When most women look at me that don’t think whore, slut or trifling heifer. Despite outward appearances, I have been called each derogatory term more than once. Sadly, most people – myself included – would agree that I earned the titles. My crime is simple: I’ve knowingly dated men in relationships.

 I didn’t start out targeting “taken” men, but after going through a bunch of tired brothers — you know the kind who pledge fidelity until proven otherwise — I gave up on finding Mr. Right and decided to be happy with a plain ole mister…he could be yours, mine or ours. No questions asked. I wanted to have fun, spend time with a man who enjoyed doting on me and I didn’t worry about anything else. I was content with doing me, and didn’t worry about the consequences. To me dating men in relationships was a win/win. I got to have all the fun and no responsibilities. I didn’t have to compromise, cook or take care of house. I did get to go out, receive presents and have great sex.

 Still, dating on the low did have a few drawbacks. I felt forced to keep my relationships apart from some of my most important friendships because my girlfriends didn’t condone my choices. I was excluded from couples’ outings for the same reason. Worst of all, when I had major events happen in my life, such as being in a minor car accident, I didn’t feel like I could call any of my guys for support.

 I’d love to say that I had a “Come to Jesus” moment one day in church or after getting cussed out by someone’s main chick I decided to change my ways, but that’s not what happened. What did occur was a predictable shift in my predicament: I got older.

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 One day I woke up and realized I was tired of being someone’s second, or third, choice. Over time I began to grow tired of surreptitiously making moves around hotels. I started to loathe remaining quiet while “he” was on the phone with “her”. And the gifts for my silent compliance and “understanding his situation” lost their gleam.

 I can’t fault anyone for my past. It wasn’t due to bad parenting, the lascivious nature of pop culture or even the Black man shortage. It was what I thought would make me happy. Sadly, I learned that happiness built on hurt and deception is short-lived.

Today I am balancing starting over. I realize my decision didn’t just sully my reputation within some circles of men; it also affected my friendships. My girlfriends are uncomfortable with me being around their significant others. It hurts. Still, I understand their sentiment. I have to prove that I am worthy of their trust and earn their respect. Dating attached made me the other woman. Having the strength to deal with the consequences, forgive myself and move on will make me a real one.