Mistress, seductive Aphrodite, home-wrecker – ladies, hide your husbands and boyfriends because this dangerous, self-indulging feminine creature is coming to get them.
Despite the romanticized and judgemental portrayal of “the other woman,” her reality is far from what is displayed on TV and social media.
The devastating psychological effects of being the other woman are serious yet not talked about enough. Being the other woman, a side chick as they call it, comes with a terrifying impact on your mental health and self-esteem.
Believe me, I know. Been there, done that, and survived to tell you all about it.
Below you’ll find all you need to know about the psychological effects of being the others woman, how to recover from it, and much more.
6 Psychological Effects Of Being The Other Woman
Society portrays women involved in love affairs with married men in a very unflattering light. “The other woman” is looked down upon and even demonized.
The pain and struggle of being in a relationship with no future remain unspoken.
When infidelity happens, both women involved suffer. The stress might be different for each, depending on how the relationship itself affects them. They might cope with the traumatic experience differently, but neither one of them gets it worse.
Here are 6 common psychological effects of being the other woman:
1. Intense guilt
Secret love affairs come with a great emotional burden, which is probably one of the most difficult things a woman considered “the other” faces.
Although your intention was never to hurt anyone, let alone destroy a family, you feel like you are the one responsible for tearing down a happy home.
Not all women deal with this in the same manner. If you are already highly empathetic, this feeling of guilt will be stronger.
But even if you don’t bother about his family and seem to have no issue enjoying your “secret” relationship, the truth is that the crippling guilt will someday emerge from deep down.
2. Feeling manipulated
Being the other woman, even though seen as a powerful role, in reality, leaves you feeling powerless and manipulated.
This may not occur in the early stages of a relationship when the passion is wild, and the excitement of enjoying forbidden fruit is overwhelming. But as time goes by and the relationship dynamics are not fueled solely by passion, all the possible issues start to show.
Your partner is leading a double life, and to successfully maintain it, he lies and deceives. He doesn’t only lie to his wife, he lies to both of you, and you know it.
3. Low self-esteem
One of the most devastating and traumatic effects of being the other woman is severely damaged self-perception and self-esteem.
You are aware you’re not the chosen one. He cares about you and says you’re his true love, but at the end of the day, he goes back to the woman he has chosen.
You are left with the agonizing question, “Am I not good enough to be the only one?”
All your insecurities will start driving you crazy. Is it because you’re not a great cook? Is she smarter than you? Comparison is inevitable, and it will affect your damaged self-confidence even more.
4. Trust issues
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The man is a cheater.
You already know he’s lying to the woman he lives with. You know how well he can lie and act. How do you know he’s not doing the same to you? You don’t. As a matter of fact, it’s a bit naive to think he treats you any different.
Being in a relationship based on lies and manipulation will turn anyone into a paranoid person. You’ll find yourself constantly searching for proof your partner is not telling the truth.
More seriously, it will leave a mark on you even when you move on from the relationship.
Once you’ve been lied to (or, in this case, repeatedly lied to), it makes it hard to trust other people again – Not only other people but also your own ability to have a real relationship with a man who will want to be exclusive with you.
5. Depression and isolation
When you are the other woman, you’re not keeping your relationsgip a secret. You are the secret.
You can forget about going to the movies and holding hands while walking down the street. Any other activity that couples usually do together, like celebrating birthdays and new year, will not happen for you.
When asked by your co-worker or a family member if you’re bringing anyone to the Christmas party, sadly, the answer will be no.
Your close friends might not even know about your relationship (because there is no way they would approve). You are single as far as the rest of the world is concerned.
6. Constant pressure
Your secret relationship with a man who is in a committed relationship with someone else is a major source of anxiety. Never-ending questions, uncertainty, and confusion will make you feel stressed and make it hard for you to fall asleep.
Does your relationship have any future? When will it end?
Then there’s the fear of judgment and rejection you may experience if other people find out about your relationship. Sadly, when this happens, the woman in love with the married man gets judged the most.
The One Vs. The Other
Love comes in all shapes and forms. As a society, we have evolved and moved from the old traditional idea of how true love should look. Not every love story is meant to last forever, and not all couples want to get married and start a family.
We are expanding our understanding of sexual and romantic connections and the nature of relationships.
Are we monogamous by nature or not? Traditional or open relationship?
Each person is unique, with unique needs and preferences, so one can choose their preferred romantic interaction.
However, some rules are not up for negotiation, regardless of the structure of the relationship. Trust, honesty, and loyalty are the very core of every healthy human connection, especially romantic ones. Infidelity means violating those fundamental principles.
Such an act causes suffering and damage to all parties involved, yet all the empathy goes to the woman being cheated on.
The man around whom the whole situation is happening (aka. the cheater) and his role in the scenario is often disregarded, and the woman that he cheated with is under the spotlight.
The term “the other woman” is used to refer to a single woman who is in a close romantic or sexual relationship with a married man or a man who is in a committed relationship with someone else.
The other woman is often seen as the cause of the problem and almost never a victim who is equally suffering in this situation.
Being cheated on and betrayed when you thought you were the one and only hurts like hell. Knowing you’re never going to be “the one” to the man you are madly in love with is no less painful.
How Does The Other Woman Feel?
It is commonly believed that this woman has no empathy for others and is selfishly pursuing what she desires, for instance, someone else’s partner. Commonly, but falsely.
While it may be true in some cases, the sad reality is that “the other woman” often believes that she is “the one.” She often does not know that there is someone else in the equation until she has already developed strong feelings for the man she is with.
If it has ever happened to you, and chances are it has since you’re here reading this article, you know how painfully shocking and surreal it feels.
I know I do.
Although dreams about the love and love stories we desire vastly differ from person to person, it is unlikely that one dreams about being the third wheel.
When it happens, and we find ourselves as someone’s affair partner, most of the time, it’s hard to understand what happened.
How did you end up there?
Love affairs usually do not start with the man saying, “I’m married. Wanna be my side-chick?” Instead, the woman is often deceived into believing that she is the one, his primary relationship.
Even these days, when we are very well connected thanks to all the technology we have access to, people are creative and still find ways to go under the radar.
When you find out that your partner is not really yours and is actually someone’s cheating husband, it can be too late: you’re already head over heels. It’s not easy to break up with him, but staying with him will also lead to heartbreak eventually.
When I said that love comes in all shapes, I certainly didn’t mean triangles. When you find yourself in the middle of such a conundrum, the most logical thing would be to put an end to it. But matters of the heart are seldom logical.
You two have connected on so many levels, not just physically
People start affairs for various reasons. Sometimes it’s just the thrill and excitement of doing something secretive and forbidden.
However, love affairs often are not primarily sexual, as one might imagine. They can provide a sense of intimacy and validation that might be lacking in primary relationships.
Ending a relationship that is solely based on sex would be much easier than ending an emotional affair.
Not to mention that he is probably convincing you his marriage became dysfunctional a long time ago. He’s going to get a divorce…when the time is right. (He most probably has no intention to, but we’ll talk about that later).
How Do I Recover From Being The Other Woman?
You can’t heal what made you sick in the first place.
Walking away psychically from a relationship where you are being neglected, manipulated, and lied to is the first step to healing.
You may try to find reasons why your relationship is not necessarily doomed to failure, but the more you prolong the break up, the harder it will be when it (inevitably) comes.
Letting go of someone we have become deeply connected with always feels like a part of us is dying.
Will you be able to love ever again?
It may be hard to believe now, but you will. This is not the only relationship you can and will have. Just to remind you, 7 billion people share the planet with you. That’s at least a couple of million chances to find real love!
Recovering from a painful break up is always a long process, but recovering from a relationship that deeply wounded you sometimes feels impossible.
Implement the no contact rule
It’s probably not the first time you’ve heard about this golden piece of advice. When you finally decide to end the agony, cut off all contact with the man you’re breaking up with. Yes, stalking their social media is still contact!
Be gentle with yourself
The world is cruel enough, and that’s why it is important for you to be gentle with yourself. You’re not a mistress, and your past relationship doesn’t define you or give you a label. You were simply a woman in love.
If the whole situation feels extremely overwhelming (I bet it does), don’t feel bad about putting some things on hold and giving yourself a well-needed rest. A day or two off of work never killed anybody.
The traumatizing effects of being the other woman must not be glossed over and neglected. What you have been through is painful and complex, and you shouldn’t be dealing with it on your own.
Reaching out to your best friend or family members for support is great, but in this instance, you will need a more serious support system through counseling and therapy as well.
Help from a professional will help you get through the windstorm of emotions and the psychological effects of the whole experience.
Society may be quick to judge a woman (as…khm…always) who is labeled as “a mistress,” but the number of women who have experienced this situation in life is immense.
Still, there’s a huge stigma attached to the topic of infidelity, which makes it even more difficult for the people affected by extramarital affairs to cope with the situation.
Wait, Do Affairs Ever Work Out?
Oh they do, but not in the way you want them to.
The nature of a secret love affair outside of a primary relationship one is having is different from the nature of a steady, committed relationship.
A committed relationship provides security, meets our need to be loved and cared for, gives us a sense of order and purpose.
Also, committed relationships require work and time to get to the point where a relationship turns from casual to serious and committed. It does not happen overnight.
Love affairs fulfill different needs. Although we seek security and stability in life, we also have a wild side that craves excitement, adrenaline, and unpredictability that challenges us to step out of our comfort zones.
The seductive and dangerous nature of a secret relationship, of forbidden fruit, draws people in and gives them a sense of being alive.
Love affairs work in their own specific ways, fulfilling the needs for which it started in the first place.
But can a love affair ever turn into a long-term commitment?
The odds are pretty much against it.
Love affairs have an element of secrecy and excitement but also more maleficent aspects like deception, manipulation, and confusion. That’s not really a good base for building a healthy, committed relationship.
Getting involved in a secret romance outside of a marriage or otherwise committed relationship can signal that the person is not completely satisfied in their primary relationship, but it does not necessarily mean they want to end it.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate position of being in love with a man that is already taken, you may try to find 101 reasons why your situation is different and has potential.
But staying in such a relationship hoping that someday, somehow, things will work in your favor is not good for your well-being and will leave you hurt and drained.
And even if it does happen, even if you two become official, will you be happy with him knowing that he might also lie and cheat on you too?
You know what they say, once a cheater, always a cheater.
Changing The Narrative: From “The Other” To “The Only”
Once you have dealt with a crazy love triangle situation and infidelity in any way, especially if it lasted a long time, it will be challenging for you to regain a sense of self-worth and clarity of mind.
You’ve gotten so used to being treated as the second choice that it’s hard to imagine now how you would act in a different situation.
When you are “the other woman,” you learn your place in that relationship. If you want to have your partner to yourself, you wait your turn. Even though sometimes it doesn’t appear so, the sad reality of an affair with a married man is that you have no right to choose.
His schedule is crazy busy (how can it not be, the man is in two relationships!), and the only thing you can do is make sure that you’re available when he is.
Being the other woman often means going against your values and beliefs and violating your boundaries.
Dealing with healthy human connections after such a traumatic experience can seem weird and even frightening. We easily get used to the things around us, no matter how bad or toxic they are. By that time, they become familiar.
Healing from the psychological effects of being the other woman will take some time.
Since your sense of integrity was so deeply wounded, it’s important for you to set boundaries when it comes to interacting with other people, especially when it comes to romantic interactions. Someone who truly respects you will always respect your boundaries and won’t try to violate them.
I’ve got to be honest – being able to trust a man won’t come easy. I’ve remained suspicious even to this day (it’s been years). That is not a bad thing after all. Being a little bit suspicious does us good. You’ll be able to notice red flags easily (sometimes even when they’re not there).
In the end, it’s important to remember that the terms “the one” and “the other” in reality don’t exist. You, like everyone else on this planet, are unique. You are the only one.
Your experiences, along with the psychological effects of being the other woman, don´t take anything away from your value and uniqueness.