I cannot remember a time in my seemingly short lifetime of romances that another woman has not been involved in my relationships in some aspect or another. In some instances, I was aware of an additional individual within the equation. However, more often than not, the male in my life went to great lengths to ensure this female remained furtive.
It astonishes me that men seem to be so sure of themselves when they enter into surreptitious connections. I know not one man that has not eventually been caught.
Women are born equipped certain instincts. It is referred to most often as Mother’s instinct, but we all have it. It is the ability to read the face, behavior and tone of someone in our lives that is close to us and realize all the words they are not saying. It is how mothers know when their newborn needs food, not a diaper change and how we can read the face of disheartened friend and know whether they need a hug, an encouraging word, or a drink.
Instinct is also how we can tell when there is something more going on behind the eyes of our partner. Most of us will push it aside at first; rationalize and justify many bits of truth. Nonetheless, our intuition will eventually manage to overpower the portion of our thoughts that keeps us from crossing the boundary between prying woman to what many men refer to as “crazy woman.” We will begin to take the bits and pieces of fortuitous honesty and explore them on our own in a journey of discovery that will often lead to exactly where we did not want to go.
Whether by fated run-ins, purposeful encounters or within the reflection staring back at us in the morning light- in one way or another, we find ourselves face to face with the other woman.
For a long time I played the part of a blind woman. To this day, I cannot tell you whether I realized that I had created this canopy of unreality between my awareness of who I thought my boyfriend was and how he treated me versus the actual facts or if I was truly unaware of this distinction. I cannot tell you which I would prefer, either. There is one thing I do know now; there were many other women included in our bond that spanned 4 years.
Of course there were other girls around in the beginning of our dating game, before it became what I would describe as serious; that was to be expected for my age as well as the lifestyle I led. I was 19, attending college and worked as a waitress in my free time. Life was laid-back and fun and parties were not hard to find. Most often I stumbled upon them in my living room.
Ethan and I met at work. I still remember the first time I saw him, sitting on a bar stool. I thought he looked tall and Italian. I suppose I was half right. So many years later, I cannot remember the specifics that occurred before settling on the idea that we liked one another. However, I do remember the girl first involved. In fact, she stuck around for the remainder of our relationship in one way or another, often used as a pawn in his plays when he was feeling angry or insecure.
I suppose this should have been a red flag. But, obviously, I am good at ignoring those. And he was very good at saying what was necessary, even doing what was needed at times, to mend the current rift. In the beginning the supplementary ladies were few and added mainly phone calls and occasional flirtatious messaging to the relationship.
However, one weekend I left town to attend my sister’s graduation. I was somewhat concerned, but knew that he would be working and spending time mainly with my roommate and our mutual friends. Four months later I was made brutally aware of how valid this previous apprehension was. Ethan revealed to me that he and my roommate had slept together and both vowed to keep this skeleton in their closets. Their exchange damaged me in ways I will likely deal with for years to come.
Unfortunately enough, the timing of this revealed secret came when Ethan and I had been making progress in our twosome. Looking back now, I believe that what I observed as improvements in our relationship was actually Ethan engaging in a form of reaction formation, attempting to nullify his guilt and wrong doing by playing the role of a supportive, nurturing, thoughtful boyfriend.
I remember how odd it was that I felt nothing in that moment. No anger or sadness. More like it was something I had been expecting or deep down already knew and was now being vindicated. I decided I did not need to move out, that this was our business and would stay between the three of us and Ethan and I would continue to grow in our relationship.
I came home and my roommate had folded all my laundry, I suppose in an attempt to convey the depth of her regret. It did not work so well. For me, it made the whole situation seem real. Nothing was ever the same between any of us.
Ethan and I continued to date and had great things going on in our lives. By this point, we were intermingled in each other’s family traditions and holidays. He had promised to never cheat again and I believed him. The relationship between my roommate and I did not adjust so well to the hurt. We both knew it was best to go our separate ways, and swiftly, as the tension in our diminutive living space was unnerving and overwhelming. Ethan had months left in a lease, so we made a pressurized choice, and moved in with one another.