Sarah Symonds, Self-Delusion and the Mistress

Sarah Symonds has a number of websites promoting her new businesses. Sarah’s Wife School seems to be one of the newest ventures (please note the rather wife-disdainful quilt design) and her self-promoting blurb caught my attention:

As an Infidelity and Relationship Analyst, I will teach you how to ‘affair-proof,’ and ‘divorce-proof’ your marriage, as well as cheat-proof your relationship in general.

And from her website, Mistresses Anonymous, a seemingly self-penned biography filled with uncomfortably self-promoting cliches:

Sarah J. Symonds is a leading author, broadcaster and Journalist, as well as the world’s first and only “Infidelity and Relationship Analyst,” making her an expert in this field. 

Infidelity and Relationship Analyst …. PR, sales, banquet co-ordinator … oh, and an unmarried serial mistress. Yup. It’s baffling how she feels that this could qualify her to proclaim any unique role as an expert in the field of infidelity … by my estimation there are numerous others with similar qualification!

Selling services as an ‘insider’ in the seedy world of affairs and touting them as secrets to affair-proof marriages might lure in those desperate enough to seek her advice. But it’s important to be clear: No relationship is immune - no relationship can be affair-proofed.

If your partner is in an affair, taking advice from an ex-mistress is likely to be as effective in resolving the affair as dancing around a tree, naked. Hell, the dancing might be fun and it’s free - if those are the only choices, I’d definitely take the dancing around the tree.

~ Wayfarer

The world’s first and almost-only “Infidelity and Relationship Analyst”. (Hey, if she can say it, I can say it!)

The Mistress of Self-Delusion

by Barbara Davies

Lord Archer’s ex-lover’s guide to the virtues of being the ‘other woman’

Not surprisingly for a woman who once shared a bed with Jeffrey Archer, Sarah Symonds doesn’t have a lot to recommend from her time as a mistress. Much of it was spent in isolation, alone in a luxury Westminster apartment - “my ivory palace” - paid for by another of her multi-millionaire lovers.

She may have been whisked around the world, wined and dined in romantic hotels and showered with gifts over the past few years, but at 37, Sarah is single and childless, and has virtually given up on finding a husband.

Most women, of course, do not need to be told that affairs are a bad thing. But nevertheless, Symonds has turned her experiences into a controversial new book - Having An Affair? A Handbook For The Other Woman - which is currently causing a furore in the U.S.

Sales of the book have soared since Sarah, from Newport in Gwent, appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show over there. There is talk of a TV series - a well-known British actress is apparently in talks to play her - and then there’s the ‘Having An Affair’ brand fragrance and even a range of ‘Having An Affair’ wines all due to be launched in America in the nottoodistant future.

From the outside, then, Having An Affair looks like quite a lucrative business for - aptly enough - a woman who is a former sales and marketing executive.

But what’s this? When we meet, Symonds insists that far from advocating affairs with married men, she wants to encourage mistresses to get out of the illicit relationships they have become embroiled in.

“I’m tired of seeing fabulous women waste themselves on affairs with cheating, insincere, cowardly losers,” she says.

Well, so far, so noble. And from her own point of view, she is certain she will never again play the role of mistress following the end of what, she says, was her final affair last year.

“I am reformed,” she says, and adds that writing about her reformation has been the most empowering thing she has ever done. “I would rather be alone than ever again have to face the utter loneliness a mistress feels in an affair.”

On the face of it then, a commendable - if rather late - Damascene conversion. But the book’s salacious little tips and hints for mistresses suggest something else altogether.

Why, for example, does Symonds offer this advice on preparing a romantic evening meal for mistresses lacking in culinary skills: “Aim to practise some extra special sexual techniques in the bedroom afterwards. He will soon forget the absence of that bouquet garni in your coq au vin. Trust me!”

Another tip: “Never become sluggish in your appearance. For example, you don’t want to open the door to greet him wearing those awful secret baggy velour sweatpants and old slippers. He gets that at home.”

And further: “Liberally apply the strongest smelling perfume you can find all over yourself and on everything he touches. Try to smudge some bright-red lipstick on his shirt collar.”

Presumably with the intention of causing havoc in his marriage.

And so Symonds’ position becomes rather confusing. The cynic in most of us would point out that she wants to have her cake and eat it.

On the one hand, she talks of the agonising cycle of deception and heartbreak which constitutes an affair, on the other, she writes jovially about how to play the cheating game.

So, is she recommending affairs or not?

“I don’t advocate affairs,” she reiterates. “But it’s going on everywhere. I just want women to be more like men and not get their hearts broken like I did. I’m saying that if you’re going to do it, make sure you get the most out of it.”

In other words, here’s how to be a really good mistress. So now, perhaps, we know a little bit more about Symonds’ true motives.

Symonds, who left school at 16, was 22 when she went to visit her older brother in Abu Dhabi in 1992.

Sitting in the bar at the Sheraton Hotel, she was offered a job there as a “European sales executive”. It was her entry into the high-octane, wealthy world of Arab sheiks and businessmen and, one must suspect, a lot more murky business.

She won’t say how many affairs she has had over the years - only that two were serious and left her heartbroken - but points out that she was caught up in a world where it was acceptable “to be married and have 20 mistresses”.

I point out it was also a world where high-class prostitution was a way of life. “I don’t want to be castigated,” she says. “A lot of women would think like me. I was so young. I was completely drawn into it.”

By 1997, she was back in London, living a tiny bedsit in Pimlico and working as a £15,000-a-year banqueting co-ordinator at the Royal Overseas League in St James’s.

It was during a fundraising event at the House of Lords that she met Lord Archer, then running for Mayor of London, and embarked on a brief affair which was later exposed in a Sunday newspaper.

She tries to airbrush him away with the words “big mistake”, adding with a laugh: “He’s not the only one who’s an author now, anyway.”

Over the next couple of years, her career moved towards PR. She worked for a company leasing luxury Mayfair apartments. Many of their clients were wealthy Middle-Eastern businessmen and celebrities, and Symonds found herself regularly jetting around the world on business.

By 2001, she was having an affair with a “U.S. celebrity” - she won’t say who - and she began travelling back and forth between London and Los Angeles.

The relationship collapsed, but in 2003, she moved to LA and took a job as a business developer for a company manufacturing water features for hotels.

She met “Mr X”, a married father-of-two, at a business dinner in Dubai in May 2004 and, the following November, abandoned her career over there and moved to London, where he installed her in her luxury apartment.

“I wanted to give our relationship a chance,” she says. “He was very wealthy and generous. He said: ‘You will never want for anything now that you are with me.’ I thought I’d hit the jackpot.

“He pursued me so hard. He made me feel as if I was the most important person in the world. I revered him. He was a successful multimillionaire. I was intoxicated and totally in love. I’ve never, ever loved a man like I loved him.”

Now where have we heard all this gush before? Sure enough, the affair with the man she believed was the “love of my life” nearly crushed her.

“I was always led to believe that there would be a different outcome,” she says. “That he would leave his wife and be with me. I really thought this guy would be with me.”

And here her true colours begin to emerge. “I’m not the enemy,” she says of his wife. “It takes two people to cheat, but the other woman isn’t the source of it. It’s what happens at home.”

Her argument - and her attitude towards betrayed wives - is unlikely to attract much sympathy.

She adds: “No one deserves to be cheated on, but I have had husbands who tell me their wives feel more like hookers. They know their wives stay with them only for financial reasons.”

Therefore, she says, she had no qualms about the financial benefits of her two-year affair with Mr X.

“I travelled the world with him, but his wife didn’t. I almost became like the wife,” she says, neglecting to accept that the wife in question was at home looking after her lover’s two young children.

“Wives and mistresses have a lot in common. I am all for wives having as much as they can get if a marriage goes wrong, but the mistress should be treated in the same way.

“They are sharing half a man. He is getting the best of both of them. I am saying support the mistress as well as the wife. I am very mercenary about that.”

This hard-nosed, cynical attitude comes across clearly in her book.

She tells would-be mistresses: “The biggest and most obvious positive to ‘mistressdom’ is that you should be well taken care of all year round, and spoiled with lots of lovely things to enhance your lifestyle.”

She adds: “I’m not encouraging women to have affairs, I say they are emotionally destructive, but I am saying to them, if you are going to have one, make sure you get the most out of it. I was trying to get across that the woman should get as much out of it as the man does.”

In the book, it is phrased thus: “Even if it’s ‘only’ great sex, a promotion at work, or a bit of help with the deposit on that new car, get something for yourself, please. Just to offset that gnawing feeling of being ‘second best’ that will unfortunately become as second nature to you as the affair progresses.”

It seems hard to believe that money could ever compensate for the hollowness that is a mistress’s existence. And how is this, I ask, any different from common prostitution?But Symonds insists: “You are allowing him to have his cake and eat it, too. So make sure you’re getting some cake as well.”

Not surprisingly, her own affair ended in emotional disaster.

When Mr X broke his promise to leave his wife, Symonds telephoned her - but didn’t get the response she expected.

Symonds recalls: “When I told her, she said: ‘Oh, I thought this had stopped.’

“I asked if she knew about me and she said: ‘I didn’t know about you, but this has happened before.’

“He had bought another woman a house and a car. I couldn’t believe that he’d done this before.

“I said: ‘He told me he’d never felt this way about anyone in years.’ His wife said: ‘He said that to me, too.’ I said: ‘Well, he’s lying to one of us.’”

The following morning, the wife called Symonds back and told her: “He’s happy to stay with me and the kids.”

“She said: ‘You won’t be getting a penny. He’s going to be reimbursing me for every penny he’s spent on you,’” Symonds recalls. “She was very cold and devoid of emotion, like a robot.”

But even after she had exposed his behaviour to his wife, Mr X contacted her again.

“In my stupid head I thought then that he must really love me,” she says. “I heard him call his wife when he was with me. He was lying to her and I thought how disgusting this man was, all the lies he was telling.”

She phoned his wife again and again the wife forgave her cheating husband and took him back.

Symonds is clearly irritated by this, which seems strange given the number of times she took back her cheating, lying lover.

Wives, of course, often have far more invested in their relationship - including children. But Symonds’ attitude to children is similarly unsympathetic. In the book she refers to them as “feeble excuses” for not leaving a marriage.

She adds: “It was always the kids.

“But I told him that he didn’t need to live in the same house as them to be a great father.” This is something else that many women will find hard to stomach - Symonds’ lack of respect for the traditional family model.

In general, she appears to have a pretty low opinion of women who have achieved the one thing she hasn’t - marriage.

“Married men who stray typically do so because they’re looking for something more exciting than being with a woman whose biggest goal is to have breakfast in bed together at the weekend, complete with boisterous kids jumping all over them for good measure.”In another passage, she writes: “Sadly, many suburban housewives tend to pile on the pounds when they get married, and after a few kids they could likely be sporting prominent stretch marks along with breasts that are headed south.

“She may have hung on to some of that weight that stay-at-home wives tend to gain and find hard to shake off.”

For all the vitriol that she pours on so-called “suburban housewives” however, Symonds has to face up to the fact that she was left with almost nothing from her series of affairs.

After she had to leave the luxury apartment her lover had paid for in London, she enrolled on a writing course and says she started her book as a way of coping with her anger and frustration.

“I didn’t know how to get through the hurt he was causing me,” she says.

In the end, she spent £1,500 publishing it herself. But following her appearance on Oprah in October - her book was picked up by Random House. “The best form of revenge is success,” she says. “I really hope Mr X sees me doing well.”

It seems, then, that she has not quite got over him yet. Ultimately, despite the fact that she is alone, she claims to have few regrets about her past.

“It’s bad to live with regrets,” she says. “Some of the times I had were great. If I have any regrets, it’s the amount of time I wasted in the wrong situation.

“I have changed so much. I know I don’t need anyone else to feel good now, and that’s the message of my book. I want to empower women to get more out of life for themselves.”

Some might say that a good starting place would be learning to say no to a man with a ring on his finger.


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