When you find out your partner is cheating and the other woman doesn't know
A reader asks for advice while their group of friends grapple with what the 'right thing' to do is
“My friend has been dating someone v v seriously in austin for ages- she just found out that in the summer he started cheating on her. We know people who know the other woman. The woman he is cheating on her with does not know he is currently in a relationship and believes him to be single.
Do we keep it to ourselves? Do we let her know? We know she doesn’t currently know. My friend wants to do the feminist thing by letting her know…”
Grappling with doing what’s right
Dear Friend of a Friend,
A few weeks ago I received a phone call that my mother had passed. Though the news was devastating, it was in many ways not unexpected. What was unexpected were the little bits of truth that had begun presenting themselves to me prior to her death. As these pieces of information began to surface, I was jarred out of any ‘story’ I had had about her life and circumstances.
It has been very disruptive.
I had thoughts like how did I miss this; how could I have not seen that this had been going on; what is wrong with me? Was I gaslighting myself? Protecting myself from a reality that if I accepted would completely shatter me?
I found myself deep in rumination, spinning all different directions. Even questioning, maybe it’s not this thing after all. Looking back now, my mom was telling me what I had suspected during our final conversations. Even then, it was difficult to register and integrate this information into my brain and body.
After her death, it was revealed to me that the suspicions I had were not only true, but known by some of our family members.
This, Dear Friend of a Friend, has taken the experience of processing to a depth I was not prepared for. Not that we ever can be, but…
Knowing that I spent years confused and worried, trying to understand what was going on all the while they knew has kept me up more nights than I care to share. Conversations she and I had at the time that didn't make sense are now coming together from third parties.
My emotions and grief are muddied and messier every time I learn something new. It brings up ‘what if’ and ‘how could they’ and a lot of ‘what the fuck’s’?
I felt left in the dark.
And I was left there.
I won’t lie. It actually caused me to pause and think about people in relationships who find out their partner had another ‘life’ the whole time; an affair; secret trips; kids with someone else.
Everything you thought your life was, was not.
That in itself is a mind bender.
Their entire world suddenly shattered. I can’t say my experience comes close to the magnitude of those examples, but I can certainly relate.
Now add to it that others knew the entire time.
I can’t help but think about those days of the pandemic where we were all standing above our tables piecing puzzles together. The time you spend separating and looking for similar color patterns, the flat sides, the corners. The discernment and seriousness you give to taking each piece, twisting and turning it to see if it will fit between the ones that are already locked into place. As the picture comes together, you start to feel the sense of completion on the horizon. It’s satisfying, right? Until you realize none of the pieces you have remaining fit into this one particular spot. How could that be? It doesn’t make sense! You look all over. In the box, on the floor. Surely it’s not missing… that would be absurd. Time passes and you find yourself staring at a puzzle that is 98% finished. You feel frustrated and confused. Then one day someone comes in and says hey… that piece you’re looking for, I’ve had it the entire time. You’re relieved to finally complete this puzzle and see the whole picture, but fuck all if it doesn’t raise a slew of more questions and emotions.
There’s a sense of agency that was lost.
We don’t have control over other people or the circumstances in which life will present us.
We do have control over how we want to show up in those moments. Over who we want to be and how we would like to proceed.
I’ll say this, friend or foe, if you know the truth about any missing pieces in my life, I invite you to shed the light.
I much prefer it over searching in the dark.
As for the ‘feminist’ thing to do I assume you are referring to being an ally to her and supporting her equally as you both are being treated unequally by him. I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t.
Any opportunity we (any gender) has to speak up and dismantle systems that suppress or oppress others, they should.
We live in a society that has allowed women to be treated as second class and men's property for thousands of years. We are buried under gender and relational messaging that condone men having affairs. We actually celebrate men who don’t have affairs as ‘the good guys’. As if it’s not a baseline attribute, but a bonus we should be grateful for. Watching the world cry and complain when the ‘wife guy’ is caught having an affair is a prime example.
Further, our society grooms its girls to compete with one another for men. Sure, in the not so distant past it was a survival requirement, but in modern day, not so much. And yet, here we are being pit against one another.
I offer that you propose a threesome. One where the three of you have a conversation to say,
hey… this thing you’re doing is causing each of us harm. The lying, the sneaking around, the non consensual sharing of bodily fluids.
And ask the question, Why? Why are you feeling the need to lie to us? Who knows, maybe this person doesn't feel loved and is desperate to fill an insatiable tank with as much outward input as possible. Or maybe he’s just an asshole. Nonetheless. Feminism as an energy is rooted in communication, understanding and nurturing. Perhaps with a splash of that, you can help dilute the vintage masculine patriarchal beliefs systems he is operating from.
Lastly, I bet you and your friends just found yourself another woman to add to the group. It would seem you have more in common than not.
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