AMANDA PLATELL: All the red flags were there – so why didn’t I see that the man I had fallen in love with was married – and I was his mistress? A new book tells how to spot a cheat  – but I know from bitter experience that women wilfully ignore the signs

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Written By Maya Cantina

In his new book, How To Be Unfaithful Without Getting Caught, featured in the Mail this week, self-styled infidelity coach Albert Arnaiz lays out a blueprint for cheaters. There is an art to disloyalty, he says, and men have apparently been queuing up for his one-to-one lessons in how to cover their tracks when they are playing away — for the princely sum of £85 an hour.

It almost makes me wonder if I should set up a rival infidelity coaching service, teaching women how to spot a cheater — but I know that would be pointless.

Because the truth is that all the advice in the world can’t protect you from the utter blindness of earth-shattering, heart-trembling love. It turns normally sane, clever, worldly women into girlish suckers. I should know — I have been one. I’m ashamed to say it, but I fell for the kind of skilled seducer tutored by Arnaiz, never dreaming he was married and that I, humiliatingly, was his ‘bit on the side’ — the mistress.

In hindsight, all the red flags were there for me, yet love made me oblivious. The exciting sex that only comes with a new partner makes it hard for anyone to think straight.

My very passionate love affair began back in the Noughties with a chance encounter at a very dull corporate event. It was the kind of meeting you see in the movies, across a crowded room. There was an instant magnetism, as though some force greater than the universe was pulling us together. It was irresistible.

Photo of Amanda, taken by her lover, on one of their holidays. ‘In hindsight, all the red flags were there for me, yet love made me oblivious. The exciting sex that only comes with a new partner makes it hard for anyone to think straight’

And together we remained in this heightened sense of euphoria — because that’s what love is, a kind of wild madness — for nearly a year.

Yes, he was handsome and clever and funny, but even more of an aphrodisiac was that, in my mid-40s, he was that rarest of creatures: single, sexy and solvent. Happily divorced, he told me, even pulling out pictures of his two adorable teenage children.

He got on well with his ex, who had a new partner, and spent as much time with his kids as he could. Tick, tick, tick. I thought I’d won the lottery of love.

Within weeks of us meeting, he was staying at my home three or four nights a week, bringing with him an entire closet’s worth of designer suits and shirts, cologne, shaving gear and toothbrush, plus his own dressing gown, which I wore when he wasn’t there, just to feel close to him.

Something I loved was that his career success had never spoilt the lad raised by a single mum in a council flat in Manchester. Despite having a chauffeur, he always chose to come to my place by Tube.

He said it made him feel grounded: I found that adorable. Only later would it hit me — of course, the Tube, no company driver to know where he’s going; no cab fares registered on his credit card.

Very occasionally, we’d stay at his sparse, modern apartment in the City, but he said he preferred the cosiness of my cottage. This should also have been a red flag, as apart from a few T-shirts and jeans and a rack of trainers, it didn’t look as though anyone really lived at ‘his place’. There was nothing but wine and some curling Comte cheese in the fridge. There were a few pictures of him with his kids, but nothing else that made it look like a home.

His explanation was that, as the boss of a large international City firm, he travelled a lot for work so he had never found time to really make it a home. Now we could do that together. We’d make it more welcoming for his kids and, of course, I would be there when they came over. Their new stepmother-to-be!

Is Heal’s furniture store (one of London’s smartest) too downmarket, he asked, flipping through glossy interiors magazines. What about The Conran Shop? Or shall we go antique?

The couple stayed most months at the same suite at New York's Plaza overlooking Central Park.  But  Amanda later found out her lover had been there with had shared just weeks before. I recognised the room as it had that magical view over Central Park.'

The couple stayed most months at the same suite at New York’s Plaza overlooking Central Park.  But Amanda later found out her lover had been there ‘with the woman I discovered was his wife, in the same suite we had shared just weeks before’

I rarely saw him at the weekends as that’s when he had his children. Another red flag. I did think it odd that he said they came to stay with him in the apartment as there were only two bedrooms and his son and daughter were teenagers. He said they were so close they didn’t mind sharing a room.

Oh, and he couldn’t wait for me to meet them when the time was right.

Except the time was never right. Despite several attempts for us all to have lunch together, his wife always messed up the child arrangements or had booked something special for the children at the last minute, so it never happened.

We went on fabulous holidays together, always to far-flung countries he chose — Jordan, Lebanon, Burma. He loved his history and always hired a private guide. He found the most exquisite out-of-the-way hotels, always the romantic. In retrospect, of course, he was choosing destinations where we were least likely to be spotted together.

He was very aware — and annoyed — by the fact that, as a high-profile journalist, I would often get stopped in the street by Mail readers. Whenever anyone came up to me to say kind things, he would literally disappear. He didn’t like all that fan stuff, he used to say. It wasn’t his scene. He loved me for what I was, not who I was.

I did suggest that, as he loved faraway places, we could go to visit my family in Australia. But every time we tried to make a plan, it clashed with his work, or holidays with his kids. He reassured me there was no rush, that we had ‘all the time in the world’.

He was so besotted with me, so constantly attentive, that I never questioned his sincerity. Once inside my north London cottage, he doted on me, hugging me while I cooked supper, dragging me into bed, constantly surprising me with thoughtful little gifts — and yes, the sex was fabulous.

Although early on, he imposed a condition in the bedroom — no biting or scratching, as his skin was very sensitive and susceptible to eczema. That was strange as I am not an alley cat. I don’t scratch, nor do I feel the need to mark a lover. Long ago, I decided love bites are for teenagers.

Of course, this was another subterfuge. He didn’t want any tell-tale marks on his body which would be hard to explain away.

In his new book, How To Be Unfaithful Without Getting Caught, featured in the Mail this week, self-styled infidelity coach Albert Arnaiz lays out a blueprint for cheaters

In his new book, How To Be Unfaithful Without Getting Caught, featured in the Mail this week, self-styled infidelity coach Albert Arnaiz lays out a blueprint for cheaters 

Early on, he bought me a bottle of his cologne, Baccarat Rouge, and said that he wanted me to chuck away my Jo Malone and wear his scent always. Every time we were apart and he put it on, he would think of me and wish he was with me.

As I was a few years older than him, he nicknamed me his ‘Empress’ and signed himself on the numerous notes and cards and love poems he left around the house as ‘your devoted Emperor’.

Obviously, I thought that was adorable, but a more sensible person might have noticed that he never signed his actual name on any piece of paper and paid for everything in cash. There was no credit card trail, no evidence really that he even existed in my life — unless he bumped into a neighbour walking their dog at 6am when he left each morning, off to the Tube, bless him.

When we went out for dinner, which was rarely — as he loved me to cook for him at home — he always found the most intimate, little-known, barely-lit restaurants, tucked away in the middle of nowhere.

As he was always so busy with work, we had to arrive separately, him usually first, with a glass of Chablis waiting. Was he being gentlemanly, I wonder now, or just getting there first to scope out the restaurant?

He never held my hand or kissed me in public, saying he didn’t approve of public displays of affection, but reminded me he made up for that with private displays of affection. Which indeed he did. And it didn’t bother me anyway as I’m not a handy-holdy kind of person, either.

When we met up in restaurants, it was with just a friendly peck on the cheek, nothing that couldn’t be explained away as a couple of old mates meeting up for lunch or dinner.

There is only one grainy picture of us together, taken from a distance by a passing stranger at my request. He always said he hated having his photo taken — another ruse I fell for — and much preferred taking pictures of me. So apart from that one snap on a windswept beach, I have no photo evidence he even existed — and even in that shot, his head is down, so he’d only be recognisable to me.

I lost count of the times when we arranged to meet my friends, then he’d cancel because of work. If I got upset, he’d say we couldn’t have this fabulous lifestyle if he didn’t work night and day. He’d remind me that he still had to pay for his children’s school fees and summer holidays in the Bahamas and skiing in Courchevel.

He was also still supporting his wife, who had not moved in with her new partner, so still qualified for support.

I did point out that I had a job and a healthy salary of my own, that I paid for all my own fares on our holidays — he never booked for the two of us — and half the accommodation costs, so it wasn’t a free ride.

When we rowed, which was rare, he’d say: ‘Let’s make up in New York, we’ll always have New York.’ We visited most months for a weekend. He’d be there for work and I would join him, always in the same suite of The Plaza with its views overlooking Central Park. That was our ‘special place’, he always said.

Or, as it turned out, not so special.

My world came tumbling down one Saturday evening at a dinner party. At the last minute, he’d got called away for work. There alone, and in a chance conversation with a woman about New York, I said my favourite hotel was The Plaza. What a coincidence, she said, her best friend had just come back from there.

She was with her husband on a romantic getaway. She pulled out her mobile to show me a picture.

It was him, with the woman I discovered was his wife, in the same suite we had shared just weeks before. I recognised the room as it had that magical view over Central Park.

I had fully believed that I was his partner, that we had a future together. At that moment, I knew I was just his mistress. He had cleverly, ruthlessly, betrayed me — and his wife.

Any woman who has been cheated on will understand the gut-wrenching shock of that photo, the heartache, the 4am tears and cries of ‘How could I have been so stupid?’

How could I? Because love can make fools of us all.

When I confronted him with the evidence of his betrayal — that I’d seen the photos of him with his wife in our suite in New York — he was completely blindsided, ashen-faced and momentarily lost for words.

He tried to explain that it wasn’t a romantic weekend, they never had sex, they were just there to see old friends, that it was just a way of keeping his ex happy. He lied straight-faced, while I cried.

Then he broke down in tears, sobbing that he loved me, that I was the most important person in his life, that he couldn’t bear to lose me, couldn’t live without me.

‘Well, you’d better start learning fast,’ I said, and closed the door of my cottage on my cheater for the last time. I have never seen him again.

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

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