The Other Woman

A play adapted by Victoria Zackheim from her book The Other Woman.

Five women, dressed in black wearing accents of something purple, read each authors adapted pieces from the stage. The stories were of love, betrayal, deception, predators and eventually healing, forgiveness and moving on.

Their stories were woven together in a colorful tapestry with threads of humor and soul gripping pain. One author wrote how she never received the affectionate gaze from her husband as he generously gave his female nude models for his art photography. His interests extended beyond the lens of the camera and into sex clubs and swinging parties.

Mary Jo Eustace wrote about how she learned her husband, Dean, was leaving her for his newly discovered soul-mate, Tori Spelling, who he'd known for three weeks. Mary Jo held the baby-girl they'd just adopted months before as he told her, "I don't love you anymore."

Another story was from a woman who was betrayed not only by her husband but also by her sister-in-law who denied knowing anything about the four year relationship the husband had been in before he delivered his exit line from the marriage.

And we heard from the other woman, the lover of a brilliant poet who eventually had a child with him only to see another other woman enter the picture and break her heart.

I could relate to some part of each woman's story; either from my own experience or someone I knew. And yes, of course there are wonderful stories of lasting love and faithfulness, willingly shared by the proud couples who've put the work into their relationships to honor their commitment. But for those of us who've been through a hellish heartbreak, we may be reluctant to reveal the wounds and scars from love gone horribly wrong. Are we afraid? Do we fear judgement that we picked badly, were stupid not to see the obvious signs, must be weak to keep taking him back, or that there's something inherently wrong with us? We fear being ostracized as if a divorce is contagious or maybe the reality of infidelity is too glaring for some friends to take; they hide from us because we are the evidence that this shit's real and it can happen to anyone. We fear being exposed for what our part was in having an unhappy husband. We fear we'll start crying again at the retelling of our story and never stop. 

My known world disintegrated during the months and years after my marriage ended abruptly. I became my own confidante, writing almost daily, confessing my escapism in alcohol and sex; trying to claw my way up to feel like a worthy human being by doing volunteer work, buckling to the floor in the deepest soul pain I'd never imagined and eventually attempting to end my physical life in the hopes my death would end the emotional and spiritual pain I felt relentlessly each day and sleepless night.

And then, because I knew I couldn't possibly be the only one to go through what I went through, I shared my story. The whole, raw, blemished, ugly truth. Since I published my book, Wine, Sex and Suicide - My Near Death Divorce, I've received repeated confirmation it was the right decision. Women have confessed in hushed whispers, I did that, too, I thought I was the only one. We are never the only ones. As human beings, we all share the same range of emotions and experiences, or at least the capacity for all of them. No matter what bizarre or atrocious behavior you could conjure up, there's more than one person doing it.

Tucking away our stories in little boxes of shame doesn't serve us or humanity. By keeping our stories inside to fester, we are poisoning ourselves with shame, which will only seep out into the body and likely manifest in some physical illness. By sharing our life experiences with others in a safe and supportive environment we are helping others by being a beacon of light as a way-shower and a compassionate recipient to hold space for another soul to open up and let their story out.

Here are a few ideas on sharing your stories safely:

  • We can confide in a therapist, coach or spiritual guide.
  • Join a group in person or on-line of people who have had similar experiences. Choose to share anonymously if need be.
  • Selectively tell trusted friends, opening up the dialogue by letting them know you want to share something only if they are comfortable listening.
  • Share only the portions of your story that feel the most comfortable to do at that given time.
  • Read, listen and watch stories of a similar nature to your own.
  • Develop good listening skills and become a trusted person for someone else to share their story.
  • Work on developing self acceptance and self love.