What I Know About... Being a Mistress
“If you’d asked me my views on infidelity four years ago, my answer would have been, ‘It’s wrong’. Ask me today and I will say the same thing, but I’d also say nothing is black and white. For never once did I think I would fall in love with a married man.
In 2007, I was 27 and a struggling journalist in London. When I was offered a job opportunity in Dubai, I didn’t hesitate. While the work was hard, overnight I went from dingy pubs to glamorous brunches and yacht cruises.
A few months after relocating, a mutual friend put me in touch with Ali*, a successful businessman who’d also recently moved to the UAE from the UK with his wife who spent long periods abroad. As we were both finding our feet in a strange new country, I invited him out for dinner with a group of friends. I just saw it as an opportunity to make a new contact and didn’t for one moment expect there to be chemistry.
However, when we met, we instantly clicked. He was 33, tall, dark and handsome, and had a cracking sense of humour. Although his lineage was Arabic, Ali had been raised in the UK, so we came from similar backgrounds which made him easy to talk to. On that first night he was charming and generous, and insisted on paying the bill. Over the next few weeks, Ali came out with us regularly while his wife was out of town. We lived it up, going to champagne brunches and expensive restaurants. Ali would always insist on footing the bill, but it didn’t feel like he was trying to flash his cash. He just wanted to show everyone a good time.
I’d be lying if I said that as time went on, I didn’t start to find him more and more attractive. He ticked all the boxes – except the single one, so I fought the urge to take things further. Then, three months after meeting him, a group of us went out for brunch. His wife was away again so he invited us back to his villa for a swim and drinks, and after everyone left we kissed for the first time. I couldn’t believe what I was doing and went home feeling disgusted with myself. However, a few days later Ali whisked me away to a five-star resort for the weekend. I couldn’t help myself; I was falling for him. But as we lay in the sun, sipping cocktails, I thought about his wife and felt terrible. Plus I was wracked with fear over the legal implications of infidelity in the Middle East (which can lead to a prison sentence). Looking back I was in total denial.
As the weeks passed, Ali pursued me. He phoned every day and bought me flowers. I tried to hold back, but what woman could resist? When his wife was away, it was easy to meet up. When she was in Dubai, we had to sneak around, dining in out-of-town restaurants. A few of my friends knew what was going on, but they simply kept their views to themselves. After six months, I’d fallen in love and Ali admitted he felt the same.
Of course, I thought about the impact our affair would have on Ali’s marriage. But despite my curiosity, I resisted the urge to question him about his wife. I didn’t want to know anything, because I knew if I started thinking about her, the guilt would be all-consuming. But I did suffer pangs of jealousy. I’d cry myself to sleep when he would leave my apartment to go home to her. The small things also caused me anguish, like when I was invited to parties and I’d have to go alone because Ali was with his wife.
We carried on our relationship for more than a year, but then it started to change as the guilt played more and more heavily on my mind. Ali said he was prepared to give up his marriage for me, but I couldn’t accept that. While I wanted to be with him, the thought of stealing someone else’s husband was unbearable so I began to withdraw from him. Ali tried to reassure me that we were ‘meant to be’, but the guilt grew too much.
Eventually, Ali’s wife discovered the affair. To this day I don’t know how because I chose not to ask for details. Ali tried to persuade me to carry on but I couldn’t, so I left Dubai and started afresh in Australia. While I look back on our time together fondly, I know it damaged me. I went from being a happy, confident woman to someone wracked with guilt. While we were together, I always made the excuse that you can’t help who you fall for, but now I disagree. You have to stop and think about the consequences of your actions. I still love Ali, and we are still in touch, but I don’t plan on seeing him again. To anyone out there even contemplating having an affair, think very carefully. As well as the legal consequences you potentially face if you’re in the UAE, do you really want the burden of someone else’s heartbreak on your conscience?”
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