Gainer or mourner - Which role does the mistress in a love affair with a married man play? Love affairs with a married partner involved used to have a wicked touch in our society in former times, but today, after the sexual revolution, it seems that the subject has lost a little bit of its delicate character. However, when discussing love affairs people still tend to see a sexist part in the topic. They often put the feminine lover in the role of a concubine, who does the man's bidding. The married man, in turn, is seen as the big "winner," because he often has it all: a sheltered and protected home where he is taken good care of and on the other hand a woman, usually younger than himself, who is responsible for the refreshment of his love life. But is it still realistic to put the mistress in the role of the poor victim? I think it is not.
Society needs to realize that a love affair does not necessarily mean an exploitation of the mistress, and that she might be happy with the part-time relationship. In my paper I will discuss the outcomes for the mistress from her point of view, showing that she does benefit from the love affair, and that these benefits may even outweigh the negative aspects of being the lover instead of being the wife.
Of course it would be unrealistic to assume that there are no negative outcomes of an affair with a married for the lover. The second-class status in which the mistress might fall into is one of them. Usually, because the man is married, the lover cannot have him completely and does not get all of his attention. She needs to plan her life around him, must be available when he has time to see her, faces the possibility that the wife could foiled her dating plans, and live with the constant risk of being discovered. Because the majority of love affairs are still hidden in secret, having one consequently results in secret meetings, hiding from the public, lies to family and friends.
However, lovers, who enjoy having a love affair with a married man, are convinced that being the second woman does not necessarily put them in a second-class status. They argue that seeing him only part-time ensures that they get the best sides of him, since the limited time results in very intensive encounters where problems of every day life are deliberately ignored. In fact, the mistresses often know the true promise of exclusive weekend trips, dinners in fancy restaurants and expensive gifts. In addition to that, the status of a mistress results in fewer commitments and leaves out certain responsibilities within the relationship. Compared to the wife the mistress usually does not have to deal with household issues or children issues. As a result, a love affair can be the perfect form of a relationship for lovers who do not want to invest in it too much and enjoy playing a smaller role in the man's life than his wife and family does.
Opponents of love affairs furthermore argue that the mistress faces the risk of losing control over her involvement in the relationship over time. Even though she might have started off thinking rather rationally about her relationship with the married man, and being convinced that she can handle the situation and her feelings, in the long run she might not be willing to accept herself playing the second role anymore. Building her life around him and suffering from the knowing that she may never have him completely might lead to a serious obsession of the mistress. This obsession in turn might have fatal consequences. Monica Lewinsky, for instance, toyed with the idea of committing suicide because the public discovered her affair with the former President Bill Clinton, which put her under enormous pressure (BBC News). Society did not only blame her for the love affair, but since then also portrayed her as the eternal swindler - once a cheater, always a cheater.
Although there is no denying the fact that such cases exist, we should keep in mind that the number is rather small. And instead of focusing on the worst case scenario we should not forget that there is a chance for the opposite outcome of such a relationship as well. A love affair can definitely be the beginning of a new true love, followed by a serious relationship. Imagine, for instance, that the marriage of the man and his wife is already dead when referring to the feelings of the two partners for each other, and that it only keeps on existing on the paper. Although a quiet reasonable number of couples are likely to stay together this often only happens in favour of the children and the extended family. Finding a new love in a love affair might give the impulse for finally breaking up the marriage and getting divorced. Of course this sounds harsh, but one has to keep in mind that if the people no longer love each other and that a divorce gives both partners the opportunity to find a new partner they really love. Julia Roberts and Daniel Moder give a prime example in which an affair turned out to be more than just physical attraction: a true love that led to a marriage. The couple recently got married, only one month after Moder's divorce (BBC News).
In summary it is obvious that the outcomes of a love affair with a married man for the mistress are extremely diverse, ranging from the possibility of a happy marriage to public blame and social contempt. However, society must forbear from generally putting the woman, who decides to have an affair with a married man, in the role of the victim. Although one might get the impression that in the majority of the love affairs the mistress stands in the second row, which means she is "number two", it does not necessarily mean that she is unhappy with this status. A judgment on a love affair with a married man should never be given from a general point of view. It rather requires a case by case consideration.