For the past few years, I’ve been seeing someone who is married. I know it’s wrong. He knows it’s wrong. But it happened and now we can’t control it. Once in a while, I get the “I’m going to leave her” comment from him. I know that’s never going to happen and that he’s just saying that to humor me. So here’s my question: what am I thinking? I’m wasting my life away hung up on someone who’s unavailable, yet I can’t seem to break the cycle or escape the feelings I have. I don't want to keep being the other woman. What do I do?—DJ, Fort Worth, Texas
The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
Ever heard the phrase “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” That seems appropriate to bring up right about now. Maybe it’s the thrill of risking getting caught. Maybe it’s the reassurance that someone thinks you’re attractive. And maybe it’s because he’s someone else’s husband. The good news is, you know when he tells you he’s “going to leave her” that the likelihood of that ever happening is slim to none. The bad news is, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place since you’ve obviously fallen for him. He’s probably scared to jump off a cliff with you and risk his security at home both financially and personally.
He’s the one making out like a bandit here. Unless he gets caught—in which case he already has you as a backup plan—he’s home free. I’ll bet you didn’t grow up thinking you were going to settle for being someone’s piece of ass on the side when you envisioned your white picket-fenced life. Whether he made the first pass or you did is irrelevant. Find some self respect and end it. Besides, if you get caught, he’ll either go to his wife full-time, leaving you out in the cold, or finally come running to you. What a prize that would be! He cheated on his wife with you. Why wouldn’t he cheat on you with someone else? Nothing like a little self-doubt to make you feel comfortable in a “stable” relationship. Move on, sister.
The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
Did you just feel a hot gust of wind, DJ? Don’t be afraid, that was just my heavy, sad sigh that was so intense you felt it all the way down there in Ft. Worth. WHY DO YOU WANT A MARRIED MAN?? He’s unavailable. And he’s a cheater! He’s nothing but a lifetime of unkept promises and heartache and oh, did I mention he’s a CHEATING PIECE OF CRAP. Tell me again why you want that when you could have a man’s full attention, love, and heart?
But he’s stuck in your brain, so you need some help getting him out. I’ve got a little exercise I call the pie-chart test. It involves taking stock of the thoughts occupying your brain. Every few hours, write down the general categories of your thoughts—significant other, the return of Project Runway, what you’ll have for dinner, you get the idea. At the end of the day, assign a random percentage to the time devoted to each category of thoughts. Then, give yourself a visual of what goes through your head all day and whip up a good, old-fashioned pie chart. I’m gonna take a wild guess that your pie chart looks something like this: “Cheating Piece of Crap I think I love”: 99 percent, “Other”: 1 percent. Shocking isn’t it? Do you see where I’m going with this, DJ? You’ve got to re-org the pie chart, honey! Your future sanity and happiness depend on it.
Here’s what you need to remember: thoughts determine action. Post it in your bathroom, on your rearview mirror, hell, write it backwards on your forehead if you need to. You are the mistress of your destiny, not Mr. Cheating Piece of Crap. I hate to get all Jack Handy/Stuart Smalley on you, but you really are good enough, smart enough, and people—unmarried people, at that—will like you. So do things that make you happy—and number one on that list is dumping Mr. Crap. But also have dinner with friends. Read. Paint. Learn Italian. Go for a run. It’s less about being busy and more about bringing the focus back to you to increase your confidence, make you happier, and help you remember why you’re worthy of someone available.
The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
Breaking habits and patterns in our lives is one of the absolute hardest things to do. If we could, anyone who compulsively drank, smoked, used illegal drugs, or expressed addictive behaviors would just “poof” and STOP. Take some comfort in the fact that you are not alone in trying to break a cycle. So, what works? Here are some options:
You certainly could join a co-dependant anonymous group to get some support from others, or talk to a counselor one-on-one. That’s a valid option to check out, but for me, I need to delve into my psyche and really look at how and why I keep repeating a self-destructive pattern. Of course, the feelings you have for this married man are real, but my guess is that you have fallen for unavailable men before. Why is that? How many times has it happened before? What happens when a guy who is actually available shows interest in you? The most important question I ask myself when I feel stuck in a cycle is what is that behavior giving me? In your case, how does this man make you feel? Once you can identify that, ask yourself what other ways are there for you to find this feeling within yourself? Right now, you think he is giving you something that you can’t get/feel anywhere else. I promise you, my dear, that you can feel happy and complete without this guy. In fact, you can feel even happier. Start by believing that you have options and then act on them.
The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
Hi, my name is Chris and I’ll be your advice server for the evening. Our specials this evening include a generous portion of getting over a dead-end relationship, sautéed on a bed of self-reflection, and garnished with a healthy dose of optimism. All served with a daring food metaphor we hope you’ll find suitable to your palate. If a restaurant runs out of a certain menu item, they “86” it. It’s no longer available to the customers. You have been making yourself available as a side dish to this married customer for the past few years but from now on, you are 86’d from his selections. His plate is full already and that pig doesn’t need any more “food.” Case, and menu, closed.
You haven’t really been making yourself available to anyone else because you’ve been too busy offering your goods to the gluttonous, married one. And I’m betting the reason you haven’t found anyone else is because no one wants a side dish as a main course. In other words, you’ve short-changed yourself and any potential mates because you have had this half-baked, inappropriate relationship. I’ve got a recipe for you on how to move on. For starters, allow your expectations to rise, like yeast, on the qualifications of your mate. You’re to be someone’s main entrée and they yours. You’re not a snack. Stop presenting yourself as such. Next, prepare yourself with care. Combine all the reasons you were so susceptible to someone who kept you riding along à la carte, let them marinate, and then burn them to a crisp. And remember to use only the fresh ingredients of a renewed sense of confidence and a positive outlook.
DJ, your order is up. Set the table for finding a great mate. You reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.