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Does he have to be the boss at home?

AT First glance, Ultimo lingerie millionairess Michelle Mone didn't just Have It All ... she seemed to have even more. An idyllic home life with a devoted husband of 19 years and three children, an OBE, a net worth of more than €40m, and more business awards than you could shake a balcony bra at.

Two years ago came the icing on the cake, when blonde Michelle, now 40, shed six stone and posed in her own lingerie for a high-profile ad campaign, holding her own against fellow Ultimo models Jordan and Claudine Keane.

Yet away from the cameras it was a different story.

At the time, Michelle revealed that the shoot "was the first time I'd ever gone against my husband".


And as we now know, Michelle's fairytale ending was not to be.

Recently, it was revealed that her estranged husband Michael (they announced their split just after Christmas) has allegedly started having an affair with Ultimo designer Samantha Bunn, whom Michelle had considered a friend.

Currently, Michelle and Michael are reportedly living in separate sections of their mansion in Glasgow as they prepare to duke it out for the lingerie empire they founded together.

So far, so normal ... however last month Michelle gave an interview that showed a very different side to the powerhouse that founded her company at the age of 25. Reflecting on her marriage, she told the Sunday Times: "I wish I was that woman who relied on her husband to do things for her. To buy her things, to cling on to [him] in the way a wife does. I don't think a lot of men like independent women. I just became too strong...

"Why did I want to start all these businesses? Why can I never be satisfied with what I've got? Why can't I just chill, become a wife? Be at home?... And then maybe I wouldn't have gone through all this heartache. I think the business has taken over my life."

Lisa O'Hara, author of The End Of A Relationship: Surviving The Emotional Rollercoaster of Separation (Orpen Press) admits that Michelle's reflections are typical of many freshly separated women. She explains: "An important phase after separation is questioning why the marriage breakdown happened. What Michelle is doing is wondering what she might have done to contribute."

Needless to say, stay-at-home mums are not impervious to the slings and arrows of a marriage breakdown either, but Michelle has voiced one of the bigger conundrums of our times.

Would 'chilling at home' have saved her from heartache? Are men as wary of independent women as she suggests? Can career women find happiness, or are work and a happy home life mutually exclusive? Given that the pay gap between men and women has shrunk to a record low, we are witnessing a sea change. But can our attitudes keep up with this heartening turn of events?

"Men are as a rule attracted to women who are confident in who they are," offers Lisa.


"If you do what you are truly happy doing, whether it's working or staying at home, that's a very attractive quality."

Discord arises, however, when one faction in the partnership -- man or woman -- is made to feel surplus to requirements. Alas, some men can feel this more acutely than others.

"If you do everything without his input, you emasculate your partner and make him question his role in the relationship," notes Lisa.

"If you, as a woman, focus on your business, he might not get the appreciation and acknowledgment he wants. If a man is appreciated and adored in his partnership, he will be quite happy. However, a man is instinctively hardwired to provide.

"Men like taking action and being called to do things. It gives them a chance to feel good. Many men take their career very seriously after children come along as his effort or contribution to the household determines how confident he can feel in the relationship. If he has an issue with this, it will affect intimacy and his ability to communicate with his partner."

While it would be remiss to suggest that women merely leave their go-getter personality at the threshold before they return home, it's perhaps better to adopt a more egalitarian approach when it comes to family life. While being a firebrand at work is the quickest path to success, a little give and take goes a long way in a relationship.