Being a mistress is, in many respects, the perfect sexual situation. You get wined and dined and treated like a lady, you get as much sex as time permits, you may even get a contribution towards the rent (but you don't have to wash anyone else's socks) and you certainly don't have to put up with sport on the TV or have to deal with them coming back drunk from the pub.
Having an affair with a married man isn't socially or morally nice. We all hate being cheated on, and there are no two ways about this; you are enabling a man to cheat on his wife. This is one of the reasons for making sure that the affair remains essentially meaningless. Fun, entertaining, satisfying, but meaningless.
There is a difference for the man, and therefore for his wife, between him having a love affair and having a mistress. Too many women are left reeling with pain for years, or even decades, after a man takes the taxi ride into another relationship for it to be in any way acceptable to do this. So make sure neither of you falls in love. Set rules and stick to them, and if he even thinks about thinking of leaving his wife, end the affair there and then. Follow the Wiccan philosophy of 'do what you will, but do no harm'.
Being a mistress only suits women who are not looking for commitment in a relationship. There are unattached men out there, and aside from the damage it will cause to his wife and his children, a man who can skillfully lie to his partner is no kind of partner to choose. From a simple point of self-preservation, if from no other, if you are looking for a partner do not seek out married men.
However, if you're going to do a thing, for goodness sake do it well! If you follow the guidelines in this Entry, you will both have lots of pleasure and lots of fun, and you will minimise the risks of pain for all three of you. Be under no illusions, you are playing with fire. It is compelling, it is fun, it keeps you warm at night, but you can all get badly burned1.
So, here are a few simple rules to follow to be the perfect mistress.
'Who Needs a Heart, When a Heart Can Be Broken?'
Don't Fall in Love and Don't Get Emotionally Involved
Choose a man who makes you feel wonderful; choose a man who makes you laugh; choose a man who is good in bed; but don't choose someone you are going to fall in love with. The moment his failings start to become cute, concentrate on just how annoying they are. The moment that you become emotionally involved, he can hurt you. This is about feeling good, not about feeling pain.
Keep It Light
The time you spend together will be limited, so make sure it is good. Put in the effort. Dress up, turn off your mobile phone, light candles, be in a good mood, make sure he has a good time (if he does, you will too), and only say yes to a date if you can both be undistracted.
We had to meet on the Thursday because Man U were playing his team at home on the Sunday. A friend of mine said how awful to be second best to football, but my view is that it would have been much too dangerous to be more important than football.
Accept Flowers, But Not Hearts
Don't let him fall in love with you. This is one of the ground rules you should set out at the start of the affair. Make it clear that you want his body, his company, his attention, and some of his time, but that you do not want commitment. You won't let him damage his marriage, and you will end it if he falls in love.
However, don't necessarily panic if he says he loves you - he may well not really mean it. Remember, this is a man who lies to women.
Set Ground Rules
Setting the ground rules for both of you at the start of the affair means that it is easier for both of you to keep it light and run as few risks as possible. And by setting the ground rules, even though a lot of them appear to be disempowering, you will in fact be calling the shots.
Never Make Phone Calls
The big advantage of making him phone you is that when you do talk to each other it is because he wants to talk to you. He will have the time and the privacy, and hopefully nothing else on his mind. You can both enjoy the phone call without any strain or stress.
The two last times I phoned I expected him to be either at work or driving home - both times he was with his wife on a train, going away on a long weekend or a holiday. Awkward.
Tell Him Not to Tell You When He Plans to Phone
This means he won't feel bad about not phoning you when he said that he would because, sure as eggs are eggs, he won't phone when he says he will. It also reduces the strain on you, because you won't sit around waiting for a phone call that never takes place, you just get on with your own life. And if he phones when you cannot spend time on the phone, it will gently remind him that he is not the only thing in your life.
Never Complain, Never Explain
Keep your own life, let it be quite clear that he is only a part of it. If you cannot meet him, don't go into long explanations about why. A good additional rule is that as soon as someone becomes part of your private life, then you never tell them about any other aspect of your private life.
If he is having a particularly busy time at home or at work and can't see you for a while, don't complain about it - he will get more than enough nagging from his wife.
One of the easiest ways to ensure your own right to privacy is to enforce his. In particular, don't talk about his wife. You can end up in the odd position of giving your lover marriage guidance counselling and this is bad for all three of you. You are not his best friend, you are his mistress, and it is inappropriate for you to know too many details of other parts of his personal life. If he does happen to moan about his wife, never contribute to it. It's all right for him to complain about his wife, but he will resent someone else doing it.
Sauce for the Goose is Sauce for the Gander
Don't assume that you need to be faithful to him. A lot of women are used to the idea that fidelity is a trait to be valued, and a lot of men think it's something they deserve even if it's strictly one-sided. This is obviously something which could cause problems in your dealings with him, and if you can manage to keep any other lovers a secret you should do so. Of all people in the world, the man who takes a mistress has no right to expect exclusivity2.
Having done my share of mistressing (in my younger and wilder days, of course) I think one point that might be driven a little bit harder home is that he has no right to demand your sexual fidelity. Perhaps if you're a 'kept woman' that negotiation might change, but for a pure and naughty mistress, forget it. Once upon a time when I was smart enough to know better, and naive enough to listen to him, I went through a world of hurt dealing with a jealous, married man. It took ages for my rational mind to kick its way through the sex-crazed-weasel glow and assert itself: mistresses don't owe their boy toy anything more than a mutual good time.
End It Too Soon
It takes an enormous amount of self-discipline to end an affair while it is still good. However, it is far better to look back on something which has always been good for both of you, than it is to have your most recent memories bad ones. In many respects the best affairs are time limited.
I had an affair with someone while we were both on an assignment abroad. The first night we slept together I said 'this is overseas only'; he gave me a very odd look as if to say 'well of course it is'. It ended a little too soon as a result, but every single night we were together was a good one, and he still phones me every now and again for a chat. Although I would never ask him to help me move house, he is one of three people in the world that I would ask for help moving a body.
The Woman He Married
View Guilt-gifts as a Silent Compliment
Having a mistress is expensive. He may not be paying for sex directly, but as well as paying for the nights out with you, he will be buying gifts for his wife. Don't be threatened by these, and don't be offended.
When the affair was over, he bought his wife a conservatory and had fitted units put in their bedroom, and remodeled the bathroom. I was impressed. I certainly didn't want him to buy me a conservatory too, but I felt it showed just how much he had enjoyed his time with me if he felt about 20 grand's worth of guilt!
However, that £20,000 is put into the shade by the following guilt-gifts:
The two years I was with someone cost him dear. During that time he bought his wife all the things he had previously refused to buy her. These things included a second house, a swimming pool, having the garden landscaped, two new cars, over £200,000 worth of house re-decoration, approximately £50,000 worth of diamond jewellery and a mink coat! Then he had to install a very expensive burglar- and fire-alarm system and large safe to keep it all secure. Far from feeling resentful, I was amused and flattered.
Don't Be a Taxi
The only men to have affairs with are men whose marriages are stable.
He obviously does not feel the same way about his wife as he did on the day that he promised to 'cleave to her only, till death us do part' but someone who has a vested interest in keeping his marriage in good health is the perfect part-time lover. Too many men will only get off the bus if there is a taxi waiting, and causing that much grief and pain to another woman is bad for everyone. If he does leave her, what on earth makes you think he will be faithful to you? You already know he tells lies.
It is a good policy to tell him that if he leaves his wife, you will leave him. That particular threat keeps a man's mind focused on keeping both of you happy.
You Never Know, You Might Like Her
If your lover always goes for one type of woman, it is very likely you would actually like his wife very much indeed.
My last husband always used to call me 'Hazel', and he always bought me White Linen perfume from Estée Lauder. I didn't like either of these habits. I discovered why he did it when he collapsed once and I thought he was going to die. I was wrong as it turned out, but I thought I should get in touch with his two previous wives and his secretary. I suspected that he was having an affair with her, and I was right. They all came, and we spent the afternoon sitting and talking by his bed, while he was hooked up to the monitors. It turns out that he had called all of us 'Hazel' and bought all of us White Linen, even though none of us could stand the stuff. He woke up at one point, looked around the room, and not surprisingly he passed out again. His secretary and I spent the evening in my apartment drinking wine and talking about him. The long and the short of the story is that I ended up divorcing him, but she has become one of my best friends.
Be a Goddess, but not a Domestic One
Keep the Magic Alive
Treat every date like one of the first dates. Be sweet, listen and sympathise. Be kind, don't gush, and give him the time for him to talk about that most fascinating of subjects - himself.
Strangely there is something rather fulfilling in indulging someone and talking to them on their subjects. After a while you not only become a good listener, but also more understanding and less selfish. And you can afford to do this, because you don't see him every day, and you don't want him to become part of your own life.
If the toilet leaks, it is your problem: call a plumber.
Get Steamy Not Seedy
Have showers together, have baths together, but unless you have fabulous legs and shaving them becomes an erotic activity in itself, keep all other bathroom activities behind closed doors. The line between intimacy and familiarity should never be crossed. The mysterious magic of having a mistress is destroyed for him when the domestic or physical realities intrude.
Thin Wisps of Nothingness
Make a special effort. Remember he will constantly be comparing you with his wife. Make sure your skin is silky smooth by exfoliating and moisturising regularly, and book in for a waxing a couple of days before your date so your body is perfect and hairless. Splash out on ridiculously expensive, microscopic underwear by La Perla. Wear the underwear - stockings, suspenders, corset, basque, etc, whatever he personally likes. Be confident in it as though you wear it all the time and never ever complain about any discomfort it may cause. If you want to be treated like something special, you must be special.
Unless you are an effortless and excellent cook, don't try to be a domestic goddess. Your relationship is not about domesticity and it is surprisingly hard to cook a meal and not burn it when crazed with lust. If he does come round to yours, have a casserole already prepared or specialise in food like cheese and grapes and Haagen Daz, which can become part of the evening's activities.
Don't, however, make a habit of preparing meals and staying in. Men can all to quickly become comfortable in the domestic situation and bang go your dinners and evenings out. Remember mistresses are not wives, they are there to be indulged and enjoyed, not used.
If you can massage backs or feet or heads, so much the better. However, there is a difference between rubbing a back and giving a massage, and massage is a skill worth acquiring. Anyone can have sex, but very few women can release knots in the trapezius.
Where to Find a Married Man
As Jackie Collins points out - the world is full of them. The two obvious places to look are at work, and (if you are married yourself) among your circle of friends. Both carry risks.
It can be all too easy to find a lover in the workplace, but it can be difficult to work with one.
When we first started sleeping together he would walk past my desk to his, and I would get turned on just by that proximity. I found it distracting, and to be honest annoying. I knew I was going to have a wonderful time that night, I really did not need the distraction during the day.
It can also be the most enormous fun.
We had always been very flirty right from the start. My personal style is very flirty anyway, and he is fun to flirt with. That became even more fun when we were having the affair, but no-one knew about it. The best bit was saying things with a completely straight face or sounding as if I was in a bad mood, which only he knew were true.
Him - 'Can you review this report for me before I send it out?'
Me (with no innuendo at all) - 'Is that the best use of my time? I am sure it is up to the same high standards I know you always deliver whenever you do anything for me.'
However, working with an ex-lover can be painful, which is one of the reasons for keeping the whole affair very light. Some organisations take relationships between members of staff very seriously indeed, so the professional risks can be high.
A Circle of Friends
They say you should never foul your own doorstep, and having an affair with someone within your circle of friends is exactly that. However, circumstances dictate that you are far more likely to meet and have an affair with someone within that circle than outside. Before embarking on an affair with a friend's husband, be aware that if it is discovered, you, and not him, will be blamed for it and everyone will treat you like a scarlet women, whether there were mitigating circumstances or not. Adulterous men have an amazing ability to come up smelling of roses regardless of their actions.
To conduct an affair with someone you see socially, you have to be extremely comfortable and confident in the presence of both them and their wife. The biggest mistake people make is to become more reserved and less flirtatious with the husband once an affair has begun - this change in behaviour is an absolute give-away. Behave exactly as you did before and no-one will be suspicious.
Ending an affair with someone you will continue to see socially is extremely difficult. If it ends amicably, you may find yourself being tempted to rekindle it at some stage. If it ends badly, it may be very difficult to continue socialising with them without considerable discomfort.
Also remember, a husband who has had one affair will more than likely go on to have more.
I was staying with my lover and his wife for a couple of weeks. His wife was well aware that he was apt to stray and spent most of her waking hours keeping tabs on him. One particular day he was working in London and she could not contact him for a couple of hours in the afternoon. She kept saying 'Where is he? What's he up to?' I sat there initially confident that for once I wasn't the prime suspect, but after a while I too started thinking 'Where is he? What's he up to?' and then I thought 'Oh my God, she's got me doing it too!' It was then I realised that safe in the knowledge that both his wife and mistress were stuck at home, he was probably off with someone else.
You either accept it or get out, there is no room for jealousy when you are a mistress.
The Fifty Mile Rule
This suggests that the ideal distance between your home and your lover's is 50 miles. This is near enough to meet up easily, but far enough to ensure that you don't meet his wife or family in any casual social context accidentally and thus cause embarrassment. However not all social circles work like that. Some worlds (polo, music, theatre, and so on) are spread thinner and further than 50 miles.
Don't Tell Anyone Who Knows Him About Your Affair
This is particularly important if you have a circle of friends in common. If you tell someone who knows him, or even worse, knows his wife, you have to assume that sooner or later she will find out. If you absolutely must share your private life with someone, then only ever tell a girlfriend who knows you but not him.
Some mistresses are self-financing, and this reduces your vulnerability. It keeps things much cleaner because there is no risk to the rent on your flat or your grocery bills if anything happens to your relationship. Let him buy you drinks, meals and presents as it is another way of flattering his ego - and let's face it, male egos are easily flattered. But if you can afford to be self-financing, then you retain a lot of power in the relationship.
If You Do It, Do It Well!
Having an affair with a married man suits a lot of women at some stage in their lives. It is fun, it is flattering, it is the most wonderful way of rebuilding damaged self-confidence, and it gives you a great sense of your own power. If you make sure no-one gets hurt by setting the rules and calling the shots even though you appear to be giving away a lot of your power by never phoning him and by consciously flattering his ego, you are in fact retaining control.
And above all, it involves lots of sex, and you never have to wash any socks.
The views and experiences expressed in this Entry are those of the Researchers and their friends and not those of the BBC. Neither the BBC nor h2g2 in any way encourage, condone, authorise or endorse having an affair with a married man. Always practice safe sex. Always use condoms. Never break marriages, hearts or crockery.