A Warning From a Former Mistress: Confessions of a Former Mistress on the site called theindiechicks.com is dressed up as an advice piece (anonymous, it seems) to those considering the mistress role. She starts off: “This is a warning from a former mistress to anyone who thinks it’s worth the risk to get involved with a married man.”
Her effort at the start seems genuine and straight forward. She has a case to make. Her claim is clear in the last sentence of the first paragraph. She also establishes her ethos, her credibility, and accurately assesses her targeted audience, who she knows will be critical. Since she knows most people will be wary of her as a former mistress, she anticipates the guarded reaction and attempts to disarm the reader positing herself as a credible (she knows of what she speaks because she has been there) and self-aware source:
I know this isn’t an easy topic for a lot of people to relate to and surely not one that will elicit a lot of sympathy for me and that’s okay. I am who I am because of the decisions I have made in life. I am not proud of all of them but they are still a part of me. I know that despite how you may feel about my decisions you will at least respect my honesty in regards to this topic, I thank you for that. So here it is, a warning from a former mistress.
She borders on defensive when she declares her own satisfaction with her life decisions but equally sensitive to audience sensibility; she preempts vilification with her own tempered version of light self-flagellation. She is also gracious in thanking her reader in advance for appreciating her gift of honesty. So far so good: protocol of moderate tone and first elements of an argument are met, well done.
Our former mistress then goes directly to the advice she has to give, again courteously and with the gravity commensurate to the urgency of her advice:
If you think that you want to get involved with a man in a relationship or a married man PLEASE realize that you’re gong to have to deal with the following:
You often feel like shit about yourself
One or the other will eventually start to feel “more” and somebody’s feelings get hurt
There is no way that it can last forever. In the end somebody decides it doesn’t work for them anymore
The person not in the “serious” relationship is left alone at the end of this tryst and the “committed” person goes back to their “happy” relationship.
You have no right to be angry when they say they want to “try to work things out” with their significant other.
You are left with no leg to stand on and somehow your feelings don’t seem to matter
There is often a heightened sense of emotion and passion that will not last once the “thrill” of the affair ebbs.
Your tears go unshed until they aren’t around because nobody wants a mistress who sobs all over them, we are supposed to be eternally patient, sexually satisfying, fun, and devoid of the stresses of reality. (Read-unfeeling fuck machines)
And then she loses me. So this is not what it is purported to be after all. It was just a guise, a set up, and I, like other readers, fell for it. She isn’t offering advice to everyone, only for those who are exactly like her and her ex-lover. And if I read the title and introduction correctly, this is purporting to be well-meaning advice for someone–anyone–who even thinks about getting involved with a married man.
Some of her list of mistress woes is mere common truths attributable to any relationship: unequal love between lovers, passion that fades over time, and loathsome cry baby acts of finding out the man she loves is not what she created him to be. The other items, her deal. Not much of her list pertains to any old mistress, and so, in argument terms, her argument is a fallacy of hasty generalization.
This is not a warning but a confession. She chose the wrong man to love because, by adding up the complaints in her account, he was a selfish, callused user. She admits she was allured by need, desire, excitement and passion, probably good looks, and ignored the glaringly obvious: he was married–and not to her.
This is a confession of someone who loved and lost, and it’s an age-old story. She offers nothing to the wannabe mistress here, but she does unwittingly offer general advice to anyone about to fall in love: keep your eyes open and clear. Don’t fall in love using only your heart and loins. Beware of your own susceptibility based on your needs and weaknesses, so that you can protect yourself. Isn’t that the advice a parent gives her daughter?
Not all married men go back to their wives, however, unless you consider divorcing the wife to marry the mistress who is just another wife, and remarkably much like the one he divorced. Not all men are heartless and are unconcerned about the suffering of the mistress, only wanting her to be fun and sexy and carefree. We don’t get the picture from his side. Maybe he felt the double guilt of deceiving his wife and depriving his mistress. Maybe that guilt was too much for him and the story of going back to his wife was pre-textual.
In the article, she admits to being reckless about who she falls in love with. She admits to knowing what she was getting into with a married man, but wasn’t careful. Yet she details how bitterly she endured the teary nights alone when she had a bad day and the joyful moments alone, not even able to share by phone, in her times of triumph and happiness. Even as she excuses herself for being foolish or blind, she wants the reader to both condemn and forgive her; she wants to atone and so offers her advice to spare others. That’s the contrition surrounding confession.
So why am I sharing this?
I know I won’t garner a whole lot of sympathy here. After all, I did know what I was getting myself into. I’m the home wrecker, the destroyer of relationships. I deserve to feel like shit…I should feel like shit for what I am doing to these other women. That’s what anyone who has been cheated on is thinking/feeling and you have every right to. I guess I just wanted to say to those women who are on the edge, considering entering into an “other woman” situation…please don’t. Please think long and hard about it.
I don’t buy it. The unburdening confession relieves the confessor at the expense of the hearer or reader. She feels guilty (not about the wife it seems) and stupid because, ironically, she was deceived. She duped herself into believing something other than what was right in front of her eyes, and so is guilty of emotional self-mutilation. Yes, he was guilty of not taking responsibility for she who he knew was in love with him, but she maintained the tryst until it hurt good enough to quit.
This is her confession. I will make one of my own: I sympathize and empathize with her. Likewise a former mistress but also a wife, I understand the stigma attached to that role, one that threatens social order as well as individual injury. It’s not playing by established rules. It’s unethical and immoral in some minds, often in the mind of the mistress herself. I believe I have presented many viewpoints on this blog from the vulnerable parties in a mistress relationship. This author brought one more viewpoint, that of a specific mistress.
If she were not an admitted mistress but confessed to having fallen in love with the wrong man who made her suffer because of her poor choices, sympathy and empathy would be forthcoming. Readers know it’s human nature to be somewhat self-destructively blind in love. However, because there is sin, social stigma, jealousy and deceit associated with her, judgment overrides sympathy for the mistress. Clearly the wife was unaware of the affair and apparently he was not forthright with the mistress or the wife.
However, there are mistress relationships that scaffold marriages, if not in the short run, then in the long run. I would like to believe I was in one of those mistress relationships that helped two people stay married. The need for passion I fulfilled in my married lover was a charge to keep him going, maybe long enough to realize that his wife, the mother of his children, long-time mate, friend, and partner was invaluable. Or maybe he discovered what some people do: there isn’t all that much out there better than what he had. My trade value was unequal to what he had already.
I met Wayne in grad school when he was married with young children. I was married too, but separated, amicably and consensually. My husband needed to explore his sexuality. And indeed I did my own exploring. However, getting involved with a married man was not my intention. We were in the same class together, goofing around gigglers passing silly notes, and were study partners. And then, after a few beers in a pub one night, it happened. I had gotten my ass kicked in class in a mock trial sort of exercise, and he was friend enough to console me, buy me a beer.
It was irresistible passion in an instant that appeared to burst forth spontaneously, uncontrollably from nowhere. Afterwards, we carried on an affair for the six years or more I was separated with my husband. Wayne and I were all about passion, adolescent rediscovery of sex and intrigue. We had the commiseration of struggling students with stressful sabotaging spouses. He complained about his wife not understanding, thwarting his efforts, bored with sex…the usual. He felt like a desired man again. I was in love. He was in love. He struggled, I think, with leaving his wife, but looking back, I seriously doubt he ever could. He adored his kids and loved his wife of 15 or 20 years at that time too.
At first I was jealous of her. I wanted him to myself, to leave his wife, but never dared to demand that. Such a drastic decision had to be his; I never wanted to be blamed for inducing that. He had to live with his conscience and take care of his own. I was open about the affair with my husband, and I knew it hurt him very much. Even though we were separated upon his suggestion and for his needs, he was deeply hurt by my affair with Wayne and I felt guilty for hurting him, though I did not feel as if I were betraying him.
It was complicated. Perhaps I was self-deluded, but I did not feel my part was wrong. Yes, there was a deceived wife, but I felt that was Wayne’s deceit and I had no obligation to be honest to her, only to my husband and me. Until I met his wife.
The first time I met Wayne’s wife and kids, ages 7 and 11, it was in their home. We had been studying in the library until late in the evening, and I honestly cannot remember why he wanted me to go home with him, but I did. There is something strange about that desire on his part: an almost confession or provocation. Did he think his wife would somehow sense the affair palpably and possibly demand a divorce so the decision would have been made for him? Was he tempting fate?
While his daughter was congenial as was his wife–both have that personality–the son, older, was more wary and brooding about my presence. Children have an inarticulable sense about situations that adults do not, generally. They sense something out of place. Dad brought home a young (I am 7 years younger) woman who is his study friend. Hmmmm…And for a boy, there may have been an unconscious defensive reaction to protect his mom. I could have imagined all of this, but I can state undeniably that I was horribly uncomfortable. I felt I oozed the secret, flashed it in neon.
I later saw his wife and kids on a few occasions, and though my presence was more familiar, and I was more inured to being in the presence of my lover’s family, the huge question mark hanging in the air never disappeared for me. Did I feel guilt? Yes. Did I feel shame? A little. Did I feel as if I were betraying her? No. She was not my responsibility in any real sense, only in the abstract sense of one fellow human being’s duty to protect another from injury. I didn’t believe then that she suffered injury since she didn’t know about the affair. In fact, I thought she was getting both the better and worse end of the deal. She had him every night and every morning, except for rare occasions I could count on one hand that I spent the night with him.
Did I suffer as did our confessor mistress? Definitely. I felt hurt, lonely, aching and jealous when I could not sleep with him at night, when I longed to feel his breathing body on mine. I shed tears of disappointment, fear and frustration, although I had then as I do now friends and family to confide in. I soared the heights of ecstasy too and learned so much about my own sexuality, my own body.
The relationship deeply satisfied my sense of adventure and romance, my need to be consumed and desired that was lost over time or was never there with my husband. But after several years, it was just another relationship that was growing fermented like used car love, the settling in kind, dinged up with lots of negotiated curves of disagreements.
He wanted monogamy, even as he knew he had no right to demand it. But we humans do that sort of illogical dance, don’t we? After realizing he was not divorcing his wife any time soon or ever, I wanted to date others during my separation. It was the year–my 30th–I discovered orgasm. Since I married my husband when I was just turning 20, I had some catching up to do. For a precocious girl with early sexual experience, I knew nothing about sex or my body. My formative years may have been in the sixties and seventies, but my parents’ heyday was the fifties.
Wayne and I did eventually break up. Maybe he thought I didn’t withstand the test of time to warrant leaving his wife for me. Maybe he never told me his intentions about us being more or nothing more than an affair. Maybe I kept my options open, impatient for something more concretely promising from him. In any event, we were growing older. I needed to settle in with a partner or a sperm donor or forego having children forever.
When my husband and I moved back in together, I was four months pregnant with our first born. Wayne and I remained good friends and still are today. Our families have spent holidays and other occasions together since we were later colleagues.
The time Wayne and I spent together was medicine. When we dropped the expectation of a future married us–when we opened our eyes to see what we really had and not what we invented–we enjoyed each other until we could no longer. In six years, we each had moments of mismatched expectation, but when we were aligned, it was good: just two people loving each other.
Gathering all of the evidence and speculation, I believe I helped him survive his marriage by providing the escape valve, relief from frustrating and castrating neglect and loneliness that comes with long term marriages with kids. A wife and lover who becomes a mother often becomes temporarily or permanently less of a wife and lover. Her devotion of time, effort and love shifts from mate to children, forgetting that he gave her those gifts. Much of my own physical need for affection was fulfilled by my children when they were little, so I was touched out by the end of the day with little of me left to spare.
Like so many neglected mid-life husbands, Wayne needed to feel loved and appreciated. He also needed a return to the wild of his glory days, to get it out of his system and to re-realize that all relationships are work and look the same with the seasoning of time. I’m guessing. Maybe those are my projections and conclusions. In any event, his kids are grown with kids of their own, and he is still married twenty years later.
So not every mistress story is about falling for the married man who abuses her, exposing her great lack of self esteem. That may be part of the story, but you can be sure that isn’t the whole story. Any relationship is made of distinct parties that bring a mix of genetics and history unique to that constituted whole of a couple or a triangle.
Contrary to our confessor, I neither advocate for nor condemn the role of the mistress; I merely offer an experience for consideration, to be read, evaluated, and/or judged as the reader will. Some may say the mistress always deals in dishonesty. However, honesty is a virtue that is never exercised indiscriminately, and the trust developed in a relationship is one prescribed by the parties, their specific agreement to acceptable parameters. There is no one size fits all formula for living, loving and learning a long life intertwined with others.