Sarah Cooper*, 41, is single, works as an executive PA and lives in Berkshire. For almost two years she had an affair with her married boss. Now, nursing a broken heart and the guilt of her lover’s family being blown apart, she regrets ever sharing that first kiss with him…
As told to Sadie Nicholas
From April 2021 until March this year I had an affair with my married boss, Mike*. Suave, ambitious and a decade older than me, it was the oldest cliché in the book.
Fourteen months after we’d started working together, he asked if I’d like to step out of the office to join him for lunch one day – my birthday, as it happens – and I couldn’t resist. Though it was the first time I’d ever spent time with him out of work, the charged atmosphere between us told me he had as many feelings for me as I did for him.
Over sandwiches and coffee that day, suddenly we struggled to have a conversation as something had shifted between us and we both knew it: we weren’t there simply as boss and PA.
I ended up blurting out that I was very fond of him. His response? 'I think you could achieve anything you set your mind to', something he always told me in the office, but which was clearly being used suggestively now.
The next day, we went for lunch again and talked it through, each of us admitting the extent of our feelings for the other. I was drawn to his lovely, caring personality, and the fact that he was focussed and ambitious – I’ve always had a thing for an alpha male. He paid attention to me, always noticing the small things whether that was a new scarf or perfume I was wearing, or a great job I’d done on a project for the blue chip company we worked for.
The charged atmosphere between us told me he had as many feelings for me as I did for him
Meanwhile, Mike admitted he’d been physically attracted to me from day one, loved my confidence and humour, and said I made him feel special as I was naturally attentive towards him. But for all the mutual flattery and butterflies in my stomach, there was a gargantuan elephant in the room: Mike was married.
Though he told me his marriage was unhappy, he was adamant from the outset that whatever may or may not happen between us, he would never leave his wife because they had two children.
The first kiss
At that stage I was too giddy with the prospect of love and lust to let that stand in the way. Every day after that heart-to-heart we’d head out at lunchtime to walk and talk.
It was on one of our daily walks in a nearby park that Mike stopped as we walked through a leafy copse, gently took my hand and initiated our first kiss. After months of anticipation and longing, it was the most thrilling kiss I’d ever experienced and now there was no going back.
I hated the thought of him playing happy families around the dinner table each night
I couldn’t stop thinking about Mike and inevitably it wasn’t long before we then slept together in a budget hotel on the motorway. I know it sounds seedy, but more than anything we were desperate to spend time together without worrying about being spotted.
We’d fallen in love and saw each other as often as we possibly could – lunchtime walks, restaurants and hotel rooms – but never outside working hours so as not to arouse the suspicions of our colleagues or his wife.
It's funny, until our relationship became sexual and more serious, it hadn’t really bothered me that Mike went home after work every evening to his wife and family. But in the throes of a full blown affair, it began to eat away at me.
I hated the thought of him playing happy families around the dinner table each night, on weekend outings and during holidays spent in the Mediterranean when the schools broke up.
So, I dug my heels in: if he wasn’t going to alter his life for me, I wasn’t going to change mine either, however much I wanted to. I maintained a single life, dating and sleeping with other men, yet all the time romanticising about what life would be like if only Mike and I could be together. Of course, he loathed it, admitting it made him jealous and that he wished he didn’t have to ‘share’ me in that way.
During a heated row he apparently told her he was in love with me
Waves of guilt I felt for his wife and occasional thoughts of 'I can’t believe I’m doing this', were offset by moments when I’d think, 'Screw it, I'm going to tell her!' though I would never have done that to his children.
Everything altered abruptly late last summer when she discovered text messages on his phone from me, talking about our next planned liaison in a hotel and how we couldn't wait to see one another.
During a heated row he apparently told her he was in love with me, yet he still didn’t leave and incredibly she didn’t kick him out. She called me and was understandably livid, yelling: 'You don't do this to another woman!' But as bad as I felt, I didn't apologise as it would have been insincere given what I'd done.
Things quickly cooled between Mike and me at that point, which coincided with him getting a new job at a different company, a step up the career ladder that wasn’t influenced by our affair.
Trying to stay away
As heartbroken as I was, it seemed like that was a natural end to our affair and during a few weeks without any contact after the call from his wife, I told myself it was over… only for us to then find excuses to call each other again, although we resisted the urge to meet up.
Then, last November, three months after they’d seen one another, out of the blue Mike phoned one day to announce that he’d left his wife as he was unhappy and wanted to make a go of it with me. He’d rented a flat nearby, and wanted to resume our relationship.
The attraction between us proved too strong again
I was stunned and angry in equal measure because by then I’d made the decision to move on from him, not having seen each other since he started his new job. But the attraction between us proved too strong and before I knew it, we were together as often as we could again.
It’s what I’d dreamed of for such a long time, so you might imagine this was our happy ending, however it was anything but. As we embarked on a legitimate relationship, no longer sneaking around and having sex in hotel rooms, real life kicked in and the bubble we’d been in during the affair burst spectacularly.
Reality kicks in
That’s the thing with affairs, they’re not so exciting when they’re out in the open and you become a couple. Though we didn’t live together, it quickly became apparent that his domestic persona was in complete contrast to the ambitious, alpha male I’d fallen in love with at work.
Affairs aren't so exciting once they're out in the open and you become a couple
He lacked motivation to get even the simplest of domestic tasks done, and there was a huge realisation that his wife had obviously dealt with all the cooking, cleaning, ironing, food shopping and general drudgery of daily life as he hadn’t a clue how to do any of them. When it came to dates and nights away, it was me who made the effort to make them happen.
The reality bore no resemblance to how I’d often daydreamed life would be and in the end Mike had to admit that too. We'd spent so long caught up in the fantasy of a life together that we’d never actually discussed what we would have to do to make ‘us’ work.
Whenever we argued – something we’d never done when we were mistress and lover - Mike would always say, ‘I left my family for you!’
I felt so burdened with guilt at what we'd done that I realised I could never enjoy a life with him the way we'd dreamed of and became increasingly unhappy. Two months ago, I called him and, through tears and huge sobs, I ended it.
It broke his heart and it broke mine – we don't have anyone to blame but ourselves
Tearing a family apart
It broke his heart and it broke mine, not that we have anyone to blame but ourselves. The mental toll it’s taken on me has been huge. A combination of antidepressants, therapy and wonderful friends has got me through so far. They may not have approved of my affair but they’ve been endlessly supportive.
Mike and I have had no contact since but as far as I know he’s still living apart from his wife.
This experience has taught me that nothing good can come from an affair. Beyond the initial thrill and excitement, the guilt and fallout when it all goes wrong are almost impossible to cope with.
Once out in the open, the affair simply turns into a tainted normal life – whether you stay together or not – and in my case that wasn’t the perfect existence I naively dreamed it would be. There’s no way I would ever entertain being a mistress again, however attracted I felt to a man.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
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