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Love Lab

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The Metropolitan police have just paid out £425,000 to an ex-animal rights activist who unknowingly gave birth to the child of an undercover police officer back in 1985. The officer, Bob Lambert, abandoned them both when the child was a toddler, claiming he had to go abroad to flee the police. The next the woman heard of him was in June 2012, when by pure chance she spotted a newspaper article about his undercover work with radical campaigning groups.

Lambert not only duped the woman into fathering his child as part of his spying mission, he also split his time between this “fake” family and a “real” family consisting of a wife and two children – who were entirely unaware of his relationship and child with the activist.

It seems unfathomable to think that someone in that situation would be entirely unaware that her partner was from the “other side” all along, especially if he was also leading a double life with another family. Asked if she ever suspected anything, however, the woman simply said “I was in love”. This is an extreme case, but it raises many questions about just how easily love can stop us from seeing the full picture. You don’t often hear about folk embroiled in honey traps, but tales of cheating partners are hardly uncommon. And so, it turns out, are rather more disturbing anecdotes…

The case really got me thinking about just how easy it really is to get sucked in by a partner who isn’t at all what they seem and hides a dark secret. After all, you only have to flip on Jeremy Kyle to know there are literally thousands of these stories out there. “My boyfriend slept with my mother!” the headlines scream. “My dad gave my little sister heroin!” It’s a dangerous old world and even people we’ve known for years can shock us to our cores with demented revelations about them…

I asked around a bit and was amazed at some of the sensational anecdotes I heard from women who’d had lovers who weren’t quite what they seemed (quite a few names have been changed!)… We’ve all sighed a millionth time as our mate tells us how she can’t leave her philandering no-good bloke – but hearing other, far more alarming things firsthand is quite an experience, believe me.

There was a lot of madness out there which other unsuspecting women had managed to get caught up in. One of my own family members told me she had actually discovered a few months into a relationship that her partner wasn’t a businessman but an MI6 agent. I thought that only happened in films, but no! One woman who got in touch had found a stash of drugs in her ex-partner’s drawer – enough that she was pretty sure her ex had got a really big dealing business going on. Another woman found out from a friend of a friend that her boyfriend had spent time in prison for sleeping with an underage girl.

While less alarming than killings, rapes, drugs deals and the like, even the “simple” cheating stories are pretty harrowing reading. And of course, cheating isn’t always that simple. Charlene, 26, was horrified to find that her partner had been going behind her back for six months – with her sister, while Charlene was pregnant with hers and her partner’s first child. “Friends joked that I should keep an eye on the two of them,” she recalls sadly. “But I was besotted and their words just fell on deaf ears. In fact, I actually got angry and cut some of them off because I just didn’t want to hear what they were suggesting – even said in ‘jest’. The joke, however, turned out to be on me.”

So. Wow. How on earth do we manage to allow the wool to get pulled so tight?? Well, first of all, a lot of “bad boys” – and girls – are pretty intoxicating. In the same way we know excessive booze, an illegal drug or even too many Maltesers might mess up our life – or at least our figure – up but still do it anyway, we can get addicted to a love affair that is doomed to damage us. Secondly, a lot of people are excellent liars. We can kick ourselves all we like when we realise what a “fool” we were, but the fact is that these cads are often old hands at the big pulling-wool game. And chemistry is chemistry – it isn’t always rational or sensible.

So what’s to be done? Lock up the chastity belts and avoid all romantic/sexual company just in case? Probably not. A lot of life is about risk – that’s why we enjoy the good stuff so much, because it might quite easily not have happened. Love is certainly no exception to this. It’s unpredictable, exciting and often a bit terrifying. Realising you’ve shared intimate experiences with people capable of unpleasant things is intensely disturbing. But over time you can learn not to beat myself up about it. You didn’t know. You just didn’t know.

That said, ninety-nine percent of the lovers you have in your life probably won’t be hiding anything enormous. Most won’t cheat on you. That’s a key thing to remember. And if you’re one of the unfortunate ones who does end up with a bad ‘un, it isn’t necessarily your fault. Not detecting badness in someone else doesn’t make you bad too – in fact it usually it means that you are just trusting and willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t help if everyone around you has given them the benefit of the doubt too. What are you meant to think? Even if one or two people raise suspicions, it’s easy to get swept away in the flow of romance – and/or say to yourself, “I’ve known him for years, there’s no way he could be hiding anything!”

So yes, best of luck out there… Remember, the chances are the worst you’ll need to contend with is a closet Star Trek fan or a man who doesn’t change his pants every day.


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