Some chose to be ‘side girls’

By Thanh Nga   January 20, 2024 | 08:00 pm PT
Some chose to be ‘side girls’
Ngoc Vy enjoys her weekend walks on the walking street along Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi. Photo courtesy of Ngoc Vy
Ngoc Vy, 24, has been in three relationships. But all three times she was having an affair with someone who was cheating on their other lover.

She had opted to meddle in the relationships of other couples and felt comfortable doing so as long as she was loved and cared for.

For New Year’s Eve, Vy dressed up and reserved a car to take her from her office to a familiar hotel for dinner with her lover at 6:00 p.m. Her boyfriend, who is also her boss, is 15 years her senior. The man is married and the father of two children.

The couple's secret relationship has so far lasted more than six months. Vy said she only goes on dates once a week, on Mondays, to avoid suspicion from her boss's wife. To keep this a mystery, Vy limits private phone messages to her boyfriend, but he can contact her proactively when he wants to meet.

"Married men are quite appealing to me. I always feel I am special to them, and I am a part that they lack," she said.

Vy has a strong desire to be cared for and loved. Her parents expected her to be a boy the day her mother became pregnant with her. To appease her parents' disappointment, she grew up with short, spiky hair, and dressed like a boy. Vy would have given anything to have a man who treated her tenderly and provided her a sense of security and affection when she was younger.

Vy had two relationships during her four years at college: one lasted three years and the other only a few months. All the men she had feelings for already had girlfriends. She said that she was always thrilled when she heard sweet words from them, such as "only you can make me smile this much," or "when I'm around you, I feel safe and can be myself."

To keep her loves, she always lets them be free, without asking for anything in return, as long as she can meet and talk with them.

"When I no longer feel affection from them, I'm willing to break up without hesitation. I despise the sense of being abandoned," she said.

Vy is now her boss’ lover after being single for two years. She said she was proud because her lover never provides her with financial support.

"I'm not a sugar baby, I don't accept money and then have to love at my boyfriend's request...I despise being bound in life and in sex," Vy expressed.

People like Ngoc Vy, who accept loving married people and even actively pursue such lovers, are not uncommon. They are frequently ridiculed and chastised in the annals of public opinion.

However, it appears that these people are not shy. Hundreds of groups have emerged on social media to confide in and share stories of being "the third lover," sometimes colloquially known as a "side girl." Each organization has tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of members.

The administrator of the forum "Third Person Stories" with more than 100,000 members said that the majority of accounts in the group are people who get involved in other people's love affairs, including both men and women. A few wives also joined the group, expressing indignation at this phenomenon.

"The third person can also often feel disadvantaged in the relationship. The fact that their lover posts pictures of their family can makes them angry, sometimes to the point of wanted to exact revenge," this administrator said.

The manager of the "Third Person Confidences" group, which has over 10,000 members, added that there are a few dozen posts from "side girl" every day, the majority of whom lament always living in fear of being caught. Some claim that while they know they’re interfering in other people's love lives they do not want to force them to divorce or break up. "The amount of members confiding in me about being locked in a three-person relationship has more than doubled in the last year," this person said.

One of the leading causes of breakups and divorce is "the third person."

According to the Institute of Family and Gender Research, Vietnam has over 60,000 divorce cases each year, 25.9% of which are the result of an affair by the husband or wife.

"I had to get an abortion after 6 years when my lover said he wanted to focus on his job and then get married and have children," said Quynh Mai, 28, of Ho Chi Minh City. She said it was a truly tragic ending when she realized that her boyfriend was a cheater.

Mai was surprised to find that her boyfriend had two lovers. These two people are familiar with one another, yet they accept it quietly. "They even texted me urging me to let him go. "They all knew he and I had been in love for a long time, but they didn't seem to care," Mai said.

Viet Hung, 25 years old in Nghe An Province, admitted that he had "played both hands" many times because he liked the feeling of "conquering" and discovering new things with other lovers that his current lover did not have. For example, if he meets a girl who is not as beautiful as his lover but treats him gently, he may pursue her.

Infidelity is not a new problem, but unmarried Gen Z youngsters with financial independence choosing to love a married person is a new phenomenon, according to marriage and family psychologist Le Thi Minh Hoa of Sunnycare Psychological Institute. She said that there is a deviation in young people's thoughts and beliefs about love.

"Some people believe that falling in love, getting married and then getting divorced, so they lose faith in fidelity," Hoa said. Furthermore, young people give themselves the freedom to love and love despite certain versions of infidelity. Some believe it's fine as long as it doesn't ruin their happiness or drive them to divorce.

Hoa explained that some young people embrace infidelity by saying that marriage is not important to them and divorce is uncomplicated. They do not consider family a source of happiness.

According to specialists, such rationales are sometimes simply excuses for a man or woman to have an affair while claiming they still love their family and are "committed" to their children and/or spouse. Sometimes they just get greedy and want more than one lover.

According to Dr. Nguyen Thanh Nga, a lecturer at the Academy of Journalism and Communication, having feelings for the opposite sex is completely normal from an emotional standpoint, but people need to live by social standards, so falling in love or engaging in a three-way relationship is wrongheaded.

Many girls still go for three-way relationships because they think it's still a way to a sometimes-deeper love. Or sometimes they find if "cool" or "classy." Or, just like Hung’s sentiment towards "conquering," some women find victory and having someone else’s lover love them.

But Nga says this is not love. The doctor argues that it’s a way of being careless and irresponsible, or it’s a way damaged people act out after experiencing emotional trauma. This is not a true picture of love and marriage.

"Society's advocacy or promotion of wrong behavior such as adultery will degrade social values, cause families to break up, and faith in the institution of marriage to deteriorate throughout society," the expert stated.

Nga warned that getting involved in three-way relationships is essentially a way of turning oneself into someone else's commodity, a kind of toy or even a slave. "The law has regulations on punishing adulterers, and the point is to help each person live a worthy life.

Thuc Trinh, 26, from Hanoi, said she has been consistently scared and wary after having an affair with a married man. She’s still afraid she could be caught. Even when she goes out with her boyfriend, she has to pick a place where she’s sure no acquaintances will see her.

Trinh was "exposed" on social networks when the affair was made public after more than a year. She felt bad about what she did and locked herself in the house for a month. It hurt her even more when the man introduced his "wife" to her "to say goodbye."

"I feel bad because I know that being the third person won't end well, but I still jumped into the affair." Trinh said, "I'm afraid to love anyone now because they'll know about my bad past."

* The characters’ names in the article have been changed.

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