In the mind of a ‘side dish’

When fidelity is tested, there are never kind words for the cheating partner. But the true villain, at least in the eyes of society, is always that other third party. Bitter questions are asked as to why some people are so selfish to always come in the middle of two souls enjoying the magic of love. Or rather, why can’t some people find a man or woman of their own?

The popular idea is that this other person, the side dish, as they are commonly labelled, only forces their way into the picture to reap material or sexual benefits. They are considered the lazy type afraid of investing time and effort in building their own relationship, hence making it a point to encroach on other people’s partners and making love, tough as it already is, even tougher!

But as most of those who are the side dish would confess, they are not finding it any easier at their end either.
Linda, a public relations officer at an aertising company in Kampala, admits she is part of a small love triangle, not as the significant other, but the side dish. She, however, finds the ‘side dish’ tag somewhat derogatory and prefers to be called “the other woman.”
The style in which she opts to be called the other woman clearly suggests it is not something she is proud of, but it also gives the impression that it is a title she has come to terms with.

Linda has this striking beauty about her, the kind of woman who would have men flinging swords at themselves, just to spend time with her. So, why would a girl so beautiful settle as a “spare tyre”, worse still, to a married man?
It all started about a year ago when she met Roger in her line of duty. The chemistry was instant. Social media flirting turned into late night calls and then a few memorable dates, and as she simply puts it, “we connected”. Soon she found herself falling head over stilettos with this man, and falling hard!

“I had no idea he was married, or even in a relationship,” Linda swears. “He had no girlfriend. He had no ring. At least that is what he told me.”
It would not be long though before she realised that something was amiss. Roger often avoided showing up with her in public, and the few times he did, he would introduce her simply as “a friend”. She also realised that even after several months of dating, he had no thoughts of making any major steps in the relationship. It was always all about sex.
“When he started keeping a distance and asking me not to call him in the night, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to dig up on him,” Linda reveals.

It turned out her boyfriend was married with a two-year-old son. “He broke my heart. When I confronted him, he was not exactly apologetic, but he did ask me not to leave him,” Linda says.

This is the point where most women would slap a man and call it quits. And she did call it quits — not slap him. But that was just for a few weeks.

Now they are back together. They are dating, he is still married, she is just the side dish, and she knows it.
Asked whether she does not burn with guilt knowing she could be the reason a happy family crumbles, she is quick to assert, “He will never leave his wife, he loves her.”
“And what about you? Does that mean you will forever be on the side?” I prod. She thinks hard but does not answer. At some point, I make an insinuation that perhaps she is in it for the money. But she jumps to the defensive.

“No. He foots my bills because I am his woman too, but I am not after his money. I love him, I really do. It just breaks my heart that he will never see me from the same angle he sees his wife. Sometimes I wish he could spare some time for me, or at least introduce me to his family and friends.”

Not a rosy affair
A lot of people tend to relate the life of a side dish to that of a socialite full of glamour. Glamorous it could be, but often devoid of happiness. As it turns out, most of those who have settled as the side dish are not exactly eating life with a big spoon.

Loveshark.org, an online website, is home to The other man and woman, a forum for those who find themselves in a relationship only as the other party. The membership is large. Thousands check in every day, not to sing of how much they love their life as the side dish, but rather cry about it, and seek support from those who do or once did walk in the same shoes.
The revelations here all point to the fact that most of those in such affairs are not there by choice. Many are trapped.

Like Linda, most people on this forum confirm they walked into such relationships with no idea they would be an option, not a priority. The few who reveal they knew what they were getting themselves into also flaunt this forum to share their eventual dilemma under names such as Unhappy Joan, or Confused Stella.
“This morning I was at his office and right there on his desk stood a framed photo of his wife. He knew I was coming but did not even bother to put that photo away. I just don’t know why he is so insensitive,” Mellisa Ozz rants in her post to the forum.

Interesting as some may find it, men are not an exception in the side dish dilemmas. Though in lesser numbers, some males are also a part of a series of such online side dish forums. Most of them are younger males involved with older women. Their posts show they do not have much to complain about, but they are not a clear indication of happiness.

A few actually share their emotional baggage. Dickson PP starts his post with an interesting disclaimer, “I know it is not a man’s thing to share such emotions with the world, but I am really depressed right now.” Then he goes on and on about a certain woman and how she has always chosen some other man over him, leaving him in the shadows to play second fiddle.

Could there be an upside?
Like any situation, some choose to see the silver lining in all this. Not all is dark on the side of the other woman or man. Peaceanna, a student at Makerere University Business School and a side dish to a Kenyan businessman, is convinced that being the other woman is a win situation.

“He takes care of me. I do not need to worry about where I will get the money to do my hair or my nails. And I think he loves me more than the wife. I even get to spend more time with him than she does. What more do I want?” she says. In her view, the question is never who is main or minor, as long as you are getting what you desire from the relationship.

Joseph Musaalo, a relationship psychologist, describes the side dish affair as absurd. He points to the lack of patience as the major reason many people, especially women, find themselves in such a position.

“At some point some women get desperate for marriage. So the next good man who comes her way is seen as a golden catch and not one to let go of. And if it turns out that this man already has a fiancee, or is even married, they hang in there hoping he will leave his woman for her,” Musaalo explains.

He adds that material benefits also lure women to entangle themselves in relationships, even if it means settling as the insignificant other. Men too are in it for the material gains, especially the common cases of young men who get involved with married, older and more affluent women just to peck a living off them. “But there is also the issue of sexual greed, where you find that someone does not mind being the side dish as long as their sexual benefits are met,” Musaalo says, adding, however, that it is never a healthy situation to put oneself in because it tends to waste time because instead of keeping your options open, you are stuck with someone who already has a partner.

“It is even stressful to keep wishing the person you are with would leave their significant partner for you. It creates anger and rage. It is even sexually risky as a relationship with three people creates a sexual network.”

hearttoheart@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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