Glorifying Mistresses

ABC’s new drama, ‘Mistresses’ follows the lives of four female friends with illicit and complex relationships. It’s based on a UK show, but will Americans buy into the premise that mistresses live beautiful, glamourous lives? Should we? 

HuffPost Live Debate

(Hosted by Ricky Camilleri)

  • Jason Winston George: Actor on ABC’s “Mistresses”
  • Jewels Bolden: Founder of
  • Jill Di Donato: HuffPost Blogger of “I Was The Other Woman”
  • Sarah Symonds: Former Mistress; Founder of Mistresses Anonymous Foundation
  • Tracy Schorn: Blogger at Chumplady

Societal Desensitization

Tracy Schorn made a valid point that she (like many people) would have been able to watch a fluff show like this before she had been cheated on, but would now struggle with it after experiencing an affair in her relationship. This type of programming does insert another glamorized fabrication  of what affairs are into the media, why people (male and female) become the other person, and who they are likely to be.

This show does highlight an escalating exposure to affairs on television, albeit ones that are spray painted with glitter and glam (Sex and the City was a popular mainstream show that also buried infidelity in glamor).

I am all for exposure and education to infidelity, but let’s keep the tawdry reality front and center by removing the Jimmy Choo’s and Mr Bigs and replacing them with grubby once-white sneakers and Shane Macgowan. Now let’s reassess that ‘glamor factor’ in affairs shall we?


Jason Winton did point out that though the mistresses are beautiful in the show, so too is the faithful partner who was cheated on. The perpetuation of the myth that the mistress is the attractive foil to the dowdy wife, is clear. However, experience at Infidelity Help Group tells us that a cheater frequently ‘affairs down’ and has an affair with someone who is not as attractive as their spouse.

It’s a ridiculous cliché to suggest that mistresses (or misters!) are glamorous, intelligent, self-aware, strong, sexy and self-assured women (or men). The collective experiences of those on this site (and others) support a largely contrary reality. Even Dr Pittman’s ‘dumsels in distress‘ more accurately characterizes many mistresses as riddled with problems, self-doubt and a skewed sense of reality (as Tracy Schorn’s own experience also supported).

Seduction and Predation

Sarah Symonds’ repeated assertions that all mistresses are ‘reeled in by married men’ seem at odds with her later view that someone rock solid in their relationship is ‘unseducible’. Unless the mistress is genuinely unaware of the marital status of her lover, she shares culpability for the pursuit and progression of the affair. As I have said repeatedly, many mistresses are predatory, deliberately hunting married men to validate their sense of attractiveness, power and ego (and whilst it isn’t likely to be wholly gender specific, it is probably more common in women).

Many affair partners want their married lovers to abandon their spouses and families in order to validate their need to feel that they are ‘better’ … better looking, better in bed, funnier, more loving, more spontaneous, more giving, less nagging, less boring, less messy, more successful with the opposite sex … that they are hotter, sexier, lovable and a better catch. They win and this proves to them that they are sought after, and more worthwhile – that they have so much personal desirability and power that they can get anyone they choose, even if that person is married.

Buried in the moderator’s interruptions at 20:05 is a parallel insight into Sarah Symonds’ own bitterness about her own ‘affair competitions’ with the wife:

And the wife never leaves, which is a whole other story

This suggests the absurd notion that the wife should abdicate her family, homes and husband for the mistress, simply because the mistress believes that she has staked a claim to the cheater. This demonstrates a mindset of entitlement and prerogative and that pattern is clear from the stories on sites like this one.


As someone who remains skeptical about the sex addiction defense to infidelity, it interested me that a flip-side was suggested by Sarah Symonds. She offered that mistresses stay involved because they become addicted to the affair. If we accept that cheaters are sex addicted, compelling them to cheat, it’s not illogical to also accept that mistresses are involved in affairs by a similar compulsion. Sarah Symonds seemed to suggest that despite a mistress understanding that the affair is personally harmful and going nowhere, the mistress is unable to end it. I offer that they simply choose not to and I remain entirely cynical and dissatisfied with addiction justifications. However, I did find Miss Di Donato’s (a former mistress) characterization that it is more a cheap thrill than addiction, a blast of reality. It may not be as pretty or acceptable or dressed up as an ‘addict condition’, but it cut to the clear reality of the sleazy nature of affairs.


Jill Di Donato wrote a piece that we reproduced here at Infidelity Help Group. The comments in response to her article touched on the point of contrition, and during Jill Di Donato’s segment on this video she appears to have been struggling with the fallout of disclosing her affair. Whilst I cannot know what her genuine thoughts are about her affair, it did occur to me that the regrets she now experiences (following her article) are entirely focused on the backlash that she has personally suffered, not an understanding or sense of remorse for the pain she caused her married man’s wife.

Finally, despite Jason Winton’s repeated use of the Stupid Mistake Defense, he makes a valid point about demonizing a cheater. Not all cheaters are sociopaths living double lives, and very few are genuine narcissists (narcissistic personality disorder affects approximately 6% of the US population) and as I wrote in The Post-Affair Life:

An affair is one aspect of a cheater. It represents poor judgment and selfishness, and other negative characteristics, and those aspects of themselves influenced their choices. It speaks to character, yes. But it is not the total sum of them as a person.

To condemn a whole person by their negative traits? Well if that rule applies, then it applies to us all … so we’d better be sure that we’re perfect.

~ Wayfarer


“I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead - ahead of myself as well as you.” ~ George Bernard Shaw