WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW WHEN YOU’RE THE OTHER MAN
By Lorin Harrott
Are you the other man in a relationship? Or, have you ever wondered what it really means to be the other man? If you are or are thinking about having a relationship with someone who’s already committed, there are some important things to consider.
When it comes to adultery, being the “other woman” is the stuff of countless movies and stereotypes. Whether it’s wearing a scarlet letter, boiling bunnies, or lamenting about how he’s promised repeatedly to leave his wife, the “other woman” has received her share of both negative and sympathetic attention throughout time.
However, we don’t hear much about the “other man” when cheating occurs. Sure, there are jokes about the tennis pro or the pool boy, but when a woman cheats, the other man isn’t typically either one of those.
The man a married (or committed) woman cheats with is generally a pretty average guy who’s allowed himself to get caught up in an emotionally turbulent situation.
Very often, the men married women cheat with have no intention of getting involved with an unavailable woman, or if they do and don’t care, they’re in it for the chase or the sex, and nothing more. Until nothing turns into something.
What Being The Other Man Will Do To You
I know it’s messy, but she’s fantastic, and you think you can handle things. And she’d never hurt you, right?
Eh, there are many levels between reality and wishful thinking. When you’re the other man, you’re on a level closer to wishes than reality.
And it’s not a level that’s good for your mental, emotional, or physical health.
Dr. Kurt works with men who’ve unwittingly become the other man in the relationship. In his experience,
One of the hardest things to do when you’re in the middle of an affair is to be clear-headed. I regularly work with guys who’ve gotten themselves into a relationship where they’ve become the ‘other man’ and I see this firsthand. One thing they all share in common is being conflicted about what they’re doing. Obviously, part of them likes it, but there’s almost always another part of them that also questions what they’re doing. Typically, the feelings on both sides are so strong that they feel paralyzed and incapable of making a decision. So, they make no decision and keep going along, even though doing so doesn’t make them feel any better. If this is you, do yourself a big favor and get some help from a professional like me.”
Affairs certainly damage the person cheating and their family, but they’re also detrimental to the other person participating in the affair.
Knowing that the woman you’re involved with has a life that can’t include you will leave you feeling,
- Guilty. The guilt of knowing that you’re hurting someone else’s relationship can be unbearable. No matter how you justify it to yourself, you know the consequences of your behavior mean at least one other person will be hurt and potentially an entire family.
- Ashamed. There’s no pride to be taken in being the other man. You can’t introduce your girlfriend to friends or family, and since most people have a negative view of cheating, you can’t tell them either.
- Powerless and controlled. Sneaking around and lying is par for the course when you cheat, but when you’re the other man, it’s on her schedule and by her rules. You have little control over how the relationship progresses, which can make a man feel like his masculinity is being undermined.
Keeping secrets, lying, and sneaking around can also lead to anxiety and stress, as can constantly feeling that your position in her life isn’t secure.
More than anything, however, being the other man means you’re not getting what you want and need from a relationship. Constantly waiting for your partner to leave their significant other for you isn’t emotionally fulfilling or fun.
Looking Beyond The Here And Now – Consequences Of Being The Other Man
When you’re in the midst of an affair, it can be easy to look toward the future and dream of what could be. But remember the levels. You’re still sitting closer to wishful than real.
The truth is that relationships from affairs rarely last. This means that for some length of time, you’re wrestling with the awareness that,
- She could end things and go back to her husband.
- Your emotional investment may have been wasted.
- The rejection of being left for her original partner will be devastatingly painful.
- Looking for understanding and consolation from others will be tough.
- Living with this constant uncertainty is emotionally draining.
In the event your relationship ends, especially if it’s abrupt or not what you wanted, you may also feel intense jealousy toward your partner’s significant other. Feelings of jealousy can lead to,
Unfortunately, the emotional fallout that comes with being the secret other guy can be extremely difficult to manage because, by the time you’ve finally acknowledged the need to put an end to things, there’s already been irreparable damage done.
Realistic Next Steps When You’re The Other Man
So, what’s a guy to do?
Obviously, avoiding entanglements with someone who’s already committed (or is supposed to be) is the best idea. But if that ship has sailed, it’s essential to take some realistic next steps and try to minimize the pain to you and everyone else involved.
The steps below can be a good starting point:
- Acknowledge the reality of the situation and accept that you may not have a future with this person (at least while she’s still committed to someone else).
- Make the decision to remove yourself from the role of being the “other man.” This decision will help you reclaim control over your future, emotions, and self-respect.
- Communicate openly and truthfully with the person you’re involved with. It’s important to talk honestly about their current relationship status and what they want for their future.
- Be clear that for your own emotional health and hers, and out of respect for her family, you can no longer be the other man.
- Insist you both respect each other’s boundaries and give the relationship some space. Give her that space without pressure if she needs time to figure things out.
Important note: If she decides to leave her husband to be with you, the health and longevity of your future relationship with her means she will need to work through her own complicated feelings and heal from her past relationship before being with you.
It will be tempting to jump into things and assume that your future together starts as soon as she leaves her relationship, but that road is full of landmines if you’re not patient and take things slowly.
Not Your First Rodeo – Why Some Guys Seem To Be Perpetual Other Men
Believe it or not, there are some men who repeatedly find themselves in the role of the “other man.” Some do this purposefully, while other men will claim their attraction to unavailable women is nothing more than sad coincidences.
Regardless of the awareness or lack-there-of for repeated involvement with married women, it’s an unhealthy proclivity. And believe me, anyone who’s been or is the secret love in someone’s life knows this on some level.
So, why do some men gravitate toward the women who are already taken? There are some universally common reasons.
- Fear of commitment. Women in relationships aren’t free to commit or look for a commitment, which means they offer a no-strings-attached arrangement. These relationships may be seen as less demanding and a convenient excuse for avoiding commitment.
- The excitement of forbidden attraction. The rush of adrenaline can fuel some men’s desire for excitement as they chase the thrill of doing something taboo.
- Ego boost. Some men, especially narcissists, enjoy the idea of drawing the attention of women away from the men they’re committed to. It’s a “look what I can do” action that provides a major ego boost.
- Seemingly easy sex. “Aw, you only want sex from me because you’re committed to someone else. Well, ok, if that’s the way it has to be,” he says with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Guys, don’t fool yourselves – it’s never that easy.
- Avoiding expectations. Some men perceive married women as having lower expectations for long-term commitment and marriage, making these relationships less pressure-filled.
Whether one or all of these apply, if you’re regularly the other guy, these perceived benefits to the arrangement are short-lived and emotionally damaging.
What To Take Away
Being the other man is a complicated and often painful situation. Avoiding being part of it at all is your best choice. If you’ve already forgone that choice, ending things and creating space so you can each gain perspective is the next best thing.
However, it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether or not this relationship is worth pursuing despite its challenges.
Remember, being the other man comes with the following unavoidable truths,
- Dishonesty and secrecy that come with an affair mean that distrust is an automatic component of the relationship.
- There will be emotional and psychological turmoil for all parties involved, causing pain, guilt, and regret.
- There may be legal, moral, and social consequences, leading to negative repercussions and complicating the lives of everyone involved.
And lastly, if you’re the other man, you should know that you will get hurt. So, ask yourself, if you know with certainty that the relationship you’re in or considering will mean you getting hurt, why would you still choose it?