“Cheating and lying aren’t struggles, they’re reasons to break up,” Patti Callahan Henry
A lot of people who come to me were engaged or married before events twisted and forced them to become the “other man” or “other woman”. The shame overwhelming, often as they continued to support their partner in this situation – desperately trying to cling onto their once beautiful relationship; trying to find closure or simply understand how this could ever happen and what changed their partner so suddenly.
Cheating on a loving partner is grossly unfair, unacceptable and incomprehensible (that is, unless it’s happened to you). The magnitude of the pain can impact you so deeply and spill out into every aspect of your life, leaving you completely dysfunctional. While others may look on and judge, perhaps thinking they could handle themselves better than you are, your world is falling apart and the shards of your heart are causing an agony beyond imagination.
People suffering in this experience can feel exceptionally isolated as they internalise what’s happened – trying to gain some kind of control in such a chaotic situation.
Thoughts may include: Did I miss something? Am I crazy? Where did I go wrong? What if I just did what they wanted?
Perhaps you believe in monogamy and would never logically stick around while your partner was seeing someone else on the side. But when our values are crushed like this, our logical thought and responses become irrational. And when the person causing this agony is someone who really matters to us – that we don’t want to lose – we go into survival mode: fight or flight. With your ego and confidence shattered, you may even decide to stay: for the sake of love – or at least the love that it used to be.
What a lot of people don’t understand is that this situation – while feelings completely helpless – is that this behaviour is common in a highly dysfunctional (read “toxic”) relationship. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder – aka Narcissists – commonly use a tool call triangulation.
Triangulation is defined as: someone feeling entertained by watching two healthy sources of supply fighting for their attention. When they want more entertainment, they just stir things up a little. Sounds psycho? That’s because narcissism parallels psychopathy. Neither a narcissist nor psychopath can feel empathy.
Eventually this triangulation becomes the world’s worst kept secret as they enhance their manipulative, cheating ways to maximise the destruction they’re causing on either source of supply at any given time.
What hurts the most is the person orchestrating this – the narcissist, or highly toxic person – doesn’t care. They don’t have empathy – and they definitely don’t have morals. They don’t care about how their behaviour affects anyone in their lives; even those who were once their “soul mate”.
For anyone who has been in a relationship where there’s triangulation, you will understand the manipulation – and the addiction. The crazy grip that forms and no matter how much it hurts: you can’t let it go. You would almost sell your soul for the truth. And meanwhile, it burns inside you and eats away that you haven’t left.
“The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones. They erode our strength, our self-esteem, our very foundation,” Cheryl Hughes
I have seen many lives shattered because of these scenarios – and because of people not knowing what happened fast enough so that they could do something about it. My life, was almost one of them when my partner started seeing his “ex”-wife, while we were together – and I found myself in a situation I couldn’t easily get out of.
It came to a head when I fortunately (although it didn’t feel it at the time!) decided to treat the narcissist like a common toxic partner – and leave; after a two year relationship, and six months living together.
On New Years Eve, three days after I left, I was served with an intervention order on his behalf. It was always his threat that if he left he knew someone high up in the police force and this would be the consequence. I didn’t believe it would be possible without evidence. The primary reason I was served was for questioning him about the person he was cheating with.
The order claimed “harassment”.
What was actually harassment, was his action to take this order … in fact, it’s known by lawyers across the globe as “harassment through the courts”.
How can I be sure it was just out of harassment?
Because even after taking action against me, he still wasn’t prepared to release his source of supply.
Three days after I stood in a court room, consenting to the order so I could get the hell out of that relationship once and for all – he contacted me by email (a steep lesson in doing No Contact properly) to wish me happy birthday. It was my birthday. If he had it his way – he would have had the court appearance held that day – but it was a Saturday so New Years Evd became the target.
When I didn’t respond – he responded to one of my blog posts trying to expose me for having the order against me.
When I didn’t respond – a smear campaign began involving my ex-employer and colleagues.
When I still didn’t respond – he tried to find me online using fake profiles.
I was terrified, I thought he would kill me and I thought it would never end.
The Australian systems wouldn’t do anything.
I tried: I was told I was on a revenge mission – by the police; and that by discovering the fake profiles were linked to him, I was in breach of my intervention order for online stalking and staring at 2 years jail time and $1,500 fine – by a magistrate.
“Cheats prosper until there are enough who bear grudges against them to make sure they do not prosper,” Peter Singer
I know what it’s like to be “the other woman”.
And honest to God – I would have done anything to get out of that situation unscathed.
So you may be asking: How did this happen? How did that other person become the flavour of the month so quickly?
Well, it kind of happened in three stages. Here’s what went down:
At some point the toxic person decides you were no longer you a good source of supply. You probably stood up to them, demonstrated courage or indicated that things weren’t as you wanted them to be.
Maybe you know too much about something. You know how sometimes people joke: “You know too much; I’ll have to kill you” – yeah, you’re probably lucky to be alive.
Toxic people don’t like being accountable.
The truth is: you, or your knowledge, is solely responsible for forcing you out of the position of “good source of supply”.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s your not fault they actually proceeded to cheat. No one deserves that. But you unwittingly got into this situation and there’s a very good reason behind it.
While you may not feel it right now – you’ll thank yourself one day.
You know when people say: “You’re exactly where you’re meant to be”? Apply that thought here!
Fear not: you’re right on track now! (But before, in this relationship, you weren’t! How’s that for a plot twist you weren’t expecting?)
I mean these relationships sweep us off our feet, they feel so good, so natural, so right, so Hollywood perfect and then BAM! This. Only to discover it wasn’t right from the beginning?…
There’s a few things you should know that may bring you some comfort:
The new supply
There’s two ways this goes – they either get someone completely new, or they go back to an unlucky previous source who is deluded enough to take them back (this hopefully won’t be you).
After deciding on a suitable replacement, they return to you and begin the brutal discard and devaluation phases. They want you out – and they’re not afraid of burning bridges. Why do they want you to suffer? Because this fantasy idealisation phase they need to project onto their new source of supply is a pain in their butt. It’s EXHAUSTING for them to fake someone they’re not, day in and day out, just so they can ultimately have a new emotional punching bag. The reason they have to go through all of this again is your fault. (Remember … because you know too much or you at least knew you deserved better than what you were getting.)
So if you feel like you’re being punished: it’s because you are.
So heads up! Because remember all those secrets you told? Your fears? That time you confided in them…? They’re all projected, manipulated and used to hurt you. Their aim at this point is to do and say whatever it takes to make you feel completely worthless. That low level of self-worth is then intensified as flaunt the new source. It sucks!
This is where you became the “Other Man” or the “Other Woman” – get set to be transformed from calm, rational and loving into “crazy”.
And this scenario also happens to the other source of supply too.
So if you’re the wife trying to understand the dumb “other woman” or the husband trying to understand the loser “other man” – they probably thought you were crazy: because that’s what they were lead to believe. Your partner groomed them, maybe not even mentioning you, and set them up so eventually they could move between both of you. Needless to say, this is also heartbreaking for the other source of supply – while they’re not married to the person, they also develop a deep attachment to the fantasy that’s projected.
Anyway, generally, this part – “the discard” – occurs in front of the source of supply (or close enough that they know the details). This is actually a test to try to enhance the new source’s ego and make them feel special. If they do that, they’re in!
>>> It’s a test! <<<
Here’s how the test goes:
– A strong, healthy person knows how to make themselves feel special and doesn’t need the ego boost – which means this act and behaviour wouldn’t work.
On the other hand
– A naïve and vulnerable person may look for others to make them feel special; and this behaviour sucks them straight in.
Not saying they want to see others in pain, but more than anything they don’t want to see the person they’re falling in love with (insert fantasy projection here) getting hurt: and particularly not by someone who is clearly “crazy”.
>>> If the Test Fails <<<
If the test fails the toxic person will return to you before they lose the source completely; after all, you’re their property – although they don’t actually want to be in a relationship with you, no one else can have you either.
So, despite the discard, they will return to grovel to the end of the earth and, let me fast forward where this goes for you … just as quickly as they return and the fantasy comes with them so they can hoover you back in, it returns back to the toxic cycle it used to be – and you feel stuck again. Why? Because this person needs control. The only reason they came back is because you’re an easy source of supply they can quickly regain control over.
Some people suggest these toxic people use hypnosis and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) techniques to anchor their targets and then easily re-trigger them on a whim. What’s scary is that neither person is conscious to these tactics at the time. It’s only through education that we learn and we can start to protect ourselves better.
>>> If the Test Works <<<
Unfortunately, if the test works – unfortunately your transformation is complete; you are now a toad – and it’s best that you release any concerns over being judged negatively now for the sake of any remaining self-preservation.
Toxic people try to overcompensate your leaving by focusing on their new source of supply and projecting the new relationship to keep themselves distracted. So while you think they’re all loved up and it’s killing you inside, you need to remember: this is about them – not you. This is how they validate themselves as not being a bad person: because they tell themselves “someone else wants them” – so they can’t possibly be that bad. Right?
The Truth about the new relationship:
It’s ok, the likelihood this new relationship is going in the same direction as what you just left behind – or got thrown out of – is really high. So, you can leave them to it now, with a little bit of smug confidence.
So there you have it – the love and the relationship is gone: forever (if you choose – but no one wants to be that lingering source of supply).
The lonely transformation
If you are now the “Other Man” or “Other Woman” – you’re not alone. While you may feel impossibly stuck right now, or like things are as bad as it can ever be: your value as a person hasn’t changed; and your dignity is still available – just waiting for you to reclaim it.
Here’s your next THREE steps from here:
1. No Contact
If you leave contact open, it’s likely they’ll spin you a story about second thoughts (having the other source on the line the entire time: triangulation doesn’t go away) – simply to prevent anyone else from having you. You may like to join my free EASY course to walk you through the four essential strategies to healing.
Start working as quickly as you can to normalise again. This means life can start to feel boring – challenge yourself to search for that. Make it familiar. Smash the fantasies they’ve put in your head, stay positive and try to find acceptance for the reality of the situation as quickly as you can.
Need more help? I’m a qualified life coach who specialises in regaining your independence and confidence following a failed, toxic or abusive relationship. Contact me.