BlogGhosts of Relationships Past: The Myth of the Other Woman

October 31, 2011by Frank Love0

I am pleased to present my first guest blogger.  She is a dear friend, who I have had the pleasure of knowing in passing since high school and as a confidante in recent years.  We regularly enjoy revealing and reflective conversations about the issues in our relationships and lives.  The following is from her:

Who is the other woman if not some version of ourselves – some distant memory of who we’ve been, could have been, or could become, depending on our choices and circumstances. She’s not some freakish entity that drools, snarls and gnashes her teeth at the thought of our meat or our man. She’s not some immortally-beautiful sex kitten whose looks, talents and finesse could beat ours even on our best day. She’s just a woman. Just like us. This doesn’t mean we have to like her. It is, though, an invitation to begin liking ourselves again by bringing her into scale.

The night I met my ex’s new love I began a chapter of growth and healing that taught me this and more. That night, I walked through a door behind which I had been hiding for more than a year, a door flanked and secured by emotional lumber, nails of despair and disappointment. Guarding it with figurative knives, shotguns and other devices, I imagined that opening the door would mean a merging of her life and mine that would cause more emotional destruction than the end of my marriage already had. Then slowly, at the urging of some friends and confusion of others, I decided to dismember each piece of wood and each nail that I had put up to keep her out. Voracious and full of toxic thoughts and emotions, I worked hard to care for and heal myself, fully aware that I was hanging off of an edge I had never occupied before. This edge was scary, rage-filled and untamed.. I began to realize that the door I had put in place to keep her, and all of the pain I thought she represented, out was also keeping me in.

As it turns out the “other woman” was nothing like what I’d imagined. Quiet, young and reminiscent of a doe caught in a speeding car’s headlights, what I’d assumed to be her power (her ability to “take my man”) was actually his “out” from our relationship and these, I have learned, are two distinctly different things. In this distinction, and by spending time in her presence, I began to see that the only power she had over my life was the power that I had given her.  Slowly I began to really see that the end of my marriage wasn’t about her; although she played a key role in it, ultimately it was about me; who I’d been and who I was willing to become.

The process of owning my rage, dissecting the image I had of her and creating a new life for myself was both lengthy and complex. Through time and action (sometimes clumsy and other times generous) I sought so many things: to know where we both stood, to define my relationship with her outside of my anger and the comfort of my ex, to confront my own fear of being less than perfect, to trust myself again, to become a whole human being.

In the years since my marriage ended, I have had the pleasure and pain of interacting with my ex’s new partner on several occasions.  Sometimes it revolves around my children (a dynamic that took a lot of work, and still does at times, to embrace).  Occasionally, it involves just the two of us, and of course, always she is on the periphery of my life as my co-parent’s love interest.  In time, her impact on me has become more benign, because I’ve come to realize that she is a regular woman, becoming whoever she is choosing and encouraged to be – and in that way, she is not so different from me. Embracing her has not been about “letting her off the hook” but instead about letting myself back into my own heart – a once closed then shattered place that is now much stronger, spacious and whole – not in spite of, but because of, the miraculous odyssey of personal growth and transformation that the end of marriage inspires me to take.

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