The agony of be­ing too beau­ti­ful to stay faith­ful

One woman’s VERY brave con­fes­sion

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BEAUTY is a gift that ought to come with a caveat: a warn­ing sign stat­ing that while be­ing gor­geous might sound like fun, when it comes to re­la­tion­ships, oh boy, are you in for a rough time.

I should know. You can call me im­mod­est, vain even, for ad­mit­ting so freely that in my youth I was good look­ing. But then, I be­lieve that had I not been so beau­ti­ful, I might still be mar­ried to the man I once loved.

The fa­tal flaw in our re­la­tion­ship was I blos­somed to be­come so much bet­ter look­ing than he was. My poor ex couldn’t cope with liv­ing in my shadow and con­stantly felt jeal­ous and in­se­cure.

Mean­while, I had my fickle head turned ev­ery which way by the gor­geous men who stepped over my poor, plain ac­coun­tant hus­band to flirt with his perky young wife.

I ended up leav­ing him for one of his ri­vals: a banker with blond hair and chis­elled fea­tures who was in­tro­duced to me by a fe­male friend.

I had mar­ried in 1989 when I was 26 — I gen­uinely believed my hus­band was the love of my life — but 18 months later it was all over. Gone, be­cause some­one had flat­tered and se­duced me and, stupidly, I didn’t have the back­bone to say ‘No’.

Need­less to say, my lothario soon gave me a taste of my own medicine, driv­ing me in­sane by chat­ting up other women.

Sud­denly I was the in­se­cure one, con­stantly asking: ‘ Who was that woman flirt­ing with you at the bar?’

Af­ter a few ag­o­nis­ing months, I was left nurs­ing a bruised ego when he moved on to some­one new — and yes, she was gor­geous.

Poetic jus­tice, you might say. But I am far from the only at­trac­tive woman to have messed up her mar­riage by be­ing too pretty for her own good.

A study pub­lished this week grimly notes that be­ing beau­ti­ful is a ‘re­la­tion­ship li­a­bil­ity’.

Re­searchers at Har­vard Univer­sity — like gos­sip mag colum­nists — were de­bat­ing why Hol­ly­wood power cou­ples, such as Brad Pitt and An­gelina Jolie or Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, rarely go the dis­tance.

The lat­est ex­am­ple is Scar­lett Jo­hans­son, who filed for divorce from her se­cond hus­band this month and has frankly stated that monogamy is just not for her.

The re­searchers found celebri­ties were much more likely to be divorced than plain old Mr Smith, and had shorter mar­riages, too.

Fur­ther re­search showed it’s not just the rich and fa­mous — it’s all good-look­ing types.

They asked women to judge the at­trac­tive­ness of 238 men from a high school year­book. The most at­trac­tive were more likely to have had short mar­riages and be divorced.

Now, I don’t need a Har­vard pro­fes­sor to tell me why that is. Be­ing at­trac­tive throws temp­ta­tions and op­por­tu­ni­ties your way. Sadly, when cou­pled with youth, it is a toxic com­bi­na­tion.

tHE

fact I was at­trac­tive meant I was con­stantly sur­rounded by men ready and will­ing to dis­tract me from the path of true love. The more of­fers I got, the more con­vinced I be­came that the grass re­ally was greener on the other side.

It led me into doomed re­la­tion­ship af­ter doomed re­la­tion­ship, a vi­cious cy­cle that lasted well into my 40s.

When things started to go awry with a boyfriend, I never felt re­motely in­clined to try to work through any prob­lems. I sim­ply moved on to the next man.

As a beau­ti­ful woman, I never had that fear I would be left alone.

There was al­ways an­other charm­ing, hand­some re­place­ment wait­ing in the wings to of­fer me the heady ex­cite­ment of a new re­la­tion­ship.

For ex­am­ple, one af­ter­noon I walked out of the hair­dresser’s with a friend, only to have a gor­geous young man screech to a halt in his open-top Fer­rari in front of me. ‘I couldn’t have lived with my­self if I’d driven past you,’ he said. ‘ Will you come to the polo with me on Satur­day?’

Be­fore I had the chance to think, my friend had ac­cepted for both of us. That week­end was spent drink­ing cham­pagne with the at­trac­tive stranger and his wealthy friends. My boyfriend at the time — who­ever he was — was for­got­ten.

ON

AN­OTHER oc­ca­sion, I was run­ning to catch a flight to Martha’ s Vine­yard in the States when a hand­some older man stopped me, gave me his busi­ness card and sim­ply said: ‘You’re beau­ti­ful — please call me.’ And I did. I now struggle to even re­call his name.

As soon as any li­ai­son hit a stum­bling block, I’d be off to pas­tures new. One, I re­call, ended be­cause I re­fused to go away on a shoot­ing week­end (I’d be­come a veg­e­tar­ian). It was eas­ier to walk away than try to fix the prob­lem.

I sus­pect that had I been forced to stay and work on it, my life might be much hap­pier.

As Dr Chris­tine Ma-Kel­lams, lead au­thor of the Har­vard study, puts it: ‘We all value phys­i­cal at­trac­tion, but it may make peo­ple who are un­happy in their re­la­tion­ships more likely to pur­sue al­ter­na­tive re­la­tion­ships and so per­haps it is not al­ways a good thing.’

I have no doubt be­ing re­ally good­look­ing can be a curse when it comes to mat­ters of the heart.

My par­ents, An­thony and Rosamund, were stun­ningly at­trac­tive. My mother was a glam­orous blonde bomb­shell, the daugh­ter of a baronet who was a food com­pany mag­nate, and she looked like Julie Christie.

My fa­ther had the dark, brood­ing looks of the man in the TV Milk Tray ad­vert.

They mar­ried young in the Six­ties, just as a new era of sex­ual lib­er­a­tion was dawn­ing. So­cial con­straints no longer pro­vided much of a bul­wark against hav­ing your head turned when temp­ta­tion came your way.

I spent the early years of my child­hood with my ears ring­ing to the sound of their ar­gu­ments as ac­cu­sa­tions were lib­er­ally thrown.

Time and again I’d watch through my win­dow as my mother screeched off in her sports car look­ing for so­lace; she knew damn well that her hus­band wasn’t above do­ing the

same. Lit­tle won­der they had split up by the time I was nine.

It was a pat­tern of be­hav­iour I might have es­caped had I re­mained the rather plain Jane I was when my fu­ture hus­band and I met in 1982, when I was a 20- year- old chalet girl in Switzer­land and he was a 22-yearold trainee ac­coun­tant.

I was a late de­vel­oper as far as my looks were con­cerned — through­out my school days and early 20s, I had very lit­tle self-con­fi­dence.

So, when along came a lovely man who treated me well and clearly loved me dearly , I felt in­cred­i­bly lucky to have him.

He wasn’t much of a looker , but then nei­ther was I, so we seemed well matched. It was only around the time that we mar­ried that I sud­denly be­gan to blos­som. My gan­gly limbs be­came shapely; my fea­tures some­how more re­fined.

I be­came fix­ated with the idea that I’d made a dread­ful mis­take in set­tling for some­one whom I had mis­tak­enly as­sumed was the best I could hope for.

For the first time in my life, men were fall­ing over them­selves to talk to me, even when I was with my hus­band. You can imag­ine the ego boost that gave me. Un­for­giv­ably, I chose to ig­nore how much hurt this would cause.

I re­mem­ber soon af­ter we mar­ried I was at a din­ner party sit­ting next to an at­trac­tive male friend and re­alised with great re­gret I’d never have the op­por­tu­nity to go out with an­other man again. There was a fris­son of chem­istry be­tween us. Later that evening , I danced with him, de­spite see­ing the pain on my hus­band’s face.

At home, he’d find me try­ing on tight clothes that showed off my fig­ure and be hor­ri­fied.

‘You’re not go­ing out look­ing like that,’ he’d bark , be­fore in­sist­ing I re­turn them to the shop.

‘You want me to look mid­dle aged be­fore my time,’ I’d snap back, be­fore flounc­ing off — just as my mother had done when I was a child.

Af­ter just 18 months our mar­riage ended when I left my hus­band for the banker who wooed me right un­der his nose.

And so it con­tin­ued, for decades. As my looks held up, the ro­man­tic op­por­tu­ni­ties kept com­ing and my still pretty head con­tin­ued to be turned.

It was only when mid­dle age struck, bring­ing with it at last a rather more ma­ture frame of mind, that I be­gan to tire of it all.

I gen­uinely didn’t want to still be ca­reer­ing from one mean­ing­less re­la­tion­ship to an­other in my 50s, and be­sides, I was long past the age when I could be seen as a dolly‘ bird’ or ‘arm candy’.

Fer­raris no longer screeched to a halt in the road — and it felt like re­lief.

So

I changed my ways, and my ex­pec­ta­tions. I was 42 when I met my part­ner Steve, a 60-yearold eco-builder.

He is as far re­moved from the play­boy type I used to go for as you could imag­ine, and I hope he’ll for­give me when I say less con­ven­tion­ally good-look­ing, too.

I won’t pre­tend to re­gret hav­ing been be­ing beau­ti­ful, but I can ’t help think­ing my life would have been much more sta­ble had nei­ther I, nor my par­ents, been so at­trac­tive.

All that temp­ta­tion and flat­tery turned our heads, mean­ing we were al­ways less than sat­is­fied with what we had.

It might well be true, as my friend’s anal­ogy sug­gests, that plain peo­ple stay to­gether be­cause they have lit­tle choice in the mat­ter, but per­haps their lives are hap­pier as a re­sult.

LET­TING Go Of The Glitz by Ju­lia Stephen­son (Crown House, £8.99).

Pic­ture: FRANCESCO GUIDICINI

Re­grets: Ju­lia now and, in­set left, her doomed mar­riage, aged 26, in 1989

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