These Women Explain What It’s Really Like to Be the Third Party in an Affair

No marriage is ever affair proof — from the couple next door to our most famous celebrities, everyone is susceptible to temptation. But while affairs certainly aren’t fun for the couple involved, it seems that they’re no picnic for the “other woman,” either.

Some might argue that the third party in an affair isn’t deserving of sympathy. But the truth is, sometimes they aren’t initially aware that their love interests are married — and sometimes things are more complicated than they seem. These stories from real life mistresses might shed some new light on the old love triangle conundrum. We’ll also take a quick look at major warning signs that your partner is cheating.

Why men cheat

couple at sunset

Men and women cheat for different reasons. | iStock.com/gpointstudio

Both men and women are guilty of having affairs, of course — but statistically, married men are more likely to cheat. Men cheat for many reasons, from a lack of emotional appreciation from their wives to just being too attracted to the other party to resist.

But it takes two to tango, and if the man is heterosexual, there’s always another woman involved in an affair. So what exactly is she thinking? As it turns out, it’s complicated.

She gets hurt, too

Sad girl is holding heart symbol

The other woman may fall in love. | iStock.com/andrej_k

It’s not very often that we consider the feelings of the other woman, but sometimes she falls in love, too. What started as a casual tryst in this anonymous story led to the mistress falling in love with someone else’s husband. But when her feelings became deep and it was clear he wasn’t leaving, she broke up with him and tried to heal her broken heart.

 Sometimes he does end up with her …

Casual couple having coffee together

It’s not unheard of for the man to leave his wife for the woman he had the affair with. | iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

When a woman begins an affair with a married man, she often hears that he will never leave his wife or girlfriend for her. But sometimes, he does. Lisa began an office fling with her co-worker, who was in a serious relationship. But after a year, they both realized they were in love and wanted to be together. They are now happily married.

… and sometimes the wife is better off because of it

Woman and man having trouble

Sometimes breaking free really is the answer. | iStock.com

In a heartfelt Washington Post piece, Stacey Freeman describes losing her husband to the woman he was having an affair with — and being happy about it. Finding out about his affair hurt, and it wasn’t easy, but she now sees that their marriage had been broken for a long time and she was better off without him. The other woman got the man, but she still considers herself the winner.

Sometimes she gets a permanent reminder

Woman overwhelmed with kids

A cheater will always be a cheater. | Spwidoff/iStock/Getty Images Plus

When Terri was a young divorcee, she began an affair with a married man … and wound up pregnant with twins. The man did not leave his wife, and she was forced to raise the children on her own. Years later, when the man got a divorce, she allowed him back in her life — but he ended up cheating on her, too.

Terri’s lesson? “What comes around goes around, and a leopard never changes its spots,” she says.

She’s not always younger or better looking

Woman flirting at work

Men don’t always cheat for looks. | Stockbyte/Getty Images

When a woman’s husband has an affair, she often assumes the other woman is a better version of her — but this isn’t always true. In reality, they’re just regular women who happened to fall for someone unavailable. And the men are often drawn to them for reasons other than their looks.

She probably feels guilty

Sad girl crying and a friend comforting her outdoors

The other woman is typically not happy with what she has done. | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

While every woman is different, more often than not, the mistress feels guilty that she’s sleeping with a married man. The vast majority of women do not seek out married men, so she probably never intended to end up with someone so unavailable. Unless the woman is a sociopath, she feels guilty for crossing the line, although the hope for a future together often keeps her going.

Next: These are the six major warning signs of cheating in a relationship.

1. They guard their technology

woman being cheated on by her boyfriend on the phone

Guarding their phone is a sign. | iStock.com

In the world of constant communication and technology, an affair is easier than ever to discover. There’s credit card evidence, computer history, and smartphone usage. If there’s an affair going on, there will be some sort of trail left on their device of choice.

Messages will most likely be deleted upon reading, but you’ll need to pay attention. Did you used to sit on the couch scrolling through Instagram together and now they constantly leave their phone in another room or keep it in their pocket on silent? Small changes to their need for privacy may mean that they’re hiding something from you.

2. They’re emotionally distant

Where did all of the emotions suddenly go? | Tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images Plus

This is one change you’ll notice right away. If suddenly your partner seems distant and removed from you and your relationship, it may mean they’ve shifted their emotional investment to someone else. Relationships take a lot of work to maintain, so it will be difficult for them to be emotionally connected to two people at once and even harder to connect with someone whose trust they’re betraying. Notice if your partner avoids spending alone time with you, says less, and cuts you off from all of your regular warm and fuzzy interactions. 

3. They’re suspicious of you

Couple having a disagreement on the couch

Your partner’s paranoia could be from them cheating. | iStock.com

Do you feel like your once trusting partner is suddenly paranoid? If they’re suddenly pointing the finger at you, getting jealous over things that didn’t used to bother them, and acting suspicious of your behavior, then he or she may be trying to distract you from their own shortcomings. By focusing all their energy on your perceived failings there will be less time for you to focus on what they’re doing.

If you notice a change in your relationship’s level of trust, don’t take on the guilt — it may be a clever way that your partner is shielding himself or herself from getting caught. 

4. They give you the blank stare

Couple talking outdoors in a park with a green background

One blank stare leads to another | AntonioGuillem/Getty Images

When someone is having an affair, he or she will constantly create lies. One or two lies can be easy to manage, but after some time your partner will have difficulty keeping up with their own stories and explanations of why they stayed at work late or had to run to the grocery store early in the morning. When you inquire over small details of their day or week there will be a delay (hence the blank stare) as they try to remember where they said they were going, what time it was, and so on.

5. They have shifting interests and behaviors

Couple having dinner

Is your partner all of a sudden into different hobbies? | iStock.com/Minerva Studio

If your partner’s core behaviors shift dramatically and with no explanation, it may originate from the influence of their new partner. If your partner has always been a meat and potatoes person and suddenly becomes a vegetarian or went from couch potato to early morning run fanatic, you may question what instigated the drastic change. Maybe he or she is different in the sack, pays more attention to their appearance, or has picked up new lingo.

Whatever the case may be, be aware of unexplained changes to interests and behaviors. When your partner starts spending ample time with another person, that person’s qualities will rub off on them.

6. They pick fights

Couple sitting on the floor looking upset.

If your partner is picking fights with you left and right, this is a sign. | Ghetty Images/Antonio Guillem

Have your days of peace and love suddenly turned into turmoil and unusual fighting? Your partner’s cheating may be the reason. They may feel a lot of guilt for betraying you with their unfaithful ways, thus causing them to erupt with emotion out of nowhere. Also, if they frequently bring up ending the relationship after one of their moody outbursts, this is another sign to watch for. They know they have someone else to fall back on, so the idea of leaving you behind may not seem so bad.

Additional reporting by Lauren Weiler.

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