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Posted on Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Woman learns she is the "other" woman

By Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn:

Blargh. I've spent the entirety of my two-year relationship on the lookout for the other woman, only to learn this week that I AM the other woman. The "main" woman is his on-again, off-again fiancee, currently on, whom I had glimpsed in passing a number of times but always thought was a relative of his.

Of course I am disgusted by this level of deception, but I also believe that what we have/had is real, and I am not sure it's necessary to automatically write off this relationship. I asked him what he wanted, and he answered honestly that he doesn't know. Now that the fiancee is aware of me, she has wavered on leaving him, but may still do it. Do I sound like a ninny here?

-- That's what I get

Your word, not mine.

What you have/had is real, yes, in its profound dysfunction. For proof of this, you actually didn't even need to discover he's scheduled to marry someone else.

Sufficient proof has been available for "the entirety of my two-year relationship," every time you looked under the bed for the other woman. Your lookout impulse has been urging you to get out from the beginning.

That's because chronic suspicion doesn't have a whole lot of causes. It means only this: either you're emotionally unhealthy, or your relationship is, or both. That's it.

If you took the news of his brazen deception as a relationship write-off -- or, better, a run-screaming-off -- then you could blame the relationship, mentally review the past two years to see what signs you missed, make some adjustments to your outlook and your future behavior, and carry on.

But since you're currently trying to rationalize a decision to keep seeing him, despite, again, brazen deception, you need to realize that you're in one of the most dangerous positions people can find themselves in: You'd rather get high than take care of yourself.

Just because your drug of choice is a man (or gambling or risky sex or compulsive shopping or overeating or dieting/exercising or ... ) instead of a mind-altering chemical, that doesn't make your position harmless, and it certainly doesn't make it romantic. It's bad for you. You don't care. Why?

I urge you to ask yourself this question, and, if you can't come up with an answer on your own, to consider taking it to a good therapist. If that's not an option, then consider dropping by reputable addiction-recovery programs, if only to see if you make the same connection I did. Whatever it takes, please take better care of yourself.

--0-- --0-- --0--

Dear Carolyn:

Earlier in the year, my brother was pursuing a divorce from his awful wife (she has psychological problems), and the whole family really took it as a relief. During that time, he got a strange "tip" from his lawyer suggesting that one of his children may not be his own, but he never pursued it, and shortly after, he decided to go back to his wife. None of us was happy about that, but no one protested.

Fast-forward to now, I am dying to know if this child is truly my niece. I don't think she is; she looks nothing like my brother or her siblings, and I honestly believe my sister-in-law would do something like that.

I will be around all of them soon for a few days. I want to get her paternity tested. I don't even know what I would do with that information. I probably wouldn't even tell my brother or my parents; I just want to know for me.

Is that totally crazy? If so, is there any way I could do this and not have to tell them? Who needs to be tested and how?

-- Anonymous

Totally crazy, yes, and out of line, and wrong.

Your brother has eyes, he can see what his daughter looks like. He got the lawyer's tip.

That he chose not to pursue it is a strong statement: He is accepting this child as his own. And why shouldn't he -- he's raising her, and loves her.

For you to undermine that not only takes you well out of the bounds of your own business, and not only shows disrespect for your brother's choice, but also sets your niece up to lose her family. If you think this information can be gathered and then safely contained -- just look at how well you're resisting the allure of its power so far -- and if you think it won't hurt your niece's standing with the only family she knows, then you're being naive.

Sometimes the only response to having an itch is to sit there and itch. Adults do it all the time when the good of a child is at stake.

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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