The Dating Game: For Your Own Sake, It's Probably Not a Good Bet To Be The “Other Woman”

Megan Carpentier
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There are many reasons not to get involved with someone who is otherwise monogamously committed to another person. It’s not because you’re a slut destined to ever be unhappy, or because you’re betraying some sisterhoodly duty to prevent someone else’s man-child from betraying her. It is, however, because, regardless of what your relationship or dating goals are, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure (let alone a whole raft of shit, which you know if you’ve been reading my comment threads).

There are really two basic reasons to get involved with anyone—for temporary fun, or to get into a relationship. If you’re out looking for someone to pass a little naked time with, well, supposedly monogamously committed men (or women, or whoever—I’m using male pronouns here but feel free to sub in the pronoun of your choice) are less likely to be looking to settle down with you most of the time, but they’re high-maintenance fucks. You’ll never be able to go to his place, he’s likely to have trouble paying for things (since many married couples have some co-mingled finances), he’ll have to sneak around  to see you and he’ll probably rarely, if ever, be able to stay particularly late or sleepover. Plus, if he’s just fucking around, he’s obviously courting drama at home and, if he gets caught, he’ll totally throw you under the bus even if his significant other doesn’t find your contact info and contact you. And, having been on the receiving end of that contact from a pissed-off wife (who thought I was boning her husband when, in fact, I was the unwelcome recipient of his attentions and otherwise involved), that’s never going to be a fun conversation. Regardless, if your goal in getting involved with someone is to have a little fun with little drama, married (and supposedly monogamous) men are going to be drama from start to finish.

If you’re looking for a relationship, well, the problem with getting involved with a cheater is even more clear: The man is already telling you by trying to get involved with you that he has commitment problems.  Monogamy, after all, is a choice—and one he made—and by getting involved outside of his relationship, he’s basically telling you that, at a minimum, his communication skills suck, and it seems smarter to him to sabotage his own life, set his current partner up for more than just the pain of a break-up and just engage in all the drama of an affair rather than have a conversation with his current partner that their relationship isn’t working. And that’s a kind interpretation—after all, he could just be a guy who gets off on the power trip of fucking around on his partner, or he could have made a commitment he never intended on keeping, or he could just be a pathological liar. Whatever his personal pathology, if your goal is to find a partner with whom you can have a solid relationship—monogamous or otherwise—getting involved with someone to weak to leave a bad relationship with less than solid communications skills is probably setting yourself up for failure even if he leaves… and, quite often, he won’t. 

And yes, I am perfectly well aware that two people can fall in love—real love—even when one of them is otherwise committed. The question is, of course, what the committed person chooses to do about those emotions: he or she has to decide whether the existence of them is worth ending the pre-existing relationship over, or whether the existence of them does not and will never trump the pre-existing relationship. But you’re not going to ever figure that out in bed together, and creating the golden parachute of a new relationship to cushion the end of the old is actually not a comfortable way to cushion a fall—gold’s pretty heavy, after all. 

(One caveat: I do acknowledge the existence of people who get off on the power trip of fucking other people’s partners. Most people who end up the third party in a relationship aren’t doing it maliciously or because they are turned on by the thought of screwing up other people’s lives—but, certainly, they do exist. I realize that the few people who view sex or relationships as a conquest and a committed person as a harder target to obtain are, indeed, pretty fucked up people and, in my experience, pretty easy to spot. The woman, for instance, who snagged one of my hook-ups’ cell phone while we were hooking up in a bar to program her number into it just to prove she could fuck him too is a pretty good example of how they are easy to spot. And so even if someone was actively pursuing your partner to “win,” he or she still chose to allow them to “win”—and it says some about the person who was committed to you that they found that attractive.)

At the end of the day, though, I can say all I want about why it’s a bad idea. Nina Simone sang it far better than me years ago—and without slut-shaming, either.

[Image via Professor Bop on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed]

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35 Comments Have Been Posted

Not that it matters, but...

I much prefer this conversation to the one about blaming or not blaming the person who slept with your partner whilst you were in a committed relationship with them. I've never been the other woman and when I was cheated on in the past, I very directly (to the left. to the left.) placed the blame squarely on my partner's shoulder because I don't naturally feel an inclination to demonize the other woman.

That all being said, I think that your definition of failure is missing the point in at least one case. My good friend in college said she would sleep with married/monogamous men because it guaranteed her freedom from having a monogamous committed relationship herself. She got the sex, etc. she wanted and none of the emotional hassle, ever. At least that's how she put it. Again, I wouldn't be inclined to get involved in the same way, but being a slut myself, I understood the sentiment.

"Emotional hassle"

I guess, as I said, that "none of the emotional hassle" is far from a guarantee. As referenced above, the time an acquaintance's wife came after me because her husband sent me what I thought were innocuous emails for a supposedly unmarried man, I had to get a restraining order against her.

Another time, a married man pursued me across three jobs and half the country, necessitating another restraining order after just two dances at a formal social function -- I can only imagine if it had been more than that.

As someone who used to get hit on a LOT by married men, that's just two examples of drama I got even when I wasn't involved with someone. So, I'd say your friend is either really lucky, didn't mention the drama or didn't do it that often. I've had way more drama-free relationships with uncommitted or non-monogamous men.

slow on the uptake

I get it now. So if you think that being in a relationship with someone who is already committed to someone else will be hassle free, most likely it won't - success is therefore not defined as obtaining monogamy down the line, rather the goal is to be more drama free. Except of course, if you like drama (a la your final caveat). I get it. I think I was just excited that we weren't talking about the other issue and jumped in on this post!

not that simple

I'm in this kind of relationship now. Started a relationship with a married person 4 years ago for fun and because I didn't want commitment. We fell in love. Yes, I know he is being weak by not leaving his wife -- but he also has a daughter and I respect him for wanting to be in the home with her. Yes, I know he very likely will cheat on me. Yes, I know that 'happily ever after" probably won't happen -- but, it didn't happen with the non-married people I've started and had relationships with either. Most of us are serial monogamists today anyway. Every relationship is a risk ... I know the risks in this one and am willing to take them. And, by the way, it's the best relationship I've ever had -- I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Thank you. I'm in a very

Thank you. I'm in a very similar situation, it sounds like, and I'm so sick of hearing, "he'll cheat on you too," and "he'll never leave" - not from my friends, but from various pop culture media. I will never regret this relationship, no matter how it ends. Life is fucking complicated, that's the deal.

I am also in this type of

I am also in this type of relationship, going on a year off and on, but for about the past 5 months straight. It works for us. We love each other, spend tons of time together, stay nights together, etc. We're at the point now where he's ready to leave. Everytime he's tried before she threatens to take the kids, I know I've heard. But I think now he's tired of her threats... they're not married though, just been together for a long time. IDK...but I'm content for now with how things are. I love him, he loves me, we're happy and we communicate just fine....

I have to disagree with your

I have to disagree with your statement that "monogamous" married men are high maintenance if one is looking for some naked time. If all I want is sex, what better way to get it than have him call up to see if you're available, stop by, do the deed, and leave? Seriously, as far as I'm concerned, that's some of the best hassle-free sex a girl can get, and he delivers! Reverse the roles, and present that scenario to most single males, and see how many of them complain about not being able to be seen in public together, etc. Being able to go to his place, have him pay for things, wanting him to stick around longer- those are things I'd want if looking for a relationship, not a fling.

Regardless of what might be motivating him to cheat on his spouse, or what drama he's courting at home, just knowing that he's married and cheats makes avoiding emotional attachment on my part a no brainer. Been there, done that.

I don't get it....

Okay I do totally get the crystal-clear logic that getting involved with a married person will more likely result in hassle-laden drama than not. On the other hand, while I consider myself a pretty committed feminist and appreciate the alternative narrative from the evil-slut-homebreaker-must-die rhetoric, I can't help feeling at the gut level, that this logic is limited in that it's somewhat self-centered (narcissistic?).

What about discouraging people to not interrupt failing/dysfunctional (whatever, the reason, I dunno) relationships if not for any other reason than to NOT HURT THE OTHER PERSON. I don't care what gender the other spouse/significant other is, whether she's a sister-woman or a man, my personal reason to not indulge in (allegedly) "hassle-free, drama-less" relationships of infidelity, is simply that I would never want to hurt another person the way I know that such a breach in trust from my significant other would hurt me.

I'm trying to examine whether this gut reaction is one that stems from we have recognized to be sometimes powerfully misguided cultural inculcation, but nah. I think this reason works for me much more solidly and would like to suggest that this reason be a more feminist reason than one that's designed for the individual who bases her/his decisions solely on what benefits him/herself.

Just sayin...


I understand the sexist sentiment of "well, you shouldn't have sex with a married man because you owe it to other women to help them keep their man from cheating." Like, all the responsibility falls onto the "other woman" and the wife, because the man is just a big dumb sex machine who JUST CAN'T HELP IT.

Obviously I disagree with this. However, I think there's also something to be said for just not wanting to help hurt a spouse. I don't want to be the cause of someone's pain like that. I wouldn't have an affair with a married woman either; I wouldn't want to hurt and deceive her husband. It's not my job to protect the spouse, of course, but I wouldn't give Married Person the satisfaction of sex on the side because a) I'd think Married Person was a rat, and b) I would be really upset if my fiance ever cheated on ME. I just wouldn't want to contribute to such a hurtful, immature, irresponsible situation.


You took the words right out of my mouth. This article seemed so selfish and self-centered. It's not being sexist, it's called being a good person. You just don't do that to another person. Sure, if their SO is willing to cheat on them then they have some issues to work out, but come on.

Another agree...

I don't buy this at all - extremely self-centered. Having sex involves another person, ergo you should probably not ONLY be concerned with your own well-being. Are we choosing to call ourselves narcissists to avoid the term slut? Seriously.

Fine, there are selfish reasons to avoid being a cheater, but to frame it as though those reasons are the only ones we should concern ourselves with is truly absurd. If you choose to be the 'other woman' for whatever reason, I'm not here to judge that choice, but I am offended by the notion that the only reason I might choose not to cheat is because I'm inclined to believe that my relationship goals will never be reached. How very two-dimensional.

If you look at it this way...

The way I see it, these conversations are revolving around a scenario with three characters:

1. A person failing, or not trying, to communicate with hir partner about hir wants or needs, be they not wanting a relationship, not wanting monogamy, or just wanting to be with a specific other person as well
2. Person #1's significant other, who believes their relationship to be monogamous
3. Person #1 affair/the "other person"

If Person #3 does <i>not</i> get romantically or sexually involved like Person #1 wishes, the first two people remain exactly the same. While Person #3 may not want to hurt Person #2, s/he can't prevent Person #1 from hurting anyone (and, indeed, Person #2 is likely to get hurt in any case if Person #1 doesn't change something.) So, yes, choosing not to become the other woman <i>is</i> a self-protecting act -- because ultimately, that's all it can be.

And another!

Couldn't agree more. To me, lately this blog has been starting to read more like a Carrie Bradshaw column than a feminist discussion, and this article (and the past couple in discussion of the other woman) kind of solidifies that for me. I just don't think there's any way to rationalize doing something to hurt another human being, especially in the name of feminism, and I don't think it makes anyone a better feminist for trying to frame it that way.

I think the disconnect in the comments might partially come from the discussion of two separate and distinct issues. There's a difference between talking about things on a feminist level and on a moral level. I'm fine with the assertion that the other woman shouldn't be shamed, reprimanded, or judged, and that she is still worthy of respect and happiness as a person. THAT'S feminism. I'm NOT fine with the assertion that because she still deserves these things, we should condone, justify, and dismiss her actions. I'd argue that feminism's very basis (EXTREMELY simplified, of course) is on morals; it is moral to treat everyone equally and many of the ways women are treated are immoral. So I think that morals are something bigger than feminism and dismissing one in the name of the other just isn't right.

Basically, I think there's no feminist problem with being the other woman (or shouldn't be), but there's a huge moral one, and scoring a one out of two doesn't make it okay.

I appreciate this - I've

I appreciate this - I've been the other woman multiple times (never to a married man though) and I think (hope!) I've finally cured myself of deserving that hopeless epithet. It wasn't that I wanted to steal other girls boyfriends or that I just wanted casual sex. I fell for men that were unhappy, and I enjoyed being their cheerful little escape. And well, shit, I was good at it. I grew out of it when I realized I wanted to settle down with someone who would try to make me happy in return. Anyway, I went through A LOT of drama for a lesson learned...I wish I'd read this when I was 20!

I recently became the other

I recently became the other woman to a married man with three children.

We became friends and more online and I recently spent thousands to go on a mini-vacation and visit him. I fell in love. I don't regret meeting him. It was, without a doubt, one of the most amazing weekends of my life.

On a logical, detached level, I agree with the entire article. It's not a good bet to be the other woman. I know all of that, but I fell in love and logic just can't compete. On the other hand, I struggle to echo "the-other-women's" sentiments of - life's complicated and no regrets. Do I really have no regrets? Is "life's complicated" just an excuse? Am I dedicating time and energy and emotion and money to a doomed relationship b/c I lack self-worth and self-confidence to pursue a non-doomed relationship?

Or, did I simply fall in love with a man who happens to be married? Can/should I regret truly befriending and loving another human being?

If I could go back 6 months, I don't know if I would stop myself from starting our friendship that led to our affair. On a daily basis, I think of the chorus from Feist's "I Feel It All" - I'll be the one who'll break my heart. I am (most likely) choosing to lead myself to heartbreak, but is it better to have never loved at all?

My first and only affair has certainly taught me: like all relationships, they cannot be easily judged or classified or compared. They are as complicated and messy as the people who enter them.

What I'd love to discuss with others and what I'm starting to consider more and more is what I'm calling the continuum of human relationships. Are polygamy/monogamy, friends/lovers, platonic/romantic helpful or accurate categories? Where do they come from? Are they like most binaries - denying the depth and breadth of relationships that humans form and, thus, the complications of life?

They are as complicated and

<i>They are as complicated and messy as the people who enter them.</i>

This is so very true.

Four years ago, I met a man at school and fell in love with him. However, I was also married at the time. We began having an affair, and what I realized - beyond that life is a complicated, messy thing - was that I was desperately unhappy. And rightfully so - my husband had abused and mistreated me throughout the course of our relationship, although it took being with a man who actually was nice to me to realize this.

So I left my husband and divorced him. A year later, I married the man I'd had an affair with, and our marriage is pretty much the picture of connubial bliss.

I didn't believe it's ethical to cheat, nor did I believe it is ethical to be the Other Person, but if I had stuck hard and fast to my ethics, I would probably be stuck in a dreadful marriage to a man I hated. My affair gave me the strength and perspective necessary to leave. My affair saved my life.

So I don't necessarily believe that infidelity is automatically a terrible thing. However, I do have to wonder about long-term infidelity. I am not sure what I think about that, particularly as I think that over time such relationships have the potential to be corrosive to all parties involved (including, in your situation, the child, who if s/he is like most children will be far more perceptive than the adults in her/his life give him/her credit for). But I do know that it is not possible for me to cast blanket judgments on things like this anymore.

Blanket judgements not possible, indeed!

Yours is a very powerful story; thank you for sharing.
Infidelity can be the symptom of a diseased relationship and it can shed light on the disease.

In your case, wow, it was the cure and thank goodness for it!

Affairs, breakups, divorces, new romances . . . they simply are too complex and messy to categorize and define neatly. Your affair and new marriage are certainly proof of that. Blanket judgements really do fall flat on their face when presented with the complexity of human relationships and emotions.

i am also in the same condition

hi i am also in the same condition.. i am about to spent some money to meet him as he is living too far and i wish my mini vacation must be the best like yours :)
being another women is not at all a bad feeling

Good Luck Mussa!

Good luck Mussa!

Expect emotional turmoil like you've never dreamt, the lows that come after can be very low, but the highs on the vacation and after . . . they might be like no highs you've ever experienced.

I hope the man you meet is the man you want to meet.

Re:Continuum of Human Relationships

Wow, see i luv you already @A New Other Woman...I was mono until the itch of the 7th year. ididn't have sex w/ anyone, just allowed my heart to be free to express myself to another grrl, kissing, touching, mstrb8 togetehr....i thought i would feel guilty, but never have...except to the extent that my wife didn't know sumthing happened between me & sumone she knows -but then, that's a private matter between us & not necessarily including my wife. Is it her business? It is to the degree that she could potentially contract an STi, but if there is minimal touching / exposure to bodily fluids (gross sorry) then what does she need to know. she's not into any sort of menage. she's not that kinky in the least bit & has never wanted to know anything about my sexual past NEways. am i missing something? Perhaps my lack of guilt is because i refrain from "going all the way." idk....i just don't buy into the relationship binaries that are setup w/ platonic/romantic, friends/lovers....etc

ilike marriage more as community building than a life sentence of Monogamy. Polygamy really attracts me for this reason (commitment to community building w/ an intended partner), but yeah, you had me open w/ that: continuum of human relationships...
Niiiice mind

Please reconsider your

Please reconsider your actions. I am one of three children whose lives were ripped apart by infidelity, and there is nothing glamorous or romantic about its effects like you seem to want to think. My childhood was heartbreaking as I watched my parents struggle with the results of my father's infidelity, culminating in their divorce. His next wife was like a second mother to me, and my siblings and I absolutely adored her and became so close with her. Their marriage too was destroyed by my dad's infidelity. Her heart was broken and so were ours. I have struggled with this my whole life, even gone to therapy for it, wondering why my dad couldn't love my mom (and then stepmom) enough to be faithful, or respect her (and our family) enough to end things BEFORE being with somebody else.

The effects are devastating. It's not romantic and it's not good for anybody involved. Plus, for your own sake, you know what they say, if he'd do it with you, he'd do it to you. I don't know why you'd want to be with someone who is expressly telling you that they don't value relationships enough to have integrity in dealing with them, or why you think you're the exception and he wouldn't do the same to you. The fact that he doesn't respect you enough to give you his full attention should be hugely telling. Before you go any further, please think about the people you're hurting and not just yourself.

I Don't Understand

I don't understand this. How could being the "Other Woman" or the "Other Man" be something that
you could enjoy being? Your only limiting yourself because the spouse you are with can only give you a limited
amount of love. You are too good for that bullshit. You deserve someone who can give you all their attention and love, and you shouldn't have to sneak around in public with them.

Also think of the wife or husband of the person you're creeping with. Yeah, your not Captain Save-A-Spouse, but just think of the pain, deceit, and heartache you are causing them. This life is complicated; trust, it is a continous layer of shit and frustrations, but by finding a spouse, someone who you think can finally soften the blows of life and can make you happy, it's an accomplishment like no other. However, when you are the "Other Person", and butting into this other person's bubble of joy, you're not being a good human being. Don't get me wrong, I understand that these types of relationships can lead to real love, but just because it's love, doesn't mean it's right. When that wife or husband finds out, and trust me they will, their whole world will crash on their heads. Not only will they see that their marriage was based on lies, but they will realize that they were played as a fool by their spouse and a stranger. It's even worse if the spouse your cheating with has children, because now a whole family is going to be split apart.

Now this outcome is not your fault; the spouse knew what they were getting into. However, I wouldn't want to have CONTRIBUTED to this sad outcome, and I don't think you wouldn't want to either. It's hard to find that one person out there who can be yours forever, but it's a task that we ALL have to go through and it is a learning experience. It's kind of like Monopoly. You take steps forward, steps back, and you collect and lose objects. But at the end, when you win the game with honesty and dignity, and you are rewarded, there is no greater feeling. So when you play the game, do it by the rules, not by cheating.


Thank you for your blogs on cheating. I've been the other woman both with the awful dude that can't work out what they want and in situations where I guess I "won" (for lack of better word) and its never as easy as and black and white as people think.

These blogs have been really responsible and thoughtful and non judgemental and they have been amazing to read. Keep it up.

I enjoyed this post and the

I enjoyed this post and the comments. Just wanted to add a couple of thoughts:

1. Falling in love with "the other woman" doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong with the marriage. Our human hearts can often love multiple people.

2. Sometimes "the other woman" is married, too.

I am a happily married lesbian having an affair with a happily married hetero man. Life is strange.

Multiple people

"Our human hearts can often love multiple people."

I'm beginning to believe so, too.

What about be madly in love with mulitple people? Happily madly in love?

Wait, how are you happily

Wait, how are you happily married when your spouse isn't enough for you?

Well since all of you

Well since all of you wimmin' are being so honest, how about the perspective of a married thinking-about-it cheater? I'm guessing the men are as conflicted about this as you are. Everybody assumes there's this lack of communication. How about those marriages where you lay out your needs as crystal clear demands, and get rebuffed? And I'm not talking about "bring your friend home" weirdness... how about "Wear sexy clothes once a month please." or "Come to me before I fall asleep." When I consider cheating, I think of it as a fling. But I'm not sure. What if my fling really came across like my wife used to? Why would I be so willing to throw that out so I could go back to cold grudging tolerance? And should we (me and the other woman) be suspicious of each other if we took the chance? I can't say.

To thinking-about-it-married-man

You are thinking/worrying about precisely what the married man I'm having an affair with is going through.

We met, it was magic, but he went home to a wife that rebuffs him, makes him feel like a disappointment, and contributes to his depression. But he also went home to his three children and his wife is their devoted mother.

You can't always keep a fling a fling. You can't always keep sex sex. It's a risk. But is the alternative staying in an unfulfilling, unhappy marriage for the rest of your life?

I don't necessarily want the man I'm having an affair with to leave his wife. I certainly don't want him to leave his wife for me. If he leaves her or stays with her, I want his decision to be guided by his pursuit of a fulfilling, happy, healthy life that enables him to be the best parent and man he can be. Right now, his unhappy marriage is affecting his ability to be happy and healthy and, thus, perhaps, his ability to be the best dad he can be.

If you stay in your marriage will you (and your wife) be able to pursue your dreams, happiness and health to your potential?

Your discussion of the wives

Your discussion of the wives in each situation rebuffing you are sickening. You both seem to imply that she somehow DESERVES this, or has it coming, or is playing some part in it. NOBODY CAN DRIVE YOU TO ANOTHER PERSON. YOU DO THIS YOURSELF. If the marriage is loveless, end it. Nobody's resenting you for being in an unhappy marriage. When you cheat, you're simply not respecting your partner enough to stay faithful, and it is a matter of wanting your cake and eating it too, being too much of a coward to let go of either one. If the wife isn't motivation for you to stop, think about the kids. They'll find out someday and be as messed up as I am about it. Get your heads out of your @$$e$ and think about someone other than yourself.

you always have a choice

"It's not because you're a slut destined to ever be unhappy, or because you're betraying some sisterhoodly duty to prevent someone else's man-child from betraying her." I only half agree with this statement. I do feel a sisterly duty to other women. Not because the guy "can't help it" but because no one deserves that sort of treatment. I would want someone to do the same for me!

It is possible to fall in love with anyone, at any time, but you have the CHOICE of pursuing that relationship or not. With the exception of the women/men in unhappy (and unaware) relationships (maybe) those of us in committed monogamous relationships should walk away from a friendship or flirtation that looks like it might be going somewhere. If the relationship you are in isn't what you want, have the decency to leave your spouse or have the open marriage/relationship discussion. Otherwise walk away! And hopefully your partner will have the decency to do the same for you.

OMG...Did I write this?

OMG...Did I write this? Timely, insightful, honest, and appreciated. I cannot even say anything more. Thank you.

I sit here crying... I read this. I could have written it. I am currently going through my first "affair"-oh how I hate that word...
You raise SUCH good points....and to add to the chaos that is this relationship, he is verbally and emotionally abusive to me; which makes the situation even more lovely :)

The financial aspects, the sneaking around, the secrecy, are all things that I have not complete come to terms with, but push aside because "I love him". I never thought I'd be one of THOSE women; you know, the ones I read about in novels! LOL! But alas, I am, and I feel awful, but SO afraid to end something that leaves me unable to function without.

I'm not a huge fan of the

I'm not a huge fan of the song. The lyrics, by stating all the things the other woman does and doesn't do, seem to imply that Woman #1 (the one being cheated on) is imperfect and those imperfections drive the man to Woman #2. Her hair and nails perfect...unlike his wife. She doesn't have a messy house...unlike his wife. She smells like perfume and always has fresh-cut flowers in the house...unlike his wife. Something about that just doesn't sound right to me.

This is a serious question

This is a serious question for any of the "other women" on this comment section:

If your married man ended up leaving his wife and being with you full-time, whether marriage or just a long-term relationship, and then cheated on you, what would you feel? Would you think back on what you're posting now and sympathize for the new other woman because you know what she's going through? Would you rationalize it by saying they must be really, really, really in love, and would this soothe your hurt feelings at all?

I'm honestly wondering these things because it seems like many of you are saying these actions are permissible and that you wouldn't be able to hold it against someone else for doing the same. Honestly looking for answers here, I'm just curious.

An answer

I can't speak for the people who cheat and I can't speak for their spouses. I have never cheated on someone and, to my knowledge, never been cheated on. I can only speak for the experience I have.

I know that in the case of the man I'm having an affair with, his marriage has been dysfunctional, unhealthy and tentative at best for 7+ years. I try not to judge either of them for dragging it out. I know some of the reasons why they're not separating, but, of course, I don't know them all. I would like to think, however, that if I were in an unhealthy relationship like that, that I wouldn't let it drag on indefinitely (or, in my lover's case, "until his kids are teens,") until one or both of us sought out relationships with other people while maintaining a facade of the one we had together. If I opted to stay in a relationship that really should end, I'm not saying I wouldn't feel betrayed, angry and hurt if my spouse cheated, but I'd also say that we were both lacking what it took to either "shit or get off the pot" - ie., seek counselling and put in hard work to make the relationship healthy, or end it.

That's the case of cheating in a relationship that should end. If I were in what I thought was a really good, positive, healthy relationship and my spouse cheated on me, the infidelity, I would imagine, would be more devastating.

That being said - I would be angry and hurt towards my partner. Whomever he chose to have a relationship with would not owe me anything. My partner would owe me.

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