Having affairs can be part of a healthy society, according to one of the UK’s top divorce lawyers.
Ayesha Vardag, dubbed the ‘Diva of Divorce’ after a string of high-profile court battles, encouraged Britons to ‘learn from the French’ and said she would turn a blind eye if her own husband cheated.
Ms Vardag, whose clients have included Qatari princes, Malaysian millionaires, business tycoons, international footballers, celebrities and royalty, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Are extramarital affairs part of a healthy society?
Ayesha Vardag (pictured), dubbed the ‘Diva of Divorce’ after a string of high-profile court battles, said having affairs can be part of a healthy society
‘Sometimes married couples get intolerably fed up of each other and indeed very lonely in each other’s company as topics of conversation expire and the springs of desire run dry.
‘Is it always right for them to choose between remaining unhappily together or divorcing and starting again?
‘Or is it sometimes worthwhile to keep the structure of the marriage in place – the secure home, the family, the workable economic structure, the steady domestic routine – and take romance, love, sex, excitement where one can find it, without rocking the boat?
‘It’s the way Brits have historically attributed to the French – never mind how many lovers we both have, just keep it discreet and we’ll continue to stay committed to our marriage, in a way that works for all of us. Could we learn something from that?’
Ms Vardag, one of UK’s top lawyers, encouraged Britons to ‘learn from the French’ and said she would turn a blind eye if her husband Stephen cheated (both pictured with their son Orfeo)
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Ayesha Vardag insists that her own tangled love life – including having four children with three men – has benefited her millionaire clients.
The 53-year-old once said that her experience means ‘there’s nothing that my clients tell me that I haven’t been through myself’, adding: ‘I bond with them over that during meetings. But now I’ve come full circle and I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been in my personal life.’
That happiness is down to Stephen Bence, the chief executive of the Vardags law firm and father to their son Orfeo. The couple, who met in 2014, split their time between homes in Hampshire, London, Dubai and Italy.
Ms Vardag split from her first husband, Xavier Hunter, in 1999 after they both took lovers. She had always assumed that Mr Hunter – father of her two eldest sons, Jasper and Felix – was ‘the love of my life’ but over time they drifted apart.
Recalling the split in 2018, she said: ‘Over time, things weren’t right between us. I met someone else and I told him that I wanted out. Then he met someone else and suddenly I was devastated about losing him.’
Her divorce lawyer for the case, Roger Tooth, was so impressed with her preparation that he hired her as his assistant and she later set up her own law firm. After her first marriage, she had a romance with a younger colleague named Miles, with whom she had her daughter Helena.
She admits to be uncompromising. ‘I have to be fierce, subtle and the cleverest person in the room,’ she once said.
However, that no-nonsense approach brought controversy last year when an internal memo on the company’s dress code was leaked in which Ms Vardag banned cardigans and called for staff to be ‘discreetly sexy’ but ‘never tarty’.
Lockdown has led to far fewer couples divorcing because of affairs.
Ms Vardag’s eponymous law firm reported a 17 per cent fall in cases citing affairs during the first lockdown in the spring of last year, and an even more dramatic 63 per cent fall during the last lockdown.
But the 53-year-old said that enquiries citing ‘bad behaviour’ – ranging from heated arguments to domestic violence – had soared.
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline recorded a 65 per cent increase in calls between April and June last year, compared to the previous three months. ‘If shutting down affairs correlates with domestic abuse, alcohol abuse and cruelty, is it always a good thing?’ asked Ms Vardag.
‘For a puritan society yes, perhaps, and there are those whose religions require it.
‘But in our broadly secular society, if we contemplate allowing people a degree of freedom to make their own path, and we focus on being kind to and supportive of our partners, rather than monogamous with them, then could we have longer, happier marriages?
‘More happiness, more fun, more sex, more love? Is serial monogamy so much better than polygamy or polyandry?’
‘But lockdown has made it more difficult to start and maintain affairs.
‘If there’s no pub to go to, no conference, no hotel, and you’re working from home, there’s no opportunity to see existing lovers, let alone meet new ones.
‘Allegations of affairs still occurred in the early days of the pandemic, as existing affairs came to light.
‘Suspicious spouses, with lots of time at home and phones left lying around, found incriminating WhatsApp messages to absent lovers or spotted their partners at the bottom of the garden on long, intense phone calls that didn’t look like an analysis of the latest sales figures.’
The mother-of-four claimed she would be accepting if her husband Stephen Bence cheated on her.
‘If he had an affair, I’d certainly like to think I’d be able to turn a blind eye, breeze past it and keep our marriage together, for all of the good things we have built together,’ said Ms Vardag.
The lawyer rose to fame in 2010 when she won a landmark Supreme Court case that paved the way to making prenuptial agreements legally enforceable in England and Wales.
She keeps her client list secret, but secured a £64 million divorce deal for Pauline Chai, the wife of Khoo Kay Peng, the former boss of the Laura Ashley fashion chain, when their marriage ended after 42 years.
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