What's A Side Piece? This Explanation Will Clear Things Up

If you're not 100 percent clear on what a "side piece" is, you're not alone. According to Urban Dictionary, it refers to "the other woman." But some people refer to seeing someone "on the side" to mean that the relationship isn't a top priority. Honestly, it's kind of a confusing term.

My mom once joined a book club called Ladies With Boys on the Side, which was apparently a group of women who didn't want their relationships to eclipse the rest of their lives. They wanted to have fulfilling careers, and satisfying friendships, and the freedom to hang out once a month while analyzing novels over wine and cheese without worrying about running home to their dudes. It's a beautiful concept, isn't it?

Understandably, my dad — her husband since 1989 — had a few questions about what exactly this book club entailed. Because Ladies With Boys on the Side sounds an awful lot like they're all having affairs, doesn't it?

For the record, they were not. It was a poorly-named book club. My parents are happily, faithfully married, and they even wound up attending one of the book club member's wedding.

So, "side piece" can be a confusing term. I get it. Let's dive into exactly what it means — and why your partner is straying in the first place.

The Side Piece Is Your Partner's Other Relationship

Dmitri Ma

In other words, they're cheating. The side piece isn't typically a one-night stand or random hookup — it's an ongoing affair. Think Fitz cheating on Mellie with Olivia on Scandal, or Mrs. Robinson stepping out on her husband with Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate. Or for a more dramatic example, whoever was playing pool and drinking a fruity little drink with Carrie Underwood's ex in "Before He Cheats."

"The side piece is usually a fantasy they’ve constructed about their ideal person," says Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist and author of the relationship blog You're Just A Dumbass. "They’re intoxicated by the fantasy about the other person. The side piece is simply a construct that they imagine meet their every need."

In other words, the affair isn't necessarily a sustainable relationship.

But Please, Don't Blame Yourself

Stocksy/Guille Faingold

"Affairs often have very little do with the other person," says Silva. "When someone is unable to confront that they have failed their partners, they instead justify [the affair] by claiming their main partner no longer fulfills their needs."

This isn't about you. This isn't even about your relationship. It's about your partner not having the courage to put in the tough emotional work to communicate their wants and desires with you, and choosing the easy way out.

Instead of telling you how to make their favorite kind of cake, they're trying to have their cake with you and eat a different cake, too (sorry for that gross metaphor, but you know what I mean?).

"The affair itself deludes the person into thinking that this new person is fulfilling their needs better than their partner does, but really, the affair is just fulfilling their deep-seated need for ego validation," Silva says.

Once A Cheater, Always A Cheater?

Stocksy/Gabrielle Lutze

If you're trying to figure out if this was a one-time thing or part of a larger, ongoing problem, Silva recommends looking at your partner's motives.

If your partner is wrestling with a deep-seated inner struggle for validation, she says, "chances are they will cheat repeatedly." They keep looking for fulfillment in others, rather than within themselves.

It's not easy to figure out why someone is cheating, and it might not come to light after just one conversation. If you're concerned you might be in this situation, consider the signs your partner is cheating on you, and learn expert-approved ways to confront them about their infidelity. Good luck.

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