The Concubine

“You asked me not to wear cologne; she’ll know you been with me alone, and you can’t take our secret home, so you ask me not to wear cologne.” ~ Dolly Parton, Cologne

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the phenomenon called The Other Woman. Still, it has taken me a long time to even begin to understand her; her many faces, her many sides, the different roads she’s had to walk. What kind of person sleeps with someone else’s husband? What kind of monster is this accomplice to the horrible crime that is the destruction of the precious dreams of a once hopeful bride? What kind of woman creeps, sashays or lets herself be drawn into a man’s life, wreaking havoc ranging from minimal to colossal, and even altering the course of his children’s lives?

I had a chat recently with a much older pal of mine whose wife and kids, for reasons best known to him, live in the UK while he lives here in Nigeria. He told me he’s looking for a “wifey” and asked if I had any nice friends who are “like me” that he could “build something solid” with. Now, I’ve shed most of the naïveté for which I used to be known, but I still couldn’t help being perplexed at the ease, and dare I say, sincerity with which he made this request. He truly didn’t look like he meant any harm!

Our talk got me thinking, as I am often wont to (having grown up amongst men for whom extramarital affairs are the norm), about the mistress. It is unlikely that we will ever completely understand her, because she is a woman and she is many women, but here are some bits and pieces I’ve found out in the course of my living, reading and listening.

1. Sometimes, she doesn’t know he is married. An acquaintance of mine recently started to fall for a charming guy who had some business to do in her office. The sparks appeared to be flying both ways for a few weeks, until she heard him mention his child. So she asked him, “Are you married”? He went, “Err, well, actually…” and then left her with the vague impression that he at least had a “baby mama”. So she said to me “Joy, what does this mean? Is he married or isn’t he?” I told her what she already knew; with such questions, anything except a clear, confident “No” is a “Yes”. But imagine with me that the subject hadn’t come up, she hadn’t asked him, she started dating him, got hooked on him…

2. She knows he is married and she doesn’t give a shit, or is too far gone to care. We all know some variant of this woman. She needs to be in a relationship and your husband is available. She gets the benefits of a relationship, a shoulder to lean on and sexual partner, without washing boxers, missing girls’ night out, attending to in-laws or otherwise taking up an excessive amount of time. Maybe she needs financial assistance and services your husband in return. After all in her best selling book, Having It All, Cosmopolitan’s international editor-in-chief, Helen Gurley Brown writes, “I don’t know how a girl can survive without the occasional married man to tide her through the rough times.”

Again, it could be that your husband is just the straying type and he got “lucky” and found a woman without scruples. In fact, in this one’s mind you should be grateful because she is doing you a favour by reducing your “workload”. Or maybe she just likes handsome, charming, intelligent or powerful men and unfortunately for you, your husband is one or more of the above. Or she is the woman my aforementioned acquaintance could have been; she didn’t know he was married in the beginning and now that she knows, it is too late. She’s resigned to her fate. The sun and moon rise in his eyes, and like the Whitney Houston song goes, “A few stolen moments is all that we share, you’ve got your family, and they need you there. Though I’ve tried to resist, being last on your list but no other man’s gonna do, so I’m saving all my love for you.” The Outrageous Millie Jackson encourages further,

“Mama and Daddy
Say it’s a shame
It’s a downright disgrace
But long as I got
You by my side
I don’t care what people say
My friends tell me it’s no future
In lovin’ a married man
If I can’t see you when I want
I’ll have to see you when I can
If lovin’ you is wrong
I don’t want to be right…

Sometimes though, she isn’t exactly resigned…

3. She believes him when he says he’ll divorce you and marry her. She hopes, prays, works and lives for that great day when your husband will make an honest woman of her. It is the thought of this day that helps her get through the other days when her conscience is weighed down with the burden of this terrible thing she is doing. You see, sometimes, she knows you, maybe even respects you. She may see you often and even chat with you. You may consider her your friend, your sister or even think she’s a daughter to you and your husband. But he has whispered in her ears while they were in bed, about how she is all the things you’ll never be, how all he needs is a little time to sort things out and then they will live together happily ever after and everything will be alright. Sometimes to her way of thinking, she actually deserves this because…

4. She loved him before you did. These two have history “as long as Calabar-Itu Road”, as a friend likes to say. Maybe they dated and things didn’t work out for some reason. Maybe they were even teenage sweethearts who lacked the maturity to sustain their precious, innocent love. Or maybe they didn’t even date and to him she’s The One Who Got Away or the “best girlfriend I never had.” Well, they’ve found each other now and it’s just too bad for you and too good for them…almost.

5. They’ll get what’s coming to them. Whether you find this comforting or not, whether it happens the way you want it to or not, this is a fact. It may be that you neglected your husband, turned him down too often, let yourself go physically, lacked wisdom in your church activity involvement, put the children before him…it doesn’t make his adultery right. Whether you think it’s your fault or not, they have both sinned against you, and against God. Therefore, unless they put an end to it and repent, they’re gonna get it. Do your best to win back your husband. Pray, get back in shape, revamp your wardrobe, cook up a storm, whatever you know your husband’s thing is, draw on God’s grace and keep doing it. You can’t afford not to try.

But alas this is life; sometimes you do your best and your best is not good enough. Take heart. Call it karma, nemesis, retribution, judgment, whatever. The truth remains, “Be not deceived, for God is not mocked; whatsoever a man sows, the same shall he also reap.” It is a natural law. It may take time, but it will happen. I hope that makes you feel better. If it doesn’t, I know someone who knows some baaaad Ijaw boys who can attend to that woman and “treat her fuck up.” Now if only two wrongs could make a right…