Infidelity: In Reality, Like Fiction, Author Says Cheating Husband Will Cheat Again

British novelist Tess Stimson doesn’t just write about infidelity, she’s lived it.As a young reporter for ITN television, she embarked on a relationship with an older married reporter. They had two children together before he again cheated on her, she cheated on him, and their marriage fell apart. Stimson has since remarried and lives in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Her U.S. debut, “The Adultery Club” (Bantam) explores a fictional love triangle from each corner as three perfectly sensible people try to negotiate a happy ending to an unhappy situation. It’s territory that Stimson knows well. Did “The Adultery Club” come about from personal experience?

Tess Stimson: I guess it does really. My first husband and I separated nine years ago now after he had an affair with somebody he was working with. When I met him, he was actually separated from his previous wife so I guess technically I was his mistress although they had separated before we met. We met when I was working for ITN and we were both assigned to Beirut. That sounds very romantic. What went wrong?

Stimson: I guess it was. It was all a bit hot house when you’re in extreme danger. And I was 23 and he was 17 years older and sophisticated. We had some good years and two children and all the rest of it, and then unfortunately he reverted to type. I think it was an Englishman who said, famously, When a man marries his mistress, he creates a job vacancy.” I think that was bang on. You in turn cheated on him as well.

Stimson: I must admit, at the end of my marriage to my first husband, the last six months I had two affairs. But I already knew at that stage that he was seeing this other lady, so that might have contributed to it. I think if a woman has an affair, it means the marriage is really in trouble, whereas if the man has one, I genuinely think the marriage can be perfectly fine, just that he gets tempted when the opportunity presents itself. I think women by and large are less likely to risk everything. That is certainly born out when you compare the  Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair with the Charles and Di split. How did you view those two very public scandals?

Stimson: In the West, we have this modern notion of marriage as being a love match, but in most of the rest of the world, marriages were about far more than two people falling in love. That’s why it’s a contract; that’s why we have witnesses to it. It’s a survival thing, an arrangement between two people who come together for the benefit of them and their families. The idea that if you’re not in love and one betrays the other the whole edifice has to come crashing down seems to me barking mad. Hillary and Bill, who knows what really goes on in their heads? But it seems to me they struck a deal. I don’t think she’s that bothered by his infidelity because he was never going to leave her; he always came back to her and they were a great team at whatever they did. As far as he’s concerned, he doesn’t seem to take sex any more seriously than a game of tennis, and I suspect she doesn’t either. And Charles and Di?

Stimson: In America, there was this huge outpouring of sympathy for Princess Diana; no one could understand why Charles has betrayed this gorgeous woman with an old horse, as Camilla was seen. And yet Camilla is actually hysterically funny, very, very entertaining, very likable, a filthy sense of humor and a wicked laugh. And Diana, however much you like or admire her, she must have been difficult to live with, very neurotic. If you’re with a woman who is constantly on a diet, she’s not a huge amount of fun, where if you go out with a girl who is full of energy and life, you have a great time. In this country, there was much more of a sense of outrage at her betrayal than there was in England. I just think a marriage is too important to bin it all just because of an affair. That’s why I stuck with my husband for a year until I realized that it was more than just (adultery) that was wrong with our relationship. If it had just been that, I don’t think that’s any reason to wreck everybody’s lives. Your advice to women contemplating a relationship with a married man?

Stimson: I always say don’t; it never works. If they do leave their wife and children, is that really the kind of man that you would want? I’ve been there. I’m not saying that kind of stuff from a moral, Middle America standpoint, but simply from a very clear-eyed it-doesn’t-work. The man who cheats with you would cheat on you.


More stories, blogs, advice and discussion about catching a cheater.

More stories, blogs, advice and discussion about infidelity.