Byline: Lucy Cavendish
IT HAS caused a Twitter storm, a social network furore and it's been talked about everywhere from Radio 4's Woman's Hour to the local coffee shop I was in this morning. The subject matter is infidelity, as exposed in Kate Figes's new book Our Cheating Hearts, and it's got social media in a spin. Apparently, we are all at it, says Figes, who used real-life testimonies from those who have "cheated" and those who have been cheated on.
It's a divisive issue. The two women I heard talking about it in a Home Counties coffee shop were at odds with each other; one thought affairs were part of a long-term marriage, the other was appalled at the thought. Yet, according to surveys, in the UK between 25 and 70 per cent of women and 40 to 80 per cent of men have engaged in at least one extra-marital sexual activity. We're all at it. The question Figes is asking is why DO people have affairs? I can give one resounding answer to that: in my experience, the biggest threat to monogamy in London is the commuting husband or wife. I have lived in the countryside, in the heart of commuter land, for 13 years and have heard countless stories of commuting infidelity. In fact, I know more commuters who have had or are having affairs than those who aren't.
The commute is long, boring and tiring. It starts early in the morning, often when it is dark, and ends many hours later back in a cold house, with a tired wife (or husband), the kids in bed and dinner in the oven. The lure of the bright lights and after-office fun in London 'I wonder why we moved is no doubt hard to resist. The Home Counties life might be the choice for many -- with the trappings of wealth and good schools for the children -- but in reality, commuting is a short step towards infidelity. of I hardly my wife children any This is what happened to a friend of mine. She and her husband Ben, a hedge-fund manager, had been together for 21 years. They did what many other middle-class parents with kids do; they moved from London and resettled in Kent.
"We found an old farm," says my friend. "We were so happy. I was going to stay at home with the children, do up the house a bit, maybe get chickens, ponies ..." Meanwhile, Ben had to do the long commute every day. He started doing "meetings", staying out overnight.
In the end, faced with a terrible sense of unease, my friend confronted her husband.
"Yes, of course he was having an affair. It was a girl in the office. It had been going on for almost a year." She very firmly blames the breakdown of her marriage on the commute. "I think life in London was fun, and maybe the affair felt furtive and exciting -- there is an addictive glamour to that."
My friend's marriage isn't the only one to have suffered. Even Jules Oliver, whose husband chef Jamie Oliver works long hours away from home, has been quoted as saying, "I check Jamie's emails and phone to make sure he's not cheating. …