It started, as many affairs do, at work, way back in 1987. Interestingly, it was his boss I was trying to reel in: a quick-witted, erudite, sharp minded, well-respected, kinda-on-the-nerdy-side guy. Just my type! But despite all attempts, Mr. Boss Man professed love and allegiance to his wife, and even a kiss stolen from him in the office elevator after some Christmas revelry could not sway him into a hotel bed with me.
So it was B. by sheer default.
Helen E. Fisher, PhD, a biological anthropologist (now there’s a mouthful) at Rutgers University in NJ, studies human sexuality from many angles and has authored numerous scholarly, as well as lay, articles and books. (She’s an Oprah fav, too.) Fisher and co-researchers published an article in 2010 (“Infidelity: When, Where, Why”) concluding “46%-62% of individuals reported that they met their extramarital sexual partner at work.” That’s not terribly surprising given the influx of women into the employment ranks and the long hours we spend in the office. What also is not new is the concept of the “Office Wife,” that being the title of a novel published in 1930 and made into a movie later that year. Pretty risque for the time, don’t you think?
The Office Wife — aka Work Spouse — enjoys a strong emotional bond with a coworker, similar to that forged in marriage. In the office setting, she always lends a sympathetic ear and offers advice and support. She’s the one who’ll “understand” his marital strife, will be a close confidant, and who will “buck him up” when he’s feeling worthless at home. Recent research suggests between 10 and 30 percent of individuals employed in a variety of industries admit to having an Office Spouse.
Strictly speaking, it is a non-sexual companionship and that is how my relationship with B. started. We gabbed in each other’s offices, ate the occasional lunch together, and hung out often enough together that coworkers started whispering we’d become lovers long before we actually did.
Around that time B. flew halfway across the globe with his wife and then-only child to adopt a Korean boy they’d name Danny. (It wasn’t an infertility issue; they wanted to do some good in the world, he’d tell me decades later.) But months after they’d brought the boy into their family B. lamented that his wife “could not bond” with the Korean infant and they relinquished him to another adoption agency. That failed adoption was THE catalyst for our sexual union. He could not manage the anger he felt towards his wife and he now called on me for a different type of succor and nurturance.
Ever the lawyer, B. presented me with “conditions for our affair” on a yellow, legal-pad-sized piece of paper to which I would have to agree before we’d start fucking. We were walking outside during lunch hour. Some of the terms included:
- must be disease-free
- use a reliable form of contraception
- be discreet and TELL NO-ONE
- agree that this would be an affair ONLY, that it would not lead anywhere
When I agreed to his “terms” I asked to seal the deal with a kiss, a powerful kiss like the one he planted on me in my closed-door office several days earlier. Instead, he grabbed the yellow page from my hand and, walking on, purposefully tore it into infinitesimal pieces. He let them fall into a city waste can. We’d just agreed to be lovers. And that agreement would endure — on-and-off — for the next 26 years. Now my role as “Office Wife” included the occasional, and very sporadic, sexual encounter.
I was the Good Office Wife. And I would become the Good Long-Haul Mistress.
A former mistress (26 years, on-and-off) describes the good, the bad, and the ugly of her long-term affair. Conclusion: Affairs aren't necessarily destructive if kept in the correct perspective. Our experience enhanced BOTH our marriages.
That is, until his marriage ended and we began to love each other. When the affair morphed into a relationship, well, that's when it stopped being fun for me. We have now irrevocably split.
Lately I've been writing about the man who took his place in the "off" years of that 26-year-long affair. He was a dynamic sexual partner but we, too, now have irrevocably split.
These are our stories.