“A woman (other than the man’s wife) having a sexual relationship with a married man” is a mistress, according to one of the many definitions for the word in oxforddictionaries.com, but she is also known by other names such as “the other woman,” side chick and many other pejorative words like home wrecker, man snatcher and whore. The term can also extend to women in a sexual relationship with unmarried men in committed relationships, and women who are married but having an affair with a married man.

A husband may have many reasons for having a sexual relationship with a women not his wife, from not getting enough affection or sex to not being able to cope with commitment. Some women prefer to be the mistress with no commitment or responsibilities, some don’t realize they are with a committed man who has lied to them about his status, and some women find the pejorative words used to describe the female and not the male in this type of sexual relationship outdated and sexist.

Some wives, and committed girlfriends, condone such relationships, others leave their husbands when they find out, and still others know about the relationships but stay with their husbands for a variety of reasons including financial and personal.

The sourced articles below should provide more information on mistresses, why some women prefer married men, and why a husband may engage in a sexual relationship with a woman other than his wife.

  1. Mistress, Slut, ‘The Other Woman’: The Way We Talk About Relationships Is Inherently Sexist

    “If there isn’t a gender-equivalent term for certain negative words, then the behavior of the opposite gender tends to fly under the radar. The word mistress, for example, has no male-equivalent. There’s no opposite to ‘the other woman.’ And that influences behavior. People are more likely to blame ‘the other woman’ when their husbands cheat. But when a wife cheats, there’s no collective blaming of ‘the other man.'”

    Maria Del Russo, washingtonpost.com, 4/6/2018

  2. What Sleeping With Married Men Taught Me About Infidelity

    “After being married for 23 years, I wanted sex but not a relationship. This is dicey because you can’t always control emotional attachments when body chemicals mix, but with the married men I guessed that the fact that they had wives, children and mortgages would keep them from going overboard with their affections. And I was right. They didn’t get overly attached, and neither did I. We were safe bets for each other. … What surprised me was that these husbands weren’t looking to have more sex. They were looking to have any sex.”

    Karin Jones, nytimes.com, 4/6/2018

  3. Why You Should Always Be The Side-Chick

    “No shade towards relationships, but we’d be lying if we said they didn’t come with a ton of unnecessary, anxiety-inducing drama. When I’m in a relationship with someone, I yell at them for everything. I break up with them three times a week, threaten to fuck their friends and say things like ‘I bet you never loved me anyway,’ all because they asked if we could change our drink plans from Tuesday to Wednesday. Needless to say, if I were dating me, I would have a side chick.”

    Caroline Phinney, babe.net, 2/28/2018

  4. A 5-Step Plan To Stop Being The Mistress And Finally Walk Away From An Affair

    “There are a number of psychological and practical reasons why falling out of love with a married man is frequently more complicated than with an available man. Often, a married man spends a considerable amount of money on his ‘mistress,’ whether in the form of lavish gifts or straight out support; giving up that aspect of the affair can be difficult.”

    Marni Feuerman, yourtango.com, 2/9/2018; (Broken link removed 8/2023)

  5. This Is Why Women Like To Date Married Men Despite The Heartache

    “Some women are attracted to married men, and a new study may have a psychology-based explanation for why. The research showed that when a man is desired by other women, his physical attractiveness is automatically boosted, suggesting the ultimate sign of a man’s allure may be a wedding band.”

    Dana Dovey, newsweek.com, 2/2/2018

  6. The Love Hospital That Separates Spouses From Their Lovers

    “A new industry has emerged in China, helping husbands and wives to separate their unfaithful spouses from their lovers. It’s called mistress dispelling, in which clients often pay tens of thousands of dollars to see off unwanted love rivals.”

    Ed Butler, bbc.com, 12/21/2017

  7. Are You The ‘Other Woman?’

    “Who Is the Other Woman?
    Who willingly signs on to be Other Woman? The busy exec. … The gal with poor self-esteem. … The daddy seeker. … The unwitting woman.”

    Online Resource, everydayhealth.com, 11/15/2017

  8. 8 Things You Have So Wrong About Mistresses (According To One)

    “Sarah J. Symonds is the former mistress of Chef Gordon Ramsay and Lord Jeffrey Archer who was out to kill the old stereotype about mistresses with her show The Mistress on Discovery Life Channel. Each week Symonds worked with a different mistress as she helped them come to terms with the good and bad that comes with being the other woman.”

    Amanda Chatel, yourtango.com, 8/21/2017

  9. The Psychology Behind Being A Side Piece In An Affair

    “In a 2008 online poll conducted by Women’s Health, 79 percent of women said having an affair with a taken man was never acceptable, but a surprising 46 percent admitted to having done it, and more than half felt no regrets. Interestingly, when asked whether they’d rather be a mistress or a deceived wife, more than 62 percent chose the former. So it was better to deceive someone else than be the deceived.”

    Lizette Borreli, medicaldaily.com, 7/31/2017; (Broken link removed 12/2023)

  10. I Was The Other Woman — But I Still Feel Sorrier For Myself Than For Her

    “Being the side chick means you’re painted as a vile harlot who is out to ruin the lives of committed, ‘good’ women. Conveniently exempted from this stigma: the person who chose to cheat on this ‘good woman.’ Despite the reputation, I know these truths about a side chick: She’s rarely malicious. She isn’t sleeping with another woman’s boyfriend or husband because she’s a terrible, home-wrecking nutjob. She’s in so deep that the consequences don’t matter. She doesn’t want to be a side chick. She wants to be the only chick. The only problem is that she, like many women, chose to love a jerk.”

    Gigi Engle, marieclaire.com, 5/19/2017

  11. I Started Acting Like My Husband’s Mistress — Here’s What Happened’

    “When we returned home to the States I tried to put their advice into action—exude confidence, don’t cut myself down, quit nagging, engage in interesting conversation, put my damn phone away, throw away the really shitty sweatpants, walk around naked, but keep the bathroom door closed when I peed. It all seemed like a lot of work. And yet I tried to remain conscious of the checklist.”

    Jo Piazza, womenshealthmag.com, 5/5/2017

  12. Why Husbands Cheat

    “Although they had sex, he felt emotionally adrift in their marriage. At times he felt powerless. After many weeks of counseling, Ashley started to understand what Jed was talking about. She had the capacity to be honest with herself, and saw that she was over-focused on the children and had given Jed no voice in their marriage.”

    Marilyn Wedge, PhD, psychologytoday.com, 6/6/2016

  13. Why We Need To Lose Biased Words Like ‘Mistress’ For Good

    “Paula Broadwell, best known for having an affair with David Petraeus that led to the then-CIA director’s resignation, is fighting back against the sexist word that was used so frequently to vilify her. In a New York Times profile, Broadwell talks about her behind-the-scenes campaign to get media outlets to stop using the word ‘mistress’, a term that has no similar male counterpart. … To date, Broadwell has persuaded Politico, the Associated Press and her hometown newspaper to stop using the word.”

    Jessica Valenti, theguardian.com, 6/2/2016

  14. For Many Of Us, Monogamy Is Not An Emotionally Healthy Pursuit

    “But human reproductive strategies are not so straightforward. Men require relatively little investment to procreate (compared to women, who are physically required to face nine months of pregnancy followed by breastfeeding), and so it makes sense as a strategy to have an official wife and children, but also mistresses on the side.”

    Olivia Goldhill, qz.com, 4/17/2016

  15. So Now Women Are Letting Their Husbands Cheat

    “In 2010, Salon reported on the emerging trend after Holly Hill, a former mistress for hire, explained her ‘negotiated infidelity’ theory to CNN. Hill eloquently argued that ‘a woman that negotiates infidelity with her partner is far more powerful than a woman who is sitting home wondering why he’s late from the office Christmas party,’ adding, ‘it’s better to walk the dog on a leash than let it escape through an unseen hole in the back fence.'”

    Amanda Prestigiacomo, dailywire.com, 4/14/2016; (Broken link removed 2/2023)

  16. Confessions Of A Wife Turned Mistress

    “Avoid what may take families years to heal from. The thought that still pops in my head is if only I had said no to someone else’s husband.”

    Tray Kearney, essence.com, 2/29/2016

  17. Eight Words That Reveal The Sexism At The Heart Of The English Language

    “The female equivalent of ‘master’, and thus, ‘a woman having control or authority’ – in particular one who employs servants or attendants. It came into English with this meaning from French after the Norman conquest. From the 17th century onwards, it was used to mean ‘a woman other than his wife with whom a man has a long-lasting sexual relationship’.”

    David Shariatmadari, theguardian.com, 1/27/2016

  18. Why Emailing With My Husband’s Mistress Gave Me Peace

    “What I realized in the emails that went back and forth was that I was responding not just to the person I was at the height of my love for Henri, but I was responding to my 20-year-old self. I was trying to verbally knock some sense into her—and was failing miserably. She’s so enraptured in this moment of her life, that it was like fighting windmills. I was going to say what I wanted and she was going to look the other way. For the briefest of moments, I found her very lucky.”

    Amanda Chatel, glamour.com, 1/21/2016

  19. 8 Former ‘Other Women’ Reveal What It’s Like To Be A Mistress

    “‘Most stories like this that I’ve heard are bad but my experience was universally positive. He was a man I worked with and we were very, very close friends. Our co-workers used to joke that I was his work wife and stuff like that. He was going through a very rough spot with his wife that had lasted well over a year and one weekend we were at a conference and ended up hooking up. There was never any illusion in my mind that he wanted to leave his wife because we talked all the time and I knew he loved her. I knew that he just needed affection that he hadn’t been getting for a long time. …'”

    Lisa Woods, thoughtcatalog.com, 10/15/2015

  20. History Of A Deeply Complex Word: The Many Meanings Of ‘Mistress’

    “[Linguist Ben] ZIMMER: Well, no. I mean, when it enters English, which happens in the 14th century – it comes in via French – it’s basically just the feminine form of master. … But by the 15th century, there’s an evolution of the meaning, and we see that mistress starts getting used in romantic context to refer to a man’s beloved or sweetheart. And then, by the early 17th century, we get the meaning that is so problematic in this situation referring to a woman in an illicit relationship with a married man.”

    All Things Considered, npr.org, 8/22/2015

  21. 12 Surprising Facts About Infidelity: Discover Things You Never Knew About Why Men Cheat That Could Save Your Marriage

    “‘Men love their spouses, but they don’t know how to fix their relationship problems, so they go outside their marriages to fill any holes,’ says licensed marriage and family therapist Susan Mandel, PhD. Men want it all and have the skewed notion that another woman will make the longing for something more disappear. Then, they can live happily ever after with their wife—and their mistress—without confronting the real issues.”

    Jenna Birch, womansday.com, 5/3/2015

  22. Is ‘Mistress’ A Word That Has Seen Its Best Days?

    “At a time when women are pushing back against public shaming for their sexual behavior (see Monica Lewinsky’s much-discussed TED talk) and are thinking about new and empowering words to describe female beauty … the moment may have arrived for ‘mistress’ to enter a well-deserved — and, one hopes, well-funded — retirement.”

    Margaret Sullivan, nytimes.com, 3/26/2015

  23. The Disadvantages Of Having A Mistress

    “Having a mistress, especially a young mistress, can be enervating, particularly for an older man. A wife may forgive a husband for falling asleep right after dinner, but his mistress is likely to take it personally.”

    Fredric Neuman, MD, psychologytoday.com, 3/22/2015

  24. 21 Reasons Why Being A Side Chick Is Severely Underrated

    “You get all of the great parts from a relationship with none of the headache! Could you imagine what life would be like without the nagging and annoyances?”

    Ashley Fern, elitedaily.com, 2/12/2015

  25. I Interviewed A Mistress And Here’s 8 Common Misconceptions She Wants To Clear Up

    “Sarah J. Symonds is the former mistress of Chef Gordon Ramsay and Lord Jeffrey Archer who’s out to kill the old stereotype about mistresses with her new show The Mistress on Discovery Life Channel. Each week Symonds works with a different mistress as she helps them come to terms with the good and bad that comes with being the other woman.”

    Amanda Chatel, thoughtcatalog.com, 2/11/2015

  26. On Being The Other Woman In An Affair

    “In the spirit of disclosure, I belong to the latter group, having discovered many years ago that I am better suited to being a mistress than a wife. And that is what I have been—for better and for worse, as they say—largely because I’ve always been drawn to the romance of intrigue, the danger of the stolen moment, the risky, inherent sexiness of the forbidden. … One thing I learned, which I suspect Mimi Alford learned too, is that, given the plethora of attractive married men, being a mistress is viable if you are convinced that the only things you’ll ever regret are the things you never did.”

    Elizabeth Kaye, thedailybeast.com, 2/14/2012

  27. The History Of The Mistress

    “We asked the author what she learned about mistresses in the four years she spent researching the book — and what’s up with the men who cheat. … I’d always thought of mistresses as kind of titillating. But it’s almost never the glamorous thing that we think it is. Now, are there women who are very happy being someone’s mistress? Sure. There are women who are quite happy to have a fun, sexual, part-time relationship. But they’re definitely the minority.”

    Abigail Pesta, marieclaire.com, 8/11/2011

  28. Dan Savage Interview, Part 3: It’s Not Easy Being Non-Monogamous

    DS [Dan Savage]: For most of recorded human history, men weren’t supposed to be monogamous. It was required. They had concubines. They had whores. They had mistresses. They had more than one wife. Monogamy was really for women and all about paternal anxiety and assuaging that – enslaving women, really. It was about control. To the credit of our species, it took us however many tens of thousands of years before we realized that wasn’t egalitarian, and about 60 years ago we decided to make it fairzies.

    Kinsey Confidential, kinseyconfidential.org, 12/24/2010