The Other Woman: Advice From A Mistress


A former mistress offers hard-learned advice to new wives.

We love most those who make us fulfill whatever greatness lies in us, not those who induce us to resign it. Remember how it was at first, how you went around pouring out; and refill your reservoir from the same springs as before you met, for that is what brought love to your door.

A mistress perceives that love is not calibrated in length of days but in height and depth. A love affair is constantly subject to two threats: a foreseeable end and a fragmentary present,which ought to destroy it but they don't. A love affair does not ask security against the world's fate; it shares that fate and knows it only too poignantly, which gives it great vitality for its season. Read: Why We Need Adultery


Marriage is often an attempt to bring life as nearly to a standstill as possible, guaranteeing what no one can: to go on feeling a certain way.

Swearing to love forever is like promising to feel perpetually any other emotion, fear or sorrow, admiration or joy. What one can swear is to go on being worth loving, a vow that is more flexible, more attainable, and more true.

It is time to say aloud that marriage is not so much the outcome of love, sex, or maturity as one road to them, even now the most available road for many people.

Marriage is the next logical stage in human development, after childhood and youth, and the paradox is that developed powers clamor to be used. To marry is to invite growth,which induces more growth and demands a wider field. Love begets love, as the psychologists recognize, and they advocate ideally a loving home for all children as a means of nurturing and continuing the pattern. But they fail to follow their own insight through to the end: Marriage and the family are a natural extension of the initial human condition; in this context,whether marriage is happy or unhappy is not very important. The point is, it teaches; it completes one’s growth, positively or negatively. And then what? Does one jump off a cliff, or else mark time for the rest of one's years? Read: The Key to a Happy Marriage?

Perhaps the deepest obligation of life is to put off what is outgrown, even when it was true in its day and has served us well, and to achieve as much reality as we are individually capable of. St. Paul said, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." The trouble is that we refuse the adult assignment of becoming selves.When we say, "I was wrong," "I make my own joy," "I find the world good," and not, "He mistreated me," "No one understands my needs," "They let me down," then we shall be adults, professionals with the capacity to love and be loved.

When marriage has fulfilled its promise of rounding out personality, people frequently decide they have fallen out of love, or were never in it in the first place; or that marriage has proved a cheat; or that one partner has betrayed the other.

These charges may be valid or not. What really needs to be considered is that here one is, stuck with a self, and what shall be done with it from this point on, not how one arrived at it.

I can only conclude that many people do not want love, and they use marriage as a bulwark against it, however unlikely that may sound. Oh yes, they make all the appropriate noises, but they don't really want to be disturbed. In some half-buried memory, they know that strong emotion extracts a price it frightens them to think of paying out of their meager resources—a price of effort, courage, attention. They would rather read about great loves or watch them on screen than participate in them.

Excerpted from Advice To A Young Wife From An Old Mistress, by Michael Drury. copyright 1958, 1965, 1993 by Michael Drury. Published by arrangement with Random House, inc.


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