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Love Now, Cry Later: I Learned I Was the ‘Other’ Woman

3:55 PM PDT on May 20, 2020

    Welcome to L.A. Taco’s new love column, Love Now, Cry Later, a space we are dedicating to sharing the highs and lows of being in love in Los Angeles. For our first story, Tiffany Lauren reflects on the difficult and humbling realizations amidst finding out she was not the only one in a relationship. 

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap] am the other woman. Twice in my life now I can say that. It is a badge of shame and dishonor; a symbol of failure in my attempt to find true love. 

    The first time it happened by choice. I was a virgin, naïve, and hopeful that the promise to break up with his girlfriend would be fulfilled, and instead found myself living the harsh reality that was crying alone in my hotel room on my 30th birthday after a night out with friends.

    The second time I did not know. Until it was too late. 

    I was far head over heels, had invested nearly two years of my life, love, and self for someone who never intended to call me anything more than a friend with whom he could also participate in “extracurriculars”.

    The second time hurts the most. How do you recover from loving someone purely and wholly who led you on for two years? Who always gave just enough to keep you going? To keep you hoping? How do you recover from someone you trusted whole-heartedly? The most trust you’ve ever put into anyone despite refusals to be connected via social media or personal email, claiming a right to privacy and blaming you and your career history of publishing anonymous letters of love unrequited as the reason why he can’t be connected, as a reason to maintain distance when in actuality he was simply avoiding getting caught?

    How do you recover from someone who tells you he has an amazing connection with you, yet clearly not amazing enough to take a risk and give you a fair shot in his life? How do you recover from being told time and again that he “did not want to be with anyone” and that “ours is casual yet exclusive dynamic” when the reality was that he was in a committed relationship for half of the time that he was with me? 

    It was easier to continue living the false, comfortable stasis of life with the “official” partner and a vast amount of mutual contacts you two shared than it was to face the person who challenged you to be better, who challenged your bullshit answers to the hard questions. 

    The reality was he was hoping I’d be okay with being the other woman because I clearly don’t deserve the respect or regard of being someone’s official partner. I deserve the respect and regard that comes with being the last-minute drink on a Friday night, the prominence of being called multiple times between midnight and 3:30 AM until I finally answer out of concern and ultimately allow myself to be a pushover and unwitting final fuck of the night.

    I deserved the distinguished honors of sobbing my heart out once every six months he decided it was over because it was easier to abruptly end things and wipe your hands clean than it was to face the truth and reality of the situation you created, of the actions and impact your choices had on someone else’s life. It was easier to continue living the false, comfortable stasis of life with the “official” partner and a vast amount of mutual contacts you two shared than it was to face the person who challenged you to be better, who challenged your bullshit answers to the hard questions. 

    Leaving me alone just before the New Year, broken and sobbing my heart out for the fifth time, was easier and less complicated than it was to make yourself wholly vulnerable and take a reciprocal risk.

    The dignity of “Goodbye” and a phone click as I remain silent, shocked, hurt beyond grief on the other side of the line. The honor of vindication from the girlfriend to whom I did not owe the truth yet delivered it to nonetheless in the most respectful, gracious way possible, and who decided she was within her full right to tell me I deserve nothing, classifying me as trash to anyone willing to listen without one iota of consideration for the fact that I was just as much wounded as she, without knowing anything about who I am as a human being nor what I’ve overcome in life to be who I am today. 

    It is easier to blame and write off the “piece of shit” man and “trash” other woman for all of your own insecurities and problems and pain than it is to face the truth that it wasn’t just a one-time thing. He kept it up for so long because he cared about me, too. Scoff at that, I’m sure many people will. But I don’t owe explanation nor do I seek validation for a connection I know was real.

    He never doubted me, except in the area that mattered most: his heart.

    Yet toxic it all was. A lot of the initial behaviors were overlooked because I wanted it to work. I loved him, so much. If I am being completely honest, I always will. For all the imperfections and faults that existed between us, he was redeeming in many ways. He was self-made, rising against all odds as a first-generation American to an incredibly successful career in an industry where most fail. He had a work ethic like I have never seen. He had a good heart and a gentle kindness when he thought no one else was looking. The most impactful of his qualities though was his confidence in me. He always believed in me, never felt the need to overcompensate or to validate my success in life and anything I chose to do was always a pure fact that would eventually come to fruition. “You’re smart. I have no doubt you’ll figure it out.”

    He never doubted me, except in the area that mattered most: his heart. He was my first love. He knew this. I would have gone on forever for that guy, never being in an “official” relationship, letting his erratic behavior and visits carry on, as usual, writing them off as just being “him” and his self- proclaimed “busy” life. (To be fair: I am certain life is incredibly busy when you’re juggling a demanding career and two women at once.) I would have followed that guy to the end of the earth because I just wanted to be with him. That’s how much I believed in him, in his good spirit, in the potential of us.

    And now? Now I move forward. Now, I no longer blame myself for his choices and actions as justification for how he treated me. Now, I move forward. Now? I practice solace and solemnity, not not believing in true love and soul mates, but not entirely convinced that those are entities out there meant to be ever experienced in my life because I’m pretty sure he was the one. But to think the prior sentiment a shame is to base my whole life and worth on one microcosmic element over which none of us ever have control. It bases my life and entire value on sexual worthiness, and I am worth a lot more than that.

    Anytime I give my heart, I am the other woman. The fearless, strong, generous, loving human being you chose to turn your back on. Anytime I failed, anytime I fell, anytime I laugh, cry, and love— I am the other woman. 

    We never know who we are going to fall for. We never set out with the intention of being the other woman. I always set out to be THE woman. And I am. I am the woman of my dreams. Was I the woman of his dreams? Apparently not. But seeing how he treated the woman who supposedly was—that is not my dream.

    My dream is to live the most amazing, inspiring life that I can. My dream is to build the family that I never had out of my beautiful friends and relatives who have been there supporting me along the journey. My dream is to travel the world and see the beauty that is out there, the beauty that keeps us all going, hoping, and working to succeed. My dream is to inspire and change the world through good use of my words, through use of my pain so that someone else out there reading this one day can connect and see that they are not alone. They just have to work, fight, and believe—that there is more out there, that your happiness and success are pure facts that will come to fruition.

    I am the other woman. The strong, independent, perseverant, confident, fearless one. Anytime anyone has doubted my capabilities, I am the other woman—the more than capable one who will succeed despite your lack of commitment and respect. For any time I’ve ever doubted myself, I am the other woman—powerful, passionate, unforgiving, unrelenting. 

    Anytime I give my heart, I am the other woman. The fearless, strong, generous, loving human being you chose to turn your back on. Anytime I failed, anytime I fell, anytime I laugh, cry, and love— I am the other woman. 

    She is quite amazing, actually, and there’s no other woman I’d rather be.

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