We all know someone who’s been cheated on, or have firsthand experience with infidelity. Twenty-one percent of married men and between 10 and 15 percent of married women have cheated on their spouses, according to the General Social Survey at the University of Chicago. (And those are just people willing to admit their extramarital affairs to researchers.)
There’s less research and understanding of the people they’re cheating with. Why would “the other woman” (or “other man”) want to be involved with someone already in a relationship?
Below, seven women share their unique stories of becoming the third party in someone’s relationship ― sometimes unwittingly, sometimes knowingly.
“I knew he was married. He knew I was married as well. We were friends before we married our spouses and soon lost touch after getting married. Ten years into my marriage, I found him on Facebook. He was as unhappy as I was. He didn’t want to leave his wife, so I opted to be a side chick. He made all the promises to me about ‘one day.’ After a while, the guilt of it all ate away at me. I ended it, telling my husband and his wife in the process.” ― Krista R.
“He was in a relationship, not married. He was with another woman and both of us simultaneously had no idea. Then I found out and he said he would break up with her, which I believed he did... but he didn’t.” ― Daniella B.
“He was the head of the department where I worked (an investment bank) and I didn’t report directly to him but we had some work interaction. We started as friends although the first words he ever said to me could be construed as ‘flirty’: At my first work function, I got tipsy and got lost looking for the restroom: I bumped into him and said ‘Who are you?’ He replied, ‘Who do you want me to be?’ I cringed later when I found out he was a bigwig. I knew he was in a relationship and had a baby with the woman; I can’t remember how I knew but it was the reason I held back for a very long time. He was always open about his situation once we ‘started’ our relationship. First we were friends and at some point, we crossed the line between friends to lovers and then there was no going back. We had fallen in love. It’s a long time ago now but I still consider him one of my great loves. I have great memories and no regrets.” ― Reena K.
“While I found my co-worker ‘K’ attractive, I knew he was married and it was clear that we were friends and that’s all it would be. One day, we started chatting about the Vietnam War. ‘K’ had been in Vietnam and we had a long conversation about his experiences and his wounds, emotional and physical; he had been shot and part of his chest had been blown away. His story touched me and I felt incredible compassion for him. I don’t recall exactly when or how the relationship switched gears from friends to lovers, but I recall him telling me that his marriage was unhappy, that they were only staying together until their child graduated from college, and that they had given each other license to have sexual partners on the side. Call me naive but I believed him. For a few months, we’d get together once a week but I never saw him as someone I’d want to be with. We cared for each other but there was no talk of anything beyond what we had. Eventually I fell for another man, someone who chided me for falling prey to a cliche. ‘You’re wrong,’ I’d tell the new guy. ‘‘’K’ and I were different.’ In any case, I stopped seeing ‘K’ anyway.” ― Vicki L.
“I deliberately and intentionally picked him. I needed to find someone who had as much skin in the game as I did (married with kids). He was someone who I knew was interested in me prior to my marriage. I knew he was married but I strongly suspected he would be game as we hadn’t seen each other for years but he always kept in contact. I had moved back into the city where he and his family lived. I simply called him and asked him to meet for a drink. He vacillated at first ― I really shouldn’t and so on. Finally, I said, ‘Look don’t come, I don’t care, it’s just drinks.’ He met me later that night. At the end of the night, it was him who stopped me while I was walking away and kissed me. Our relationship lasted seven years. To this day, he doesn’t know he was intentionally chosen.” ― Anne J.
“In a nutshell how did it happen? I was lonely and married to an addict. I reached out on Craigslist, to simply have someone in the same boat to talk to. I didn’t care if it was a man or woman; I wasn’t looking to have an affair. I never hid the fact I was married. Mainly because, like I said, I wasn’t looking to cheat. Conversations led to genuinely caring about this stranger. Caring led to wanting to know more over time. Time led to really getting to know each other. We had conversations that may have crossed the line but is just talking to someone cheating? Yes and no. If our spouses knew what was going on, I’d say no, but they didn’t know, so it was a betrayal. We finally met and things got complicated. There were feelings we couldn’t ignore. Both of us had issues with our spouses, we both realized our needs weren’t being met at home but calling off our marriages was impossible since we both had kids. We’ve physically stopped seeing each other these days but we talk often. We’ve never said goodbye.” ― Melanie M.
“The guy was my ex. We had just completed the remodel of our house when he decided to break up with me [and move out.] He said he loved me but he needed time to work on his issues and still wanted to be friends. Two months later, I had plumbing problems and started staying at a mutual friend’s house down the street. My ex called me upset that I would be there. I pointed out that if it bothered him he could have invited me to stay in his guest bedroom. (We were an on-again, off-again couple but I had stopped dating him a few months earlier so we were officially ‘off again.’) He said I couldn’t because he had a friend staying for the week. Upon questioning, he admitted she was actually his girlfriend and had been living there with him for over a year. He then said all the typical things: It’s not what it seems, she’s not really my girlfriend. One night a few weeks later, he was still texting trying to get me to come back. I asked him where his girlfriend was. His answer: ‘Right next to me, asleep in bed.’ That was that. Oh, and that mutual friend I was staying with? He’s now my husband. Everything happens for a reason. Big thank you to the universe for that leak and opening my eyes to possibilities.” ― Michelle D.