Now, you may think just from the title of this that I am ‘one of those girls’ and this is about to be some completely messed up justification of why I have no regrets on my experience as the other woman. And, in a way, you’re half right- at least the part about having no regrets. Just trust me on this, it’s worth hearing my explanation.
When I say I was the side girl, I need you to know that I am not justifying it, bragging about it, and I am certainly not recommending it. I should also note that it really didn’t start out that way. I was young, damaged, and I was pretty sure I was in love. Whatever that means. More importantly, I was the main girl before I slid into the side-girl role. I was not some random chick who knowingly came in and took someone else’s guy – that’s not my style, and it never will be.
Never in my life would I ever condone cheating. I still don’t. I was a child of a failed marriage because of lack of commitment. And, for that reason, I always promised myself that after seeing my family be torn apart, I would never be a reason that someone else had to go through the kind of pain I witnessed in my home.
Let me take you back and give you a quick background on how this happened. Every time my on-again-off-again college boyfriend and I would break-up, we would continue sleeping together, and most of the time, still act as if we were together. We loved each other, like really loved each other… but, we had two modes: meant for each other and completely toxic together. There was a fine line, and it was crossed more times than it should have been. Probably sounds like something you have been through, right? It’s more common than most care to admit.
Like many other couples, the break-ups felt like the world was coming to an end and the make-ups felt like floating in another universe – yes, it was THAT good. He was that one guy who made me put my morals to the side and accept anything. I didn’t care. And I had the same power over him. It was mutual, but a lot of times not in a healthy way. We pretty much lived together, so we knew each others deepest secrets and flaws; we even started to use those things against each other. With him, I experienced some of my greatest highs in life, but also hit some of my lowest lows. What went on in that relationship is not even relevant to this story so I will steer clear of detailed examples. However, I will say this… the greatest thing that came out of that rollercoaster relationship, was an arsenal of lessons that I take with me for the rest of my life.
Here is what I learned from being the side-girl:
You will never have enough, and you will never feel like you are enough.
The only things that come easy in this situation are denial, excuses, and self-destruction. I can’t even count the number of things I tried to tell myself in order to continue sticking around. I became a professional at rationalizing. “Why am I now the girl on the side? He’s just testing out the waters, getting it out of his system and keeping me around because we need time apart, and he doesn’t want to lose me for good.” I didn’t even realize how hard it was starting to hit my self-esteem, but everyone around me did. “Okay, it’s been months now, what’s going on here?” I knew the real reason things didn’t work every time we got back together was because they were not meant to be – and I am quite sure that he did too. Denial just came so easy for both of us because we had been doing it for so long.
People treat you how you allow them to.
If you don’t stand for anything, you will fall for everything. Jeez… fall could not have been a better word for that statement. Downfall is more like it. If you don’t put yourself as number one, how the f#%k do you expect anyone else to do so? The more you give, the more people will take. That goes for any relationship, but it took this particular experience for me to really understand it. Respect is earned, not given… no matter how many years you put in. There is no such thing as ‘main girl’ privilege. It didn’t matter how long I had been around for, what we had been through (and in this case, it was pretty much everything), or any of that… if I was going to be okay with the circumstances and unspoken rules of my demotion and our situationship, that was my choice. I got what I deserved until I finally couldn’t take anymore.
Much of what happened could have been avoided had we both honored the term “break”…
Too many fights, verbal shots fired, tears cried, jealous rages and way too many manipulative instances to keep each other around… Man, we said a lot of things we didn’t mean and did some things that I’m sure neither of us are proud of. We would go maybe a few hours without speaking before one of us would find some reason, any reason, just to communicate. It was bad. Fueling the fire does just that; it builds a lot of extra resentment that leads to unnecessary arguments. Too many people are afraid to give their relationship breathing space due to fear of prompting the end. We’ve all been there. What if they don’t come back? What if this is a test? If they don’t reach out, they don’t love me. If I don’t reach out, they will think I don’t love them. CHILL OUT. If you’re taking a break, take the space, because it is probably needed. What’s meant to be will always find a way, and what is not meant to be will eventually fade out, for the greater good of your life.
Never make the same mistake more than once. These types of habits are dangerous.
How many times were we going to fall for each other’s empty promises? There comes a point where you need to realize that enough is enough. When you start accepting things, becoming complacent in a situation, adapting to these not-so-normal situations as if they were normal, you have got a serious problem coming. DO NOT LET YOURSELF FORM THESE BAD HABITS OF STAYING IN TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS. It will only get worse. The more time you invest, the harder it is to leave. Do not sacrifice your sanity, mental health and/or your LIFE for a temporary feeling that you are trying to get back or hold on to. After the second time with the same results, it’s your own fault.
Excuses will drain the life out of you.
If you can’t give each other exactly what the other wanted, why are you both making excuses to stick around? My most recent ex and I came close many times to making it work, but there was always that one thing that drove the other crazy. Perhaps it was bad timing or just our young, selfish tendencies… it doesn’t matter what it was. Our relationship just did not work. There were too many times where we both had said, “If you loved me like you say you do, why can’t you…” and a list of similar lines that we would recycle every time we fought. It was a vicious cycle, and we were addicted. Sticking around because “it’s comfortable” is irrational. There is nothing comfortable about going through the same painful experiences over and over again. For us, the excuses to stay got to the point where they were actually unbelievable, and eventually we both stopped believing them.
When it’s over, you need to let it be over.
You both deserve to be happy. Of course, for a while you will both be jealous or curious; a little bit of that may even never go away. But, after what I went through, I will never have issues with another woman over a male, ever again. There is no reason. At one time, we loved each other enough that we would do anything to make the other happy, right? So why would I not want that for you now? I want anyone I cared deeply for to be happy with whoever he is with or ends up with. I want him to have a great life with someone who can make him happy and take care of him. And, I want him to do the same for her. I would hope he wants the same for me. Another person’s misery will not ever bring you happiness. Remember that. I used to always say, “I love you enough to not let you go.” As I got older, I realized that the exact opposite of that is how it really should be. And, then I learned to let go.
I never want to cause anyone the amount of pain that I once felt.
Personally, I get along with most of my ex’s main from before me and even a few that came after me. There will always be that one who just doesn’t want to be a civil adult because they are intimidated by the little they may have heard about your past relationship with their current significant other. WHATEVER! Becoming friendly with the other girl, (whom which my ex had been going back and forth between the two of us), really opened my eyes. I gained a new level respect for her. She was hurting in the same way I was. I never want anyone to feel that. Now, we are both in a much healthier place, and even still keep in contact. I hurt as the main girl, and it was no different as the side girl. Nobody deserves to live an unhappy life because of another person. No games, no pain. For real!
A grudge is the heaviest thing you can hold.
When all was said and done, I think there is an unspoken, mutual respect that maybe nobody else besides the two people in a relationship could really ever understand. No matter how bad things were or appeared to be, there will always be the memories that make you look back and laugh – even if just for a second. The reality of relationships is that long after you have become strangers, you will have both still existed to each other at one time. That person will always be a character in your story with their own place in the history of your life, serving as a vital part of who you are at this very moment and how you came to be just that. Holding grudges or keeping a negative outlook on any life situation in your past will only continue to be a heavy burden that you are forcing yourself to carry. Let it go.
Your greatest loss is your greatest gain.
The fact of the matter is that love is not always enough. It doesn’t matter how much you connect with someone, how much you do, did or would do for them, or how long you have stuck around for – none of that matters. If it’s not good for either of you, why continue to let it get worse? I’ll never forget this one particular day; I was crying so hard that I couldn’t breathe. We just kept going back to each other and each time we would hurt each other more. I went to my grandfather’s house and he sat me down and said, “your greatest loss, is your greatest gain.” At the time, I didn’t understand what that meant. Years later, I see how right he was. Sometimes, the experience that tears us apart the worst is the same one that teaches us how to put ourselves back together and become even more solid than before.
Personal experience is life’s greatest teacher.
It’s true what they say, “the struggles make you stronger, and the changes make you wise.” I learned a lot about myself in those years; what I wanted, what I didn’t want, what I was willing to accept, how to treat people, how not to treat people – the list goes on. I was not perfect, by any means. I made a lot of mistakes in my hopscotch game between being the main girl in a relationship and sliding into the side girl role in the situationship to follow. Though I am not proud of what I was a part of, I am better because of it. During that time, I was forced to face some of my own personal demons and change some of my not-so-amazing ways. The best thing that came out of this was my overall awareness. Today, I am more aware of my worth and because of this experience, I will never allow myself to settle… in any area of my life.
Moral of the story: You are the captain of your ship, you choose who can come along for the ride. If someone or something is weighing you down, you can work together to weather the storm or you can safely let them off at any time… but never let them sink you!