Afternoon with a mistress by Stacey Lewis (author, founder of The Divorce Source)

I am well aware of the controversial nature of this piece. I am also aware of the high emotion and sensitivity around infidelity. This piece is meant to give perspective on infidelity “from the other side”.

Through my divorce coaching work, I have had extensive experience in dealing with both men and women who have been cheated on. What is interesting to me is the general perception that the “mistress” or “master” (is that what we call it!?!) can be likened to “the cat that got the cream”. One seems to think that the co-cheater is in a glorified, winning position. An afternoon tea yesterday with a “mistress” gve me tremendous insight into the world of the co-cheater.

This elegant, eloquent, successful young woman most certainly did not fit the picture I had in my mind of a typical mistress. She comes from a conservative background and she never thought that she would one day find herself embroiled in a love triangle. I am well aware that infidelity does not happen in a vacuum. She had married her childhood sweetheart – it was the next logical step after they had dated for five years. He was her first and only lover – she had saved herself for marriage. She was always aware that the chemistry between them was not electric – but it ran deeper than that. There were communication problems between them that were present from the start. She married at a young age and never thought to question whether this was the right relationship for her. A week prior to initiating an affair with a married man, she found herself wanting to make more effort with her physical appearance in order to attract attention from other men. Instead of looking inwards or towards her marital relatonship on order to address what lay beneath, she embarked on a journey to seek validation outside of her marriage.

She landed up engaging in a full-blown affair with a married work colleague of hers. Initially, she felt fabulous. She was finally getting the validation that she craved in her marriage and she was on a high. Her affair partner seemed to be everything that her husband was not and she quickly fell in love with this man. They met at hotels and found a way to communicate regularly without being caught. Interestingly, there are many apps that can be downloaded that allow for secret communication. Telegram is one of them. Messages can only be seen with password access and notifications for the app can be conveniently switched off.

The first few months were blissful and heady. Somehow, they managed to co-ordinate meetings and even weekends together. At one stage, her affair partner had a birthday party and even invited her….and his wife was there. Our “mistress” told me that even though she felt so taken by this man, she began to feel insanely jealous of her lover’s wife and would play scenarios in her mind where she would send a message to the wife, so that she would be aware of the affair and possibly leave her husband. Slowly, the bliss and utopia became tainted with jealousy and insecurity. She would hang onto his every message and her day would be ruined if she did not hear from him. At a stage, when the mistress confronted him about their future, he told her that his marriage was in trouble, but that he wanted to work on it. He would confide in the mistress about their marital disharmony and the contents of their therapy sessions. The mistress would listen with compassion, in the secret hope that he would eventually leave his wife.

The mistress told me that although she had never experienced such feelings of love and elation, she also had never endured such heartache in her life. She was desperate for answers and support. She bought every book she could find on infidelity and affairs, but she said that there was a scarcity of information or support for those “mistresses” out there. She had dealt with so many mixed emotions – intense guilt (as she had come from a conservative background and never wanted to be a “home-wrecker”), intense shame, intense sadness and extreme jealousy. This mistress did not present to me as someone who had one first prize.

She is trying desperately to end this illicit relationship and finds herself unable to. She feels as if she is addicted to the headiness of the relationship, yet she has suffered immensely. She likens the feeling to that of an addiction. In her rational mind, she is aware that what she is doing goes against her moral code of conduct. She has no intentions of causing another marriage to end…..yet…she is desperate for her lover to leave his wife and run off, together with her, into the proverbial sunset.

She is well aware of the web of lies she has become entangled in and she has even witnessed her lover lying to her…yet she craves his presence and attention and so desperately longs for him to choose her. Rationally, she is aware of the fact that her and her lover have not even spent a day in reality together – they both have children. She is also aware that she has no idea about what kind of step-parent her lover may make. She pleaded with me to assist her in finding a way to end this relationship, yet she had already made another hotel date with ler lover, and did not want to cancel. She fels as if she knows in her head what she should be doing, but she is unable to reconcile this with the way that she feels being in a relationship with her lover.

From my perspective as a coach, I need to remain unbiased and non-judgemental. We spoke about the meaning of love and what love really means. Love is compassionate and kind and honest. It was tempting to quote the old adage “How you found him is how you will keep him”, but instead, I advised her to look within and work on herself. I saw a sad, tortured human being who seemed to love herself so little that she was prepared to settle for the (albeit heady and exciting) scraps that here lover was prepared to offer her. I most certainly did not see a gloating uncompassionate woman who felt like she won. I held her hand and sent her love and compassion….and wished that she would love and value herself in the way that she wanted to be loved.

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Stacey Lewis is the author of newly released “Divorce 101:survive and thrive”. Copies available directly from info@thedivorcesource.co.za , copies available from Exclusive Books, Takealot.com and Bargain books from mid October 2016.

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