How I Became the Other Woman

If television and movies have taught us anything about relationships, it's that commitments aren't as binding as some might believe. Spend two minutes watching The Good Wife, The Americans, Scandal, Mad Men, or Game of Thrones and you'll have your pick of extramarital indiscretions. In real life, one in five heterosexual Americans has cheated on their significant other. But it takes two to tango -- and if a straight guy is getting some side action, then there's got to be a woman who's willing to be his alternate dance partner.

People have all different reasons for entering into an affair -- but rarely do these reasons make things less complicated. Here's proof, from the mouths of the women themselves.

He was a known cheater already

"He told me that two years prior, he got a woman (not his wife) pregnant. The woman blackmailed him into telling his wife. He told his wife on fucking MOTHER'S DAY! So my thought at that time was if she put up with that and stayed, she's stupid and has to know he's going to fuck around again. I don't feel that way now… I don't think that's a justifiable reason to sleep with a married man." -- Tiffany*

His wife didn't want to know

"It was a few years ago. I was performing a lot and got asked to be in this show that was coming from Europe. There was a husband-and-wife team in it but the wife had a conflict and couldn't come. I had a similar look and, it turned out, nearly the exact same measurements. It was practically prewritten that the husband and I would hit it off. Our director had even suggested that we hang out because he didn't know anyone in New York City. We just clicked… His wife told him whatever happens in NY stays in NY so he essentially had permission to be with me… He said the wife made the rule because she knew him so well. I do wonder if he would have had an affair with someone else if I wasn't there." -- Alice*

They claimed it was an open relationship

"Technically she was OK with it, but it was complicated. Still some jealousy and trust issues involved and I couldn't tell from where I was standing if she was actually OK with being in an open relationship or she was doing it to make her partner happy... I didn't really have to remind myself that it was OK, but when he started lying [to his girlfriend] despite being in an open relationship was when I figured this probably wasn't a healthy relationship to get involved with. I generally like open relationships but I think it also depends on the person I'm dating. I don't know if i'd be the other woman again, it was much more complicated than I expected. I probably wouldn't jump into it so quickly again and may need to know both of the partners, not just one." -- Rachel*

They were separated

"I'm still dating him. I fell in love with him. He told me he was separated, but living in the same house with her. North Carolina has a law that couples have to be separated for a certain amount of time before they're allowed to divorce. It's a very weird situation, but I trust him... I know that I don't have a guaranteed future with him, but for now, he makes me happy. I also like to remind myself that we love each other." -- Bethany*

"He was separated from his wife by miles, coast to coast -- and also, as he explained, physically. As in, they were not sleeping together and supposedly had not been for years. He loved her as the mother of his children but was no longer physically attracted. They were married as college kids and were raising a family of high school and college-aged kids at the time, he would see them monthly and on holidays and would check in from there with me. He was a businessman in a high-pressure banking position, I had not been dating anyone at that point, and we were attracted on a lot of levels. We were both looking for companionship and he was interested in what I was doing to the point of supporting my creative life as an angel and business mentor.

"I felt respected. We were sort of on our own planet, I had a key to his apartment and would house sit while he was away for holidays. In the end it was sort of ideal for the time and the place... In retrospect it was a good experience, I learned from it and don't regret it at all." -- Jayne M.

He and his girlfriend were more like roommates than partners

"... He [lived] with a girlfriend (and two other flatmates), but it was a 'complicated' situation. She studied at another university, she was in the UK on a temporary visa, and their relationship was really just a friendship but they were making it look like more so that she could eventually gain permanent resident status through him. He also said that their relationship wasn't sexual (and although that is SUCH a cliche in this kind of situation, it was one of the few things that actually was true -- she and he were both open with their friends about that).

"I told myself that his relationship with her was just for convenience. I told myself that he would eventually finish things with her so that he and I could be together all the time. I told myself that if she wasn't sexually available to him then no wonder he was looking elsewhere. I told myself that if she wasn't so controlling, that if she was a nicer person, that if she didn't spend so much time away on work trips, perhaps he wouldn't have been unfaithful to her." -- Rianna*

He said his fiancée wasn't into sex

"I had a friend who was getting married and he told me that it turned out his fiancée, who he loved and did want to marry, was a completely non-sexual person. He felt like he would be giving up a big part of himself after the wedding. So I slept with him. I felt like it was morally OK -- almost like a wedding present. Then we ended up getting together a few more times after they got married, which was more morally ambiguous, but I justified it to myself because he still wasn't sleeping with his wife more than once or twice a year.” -- Taylor*

I'll take what I can get

"It was very sexual for him which was really welcome to me as I was coming out of a relationship with a person who did not care to have sex or be intimate at all -- for years. So there was no emotionality whatsoever and that was fulfilling. Not at first, but eventually. Eventually I just liked being thought of as sexy and pretty and a temptation… [His girlfriend] was very kind. A nice, sweet person, but I compared my traumas to her seemingly 'perfect' life. Very silly and naive but that definitely happened… It felt like we had both taken different routes to get to the same man, only mine was more difficult, I seemed to have thought. I had a pervasive sense of entitlement… I think I thought I couldn't get a guy like him without it being sleazy and wrong. That this is what I was both worthy and capable of, but ironically he wasn't such a catch if he was a cheater. I was living both those thoughts." -- Natalie*

*Names have been changed

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Sonia Weiser is a freelance writer with a Google-searchable portfolio and little interest in falling in love... we can totally be friends, though. Follow her @weischoice.