Guide to Meeting the Woman Your Lover Is Fucking
It’s three in the morning. You’re naked in his bed, with him (also naked). Down the hall, his best friend sleeps, naked, presumably. That’s how you sleep in the South. There’s no other way. Not in May, not following graduation ceremonies and parties, not following a rainy spring that only lasted three weeks before bursting into the hot, humid summer plaguing middle Georgia. It’s how you’ve learned to sleep since moving here, since frequenting his bed. You’ve learned to do a lot of things differently since you started sleeping in his bed, with him, naked.
A year ago, you pounded whiskey with him on his porch while he told you the story of his life. It was a sad story—broken men always tell sad stories—and it made you want to stitch him back together. No matter you failed home ec in high school. No matter that the closest you’ve gotten to putting anything back together is your cell phone case after you threw it against the wall (your ex-husband had called). No matter. You left that jackass. You can do anything. I will remind you of this fact later.
So, that night, drunk, he said he wanted to be loved, so you decided to love him. It was an easy decision. Loving someone really doesn’t take much effort. They say it’s hard when someone is hard to love, but no one is hard to love. No, people are cold and mean and sharp, but not hard to love. What’s hard is choosing to love someone even though you know it’s a stupid idea. Even though you know, based on their history with other women as strong as you, that they will discard you like an empty wine bottle. Even though they don’t know what they’re asking for when they ask if you will love them. It’s selfish, asking for something you don’t understand. But you ignored all that because broken recognizes broken. Like attracts like. You learned that in college.
And now it’s been a year. A year of drunken weekends, good food, big fires, and maybe too many nights in bed. It starts slowly. You post a picture of you at happy hour with your girlfriends. He likes it. He texts you. You text back. He offers you a nightcap. You go to his place. You have one more drink, two more drinks, finish the bottle. He kisses you once. And that’s it. That’s the moment when your whole life stops. Not in a cliché way. In the movies, the camera would zoom in on your face, note the micro-expressions of panic and wanting, then cut to him, drenched in warmth and an invitation for you to just give yourself over to love for once in your damn life. Then you’d decide, without a word, to kiss him again.
But this isn’t a movie. So when he kisses you, you do stop. Not because you’re unsure, but because this is exactly what you want. Because he has stolen the breath from your lungs. Because you know that you want to dive straight into this complicated man with every part of you, because you’ve been waiting for someone to love all of you: pregnancy scars, loud voice, cargo plane worth of emotional baggage, and all. And in that kiss, you know he’s going to do it. He’s going to love you. He’s going to love you right.
You don’t just kiss him back. You kiss him hard. You put your whole body into him, let him put his whole self into you. And you do this night after night, week after week, for a year. You sleep in his bed, naked, for months. In the mornings, you make him coffee, get him up for work, clean the kitchen while he packs his bag. Every evening, you watch him make dinner while you uncork wine, roast marshmallows, finish another bottle and recycle it behind the garage. You listen to his fears, take them inside you and make them strengths to give back to him. You give him purpose, motivation, understanding. You love him. Hard.
And he probably loved you, too. I like to think so. There were moments that showed you he did. When he paid for your first tattoo. When he babysat while you trucked your other child to and from appointments all over the state. When he turned off your phone one night when your ex wouldn’t stop calling, took you in his arms, and fucked you like he loved you. He must love you. It’s the only excuse for where you are now.
It’s three in the morning. You’re so drunk you can hardly see straight. He whispers in your ear that The Other is coming to town tomorrow, and it would mean a lot to him if you met her.
He said this exact thing last year, at his mother’s funeral. You drove alone to Alabama to attend, to meet his family, to pay your respects to the woman who made the man you loved. You were there as a friend, not a girlfriend, not a lover, not a partner. You knew that. You still hoped he’d be better to you. Instead, he introduced you to the woman he fucks when he visits Alabama. She wasn’t as pretty as you. This comforted you somehow.
When you met her, when you shook hands and complimented each other’s outfits—hard not to look incredible in black, right?—she knew exactly who you were. And you knew who she was. Something about her dress made you think, She’s fucked the man I love. You gained this knowledge back when you were married. A mistress is easy to spot. She’s nice to you, avoids eye contact with him in front of you, and is unnecessarily helpful—gives you directions and recipes, starts liking your Instagram photos, tucks in your tag and offers to drive you to the airport. You knew exactly who she was when she entered the church, and she knew you. Later, he told you it meant a lot to him that you two met. (Stab me.) You drove back to Georgia and signed up for OkCupid.
Now, you lie in bed, naked, your hips against his hips, your hair wrapped around your face. What is this life? You want to scream. You want to strangle yourself with your hair. You want to strangle him with your hair. How can this man nudge his erection against your spine and ask you to meet the girl he’s fucking that’s not you?
Whatever you call this thing between you—because, honey, it’s not a relationship—changed two weeks ago. He became mean. He started calling you names, dictating your priorities, screaming at you. The last man to scream at you ended up with a custody battle and two hundred grand in attorney fees. You see your life flashing before you and it’s just the same movie all over again. Though, instead of your ex-husband—that abusive, cheating bastard—it’s him, this man you love, this man you’ve given your whole self to in hopes that he would love you properly. And now he’s doing exactly what your ex did: blaming you, shouting at you, purposefully shattering you so he doesn’t have to feel guilty when you leave.
Over drinks one night, he tells you The Other is coming to visit for the weekend, so could you kindly remove your toothbrush from his bathroom? You don’t know how to tell him to fuck off, so you finish your drink and do as he says. All the while you pack, clean, and erase yourself from his house, he rambles about how you two were never serious, and therefore never dating, and even though he was the only one you were sleeping with didn’t mean that he was only sleeping with you.
You know. That’s why you don’t say anything. That’s why you take your toothbrush, your laptop, your cell phone charger, your emergency change of clothes that you used to keep in your car but now you keep in his closet, your hair dryer, your Splenda, your pocket knife, and your flip flops from his house. That’s why you change the sheets on his bed (in case your skin cells carry your perfume), do the dishes in his sink (can’t let her see your lipstick on a coffee mug), and snake the shower drain (God forbid she find a blonde hair).
He says you should have seen this coming, what with you not being exclusive and all. He says you never really loved him anyway so he shouldn’t feel guilty about telling you about The Other.
When he says that, your pocket knife in one hand, your coffee thermos in the other, still full and hot, you briefly consider stabbing him. He’s not looking at you; he’s staring at his rocks glass full of whiskey. You stare at his glass, too. You’re a gin girl. You never drank whiskey before you met him. You don’t know how you went from clear to dark liquors, how you left a sociopath for a liar, how you managed to accumulate so many things in this house that isn’t yours.
You snap the knife open and he looks at you. He opens his mouth to tell you not to do something stupid—you can see the words forming at the base of his skull—but you snap it closed just as quickly. One thing living in Georgia has taught you is how to scare a man without saying a word.
You should have stabbed him—but you know that violence doesn’t solve anything.
That was two weeks ago. Tonight, there was a party. You hosted it at his house, a decision you’d made before he started fucking The Other and stopped fucking you. His family and friends came from out of town. You made delicious food and strong drinks, blasted music and stoked a bonfire in the backyard. You can throw a party. You can make a man forget he’s using you for a just a minute while dressed in periwinkle and drenched in booze. And you did. All until right now. Until right fucking now.
He’s not fucking you. He’s reminding you that he’s found someone else—The Other—and that you have been replaced.
He asks you to meet her. It would mean a lot to him.
It would mean a lot to him.
What about you? What about your heart?
You don’t answer. You roll away from him, bury yourself in covers too hot to sleep beneath, and pass out. He doesn’t get to touch you anymore. He doesn’t get to stare at your bouncy ass and huge tits anymore. He doesn’t get you anymore.
Your body tells you The Other is arriving at 10 am. Never mind that he actually told you she’s coming at noon. Your body registers the shock and horror of having to meet the girl you’ve been replaced with, a younger model no less, long before your brain does, drunk as it is. So at 10 am exactly, your body rouses you from sleep. It finds his hand on your shoulder, and shudders. It takes you to the kitchen, makes coffee, and goes about dressing you, brushing your teeth, and pulling back your hair. It cleans the house of all the party residue, collects your belongings and purse, and puts you in the car. It drives you to the lake at the bottom of the hill and sits you on the bank and forces you to finish your coffee: black with Splenda. In the year you were together, he never bought your sweetener. Not once. You always had to bring it over. Your body reminds you of this as it takes you back to your car and puts on your running shoes. You run six miles around the lake. You’ve never done that before. Your music is loud, your phone is in airplane mode, and you are still drunk, apparently. But you run six miles in under an hour. You’ve never done that before either.
When you get back to your car, you’re drenched in sweat but you’re breathing and sober. You change, roll on some deodorant, and drive to the nearest coffee shop. Your body and mind are in sync now. You write for three hours and ignore your phone. You drink more coffee and eat a bagel. You look at your phone finally and see he’s called three times, texted twice, and sent his best friend in search of you. At that moment, the best friend shows up at the coffee house and asks if you’re okay.
The Other is at his house by now. She’s probably disrobing slowly, revealing her tattoos one by one. She’s probably in the kitchen, pouring a finger of whiskey for them both. Or most likely, she’s in his bed, occupying the space you used to, tracing his chest hairs with her dainty fucking fingernails, making him laugh with her twenty-nine-year-old self.
You tell his friend you’re fine, send him back to the house. You move from the coffee house to the bar and start drinking again. You call me. You ask what the protocol is for meeting the woman your lover is fucking.
I don’t have to tell you that you don’t meet her. I don’t have to tell you that non-monogamous relationships are a crapshoot that only work with Mormons, Muslims, and the highly evolved. You are none of those things. Everyone claims they aren’t jealous. They lie.
You already know all of this. So my advice is simple.
Don’t poison his water supply, release rats into his house, puncture his tires, fuck his best friend, or find out where The Other lives and booby trap the place. There’s nothing worse than being jealous and crazy. Beyoncé said so.
Distance yourself. When he starts his rambling about how you should have known better than to love a man who wouldn’t commit to you, don’t respond. Don’t text him back. Ignore his phone calls. Unfollow him on social media. Change his name in your phone to something that will make you think twice, like “Liar,” or “Scumbag,” or, my personal favorite, “DNR”—Do Not Resuscitate.
Examine your heart. Still in love with him? Still miss him? Still miss his cock? Understandable. Buy a vibrator. Do not go back there. Do not reply. Do not waste the lighter fluid. Do not chip your polish. Do not turn red. Do not resuscitate.
Soon enough, you’ll be able to move on. Maybe not emotionally, but sexually? Hell yes. Get on OkCupid. Get on Tinder. Get on Bumble. Go out. Reply to the hot firefighter, the nursing student, the divorcé with a lake house. Go back to drinking gin. Get another tattoo. Get five. Take your kids on vacation far away from Georgia and him and all the other bullshit that follows loving a man who doesn’t love you back. Vow never to let him crawl between your legs again, never to let him hang you with your own words, never to let him reap the benefits of your love without giving it in return.
When he calls, when he writes, when he shows up bashful and carrying a bottle of Jack Daniels—and he will—do not open the door. Tell him the woman who loved him doesn’t live here anymore. Tell him you’ve found someone who loves her, who stocks her sweetener, who cuts her limes for her gin and replaces any broken wine glasses—even if that someone is you. Tell him to try The Other, to knock on her door and open her legs because your door is locked and your thighs are off limits.
And if this doesn’t work, if you cannot pull yourself out of the hole you dug the day he left you, ask yourself: Am I the kind of woman to let a man kill me? Ask yourself: Am I the kind of person, so full of energy and possibility, to be shut down by someone else’s insecurity? Ask yourself: Is he worthy of being my murderer?
I promise, the answer is no. So get the fuck up. Pour yourself a drink. Go for a run. Draw a hot bath. Look at your glorious self, still breathing, still fighting. It ought to take a lot more than a man with whiskey under his tongue to shatter you.