(The Root) —
"My ex and I got off to a rough start because he led me on while still with his then-girlfriend. My male best friend has now started going on dates with her. I feel petty for disliking this new relationship, but I've always had ill feelings when it came to her. Is that normal?" —O.S.
I'm confused. You met a guy who had a girlfriend, but he lied to you about it. You found out about the lie, ignored the gigantic red flag of a guy deceiving you about being in a relationship, then waited around as the Other Woman until he decided to break up with her, or she decided to leave him.
And then you thought it was a great idea to commit to a man who clearly doesn't respect commitments or respect you enough to be honest and up front with you about his commitment. And yet somehow, despite his lies, his deception and your willfully going along with being the other woman, you continue to have "ill feelings," even now, for the ex of your ex.
I'm sorry, what?
And better, why? This woman has done nothing to you, but you've done a lot to her, and to yourself. This lady with whom you take issue? She was in a relationship when her man started cheating with you. Initially, you didn't know, so you were in the clear. But then you found out that he was in a relationship, either from him or through the so-called grapevine, and you decided to stick around.
At that point, most people would say that he and you both wronged her. There are those who would disagree because you weren't the one who started off in a committed relationship — he was. They would still say you wronged yourself by settling to be mistress to a man who made it abundantly clear that he could not be trusted.
Unfortunately, what you feel — ire for another woman — is pretty common, though I would be hesitant to call it normal. Lots of women find themselves in a love triangle such as yours and often blame the other woman involved instead of dealing with the actual problem: the man.
I'll guess a few things about how you two wound up together, based on the most common scenarios of women who have written in or hired me for coaching when they have been (or still are) in situations such as yours. You met him, he was cool, things were going well, then you somehow found out about his lady. You confronted him, he hemmed and hawed, but after you pressed, he finally confessed that he was with someone. He said something like, "Things are not working out" or "I can't leave right now because she needs … "
Whether you said so or not, you decided to be a patient Other Woman until he got free. That probably took longer than expected, and you became frustrated, and he always said something like, "I'm working on it" and blamed something to do with his girlfriend about why he was still there. Does that sound about right?
A few things you should know: He didn't tell you up front because he was interested in you in some capacity and knew that he had a better shot by deceiving you. He also wasn't that unhappy with his relationship when he met you, or else he would have left her already. That was a line.
He also didn't break up with her eventually — if he was even the one to end the relationship — because he wanted to be with you. You had already made it clear that you would deal with him and give him the benefits of a relationship without committing. There was no incentive for him to leave his relationship. When he was good and ready, he left. That had little to do with you.
Finally, the many times in so many roundabout ways that he blamed his girlfriend for why he couldn't be with you at that time, or broke promises to see you because she demanded something of him — that was because he just didn't want to be there.
Surely the waiting and the repeated disappointments were frustrating and annoying, but his then-girlfriend shouldn't be blamed. All of the discord you faced had everything to do with the man you chose and your decision to put up with the subpar treatment he doled out.
I hope your male bestie is a stand-up guy and treats the ex-girl of your ex-boyfriend better than your former lover treated you and her. Channel your lingering anger at the people who deserve it: your ex and yourself, too. Also, do your best not to disrupt this new relationship. You've already helped wreck one of her relationships; there's no need to do it twice.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.