It’s been seven years since the married man I was emotionally involved with dumped me.
I’ve spent those years unpacking the trash and taking out the garbage.
It’s no secret that The Other Woman is often drawn in when an outwardly successful married man starts complaining about his marriage in public. It sure is what got my attention.
But why is that, really? Why does that draw so many of us like flies to jam? The answer must have some pretty deep roots since it’s taken me seven years to finally dig it up.
The Other Woman Might Just Want To Fix Him
The fact is, comforting my mother when she complained (and trust me, all she did was complain!) is the only way I felt valued as a child.
That, and making good grades. And saying I was going to achieve in a career that my family valued, that would make them proud.
I never drew this connection before, but the instant someone started complaining to me, I was trusted. I was special.
And that’s effed up.
An impulse left over from childhood
Children are supposed to feel special because their mother holds them and rocks them and loves them exactly as they are.
Children are supposed to feel special when their parent notices what they like and what they want to do and encourages them in that.
Instead, I felt special when my mother cried and complained about how someone treated her, and since she was borderline, this went on all day long.
I felt special when I fantasized about how I could fix it all for her.
I felt special when I envisioned myself as a child superhero, always an overachiever who ran around saving people.
But, I couldn’t save my mother. She turned out to be a borderline who refused to work in therapy. She’s out there complaining all day long to this day … except now, I’m the one she complains about.
After one very happy marriage that ended in brain cancer and untimely widowhood, here comes The Guy Who Complains About His Marriage. Who looks a lot more together than my mother ever did.
Hey! Maybe I can save him!
That child superhero’s cape sure looked good coming out of storage.
I so wanted everything I went through in childhood to be for a reason. I so wanted to be able to orchestrate healing for someone else I loved that I couldn’t for my mother.
All my life I had this unhealthy superhero fantasy of myself, overachievin’ and savin’ other people! that I’ve been trying to embody.
Someday, there would be this big apotheosis and I Would Get There.
When you’re programmed like this in childhood, and somebody comes along that checks all those boxes, it doesn’t matter if he’s married … you’re a goner.
It doesn’t matter that it’s an unhealthy childhood paradigm. When you’re still living in the paradigm, it looks like it’s reality. So you keep trying to “win” inside that vision of reality.
You can’t see it’s a paradigm.
But now I see it’s a paradigm, and it’s one that’s impossible to fulfill. We can’t save other people, because we cannot do their emotional work for them.
This stuff is buried so deeply within, contaminating our entire worldview for so long, it takes some of us almost all our lives to see it.
So, for those of us whose childhoods resulted in us fraternizing inappropriately with your husbands, I apologize for us all.
Sometimes “love” really is blind.
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P. D. Reader writes about astrology, infidelity, and relationships in Unfaithful: Perspectives on the Third-Party Relationship on Medium. Her book, Struggling In or With an Affair? A Guidebook was published in April.