Maureen was in the mood for company last Monday afternoon, so she picked up the phone and dialed her boyfriend's number. It rang once, twice, three times, and then when Maureen heard the answering machine, she hung up.
An hour or so later, she did the same thing. She didn't dare leave a message. His wife might have heard it.
Maureen lives in a south Orange County coastal community (she would rather not be more specific). According to the numbers on her driver's license, she is 65, but "I look more like 48," she said matter-of-factly. This relationship is her third foray into the life of "the other woman." And it may be her last, she said.
"It's a one-way street and everything is going in the other person's direction," she said. "It's unrewarding in the end, it really is."
So far we have heard from two sides of the infidelity triangle: the unfaithful spouse and the betrayed partner. After she read last Saturday's column, Maureen called and volunteered to speak for the third side: the other woman (or man).
By necessity, hers is the least visible role of the three. She can't leave messages or any other signs of her existence in his life. And if she needs something while he is concentrating on the woman who is his first priority, she has to do without his help. Only her closest and most trusted friends--if anyone--can even know of her involvement.
At least, that is the way it usually happens. But remember, this is Maureen's third affair with a married man. The first two situations weren't quite like that, she said.
"I had a long, very unhappy marriage," Maureen said. "I was faithful the whole time." She never worried about whether her husband was unfaithful. Too many other things were wrong. "Finally, we came to an understanding. He didn't want a divorce, wouldn't go to counseling, wouldn't stop drinking, so in effect, he gave me a carte blanche card to lead my own life."
Maureen established her independence by having "open" affairs with two married men. In both cases, the wives knew and did not object.
"Both of these men were quite wealthy. They played around quite a bit, and their wives accepted that as part of the price of having the nice houses and cars and all that," Maureen said.
"The first man was my neighbor. I'm out there walking my dog, and--they had just moved in--he says, 'Have you seen the house?' So we start talking, and then they invite me to a party, where he approaches me about having a relationship. It was all in the open; she knew about it. That was fine," Maureen said. "She even used to invite me over for dinner. She was quite amiable."
The first affair lasted about a year. Then Maureen met another man, ended the first relationship and began a second affair that lasted for two years.
"The second man was with his wife when I met him, at a resort in the mountains. He took an immediate interest. Then his wife started inviting me to their house here in Orange County. Finally she said, 'I know where you're going, and it's OK. I trust you.' He had had other affairs, but the women were all very predatory. They wanted to get him away from his wife. I wasn't like that, so she liked me," Maureen said.
"When I started (the first of) these relationships, I had been married almost 30 years. My sex life and my social life were at zero. It was good for my ego, what can I tell you? These were not unattractive men. They taught me a great deal about myself as a woman. Those relationships were what set me free." Through them, Maureen said, she got the confidence to confront her husband and go through with the divorce despite his objections.
"I enjoyed both of them; they did a lot for me. One of the men had a private plane, and we took it to Mexico and Las Vegas, all over. The other man wined and dined me all up and down the West Coast.
"I used to laugh about it, you know, if it's Tuesday it must be Harry." Sometimes, she said, the wives even laughed with her.
"I wasn't emotionally involved with either of them. I liked them; they were good sexual partners, but it just wasn't there. Maybe I'm too much of a romantic, but to me, it's either there or it isn't. I really liked these men, but they didn't stir my heart at all. So I was able to keep my head."
The affairs ended when Maureen's heart was "stirred" by a man 18 years her junior. "I fell in love with the guy," she said. "We lived together five years, and that was the most successful relationship I've had. Then he got transferred to another state, and I didn't want to leave my business here. We kept in touch for a while, but we decided it was best that I didn't follow him."
Maureen met her current lover--he is 55--last year on a trip. "He was tall, a good dancer, well-educated, we got along well. He told me he was living with somebody; that didn't bother me. I had no designs on upsetting his life.