As a renowned board-certified psychologist, author, speaker, and highly sought-after media personality, Jeffrey Gardere, Ph.D., promotes the tools of psychology that can help people thrive in daily life.
As one of the nation’s most high-profile psychologists, Dr. Gardere, who is also an ordained interfaith minister, has lent his expertise as a contributor to the FOX Network, the Today Show, MSNBC, and CNN. He has used his platform to dispense self-help gems from his over 30-year career, which has helped to destigmatize the profession overall, especially with regards to our community.
You might remember Dr. Gardere on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta. During a therapy group session led by Dr. Gerdere, Nene felt she was being ganged up on by her castmates and stormed out of the gathering in a huff. It was apparent that Dr. Gardere’s efforts were genuine as he strived to help the cast with regard to their relationship struggles.
Dr. Gardere has written several books, including Love Prescription, Smart Parenting for African Americans, and Practical Parenting which he co-authored with former talk show host Montel Williams. In addition, the good doctor is a contributing author of a half-dozen books, including the brand-new text, “The Causes of Autism.”
In addition to having a private practice in New York City, Dr. Gardere is an Associate Professor and Course Director of Behavioral Medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City. Dr. Gardere discussed with 50BOLD.com the very sensitive issue of women who have settled into the role of being a side chick.
The role of a side chick is inextricably linked with marriage and almost automatically implies marital inﬁdelity, sometimes by the husband, sometimes by the wife. Indeed, marriage is a key element in determining who is a side chick and who is not. Though many people assume that adultery undermines marriage, many others believe that, paradoxically, it shores marriage up.
Often, side chicks fall in love, usually with married men unwilling to divorce and regularize the relationship. The only alternative to breaking up is to reconcile themselves to an illicit relationship. But often, these side chicks are reluctant to accept the status quo and hope that somehow, someday, their liaison will be legitimized through marriage.
Should a woman be comfortable in her role as a side chick and just settle for an endless loop of promises and empty dreams?
50BOLD: Dr. Jeff, what is the psychological makeup of the woman who has accepted the role of being a side chick?
Dr. Jeff: It is really complex. I do not think there is a particular type of psychology for that kind of person because usually, we see a couple of different situations. Sometimes it is someone who may have low self-esteem, and they are happy to get whom they can even if their partner is married, or for sex, or for some private time. With a side chick, we have come to assume that there is sex involved. BTW, there are side chicks and side guys too; you don’t want to be sexist; this is an important point to make.
50BOLD: I wholeheartedly agree!
Dr. Jeff: And I do not even like the term side chick or side piece. I prefer the term partner even though it is a clandestine one.
50BOLD: The term side chick is somewhat degrading but is one that is commonly used.
Dr. Jeff: It’s very degrading. I prefer the term partner or clandestine partner. Anyway, that being said, sometimes it’s a person with low self-esteem who feels like an attached person is the only one they can get. Sometimes it is a situation of someone who does not want any kind of commitment, and it’s just fun, an exciting hook-up. Furthermore, in some cases, it might be someone who has been groomed by the male partner, especially if the someone is older and more powerful, like the President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal.
50BOLD: Absolutely, that is a good point. Do you think side chicks really believe they will replace a wife?
Dr. Jeff: I think this is the case when it is a situation where it goes from being that side partner to wanting to have more. When sex is not enough. The exciting hit it & quit it time is not enough. Or they feel disrespected. Or they feel they need more recognition, legitimacy. Or they actually fall in love with that person, and therefore, the sex is never enough at this point.
50BOLD: If a woman decides to become a side chick, how long should she reside in the shadows? Is there a time frame?
Dr. Jeff: I think if we look at a situation as a measuring stick, but it’s not a fair one because it’s comparing apples to oranges, but it’s such a great question. How long should you wait until you become number one?
I think the situation is based on the same statistics that show, if you’re dating someone past year two, with every year thereafter, there are diminishing returns. Every year after year two is less of a chance that the relationship will end up in marriage. And you can use that same yardstick after a year or two; if it doesn’t go beyond you just being a side partner, then it will probably never happen.
Even if the person ends up leaving their partner to come to you, how long will that last? Is there genuine respect there? Has the person actually fallen in love? So, if they fall in love with you, but they are still in love with their partner, it’s a good chance you are not going to get them. They would actually have to fall in love with you and no longer have any interest or sexual connection or love with their partner.
50BOLD: So, do most of these women wind up with their men or not?
Dr. Jeff: I don’t have a definitive answer. I think most times, they do not wind up with their men; this has been my experience as a clinician. And then, you have to look at how much respect that man has for a woman who is treated as a side? Especially if he has been making the decisions as to when they meet and so on.
If a man has been making the decisions and the woman is hanging on to every word and every command as his side partner, chances are, he may not have real respect for her. He treats her, uses her, as being second. How much is he going to respect that person once they hook up as a couple? If he leaves his wife or other partner, will he then begin cheating on her? He may not have respect for the side partner.
50BOLD: Is it more common that the position of a side partner will become vacant and the man will move on to his next woman?
Dr. Jeff: She might become number one, but he might have other side partners as well because in his head if he got away with it with her, why can’t he continue doing it in the future? In his head, he’s thinking, well, if she accepted being a side partner, why would she have a problem with him now having other side partners?
50BOLD: That is pretty deep. If a woman is contemplating becoming a side chick, what does she have to look forward to? You can paint a very stark picture for her.
Dr. Jeff: She can look forward to missing a lot of quality time or quantity time I should say, or both. Quality and quantity, but I would say less quantity because the guy has obligations with the wife, partner, or full-time girlfriend, and he has children most likely.
So, when the pair hooks up, it is about the excitement of the hour, or the two hours, or the one night, or the afternoon delight. In many of these cases, the side partner is usually kept secret and is not a significant part of that person’s life. The relationship is a more clandestine, very hush, hush, under the table kind of situation.
50BOLD: So, it is never OK to be a side partner?
Dr. Jeff: When you are a side partner, you are involved with someone else’s partner. I can’t see how that ever makes it OK! You are involved in infidelity! I believe that the guy is not only as responsible or as egregious but even more egregious because now, they have to look at the face of their full-time partner after having been with the side partner.
The side partner might never have met the full-time partner, or might not want to know about it, or might not have been told much about it, or has been lied to…‘Oh, we are not in love. I’m going to divorce her. I’m going to be with you!’ All of these promises were made, and promises were broken.
I’m not making any value judgments here because sometimes the side partners are victims too. They might have some psychological issues, depression, low self-esteem, and so on. And sometimes they are fully empowered and know exactly what they are doing in cooperation with someone who wants to do the same thing. However, I’m making no value judgments, but I do believe in karma.
If you are going to be involved with someone else’s partner, I just feel that the universe will bring something back to you that is unpleasant. There are consequences to karma!
50BOLD: Since we are an African American magazine for those folks ages 50-plus, is being a side partner more common with older men who have partnered with someone for a while?
Dr. Jeff: You know, it shows that older men cheat a little more, but we see the numbers rising for women. Women may not reveal themselves as much since there is a double standard. For women who cheat, society considers them immoral.
50BOLD: Are there any strategies you can offer on how to break free of a side partner entanglement?
Dr. Jeff: It all depends on what you are looking to do. If you need to be empowered, looking for excitement, and don’t want a commitment, then you can break free of the entanglement at any time.
But if you have low self-esteem, have been groomed into the relationship, or have fallen in love, the best way to break free of a side partner situation is to remind yourself, that nothing good can come of the relationship. You are with someone else’s partner. They’re spending their time with the other partner on a full-time basis rather than with you.
And how many times can you have your heart broken? Even if the person wants to show up, they might not be able to show up if they have last-minute commitments. They are not treating you with the same respect they would give their wife or full-time partner. You are the side piece!
You have to ask yourself questions if you are not happy in your relationship or if you are lonely, especially around the holidays. If you find that you are sad. If you find that you are self-medicating with drinking and drugging about being a side piece, then it is not sustainable to be in that kind of relationship. Eventually, you have to break free and find who you really are.
You have to start working towards securing relationships where you are valued. Quite often, the side person is valued for their sex and for excitement.
What is that old saying: Always a bridesmaid, never the bride.
Again, I’m not making any value judgments; I just know that affairs can destroy marriages. Sometimes it may save a marriage if people understand how it happened, why it happened, and if they both take responsibility. But it is very difficult sometimes to save a marriage once you discover that there is an infidelity going on.