnosed as Bi-polar, and refuses to take medication or seak counciling is that fair to all involved? I did not cause the divorce, it was already happening.
I think the worse part has been the abuse I get from the ex. Do children need to be told to not show your stepmother any affection because she is a whore or a slut? Try explaining these words to 3 chilfren under 10. Does anyone know what its like to have a step child come crying to you all confused because they say they love you but their mother says they can't? My God, there has to be a point where people can either let go or move on. It is not always the other woman or the spouses fault for cheating. Yes vows may have been broken if someone has another physical relationship, but don't you think that other vows have been broken along the way to lead to this point?

Nora -

It is funny you asked how we react / what we think about friends aiding and embedding in a cheating relationship. My husband and I were talking about this Friday afternoon at lunch (why, I don't know).

Anyway, my take was this:

I am not involved in my friends marriage, or thier affair. I may be friends with both partners in the marriage or even just one - it doesn't matter in how I would handle it. If I were to see one of them cheating, or be told about it, I would not tell the other partner. I am not part of that relationship and it is not anthying I can control or fix. If they were to ask me my opinion, I would certainly give it and I can say with experience what I think. However, my job as a friend is not to become part of their marriage. It is to be there when they need me for whatever they need me to do. I will not lie for them, I will not help them cheat - but I will not barge in and tell them how to live and I will not destroy their lives - that is up to them.

My husband wasn't sure he agreed...which led to a long, fantastic conversation. He said that if he caught his child cheating, he would get involved. I disagreed and said that I wouldn't. I might give my opinion and share experiences, but that is it.

Interesting topic. Important one. Certain to spark some conversations.

Great topic -- and great responses.

T - I think the best thing you can do for your friends whose spouses are cheating is to encourage them to take care of themselves, and work on their own issues (we all have 'em).

Encourage them to exercise, go out with friends, do fun and silly things with their kids, take a class, get a facial, get therapy, remember how to laugh. Whether or not they stay in the marraige, this investment in themselves will pay off.

And the best thing they can do for their children is to set an example of a mother who can pull herself together even in the most difficult of circumstances.

You can't control other people, spouses or the people with whom they cheat. You can control your own energy, and decide where to focus it. What is it they say about living well and the best revenge?

Great topic -- and great responses.

T - I think the best thing you can do for your friends whose spouses are cheating is to encourage them to take care of themselves, and work on their own issues (we all have 'em).

Encourage them to exercise, go out with friends, do fun and silly things with their kids, take a class, get a facial, get therapy, remember how to laugh. Whether or not they stay in the marraige, this investment in themselves will pay off.

And the best thing they can do for their children is to set an example of a mother who can pull herself together even in the most difficult of circumstances.

You can't control other people, spouses or the people with whom they cheat. You can control your own energy, and decide where to focus it. What is it they say about living well and the best revenge?

-coming out of lurkdom-
I found you from Julie, and thought I'd check you out, and now I'm hooked! LOL!.

Now, as a 20 year old woman, who's experienced infidelity--as a teenager in stuck in the middle, I have some skewed views, so you can ignore me if you'd like. My stepdad cheated on my mom with a family friend, when I was 16. When I turned 17, my mom found out, (after he had asked for a divorce) and it devestated her. It tore our family apart, and ruined what was left of any kind of esteem that my mother had. Infidelity, it really can ruin your life. I missed 3.5 consecutive weeks of school, to make sure that she would get up, eat, and stay alive. Because of that, I missed out on walking with my class at graduation. I had to take summer school, and then graduate at a later date, and it was terrible..Watching my mom go through that has opened my eyes, and possibly, even made me bitter towards relationships, and marriage in general. Since he was my step-dad, it made it even harder. My mom is now on her 3rd marriage, and is happier than ever, but I still think about those tumultous times and wonder how we ever made it through. I have a different take on it, I guess. I don't know. And as far as staying together for the kids, I think that is bullsh*t. Kids are smarter than people realize, especially parents. Kids really DO pick up when their parents are strained, or fighting, at any age. I just hope that many parents keep that in mind, when they are mulling over the word divorce.

And now, that I've thrown in MORE than my .02, I'll let you be, and go back into lurkdom :)

The babies are beautiful, btw!

Have our expectations of men really become this low???

One more thing...an adult gets out of their marriage before they start screwing around. The whole "my bad marriage drove me to it" is such a weak excuse. It's just a cowardly way to either force the other spouse to end it or to have someone else to run to because the person is not strong enough to stand alone with their decision.

Bravo Kathleen! Several years ago I "dated" a guy who had a liv in partner. I eventually wound up deciding that what I was doing wasn't right, though I had all kinds of justifications. After that I knew a couple married men from work who were interested. I closed it off pretty quickly- I couldn't trust that "his wife wouldn't be hurt". And, while I could not control his behavior (I'm sure they moved on to other willing victims) I COULD control mine. My line quickly became "If your relationship is so unhappy, leave- then maybe we can discuss. Until then, we have nothing to talk about."
Antother absolute rule- you don't take your best friend's man. EVER.

Sorry for taking up so much space here, but it’s not a subject that’s easy to sum up in a few words.

I once felt very strongly about the issue of infidelity until I found myself on both sides of it. There was a time where I felt that if I was cheated on it was over. Now I know that there are all kinds of cheaters and an equal number of reasons why people cheat. I don’t think there is ever a right/correct answer and no clear path to take, T, you can only be supportive of your friends and it’s really hard to be on the outside of this.

I had been dating and living with a guy for 6 years. He was very much a loner type of guy (not very forthcoming about himself) and was often away for several months at a time for work. It was during one of his work trips (near the end of our relationship) that the cracks in our relationship almost resulted in me having an affair. I was in graduate school at the time and I had a classmate who started paying a lot of attention to me. I found myself looking forward to seeing him more and more often in class and we got to be very friendly. It ended up that we went to the movies several times and had dinner once (just as friends but there was an open invitation to more if I wanted) and I realized why I was hanging out with the guy, he was giving me the attention that I had been craving but wasn’t getting from my SO. I end things quickly after I realized that but because of my near affair I gained a new understating of why people may cheat.

Some people cheat because they meet someone who fills a void in their life, a void that is normally filled, or should be filled by your SO. Is this why all people cheat, no, some people cheat because they can and they will cheat no matter what. Do I mean to blame women who have been cheated on (all their fault, if they just gave the guy more ____ this wouldn’t have happened), NO. But I do feel that looking at the reasons why a partner has cheated and taking an honest look your relationship can help to make the decision if you should stay or not. I almost cheated because there were problems in my relationship and someone came along that made me feel good about myself, this person made me feel the things my lover should have been making me feel. Ultimately my boyfriend and I broke up and in a way it was because of my near infidelity. Ultimately I realized that no matter how much I loved my boyfriend he was just not able to give me the things I needed from a relationship, the whole reason I almost had an affair.

Not long after my break up I became the other woman. At first it was a case of I didn’t get the whole truth and when I found out I tired very hard to end the relationship but by then I was too deeply involved. For him (and his wife) it really was a case of their marriage was ending; lots of fighting, talk of divorce, a brief trial separation, and this was all before I appeared. At the time we met he was back at home, they were trying once again to work things out, there were kids involved, it was really a tuff situation for all.

I’ve never been really sure why I stayed in the relationship once I found out, I was so hurt and ashamed of being the other woman but I loved him very much. In reality my then boyfriend was not only cheating on this wife, but for all that time he neglected to tell me the full truth he was also cheating on me. My friends who knew told me to dump his ass, they told me to move on and find a new guy. My friends all assured me, “once a cheater, always a cheater.” I didn’t listen to them and listened only my own inner voice.

I never encouraged him to end things it with his wife and leave her, I did try to take my friends advice and attempted to break it off with him several times. When I look back on things I often feel like he was using me as a catalyst to end his marriage (something I don’t think he could have done on his own), and ultimately our relationship did just that, our affair resulted in his divorce. His wife found out, she called me a slut and more, I took it, I understood, she divorced him, there was a lot of hurt and anger all around and felt by everyone. At the time of his divorce I hated him for being the perfect guy for me but “belonging” to someone else, I hated him for making me the other woman-the slut, I hated him for lying to me. I hated myself for not wanting to end it, I hated myself for being weak, for getting duped/lied to, for going back for more. I even hated her (the ex) for a time; it’s never a nice feeling to know that you made some woman’s life hell and to know that she’s telling everyone she knows what a little slut you are. I went thought my own little hell and tried once more to end the relationship, I stayed.

It’s been 11 years since all that has happened and we’re married now and a baby on the way. For the few years after the affair/divorce it was a bumpy ride. My husband (at the time boyfriend) was determined to be an active parent, he worked very hard at making things right for his kids, talked to them everyday, tried to call a truce with his ex-wife. Eventually his ex started dating, conversation improved between my husband and her, she even found herself as the other woman. It was at this point we had a real conversation, she‘d been in counseling for a while after the divorce and admitted to me that even before I showed up her marriage was over but they were both trying to make it work for the kids, she told me her life was good now and that she was happier, she admitted to me that she now found herself as the other woman and understood now how it could happen. I told her I was sorry, I said that for as long as I live that I was always regret the way my relationship with her then husband started, but that I don’t know if I could have done things differently. I wouldn’t say that we are friends now but we get along and as co-parents to her kids we do things together as a family and there is peace.

My husband and I often talk very frankly about infidelity, we both recognize the things that might send us into another relationship. It hasn’t happened yet and I think because we talk about infidelity, our needs, and we’re very honest and open with each other that infidelity is something that won’t enter into our relationship again.

It's interesting how there's even a debate over whether or not women are responsible to each other something simply by virtue of sharing the same chromosomal makeup. Although I know several men who have decided they won't go after a friend's girlfriend or wife because there are rules about these things in social circles, I've yet to hear a single one of them explain that when it comes to infidelity, they're counting on another man's sense of responsibility to the brotherhood to keep a guy out of their woman's bed. Where is the masculine gender guilt trip?

In my opinion, expecting some sort of sisterly solidarity is just another excuse for getting mad at "the other woman" because then she's betraying your entire gender, instead of merely threatening your relationship. I think it's a sexist, outdated idea to hold women morally accountable to their gender in a way that we don't ask or expect men to be accountable to theirs.

At the end of the day, the real point should be that we expect everyone -- male or female, gay or straight -- to treat others as they'd like to be treated. Laying on a gender-related guilt trip seems only to perpetuate a double standard for The Other Woman and The Other Man.

Before I even start, I'm going to ask that I recieve no hate mails or obnoxiousness in general. Listen before you pass judgement. I have been the other woman. The hated and despised other woman. But not so much in the ways described here. I worked with a man, and developed quite a deep "passion" for him, but ignored it as best I could because he was married. At some point I realized the feelings were fairly mutual, but still did not act on them. It was very hard to love someone and not be able to act on it, but I was not going to take part in an affair, I was NOT that type of person. At some point, we were alone together and he kissed me. Yes I kissed back. But I freaked out, a lot. The guilt from being part of that was absolutely horrible. I made it very clear that if there were to be anything between he and I, he was going to have to leave his wife. There was no other way. I would have rather dealt with losing him altogether(as a friend or anything else) than be part of an affair. He left. If I knew then how hard it would be to have a relationship with someone going through a divorce, being torn between sucking it up and being unhappy himself to be with his children etc etc, I would have waited a good long time to act on anything. But I didn't. He left, he moved out, that was good enough for me. I'm now very happily married to him. His children like me. They no longer live in a house where their parents fought constantly, where their mother was abandoning the family to go out with her friends, where he was going on a twice weekly basis to pick up her car from another mans house. Now they see their father happily married and they are part of that, and they see their mother still going out a lot and leaving them with sitters/grandparents a lot, but they are happy children. I've had a lot of hatred directed at me, I've been blamed for the break up, but it wasn't really me that broke them up. It was the situation in general. In even a decent marriage, would the wife feel that on the only day she has to spend with her husband, she should go out with her guy "friends" not come home until 3am, drunk off her ass, and have to have her husband take her to get her car from another mans house? Should he have stayed and dealt? She is a very selfish stubborn woman, it's her way or no way at all. I've witnessed this many times. She comes in my house and tries to tell us when how and where the children can play(NOT IN THE BACK YARD) That we are responsible for taking them to drs etc when they are only with us 2 days a week and are usually sick well before they came to us, etc. Simply because it's too much of an inconvenience to deal with something other than her own personal needs. I am the other woman, and I'm okay with that now. I know the reality of my situation, and I spent many a night being a friend to him while his wife was out with her guy "friends". Yes it's hard to say how one should deal with an affair, or if divorce is necessary, or who the blame should fall on. But it's not always the other woman.

Lisa, Right on!

It's amazing to me how weak and stupid men are often portrayed as when this subject comes up. Whose got time to talk about his responsibility when we are so busy trying to pin the blame on his wife or the other woman?

Wow, powerful topic.

I grew up in an environment in which cheating wasn't really exactly condemned. My father had a mistress for years; my parents ended up getting divorced, though I wouldn't say because of that - there were so many reasons to pick from - and he is still with her. She used to come and stay at our house as a kind of family friend, and in fact I remember my sister and me calling her "Auntie [X]." But before you get out your hankies for my mother, she had affairs with at least two men who actually were family friends, who were also married and had kids. In one case, her lover was the husband in a couple who were my mum & dad's best friends in university. Everyone was friends, then the two couples got married, then one half of each couple slept with half of the other... I grew up with these people, went on joint family vacations with them, played with their kids. For me, as a child learning from the adults around me - it's not that I thought this was OK, of course I had direct personal knowledge that it wasn't, but it just seemed to me that everyone did it. And a lot of people did. There were divorced families all over the place. Most of my friends had multiple step-parents and half- or step-siblings and amazingly complex living / custody arrangements. The few friends who had married parents - just two, married to each other - were regarded as slightly freakish.

I think my parents had an underdeveloped sense of guilt about sticking to their commitments. They were part of that generation that questioned the traditional morality of their own parents (though come to think of it their own parents weren't so straight-laced in practice; my paternal grandfather left my grandmother for a younger woman quite early in their marriage, and my maternal grandfather was, I think, the Other Man). I think they thought - still think - it is some kind of bourgeois reactionariness to condemn cheating, and everyone should put up with it and be civilized and still go on vacation together. But underneath all that I think my dad, at least, has some kind of lurking realization that this behaviour (which I think of as indulging desires at the expense of better principles, like going straight for the cupcake and cookie section at Life's Great Buffet), has done deep damage to his life and the lives of many others. (My mother, though, it would be rash to ascribe even that much self-awareness to her).

And how did I turn out, after being raised by these wolves? (i) I feel very, very intensely that cheating or being party to cheating is wrong, and I seriously doubt that I could take someone back who did cheat on me, not that I would in any way say that's the wrong decision for someone who could do it - I might even want to do it - but I honestly don't think I could ever get over it. And (ii) while it may seem hypocritical in light of (i), yes, I too have been the other woman. Never with a married man. But once, when I was a lot younger, a fellow student / guy I worked with, who had a live-in girlfriend, pursued me. Eventually, I allowed myself to be caught. They broke up, and then we did too. He said they had problems anyway blah blah blah. Maybe they did.

That's the worst it's ever been, but there have been other times that I've been compellingly attracted to attached men. I certainly felt some recognition when I read bp's comment. Sometimes it seemed as if there was some kind of unfailing law that ensured that the men I was interested in would turn out to be taken. Or that somehow I had an unconscious radar that could be counted on to find those men. And I made up my mind many years ago that I was never going to act on it again even in small ways, never be taken in by the intoxication - because it is intoxicating, wanting something forbidden. Never let myself believe that it's tragically romantic instead of just ugly and selfish.

I wonder if this could have something to do with my childhood? Hmmm.

No excuses though. It is complicated, but being the other woman is wrong. It's either doing something you know is wrong in spite of your better instincts (that was me), or just not caring about what it does to other people (like, say, Samantha in Sex & the City). I think the second is worse, but that doesn't get the first off the hook.

I don't apply that to the women who wrote comments who came into the picture when the previous relationship really had fallen apart already. I think that's different, that's just messy life not always going in neat little stages as you'd like it to.

Reading this has made me feel better about my own situation: I am trying to become a mother as a single woman. My heart goes out to the women whose husbands drew away from them when they were pregnant. Jesus. At least I don't have to deal with that.

It also made me wonder if my stepmother ever thinks about all this. I doubt it.

I hope nobody sends me hate mail.

This discussion is very timely for me. I just came clean with my husband about an emotional affair I've been having with a good friend that seemed destined to cross into physical affair territory until I cut things off last week. I felt extremely conflicted about being The Other Woman -- but even moreso about being The Other Mother.

This person is also married with kids, and because both of our spouses were absent (due to work/travel), we ended up spending a lot of time together, doing the kind of co-parenting I guess we should have been doing with our own partners. In a strange way, our pretend family was healthier than our actual separate families -- he and I had the thrill of the crush that made even doing the mundane parenting crap fun; the kids are all friends, and his kids got to have the maternal figure they missed (with their mom being absent) in me, while my kids got to have the paternal figure they missed (with their dad being absent) in him.

But this, in the end, was what made it too complicated. The blurred boundaries for the kids was too much; I felt like it was irresponsible to continue on like that, even though our little makeshift family was in many ways more emotionally healthy than our actual ones. I realized I was treading on dangerous ground, falling in love with someone, letting my kids love someone, who I knew in my heart would never leave his situation. I also suspected that in his mind, as long as we never slept together, no lines were crossed. And that just wasn't rational. Emotional and physical lines were crossed, there was no way around that.

I confronted him, and we hammered out some new ground rules, new boundaries (translation: we can't see each other anymore, not even as friends). And I confronted my husband and told him what had been going on. For me, I feel a tremendous sense of relief and integration now that the secret's out, now that I've been able to talk about what's been going on with both of the people I've been emotionally invested in. But it's complicated, and it's hard.

I was very judgmental about The Other Woman before; now I see it's not as simple as I had thought before I found myself in that territory.

I didn't read the other comment before commenting so maybe someone already said something like this:
hmmm...where to start (sorry if this is convoluted). I friend of mine, let's call her Lisa (not close but a member of the "group") had been in a relationship for about, oh maybe 6-8 months or less. I'm not talking married but in a monogamous relationship with a particular guy, let's call him Jim. I had known both of them since high school and they had grown up together. We were at a party and of course drinking. I went outside to have a smoke (I DID quit) and so did Jim. We were chatting and this and that and then before I can say WTF? he's telling me about how he really really likes me and how Lisa has no personality and he doesn't know why he's with her. I'm, of course, completely shocked. I ask questions like why doesn't he break up with her etc etc. I have no idea how the conversation ended but we went back inside.
blah dee blah...weeks later at another party with more drinking (what? I was in college). A goup of us (including myself and Jim) and standing in a room passing around a bowl. Jim comes up behind me and puts his arms around my waist. I act unconcerned (BTW, Lisa is in the other room) and move away. Party goes on... later I went into another room to get my coat and then in walks Jim. He pushes me against the wall and kisses me (and we're talking DEEP kiss). I was pretty messed up with booze and weed so I went with it. It didn't go beyond a kiss and I soon after left the party and forgot about it.
Apparently someone has walked in the room during the kiss (not Lisa) and saw what happened and relayed the info. I find out that Lisa now hates me and wonders how I could do a think like that to her. Huh???
We never spoke again and later on (about a year later) she ends up MARRYING him!!
I just want to know why I was the bad guy? Why was Jim off the hook? Obviously there was no way Lisa would believe that Jim was the aggressor because she loved him. She obviously didn't want to believe that Jim would do such a thing.
Soooo, to make a long story longer, I'm with you Tertia. Why do women do this? Why does the "other" woman take all the blame for something that involved TWO people?
I know this example is nothing compared to full blown infidelity (such as an affair) but I just wanted to throw out my little example.
I guess I think it's like I said above, the person being cheated on wants to believe (in part) that the cheater still loves her. I easier to blame an outside party, not the one you love.
I guess I'll go read the other commments now.

It is very common to blame the Other Woman in his infidelity. I think it might be easier this way to survive the drama. Because it is not me, it is not my fault that he did what he did; it is also not him, not his fault – he is just a poor victim of that woman’s charm/whatever. Now since we are both good people, we are victims, and we have so much in common – kids, house, our past together; we will try and work out on our marriage, or whatever left out of it. But working out would have the top clue – The Other Woman’s fault, not ours! It will bring us together in our pain, we will survive, and we will make it through. SHE IS THE ONE TO BLAME!
It is a very comfortable position. Unfortunately I could not do that. From the moment I knew the truth, I knew who I need to deal with. The Other Woman was just that – other woman, outsider, who maybe feels for me, maybe not. Have tried to contact her couple of times, but… IT IS NOT HER RESPONSIBILITY TO CARE ABOUT MY CHILDREN, ABOUT MY FAMILY. AND IT IS NOT HER FAULT SHE IS IN A MIDDLE OF IT. Surely she could have stopped; she could have tried to be compassionate, understanding, etc. But at the end of the day, it was my ex-husbands duty to stop, to end their relationships before it became too late…

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