Celia Walden and infidelity online 05 Oct From Wayne Rooney to Tiger Woods, barely a day seems to pass without male infidelity making the headlines. Female infidelity, however, has a far lower profile and, in popular culture at least, tends to have terrifying consequences. The two most famous adulteresses in fiction, Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, came to sticky ends: But today the guilt that tormented these classic heroines is largely missing. Thousands of women like Sheila are enjoying what they believe to be no-strings flings.
Having witnessed the devastation divorce wreaked on their parents' generation, they have no desire to end their marriages.
Instead they are searching for variety in an otherwise humdrum routine. I like cooking with him and gossiping about the neighbours.
He's my pal and I'd never want to lose that. Sex with Michael is a purely separate thing; it's about erotic abandonment, being seen as just a woman rather than as Peter's wife, or "the doctor" or a mum. Any working mother will know what I mean. Every woman needs something that is hers alone. Some of my friends ride, some sing in choirs, I have Michael. Paula Hall, a sex and relationships counsellor and Relate spokeswoman, says that she expects to see a rising number of female clients who have been unfaithful, as the reasons for straying have changed.
Or it's a case of a woman being neglected in the bedroom in the way a man once was and wanting to find a way to scratch her itch. Since founding the business 15 years ago Miller has noted a huge increase in younger female clients. Women in their twenties and thirties belong to the "Because I'm Worth It" generation. They had a much freer sexual history when they were single and they have far more expectations of good sex.
Of course, once they're married it doesn't carry on being like in the magazines but their copy of Cosmo is still popping through the door every month shouting six new ways to heighten orgasm tonight and they think, "It's not going to be with him indoors, he's exhausted, but what a lovely idea …"' Once the seed is planted, outlets are everywhere. Most affairs start in the workplace, and a recent American study showed that women who travel for work are three times more likely to have had two or more concurrent sexual relationships in the past five years than women in general.
But as well as seizing their chances, today many women and men plan their infidelities with chilling efficiency. They decide they want to commit adultery and set out to find a suitable partner. Wendy, a year-old full-time mother of two from East Sussex, was a 'typical girl about town, with a few long-term boyfriends peppered with a handful of one-night stands on holiday or after a night clubbing'.
Six years ago she married Billy, a stockbroker, gave up her administrative job and moved out of London. Billy is away a lot for work and I'm bored and lonely at home with the kids.
I have mum friends but I missed the buzz of male company I used to have and I missed the irresponsibility of my old life — going out on a Saturday and not knowing who I might meet, where the evening might take me.
I call it my "me time" and nobody argues. I do shop and have a lot of facials and massages but I also go out alone to bars in the evening and five times I've met a man. It sounds dangerous, talking about it like that, but I trust my instincts to know who's safe and who's a serial killer. It's about passion and spontaneity — having sex in the shower and up against a wall, all the things you see in movies that just never happen when you're arguing over whose turn it is to wipe the kids' bottoms.
Yet suspicious husbands are also dab hands at checking their wives' inboxes. All the women I spoke to were obsessive about covering their technical tracks. Laura, 51, a reflexologist from Hertfordshire, with a teenage son, has had three affairs over the past 10 years with men she has met on various websites.
She uses specialised software to make sure her computer shuts down moments after she uses it and its history is wiped clean. She has two mobiles: She checks at the same time every day before hiding it — separately from the sim card — in her Christmas-present drawer. One man I used to see had his wife discover us because he got a speeding ticket from Oxfordshire where we were meeting, rather than Birmingham where he said he was.
Another linked his mobile to his satnav when he was driving his family to his mother's. A text came through and the satnav boomed, "Hi, sexy. He leaves the loo seat up, burps and expects his washing to be done as if by magic. He's got a bit fat and resents any suggestion that he lose weight. He's never been the romantic type, never says, "I love you," or tells me I'm looking good. My EMAs help me tolerate all that.
I love the flirtations, the flattery. I'm looking to be adored, to be treated like a goddess much more than I'm looking for sex. It's just so lovely to have someone compliment the necklace I'm wearing. My confidence has blossomed. Minna, 30, a part-time administrator from Glasgow, has had two affairs with fathers at the school her two young children attend, while her husband was working abroad.
This time round I'm being much more businesslike. I tell myself it's just a fantasy: And how would Minna feel if she were betrayed? She chews her lips. I'd be very hurt. Certainly the temptations are ever increasing. The therapist Andrew G Marshall, the author of How Can I Ever Trust You Again, cautions, 'Both men's and women's sense of entitlement has gone upwards but sex is still incredibly difficult to talk about.
Most people's sex lives are probably a bit dull after 20 years; you want more and better but you don't have the skills to go out there and negotiate them with your partner.
It almost seems easier to go elsewhere. Saying "You don't actually do it for me any more" would enrage him; he'd never sit down and talk about it rationally. It's easier for me just to outsource my frustrations by finding men to sleep with just like it's easier to hire a cleaner than have constant rows about keeping the place clean.