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Here is Melanie's story:
Justin* and I match on a dating app and start chatting. I soon progress to Facebook to check him out. Worth a try, I think to myself. Quickly, I find him.
Embracing a pretty blonde girl on his profile pic, I scroll down to view his relationship status: In a relationship.
Hmmm…but he's on Tinder?
I meet Trenton* in a bar. We flirt for a while at the bar counter, exchange numbers, and then he rushes off to join his friends.
We meet for a drink after work the next week. He mentions 'we' more than twice while talking about his travels and life in general. Who is the other half of this 'we,' I wonder.
A woman pops up on his feed every so often. Friend? Maybe. After a year of this, he sends me a message:
"Don't you have a girlfriend?" I ask.
"What does that have to do with pizza?" he responds.
I go way down his feed and see his wedding photo. Interesting.
All these cases and it didn't stop me or halt my interest in them. Is there something wrong with me? Inevitably, a rational person would detach immediately when they learn someone's attached.
I casually dated the first two guys during different times of the same year. I was the other woman. All three guys pursued me relentlessly, all the while thinking I didn't know about their partners. But I did. And I liked the idea that they wanted me over their partners.
A study published in PLOS One called Same-sex Gaze Attraction Influences Mate-choice Copying in Humans found that women considered coupled men more attractive as in the study they spent significantly more time looking at pictures of potential suitors when they were depicted as attached.
And, similarly, Fatherly, says that it is about being pre-approved. He's married, someone deemed him 'marriable'. Therefore he becomes more attractive.
So essentially, it's about trusting another woman's endorsement. A woman you don't (presumably) know from an atom.
But Cape Town-based Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Samuel Waumsley says that it might have more to do with self-esteem. He says, "Affairs usually don't end well. If we find ourselves seeing someone who is seeing someone else, we may ask ourselves why we would want to see someone but not 'have' them completely, not be their only love, and be part of something dishonest ultimately.
"Surely, we deserve more than that? When dealing with and addressing difficult and complicated psychological patterns and behaviours that we find ourselves repeating, we always must ask why; how has this developed, and why do I do it?"
Throughout these 'mini-affairs' I repeatedly asked myself why I was okay with this arrangement. Maybe I didn't want to fully show or give myself to someone. If I give half, I can just get half hurt.
Dr. Waumsley adds, "Perhaps in some cases this is because we didn't receive unfettered and enough love growing up: so that type of relationship is what we're used to. Some people prefer complicated multiple relationships, and that's fine, if everyone involved knows (like in polyamorous relationships), and there isn't obfuscation and dishonesty, really. But if we're unhappy though or frustrated as somebody's 'no. 2' then I think my message is we do have a right to complain or leave."
For me, being second best was safer. But surely, I deserve better than just a half-hearted attempt at a relationship?
Have you ever been the 'other woman'? Have you engaged in an activity that you knew was not in line with your values or self-worth? Tell us about it here.
*Identity withheld to protect Melanie's privacy and that of the men concerned.Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our stories and giveaways