Sarah J. Symonds, author of Having an Affair? A Handbook for the Other Woman.
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Sarah Symonds knows she wasted too many years as a mistress to married men, including Chef Gordon Ramsay and Lord Jeffrey Archer. It makes her both sad and angry now.
So Symonds is determined to help other women escape. Hence her new series The Mistress, which debuts Wednesday on Slice.
"It has a real message, it has a redemptive end, it's a bit like Intervention meets Sex and the City," Symonds said. "We're having a laugh now, but it is a serious business.
"Most of the women I hear from are in despair. They're in despair of their affair."
Long story short, Symonds had a corporate background, working for big companies, but her affairs derailed her life. She said she hit rock-bottom personally and eventually thought, "I either can slit my wrists or write a book."
Symonds' book made her a talk-show staple and she founded a support group called Mistresses Anonymous. "It's a bit like AA, but in MA you can drink," Symonds said. "In fact, it's the official 13th step."
Again, the charming Symonds is quick with quips, but she always reminds you her quest is no joke. In each episode of The Mistress, Symonds tries to help a mistress break free from her esteem-destroying cycle.
"That's my job, to wake them up, because they are in complete denial," Symonds said.
"This show wasn't easy to cast, I'll be honest. Tons of mistresses came out (to MA meetings), but thankfully we found 13 good ones for the show. If there's a Season 2, I do believe it'll be easier."
Obviously affairs can take many forms, but Symonds mostly hears from single women who are involved with married men.
"I don't think all men are in it just for the sex -- sometimes the man genuinely is lonely and that's why he reaches out," Symonds said. "I hate the word blame. I hate blaming the man, the mistress, the wife.
"But in these situations, the man is the one who is deciding to cheat. He's breaking his vows. However, the mistress is an accomplice. She is enabling him to have this affair.
"The worst type is the married man who doesn't tell you he's married, and it has happened to me. I'm not demonizing men. Women are great liars, too. But if a man really wants to win and start an affair, it's amazing what he will tell you."
Even if the woman knows the man is married, she can be manipulated by his sob stories.
"He'll say, 'I'm not sleeping with my wife, she doesn't understand me, I want to leave, if only I could meet the right woman -- could it be you? -- oh please wait, let my kids grow up, just let me get through Christmas, yada yada yada,' " Symonds said.
"So that type of mistress ends up facilitating a better life for this guy. I don't want to come across as a man-hater, because I'm the opposite. I just tell it like it is."
Having experienced love of a different sort, reformed mistress Sarah Symonds now specializes in the tough kind.