Shameless: Being The Other Woman

Photo: Fiona Gallagher (played by Emmy Rossum)

Last night’s episode of Shameless (U.S. TV series drama/Showtime) was a doozy.

For those who’ve never seen this show, it’s a series that follows the dysfunctional family of Frank Gallagher (played brilliantly by William H. Macy), a single father of six children. While he spends his days drunk, his kids learn to take care of themselves. Frank’s alcoholism affects his family in ways you’d expect – but it’s his family, and the ways they rally to take care of themselves, that keeps me coming back.

I suppose it reminds me a little of my own childhood.

I was raised in chaos. And I am learning through ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics), that the character traits and behaviors I carry with me today are a direct result of that. I’ve made many messes along my journey to adulthood, so watching Shameless comforts me, in a way.

Fiona Gallagher (played by Emmy Rossum), is the eldest of the family. She bears most of the responsibility, and child-rearing falls on her shoulders. She works a few dead-end, minimum wage jobs to bring in money and enjoys going out dancing with her girlfriends.

In last night’s episode, “I’ll Light a Candle For You Every Day”, we got to see just how much of a downward spiral Fiona can put herself in. Watching the accidental matriarch of the Gallaghers doing all the wrong things – like breaking her own rule and sleeping with a married man – is something that’s a little hard to swallow, but it certainly makes for great television.

After the episode I sat and wondered: how many people have slept with married partners, and why does anybody do this?

I make no judgements. We all have stories. I just wonder how people let themselves get to that point of feeling less than, by ways of the boudoir.

Or maybe they don’t feel less than. Maybe it’s exactly the opposite. Perhaps The Other Woman (or man) involves herself with an unavailable person to feel empowered, more in control. Is this possible?

I’ve been involved with a couple unavailable men in my past, and I have to say for me, it never made me feel anything but small. This is, of course, after the high of me feeling so special they’d risk losing their families for. For me, it was another drug. Another type of high. A way to escape the reality of life, from recognizing I was alone and wanted attention and validation of my worth (“if I can get a married man, I must be something special”). Add to that some serious self-worth issues and you’ve got yourself a mistress in the making.

My heart went out to Fiona last night. I knew exactly why she slept with her newly reaquianted married-man-friend. I also felt her regret and pain as she crossed the line from flirtation to being a willing participant in adultery. I wanted to hug her and be the kind of friend to her that my friends were to me – never judgmental, always supportive.

In a preview clip for next week’s episode, we see Fiona get attacked by the wife of the man she cheated with. A harsh reminder that our choices in life indeed have consequences, and some of them may land you with a black eye.

Sometimes lessons leave a mark.

So let me ask you – do you know of anyone who has slept with an unavailabe person? Why do you think they did? I’d love to hear your story. Anonymous comments welcome.

5 thoughts on “Shameless: Being The Other Woman

  1. I hear what you are saying. That's the thing though – I am not certain anybody in that situation is even thinking about the damage it causes. Every story is unique, but I think the common thread is lack of self-worth and probably a good dose of denial.


  2. I was the other woman twice and both times, I was married, too. The first time, I was the man's attempt at a life "do over," the manifestation of his midlife crisis. The second time, I got caught up in a twisted, long distance narcissistic relationship. Both of us were/are narcissists. In that instance, he was the hunter and I was the prey.I thought my motivations were simple. I was bored and looking for excitement. I'm sure it was tied to my self worth and esteem. Married men were safe because they would have no expectations. Both situations ended badly when the relationships got out of control.It took me two painful experiences to learn what people who love me already knew. I set my expectations too low. I settled for being second in my lover's life. When the affairs were new it felt like I was first in my new lovers' lives, but when reality hit, it became clear. Their wives and children came first. As it should have been.Even now, four years since my last affair ended, my husband will admit that I play second to his career. I always have. We've been married for nearly twenty-five years and despite my infidelities and his long-term and ongoing affair with his career, we have found a comfortable, happy place. The key for me has been to find healthy outlets for my boredom, stress and adventure seeking. Writing helps tremendously.I hate that I hurt people. I hate that I hurt myself. I can't erase the mistakes I made, but I hope that I learned from them.


  3. Thank you so much for your comment. It's wonderful to hear your story and realize there are many reasons for infidelity – on both sides of the coin.I am happy you are in a good place now and it does seem that you have learned valuable lessons. I think we all do when it comes to making choices like this. xxoo


  4. It's not always about problems. for some it is simply unimportant if their partner is already attached. I have been with my honey for over a year. His other partner knows I exist. She is not happy about it, but knows that his and my relationship will not end because of that. If she chooses to leave, he would be understanding. She chooses to stay. I am with him because he is a wonderful man and I love him. I would gladly do what I can to make it easier on his other partner but that does not include leaving him. I believe it is completely possible for one person to love multiple partners without it taking anything away from any of them. Why shouldn't a person be with those they love.


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