Tag Archives: married men

File No. 2: Dating a Married Man

16 Nov

So you’ve fallen for a married man. Okay, maybe you haven’t, but you have a girlfriend who has. What’s that all about? People may not always be willing to admit it, but being in love with or even just having a relationship with a married man is complicated. You can’t just turn feelings off. You know that by now. That’s why it took you so long to get over the last jerk who broke your heart. If we could simply switch off our emotions and shut down, we’d be PCs, not people. Falling for and being in a relationship with a married man isn’t easy, but it could be a signal that you, or your BFF, needs to do some soul-searching.

What makes me the married man expert? Well, nothing; I’m by no means an expert, but I do have personal experience. The baggage, the stares of shock when I confessed to people that I was in fact in a happy relationship with someone who was committed to someone else. I also have the pain that resulted from my experience as TOW, the other woman.

Being a TOW carried with it a laundry list of stigmas and connotations. Typically, TOW’s are young and thin, vivacious, carefree and most often students or just beginning the corporate ladder ascent, et cetera et cetera. True, when I was a TOW I was a young, vivacious and carefree student. I was never thin. (Oh no, I hold it down for the curvaceous women with the hourglass shapes all over the world, baby.) Still, I became a TOW. Initiated into the club after becoming smitten with a fella who started off being just a friend. Thanks to movies and magazines my biggest relationship fear was calling up my married man and having his wife pick up the phone. By nature, I shy away from confrontation. In my worst nightmares, this woman would answer the phone and berate me with all manner of insult and abuse. Luckily, that was never the case.

It still took me a while to come to grips with being a TOW. As I mentioned, I was a student, doing my BA, actually and just exploring feminism and gender roles and such and wondering how I could look my fellow sisters in the eye and uphold notions of equality and sisterhood and solidarity when I was involved with someone who had promised to love honor, cherish and obey … someone else. I’m not sure I ever fully came to grips with it, to be honest. It took a lot of reassuring from him, though, that he was comfortable with us and that what we had was what he wanted. At that time in my life, that was enough of a reason to continue helping someone shit all over the marriage vows.

The one thing all my girlfriends (who knew about the situation) asked me was, “Is he going to leave her for you?” That’s the one question that everyone asks, and it’s the one thing that everyone says. With their index fingers pointing at you in accusation they all but spit it in your face, implying that you should end the relationship because he won’t be divorcing her and giving you a ring. It’s true, some men do end up leaving their wife to begin something official with their mistress. It doesn’t happen all the time, though, and it certainly didn’t happen in my situation. Which is good; I was never expecting that, neither did I want it. Women don’t date married men just because they think it’ll be an easy way for them to get married. From the beginning, he made it very clear that he wouldn’t leave his wife. Not that he didn’t love me but in his mind it would be abandonment of her and his kid. In my mind, the last thing I wanted was for him to leave his wife. If the two of them weren’t happy and as a result we were in a relationship, that’s fine. I could handle that. If he broke her heart and left her to be with me, I wouldn’t have been able to cope.

So, why was I okay sharing a man? Well, I wasn’t really; not toward the end. In the beginning, it worked out for us mainly because I didn’t really believe in monogamy. I couldn’t understand what would motivate two people to spend their entire lives together or to devote solely to each other. Running from these confusions and wanting to explore other alternatives, I began having open relationships. (Yes, during my relationship with the married guy, I was still seeing other guys.) Towards the end, it all became too much. I had begun to get jealous of the time he spent with his wife. They had gone on some type of romantic retreat and had basically fallen in love with each other. This jealousy and resentment helped fuel my need to get away for a bit. I left the country for half a year and fell in love with Michael. While abroad, I began to feel differently about relationships. Suddenly, an open relationship didn’t appeal to me and I just wanted it to be me and Michael. Of course, that was my prerogative. When I mentioned this to the married man, he didn’t take it too well. In fact, we stopped speaking for a while and he accused me of cheating on him and being insensitive. My relationship with Michael progressed and eventually, things tapered to an end with the married man.

We, the married guy and I, maintain a friendship that sometimes borders on being a flirtship. Things have really¬† been watered down over the last three years; he now respects my happy relationship and I respect that he’s rekindled love for his wife. Of course, we still flirt, but there are boundaries. We’ll never again have what he had and we’ll never have the opportunity to have an authentic relationship. If the chance arose; I wouldn’t take it.

For me, so many factors went into why I knowingly maintained a relationship with a married man. I know it was just a passing phase because of these things. While it was fun, easy living, I knew it was time to reevaluate when I began to get possessive and wanted it to be just the two of us. I knew he couldn’t commit to me alone from the beginning when he told me he’d never leave his wife. Since he wouldn’t go, and since I was fed up with sharing, I became the one to go. I’ll never do it again, not because of the potential for ruining a home, not for the stigma associated with being a TOW, but because, for me, it was a sign that I thought I was worthless. Now I know what I deserve and I have the confidence to demand it in my relationships and not to settle. Furthermore, I don’t want to think that I’m helping someone be dishonest to someone they promised to love and do right by.

For me, my morals mean more to me than arbitrary views of love and commitment. It doesn’t really matter what definition other people give commitment. For me, I will no longer be a part of someone being dishonest in a relationship or a marriage. I hope that if a guy I was married to was ever looking to have an affair the woman would be open and honest and send him home. I hope that she would understand that a commitment is a commitment and until it is officially broken, it should be honored.

I can’t go back and undo my relationship with my married guy. If I could tell the 18 year old me anything, it would be those words: a commitment is a commitment.