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No girl ever grows up thinking they want to be the other woman—certainly not me. I’ve always believed in the golden rule “Do not do unto others what you do not want to be done unto you.”

Besides, I’ve witnessed loved ones fall apart after learning they’ve been cheated on. It’s heartbreaking to see them hurt and depressed. Although they managed to move forward, in the back of my mind, I know they have been forever changed by the betrayal.

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There were a few times that an attached guy would make moves on me, but I never gave in. Puhleeze. Apart from the fact that I wasn’t attracted to them, I was well-aware I’d be hurting a fellow female if I choose to go that way.

And then, I met D.

To begin with, he was charming in a sexy kind of way. And then he pursued me. I was flattered by the attention, of course. Who wouldn’t be?

For an entire month, he would text me every day of his whereabouts. He’d text me in the morning, before he went to work and then he’d text me again in the evening, when he’s reached home.

I had traveled out of the country that time, and I remember him telling me he missed me. I thought that was sweet.

When our schedules allowed, we’d go out, and I’d experience some of the best conversations I’d have in my life yet. With him, I felt a connection I’ve never felt with anyone.

I told my female friends about this guy who was making me happy. Most of them were thrilled for me.

And then one of them asked: “Tinanong mo ba siya kung wala siyang girlfriend?”

Of course, it didn’t cross my mind. Why would a guy court a girl if he were already in committed? Sure, it had only been for only a month but I refused to think that he could be a two-timer. He seemed decent, someone with a good heart. Besides, he struck me as a gentleman: When we saw a movie for the first time, he didn’t even hold my hand.

I didn’t ask D the question. I was afraid of offending him and risk losing him. A fear I learned was unfounded because on the third month, D started to ghost me.

His daily texts became a twice a week treat, which turned into a once a week kumusta, which sank to none at all. He didn’t ask me out anymore. And when I invited him to watch a movie, he cancelled at the last minute, saying something came up at work.

So what’s a girl to do? Sleuth social media, of course. Facebook is always a rich source of information. I discovered many photos of him but always with the same girl. One photo was particularly telling: It was a twofie of them (rolls eyes) inside his car.

That photo disturbed me. Hell, it made me jealous! I reached out to D via SMS but received no reply.

He was gone several weeks until suddenly: “Love mo ba ako,” He asked on SMS.

What?! Just an SMS? After weeks of not hearing from you, you ask me that question? Through text?! I decided to play it coy: “Haha. Serious ba ang question mo?”

He later confessed that he assumed I had rejected him (na-basted). So he hooked up with Ms. Selfie who became his GF. I clarified that no. No rejection was doled out by me.

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So for the next two years, D and I were in a weird relationship. We would go out for lunch or dinner or a movie. D and I would also have lengthy talks via SMS, about everything: work, hobbies, our plans, and our dreams. Sometimes, our conversations would turn flirty, as when D asked me how many children I wanted. “Puwede lima,” he continued not waiting for my reply.

Technically, we were friends. But we held hands, and sometimes we went beyond that. To this day, he is the only one I’ve ever been intimate with.

And all along I knew he had a girlfriend.

We had a mutual understanding. He never forbade me to see other guys. But there weren’t other men who turned me on as much as he did. I truly believed he was the only one for me.

I had become what I didn’t want to be. I was the other woman, and all the other names society has given, um, us: flirt, seducer, temptress, kabit (ouch), home-wrecker (double ouch), thief (aray).

Why did I hold on to D? I guess I was afraid that no other guy would come along. Besides, I believed no relationship was perfect. Everything had its fault—mine happened to be his extra baggage of a girlfriend. So, what made my situation any different?

Besides, social has put a premium on love and on being in love, and getting into a relationship, and coupledom, and all that jazz. Notice, nobody ever asks couples questions about their status. It’s always the single ladies who are bombarded with “Bakit single ka pa?and “May asawa ka na ba?” or “Bakit wala ka pang boyfriend? Siguro pihikan ka.”

Excuse me. Hindi ako pihikan. Pumatol nga ako sa may girlfriend eh. Better to be in a pseudo-relationship than not to be in a relationship at all…right?

Call me deranged but there’s actually a sense of security in being the other woman. You don’t have to worry about being cheated on because you are fully aware that your partner is already cheating with you.

There’s a weird sense of freedom and independence in not expecting calls and texts to come regularly, so when they do, you feel like you’re in heaven. The very few moments you have are precious. And when you start to feel jealous, you stop because you know you have no right.

But, somewhere along the way, you begin wanting more. D, uncharacteristically, began being so vocal and so showy about his SO on social media.

I began to feel threatened. I started asking D if we could see each other more often. He didn’t like the idea. “Tigilan na natin ito! Nagiging demanding ka na,” he blurted out.

That hurt. And that’s another thing: because there is no commitment to speak of, third parties cannot make demands.

So we completely stopped seeing each other. That was in 2014. Confiding to a few friends helped me go through the “break-up.” Widening my social circle and meeting new guys erased the bad memory.

Two years later, in 2016, D asked to see me. I was over him, so I agreed.

I was seated when he walked into the neighborhood coffee shop, disheveled, unshaven and dressed in his pambahay. Clearly, he didn’t look a bit like the “one who got away.” I immediately asked the purpose of the meeting.

He said he wanted to make amends because—hindi tayo naghiwalay nang maayos.

Bakit?” I retorted. “Naging tayo ba?”

That threw him off. He eventually said sorry. I managed a small smile. “Thank you,” I said gratefully. Even if the apology came two years later, it’s what I wanted to here from him.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel vindicated. Because I felt relieved.

Thankful I was no longer hung up on him. Thankful that I had regained my self-worth.

Illustration: Madel Crudo

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