Test of Strength; an Affair Is the Ultimate Betrayal - but Should It End Your Marriage?

Article excerpt

Byline: Joan Burnie

WHEN Bridget McConnell sat beside her husband and our First Minister to support him at a Press conference, as well as acknowledge his infidelity, she said it was the last place she wanted to be.

Who could blame her? The affair was long dead. By remaining with Jack, Mrs McConnell had surely proved beyond all doubt that what she called his betrayal had been put well behind them.

So little wonder that she looked furious that seven years after it happened, an event which in normal circumstances should have remained decently buried, had to be publicly disinterred for the rest of us to feed on.

Worse, the affair itself became almost incidental as Mrs McConnell's motives for agreeing to the ordeal were endlessly analysed and picked over.

And, like so many others, from the fragrant Mary Archer to Allison McCoist who have done what is called The Dolly and stood by flagrantly-unfaithful men, the other question asked was why Bridget hadn't thrown him out at the time.

She, after all, is no subservient little woman who lives through and for her man, nor a financially-dependent one. With an annual salary of pounds 80,000, she could well have afforded to end the marriage.

So why did she stay - and why does anyone, high profile or otherwise, remain with a cheating partner?

Because it is not only those living within the public eye who refuse to chuck in the marital towel. Something like one in four marriages currently ends in divorce - but countless surveys suggest that as many as 75 per cent of men admit to being unfaithful at least once.

To some women, sexual fidelity is obviously incidental. According to Couple Counselling, it is not even the principal cause of relationships breaking down.

Sexual disfunction and dissatisfaction, along with rows over money, are far more likely to bring about a permanent separation.

So Mary Archer is far from the only wife to place monogamy fairly low down the list of her priorities. Especially if, as Sally Farnham, one of her husband's harem of mistresses is to be believed, sex itself is unimportant and an activity that Mrs Archer preferred to contract out.

Whatever can be said about Mary Archer, she is no softy, but then sticking with a two-timing partner is never the soft option.

It is particularly difficult when everyone knows about it - and people usually do.

In any office, among any group of friends, who is having it off with whom - not least if it is someone they shouldn't be seeing - seldom goes on without anyone else finding out about it. People gossip. People talk. People tell.

It slips out - and inevitably ends in the ears of the one who has been betrayed. Sometimes it is better not knowing. Sometimes they don't want to know.

They might have had their suspicions, but it is wrong to assume they always want them confirmed. Most, after all, don't last. When it comes to the wife or long-time partner versus the mistress, the wife usually wins.

Sitting tight and waiting for it to pass is often the best tactic - if, that is, they want the relationship or the marriage to continue.

As an agony aunt, I invariably advise against so-called friends rushing round to spill the sexual beans.They might say that it is for the person's own good.

Not that men have the monopoly on infidelity. …