Healing From Being The Other Woman

By ReGain Editorial Team|Updated June 16, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Karen Devlin, LPC
"We all end up in situations that we never thought we would be in. If you are feeling a sense of loss, guilt, or shame after being the other woman, you should first assess what happened to put you in that position. May it have been a lack of personal boundaries? Was it a deep desire for connection? How do you keep yourself from feeling this way again? Sometimes we can also benefit from the support of a counselor or therapist to help us navigate these complicated feelings." - Aaron Horn LMFT

 

What Does It Mean To Be The Other Woman?

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"The other woman" typically refers to someone who is romantically or sexually involved with someone else's partner. The phrase is commonly used to describe a woman who engages in an affair with a man who is already in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship with a woman, hence the term “the other woman.” This affair can occur with or without the other woman knowing about the partner.

There's a stigma attached to the label of "the other woman." People classically think of her as someone who is cold or uncaring, but this isn't the case. Sometimes, when you're the other woman, you don't know that the person you're involved with is seeing someone else. Finding out that you may have been involved in disrupting trust in another person’s relationship can be incredibly difficult.

What It's Like To Be The Other Woman

People may pursue affairs for many reasons, often participating in them because of their clandestine and seemingly exciting nature. Affairs differ from steady relationships. Some people in relationships seek out affairs because they're afraid of commitment or don't have the confidence to end things with their partner. It's important to remember that having an affair can hurt many people involved, not just the partner who has been cheated on.

Though there may be times when you feel like your relationship is in a bit of a rut, engaging in an affair isn’t a solution. For people who develop an intimate relationship with someone who is already committed, the situation can lead to a lot of pain and conflict. Regardless of whether they were aware of a person’s relationship, being involved in infidelity can cause the other woman to experience a wide range of emotions.

If you’re aware that you’re the other woman in your situation, it’s important to understand that continuing the relationship can cause damage to many people, including yourself. The person’s partner will likely feel as though that trust has been breached, which could have lasting effects. It’s also possible you will find yourself feeling as though your needs aren’t being met by the person that you’re sexually intimate with. This may be because, in order for the affair to continue, your presence in their life must remain a secret.

The Other Man

People of all genders have affairs. Although we typically hear about the other woman, a man can indeed be the one in this position as well. It’s estimated that around 15% of women and 25% of men have cheated during their marriage. The statistics vary by age and other demographic factors, but regardless, what we learn from this is that affairs are somewhat common for women in relationships as well.

Some people may seek a feeling of escape in an affair. In moments where life is difficult, it can be easy to look for distractions. Since many people experience strong feelings of infatuation and attraction at the beginning stages of a relationship, the idea of indulging these feelings may be intoxicating. This could be especially true for people who feel unhappy in their relationship or believe that their sexual needs aren’t being met.

It’s important to note that a breach of trust in any committed partnership can end the relationship. Doing so can lead to other harmful consequences, and it’s often smarter to communicate your feelings to your partner, seek out a couples therapist, or end the relationship entirely.

Power Dynamics And Affairs

Affairs aren't only about secrets or sexual indiscretions. There are sometimes other, more subtle elements involved. This includes power dynamics and the roles that they play in the affair. One person in the affair tends to have the upper hand. Typically, that person is the one who has a long-term partner and not the other woman. In fact, she is often being led on by the individual in the relationship. This can leave her feeling insecure, anxious, and lonely, especially at times when she doesn’t have access to the person in a committed relationship.

Power dynamics also come into play when the relationship takes place in specific settings. In the workplace, for instance, an affair that takes place between two people who have different job titles can add an additional layer of power dynamics. If one of the people involved in the affair is considered the other’s superior, this can be inappropriate and make it more difficult for a person to feel comfortable saying no. Consent is important in every intimate relationship, and having a working relationship with someone doesn’t change that.

Sexual harassment is never excusable or okay. Click here to learn more about sexual harassment, or contact the RAINN hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE (4673) for advice, support, information, and other resources. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Affairs aren't always cut and dry. Few things in life are simple. What can you do if you're working on healing after being the other woman?

Think About What You Want In Future Relationships

We Understand That This Is A Difficult Time For You

Remember that the affair you're experiencing right now isn't the only relationship you could ever have in your life. You deserve to be in a relationship where you are loved, respected, and valued. An affair is unlikely to fulfill all of your emotional needs, as there is usually a level of secrecy involved. In addition, it can be hard for people in this position to cope with the reality that the person they have feelings for spends time with someone else.

Another aspect of being the other woman that can be challenging for people is their own sense of morality. Most people don’t imagine that they will end up in a position where they are intimate with someone who is already in a relationship. Many people experience shame, guilt, and a feeling as though they are out of control of their own actions. Remember that it’s never too late to stop and begin recovering from this experience to move forward. It’s possible that this situation will teach you more about yourself once you remove yourself from it.

It's up to you what you do in your life, but remember that you have the right to be happy and feel fulfilled. It's unlikely, though, that an affair will bring you closer to these goals. Ask yourself what you want. What do you truly desire? What do you want in your future relationships? Make a list of what you want in a partner and some deal-breakers or things that you don't want. It might sound silly, but once you put it down on paper, you might be surprised by what you find. The traits that you want in a partner might differ significantly from what you’ve experienced.

You may want someone honest and loyal. You may not want to be with someone who would have an affair. After all, if they've done it once, it’s possible they’ll do it again. Set your standards high and make sure your future relationships are built with people who want to foster a long-lasting healthy commitment.

Remind Yourself Who You are

Sometimes affairs make people ignore or forget about their values and who they are. You may find yourself saying and doing things you never imagined. It’s important to forgive yourself if you’ve done things you regret. Everyone makes mistakes, and it's okay to learn from them. If you find that you're engaging in regrettable behaviors, you can make a change. It's not too late to start making healthy choices. Many people have been in your situation, so it's important to remember that you're not alone and that there's nothing fundamentally wrong with you.

First, you likely need to separate yourself from the situation if you haven't already. Consider cutting romantic ties — or all ties — with the person that you’re in this relationship with. Though you may be tempted to remain in contact with them, doing so may limit your ability to move on. Think about how and why this happened in the first place. Were you lied to? Coerced? Manipulated? Did you know about what was going on but felt deeply drawn to the person? Reflecting on what happened can help you avoid this situation in the future.

When You Want To Stay In An Affair

When you're in an affair, one of the reasons you might stay is the hope that it will evolve into a long-term commitment. It’s important to note that this is rarely how the situation unfolds. There are exceptions to every rule — instances where the partner ends up breaking off their committed relationship and choosing the other woman instead. But that's not the majority of affairs, and most of these secretive connections end. Since affairs can be challenging to maintain, there is often a breaking point where one or both parties decide to end the relationship for good. Though it may be challenging to do, walking away from an affair is likely to offer you the best chance at a happy future.

Many people wonder: if it's not going to evolve into being in a committed relationship, why stay in it? There’s a secretive aspect about being the other woman that may be appealing or exciting, but as time goes on and things continue, this frequently turns into conflict and emotional turmoil.

How The Brain Is Affected During An Affair

The media often portrays infidelity and affairs inaccurately. In movies and TV, they make affairs look unrealistically enticing, as though they're akin to a fun adventure. But the truth is that they can be draining on the body and mind.

In reality, the brain is experiencing many things that can lead to the continuation of an affair. Dopamine is released, which can increase attraction and lead to further infatuation. And, particularly during intimacy, your brain produces oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone,” which can help you bond with the other person.

Manipulation

If you were the other woman, it's possible that you underwent manipulation during the affair. Being manipulated can come with long-term psychological effects. You might experience sadness, isolation, trouble trusting people, issues with intimacy, and difficulty feeling securely attached to others. You might feel resentful toward the person that you were seeing, or you might even feel resentful toward yourself

Keeping It A Secret

One of the things that you need to heal from after being the other woman is the fact that, if you knew that you were the other woman, you had to keep the affair a secret. Secrecy can leave a person with a lot of guilt and shame. If you’re experiencing these emotions, it can be difficult to work through them.

You aren’t inherently a bad person for engaging in an affair, and you deserve to heal yourself. By opting to look for more transparent relationships in the future, it’s possible for you to find love that supports all of your needs. Though it may be challenging at first, living without the stress of a heavy secret weighing on you can give you a sense of freedom and independence.

Start Healing

So, how can you heal from being the other woman? The first thing is to remember who you are. You're not just a part of an affair; you're a whole person who deserves love. By making amends with yourself, getting space from the relationship, and leaning on the support of loved ones, you can break out of a potentially unhealthy relationship dynamic. It may take patience, kindness with yourself, and time, but you can find happiness in your future relationships.

One of the ways that you can heal is through online therapy. You can talk to the professionals at ReGain about any complex emotions you feel surrounding an affair or anything else you're coping with now.

Even if it feels far away at the moment, you can start healing and get to a better place, where the affair teaches you about yourself and gives you an opportunity to grow. If you're in the middle of an affair and don't know what to do, you don’t have to go through this alone. Healing is a process, and online therapy is a great place to start.

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