Always the mistress, never the wife

January 25, 2013



It would seem that there are a lot of married men out there, enjoying a bit on the side.  The people running the big dating agencies in the UK should know.  They meet scores of women who have tired of the hollow assurances and empty promises that their lovers will leave their wives and families, but never do.  Being a mistress may suit some women, but for the woman in her late thirties who is holding out for the man in question and wants to have children with him, her wishes probably won’t be fulfilled.  Whatever benefits or advantages there may be, it would appear that a mistress is neither for Christmas, nor for life.



Natalie, 38

I have been mistress to William for ten years.  He’s 64, lives mainly in Hertfordshire and is on this third marriage.  He has six children, the oldest of whom is older than me and the youngest is four.  William is very wealthy.  I am not a gold-digger, as I am financially independent and see him only once or twice a week in London, when we go out to dinner and stay at his City apartment.  We occasionally go away for a long weekend.  This suits me fine.  As a person, I avoid love and don’t seek emotional involvement.  I also don’t want to have to work at a marriage.  At any one time I only need to be sexy and glamorous for a few hours then when he’s gone, I can slob out.

His wife doesn’t know about us, but I believe she has her suspicions.  William tells me that she ‘bought in’ to the marriage, understanding what he was like and accepting that he wouldn’t change.  She leads a charmed life, and I have no doubt that he loves her.  A few of his friends are aware of our relationship, but everything is kept discreet and low-key.

Our relationship is a physical and intellectual one.  We find each other intriguing, interesting and attractive.  I myself enjoy the freedom from commitment and have no wish to settle down or have children.  I work hard to keep myself physically in good shape.  I don’t love William and probably won’t know the extent of my feelings for him until our relationship ends.  Apart from looking good and the sex, his only requirements of me are discretion and silence.  Technically, I don’t exist.

I have always had an affinity to married men.  They can be kept at arms’ length, emotionally and physically.  I cannot imagine being tied to one person for the rest of my life.  I would never wish to hurt anyone, and always block out the image of ‘the wife’, their marriage and family life.

Katie, 36

Phil is unhappy in his marriage.  He sleeps in a separate room to his wife (on a different floor even).  He is trapped because he can’t afford to be divorced.  He has a big house, a big mortgage and three children to support.  He works incredibly hard and is loathed by his wife.  They married on impulse in their early twenties and were happy, initially.  They had their first child ten years later, but his birth triggered stresses which turned their once-happy marriage into a loveless one.

For the last two years we have been seeing each other.  I know that we will never be together in the real sense, but I am able to offer some respite.  Phil is a wonderful man:  he is fun to be with, generous and loving.  He comes over to my house twice a week.  Sometimes we go to the theatre, the cinema and out to eat.  Sometimes we just stay in.  He keeps me in the background as he doesn’t want to alert his colleagues or friends to my existence but I am cool about it.  We usually manage to take a week’s holiday together once a year and go to out-of-the-way places where we are unlikely to see anyone we know.  I enjoy all the subterfuge.  We once went to a private view at a gallery together, which was packed with mutual acquaintances and his wife was there too.  Phil and I had to ignore each other throughout the event and at a dinner afterwards.  It was so exciting!  Although I am financially self-sufficient, Phil buys me luxury items – I have a real weakness for handbags, cashmere and shoes.  He spoils me.

In recent months I have been feeling quite broody.  I would love to have a baby.  Phil’s not too keen on the idea, and doesn’t want to be the biological father.  He feels this would complicate further his already complex and financially encumbered life.  We have discussed sperm donation and it will be good to have his support so that I won’t become a mother alone.

I know that I am a mistress.  My parents and friends disapprove massively, but I see Phil because I love him, and I don’t need anyone’s approval.


Lynne, 36

I have been Dickie’s mistress for eight years. He has been married for nearly quarter of a century to Mandy and the second of his two boys is starting at university next year.  Ever since we first met, Dickie has promised to leave Mandy when the boys leave home.  That time is coming.

I want a family of my own with Dickie and I am aware that my fertility has a time limit on it.  I try not to plan, but I’m desperate for us to be together permanently.  When we first started our affair, I felt very guilty – Mandy was suffering from osteoarthritis and had two hip replacements, but now I have no guilt.  She has recovered and I want what I feel I have a right to.  I want Dickie to myself.  I have been waiting, but next year it will happen.  We won’t have a big wedding – we will probably go abroad and we’ll live in my house to start with until he reaches a financial settlement with Mandy.  I love being with him, but I have tired of all the clandestine arrangements, the hiding, communicating in code (I am listed as Peter Lambert on his mobile), sudden cancellations and waiting in the car in the next street.  I want to come out of the mistress closet and be a married woman and mother in my own right.


Hayley, 38

Robin and I had a crazy time.  Sexually, we pushed all the boundaries, although we never really connected mentally.  I was therefore surprised when Robin called round unexpectedly late one evening and sobbed his heart out to me. Apparently his wife of 13 years had been having an affair for a year with a young university lecturer.  He was incredulous, very hurt and emotionally devastated.  I poured him a brandy and cradled his blubbering head.  He cried like a baby, and kept saying over and over, ‘I can’t believe it!  How could she, how could she?’  The phrase ‘Pot calling the kettle black’ ran through my mind.  After two years of rampant extra-marital sex, Robin climbed into his Meno-Porche and drove out of my life forever.


Cleo, 46

It’s different in France, where mistresses are viewed as potential saviours of marriages on shaky ground.  But in the UK, it’s encouraging that people – friends, family, colleagues, the media and (in the celebrity world) the public, tend to rally round and support the wronged wife.  Take Annabel Goldsmith, Victoria Beckham, Mary Archer and Jilly Cooper.  They all emerged from ‘sensational’ revelations of their husbands’ infidelity fragrantly, with dignity and overwhelming support.

An anonymous woman, claiming to be a former mistress, called me at my office one day and informed me that my chief executive husband was having it away with a new lady friend, every time he stayed overnight in London (at least once a week).  If I cared to call The Lanesborough Hotel, I could be put straight through to their room and interrupt the proceedings.

Rattled by this bombshell, I didn’t feel capable or indeed willing to confront my husband, if indeed he was in flagrante with some tart.  After all, the phone call could be a cruel hoax.  But I did call The Lanesborough and the receptionist confirmed that my husband had a current room reservation.

When he came home the following day brandishing a guilt bouquet of roses, I asked him which hotel he had stayed in.  As soon as he replied The Hilton, I knew.  I hate being lied to, and my anger empowered me to extract the truth from him.

What I hadn’t bargained for was that he said he was going to continue to see her.  He knew I wouldn’t seek or be brave enough to instigate divorce proceedings or separate, and he thought I would take this all lying down – so to speak.  So the lustre in my life has been dimmed.  I continue on in the knowledge that I am a cuckold, feeling a cutting wound when I see couples being happy together.


Jayne, 42

Sex, lies and phone calls.  The forensic evidence I have is as follows:


• Long blonde hairs on a comb that aren’t his (or mine) in his overnight bag after a conference

• The washing machine full of sheets (he forgot to empty it as he never does the laundry) after the children and me had been away for the weekend

• Shredded credit card and mobile phone bills – these are normally filed

• A speeding ticket in Shropshire when he was supposed to be playing golf in Surrey

• A new smart-casual sartorial look even though he ‘never shops for clothes’

• His frequent working late at the office sessions, even going in on Saturdays to cope with an increased workload – such loyalty to his employer!

• A sudden decrease in his highly-charged libido leading to zero conjugal activity in our bedroom

• Making mobile calls from the bottom of the garden in the rain

• Taking a shower after going for a drink at the pub with ‘friends’

• Completely stonewalling an attractive woman in her late thirties we were introduced to at a charity ball.  Meanwhile, she kept sneaking looks at me. Was she a lesbian with the hots, or was she shagging my husband and mildly curious to see what wifey looked like?

I could go on, as there’s plenty more evidence.  Does he think I’m completely stupid?  At first, I felt a frisson of uncertainty about our established, happy marriage of ten years.  Then I felt paranoia, followed by anger and a need to avenge myself.  These emotions are against a backdrop of fear.  If I confront him and we get divorced, will I lose the house?  What about the children?  When I got married, I felt so safe, so secure and so loved.  Everything emotional, financial and practical was taken care of.

Now, I have fallen head over heels out of love.  I am determined to find out about this ‘other woman’.  As I walk the dogs on the common each morning, I concoct outlandish plans to catch them in flagrante delicto and humiliate them both – plans that obviously I’ll never see through.  And I ask myself again and again, ‘How could I have married someone so false?’


Joelle, 42

I had a nervous breakdown when my husband of 15 years told me he was leaving me.  He had been having an affair with a woman a little younger than me for three years.  I had absolutely no idea, and truly believed our marriage was rock solid.  He moved out and my life fell apart.  I went into hospital and our two boys went to live with my sister, changing schools.

Then three months later he came back.  His mistress said she felt so guilty about what he’d done to us, so she ended their relationship.

I’m not glad to have him back.  It’s not the same.  There has been so much treachery and deceit.  My heart has been broken and the boys are traumatised by what has happened.  My seven year-old has started wetting the bed.  I have chronic insomnia and have had to resign from my job.  If I ever meet this other woman, I swear, I will kill her.  She has destroyed our family.


Karen, 41

It’s not that I mind my husband having a mistress.  I knew when I married him that he had a roving eye and an insatiable lust.  What I do mind is that he spends money on her and that she is more attractive and considerably younger than I am. (Yes, I was compelled to view her Facebook page.)  The wealth in our family is all on my side and the courts would come down on Harry like a tonne of bricks if we ever got divorced.  I don’t want to be alone.  I don’t want him to divorce or leave me, so I have accepted what is happening.  I just want to lead my life, enjoy my friends, travel, have fun and raise my family without coming back to an empty bed.  I think he’s pathetic needing to take a young lover to satisfy his urges, but I am amused by his lies, complex stories and cunning plans because he thinks that I don’t know.  Hopefully, in a few years he will grow out of it – and grow up.

He has just packed for a last-minute weekend ‘conference’ that apparently he must attend.  I have sneaked a look in his bag.  At least he’s using condoms at this conference, but will he really need 50?  So I have wiped a fresh slice of chilli over the crotch area inside his underpants – just to spice things up at his ‘conference’.  That’ll teach him to have hot weekends away!


Marrying the mistress – does it work?

Apparently not very often:  men who cheat on their wives usually do so more than once.  So the mistress, who shunts the first wife out of the way and changes her status to Mrs, should know what she is dealing with.  As Sir James Goldsmith famously put it when he divorced Ginette Lery and married Lady Annabel Goldsmith, ‘When you marry your mistress, you create a vacancy.’

‘I spent ten years holding out for Henry,’ says Anne, 45 who is sensible, church-going and thoroughly unmistresslike.  ‘Finally, when his children had grown up and left home, he divorced his wife and married me.  I entered into this arrangement with such naivety, thinking that marriage would be an instant cure to all my frustrations – no more waiting to see him, no more weekends cancelled at the last minute, no more subterfuge.  We could have breakfast together every day, go on holiday and even spend Christmas in each other’s company.’

In the event the marriage was short-lived. ‘I traded in the flowers, cashmere and dining out for life in a tiny flat waiting on him hand and foot.  When I wasn’t working, I was queuing up at Tesco, clearing up all his mess and being assaulted by the TV, which was permanently tuned to sport.  And he always left the loo seat up.  I had transgressed from lavished love bunny into a domestic servant.’

After just 14 months, Anne left her lover of ten years. ‘By waiting years for Henry, I surrendered my chances to have children.  I wanted him so much that I thought this was a sacrifice worth making.  But almost as soon as we moved in together I realised I didn’t know him at all.  I’d only ever seen his good side – the clean, attentive side outside the home.

‘After just a month of being with him full-time I began to empathise with his ex-wife.  I had never noticed it before, but he was lazy and slovenly.  Nothing ever got done. I also found myself uncomfortable with the seething resentment emanating in my direction from his grown children and our financial constraints – his wife had scooped the jackpot when she divorced Henry and now I was financing our relationship.

‘Initially, I had felt guilty about breaking up the marriage, but now I am certain his wife was glad to have him off her hands.  However, they remained on suspiciously good terms and he seemed to get on better with her after they split than when they were married.  I realised that our part-time, covert relationship worked simply because it was part-time and covert.  The 24/7 relationship held no mystique or magic for either of us, the tables had turned – Henry’s ex-wife suddenly had the allure of being ‘the other woman.’’

Dr Janet Reibstein, visiting professor at Exeter University, whose research into infidelity reveals that marriages following affairs are particularly brittle, often breaking up faster or not really becoming established in the first place, says:  ‘The more you integrate yourself into someone’s life, the more likely you are to experience conflict and disillusionment.

‘People do not realise how dependent an affair is on the marriage. In other words, an affair needs the marriage to keep its lustre in order to look good in comparison.  People believe that they are revealing their true selves in an affair.  All those deep conversations, candlelit dinners and long nights give lovers a chance to share their innermost thoughts in a way that a married couple – with children, work, in-laws and domestic humdrum –never have time for.’

And of course, this only applies to the small percentage of mistresses who actually marry their lover.  The vast majority never do.


©  Annie Harrison  Extracted from the book, Finding Mr Right:  The Real Woman’s Guide to Landing That Man



One Response to “Always the mistress, never the wife”

  1. I find that married men are attracted to me, I have not embarked on an affair no matter how attractive they are as I want the relationship, possible marriage and kids and they NEVER leave their wives. There is a man at work who for seven years has been spent much of our conversations flirting with me. He comes over to my flat if I need anything doing (DIY wise) and has even told me he has affairs but he knows and they know he will never leave his wife. I also know his wife and find it very awkward as I’m sure she knows he flirts with me and he is very good looking. I have considered affairs but in reality I don’t think they are for me as I always think how hurt I would be if I was the wife.

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