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Thousands of women like Sheila are enjoying what they believe to be no-strings flings. Some of my friends ride, some sing in choirs, I have Michael.' The number of people having affairs is impossible to know, as few are truthful about their sex lives, but the recent Way We Are Now nationwide survey conducted by Relate showed that 34 per cent of women respondents admitted to being unfaithful, compared with 32 per cent of men.
Having witnessed the devastation divorce wreaked on their parents' generation, they have no desire to end their marriages. I like cooking with him and gossiping about the neighbours. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.' To compensate for this, Wendy decided to take two annual week-long holidays alone.
'The kids stay with their grandparents and I go to a spa or shopping somewhere like New York. 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.