Image: Barney Beech

Sarah, 35, has been having affairs with married men for 15 years. In this surprisingly lucid interview, she explains why.

CP: I’m grateful that you’re talking to me because I feel like we don’t often hear from the ‘other woman’ in the same way that might from the ‘wronged woman’…
Most people would like to think affairs don’t happen but they do. Having affairs with married men is something I’ve done a couple of times. One of the wives I know, and one of them I don’t know; it makes absolutely no difference. There’s so much to it.

CP: In what way?
The first thing to say is that I’ve always known I’m not the only one to either of them – there are other girls: mistresses, stag-dos. It helps in a way, if you want to try to justify it to yourself, because if it wasn’t me, it would be others.

CP: That doesn’t sound like much consolation, for anyone…
In this situation no-one wins, except him until he gets found out. For me, all it’s done is throw me into a position of loving someone who loves someone else. What’s worse is that they tell you about how much they love somebody else every day, and they tell you how much they don’t want to hurt somebody else while they’re hurting you, and that’s pretty shit, really. If a single man were treating me this way and I stayed, you would have me sectioned. But in this situation, the relationship has to stay secret, which works perfectly for the man.
And what about for you?
It’s complicated: the more you get caught up and have feelings, the more you do to project this persona of being cold and heartless, especially to the man, because it’s the only way to protect yourself. The one thing that will make them run away is to tell them how much you need them. Because the truth is they don’t want you.

CP: How long have the affairs been going on?
The first guy started 15 years ago. He got my number out of his wife – my friend’s – phone and started to message me. At the time I was drinking a lot and he knew that so he would do this at 9 at night not 9 in morning; he knew I would be drunk, probably quite susceptible to it. Because we were so close he would know when I was alone, when I was feeling bad, and he would target me at those times.

CP: But you went along with it? 
Yes, I did. I don’t know, it just happened. I was flattered at the attention. I can’t remember what it was. Essentially, I was lonely and sad and drunk and he was paying attention, and that’s it. I think men pretend quite cleverly not to understand the female mind but they know exactly what they are doing. Does that sound bitter?

CP: It sounds like you’re very aware of his shortcoming and manipulations, and yet…
If I had been in a happy healthy relationship and confident in where I was in life, it would have been hit on the head. But I guess it’s a quick fix to make you feel good about yourself even when you know it’s bad. A bit like drugs really, or drinking. You know that huge glass of wine when get home won’t help. But it’s tempting and it makes things better in the short-term even if you wake up the next day and feel worse. And the longer it goes on the more he knows the triggers that work. It becomes a co-dependent relationship – both of us at shitty times would lean on the other, it’s always having that resource outside to lean on when you can’t lean in.

CP: What about the second guy? 
His wife is much younger than me, and inexperienced. I’m a director at a FTSE 100 company and she is a stay-at-home mum with two ponies. I suppose it’s about wanting everything all at once but you can’t have everything all at once. I keep getting an image of that advert with the tooth and the enamel filling the gaps? That’s what I am. It’s easier to fill the gaps than having to be the whole.

CP: That sort of comment shows a startling level of self-awareness, which makes it even harder to reconcile what you’re saying. 
You spend a lot of time thinking about it, it’s very consuming. I’ve stopped drinking recently. I think the drinking was as much an effect of it as it was a cause of it; the sheer misery of knowing someone you love – and you do love them – loves someone else and they categorically don’t want you. But you do it to yourself so you know you can’t expect a different outcome. Having the courage to stop doing that to myself is what I’m working towards with my therapist. And the drinking is part of that. After a few glasses I think I’ll just text them or whoever. I don’t know if it’s a cause or a consequence but being vulnerable isn’t good in anyway.

CP: It sounds like you’ve consciously forfeited your chance at real happiness. Do you feel in a way you were creating a situation where that could never happen for you?
Yeah. Yeah, I do and at the moment I don’t mind. I don’t really want kids but I don’t want to be 40 and look back and think ‘what have I done?’ and I can see that coming. Sometimes I feel better about myself and think maybe I can move on. And then life happens. Last year his dad died, and I don’t know. Because normally if you don’t love somebody you don’t continue to contact them. But if all you want is companionship and sex, especially when you work as hard as I do to not to show them that you love them, then from their point of view why would you not carry on? And then it’s down to me alone to stop it and that’s really hard.

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