Who was Ana?
Was she a heartless bitch, a home wrecker, a man eater kind of a woman? Or maybe a vulnerable young girl, insecure and not sure of her own value, looking to prove it by seducing an older man? A bit of both I think.
I am a great believer in the theory that it is our insecurities, the hurts we experience as children and young adults that influence our decisions and behaviour more then the positives in our lives. I find it fascinating to read the life stories of both: people who achieved great things and those who became offenders, like murderers or cheaters. What shaped them? What was their childhood like? What was their upbringing and their relationship with their parents? And most importantly, what is the spiritual legacy they carry in their lives?
When Ana came to work for Charlie she seemed a little more than a teenage girl. There was that youthful nativity and awe about her, and a will to please. By the time she left she was a grown, bitter woman, full of pride and scorn. What happened in between has definitely changed her. She probably didn’t expect it to happen this way when she embarked on the affair. Charlie and I have talked a lot about how it all started and a couple of months after WW he told me the whole story from the beginning to the end. I wasn’t ready to hear it before.
Ana didn’t have many friends and seemed to prefer male company over girl friends. They liked each other from the start, something had ‘clicked’ and I saw it too. That’s why I was so nervous going away that first summer. What neither her nor I knew then was Charlie’s reasons for being so charming towards her and unfortunately she still doesn’t know what really was behind their relationship. There must have been a deep need in her for all that attention since she welcomed it and quickly broke up with her boyfriend. Her attitude in the beginning, and probably for most of the affair, was: we are two consenting adults, who do what they please, there are no strings attached, no regrets and it’s nobody’s business. She has never shown any concern for the fact that Charlie was married and had a family. She said at some point later on that “a divorce is not the end of the world” and that she “knew many children whom it didn’t affect”. She was proud of her strong opinions, veering towards atheism and socialism. She openly scorned Charlie’s Christian beliefs and challenged him during conversations. When she stayed in our house during the second summer I was away, she laughed at the “Jesus is powerful” magnet on the fridge our children made in Sunday school.
In all this she hadn’t noticed how she became a prisoner of her own free will and the situation it created. What started as a game soon wanted to be ‘something more’. She craved Charlie’s attention and time he couldn’t give her without raising suspicions. Gradually from a romantic adventure it became a clichéd affair where she had to wait for his sign and do everything on his conditions.
She walked into the affair with her eyes open, knowing he was married with no intention of separation. She made many moves on him and ‘first steps’ while he appeared chuffed with this new admiration and didn’t resist too much. He did say a few times that he didn’t want it to go any further but then didn’t keep the resolution for long. He was weak and easily tempted. She seemed to know which buttons to press to keep moving the acquaintance onto new levels. She made him feel bad and teased him if he had guilty feelings.
In her excellent book “NOT Just Friends”, the author Shirley P. Glass dedicates the whole chapter to the affair partner. I would like to quote some of it here:
“Many single women who have affairs with married men appear to experience very little guilt. A magazine survey of 4,700 single women involved with married men revealed that 84 percent knew that their lovers were married. Although very few of them had reservations about sharing a man with his wife, 61 percent said that they would break off the relationship if he had another lover besides them.
The married lover frequently feeds into the other woman’s perception that she is doing no harm. To keep his affair partner on the string, he feeds into her belief that he is stuck in an empty-shell marriage because of family responsibilities. But no matter how her married lover may have demeaned his wife, the affair partner who turns his wife into a nonperson is devaluing women, in general.
The other woman may use rationalisation, denial, or unconscious mechanisms to avoid feeling guilty. In some cases, she simply has no conscience about what she is doing and no empathy for the wife and children she is sabotaging. There are as many variations of guilt-free affair partners as there are guilt-free philanderers.
Antagonist: This woman betrays other women by stealing their husbands. She views other women as rivals and feels no need for loyalty or to identification with her own gender. She does not regard herself as “sister” to other women. She seldom has other women as friends and leans on men to enhance her ego and gratify her emotional needs.
Anti traditionalist: Another guilt-free partner is the unconventional woman who opposes the institution of marriage as being outdated. She asserts that all marriages are flawed, so why should she restrict herself to an ancient contract whose main purpose is to suppress women? There’s no reason to constrain the richness of life just because the man you love happens to be married.
Escapist: To deny the existence of his wife and family, the escapist affair partner puts the marriage out of mind and out of sight. She never asks questions about his other life. She doesn’t consider any repercussions from their illicit affair because the time she spends with her lover is an escape into alternate reality.
Family counsellor: Assuming the role of family therapist is another way to assuage guilt. The other woman offers insights to improve her lover’s communication with his children and to help him understand his wife’s point of view. Acting partly out of real concern and partly out of self-preservation, she tries to make things better. Laurel Richardson says that the single woman affair partner does “feminist social work among the married”. As a result, the affair partner perceives herself as a good person who makes positive contributions to her lover’s family life.
Unwitting participant: Finally, the affair partner may not feel guilty because she doesn’t know that she is the “other woman”. Some men pretend to be single as part of their “dating” strategy, especially on the Internet. The unwitting participant in his infidelity doesn’t know that she isn’t his one and only.
Although many women have no guilt about being involved with married men, only a few survive with no regrets. Connecting with a married man may be a one-time aberration or a lifelong pattern that is a connection between the unmarried affair partner and her past. The other woman is often replicating dysfunctional triangles in her family of origin or other significant roles from her childhood relationships.”
I can see traits in her of all of the types mentioned above apart from the last one. She knew fully well she was destroying someone else’s family.
Do I hate Ana?
I do hate the affair but I do not hate her. I know Charlie was equally guilty for what happened, if not more. I still see her as a girl who came looking for work experience rather than the life lesson she got instead. I did have strong feelings against her in the first weeks after FT and WW but those were mainly questions: how could she? How could a woman do it to another woman? And why? What did she get out of it?
She felt mistreated but it was a result of Charlie’s switching his attention back to family and cutting the other relationship off as soon as I learned the truth. She got everything she was owed in terms of money for her work, and more. She got back the expenses incurred as the result of her going home sooner then she expected. We didn’t want any debt on our side.
She was hurt in the end although she did her best to hide it. They had made an arrangement but forgot about emotions – you can’t play with fire and not be burned. I hope she will learn and never do it again to another family.
As for us – God had done through her what he couldn’t do through me and that was to break Charlie’s pride and bring him into repentance.