The mistress role in the affair triangle is often either vilified as an unfeeling predator or overly sexualized as an irresistible temptress, but for the many women out there who have been the mistress, it is a complex, personal, and often difficult position.
The messages we get about love focus so much on how to get the guy that we often ignore the choices we make once he is interested. That fresh rush of love and lust makes it hard to think clearly, but if you find yourself in "the other woman" position, it is important for you to ask yourself some questions and to consider carefully how to best take care of yourself.
1. What do you want in a relationship? Love is one thing: It can exist independently from external realities. What we don't often hear in stories of romance is that those external realities are still very important for a happy, fulfilled life. Love that asks you to sacrifice a whole list of other things that are important to you may not be worth the cost.
So ask yourself: What are you looking for in a relationship? Do you want a life partner? Do you want someone to go to family holidays with you and be available to celebrate your raise at work? Do you want someone to be with you at the hospital if your parent gets sick? If those are things you want, know that your affair partner may not ever be available for them. It is tempting to believe that he will leave his wife to create that life with you. Just be aware that the stats are very much against you; only 3 percent of men end up marrying their mistress, as Jan Halter writes in her 1988 book Quiet Desperation: The Truth About Successful Men.
2. What is the affair status bringing you? There are lots of elements that are exciting in an affair. Love and lust can thrive in risky, dramatic situations. Maybe you feel special because he is breaking his vows for you; maybe you even feel powerful. Or maybe for you the affair is a way to keep things uncomplicated for your emotions — to maintain distance and a life of your own. After all, there are benefits to not having to meet family or spend every weekend together.
Ask yourself what feels good about this scenario and know what the role of the mistress offers you. Then ask yourself if there is a way you can get that for yourself in a relationship that might be more in line with your integrity.
3. Are you prepared to be seen as the bad guy? Each relationship has its own complexities, and it is difficult to really understand the dynamics from the outside. However, as the mistress, it's important to prepare yourself for negative responses and blaming. Are you prepared to take responsibility for this choice and the consequences that may come from it? Ask yourself how you would feel if important people in your life found out about this affair. That may also help you to see your own values and whether you are compromising yourself. What else are you risking?
Also know that if the affair is found out or your partner chooses to end it, you may be cut off emotionally in an abrupt and harsh way. You deserve to be treated respectfully, but you will have little say or right to negotiate how the affair ends if your partner is trying to repair things with his wife.
4. Are you getting support? You need someone to talk to confidentially so that you can process what you're feeling. It's helpful if this is someone who won't take sides and can help you see the big picture. Even though it may be painful, remember that there are at least three people involved (more if there is family), and each deserves consideration. The wife is not your enemy, and seeing things in black and white won't serve you. And if you choose to walk away or the relationship ends with your partner calling it off, you need time to grieve. Get support from someone who understands that saying goodbye to a lover is hard, no matter what the relationship looked like or how it developed.
Melissa Fritchle is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist & Sex Therapist with a holistic private practice in Capitola, California. She is also an award-winning international sex educator offering workshops and trainings around the world. Follow her blog, Conscious Sexual Self at http://www.mf-therapy.com/blog
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Eddie Cibrian and LeAnn Rimes
Eddie Cibrian and LeAnn Rimes' affair reportedly began in 2009 after they met on the set of the <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/InTheSpotlight/leann-rimes-affair-actor-eddie-cibrian/story?id=12032482">Lifetime movie "Northern Lights." </a>At the time, Cibrian was married to<a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/InTheSpotlight/leann-rimes-affair-actor-eddie-cibrian/story?id=12032482"> reality star Brandi Glanville</a> and Rimes was married to <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/InTheSpotlight/leann-rimes-affair-actor-eddie-cibrian/story?id=12032482">dancer-turned-food blogger, Dean Sheremet.</a> After <a href="http://www.aceshowbiz.com/news/view/00035772.html">divorcing their respective spouses</a>, the actor and the country singer <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20485029,00.html">tied the knot</a> in April 2011.
Ethan Hawke and <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505270_162-57444573/ethan-hawke-life-is-good/">wife of six years,</a> Uma Thurman, <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1212898,00.html">divorced in 2004</a> amid rumors of his <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/feb/08/ethan-hawke-interview">affair with the couple's nanny, </a>Ryan Shawhughes. The "Gattaca" actor, however, claims that his relationship with Shawhughes did not begin until <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1034692/Yes-married-Ethan-Hawke-admits-tied-knot-childrens-nanny.html">after he and Thurman had split.</a> In June 2008, Hawke and an <a href="http://www.eonline.com/news/57349/ethan-hawke-impregnates-former-nanny">already pregnant</a> Shawhughes <a href="http://www.eonline.com/news/2856/ethan-hawke-a-twice-married-man">got married. </a>
While crooner Eddie Fisher was married to <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2010/09/24/scandalous-love-triangle-time/">America's sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds,</a> he <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1268158/Debbie-Reynolds-losing-husband-Eddie-Fisher-Elizabeth-Taylor.html">began an affair</a> with Elizabeth Taylor. The pair got together after <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20046190-10391698.html">bonding over the mutual loss of Mike Todd</a> -- Fisher's dear friend and Taylor's late husband. <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20017578-10391698.html">Fisher divorced Reynolds </a>and eventually <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20046190-10391698.html">tied the knot</a> with Taylor in 1959. The pair <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20046190-10391698.html">split up five years later </a>when the actress left him for Richard Burton.
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20046841-10391698.html">began their affair on the set of "Cleopatra"</a> while both actors were <a href="http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/books/furious_love_the_love_letters_taylor_3RREnDd0ABuOMWMFVNDcGO">married to other people</a>. They <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20046841-10391698.html">divorced their respective spouses</a> -- Eddie Fisher and Sybil Burton -- so they could be together. The couple <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20046841-10391698.html">tied the knot</a> in 1964, but <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/marriages-liz-taylor/story?id=13202596">divorced ten years later</a> in 1974. They <a href="http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-body/pictures/elizabeth-taylors-many-marriages-2011233/13636">gave marriage another go</a> in 1975, but <a href="http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-body/pictures/elizabeth-taylors-many-marriages-2011233/13636">split again</a> less than a year later in 1976.
Frank Sinatra <a href="http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20102763,00.html">began getting close</a> with Ava Gardner in 1948, after <a href="http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20102763,00.html">meeting the screen siren</a> on the MGM studio lot. The crooner, however, was <a href="http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20102763,00.html">married and had three children</a> with his wife, Nancy, at the time. The Rat Pack member eventually <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/frank-sinatra-love-marriages-article-1.329594">divorced his wife in 1951</a> and went on to marry Gardner <a href="http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20102763,00.html">just three days later. </a> But their <a href="http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20102763,00.html">passionate union</a> didn't last. Gardner <a href="http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20261652,00.html">filed for divorce</a> in 1954.
Woody Allen was <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/pbs-woody-allen-documentary-spotlights-263275">twice divorced</a> when he began his <a href="http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/99100/Allen-urges-court-to-ban-Farrow">12-year relationship with Mia Farrow</a> in 1980. After more than a decade together, Farrow discovered that Allen was being unfaithful when she <a href="http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/9712/24/woody.weds/">found naked pictures of Soon-Yi Previn</a> -- her adopted daughter <a href="http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19920818&slug=1508089">from a previous marriage</a> -- in Allen's apartment. In 1997, Allen <a href="http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/9712/24/woody.weds/">tied the knot</a> with Previn -- who is <a href="http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/9712/24/woody.weds/">35 years his junior.</a>
Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott
Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott were both <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1117511,00.html">married to other people</a> -- she to Charlie Shanian and he to Mary Jo Eustace -- when they met on the set of the <a href="http://www.today.com/id/19254737/site/todayshow/ns/today-entertainment/t/mary-jo-was-tori-deans-other-woman/#.UPneh6HIN4U">Lifetime movie "Mind Over Murder"</a> in 2005. According to People magazine, Spelling realized her <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1117511,00.html">marriage was not working</a> and was <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1117511,00.html">developing feelings for McDermott</a> during the three-week shoot. After <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1117511,00.html">splitting with their respective spouses</a>, they <a href="http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20175757,00.html">tied the knot</a> in an intimate ceremony in Fiji in May 2006. The pair now have <a href="http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-moms/news/tori-spelling-on-raising-four-children-its-overwhelming-2012512">four children together</a>.