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I have never been one to condone cheating, especially in a marriage. I have been one of many people who heavily judged a woman for sleeping with a man who is already spoken for. Based on the most recent cheating statistics, there seems to be a good reason for this common ire.

According to research conducted by the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy last year, 57 percent of men have cheated in any relationship they’ve ever had, and the same data shows that an affair lasts for an average of two years.

These men clearly cheated with someone, and while I can start pointing my finger at the women who helped played a part in disrespecting these relationships, experience has softened my response to these situations. My harsh opinions have shifted more toward a compassionate tone only because I’ve had friends who’ve been the other woman. In these situations though, they acted as a girlfriend, not just a fling.

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I pride myself on being a loyal and brutally honest friend, but when two of my friends disclosed that they were messing with married men, I didn’t have the response I expected. Both of their situations were slightly different and did not occur at the exact same time, but both times, I played the role of the friend who just listened instead of scolded. One friend was single but in a three-year-long “situationship” with a married man. The other was indeed married, but was engaging in a relationship with a married man that caused both of their marriages to end and ironically, their relationship on the side to end as well.

Maybe I would have approached the situations in another way if my relationship status had been different at the time (I wasn’t married but I was already in a serious relationship with my future husband at the time). Of course, I didn’t approve of their actions, but smpathy overtook my anger when my single friend told me the sad stories of her “boyfriend.”

At first they were just having sex with the understanding that he was married. But after time passed, he started telling her that he had plans to leave his wife for her. The next two years were filled with dropped divorce filings and court dates while he repeatedly professed his love for her.

Some would say she is stupid for believing that he would actually leave his wife and for even getting involved with him in the first place, but based on the things he said and messages he left, the guy even convinced me that he would have left his family for her and I had never even met him.

What I find interesting though is that she never felt guilty, at least, I never saw regret from her, and she would often talk about how unhappy he was with his wife. She was definitely caught up.

Relationship expert and coach Stephan Labossiere listed several reasons on his website for a woman’s choice to take part in an extramarital affair, and I found a few of them worth exploring.

Labossiere states that a mistress fears a real relationship. But when it comes to a long-term affair, I would have to assume that at some point the women will want and are patiently waiting to slide into that number one spot. She assumes he’s unhappy by stepping outside of his marriage and that being with her is what he ultimately wants.

He also mentions that if a woman is a mistress, she often doesn’t value herself as anything more than that. Though this doesn’t describe my friend, I can see how her decision to “date” him for the last two years of their relationship, when it was clear things weren’t going to change, can put her into this category. I saw the emotional hold he had on her when she threatened to walk away or go on dates with other men; it was as if she was about to commit a crime she was so upset at the idea of hurting him. He would also guilt her into going out of her way to see him, all while still living at home and sleeping with his wife because he “had to.”

Although some mistresses find themselves promoted to wife, my friend wasn’t as lucky. Her relationship with him wasn’t worth it and it seemed to have wasted three years of her life. He never left his spouse in the end.

I will never say that I am okay with the role that my friend played in an extramarital affair, but I can understand how she got sucked in. Interesting enough, she is now happily married and I can’t help but wonder if her husband ever stepped outside of their marriage if she would be understanding and easily able to forgive.

I would never tell a woman, who has been cheated on, to just let it go or empathize with any and every mistress who invaded her home, because I sure wouldn’t. However, if you hear of someone else going through it or know of someone who is in the mistress position, I would just say that you shouldn’t focus your attention on her alone. It takes two to tango, but only one out of those two people took vows they were expected to keep.

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