She fucked my husband and I’ll never condone that, but she wasn’t the one who pledged me fidelity.
If Beyoncé wrote the soundtrack of my life, she wouldn’t describe my husband’s other woman as “Becky with the good hair.” The woman my husband cheated with was certainly no Rachel Roy (who really, really wants you to know she isn’t Becky after all). My husband’s other woman has frizzy hair and skin covered in acne. She has a laugh like a donkey. But he fucked her all the same.
When I found out my husband was cheating on me, I wanted to know everything about the other woman. I pored over all of her pictures on social media, looking for and enjoying every single flaw. Eventually, after comparing every inch of her to myself, I sat back and closed my laptop, satisfied that I was better than her in every way.
I enjoyed my sense of superiority—for a little while. Being cheated on tore me to emotional shreds and I had every right to be mad as hell. If I want to tear that woman down, I’ll tear her down; she knew damn well the man she was dating was married to me. She even knew that we had newborn twins at home. Whatever her reasons were for dating my husband, they aren’t ones I respect or admire and I will never apologize for calling her a bitch.
What I won’t do is keep blaming her for what my husband did to me. That other woman, with her frizzy hair and pock-marked skin, is little more than a stranger to me. She didn’t stand in a chapel and pledge to love me forever, as our families and friends looked on. She didn’t shove the ceremonial first bite of wedding cake in my face as I laughed and shoved my piece right back into his. She wasn’t there the day we conceived our triplets, or in the ultrasound room the day the doctor told me there were only two heartbeats. She fucked my husband and I’ll never condone that, but she wasn’t the one who pledged me fidelity.
As a woman, I have been conditioned to compare myself to and compete with other women for my entire life. When I was cheated on, it felt natural and comfortable to focus on the other woman instead of my own husband. Centering her, and even blaming her, for my husband’s infidelity was easy. I didn’t want to ask why my husband betrayed me—I wanted to hate the other woman for being a home-wrecking whore. I wanted to reduce her to just another “Becky with the good hair” or “Sarah with the crappy job” or whatever else I could use to minimize the woman who suddenly loomed so large in my life.
Cloaking myself in my hatred of her felt good for a little while. It was righteous and justifiable and it fueled me in a time when everything I loved was tattered and trembling on a foundation of quicksand. But my rage at the other woman let her into my marriage. It muddied and complicated what was really a very simple situation: I was married to an unfaithful asshole. He betrayed me; she didn’t.
Hating the man I loved didn’t feel good. My husband had no interest in hearing about how I felt about his infidelity. He came to me crying after I found out. He begged me to stay, but the next day he told me that if I couldn’t “get over it,” our marriage probably wouldn’t work. My seething, festering hatred had nowhere to go. There were no baseball bats and monster trucks to wreak havoc on the man who destroyed me. That hatred settled into a pit in the bottom of my stomach and simmered there as I tried to move on.
It would’ve been easier to keep blaming the other woman and to let my husband off the hook. Hating her didn’t cost me anything except emotional real estate; hating him forced me to choose between my self-respect and the man I loved. I had to abandon my home, my partnership, and even the idea of myself as someone who was cherished and loved. Letting go of my hatred for the other woman forced me to confront the terrible truth that I invested myself in a man who would never invest in me.
When I shifted the focus away from the other woman and back to the man who had betrayed me, I had to face the knowledge that he was still cheating on me. I checked his phone, logged into his computer, and made a mental note of everything he said and did until I became consumed by his unfaithfulness. I was broken and humiliated. I allowed myself to be discarded and rejected like yesterday’s trash until I stood up, shook myself off, and told him to get the hell out of my house.
I didn’t give up on our marriage right away. We went to marriage counseling, week after week. We talked about rebuilding our trust and relationship, but then he got in his car and drove home to her apartment and fucked her. When he told me he was living with roommates, he was really living with her. Who was the other woman then? Me? Her? It really doesn’t matter. There’s only one person cheating in this story—the man I married.
It was almost impossible not to give in to my own insecurities and ask myself why I wasn’t enough for him and why he wanted her instead of me. But what I should’ve been asking myself was why I was wasting my time on a man who lied, cheated, and betrayed me. He cheated on me, he cheated on her, and he’s cheated on every other woman ever since. None of us were ever the problem. It would’ve been so easy to see that if I hadn’t grown up in a culture that force-feeds women a distrust of each other. My husband was no prize. The other woman and I never should’ve been lured into competing for his attention and affection in the first place.
I don’t begrudge myself (or Beyoncé) the right to dismiss the other woman. Despite the internet witch hunt for “Becky,” Beyoncé herself spent far more time in Lemonade exploring Jay Z’s betrayal and her own feelings about his infidelity. I’m sure Beyonce knows damn well how little the other woman matters—it’s too bad the rest of the world still hasn’t gotten the message.
This originally appeared on Wear Your Voice. Republished here with permission.