The "Other Woman" Speaks Out
Sarah (upper right) says she met one of the married men she dated at a business dinner. "He was a very distinguished businessman, high-profile, a lot older than me," she says. "He pursued me very hard. He would phone me constantly, text messaging and calling." She says she's since dated "countless" other married men.
Melissa (upper left) was married when she began seeing a married man she met in a coffee shop. "My husband thought our marriage was fine," she says. "I was always wanting an upgrade."
Crystal (lower left), who says she's dated two married men, says that one man would buy her lingerie and they'd meet at her apartment. "He would really like for me to be sexy for him," she says. "I felt I could offer him great sex, and that his wife could not offer him that."
Michelle (lower right) says she began seeing a man in Las Vegas almost seven years ago. He was also seeing a long-time girlfriend, whom he eventually married. After a brief breakup, Michelle started seeing him again—and they're still dating. At first, it was strictly a physical relationship, Michelle says, but when she later moved to his town, the affair became emotional as well. "We ended up spending a lot more time together, so I got to know him at a deeper level. It was more about who he was, what he wanted, and it was a lot more intimate than it had been."
Crystal says when the man she was having an affair with told her about his home life, he made it sound like he wanted to leave. She says he told her the cost of divorce and alimony was holding him back. "I had fairy tale dreams of us being a power couple, being a well-kept wife, and having the big home and fancy cars and a big diamond ring," she says. "But it was never going to be a reality."
Sarah says she heard a similar story from her lover. "He wanted a future with me—so much so that he gave me a budget to go and look at properties, talked about settling down, talked about how he would explain to his other half that he was leaving, and when he was going to do it. He even rehearsed what he was going to say in front of me," she says. "Of course nothing happened—he couldn't leave her."
Melissa says the wife of the man she was seeing was an important element of her affair—but not in the way you might expect. "She was a character of his life. She was an extension of him just like the kids, his friends or the rest of his family. She was just a part of his life that I accepted," she says. "In the very beginning it didn't bother me. But as I knew that she became suspicious, it started to bother me. I knew it was hurting somebody else."
Michelle says she has no interest in meeting the wife of her lover. "I don't know her name, what she does. I've never asked," she says. "I've never wanted to put a face to the person. I've never wanted to give her an identity."
Sarah says she also didn't know for some time that she was dating a married man. "He was everything I looked for in a guy. I thought I'd found Mr. Perfect. So when he dropped the bombshell that he wasn't actually that available, I moved into another stage," she says. "I was deeply in love with him, and I thought if I kept going with this [affair] and being the person he'd fallen in love with, I could somehow win him away from his wife. I wanted to be number one. That was my challenge then."
Oprah: I don't think I've ever said this on TV before, but your story really mirrors my own. In my 20s, I was involved with a married man, and it is one of my greatest regrets. I later found out that the married man also had another "other woman." It is such a powerless position to be in. I don't have a whole lot of regrets in my life, but I regret it because of how pathetic it made me as a woman. I regret it not only because I was pathetic, but because of what I did to his wife. I didn't think about his wife, I believed what he was telling me, I believed the lies that he was telling me about her. I look back at that time in my life and feel not that he was responsible in any way, because I always had the choice.
Crystal: I had painted a picture of what his wife looked like based on everything he told me. I actually had a chance to meet her once, and she was beautiful and poised and she was just the opposite of the picture he painted. I guess that was my Aha! moment.
Oprah: Of course, because no husband is going to say, "My wife is really beautiful, and she's really good to me, and things are really going well at home, and everything's lovely. I'm just using you." Which is the truth.
Dr. Michelle Callahan, a psychologist and relationship expert, says Michelle needs to look within herself to figure out why she's involved with a married man. "You really need to put yourself in touch with what's happened in your past, what you were told about yourself, or what you think about yourself today that would allow you to put yourself in this secondary position," she says.
Michelle says she's happy with her situation, but Dr. Callahan says these "toxic relationships" can damage a woman's self-worth. "It makes you less powerful," she says. "You have the power to change it. You made the choice to get into it, and you can make the choice to get out."
To cope with her heartbreak, Sarah says she began writing in a diary. The diary slowly evolved into a book, Having an Affair?: A Handbook for the Other Woman. "If I can help one woman not go through what I went through and waste so much time, then my work is done," she says.
Dr. Callahan says men get away with this behavior because they have women figured out. "They know how to prey on women's vulnerabilities and how to give them that emotional attention," she says. "They'll give you what you want so they can get what they want."
Catherine says she discovered her husband was cheating when he came home one night with lipstick on his lips…but that wasn't her first clue. Once, when the couple was taking a road trip, Catherine's husband refused to answer his cell phone while she was in the car. "When we stopped for gas, I caught him checking his phone and talking to someone," she says. "I said, 'I bet that's not a friend. I bet that's a woman.'"
Catherine stayed with her husband despite her suspicions of his infidelity, until the day the sheriff knocked on the door. "[He] served him child support papers," she says. "He knew it was coming, and he just opted not to tell me." Catherine says she had no idea her husband had a child with another woman.
"I proceeded to try to knock his front tooth out," she says. "[Then], I decided it was time to leave."
At the time, Teryl was pregnant with their fourth child, the couple's first son.
Although Teryl says she was devastated by the affair, she fought to save her marriage. When her husband decided to leave, she says she grabbed him by the ankles and tried to prevent him from walking out of the door. "I held onto him because he really represented my dreams, my life," she says. "He was a part of me. … It was like my life was ending."
Teryl's divorce is now final, and they have joint custody of their children. "He takes his time with them and he does a good job with them and I'm thankful for that," she says.
Teryl says she holds her husband responsible for his mistakes, but also blames the other woman. She wrote a letter to her husband's mistress to express her pain. The letter read:
What can I possibly say to the woman who has aided in the demise of my life? I wish I could stand in front of you to voice these thoughts so you could see the real person in me, the real tears that fall, and the real pain I have endured. … As a woman, I can't possibly understand how you are comfortable with completely tearing apart our family. If your relationship with a married man is all you've ever dreamt for yourself, then you haven't set your aspirations high enough. You are worth more than a man who would leave his entire family and his entire life.
After finding steamy love letters and racy photos the other woman sent her husband, Candi says she decided to sue the mistress for alienation of affection. She won and was awarded $500,000, but ultimately, she settled for $50,000.
Since most states have no-fault divorce, Candi says she couldn't sue her husband, so she went after the woman who she says actively pursued him.
"I think they first met in a bar out of town and nothing happened, but she chose to send him a Christmas card," Candi says. "He obviously bit, so she kept writing. Initially, she would say things like, 'I know you're married with three children, and we can just be friends, but I really enjoyed meeting you.' Then [the letters] became more graphic. [She said] that she could fly to our town any time, and then described sexual acts she'd like to perform if only they could be together."
Why did Candi decide to take legal action? "At the time, I felt so humiliated and devastated," she says. "It looked like an opportunity for redemption in a way, just to stand up for myself and my family."
Start by taking care of yourself, being sexually open and synching communication styles with your partner. Also, couples should keep dating, even after they're married.
"Don't get so comfortable and so settled that you forget to go out and forget to go to the movies, go to dinner and get dressed up," Dr. Callahan says. "Don't just go in your baggy pants and the flip-flops. Dress up like you would on any other date. Remember, it's the other woman who is out on a date giggling and saying, 'Oh, you're so funny. You're so cute.'"
If nothing seems to make your man faithful, don't blame yourself. "If you're already doing that and you end up with a man who is a serial cheater, then maybe it's time to think about moving on," Oprah says. "It's really all on him."
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