She was 'the other woman' in a love triangle with a coworker. Here are the red flags she ignored and what she learned.

A woman wearing a white crop shirt sitting in a wicker chair.
Brianna McCabe was "the other woman" in a love triangle.Courtesy of Jessica Morrisy
  • Brianna McCabe dated a coworker who kept telling her he would leave his girlfriend.

  • She said she disrespected both herself and the woman he was cheating on.

  • McCabe wrote a book about the red flags she ignored — and what she learned when she did take notice.

Brianna McCabe was blindsided when the man she'd fallen for confessed that he had a girlfriend already.

He only admitted it when she pointedly asked about a woman who kept tagging him on Instagram. "His social media was plastered with pictures of them," McCabe said.

She said that, although he looked happy in the photographs, he claimed he was "miserable," the relationship was "on the outs," and he wanted to be with her instead.

"It was the first red flag I didn't spot," McCabe added.

It took her over eight months to realize he had no intention of leaving his girlfriend for her. It made her feel "dumb" and "grimy," she told Business Insider. But, she said, the lessons from the experience were invaluable and may help people in similar circumstances gain perspective.

McCabe wrote about the doomed affair in her part-memoir, part-self-help guide, "The Red Flags I've (Repeatedly) Ignored, Love, Lust, and Lessons."

A woman in a baseball hat stands on rocks beside the ocean, looking back at the camera.
McCabe on vacation in Iceland.Courtesy of Briana McCabe

The book details other romantic disasters — such as mistaking lust for love and being "emotionally controlled" by a man — that the marketing professional endured in her teens and 20s.

"My professional résumé was incredibly polished, but my dating résumé was the complete opposite," McCabe said. "I couldn't quite figure out why such a stark juxtaposition existed."

The 30-year-old discussed her negative mindset when she was "the other woman," how she found the courage to escape, and why she is wiser and more confident as a result.

She ignored signs she was not the priority in the relationship

McCabe's admirer — a coworker in another department — made her feel like the center of his world at first. He revealed that he wasn't a free agent around three weeks after they met.

She said he'd send flirty text messages and suggest dates. "He would keep me talking on the phone for hours," she said. He'd pour on compliments, telling her that he'd "never felt this connection and energy before."

But, after he told her about his girlfriend, who he promised he was about to dump, he'd say things like, "Like a moth to a flame, I'm drawn to you." He was behaving as if he had no control over the infidelity.

McCabe couldn't help notice that when the relationship turned sexual, he spent less time with her. They'd have sex in cars, there were fewer dates. But she made excuses for him, telling herself that his home and work life was hectic.

A woman wearing a beret and a brown and white sweater and cardigan.
McCabe regained her self-esteem.Courtesy of Brianna McCabe

Months passed, and she found herself alone in her apartment despite his promises for the future. After their hook-ups, he'd "ghost" her, then say how guilty he felt for keeping her secret.

"He'd say, 'I'm not the sort of person who cheats,' as if it were completely out of character," McCabe said. "It was a ploy to make both of us feel better."

She thought, 'Enough is enough'

"It wasn't until the end of the relationship that I realized he was reserving me for the short pockets of time he could spare," she told BI. She said he set rules about not texting at night and not being in touch over weekends.

McCabe called time on the relationship a few days after celebrating her 24th birthday without him. He didn't contact her until the evening, blaming lack of internet and cell reception, despite posting on Instagram for much of the day.

"I said, 'This is all we're ever going to be. I will never be the main.' And he said, 'I'm so sorry, I never intended this to happen.'"

McCabe said there were awkward moments when they had to collaborate at work after the split. The encounters made her question the wisdom of hooking up with a colleague in the first place.

She recognized it was a common occurrence — lots of people have had workplace romances — but warned against it. "It's a mistake to look for love anywhere and everywhere," McCabe said, of dating co-workers.

Her low self-esteem was a problem

McCabe said, with the benefit of hindsight, her low self-esteem made her particularly vulnerable to ignoring red flags.

She believed that, if she'd had more confidence, she would never have entertained the idea of dating someone in a relationship.

"It should have been a deal breaker because I wanted a committed monogamous relationship," McCabe said. "But, I was so desperate to be 'chosen,' I didn't have a boundary in place. "

McCabe said this lack of self-worth was partly behind her continuing the affair, even after her lover bought a condo with his girlfriend.

"He implied that he wasn't going to sign the mortgage," she said. "He texted to say, 'I'm thinking about you, I had a dream about you, and I don't want to do this. "

A woman in a jumpsuit standing under a disco ball
McCabe has a new-found confidenceCourtesy of Briana McCabe

That night, she checked his social media. "He posted a picture of them popping a bottle of champagne. And it really broke my heart."

The development made her think about the way she was disrespecting both herself and his girlfriend.

"A lot of people try to paint the third person as being in the way of the life you want," she said. As time went by, she thought of the girlfriend as less of a blockage or barrier, and more as someone with her own feelings.

The experience helped McCabe grow as a person

McCabe said she'd been stuck in the mindset that romance could only happen if someone "chose" her as their partner. After she rebuilt her confidence through self-acceptance and forgiveness, she realized she was entitled to do the choosing herself.

"I gave my power away to others," she said. "But now, after the cathartic experience of therapy and writing, I've got it back."

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