It isn’t uncommon to hear things like; if it’s legal, where’s the fun or the forbidden fruit is usually sweeter. Though such statements may be okay for a laugh every now and then, actually buying into them can be an entirely different matter.
In my time working as a couple and relationship counselor or therapist in Palo Alto I have worked with all kinds of couples and relational dynamics. Something I have come across on more than one occasion is men and women who are involved with someone who is already committed to someone else.
This could include sleeping with a married person, your best friend’s long time partner, someone due to be wed and so on. I’m going to elaborate on this as well as delve into why such engagements are less than ideal for all involved to say the least.
A Bit About Dirty Little Secrets
I once had a friend, an intelligent and accomplished (as a student can be at university level) who admitted to me on one particular night, that the man she had been seeing was, one of our professors. My first reaction was disgust and anger at this older married man who was clearly taking advantage of my innocent friend.
When their interaction however continued and was still a thing a year down the line, I called her out on it. What she said, both shocked and stayed with me for years to come; I like being his dirty little secret.
The thing about being someone’s dirty little secret is that it is non-gendered. You could be a man dating a married woman or a woman dating a married man, a man dating a married man, a woman dating a married woman and so on. The point is, if your relationship isn’t public, if your name is saved as your own on the person’s phone, if there is lying and hiding involved, and if you need to dodge the person’s REAL family, it’s not okay.
It might be fun and games to you and the married person in question who you’re involved with but in truth, there’s a lot at stake.
Who Gets Hurt?
When it comes to such relationships; those rooted in lying, hiding and sneaking, those you can never openly talk about, the greasy sort that exist in the shadows, and they often end in people getting hurt. You may feel it’s no one’s business or that no one could really get hurt by your actions but you’re wrong. So who does get hurt? Let’s find out.
The Person’s Actual Partner
The person who often takes the brunt of the heartbreak and pain in such engagements is the partner of the individual you are involved with— the one cheating on his or her partner. While the person in question is wiling away time with you, they probably have a husband, wife or original lover waiting for them to return.
If you’ve ever been through the distress of waiting on someone who might be cheating on you night after night or day after day, you would understand how damaging this is. What is worse is the person may have painted a perfectly good partner out to be an ogre just to get into your pants.
Don’t delude yourself, infidelity is massively damaging to the person being cheated on. If someone is cheating on their partner and you’re the object of their infidelity, know you are culpable.
You have a lot of individuals who are married with children but unfortunately, have yet to give up their unstable and unfaithful ways. As someone playing a part in such a dynamic, you need to accept one hard truth. You’re giving someone an out or a way to escape their kids. You’re helping someone abandon their children for temporary pleasures.
If you’re someone who experienced something similar growing up (which may be why it seems normal), show a little empathy. Don’t give an already damaged individual an excuse to abandon children that she or he may be responsible to. Don’t put more children through the discomfort you may have experienced. These are things like waiting for a parent to come home, watching another parent stress and break over the absent one or witnessing ugly fights when the truth comes to light. It’s traumatic to say the least.
Remember that the time, money, energy and space you may be taking up is someone else’s birthright so respect that. Don’t fall for sob stories about how your romantic interest was just not ready for kids or something of the sort. If they’re parents, that’s that and if they want out, cheating on their partners and avoiding their kids through an affair is not the way! Those kids are probably sustaining a lot of emotional damage and you facilitating is no good.
Finally, more often than not, the woman or man whose side interest you may be will probably never really commit to you. I have had experiences professionally and personally with individuals who spent years waiting on hollow promises.
Women who claim to despise their partners but never leave them for whatever reason while expecting the side interest in question to stay committed. You have men who lie that their divorce or separation papers are in process just to keep things going.
The truth is, the very thing that triggered the excitement when such an engagement begins is the very thing that will eventually break you – the fact that a dirty little secret is all you will ever be!
How do I Fix This?
If you’ve read this blog, found parts relatable and are concerned about an engagement you may be a part of don’t stress. Realization is the first step. Doing the work is the next. If you need therapy and support navigating such situations and coming to a point where your interactions are healthier, we’re here to help! Remember, there’s no good and bad, it just take some of us a little time to get where we need to be. Don’t beat yourself up, but do the work that you need to do!