The (Accidentally On-Purpose) Other Woman

Salome Valentine:

In the wake of thatgirl’s reading my post here entitled “In Praise Of Older Men,” she and I got into a lengthy discussion regarding the dynamic of our mutual attraction to men significantly older than ourselves.  Our conversation soon came around to the topic of having affairs or relationships with involved or married men.  We decided to co-author this somewhat revealing first-person piece based on each of our own experiences.

While I have always said to myself that I would never get involved with a married man (and I never have), my now long-term boyfriend was involved with another woman when we met.  He and I both managed to assiduously avoid our undeniable attraction for each other for four months.  But it was certainly a “resistance is futile” situation of tremendous mutual lust for both of us, and his relationship with his girlfriend ended very soon after he and I got together. (I was single when he and I met.)

I have heard it said many times that it’s “not as bad” to have a sexual liaison with a man who is merely involved and not married, because marriage is a deliberate, lifetime commitment, and there are often also children caught in the emotional crossfire.  I understand this rationale, but honestly, I think there’s a fundamental breach of personal integrity involved regardless. Granted, it’s of a comparatively different degree, but I felt guilty for what I had done nonetheless.  Many years later, it’s now a moot point.

I’ll never forget meeting my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend for the first time, soon after they separated.  He had gone by to pick up a few things he’d left at her place, and I’d gone along for the ride, as we had plans together later on in that general direction.  Naively, I had assumed that if I stayed in the car, there would be no drama.  As my boyfriend exited the car and walked towards her house,  I saw his ex leaving her house, walking as if to meet him halfway.  As she handed him the last of the toiletries he’d left at her place, she took a long hard look at me sitting in the car and admonished him, “How could you?  She’s young enough to be your daughter.”  (It sounds like something out of a Lifetime movie script, but it really happened.  I felt about two feet tall at the time.)

As someone who has been cheated on before, I can say that I should have known better than to pursue someone who was involved with someone else. Certainly, I would make better choices now than I did when I was in my twenties.  But, I have no lasting regret, because my relationship has been very enduring, enjoyable and worthwhile.  Both my boyfriend and I have lived and learned from our past mistakes.  What I wonder is why we – people in general, not just women – are so drawn to others who are seemingly unattainable.  I’m sure there are mental health professionals all over the world who are still pondering that moral, ethical and highly individual enigma.


I don’t think most people set out to form liaisons with unattainable/ unavailable people—at least not consciously. There’s more than one kind of unavailable, as well. The married or otherwise committed sort of unavailable is fairly easy to spot. They’re the guys who list “discreet” as their status via online dating sites; they’re the ones you meet over cocktails, and describe their marriages as “unhappy”, or they’ll insist that the divorce is all done but for the signatures on papers.

The other kind of unavailable was touched upon by MissLinda last week in her “IRL” dating post: people who are either emotionally incapable of an adult relationship, or those who, unknowingly, give off the “Not interested” vibe. This story is about the former kind.

A late spring in Rome saw me fall for a man 30 years my senior. Giovanni was world-wise and patient—a hand holder and door opener, which was so unlike the guys I was used to meeting in my early 20s. He had time for four-hour dinner dates, second bottles of wine, and bedtime phone calls from wherever he was traveling, in whatever time zone. It was an immediately enveloping and fiery liaison. Flowers and air tickets would appear at my building, and I’d drop everything, including my work to meet him, anywhere.

Months of excitement gave way to exhaustion, and the reality that I couldn’t keep up a developing career, and a love affair of international intrigue. I longed for a consistent sleep, more than a week or so in the same time zone, and time with friends. With Giovanni’s assurance that his business required the globetrotting, I ended it. Not one to take “no” for an answer, his invitations continued, unabated, until my overflowing voicemail box told him not to expect a response.

A business meeting months later brought us back together, if only for one more torturous afternoon of him begging me to come back. He almost tempted me, but I was resolute that I’d have my life on my terms. A flight awaited that would take me to a trade show, where a new love interest said he’d meet me over the weekend. I was walking down the jetway when an unfamiliar number came up on my phone. I answered it, only to meet my ex-lover’s wife. Who knew he had one stashed far away, on the North Shore of Chicago?

She scolded me for getting involved with someone so much older, telling me that I had my whole life in front of me. And besides, she added, he was a notorious philanderer, and would only wind up cheating on me. “Perhaps he is,” I replied, “but he’s your problem now!” and I promptly hung up. Giovanni spent the next 48 hours filling my voicemail box, begging me to return…and to never again talk to his wife.

This was a bit before we started Googleing people or otherwise checking the background of potential paramours. Considering all the time I’d spent with him, Giovanni’s intact marriage did come as a surprise. I did feel for his wife, who’d clearly been down this road with him prior. I chalked it up to my youth, and being drunk on the adventure, but I made it a point to avoid obligated men going forward—to the degree that anyone could.

Now I’m trying to help a girlfriend wean herself off the allure of her married lover. Part of me feels that her self-esteem prevents her from seeking something that’s better for everyone in the equation. Unfortunately, lover-man is happy to hang on, as long as she’s willing. She’s smart, funny, and over 40.  I’m refraining from comparing her to Carrie Bradshaw… but perhaps that’s her story to tell.











“The Other Woman” – Ray Parker, Jr.

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