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Before You Judge Me For Being ‘The Other Woman’, I Was Manipulated By Him Too

March 24, 2019

Names changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty).

I grew up with this very clear idea of what my future would look like in my head. It was only when I became an adult that I realized just how unrealistic most of those ideas really were. Real life wasn’t that clear-cut, and it wasn’t like the movies.

When I met James, I was only 19 and believed I was unstoppable. I was someone full of confidence and ballsy personality, but always felt a little insecure when it came to dating, courtesy of a previous relationship from hell. James and I didn’t just click, we seemed to meld together like two pieces that were meant to be one. I’ve always been someone that falls hard and fast when it’s the right person, and before I knew it, we were both falling in love. Barely a month had gone by before we had both tentatively swapped the “L” word with each other. I lived at home, and James, recently divorced, was living with housemates, and had his son part time too; so, meeting up wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, but when we did get to see each other, there were no nerves, just sparks, flames, and fire. We were electric together and it felt like the rightest thing in the world.

But there were cracks and chips that even I wasn’t blinded to. A few weeks into dating, texts started going unanswered, and phone calls wouldn’t go through. James reappeared, calling from a “private number”, and replaced texting with messaging via Facebook messenger – from a very blank, new-looking profile – but I was just glad to have him back again. Sure, I thought it was odd, but the feelings I had for him were winning at that point, after all, I was still just a teenager, and love was very new territory for me.

We continued dating, and falling more and more for each other. I met his son, and in that moment, with the pillow talk words still ringing in my ears, I could picture us and our future. I could see the house we would have, and the kids we would fill it with. The jobs we would work, and the power couple we would become. The future looked bright, shiny, and nauseatingly love-filled.

I couldn’t tell you when that bright, shiny bubble started to burst. I don’t know if it was slow, or if it was more like ripping off a band-aid. All I know for sure, is it burst. More and more things started to come between us, making it impossible for us to meet up. His job, his son, his mum, finding housing; all perfectly legitimate reasons, but something just didn’t feel right. But the thing is, I really didn’t want it to be over. I was clinging on to that bubble as if it was my safety blanket. So, I went along with it.

Because, I still believed in forever, and I just wanted it to work out.

Things eventually fizzled out six months down the line (I know, I know, how could I possibly be in love in just six months, but sometimes you just know). I moved with my family out of the area, and though we vowed we would make the whole long-distance thing work, it never happened. And so, ends my story. Or, so you’d think, right? James and I remained Facebook friends after I moved away, and still talked from time to time, late at night when we felt lonely, reminiscing, and talking about what could’ve been.

This went on for maybe six more months, all the while we each lived our own lives, accepting the fact that life goes on after moving away. Then one day, scrolling through Facebook, I noticed a few profile updates, and being curious I couldn’t resist a look. And suddenly the floor was taken out from under me, and there was no air left for me to breathe. Because the updates showed my ex; the man I thought would be my future, had never gotten divorced. He updated his relationship status to married, his profile picture to one from his wedding day, and added photos of their nine-month-old daughter. Nine months. She had been pregnant while we were together. I felt physically sick. Still, sat here today writing this, five years on, I still feel sick.

My first instinct, my only instinct was to reach out and voice my anger in a message, “you aren’t single?!?!!” There weren’t enough exclamation points in the world to convey the shock I was in. There was so much I could’ve said, but I was seeing someone at last, and it just didn’t feel worth it; but I just needed to know if he had been single when we were together, whether this was a reconciliation or whether he had been cheating on me while he cheated on his wife. “I hate to tell you, dear, but he’s never been single. He’s been with me for eight years, married for three with two kids and one due in January.” My heart sank.

So now, not only had I lost the person I loved and the future I craved, but I had also been turned into ‘The Other Woman’. I never set out to be this person, and despite my anguish, I had to remember that although I was the victim in my story, I was the villain in hers. Her messages continued to pour in, advising me to find a real man, get away from internet conversations, and stop talking to her husband. And then I realized; she may know that he’s been talking to other women… but she doesn’t know the truth of what we had been.

I chose to tell her. Naturally, she doubted me and believed I was saying it out of spite. She had me recount every tattoo and mole on his body, and even then, she still wavered. I told her I had met and held her son, and still, she wasn’t sure. But when I started the next message with her name (a detail not once mentioned), that seemed to break through. I never heard from them again.

Our time together may have been brief, but it was intense. It may have been fast to call it love, but it’s still my best description for it. The whole saga, from the first meeting, up until the time his wife found out, lasted a little over a year. There will never be a time when I don’t feel terrible for his wife, Natalie. I started creating a family, somewhere that it couldn’t belong. But it won’t ever stop me feeling bad for what I lost either.

Because Natalie, you took your husband back and made it work for your family, and instead, I was manipulated and lost everything I never knew I wanted. I may be the villain in your story, and I’m happy to accept that role because it makes it easier for you to kiss your husband good morning each day, but never forget the real villain in both our stories – the puppet-master pulling both of our strings: the man sleeping next to you.

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