The Mistress: Villain or Victim?

Society likes to paint the mistress as an immoral floozy or a scarlet woman. She is the evil villain trying to pry that hapless, helpless husband away from his lawfully wedded wife. Yet some might believe that the mistress herself is being victimized in some respects. The following circumstances are reasons why this might be the case:

  • He initiated the affair.
  • He either never told her he was married or only mentioned it later on in the relationship.
  • He may lie to her about the nature of his relationship with his wife. For example, he may say that they never have sex together or that he is only staying with her for the sake of their kids. Even if true, he still would have no desire to trade the lifestyle that he has with his wife.
  • He may be having several affairs, yet she might believe that apart from his wife, she is the only other woman with whom he is intimate. Why should the mistress care about fidelity? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? Not necessarily. Phoebe had a long-term affair with Kenny, who referred to his wife as his “sister”—behind her back, of course—because their relationship had become celibate. Phoebe told him, “You can be unfaithful to your wife, but you damn well better not be unfaithful to me!” Anna would see her married boyfriend only about once every couple of months, but made it quite clear that, apart from his wife, he was to have sex with nobody else but her.
  • She may be consumed by jealousy towards the wife and any other women he may be seeing. The mistress may also suffer from conflicted feelings as regards the husband and her relationship with him. She may go through similar negative emotions as the cheated-upon wife, but one difference is that she has chosen that path, whereas the wife has not. Logic would dictate that an adulterous man is very likely to continue to look at other women—after all, that was the basis upon which he met the mistress in the first place. Nevertheless, she will often erroneously assume that she occupies a special place in his heart and that he will no longer desire anyone new.
  • He is in a position of power in relation to her, for example, boss versus secretary, teacher versus student, therapist versus client or influential older man versus young ingénue. Back in the early 1990s, Beatrice, a stunningly attractive and supremely competent secretary, applied for a position as personal assistant to the managing director of a well-known financial company in London. She was offered the job and a very generous salary, but her prospective boss, married of course, made it clear that providing him with sexual favors was part of the package. Beatrice turned down the offer.
  • He never intends to leave his wife, so the affair does not have anywhere to go in the long-term as there isn’t even the option of living together. She cannot build a home with him. Sometimes a woman will embark on a relationship with a married man wanting a no-strings-attached affair that boosts her self-esteem, safe from any complications or baggage. However, more often than not, over time the woman wants more. She falls in love with him. She wants the man to divorce his wife and marry her instead. She may hold these expectations even if the man tells her that he will never leave his wife. Usually the mistress and the married man will have a very different set of expectations about where the affair will go.
  • He will not want to have kids with her, which would be on the table in a committed relationship. If she wants to get pregnant, she will have to do it without his agreement. A love child is a double-edged sword for the mistress: it might make the husband closer to her or might drive him into an acrimonious parting. Most likely, she will end up as a single mother. Many men do not take kindly to being forced into fatherhood. Even if they eventually grow to have feelings for the child, they may harbor considerable resentment towards the mother. “What if I get pregnant?” Suzette asked her married lover. He bluntly replied, “That’s what abortions are for.”
  • All she gains is temporary sexual pleasure, and it is on his schedule, not on hers.
  • She cannot rely on him for financial support, which is taken for granted within a marriage.
  • She cannot get emotional support from him whenever she needs it, something that would be normal within a full-time live-in relationship.
  • The affair takes her out of circulation as regards being able to find an unattached long-term partner.

In many cases, the mistress will be merely a symptom, rather than a cause, of the problems in a wife’s relationship with her husband. If you are married to a cheater and can only see the other woman in a very negative light, ask yourself this: “Who is more of a villain, the mistress or the husband?” Remember that it is your husband, not his mistress, who took the marriage vow with you and promised to be faithful. Unless she also happens to be a close friend of yours, the lying and betrayal you have experienced come from your spouse and not his girlfriend.

Adapted from C. J. Grace’s new book, Adulterer’s Wife: How to Thrive Whether You Stay or Not, available on Visit C. J.’s website, and follow her on Twitter:

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