It’s a tale as old as time. A love triangle. A ménage à trois. A third party situation. An affair. Two people in love with the same person.
Perfectly fine if all parties are aware and accepting; not so fine if they are neither aware nor accepting.
This, of course, happens in both sexes, but this tale is two women in love with the same man. One man trying to get his needs met by two women. Two women trying to meet his needs with either one or both having no idea the other exists. One man living a secret. One man living a lie. One man deceiving himself and two women.
It happens and it happens for all different reasons. We sit back in our glass houses and we judge. We hate. We throw stones. We make assumptions. We shame. We vilify. We perceive the situation through our own lens. No doubt we feel justified—because it’s wrong. It’s deceptive. It’s immoral. It’s everything we fear and it terrifies us.
Two women, the wife and the mistress. Two women loving the same man, a man they think they know. A man who expresses love to both of them. A man who makes promises to both of them. A man who can only give part of himself. A man who will destroy one of them, eventually. Maybe both of them. Maybe himself. The reality is on some level, all of them will be damaged. On some level, they already are.
She feared this day would come. She knew the truth always found its way out. She had lived with the guilt and shame for a long time and it took a lot of work to heal that part of herself. The ugly parts, the parts she tried to bury. The voids that were within her, that led her down a path she knew better than to go near, but she did anyway. A moment that changed the trajectory of her life, the day she became the other woman. The mistress. And now in this moment, she stood there, face to face, with the wife.
It was an awkward silence. An uncomfortable minute. The past years flowing, washing over her, reminding her of the beginning, the middle, and the end. She understood that in that moment, that whilst this relationship was in the past for her, for the wife, this woman she hardly knew yet was connected to so intricately, it was all so very fresh. The past, the now, and the future all crashing into each other. Dramatically. Carelessly. Without warning. It wasn’t a case that there would be casualties—because there were already casualties. There’s always casualties.
The mistress asked her to come in. She entered the home of the woman her husband had spent all his spare time with. But she was still uncertain of the details. Confused about the truth. Lacking in the facts or the knowledge of what had truly taken place. She had ignored her gut and chose instead to listen to his dismissal of her questions. His promises that nothing happened. His rejection that this other woman meant anything to him. His vows that he loved her and only her. She chose to believe him; after all she married him, and she knew the man he was. Or so she thought.
But lately her gut was getting louder. She felt unsettled and there was this anxious undercurrent. She needed to know and realised that the more she ignored her inner voice, the more it began to shout at her. She decided to go to the source, in hope she would finally hear the truth. In hope she could finally find some peace. In hope this noise would finally end.
They sipped their tea. Both of them with their version of the truth about the man they had both loved buried deep within. It may have been the same man yet each of them knew a different side of him. Each of them were shown only what he wanted to show them. Both having a different relationship with him. Did he call them by the same loving names? Did he tell them both he loved them? Did he make love to them in the same way? Did he even know how he really felt? Truth is, neither of them fully knew him, because he didn’t know himself.
The silence was deafening, neither of them knowing what to say or where to start.
The wife was scanning the face of the mistress, searching her eyes for answers. The ugly truth, all of it. Every detail. Because she could not live in this story anymore. She couldn’t live sweeping her concerns, her feelings, her suspicions, and her self-respect under the rug anymore. Deception and betrayal are destructive, but the ease in which someone can look you in the eye and lie, that was killing her inside. She came here with the expectation that this other woman would tell her the truth. That finally she would know the verity of what took place.
The mistress understood why the wife was there. She knew she wanted her to tell her what had happened. But as she looked at the wife, she did not want to confide all the sordid details. She didn’t want to hurt this woman anymore then she had already been hurt. For her, this part of her life was over—all the pain, the self-loathing, the hurt, the sadness, the faith she had in this man—but in that moment she understood with a depth of compassion for the wife, it would never be over.
In that moment, she saw the grief of someone whose trust in the man she married was destroying them. She wanted to tell the wife that she was sorry. That whilst her love for him was real and deep, she should have walked away. That she should never have allowed herself to betray not only herself but another woman. That her shame, guilt, and pain nearly ate her alive.
But she couldn’t say that. Because even though she was part of the story, it wasn’t her story to tell. It was his story. That whilst they both made a choice to pursue this secret relationship, he was the one who made vows to her and it was his responsibility to tell her the truth. All of it. The mistress felt her part in this mess was pain enough for the wife and felt it cruel to unleash the details of her relationship, not knowing if she had a support network, or what this brutal truth would do to her. The story needed to end the right way and that was with the husband owning his sh*t once and for all. It was his job to finally step up and be honest.
The wife looked up from her tea and without hesitation asked what really happened. There was a pause; the response came without preamble, and her face softened as she said, “I’m so sorry you are feeling this way and the pain and confusion you are struggling with. And I’m deeply sorry for my part and my actions. You didn’t deserve any of it. There was a relationship and you do need to hear the truth, but that truth needs to come from your husband.”
The words may not have given all the answers she wanted, but everything she needed to know flickered across the eyes like a kaleidoscope. So vivid. So raw. It was her truth. The story of the other woman. The mistress. A woman who had a relationship with her husband. The man she married. The man who promised her the world. And in that revealing depth of her eyes, for the first time, she didn’t see this other woman as her enemy. She didn’t see her as evil. She saw a depth of sorrow and pain that was so familiar, because she had seen this in her own eyes. As she watched this other woman and the emotions move across her face, she was hit with a harsh realisation. Perhaps it was never about this other woman, because maybe this other woman could have been anyone. She just happened to be the one this time.
She had despised this other woman for such a long time. She had built up so many negative and hateful feelings toward her. She resented her. Loathed her. Blamed her. She saw her as competition. She saw her as convincing her husband to be unfaithful. As luring him into her life, into her bed. She saw her as wrecking her life, her marriage, everything she believed in. Like he wasn’t at all responsible for his own behaviour. She imagined her as desperate and needy, but as she sat watching her, she didn’t see any of that. And whilst this other woman needed to shoulder part of the blame and take responsibility for her actions, she knew in that moment that this other woman had been through her own private hell. And maybe that was enough.
What she didn’t want to see was her husband’s failings. His deception. His ability to convince another woman he loved her. His selfishness. His insecurities. His ego. His role as the pursuer. The ease in which he could lie, repeatedly. He was no longer with the mistress. She had him back and life could return to normality. He chose her. And until this very second, she thought she had won. She was the winner of this man. The mistress lost and she won. And as the bile rose in her throat, she understood with an undeniable veracity that she didn’t win a thing. Didn’t win a damn thing. He did her wrong. He was the one who hurt her and destroyed her trust. He was the one who disrespected her. He was the one who humiliated her. He was the one who broke his promises over and over again.
The other woman, the mistress was simply a chapter in this f*cked up story. A prop in a sh*tty scene. She was the easiest target to blame and while she was so busy blaming her, she pushed the truth down. She failed to acknowledge his actions were the reason for her pain.
No further words were required. There were enough emotions, body language, and energy exchanged for the truth to reveal itself. The mistress hoped he would finally give his wife the truth, but she doubted he would be completely honest. If he can’t be honest with himself, how can he possibly be honest with anyone else? She hoped the wife got some closure. She hoped she herself could finally let this part of her past fully go.
It’s a tale as old as time and as a society we hold strong views. Every individual is different, and every situation is different. As an outsider, we are not to know what causes someone to be unfaithful. What causes someone to fall for a married man. What causes the wife to sweep it under the rug.
What we do know is we are all human, and none of us are without fault. We can sit back in judgement and let nastiness, anger, and fear take over. Or we can try and be compassionate and realise that we will never fully understand another’s life. What’s going on in their head. And with that, we may learn something about ourselves. Something about the human condition.
The wife. The mistress. And the man who desperately tried to find his happiness, his fulfillment, his met needs and his love, in the arms of these women. And the sad truth is, if he hasn’t done the work on himself, fallen on his sword and been honest, spent some time in solitude to learn who he really is, what he really wants, and why he feels so empty that he would need this external validation, his cycle will repeat. His wife’s cycle will repeat. There will be other women. The destruction and damage will grow. Nothing will have been learnt. And that is the ultimate tragedy.
There are no winners. There are never any winners. There is simply the pain and heartbreak—because even when it didn’t mean anything, it did. It always does.
“There is no such thing as an affair that doesn’t mean anything.” ~ Amanda Robson