The Other Woman

The longer you’re single, and the older you get, the more you learn just how often the appearance of a devoted and happy relationship can be just that, an appearance.

Something I’ve increasingly noticed is that when you’re the single one, women don’t like you talking to their husbands, presumably because they’re convinced you’re after him.
Spend any amount of time talking to a man at a party or social occasion and you can do a mental countdown for the time it will take for the wife or girlfriend to appear at their side.
This appearance virtually always plays out in one way – she will always stand next to him, and more often than not link arms or touch his hair, she will smile and outwardly look delighted to see you but there will always be a slight air of something else (panic? a warning?), the three of you will engage in polite conversation for a minute or two and then either she will find a reason for them to move on, or, dying in the awkwardness of it all, you make your excuses and slink off as though you had been caught doing something wrong.

marital infidelity concept. Love triangle passion hate

It doesn’t seem to make any difference whether these are people you already know or if they are new acquaintances.
Even when they are a couple that you think of as having it really together, you still get that look from the woman that essentially makes it clear they think you’re after their man.
None of them ever stop to consider that just because you’re single, it doesn’t mean you’d sleep (or even flirt) with a married man. Why, is that there so often that assumption that our standards or sense of self-worth is so low that we’d stoop to that kind of behaviour?
Of course, I know there are single girls who probably would, but there are plenty of married women going where they shouldn’t too.
I can be persuaded to put up with ‘the look’ from women who don’t know me, although frankly it still pisses me off, but from those who do? That’s just really poor.

What the poor loves don’t realise – or don’t want to – is that more often than not, it’s not the single girl they should be concerned about, it’s their husband.
Depressingly often, these family men are incapable of holding a conversation without their eyes doing a quick sweep up and down every now and then. I’d say I dress reasonably conservatively, and yet often their eyeline seems to be several inches below my face…
Or there are the other men, the ones who greet you with a polite hug, but leave their hand on your waist that bit too long, or the ones you catch having a discreet ‘look’ when you’re chatting in a group or who you notice watching you on the dancefloor.

I went to a wedding a few weeks back with a group of friends which includes a couple who’ve been married about a year. It was the evening and the dancing had got a bit silly and we were all laughing and enjoying ourselves, it was great.
And then there was that tiny moment where you catch the husband checking you out and he doesn’t stop even though he knows you’ve seen him, and then you notice that the wife has spotted it too and she shoots you a look as though it’s your fault.
None of you say anything and the whole thing is over in less than ten seconds but you know that the only acceptable thing for you to now do is make an excuse to leave the dancefloor.
And then you see them again a couple of weeks later and everything between them is great – it always is, they are a great couple – and yet she’s just a tiny bit cold with you.

But much worse than the ones whose eyes linger longer than they should, is the fact that I’ve really noticed an increase in the number of married or attached men who try it on, looking for some no-strings fun.
There’s a few who are worthy of posts (case studies?) of their own, but it never fails to shock me how willing men are to cheat, and that they assume that will be ok with you, because you’re single.
In the last year, there has been two married men (one my age with a young son, and one in his fifties), one engaged guy (several years younger, called me cougar….) and one single-dad with a girlfriend who have approached me looking for some extra-curricular activity.
Add to that the fact that my last boyfriend cheated on me more than once (shame on me for giving him the chance) and that a couple of years ago I had a five-month relationship with a guy who turned out to have secret girlfriend of seven years, whilst another guy was recently trying it on until I discovered he had a girlfriend, and there’s some pretty damning evidence for the behaviour of some men.

I don’t feel I should have to offer this explanation, but there could well be someone reading this who thinks maybe I’m the kind who seems like I’d be ‘up for it’.
Well, I think I’m actually pretty boring! I don’t go out drinking and pulling men, I’ve never had a one-night stand and have never knowingly been involved with someone who is attached.
If I had a reputation for those things, then who knows how many more would try it on?

I’m not interested in other women’s husbands or boyfriends.
Don’t laugh, but I also have a sort of personal belief in the ‘sisterhood’ – a belief that as women we should be looking out for each other, not making life harder.
Men treat us badly enough, surely as women the least we can do is treat each other with kindness and not do things that we know would cause upset or harm?

So why, just because I am single, do I sometimes feel like enemy number one in other women’s eyes?

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