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Rules for Mistresses

Novelist Judy Astley & Friends on the DOs and DON’Ts of Sleeping with Another Woman’s Husband

“Mistress” – such a versatile word which, in two hissed syllables, encompasses both sensual indulgence and grimy sleaze. The best a mistress can be is independent, slightly aloof and a discreet sexual luxury. The worst is all that is non-feminist: a ruthless thief of someone else’s husband, callously hoping that a wife and her household will be destroyed so the mistress can take over her life. Either way, there are rules…



Understand that your role is to be something fun as an extra in his life, no more than that. You may have fallen madly in love, fantasise that he will leave his wife, that the two of you will create a blissful forever nest together and that he’s an absolute keeper. He may have got you onside in the first place with something along the lines of the old “My wife doesn’t understand me…” But if he’s still cheerfully going back home at night after the first heady weeks dating you, then stop kidding yourself. You’re a mistress, not a wife-in-waiting. If that’s not enough for you then either get out immediately or relax and make the most of the good-fun ride for as long as it lasts.



Don’t tell all and sundry about this wonderful new – but ever-so-slightly married – man in your life. Any girlfriends who are married or cohabiting will hate you for cheating on the sisterhood by sneaking around with someone else’s husband and may well wonder (with good reason) if theirs are next on your list. If you have to tell someone (and it would be inhuman not to want to), it should ideally be a friend who is or has been in a similar position and won’t judge you. Better yet, is if you have something on her, in case she’s tempted to blab.



Don’t be a diva. If he has hassles at home he won’t want them from you as well. If he arranges to see you but cancels at the last minute for an event with his wife (or simply to watch footie on TV), don’t sulk and don’t whinge. Whinging is tedious and your role is to be the light relief. Find something interesting to do instead and then you can tell him about it later. He’ll like it that you are showing a lack of dependence on him.



Always look as fabulous as you can. You are a playmate so dress like one, though obviously not to the extent of being slutty in leopard-print and cleavage. You need a range of gorgeous lingerie and (if you’re conducting part of this affair at your own home) a softly lit, tidy bedroom entirely free of soft toys, the clutter of cosmetics or an overflowing laundry basket.



Keep out of his home life. He does not need your opinion on schools for his children, paint colours for his hallway or whether it’s France or Cornwall this summer. (Actually, if he’s talking about holidays with regard to his wife/family, it’s even more of a clue that you are merely mistress-material, not a potential life-partner).



Try not to drop hints about any fantasy-future you may be hoping for. Leaving the property section of the weekend papers open on the table, Brides magazine pages left “accidentally” open on your computer or asking what kind of dog-breed he’d choose are all certain to set the alarms going. He’s already got a home, a wife and possibly even a dog.



Don’t cook show-off meals for him or offer any other domestic chore such as a spot of laundry. He can have all that at home and you are not a skivvy. Keep Champagne in the fridge and plenty of antipasti, cheese and classy bread in case of unexpected late night suppers à deux.



Never diss his wife. All he will hear is you being complaining and bitchy. You can listen to his rants and sympathise with a murmured, “Oh poor you…” and “How awful” so you get to be the voice of reason, but don't join in with the grumbling or offer any advice. His home life is not your business.



Don’t cancel things at the last minute with your other friends just because he’s suddenly available. You will need those friends at some point and it also doesn’t hurt for him to know you have a life beyond him.



Stay away from his premises. Even if his wife has gone off on a trip, even if you are desperately overcome with curiosity as to how they live, keep out of their home and absolutely do not expect to spend a night there in the bed they share – that would be the height of bad manners so have a modicum of respect. When she finds out about you (and it is likely to be when, not if), she will be extra-devastated to imagine you rifling through her knicker drawer or coming across bank statements on her desk.



He won’t be with you at Christmas. Accept that. He’s also unlikely to be with you on his or your birthday and he will not be attending parties, dinners or other dangerously public celebrations with you as his date. Be graceful about this, make other arrangements and enjoy them without complaining.



If you have children, don’t ask your lover to play Happy Families with them. Don’t get him involved in their homework or their school concerts, don’t take him with your child to early suppers at Pizza Express and for heaven’s sake don’t encourage your child to think this is their potential new daddy. It will put him off if he thinks you’re looking for a replacement father-figure for them (or even for you, if you’re a lot younger than he is).



When he decides the affair has lost its spark and he tells you it’s over, accept this with good grace and don’t cling on. Rocky marriages can be rescued and rekindled and it’s well known an increasingly needy mistress can remind a man about what he truly values at home. Don’t send endless texts reminding him that he’d once told you he adored you. He probably did, for a brief, exciting while, so remember the good times and move on.



After the affair’s end, try to avoid stalking him and his wife on social media. It’ll be hard not to (one is only human) but you will only end up giving yourself grief when you see pictures of him in gorgeous venues with her, clearly having a terrific time. Stay distant and dignified and there’s then the slight chance you can end up being friends at some future point.



If (and it’s a massive against-the-odds if…) he actually leaves his wife for you, remember the famous warning from the late James Goldsmith: “When you marry the mistress, you create a vacancy…” Is this really a man you can trust? Be careful what you wish for…



With contributions from Katie Fforde and Michelle Varney

Judy Astley

About the Writer

Judy began writing novels in 1992 after working as a dressmaker, illustrator, painter and parent. Her specialist areas (based on years of hectic personal experience) are domestic disharmony and family chaos with a good mix of romance and humour thrown in. She has also been a regular magazine columnist. Judy has two grown-up daughters and lives in London and Cornwall.


You can find out more about her on her website.


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