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GUEST COLUMN

The other woman

Is she a victim or a vixen? A brazen hussy or the girl next door? I'll admit it, I'm fascinated by cheaters.

My husband and I have been married for over 20 years. Yet, while our matrimonial cocktail of love, laziness and the fear of someone else seeing us naked keeps us both faithful, all it takes is one whiff of an illicit office affair or the mere mention of a drunken neighborhood tryst, and I'm sucked into the drama.

It's the women involved who always interest me the most. The majority of wives believe that anyone who sleeps with other women's husbands deserves to be hung out to dry or, at the very least, have their number scrawled on every gas station bathroom in America. However, interviews with women who have been "The Other Woman" reveal that the role is often more sad and lonely than it is powerful and exciting.

The stereotypical cheating scenario is the lonely married man whose wife never pays him any attention or shows him any love and affection. (Read, she's too worn out doing his laundry and watching his kids to have sex.) When he is practically forced to find happiness in the arms of another woman, he realizes that he is, in fact, dashing and charming and, well, just downright fabulous. And he deserves a woman who thinks likewise. If I hadn't seen it happen to so many friends, I'd think it was a complete cliche.

In "The Other Woman" (Warner Books, $24.99), Mary Jo Eustace describes the scene when her husband of 13 years, a then relatively unknown Dean McDermott, informed her he was leaving her for his co-star Tori Spelling. Eustace: "You slept with Tori Spelling. You've got to be kidding, right?"

McDermott: "We're soul mates. She loves me unconditionally."

Eustace: "What conditions? You've only known each other three weeks."

Eustace then describes how McDermott went on to tell her that their son Jack "should meet Tori as soon as possible because she's going to be an important part of his life."

Am I the only one who thinks that Tori and Dean deserve each other? Or that their fab Fiji wedding was more farce than fairytale?

It's sad when people confuse lust with love, especially when there are kids involved. But what baffles me the most is why someone would ever marry a cheater. I mean, illicit passion is one thing, but who wants to build a life with a liar?

Yet reading the essays in "The Other Woman," subtitled "21 Wives, Lovers and Others Talk Openly About Sex, Deception, Love and Betrayal," it's obvious that lust really is blind and that sometimes "The Other Woman" feels so bad about herself, she doesn't realize how much pain she's causing.

Book contributor Connie May Fowler, who has been cheated on and has been TOW (The Other Woman) herself, says, "Whether we are one-night stands or long-term TOWs, we allow ourselves to be relegated to a state of second-class anonymity because we don't respect ourselves enough to demand full citizenship where love and fidelity are concerned."

There are two sides to every story, and men aren't the only ones who cheat. But if every woman on the planet made a vow never to sleep with somebody else's husband, the number of affairs would go way down.

So, if you're a man who's cheating, stop making a fool of yourself. We've got your number, and the jig is up. If you're "the other woman," do us all a favor and dump him. You're making womankind look bad and hurting yourself at the same time.

And if you're the victim of The Other Woman, at least try to feel a little pity as you run her over in your SUV.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear."

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