“I’m 55, single and have been involved with a married man for more than five years. The same old story. My life and relationships haven’t been too good. At 22, the love of my life cheated on me. At 25, I went into an unsuitable relationship and he died a few years later. I suffered badly.
At around 40 I decided to start trying all sorts of alternative medicines and practices. I came out better, but still vulnerable. At 50 I met a married man in a nightclub. Mac told me he was unhappily married.
He phoned the next day and I went with him and his friend to dinner. I was happy to leave it at that, but he phoned a week later saying he had left his wife. We started going out.
To cut a long story short, he goes back to his wife every three to four weeks to make sure she is OK. He takes her to London to visit their adult kids every six to eight weeks.
He disappears on these trips, turning his phone off, and then reappears to make sure I’m OK. He is pleasant but has a nasty side. He gets verbally abusive when I complain. He says it’s his duty to look after his family. Although neither of us is good-looking, he criticises me so much I feel ugly.
He pampers his wife with a top-of-the-range car every two to three years and an allowance higher than my salary. I’m treated like the wife of 30 years; she’s treated like a mistress.
I didn’t see him for seven months in 2008, then he contacted me just before Christmas. We met for dinner the following night, had sex and he went home. In January, he contacted me again with promises to leave his wife, set up a life with me, etc.
He’s since denied this, getting very nasty with me. We scream and shout a lot, so I don’t know why I hang on.
To shock myself and try to put an end to it, I said if he wants a mistress he can start paying me. He responded with £2,000 in cash. I’ve posted it back to his town flat.
He normally pushes me away after sex and gets away as quickly as possible. He refers to me as ‘the likes of you’ and points out all my problems.
He now says he’ll never divorce. I could have met other men in the past five years. I’m so angry, hurt and down – to have allowed an obvious cheat to continue to abuse me.
What I’d like to know is why we women cheat on other women? I have always longed for a loving relationship – done counselling, life coaching, hypnotherapy – but still feel I’ve been left out of the loop of love. I need some upbeat advice please.
This letter first appeared in the Dail Mail.
In some ways this is an odd letter. Of course, it’s not such an unusual story and you’re clear about what you want in reply. You say you want ‘upbeat advice’. You’ve tried everything else, so you just want someone to tell you how to find love. ‘Take up a hobby? Trust the universe to bring you the man you need? Stay positive? Ditch the love rat, have some self-respect – you deserve better!’ That kind of thing?
But if that’s what you really want, why write to a newspaper advice columnist? Why include the humiliating detail – the payment, the being pushed away after sex, the verbal abuse?
Then there is the martyrdom – ‘I could have met other men in the past five years.’ This begs the obvious question. And yet, you didn’t.
‘The same old story’ line suggests you are bored with yourself, that you don’t really expect anyone else to be interested either. You don’t feel worthy of proper attention.
Bizarrely, you complain that someone cheated on you over thirty years ago. Whilst the death of the next lover must have been very sad, you don’t say you were sad for or about him. You say you “suffered”. Suffering is important to you. And, again, this was a very long time ago.
In this story there are now 15 missing years, to say nothing of the first 22. It seems you measure out your life in the betrayal of men and nothing else gets a mention. Work? Friends? Suddenly you are 50 years old and in a night-club. Of course, his line that he’s unhappily married is a cliché, but perhaps there was an attraction – the ‘unhappy’ part. He said he was trapped in an unhappy situation and that struck a chord with you. His announced unavailability was, obviously, another trigger – he was going to feed your masochism. And he did.
Now there is a lot of detail as to how he treats someone else better than he treats you (mainly in material terms – you can’t imagine real intimacy, so the relationship is translated into cash), how terrible he makes you feel. Though you are obviously looking for sympathy (the shocking detail), there is something very foot stampingly jealous going on – “She gets better stuff than me.”
I would guess, going out on a wild limb here, that you are reenacting something. Perhaps you felt left out of your parents’ marriage or perhaps you lived with your mum and a new boyfriend who ignored you and lavished her with gifts. Either way, you seemed to imagine that being ‘the mistress’ as you put it, would make you feel powerful. Finally you are dad’s special one and mum is denigrated. But, in fact, you have been left out again. Your audible exhaustion (if you can hear text) seems testament to the fact that you are used to being neglected in favour of someone else, that this is familiar to you. This could also be a reenactment of sibling rivalry, but actually it’s got a more Oedipal feel.
However, this could be your hatred of a favoured sister – you keep putting out more and more and more (mainly sexually) in an effort to get dad’s approval (gifts?), but you just get more humiliated.
There is a hideously cruel and telling line at the end of all this. “I’m treated like the wife of 30 years.” The cruelty, you will be surprised to hear, is yours. Somewhere in your mind is the idea that a wife is to be criticized, belittled and betrayed and a mistress is, in your mind, supposed to be adored and showered with gifts at the expense (expense being a key thing with you) of “the wife of 30 years.”
The money aspect is so interesting. You sent him his £2000 back as if that wasn’t really what you wanted (which on an unconscious level it perhaps isn’t in the end), but most of the letter is a complaint about the amount Mac is spending on his wife. You do seem to feel he should be spending money on you, essentially paying you. You mention he pays her an amount equivalent to more than your salary. This angers you. Part of you believes you are for sale and feels humiliated at the price he puts on you. You list this man’s (clearly very grave) faults and then berate yourself for staying. But you did stay.
Like so many people writing letters like this your strategy so far has been hope. You hope he will completely change while you sit still. Of course, as ever, the only person you have some very slim chance of controlling is yourself. He has a relationship with his wife and children and he abuses you. You are angry with everyone, including yourself (but mostly others).
But then you ask a brilliant question – why do women cheat on other women?
The simple answer is, they don’t. He is cheating on you or on his wife, depending on which way you look at it. It is up to him to be faithful or not, not up to you. It’s too easy to see these situations as a woman seducing a man to cause harm to another woman. Or is it? Is that exactly what you intended to do? Hurt the mother by seducing the father? Hurt the sister by seducing the father? Your rage at the preferential treatment his wife gets is greater than your rage at his abusing you. You wanted to be a mistress in order to triumph over a mother figure but you find yourself the abused, lost, little girl over and over again.
It is this little girl who needs some attention now. It is interesting that you start your story at 22. I suspect the key to your self-destructive and masochistic behaviour lies in a period long before that. Whilst there isn’t, of course, a loop of love, you have felt unloved, undersold and, more importantly, unlovable, perhaps all your life. It’s these early feelings you will need to grapple with before you’re able to be close to someone who is not going to play the sado-masochistic game to which you’re addicted.
Thoughtful Advice for Real Change via Skype or email: firstname.lastname@example.org