I’ve published this with a bit of trepidation. Years ago, a fellow writer-friend wrote a similarly titled post about how to be a good jump off and hell fire and damnation rained upon him from across the Internet.  To be clear: in no way am I suggesting that a side-chick is a role to strive for (nor is being the “main chick”, the implication being that there’s you and others). I am, however, suggesting if that Girlfriend Number Two is the role you have settled upon, then you must stay in the lane you chose or leave the “relationship”.

It seems like everyone and their mama is talking about former CIA head David Petraeus, who resigned on Friday due to an extra-marital affair. It was on the front page of most newspapers and their accompanying sites, and every commentator has been ready with talking points, which can be loosely summarized as “what the hell was he thinking? Petraeus was the head of the Central Intelligence Agency and some baffling way how thought he could send letters to his mistress and they would go undiscovered.

The affair – with married biographer Paula Broadwell —would have likely gone undetected a wee bit longer, if Broadwell hadn’t sent anonymous and threatening emails to Jill Kelley (also married), a woman she believed was romantically involved with Petraeus. (Kelley denies she any romantic involvement.) Kelley reported the harassing emails to the FBI, they traced them back to Broadwell and in the process discovered her affair with Petraeus. Womp, womp.

Broadwell’s actions make it clear that some side chicks are confused about their role in relationships (or, er, not. Ebony.com recently ran a story about a mistress of 15 years who was uncomfortably cool in her lane.) In the spirit of helping all the “other women” out there, I offer the following suggestions:

Do Expect Him to Cheat With Other Women
I know he’s told you his “situation” is “complicated”  and maybe he’s even said “I love you.” If he really did, you would have already been Number 1. It’s all lies (which for the men reading, ya’ll have to stop doing. Filling women’s heads with fantasies, even if she should know better, is how you get the windows busted out your car). Maybe you two really do have some sort of bond. Fine. It’s still completely unreasonable to expect someone who is demonstrating a penchant for infidelity by being with you, to be faithful—sort of because he’s still having sex with the woman he’s claiming—to you.

Do Use Condoms
Don’t be in denial. He’s not just having sex with you. At minimum, it’s you and the woman he’s still claiming. Your situation is bad enough. There’s no sense in bringing a kid into it (and that’s also no guarantee he’ll leave his woman or that she’ll leave him) or contracting and sexually transmitted infection.

Do Not Contact the Main Girl
You knew when you took up with him—or shortly thereafter– that there was already someone in the Number 1 spot. You may not have liked it, but by staying, you accepted your role. Her position doesn’t change because you caught feelings and now you want him to be yours alone. And too, she probably knows about you—you’re likely not the first or the last—and for whatever reason, she’s chosen to stick around.

Even if “wifey” were to leave, opening up that main slot, you’re unlikely to get promoted to the position. Plus, do you really want it? If he cheats with you, he’ll definitely cheat on you.

Do Not Contact the Other Woman/Women
You have no leverage as you’re not his wife/woman/girl. How do you even identify yourself on that call? “Hey, this is Jenna. I’m Malcolm’s… uh…” What do you ID yourself as?

“You need to leave Malcolm alone because he’s my….” What are you to him, really?

There’s more than one reason Broadwell reached out to Kelley anonymously, and one is that the woman she believed to be the “other woman” was going to laugh at her like she was Carrie at prom. The other-other woman also isn’t going to stop whatever it is she’s doing that you don’t like.  Why? 1) Because again you have no leverage; and 2) while you’re saying “stop”, he’s saying “go!” Take up any issues you have with other women with “your” man.

Do Not Expect Sympathy After a “Break Up”
You’re going to get your heart broken. To think otherwise is just faulty logic. I know, I know.  You know someone who knew someone who was in your position and things all worked out in the end. That’s the exception to rule. Statistically, you are more likely to be the rule.

In general, people don’t offer much sympathy for adults who make clear-cut bad decisions—whatever the long list of compelling reasons– and are made to face the consequences for them. Everyone’s interested in the details of Petraeus and Broadwell’s affair, but they’re not sympathetic toward them. They just want the salacious details. Sympathy is only extended to Petraeus’s long–suffering wife of more than 37 years, Broadwell’s unassuming husband and the children from the two marriages. That’s it.

The upside is that you may find empathy from those who are in your former situation. Go there if you need a shoulder to cry on.

Do Expect to Lose Your Significant Other
Gender politics don’t work in your favor here. Many a man has cheated openly and still kept his woman, or for a while anyway. (See KobeClinton and Kilpatrick for details.) You are not likely to be so fortunate to walk away with your commitment bruised, but in tact.

It’s possible that your man will stay; it’s more probable hat he will not. I expect to read about Broadwell’s husband packing up any day now. I’m not putting money on Petraeus’s wife leaving him.

Do Stop Being the Side Chick
I’ll offer you the benefit of the doubt that when you were emotionally in too deep when you discovered he had a lady. That he didn’t tell you upfront was the large red flag waving in the wind. But you didn’t want to see it, or maybe you thought you could change him. I get it. I do. But it is what it is and you can’t change him. You can however change your status. Being the single chick trumps being the side chick any day.

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk

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