Annie Ridout | Contributing Writer | Saturday, 16 May 2015

Befriending The Other Woman

Why Do We Befriend The Other Woman?

The Debrief: A short guide to who The Other Woman might be and the best way to deal...

I was 15 when I experienced my first bout of gut-wrenching jealousy over a bloke. I’d just started going out with a guy in the year above and he was stood behind me in the lunch queue. Overcome with giddy teenage lust, it took me a while to notice that my ‘best friend’ was making eyes at him behind my back. Worse still, he was responding. 

Said (ex) best friend had clearly been off school for the sisterhood induction so hadn’t learnt that rule #1 is: don’t ever flirt with your friend’s beau. She quickly became my enemy but I decided to keep her close. This way, I could show my husband-to-be how chilled out and un-jealous I was and remind myself that she wasn’t this sex goddess in three-quarter length trousers; she was very normal and actually quite boring. 

I didn’t end up marrying the boyfriend but I did continue to befriend any woman who I felt threatened by in subsequent relationships, and it has always put me in good stead. So here’s a short guide to who The Other Woman might be and the best way to deal with her. 

The best friend

It’s one thing when your best friend tries to make moves on your boyfriend but it’s a whole lot trickier when your boyfriend has a good-looking female best friend. I know, because I used to date a guy who wore his stunning blonde bezzie on his arm like a trophy. 

You’ll need to tread carefully with this one. If you upset the BFF she’ll almost certainly run crying to your boyf and he’ll think you’re a total bitch. Game over. Instead, spend time with her – she’ll become less perfect as you get to know her and he won’t have to lose his best friend to make space for you. That will just happen naturally over time.

Psychotherapist Jan Hawkins specialises in couples counselling. She says: ‘Being friendly and welcoming to the “other woman” can serve to diminish the feeling of threat.’ But, she continues, ‘If inappropriate or overly intimate behaviours are being exhibited, they can be challenged.’

So hanging out together is OK but if they still cuddle up in bed after a night out – it’s time for ‘a talk’.

The girl next door

We have a real-life Aphrodite living next door. She is, I’m sure, the embodiment of every man’s fantasy; at least she is for my significant other. She oozes youth, sex appeal and the freedom that we grapple to keep hold of as we edge closer to our 30s. I noticed him checking her out so one day asked him who his girlfriend was?

He blushed and said he didn’t know what I was talking about. Then we laughed as he told me he hadn’t realised how obvious he was being. He clearly underestimates how astute I am. Turning it into a joke (he now also refers to her as his girlfriend) has normalised the situation; the fantasy is somewhat tainted by me being in on it.  

Hawkins says: ‘The more one’s fantasies take over, the more strain there can be in the relationship and the threat is then to the connection between the woman and her partner.’

But she explains that where real threat exists, ‘It’s important to come down from anxious fantasy world into evidence-based reality.’

*Excuse me while I search my OH’s coat pockets for receipts. 

The flirty colleague

I was sitting in the pub with my ex boyfriend when his colleague came in. It was the first time I’d met her. After a few too many tipples, she decided to sit on his lap and flirt outrageously, right in front of me. I pretended I hadn’t noticed.

My ex was coy and awkward, but later showed me lots of love by way of thanks for not creating a difficult situation between him and his workmate. 

A uni friend was less cunning. Her boyfriend worked in fashion with a band of beautiful, stylish women. She was sick with jealousy after seeing who he was spending his 9-5 with and made the mistake of trying to ban him from socialising with them.

Instead, she should have got herself dolled up and joined them. Because then they might have abided by rule #2 of the sisterhood: don’t poach another sista’s man.

The ex-girlfriend

Some men are good at shedding their ex-girlfriends while others cling on to the past. It’s rare that a relationship between a man and his ex can continue to blossom, platonically, after the break-up, so you’re probably right to question him if she’s still firmly embedded in his life. But if it really is an innocent friendship you’re going to have to embrace her too. 

This will be hard, as they have a real history together. But even more so because they’ve definitely had sex. While the three of you sit drinking pints together in the pub, you’ll have images shooting through your mind of the two of them in various sexual positions in the bed you now share with him.

STOP! Cast those images from your mind and get to know her – it ended for a reason.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Reddit Users Shared Their Worst Housemate Stories. And They’re Pretty Awful

How To Cope If Your Housemate Falls In Love (And It’s Not With You)

In Defence Of Not Living With Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Fancy Person

Follow Annie On Twitter: @annieridout

Picture: Sophie Davidson