I’m the Other Woman: Should I Tell His wife?
While a lot of this article is applicable to affair partners of both genders, the experience at IHG is that the other woman is overwhelmingly more likely to disclose an affair to the faithful partner, and to do so with malicious intent. Much of this article has been written mistress-specifically to reflect that observation.
We often talk to third parties who are aware of an affair, and who are legitimately struggling with whether or not to stick their head over the parapet and get involved by disclosing what they know to the faithful spouse. As we explored in Disclosing and Affair: To Tell or Not to Tell, there are always arguments for and against disclosing an affair to the faithful partner.
One of the most frequent internet searches, though, that lead people to IHG is this: “I’m the other woman, should I tell the wife?”
Now, before the old hands in Mistressville take the opportunity to scoff at my woeful misunderstanding of their intent (ahem), I’ll take the opportunity to acknowledge this:
I will also clarify that, while this might be your view and involvement in affairs, your attitude is not universally true or even the majority view.
The Affair Partner’s Agenda
I have not once encountered an affair partner who has purely altruistic reasons for informing the spouse of an affair. Not once. Even those who claim to have been unwittingly involved with a cheater have some less than altruistic motivations for spilling the beans.
In my experience, there is one primary motivation for the affair partner to disclose the affair to the cheater’s spouse and it’s mistress-malice (or misteress-malice). It’s vengeful, not born from concern or compassion.
Let’s face it, if the affair partner had material and genuine concern for the spouse, they would have refused to be the mistress or he-wench in the first place. It’s not concern for the spouse that motivates the other woman/man to have sex with the cheater in the marital bed, or enjoy the ‘mistress tariff’ of gifts and dinner, or to arrange rendezvous on holidays and special days, or to encourage the cheater to exit the marriage.
A mistress/manstress apparently growing an altruistic conscience about the spouse deserving or having a right to know? Nobody’s buying it, including the faithful spouse.
- Bringing the marriage to an end and bringing the cheater fully to the relationship with them.
- Punishing the cheater for ending it (or some other affront or slight).
- Using the affair as evidence of their superior desirability and/or sexual power to affirm their self-view.
- Protection or palliation of their view of themselves as a ‘good’ person.
- Pure maliciousness.
The Faithful Partner
Many affair partners dismiss the harm of infidelity as jealousy. It isn’t. The real harm in infidelity is the attendant psychological assault that happens as the cheater engineers, covers up, and creates the environment for the affair - it’s the disrespect, the risks to health, family, and well-being, the manipulation and mistreatment, and the sense of having lived in an altered reality. When the spouse discovers that they’ve made their decisions based on a lie that has been constructed for them, that’s hard to take, especially when those decisions are tying them to the very person who is mistreating them.
In a free society we all have a right to make decisions about our lives informed by truth and reality. By hiding, withholding, or otherwise removing such information from someone else’s reach, however well-intentioned, you are active in denying them their right to informed consent about their relationship.
Finding out is always devastating. Finding out via the other woman/other man adds another layer of hideousness to an already vile mix:
- Direct contact with the affair partner can give the faithful spouse details/imagery/memories that are easy to obsess over.
- It can focus the faithful spouse on the affair partner’s conduct and accountability, deflecting them from focusing on what the affair says about the cheater.
- Some affair partners befriend the faithful spouse during the affair as cover. (I know, it’s repugnant.)
- It is not uncommon for the other woman, particularly, to feel entitled to seek support from his wife for THEIR hurt about the affair (also repugnant).
- His wife does deserve to know, but are you the most suitable person to tell her?
- Maybe not, and to avoid mistress-malice altogether it’s worth considering using an intermediary.
- Does this mean you shouldn’t inform her at all?
- No. She is entitled to information that materially affects her relationship and choices about that relationship. If that is delivered by you so be it.
- Does this mean that if there is a better option you should consider it?
- Yes. Avoiding even the most unintentional (ummhmm) knife-twisting has merit and is most easily achieved by using an intermediary. If there is someone else who could contact his wife with compassion to inform her about the affair, it’s worth considering.
- Bottom line:
- If there is nobody else in your sphere who could inform his wife on your behalf -if you are the only viable person to make contact- then it’s incumbent on you to do so. To stress the point: avoiding mistress-malice is a nicety, not a reason to continue to withhold the information.
In-person disclosure is nothing more than dramaturgy - it’s pure theater. No matter the purity of your intent (ummhmm), no matter your stellar ability to contain your own emotional distress (ummhmm), and no matter how much you rehearse and intend to stick to your carefully crafted lines, it’s theatrics.
Let’s be honest, his wife won’t be fooled, swayed, or comforted by your earnest, teary, or magnanimous disclosure. In-person disclosure is primarily about feeding your desire for histrionics - it’s not about the message and it’s not about his wife.
There’s no reason to call her. There’s no reason to ‘accidentally’ bump into her at a party. There’s no reason to ambush her at work. There’s no reason to set up a cozy meet in Starbucks. There is no humanitarian reason whatsoever for you to want to witness her upset.
Give her the courtesy and consideration of using an electronic form of communication, e.g. email, private messenger, text.
Let’s not pretend: Your primary motivation isn’t his wife’s well-being. Your intent in disclosure is either an act of spite (to the cheater or his wife) or an attempt to get
Mr King Cheaterpants all to yourself.
His wife is not fair game as the target or mode for your act of vengeance or manipulative intent.
If you wish to disclose his cheating to his wife without being a hideous Tuesday, it is your responsibility to protect her from you. You can help that by observing a few rules:
- Remain disengaged and as uninvolved with her life as possible - you don’t get a starring role in her post-disclosure life.
- Stick to broad-brush facts.
- In your initial contact, don’t get embroiled in trying prove to her that her husband is cheating with you. (If she later asks for evidence for legal purposes, that is a different consideration entirely*.)
- Don’t editorialize or provide commentary.
- Avoid tidbits, language, or details which can be construed as you ‘laying claim’ to the cheater - don’t send her pictures, love letters, or other mementos of the affair*.
Disclosure actually requires very little information. The bare bones of disclosure can be as simple as, “I was in a romantic and/or sexual relationship with your husband from Date X to Date Y when he/I ended it.” or, “I am in an ongoing romantic and/or sexual relationship with your husband.”
Go with the minimal necessary information to discharge your obligation to her.
“But I Want the Details”
This is the part that veers quickly into unpopular territory with many faithful partners, so this section is specifically for them.
Yes, many spouses do want to hear from the affair partner directly. Not only can it be satisfying to vent your ire directly but you, understandably, want the details and every piece of information the affair partner can give you. However, just because you want those details, it doesn’t oblige the mistress/misteress to give them.
Before you stone me for that, my concern here is for your emotional well-being, and that can be easily compromised by mistress-malice. Unless she’s making it up entirely, her overview message is accurate enough: he’s cheating on you with her. That information, in and of itself, is sufficient to prompt you to act - that action is very likely to be your own immediate fact-finding.
It’s probable that anything offered to you as ‘proof’ by the other woman will contain as much knife twisting and spiteful viciousness as she can get away with, even if her target is really your cheater:
- There is no guarantee that the details provided are honest or accurate.
- Refer to the section, the Affair Partner’s Agenda.
- There is always spin.
- Your reaction and response may be a source of the other woman’s fun.
- The other woman is neither your friend nor a reliable fact checker.
- It’s easy to fall into the quicksand of control freakery and/or pain shopping.
There’s merit in making your own observations and efforts to satisfy yourself of an affair, rather than laying your fate further in the already tainted hands of the other woman. However, you might choose to endure some mistress-malice if you’re trying to build a legal case for which you require evidence of the affair. Unless you are building such a legal case, seriously consider if mistress-derived proof might be more damaging than useful - in our experience, the long-term damage is rarely worth it.
The Duped Mistress and Misteress
There are those who have been duped into an affair relationship. Yes, one could argue that it was incumbent on them to ensure that their new beau was actually single, or that they must have ignored red flags but, for some, the cheater capably obscured their view of the truth.
There are many that would argue that she must ‘know’, that there must have been ‘signs’, but if we don’t levy that against a wife who has been deceived by her husband then it’s unreasonable to expect Bambi to have super-powers of detection.
With an unknowing affair partner there is the added dimension of their own emotional distress for being conned into an affair relationship. If Bambi was completely non-complicit, it is appropriate that she protects herself from further entanglement, distress, and drama, just as we would recommend for the faithful spouse. It’s not reasonable or proper to expect or press Bambi into remaining involved with the affair drama.
I’m the Other Woman: Should You Tell His Wife?
When it comes down to it, yes, somebody should, even if that’s you. We all have a right to make decisions about our lives informed by truth and reality - his wife is no exception.
Be clear about what you’re doing and why. It is not your role to be her support, her friend, her confidante, or her fact checker. Your role is to give her a heads-up - beyond that, she is off-limits. It’s not your place to further involve yourself with her, or her marriage.
Footnote: the male equivalent for ‘mistress’:
It’s a common complaint: there isn’t an equivalent male term for ‘mistress’ that conveys the same tone. In this post I tried out a few alternatives: mantress/misteress/he-wench. My personal favorite was misteress, but am happy to consider other suggestions. 😆