“So how’s newlywed life?”
That was the question that made my heart stop. She thinks it’s me.
“She” is a woman I had never met in person. Her husband and I met through work and texted periodically over a few years’ time. I’d heard about the affair at dinner one night months earlier. My friend said, “I found out that Greg Richardson (not his real name) had an affair. The lady who told me asked, ‘I wonder if he cheated with this woman?’ Then she held up her phone and showed me a picture on Facebook of you and him together.”
Thank God my friend’s response was an immediate and confident, “NO! That’s my friend Abby!” I gasped at the thought that someone would suspect me of being the other woman and I knew right then that I had been pulled into something I wanted no part of. But what can you do to prove your innocence in a situation like this?
That dinner was the last I heard about Greg for months, until 7:59 p.m. on a Friday night when his wife, Jennifer, messaged me. It started with a few random questions and then, “So, how’s newlywed life?” This odd question combined with that news my friend had shared a few months earlier made all the alarms go off in my head.
I couldn’t just continue the small talk and pretend I didn’t know.
“Listen, I heard about what happened between you and Greg and I’m really sorry to hear it. I’m guessing that since you’re asking me about my marriage, you think I might somehow be involved. I promise you I’m not. Here is my phone number if you want to talk. I’m open all day if you’d rather get together in person.”
She called. We talked. She said she didn’t suspect me of being the other woman. I didn’t believe her.
There I stood in Home Goods, next to the area rugs, trying to keep my voice down while I talked to Jennifer. I found myself analyzing my words, thinking, “What would a guilty person say?” I kept asking myself, “What can I do to convince this wounded woman that I didn’t cheat with her husband?”
The answer: Nothing. What’s done is done. What you can do is change what happens going forward because there is a 100 percent chance you will have to deal with a married man.
You’ll never be suspected of being the other woman if you’re known for being the woman who leaves no room for suspicion. Here’s where I messed up:
I texted him.
Because of our jobs, we had legitimate reasons to text, but that doesn’t mean we should have. Sure, it would’ve been inconvenient to stick to email or work phone lines, but texting is dangerous territory. If I had it to do over, I would’ve included my boss on all our texts and told Greg that if we needed to text, this is how it had to be done—even if telling him that felt awkward.
I didn’t speak up when I was uncomfortable.
One day, he sent something suggestive via text and I just nervously laughed to myself and didn’t reply with an admonition. Why? Because, like many women, I thought doing so would be awkward. Ladies! We need to stop this. If you are uncomfortable, giggling politely does no one any favors. I thought the comment was flattering, but my husband said, “He just came on to you.” I denied it, but my radar had gone off.
We have to set clear boundaries before the invisible ones in our heads have been crossed, because there is no going back.
If you set boundaries, might you look like a prude? Yes. Might you be accused of sensing something that wasn’t intended? Yes. Will others think you’re being over-dramatic? Maybe. But I doubt any woman will ever suspect you of being the other woman.
You’ll never be suspected of being the other woman if you’re known for being the woman who leaves no room for suspicion.
What boundaries have you set for your marriage and for interacting with married men?