The word "mistress" conjures up an image of a blonde bimbo in a short skirt, suspenders and red nails, chasing someone else's husband. Marriage is seen as the cornerstone of society and the mistress is regarded as the wanton woman who wants to destroy it. To be "the other woman", even in the 1990s, is socially unacceptable. She shares the man she loves with someone else - his wife - who holds all the cards and is given almost total support by society. Now Heather King and Jordan Hayes have written a book for mistresses, by mistresses. A Guide to Surviving Life As A Mistress aims to help them take a realistic view of their situation and advises on how to cope.
Consider the players:
The Reluctant Mistress
The Reluctant Mistress never wanted to be a mistress, but has accepted her situation so she can be with the man she loves. A battle has been fought between her heart and her head, and the heart won. She starts keeping a record of how much time he spends with her and how much he spends with his wife. It is usually split 90- 10...in the wife's favour.
The Reluctant Mistress might say:
"There must be something wrong with his marriage, despite what he says, or he wouldn't want me." She infers that the marriage is in trouble and that the lover is looking for something better. But just because something is wrong, it doesn't mean it is bad enough to cause him to walk out.
"He wouldn't risk his marriage unless he was serious." Most men believe the affair will only be a temporary fling. The chances of a marriage breaking up simply because of an affair are quite small compared to other factors. "He's not like other married men."
... and therefore he will behave much better than the others...
It's extraordinary how many married men make this claim. It's more likely he will behave like most men and not leave his wife, demand control of the relationship and not be there when his mistress needs him.
The Wanton Mistress
The Wanton Mistress doesn't care that her lover is married. She can live her life as she pleases and makes no compromises. She can have the light on and read in bed for as long as she likes, slob around in her pyjamas and watch her favourite video on a Sunday afternoon instead of the rugby. A permanent man would disturb all this. She has no scruples about dating a married man as she believes he is responsible for breaking his vows - not her. She has her own life and she pens him into her diary.
To her lover she appears independent, straight-forward, understanding, sexy, discreet - and he can't resist her. But she is heading nowhere. Her friends and family think her foolish.
The Wanton Mistress might say: "He's married - I'm not!" But the mistress is still called to account by society and will shoulder most of the blame. "I'm not hurting anybody." She will end up hurting herself.
There is no template for the typical adulterer. All men are potential candidates. Lovers are portrayed as the helpless victims of their mistresses' wiles and sometimes as insensitive womanisers. This may be true of husbands who indulge in casual affairs and flings - but for those who embark on a deeper extramarital relationship it is a different story. They invariably stay with their wives, not necessarily because they love them more, but because they lack the courage to leave.
Those who are looking for escape (rather than escapism) are more likely to just leave their wives rather than take a mistress. Most men want a simple, pleasurable liaison, which they intend to leave if it gets too complicated. But things can go horribly wrong, and he can fall in love with his mistress.
The Lover might say:
"My wife doesn't understand me." He's looking for sympathy and is appealing to the woman's motherly instinct. Despite his tales of woe, he is not driven to abandon his marriage and the mistress should ask why.
"I love my wife. I will never leave her." He is making clear from the outset his intention to stay married. He hopes this will short-circuit any possible demands from his mistress.
"I'm different from other married men."
A prime example of the male ego. Ask him to explain why, and he's unlikely to give a straight answer. "I would have left years ago if it wasn't for the children. Perhaps when they're older..."
Forget it. The man who cites his children as a reason for staying will continue to use this excuse.
Children might grow up, but they never disappear.
The Wife will often place the blame for her husband's affair on the mistress and her inherent immorality. Wives of men who are unfaithful fall into three groups:
Those who don't know their husbands are having an affair. This is down to their partner's ability to lie convincingly or that they believe the thought would never cross his mind.
Those who suspect. They hope it's a phase he's going through and believe if they bury their heads in the sand, the affair will fizzle out. They are often right.