I once befriended "the other woman."
Though which one of us rightly deserved that title is questionable, our entanglements with the man were not.
To both be free of him because of each other and because we couldn’t bear the thought of being his second choice felt like one of the timeliest occurrences I’d ever experienced.
I messaged her, and we met on the sunny balcony of the library, overlooking swarms of students on campus.
She was shorter in person than I recalled and more beautiful in all the simplicity of a college freshman.
I felt aged and jaded, gazing at the girl I’d heard epic stories about for the past six months, and I believed — despite my sophomore status and cultured persona — she was somehow better.
We agreed to an armistice, to a budding understanding between broken women that we each deserved better than an even more broken man.
We spoke of the future and our individual searches of self. And, as we tempted a hug and turned back to the lives so entwined, we blushed.
I watched her walk away, smiled and gazed directly into the orange haze of sunlight until my vision was black.
Two weeks later, they got back together. I heard in ripples of gossip how he hadn’t changed, how she would never learn.
The persistent murmur of infamy that surrounded him never quieted, but I thought of her the most often.
I saw her bottom lip quiver and heard her bitter laughter as I reflected on that day with a profound sadness for being the only one to escape the madness.
I was the only one to understand the difference between what love is and what it should be.
I will likely remember her for the rest of my life simply because we could’ve been friends. We should’ve been friends. And for a brief moment, I think we were.
Because in the end, the other woman is likely the ultimate companion.
Here's why you should befriend the other woman:
You don’t know her.
Chances are you’re a lot alike. You fell in love and apart over the same person, and that is your first similarity.
If you think you hate her because she has a part of him you don’t or you’ve shared feelings for the same person, think again. You don’t hate her for falling into the same arms you did.
She’s not the threat, he is. She’s not to blame, he is. Or at least, they both are. But, if he desires the both of you, don’t see it as an insult.
Take it as a reason the two of you should sit down for coffee. Imagine the stories you both would benefit from hearing. Only she knows him like you do.
It’s easier to be friends than enemies.
It takes energy to hate someone, especially when it involves the man you love. And, if you’re hurting because of what’s occurred, the potential for friendship with the girl who loves him too is boundless.
If he’s hurting you, he’s hurting her, and there’s nothing stronger than the bond between scorned women. It's like girl power or something.
She understands like no one else can.
When he stopped responding to your texts in favor of late-night drinking, she’ll sympathize. She'll recognize his persistence that he never did anything wrong.
The torture of suspicion that he’s with her (or you’re with him) will conjure identical feelings of contempt.
What you share with her, you’ll never share with him or any girlfriend who’s heard your sob story too many times to empathize.
You can heal each other, safeguard the past and embrace the future.
Once you’re past the initial awkwardness and the flames of rivalry you swore you wouldn’t be able to snuff out, you’ll be surprised just how healing it can be to know her.
Having her in your life and building something good from a mess of heartbreak can feel incredibly rewarding.
There will be times you will remember the jealousy, the anger and the fondness you once felt for him, but letting those feelings go is worth the effort.
They never did you any good. If trading him for her brings you happiness, you’ll know you made the right decision.
But in the end, it’s sometimes simply wishful thinking.
All of these reasons flashed through my mind when I met her on the balcony that day. I imagined being her friend, and in doing so, I immediately felt healed.
And if she had done the same, maybe things would’ve been different. But, it wasn’t meant to be. And only one of us got to walk away unscathed.
If there is one thing I learned from, it’s that you should be friends with the other woman.
You should love her as opposed to him. You will benefit more from her friendship than you will from his pretense of one.
Perhaps it takes a certain type of woman, an establishment of growth in each of you letting him go and an equality that goes beyond any other meaning of the word.
And perhaps one day, I will find this in another woman, and I’ll establish the friendship I couldn’t secure that day.
But for everyone else, it’s worth contemplating.