I spent a year being “the other woman”. It left me hollowed out, picking up the pieces of a rather bruised and battered heart. It came to an abrupt end when his girlfriend of 10 years found out. Since then it’s been two steps forward, one step back, for me.
He broke me. I felt used. I was a shadow of myself. He made me feel like my feelings didn’t count, that I needed to be quiet and small and not step outside that little box he’d created for me.
I spent an entire year battling with that. Wanting to be chosen. But not really. I didn’t really want a man who was so cold and hurtful and capable of such things. I knew he was going to break my heart and I knew I couldn’t walk away, even though I wanted to.
I decided that I’d stop sleeping with him. I guess as a test. It lasted 2 months, then I slept with him one final time. We were lazy about protection and I ended up taking the morning after pill (probably with no real need, but you know how you can just guarantee life would do that.) and it was the moment I realised I’d stopped taking care of myself at all. That I wasn’t me.
I hated myself.
In a way it is a blessing that she found out. I know in the long run that he is not the guy for me and that I deserve so much better, but on the days when it’s a step backwards? I want him. I can’t tell my friends because they’ve picked up the pieces so many times. I don’t even want to admit it to myself. He infuriates me and the fact that I feel this way infuriates me, too.
I have no idea if they’re still together, I presume yes. I have no idea what happened that night, when she found out. The guessing kills me. The thought that he might have denied it all, that he could have told her I meant nothing, it all hurts beyond belief. And at the same time I always have this nagging thought in the back of my mind, that actually I didn’t want him in the end, so why am I so bothered?
I am plagued by thoughts of “what happens when I find out they’re getting married” or “what if I find out she’s pregnant” and most of all, “how can I move on, it’s wrong to date when you’re still consumed by thoughts of another man, but isn’t that the only way I’ll truly move on?”
How do I let it all go, Laura?
Oh, mama. You’re doing it. You’re already freeing yourself. Already doing the work. Already untangling yourself from this mess that will be your making.
You fucked up. I don’t mean that in a judgmental way. There are some rings-on-fingers in my past, too. That you willingly entered into a sexual relationship with a “taken” man is none of my business. My business is making sure that you come to understand, sweet, beautiful, worthy thing, just how much power you truly have – how you fucked up because you believed you were smaller than you are. That you fucked up when you let somebody else shape your story, the narrative of your own life. You fucked up by suspending the reality of consequences. And yet… wasn’t it always going to happen this way? Wasn’t this a lesson you willingly submitted to? I think so. I think you burned everything to the ground so that you might be reborn.
Do not waste this, then.
This is the part where you get to build your castle, and that kind of beginning must be treated with the reverence it deserves.
What I don’t want for you is this: I don’t want you to wait for an apology from him. I do not want you to let your healing be dependant on him one day revealing to you just how very sorry he is. How he didn’t mean for anyone to get into this shit-fest. That is not coming, and if it does it is worthless because this man burned everything to the ground for his own reasons, too. It was a perfect storm for you both, and it is done. The fact is that you have absolutely zero control over him, and his partner, and they could be absolutely happy or miserable or broken up or married, now. It has nothing to do with you. Zilch. The only thing that is within your worry is how you move forward, now, because it is the only thing you have an atom of control over.
You deserve love. You deserve a healthy, available, committed man who adores you exactly for who and what you are. Is there a part of yourself that does not believe this? A part of you who believes you are too much, not enough, still in progress? Let me tell you: there are more men then you can even comprehend who are lit up by you. Marvel at you. See you as an equal to be cherished and adored, and you are exactly the woman to cherish and adore them in return.
You do not need to be fixed.
You do not need to atone for your “sins” – not anymore.
You need to face the day with the absolute unwavering understanding that you are whole and beautiful and made a mistake that you forgive yourself for. Behave as the woman you want to be known as, now. One day at a time, unsteady step after unsteady step, move forward with the intention of love for yourself. Respect. Commitment. Keep putting one foot forward as many times as you can, and soon enough you will have gone far.
It’s time to put down the matches, sweet one.
Rise from the flames.
Reader Question is a new series of advice columns from Laura Jane Williams. She doesn’t know shit about shit, but if you want to be reassured that everything is going to be okay, use the “Contact Laura Jane” box on her author profile to email her your question.