LOCKDOWN is no barrier to love cheats, it seems – quite the opposite.
Government advisor Professor Neil Ferguson, 51, was dubbed the Bonking Boffin after flouting lockdown rules he helped to create by inviting married Antonia Staats, said to be in an open relationship – for a tryst at his home in May.
MP Rosie Duffield, 48, quit as a Labour whip after being caught having her married lover, TV director James Routh, visit her Kent home.
There has been a 15 per cent spike in action at married people’s dating site Illicit Encounters during the pandemic – while one in 12 of those breaking Covid rules are doing so to meet a partner for sex, a study found.
People are cheating online, too. I’m A Celebrity winner Jacqueline Jossa, 27, reportedly walked out on husband Dan Osborne, 28, after catching him sending flirty messages.
Here, Jenny Francis meets two women who admit being unfaithful during lockdown – but for different reasons.
Marketing executive Connie Smithson, 28, cheated on boyfriend of two years, student Jack Murray*, 28, with a male housemate she was isolating with in Truro, Cornwall.
She says: “I’ve always looked down on people who cheat. When I’m in a relationship I’m usually very dedicated to it, and have always had a healthy sex life with boyfriends so haven’t ever had a wandering eye.
“I met Jack in November, 2018 at a friend’s party in Edinburgh where we were both at university. It was just two months before I finished my degree.
“We really hit it off and in March 2019 we moved in together. Things were amazing, we got on really well and had a great sex life.
“In July last year I got offered a great marketing job, but it was in Cornwall.
“Jack still had another 18 months of studying so we agreed to live apart and visit each other every two weeks, then Jack would move in with me when he graduated.
“I moved into a house-share with Jen, who is 31 and a marketing manager, and Tom, who is 33 and an engineer.
“I got on with them both but was at work full-time and spent every other weekend with Jack.
“When lockdown hit, Jack moved in with his mum and dad outside Edinburgh and I stayed in Cornwall. We never imagined it would go on as long as this.
“We started video-calling every night but it was hard to find stuff to talk about after a while. I was working from home and he was writing his essays.
‘WE TRIED SEXTING’
“We tried sexting but he often found it awkward. In week two, Jen moved out to live with her boyfriend, leaving just Tom and me.
“I’d never got to know Tom well but suddenly we were spending all day together, even shopping and cooking meals together.
“Soon Tom was opening up to me about past relationships over a bottle of wine and we were watching films until the early hours of the morning.
Then, on May 10, things got messy.
“Jack had accused me of not paying him enough attention and not taking enough interest in his essays and it really annoyed me. Tom consoled me and cooked me dinner, and we opened a bottle of wine, which led to three.
“I can’t quite remember who kissed who first but it happened and that night we slept together.
“I woke up the next morning hit by guilt. We agreed it had been a drunken mistake and vowed to not tell anyone.
“But living 24 hours a day in the same house, it was impossible not to think about it.
“A few nights later, Tom admitted he was attracted to me and I felt the same. We kissed and had sex again.
“I felt bad but Jack was getting more distant and even blamed me for a low essay grade.It was then that I told him what had happened with Tom. He couldn’t believe I’d cheated on him and instantly told me it was over between us.
“I was upset and didn’t know what to feel, because I felt guilty but also relieved things were over.
“Tom and I are not an item, though we are still having sex. I don’t condone cheating but lockdown has moved goalposts for a lot of people. Who knows what the future will bring?”
Jack says: “I never trusted Tom. I can’t believe that Connie cheated. I was stunned and disgusted. Now I am free to find someone who will appreciate me for me.”
HAIRDRESSER Maya Stephens, 33, cheated on partner Phil Granger*, 36, a mechanic, on dating app Tinder after the reality of living together during lockdown proved uninspiring.
Maya, of Hulme, Greater Manchester, says: “I met Phil* back in March 2017. I’m quite a shy person but he was so outgoing and we were the perfect match. We moved in together in November 2018.
“I work at the salon all day and am always chatting to people – it’s a very sociable job.
“Phil would be at work by 7am every day and I’d often work late doing home visits to clients.
“We talked about marriage and buying a house together later this year.
But when lockdown hit, things changed.
“We were at home 24 hours a day. At first I thought it would be great. I’d hoped Phil would propose during lockdown and imagined how romantic it would be being just us two together all the time.
“But the reality was different. We had no routine. We were so used to being on our feet all day, we grew fed up stuck inside.
“I’d moan that he didn’t do his share around the house and he got lazy just watching TV.
“The more we argued, the more I felt he’d gone off me. I’d thought we’d be having more sex, but it was less than normal.
“I craved attention. I’d always harmlessly flirted with guys in the salon, all the time, and missed the boost I got from that.
‘I FELT LONELY’
“I felt lonely so one night, three and a half weeks after we had begun lockdown, I decided to join Tinder just to see if I got any matches.
“I immediately matched up with lots of guys and loved the excitement. I didn’t consider it cheating and didn’t message anyone at first. But when I had five messages waiting, I just couldn’t resist.
“One guy said he liked my smile and another said I was beautiful. I looked at their profiles and was surprised how attractive they were.
“A few days later, Phil refused to get out of bed and come shopping with me so I just went by myself and, while I was standing in the queue, I messaged back one of the matches.
“It started with questions about lockdown, but turned flirty with little compliments.
“It felt good to have some attention. His name was James* and he was 39.
“I started sneaking out daily to message him. After a few weeks, he started telling me how sexy he thought I was and it got flirtatious. He sent me a picture of himself in a towel so I sent one of myself in a bra.
“From there, it escalated. We sent sexy pictures and talked about what we liked in bed.
“It was such a turn-on, I didn’t care about Phil ignoring me. On May 21, Phil grabbed my phone and demanded to know what I was doing.
“He scrolled down and read my messages, then said I was never like that with him and he couldn’t believe I’d cheat on him.
“That’s when I realised that’s exactly what I’d been doing. I burst into tears.
Phil told me it was over. I knew it was for the best and Phil moved out the next day.
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“I’m still messaging James for now, but who knows if we will ever meet. I never thought I’d be a virtual cheat but lockdown changed everything in my relationship.
Phil says: “I was shocked Maya had been flirting and going behind my back online. She’s trying to make excuses for her virtual cheating.
“She’s the last person I’d expect to do that. The thought of her flirting and sending pictures is awful. I know lockdown was hard but I don’t deserve this. She’ll realise I was the best thing she ever had.”
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