It’s bad enough knowing that your husband is sleeping with another woman but how does it feel facing your love rival over turkey and crackers?
Kate: ‘Looking around the room where we are to have our family Christmas lunch, I started at the place settings. Next to me will be my husband Matt. On the opposite side of the table will be Amy, Matt’s 16-year-old daughter, and her boyfriend, Jack. Then, next to Matt on the other side, there’s a place for Rebecca, his mistress for the past three years.
It still seems unreal not only that I’d put up with my husband sleeping with another woman but that I could invite her into our home. But this Christmas, for the second time in the past three years, this is exactly what I’ll be doing.
I always knew what Matt was like, right from when we first met. Attractive, sexually confident and always able to make me laugh, he was impossible to resist. And, everywhere we went, women would notice him.
Rebecca and Matt first met when she came to work in his office four years ago. She’d been a dinner guest at our house before I began to suspect there was anything between them. She’s an attractive, green-eyed blonde, and so humorous and sassy I liked her straight away. So it was particularly painful in August 2009 to find an email she’d sent him. I still remember how I felt when I first read, ‘You’ve got right under my skin.’ Rebecca’s words were not those of a casual one-night stand, but of a woman emotionally and physically involved.
When I confronted Matt about it, he admitted the affair. He told me he was scared of how he’d feel if he couldn’t see her. But I was the one who was really scared. I knew our relationship was suddenly very precarious. If I pushed Matt away now I could lose him forever.
It was at that point I decided not to engage in what was going on between my husband and his mistress. I reasoned that becoming an obstacle to their affair would only bind them closer. But if I left them alone, they might tire of each other. I still loved Matt, and I believed him when he said he loved me. So, from that moment on, and to Matt’s great relief, I didn’t refer to the affair again.
It seemed to work. Even though I was sure they were still meeting, Matt showed no signs of wanting to leave. If he said he was going out, I didn’t ask where. By then, Rebecca knew I was aware of their relationship, but we never confronted each other. In a way, I preferred knowing who he was with, rather than imagining a fantasy girlfriend I could never compete with.
Then, two days before Christmas 2009, Matt came home from the office and told me Rebecca was unable to get home to her parents in the country because of the snow, I wondered if he was planning to see her and began to panic. Suddenly, I hear myself say, ‘Maybe she’d like to spend Christmas with us?’ This was partly because I didn’t want him dodging out to see her, and partly because I felt less threatened by her now I knew Matt didn’t want a divorce. And, at least this way I was fighting the battle on my own territory.
He looked shocked, but promised to ask her. The following day Rebecca herself rang to accept my invitation. I was surprised by how friendly she sounded and immediately copied her tone. I even rushed round to my local chemist late on Christmas Eve to buy her a bottle of Romance by Ralph Lauren, knowing from a shop receipt of Matt’s that it was her favourite perfume. I felt that the way to deal with this crazy situation was to get Rebecca on my side as much as possible. I knew I was being devious, but I didn’t care.
When she arrived the following morning, Matt seemed to be more embarrassed than I was. I introduced Rebecca to family and friends as his work colleague. In actual fact, only my stepdaughter Amy suspected something. Although she didn’t say anything to her father, she told me she thought it was ‘disgusting’.
By the time Rebecca left on Boxing Day morning, we were laughing at how long it took Matt to get out of the bathroom and I felt we were almost allies. So, this year, when Matt mentioned that Rebecca was intending to stay in London for Christmas, again I suggested she come to us. I don’t like the idea of her spending Christmas with us, but if Matt must have a mistress I’d rather accept her than drive him into the arms of someone I don’t know.’
Matt: ‘This Christmas I’ll be buying Myla lingerie for my wife, and a Smythson leather folder for my mistress – an indication of how well I know the women in my life. Even though I realise Kate is being incredibly understanding, I’m not looking forward to the celebrations themselves. I hope it’ll be better than Christmas 2009. But even if it isn’t, I’m not really in a position to say ‘no’ to my wife about anything.
Having Rebecca to stay over Christmas in 2009 was deeply weird. We had only just started sleeping together then. Seeing a wife and mistress being friendly should be every man’s dream, but oddly it was a real turn-off. Kate forbade me from sleeping with Rebecca that night, but she needn’t have bothered as I felt far too humiliated to have sex.
It took my relationship with Rebecca several weeks to recover after that. Probably as a result of my guilt about Kate. I sensed my daughter’s disapproval too, and can’t imagine that has changed. To be honest, my daughter’s contempt towards me was harder to deal with than Kate’s pain.
I didn’t set out to have an affair with Rebecca. At first I just wanted her to like me. By the time I realised she did, I was already in too deep. I know it seems strange, but it didn’t feel like my relationship with Rebecca had anything to do with my marriage. I’ve never questioned my feelings for Kate, and still love her as much as I ever did. But relationships don’t stay the same. The early intensity of wanting to be with someone all the time sadly passes. I guess that’s what attracted me to Rebecca.
But once we’d slept together, I knew I couldn’t give her up. It’s hard for me to imagine my life without her now. But I’ve never promised I’ll leave my wife for her and she’s never asked me to.
That first Christmas together was torture. Every time Rebecca came near me I wanted to touch her. But then I’d catch Kate looking at us and feel as if my heart would break with guilt. I deliberately drank to avoid confronting the pain I was causing. I felt I was messing up not just my marriage but also Rebecca’s life. There have been times when I can’t even bear to think about what I have done, especially after I saw Kate giving Rebecca a bottle of perfume.
Worst of all was not knowing which woman to talk to over dinner. I couldn’t be myself and kept trying to remember who I’d spoken to last so neither of them would feel neglected. Really, I would have preferred to have been alone.
Of course I feel ashamed that my behaviour makes Kate unhappy. I completely accept that I’m flattered by Rebecca’s feelings for me and that I’m being vain and selfish. But I’m lucky enough never to have been presented with an ultimatum by either woman. I sometimes wonder whether Kate’s deliberately making friends with Rebecca to sabotage my affair. But if she chooses to sit there pulling crackers with my mistress, I can’t really argue.’
Rebecca: ‘My biggest worry right now is what to buy Kate for Christmas. Matt says she likes Christian Dior cosmetics, but it might seem insulting coming from me. Last time I stayed with them over Christmas, Kate bought me perfume and made me feel terribly guilty. All I’d got for her was a bottle of champagne. I’d never given Matt any presents, just in case Kate saw them, but now she knows I’ll probably get him a scarf he said he liked.
Before I met Matt, when I was 25, I’d never had any serious boyfriends. I was too busy with my career. The longest relationship I’d had lasted about six months before he left to go abroad. I knew Matt was a womaniser as soon as I met him. So I thought I’d be immune to his charm. But to my surprise I found I was genuinely attracted to him. We first started the affair about six months later, meeting at a hotel near the office.
I didn’t know what a good marriage Matt had until I met Kate during that first Christmas together. I thought from the way he came on to me that he was unhappy or lonely in the relationship. I know that’s no excuse, but by the time I’d met Kate and realised what a great person she was, it was too late for me to change how I felt about Matt.
I do feel guilty about Kate, of course, especially as she’s always been so kind to me. I was dreading spending Christmas there at first. But when I saw them at home, with all their little domestic routines, like whose turn it was to load the dishwasher or Matt taking their dog for a walk each night, I suddenly felt I was smashing into someone else’s life. Strangely, it didn’t make me feel jealous though. I saw it as the sort of relationship I’d like to have with someone. I was relieved when he said we couldn’t sleep together as I don’t think I could ever have faced Kate again. It would have been like having sex in my mum and dad’s house.
I’m not much looking forward to seeing Matt’s teenage daughter again. Last time, we played Scrabble and I could feel her willing me to lose. I don’t blame her for disliking me, but then I’m not responsible for Matt leaving her mother, which happened long before Matt and Kate got together.
Kate and I never refer directly to the affair, even though she knows it’s continuing. My older sister, who has just got engaged, thinks I’m crazy to be mixed up in someone else’s marriage and my parents just pretend that it isn’t happening. But it suits me to live the way I do, I don’t intend ending our affair until Matt or I decide our relationship has come to its natural conclusion. Kate’s probably right to accept it for now, although I don’t think I could.
Every day I wonder how long we can go on living like this. I know Kate and I can’t continue to share Matt indefinitely. Next Christmas could be very different – for all of us.’