A friend recently confessed an interesting secret: she’s dating a man with a girlfriend. In other words, she’s the “other woman,” relegated to late-night secret rendezvous back at her apartment while the girlfriend plays front and centre and helps the jerk entertain at joint parties. It’s not an enviable position, of course, and I think my friend is as surprised as I am that she has found herself here. And so after expressing my opinion – “I love you and you deserve better than this and this is a really shitty thing to do to another woman and he’s not going to leave her and even if he did any guy who would cheat on her would cheat on you and it’ll only end in tears and yada yada yada.” But then, after letting that out and taking a deep breath, I made a promise to myself that I would just keep my mouth shut and be there for her whenever she needed someone to listen.
Keeping my mouth shut isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I’m not exactly a loudmouth, but I’m definitely not shy about my opinion. During my 20s, I came very close to alienating a few female friends who were in terrible relationships because I just couldn’t bite my tongue when they brought up their boyfriends. One was a politically conservative nut job, who once broke up with my friend on her birthday and routinely obliterated her self-esteem by critiquing her body while they were having sex. Another one loved to cruelly humiliate my friend in public, once asking a group of their mutual friends at a party to weigh in on whether my charming, wonderful, gorgeous friend should be on a diet. And another was so absurdly jealous that she stopped seeing most friends and even routinely canceled plans with family.
It’s not uncommon for many women to go through at least one awful relationship before they see the light. And I couldn’t shake myself of the idea that it was my responsibility to help my friends see it. I developed a habit of pleading with those ladies mentioned above every time I saw them, outlining all of their boyfriend’s crazy, disrespectful behaviour and trying to convince them that they deserve far better. But with each other them, over time, they didn’t move further away from their boyfriends, they just moved further away from me. I slowly started to realize that it wasn’t my responsibility to fix the things that were going wrong in my friends’ lives, but rather to be honest with them and then support them without judging them – hard as that can be.
The postscript to the opening story is that my friend eventually figured out that the dude she was secretly schtupping is a loser, and she soon moved onto a single, seemingly sweet guy. She figured out on her own that the two-timer wasn’t worth her time. And I’m happy to report that, as soon as she figured it out, I was one of the first people she called. And then I didn’t need to hold my tongue when I told her how happy I was to hear it.