Is everyone cheating at the moment? I know in my daily life I obviously come across a lot of men who are, but I seem to be surrounded by affairs right now. I often wonder if it's my liberal attitude, and lack of judgement, that brings these things out, but friends are keen to 'share' and confess their infidelity. “Having been unfaithful, I now don't understand how people ever are faithful!” No, not a quote from a Premier League footballer, or one of my married lovers, but one of my closest (and I thought faithful) friends. She's a wonderful girl, one of the kindest I know, but she has started cheating on her boyfriend.
Another friend was 'spotted' while I was out on a date last week. It's a very small, intimate restaurant, well and truly off the beaten track, that I use often. I'd even told her about it, and made a point of saying how rare it was to bump into anyone I knew. We didn't acknowledge each other at the time, but she told me everything the next morning, after her frantic text message begging for a coffee and a chat. She has been with her man for many years and I assumed they were happy. She swears they still are but she admits to being selfish. “I can't imagine my life without him,” she told me. “I want the comfortable feeling of a loving relationship, and the butterflies and amazing sex that you get with someone new.”
Scratch the surface and suddenly it feels like everyone is at it. Within the past year alone, I've had multiple attached boy-mates or ex (when they were single) fellas get in touch with me asking me out. It could well be my raised profile as a serial mistress, but part of me believes it's probably because they are trying the 'past options' before they start on strangers. Several of my girl-mates have started relationships elsewhere, a couple of them insisting on one-night-stands because they 'aren't classed as cheating really', and one girl even showing me the multitude of sex texts, penis pictures and inappropriate emails from men she'll never meet, all kept hidden on her secret phone.
We are constantly hearing of celebrity dalliances that keep most of us gripped to Female First, Heat and Perez Hilton at lunchtime but more and more 'nice' people in my social circle are coming forward. Maybe people are more blatant about cheating now, or maybe it's because I do what I do, but I can count on one hand the number of friends I know to be faithful now.
Obviously thanks to online culture, social media and websites like illicitencounters.com, it is much easier to connect with people we would never normally meet. When I first started my time as a serial mistress I checked out the infidelity statistics. It claimed approximately 25% of married men were currently, or had been, cheating. I was convinced it was more like 75% but I was taking into consideration those who dip a toe in the water and try to cheat but then lose their nerve. But a recent study has shown that figure is now 50% of all married men, and surprisingly 39% of married women.
Cheating has changed. There are more ways than ever to cheat, and less clear idea of what constitutes cheating. The age group seems to be changing too. It used to be a case that the decade for being unfaithful was people in their twenties, because they were not ready to settle down, they were still finding their way, putting time into careers, but now that has shifted to the forties who are hitting a mid-life crisis, or reassessing what they may have missed over the years. Thanks to the press, technology and TV, we have higher expectations of what we want from our relationships, but a lower skill set when it comes to handling anything long-term. The disposable society we have come to live in means we can look elsewhere and know there potentially is greener grass on the other side. A friend of mine, in his 50's, recently confessed he was considering an affair, simply because in the past he didn't think he was attractive, but now he's on the internet, and women have shown an interest, he knows he is. He thought his wife was the only person who would ever want to sleep with him, but his phone is now full of text messages (and photographs) of women who would jump at the chance. His self-esteem has rocketed, and now he's ready to take the next step, simply because he can.
It makes me wonder if monogamy has become a more fluid concept and infidelity is now the norm. It's like threesomes and dogging, cheating's not a taboo subject any more. I know from my press and media experience that everyone wants to talk about it. It still raises eyebrows, and it still creates the outrage every newspaper, magazine, radio and TV show aim for, but as the years have gone on I've noticed far more positive reactions and far less death threats. Maybe it has become more acceptable, and the mistress is no longer seen as the destructive monster.
I, naturally, believe infidelity should be accepted, because I've seen the benefits and the positive outcomes so often, but for every 'wahey' there are the streaming tears and heartache of the betrayed party when the 'cheater' hasn't been careful, sensible or discreet. It all has to be considered before you take that step into the world of the affair.
People should think about where their own lines are around monogamy. Do you want just one emotionally close person in your life, or many? Do you want complete sexual monogamy, or are you open to flirting, physical contact or even sex with more than one person? Once you know where you are, you can talk about this with your partner.
As for single girls, like me, it's about being upfront and honest with new partners and hopefully find people who are on the same page. However, you have to be prepared for the possibilities that you may change your mind the more attached you become, you may decide to move the goal posts, or you may head into the realms of swinging if you realise you both love sharing your partners that much.
It's about finding someone to suit our lifestyle and choices. I am judged, often, for what I choose to do, but it suits me at this point in my life. I might change my opinion after my 'single-man' date next week, but that's the beauty of being so open, the conversation comes relatively easy to me. I will report back on how that goes soon!
Whatever your situation right now, one thing's for sure: relationships are most certainly not 'one size fits all'. Not by a long shot. They come in all shapes and sizes, they're messy and confusing, and it's down to each of us to work out what we want, and will allow. I'm pretty sure a lot of the people you know, male and female, will be doing things you don't know about, but if it makes them happy, and isn't causing any pain, then who are we to judge?
Karen uses dating site illicitencounters.com