Being the other woman: The other side of infidelity

Being the other woman is an emotionally complex journey, that involves intense highs and devastating lows. In this article, I will talk about the rollercoaster of emotions, the feelings of not being good enough, and the impact a DDay (discovery day - the day the wife finds out about the affair) has on your mental health and well-being. I will draw upon anonymised experiences and comments of women who have found themselves as the other woman (OW) in a relationship. Being the OW is often not as straightforward or black and white as people may think.


From the perspective of a betrayed wife, any woman having an affair with her husband is the other woman (OW), whether they are single or married. In this article, I am talking about a single other woman, who is not in a primary relationship of her own.

From the outside looking in, society predominantly places the blame on the OW for her involvement in the affair. Her reputation may be tarnished after DDay, where she is seen as a homewrecker, the scarlet woman who lured him away from his happy marriage and pursued him until he could no longer resist her advances.

In truth, there are a range of reasons some women find themselves in the OW role. Some may actively pursue married men (MM) but, in my experience, this is a minority for the single OW. Some OW find themselves drawn into a web of emotions, where they get everything they’ve ever wanted in a relationship, with a connection never experienced before and where all their emotional and physical needs are met.

In many of these relationships, the OW often goes through the push/pull and attempts to end the relationship and go no contact (NC), lasting a few days or maybe weeks before she and the MM get back together, picking up where they left off.

The other woman often has to navigate a double life, where friends and family are unaware of her secret love. She may also live with guilt, the constant fear of the affair being exposed and the desire and longing for this relationship to be embraced like a normal relationship.

The highs

Hope for the future

There is often a promise of a future together and this can create a sense of hope and anticipation for a happy life together. MM gives reasons why this life together isn’t possible now, such as the children, finances, health issues, etc. The promises lead the OW to think this special relationship could lead to something more permanent. It gives the feeling of light at the end of the tunnel, making it all worthwhile. MM often tells the OW that she is his soul mate and makes his marriage bearable.

Feeling desired

For some OW, the fact that MM is prepared to risk his marriage for her is validating. It makes her feel special and that she is able to give MM something he isn’t getting from his wife, whether that be emotional, physical or both. It sometimes gives a sense of being a rescuer to the MM and she is a valuable, important person in his life.

The thrill

To begin with, the thrill of being the OW can evoke a sense of excitement and adventure, sparked by the secret nature of the relationship. The feeling of sneaking behind her back and knowing something that she is blissfully unaware of can add to the pleasure. In the words of an OW, “MM's wife has gone to visit family and we get to spend a whole weekend together. I get to spend the night in his arms, pure bliss.”

The lows

Jealous of his wife

To some people, this may sound bizarre. How can you be jealous of his wife when you’re the third party in their marriage? Even though she’s blissfully unaware of the affair and the OW’s existence.

The OW goes from a feeling of euphoria having spent time with her lover, only for him to go and spend the night at home with his wife. She sees MM and his wife’s social media, with what appear to be happy family photos, anniversary photos, birthday celebrations, etc. It can feel like a betrayal, considering how he describes the marriage and she’s left wondering if the marriage is as bad as he says.

This captures what I mean - in the words of an OW, “MM and his wife are going away on holiday without the kids and I don’t know how to handle it. He’s the one who did all the planning, he managed all the hassle with the visa process for this trip.” Then she asks, ”Do you really plan such an intimate getaway when you’re planning to get divorced soon?” The turmoil, the heart-sinking feeling and the overwhelming emotions felt by the OW at this time can be devastating.

Low self-esteem

Over time, being the other woman can erode self-esteem. Feelings of not being good enough or deserving of a committed, open relationship can take a toll on one's self-worth. The OW wonders why she can’t be chosen as the primary relationship, especially when MM says she makes him so happy. She ruminates on the question of whether going back to his miserable dead bedroom (DB) marriage is a better choice than being with her full-time. The mental gymnastics that come with being the OW can be a lot to handle alone.

Emotional turmoil

The emotional rollercoaster of being the OW can be exhausting. The weight of the situation and the guilt can pull the OW into a very dark place. It isn’t a place most OW want to be and knowing they are part of this illicit relationship can come at a price. So well-illustrated by an OW here: “I’m tired of being a bad person complicit in his lies. I’m tired of the insecurity. I’m tired of the mental gymnastics that go into justifying this behaviour. I’m tired of helping him to hurt his wife, his family and frankly himself.”

There is a lack of stability in being the OW, as there is often a lack of commitment, resulting in emotional instability. This can lead to frustration, disappointment and resentment, as the OW may sacrifice goals and invest many years in the hope that she will get her happy ever after, only for MM to keep shifting the timelines.

Discovery day (DDay)

This is the day the wife becomes aware of the affair. She may find out in a number of different ways, but the result is the same. She knows. A DDay is very difficult for the betrayed wife (BW), MM and the OW. With DDays come uncertainty for the OW and so many questions:

  • Will he leave his wife?
  • Will he come to me?
  • Will they reconcile?
  • Will I see him again?
  • What’s going on with MM and his BW?

Radio silence often follows a DDay and the OW is left hanging.

It can go so many ways, but the reality is most DDays leave the OW feeling in some emotional pain and heartbreak. Then there’s the fear that his wife will contact you, that she may contact your family members and expose the affair or tell your employer if you and MM work together. The fear of potential consequences, including reputational damage and loss of employment, along with the fear of losing MM suddenly all become a reality.

If the affair ends suddenly, following a DDay, the OW may feel a deep sense of loss and grief, especially if they had hoped for a future together. The sudden end of the 'good morning texts', daily calls and contact via secret apps feels like the rug has been pulled from beneath the OW.

In spite of all the promises MM made during the affair, the OW can find he very quickly backtracks and throws her under the proverbial bus. It comes with confusion to the OW that MM suddenly wants so desperately to save the marriage that he has previously said was so miserable, and where his wife didn’t understand him. So, she asks herself why. Why when he has the opportunity to exit this 'miserable marriage' and be with me, does he actively choose to stay and, furthermore, beg to stay?

MM is now trying to save his marriage or at least convince his wife that he wants all in, that he loves her and that the affair was a terrible mistake. The BW will be on high alert and quite possibly monitoring his phone and any communication activity. She may tell MM that the marriage is definitely over unless he ends the affair immediately, by sending a message or calling the OW in her presence. The message may be harsh and cold, leaving the OW feeling hurt, shocked, confused and betrayed.

The role of counselling

The confidential space in counselling can be of great benefit to the OW, in helping with emotional support. It provides a safe and confidential space to express feelings, fears and concerns without judgment. It can help work on rebuilding your self-esteem and self-worth, helping to heal from the emotional toll of the affair.

Unlike a regular relationship, where you can get support from friends and family, the very nature of this type of relationship limits the support from your social network. A counsellor can assist with clarifying goals and support in deciding if the relationship aligns with your long-term goals. Counselling can help you set boundaries in how are treated and make choices that are in the best interest of your mental health and wellbeing.

The OW may find it helpful and supportive to have someone to talk to and share her thoughts with, who understands what she’s going through. Someone who can offer an objective perspective, to enable her to make informed decisions.

Navigating the emotional rollercoaster of being the other woman is an intense and challenging journey. It is crucial to acknowledge the impact that this role can have on one's mental health, emotional well-being, self-esteem and even future relationships.

What may have started out with hope and excitement can make the OW become a shadow of the person she used to be. The OW may spend many days and evenings feeling disappointed and let down when plans made with MM are cancelled due to family issues.

There are, of course, MMs who leave their marriage for the OW and their relationship goes legitimate. This may also come with its challenges, which I will cover in a future article. There are so many strands to being the OW, that cannot be covered in one just article.

Understanding the highs and lows is imperative for those involved in affairs, as they contemplate their choices and seek a path toward healing, self-reflection and self-discovery.

If you are currently an OW and would like counselling support, do not hesitate to contact me via my Counselling Directory profile. If you would like to see a particular relationship topic covered, please feel free to contact me.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Northolt, Middlesex UB5 & Uxbridge UB10
Written by Tricia Ibe, MBACP, NCPS
Northolt, Middlesex UB5 & Uxbridge UB10

Tricia Ibe, (MBACP) (MNCPS Accredited) Counsellor. I am experienced in supporting people to achieve healthy relationships, to navigate the challenges of Step/Blended families. infidelity and struggles with being the other woman/man in a relationship.

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