The other man. The other woman. They're the femme fatales and playboys who worm their way into the hearts of happily married men and women and destroy families. But there are times when TOM and TOW can be the catalyst for positive change.
Amanda was an expert at self-deception. She swept a lot of her unhappiness "under the rug." She says: "I told myself that my husband's inability to listen to me was inherently male and that his spending habits were not a drain on our finances." But there were clues. A major one was she wished she were single.
She says: "I didn't want to live my life joined to someone else. If I were making a sandwich for myself, I felt obligated to ask my husband if he wanted one, too. I didn't want to do that anymore. I became jealous of my single friends and their lifestyles. I also wasn't attracted to my husband anymore."
Still, she wasn't about to get divorced. "I knew my father and other family members would disapprove and my children would be upset," she says. "They were 13 and 10 and I wasn't ready to uproot them. Also, my husband treated me very well and I was in a comfortable situation. I thought maybe I was just going through a phase and it would pass."
All that changed when Amanda met Kevin, a 57-year-old bachelor. She was instantly attracted to him. "I didn't think about whether or not we would marry, but I thought we would at least have a relationship," she says. "I was never unfaithful to my husband but I wanted to leave the marriage and be with Kevin. The relationship never really got off the ground but we're still good friends."
Even though it didn't work out with Kevin, the relationship gave Amanda the courage to end her marriage. She says: "Falling in love gave me the strength to leave. I should have ended the marriage sooner but I couldn't. My husband said he never saw our split coming but that was because for years I swept everything under the rug. I kept my dissatisfaction well-hidden from family and friends.
"When I realized it wasn't going to work out with Kevin, I did feel stupid for getting swept away, but then I started doing a lot of soul-searching, asking myself how and why it happened. It was only then that I had to lift up the rug that I had swept everything under and see what was underneath. That's when I saw that we did have problems, like my husband's heavy drinking, his temper, his spending habits and the fact that he just wasn't fun anymore, even after I tried to inject some life into the marriage by introducing fun activities.
"I now enjoy being single and don't want marriage, or even a relationship. My children are grown and, although they had a very difficult time dealing with the divorce, they're handling it much better now. I've found out who my real friends are and have made new friends. I'm enjoying my singleness now and don't desire a relationship. I like things just the way they are."
Are you divorced? Do you prefer your new single life to marriage? Send your thoughts, along with your questions and rants to [email protected] And check out my e-books, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front" and "I'll Call You. Not.