We were sitting in studio discussing the pros and cons of tech in relationships when a call came from a young woman who was terribly distraught. She had found, quite by chance, her guy’s Instagram account.

They’d been dating for a while and he’d always insisted that he was anti social media in all its forms – which is why he didn’t like her taking pictures of him, and (as far as he had told her) didn’t have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account.

And yet, here she had found his big, smiling mug splashed all over IG over months of uploads – smiling always next to another woman… smiling with this woman and groups of other people… smiling at dinner, smiling on holiday our caller had thought was a business trip, smiling with the woman and a puppy…

Our caller was distraught. Her boyfriend had been cheating on her all this time, she explained.


We asked if her ‘boyfriend’ had ever introduced her to his family or friends. No, she said, he had told her he was more of a loner. We asked if he ever took her out on the town. No, she told us, he was more of a stay-at-home kind of guy. We asked her where ‘home’ was and had she been to his?

No, she explained, he lived in a bachelor’s and didn’t want her to be uncomfortable so they were always at hers. And speaking of, we asked, did he ever sleep over? Well, not really, she said, they were the type of couple who wanted to give each other space.


We managed to squeeze in a: ‘Sheesh babe, you weren’t cheated on honey, you were the side chick’, before the line cut for commercials.
Terrible way to find out, on national TV.

She had to get the message somehow, right? But did it have to be from a bunch of strangers on telly? Shem.

It made me wonder about the monumental levels of denial you need to be able to sustain if you’re the side. It made me wonder where all her friends were in this. Or did they also just buy into all the same jibba jabba she did?

I think back to the times I toyed with the flirt of being ‘the other woman’. The guy and I were both aware of what was going on and there was never any pretence about what the situation was or what could be expected. I was never going to go to his house or expect sleepovers. Of course, I never dreamed of photos and social media connects.

And, I guess, we always assume that that’s the set-up – that the other woman knows she’s the other women. But what if she doesn’t?

What if you really are drawn into the little web of lies your man-spider weaves for you when you meet, until you’re so wrapped up and blinded by them you can’t tell your own needs from his anymore. What if your needs are so slowly suffocated out of you, that you don’t even realise you have them anymore?

Because that’s really what has to happen to hold the pretence together – you have to put your own needs completely aside.

Every time you want to take the relationship to its logical next step – going out together, sleeping over, meeting friends and family – man-spider will drip-feed you a flimsy reason it’s not possible.

No, it’s not possible to take your call now because the reception is bad; no, it’s not possible to come over for a spontaneous visit because he doesn’t like people cramping his space; no, it’s not possible to go on holidays because he’s always away with family; no, it’s not possible to hold your hand in public because he’s just not that kind of guy… and on and on…

And like slow-acting poison, you’ll start to believe it’s all true and necessary. You’ll start believing you’re the crazy one for wanting more.

You know, when I started writing this, I was thinking about the term ‘side chick’, about how demeaning it is and whether in this context using the word ‘chick’ is at all ok. But the thing this, being ‘the side’ is demeaning in the whole, there’s no cute term for it. It shows about as much respect for you as you have for your own relationship boundaries and requirements.

Trust me, as the almost other woman who wanted more, I know.

If you suspect you’re the side, ask some questions, demand some proof that you’re not – and if all you get are more excuses? Get out. That little web of lies doesn’t get any less sticky.   

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