Being the Other Woman: What It Feels Like and What to Do

A man sitting on the edge of the bed secretly talking to another woman, representing his girlfriend being the other woman.

Being the Other Woman

No relationship is clear-cut, least of all affairs. When someone is the “other woman,” they’re romantically or sexually involved with someone who’s already in a romantic relationship. This can occur even in open relationships

In many cases, neither party sets out to be a “homewrecker.” In fact, people have affairs for a variety of reasons, some more complicated than the next.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, affairs are rarely just about sex. Researchers found that 62.8% of participants cared for their new partner, with about 10% expressing sentiments of love. 

Key reasons why some people cheat include, but are not limited to:

  • Anger or resentment towards their primary partner
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Sexual desire for the secondary partner
  • Lack of love in the primary relationship 
  • Feelings of neglect in the primary relationship

In the case of the secondary partner (i.e., the other woman), reasons are just as complex. In this article, we’ll discuss what it’s like to be the other woman, what to do if you’re in a similar situation, and how to find support

What People Say It’s Like to be the Other Woman

Though no one woman’s experience is the same, many in affairs struggle with the reality of their relationship. Below, we’ve outlined some of the hidden truths about being the other woman: 

 

“It’s stressful and affects my mental health.”

No one likes feeling like a cheater. Whether the relationship is sexual, romantic, or purely emotional, affairs are tense, stressful situations that can negatively impact your mental well-being.

Lacking a sense of security in the first place may also have negative effects later on. On the chance that the affair becomes monogamous, feelings of paranoia and guilt may persist, affecting trust in the relationship. 

 

“It’s more emotional than it is physical.”

Many affairs are built on connection. People sometimes find what they’re looking for in the most unlikely of places, such as a good friend or co-worker who is already in a romantic relationship.

In an effort to not hurt those around them, an “emotional affair” may begin. In this case, the affair doesn’t become physical—but the relationship may still be cheating if a deep intimate connection is formed.

 

“I should have drawn boundaries earlier.”

Cheating is an inherent red flag. Though the other woman is complicit, they may be vulnerable to unhealthy power dynamics, toxic behavior, or even abuse.

This is especially true if the other woman was unaware that their partner was already in a relationship. Despite the revelation, however, the other woman may disregard their boundaries or ignore warning signs in hopes of something more. 

 

“It rarely works out the way we want it to.”

An affair may feel like real love—and it very well may be—but affairs are rarely the foundation for a strong, long-lasting relationship. In fact, it’s claimed that only 15% of couples are able to successfully recover from incidents of infidelity. 

And for those that go on to commit, revelations about the affair may have unforeseen consequences, namely on friends and loved ones.

 

“I never stopped worrying if he’d do the same to me.”

After entering a monogamous relationship that stemmed from infidelity, trust and security may be in short supply. 

For example, one or both partners may worry all the time about the other’s whereabouts. They may wonder if their partner is a serial cheater or fear they’d return to the previous relationship if things didn’t work out. Fears like these can nurture distrust and resentment, hindering the relationship’s future.

 

“I wish it began differently.”

Suffice to say, affairs don’t begin in a good place. The other partner may have already filed divorce papers, but this doesn’t absolve them or their new partner of the natural guilt they feel.

Other factors may also complicate the new relationship. How does the affair affect children from the previous relationship? Could this affect custody cases? Was the cheating partner honest about their reasons for leaving? 

 

“I felt terrible guilt and didn’t like who I was.”

The role of the “side chick” or “other woman” is riddled with stigma. Regardless of where the relationship leads, being the other woman can nurture self-hatred and self-esteem issues. 

If the other woman also happens to be a married woman, they may struggle with guilt on both sides of the affair. These feelings may further affect their mental health. 

What to Do if You’re the Other Woman (How to Move On)

If you happen to be the other woman, you may have come up with a million reasons why the relationship could work—and why it can’t.

Ultimately, what matters is your well-being. To help you get through the situation, here are a few things to consider before continuing an affair:

 

Identify the cheating person’s motive/frame of mind

Take a step back and examine the situation. Put yourself in the shoes of the cheating person and try to think objectively. Why did they choose to cheat?

You can also try to start a dialogue. Sit down and discuss what’s going on at home. If they say they’re unhappy in their relationship, why? What is the driving force behind the affair and will it be resolved by leaving?

 

Respect all wishes to protect their family and close friends

Affairs can have major consequences. If you’re involved with a married man or woman with children, consider how your relationship will affect their family and how it might affect yours.

If family and friends are aware of your relationship, respect their boundaries. Some people may not wish to have a relationship with you or your partner after the affair becomes known.

 

Approach the person about coming clean and making a choice

If you want to continue the relationship, start a conversation about your next steps together. If they plan to break up with their partner, discuss how and when. 

Keep in mind they may never fully commit to you, even if they come clean. Do your best to prepare for heartbreak and potential confrontations.

 

Do not threaten or force an ultimatum 

Affairs aren’t ideal situations for anyone. That said, avoid making threats or ultimatums.

Not only is there no guarantee that they’ll leave their partner for you, but there’s no certainty you’ll be happy together if they do. Consider your options carefully and whether they’re truly right for those involved.

 

Leave the situation

Affairs can cause untold damage. They can affect your mental health, self-esteem, and relationships with others.

If you’ve decided the relationship is not for you—or if abuse or power imbalances are involved—then it’s time to leave the situation. To help you move on, avoid your former partner’s social media, set boundaries, and refocus your energy on you and your needs. 

 

Seek emotional support

It’s essential to know who we are outside of a relationship.

Put some distance between you and the affair by spending time alone or confiding in a best friend or a trusted loved one about your situation. Try to rediscover life as a single woman. You can also consider speaking to a therapist or counselor about your relationship and gaining professional insight.

Coping with Emote Online Therapy

Affairs are rarely anything like you see on TV. What may have been fun and exciting the first time around can lead to a complicated and unhappy situation for everyone involved.

No matter the circumstance, know that you’re not alone with Emote.

By matching with one of our qualified therapists, you can develop the revolutionary tools needed to navigate and move on from a difficult relationship.

Whether it’s a current or past affair, with Emote, you’ll always have a judgment-free space.

Get guilt off your chest, explore your options, and put your mental health first through affordable text and video chat therapy sessions.

To learn more about how Emote can help you, check out our FAQ and discover the benefits of therapy for only $35 for your first week.