After the Affair with a Married Man: Repairing Yourself and Your Friendships
I am one of the many OW’s [Other Woman] who read your hub Affairs with Married Men and followed all the comments for years. I got the courage and self esteem to end things with my MM [Married Man] and I’ve been alone for almost a year now. It wasn’t easy but I did it. I’m lonely. Now here’s my problem. Since I was in this affair for 7 years my friends and people at work and neighbors and family are all just used to me being alone. I couldn’t tell people I was involved with an MM but since I was committed to him I didn’t date anyone else. Really no one knew. I still haven’t told anyone at all. Not my sisters or my family or anyone. (…) Everyone around me that tried to set me up or went out with me someplace all saw me just deny any dates or advances. I think some have even wondered if I like men at all. BTW I am a 46 year old woman. How do I tell everyone around me I’d really love it if they’d set me up on dates with their friends. SINGLE male friends that is. None ever make the offer anymore since I pushed them all off years ago.(…)
Dear Outsider Sandy
I left out some parts of your email because of space and because I didn't feel comfortable posting the information regarding your workplace online.
I’m glad you told me your age. A woman your age having lost 7 years off the dating circuit must really be feeling it. That factors in here in a big way
You brought up a very significant point regarding the collateral damage of an affair with a married man. The secrecy damages you in many ways. Some I don’t think you’re entirely aware of yet.
It’s unhealthy not to share your life with people. It’s human nature to be somewhat gregarious, to have at least some kind of honest dialogue going on outside of your head in real life, with family or friends. It’s important to be able to talk about your happiness, your fears, your pain, your plans, your mistakes, your thoughts, your accomplishments and your life struggles.
While you were in that affair you created an unhealthy place for yourself alienating friends and family by proxy. Anytime you aren’t honest with people about yourself you inadvertently push them away. You may tell yourself it made no difference in your friendships that you omitted your affair. But that’s not all it was. You lied every time someone asked what you’re doing, or how you feel. You didn’t share yourself in an authentic way, and you misled people with your avoidance and omissions. The person you had become in those so called friendships, was not the person you actually were.
Additionally you most likely superimposed the intimacy and need for honest expression that you lacked in life, onto the married man. I’m sure that made him much more than he ever was. It made that relationship seem like the most “honest and real” thing ever.
Sandy, you have your work cut out for you. Your question circles around something of which I’m not sure you’re entirely cognizant: You don’t have real friends because you haven’t been a real friend. Not for a long time, anyway.
You have to establish some real intimacy with people again. You have to be honest about who you are and what you’re going through. It’s been (at least) 7 years since you’ve had an authentic relationship with someone.
To be honest with you Sandy, many of us watch the ladies on Sex and The City, or saw the movie The Big Chill, and have longed for those groups of friends, so unconditional and permanent. I’m not sending you out there on the Holy Grail quest. But I am saying you need to forge some real friendships.
I want you to really think about this - In your email you kind of leap-frogged over your lack of authentic friendships, and slid head-first Pete-Rose-Style into what your friends can do for you by setting you up on dates.
You said you’re lonely. I think that’s because you sacrificed closeness with others for this affair. It became your only connection. I am so very glad you ended it, and that you have spent the last year without him, wanting to rebuild yourself. You know you’re lonely, and you assumed that’s because you aren’t seeing a man. But the truth is, what you’re feeling, is loneliness for many other reasons too.
I think it would be a better use of your energy if instead of trying to get set up on dates right now, you tried to make friends with people. Re-friending friends from the past, re-building closeness with your sisters, re-introducing yourself to neighbors and coworkers, and making brand new friends would all be much betters ways for you to address what you’re feeling.
When you’re lonely it may not be the best time for you to meet a man anyway. You may come across desperate and vulnerable. You may even be those things at this point. And that won’t help you attract or choose the right men to date anyway.
I don’t want this to come across as my being too hard on you. I took a lot of time putting my thoughts together for you because I am rooting for you. I celebrate the break you made a year ago, and I want you to be able to truly enjoy the rest of your life. I hope you will take steps to fortify yourself and surround yourself with people that know the real you. I want you to discover that the happiness you seek can only really come from inside of you, not from having a man in your life.
The best way to earn a friend is to be a friend. You may want to start with the people you already have friendships with and spend time with them. Ask someone to meet you for a coffee before work, or lunch. Have a few parties; invite coworkers, neighbors, family. People may ask where you’ve been hiding, or, why the sudden affability. Have your mind made up that you aren’t going to lie, that you’re going to be forthright and open. Gain their trust by offering yours. Share your feelings and your thoughts. Ask people theirs. Listen.
I think to honestly do this you need to come clean. That doesn’t mean you need to reveal details and facts about the man you were with if you don’t want to. But I think it’s important to the relationships you’re attempting to build to give at least a little bit of yourself, even though it’s hard.
For starters, you could say something as general and vague as: “A year ago I ended an unhealthy 7 year romantic relationship. No one knew about it.” I realize this is embarrassing but it will also be cathartic. You will be surprised how great it feels to be honest. As you become closer to someone you can reveal more. You’re still being honest if you admit to someone that you’re just not ready to talk about it yet, you need a little more time. Just be sure to let them know you need them, you really appreciate their asking and their concern. As long as they don’t feel “pushed off” as you said in your email, they’ll most likely honor your request for time with patience.
Your relationship with family may be easier. You might want to start there. Or maybe nothing is easier. In that case join a yoga class and invite one of the women out for Chai Tea after. Or knock on the door of a neighbor you haven’t really met yet. Ask the new woman at work to grab lunch one day. Start new relationships. Some will work, some won’t. Set that energy in motion.
I know you wanted advice on how to get friends to set you up on dates. Instead I gave you advice on how to get friends. One step at a time.