Reinventing After Divorce: How NOT to Date a Married Man
If you are reinventing after divorce and considering the prospect of “getting back out there,” dipping your toes in the exciting and terrifying world of DATING, you might discover you don’t know the first thing about how to begin.
What you do know is that we are no longer kids. And we no longer live in a world where most of the “Others” are free or fair game. Dating apps like Tinder, Match, OkCupid, or Bumble look daunting and even, scary. As you consider your desire for companionship, tenderness, or even just sex, it’s highly probable that you will encounter married men who claim to have similar unfulfilled needs in their marriage. These married guys can be open to flirting, meeting, dating, sleeping with you, and even, carrying on a relationship.
I am speaking from experience, from my own life and from careful observation of others
Some experiences were a long time ago. Others are more recent. For example, about a month ago, a married man invited me to participate in cheating. He suggested that we become “friends while his wife was living abroad.” Despite the illicit, intriguing, and exciting proposition, I firmly declined, exercising the concise nature I’ve developed as a newly divorced woman: it was a “No.” However, the experience also made me realize the novelty and appeal of being flirted with. I’ve already stepped beyond so many taboos, moving from a married to divorced woman, that I found his offer nearly impossible to resist.
And so, I thought of you my dear Sisters at SAS for Women, women, who like me are navigating their divorce recovery and also feeling lonely. I am here to validate our vulnerability, but to also remind us that playing with this kind of guy is destructive long-term. We are susceptible, maybe even fragile.
Getting entangled with someone who is not free runs the risk of inducing additional trauma of rejection and disappointment in our life. These are things we’ve probably not healed from as we’re still coming to terms with the story of our own marriages.
So, be forewarned.
We’ve been through a lot as divorced women, and we can’t afford to be naïve or make irresponsible short-term decisions no matter how desperate, lonely, flattered, or love-stricken we are. We cannot afford another big emotional trauma. And our children don’t need it either.
Reinventing after divorce: Let’s face the truth
Truth #1. It does matter that he is married
I sometimes hear from women that after they go through their divorces they don’t want to remarry again. They don’t want a commitment. And with that, some say, it does not matter whether the man they are dating is married or not.
There are two issues here. First, it matters whether the man is married because a married man is spoken for. He’s taken. He will spend his nights, holidays, Thanksgiving, and summer vacations with his wife and children, not with his girlfriend. And for the girlfriend (you?) this can bring more loneliness, feelings of rejection, and disappointment. You are not number one in his life. You are at best second. And this fact alone can reactivate the trauma experience of divorce.
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The second issue here is that if the man is married, there must be a wife, another woman who is hurt by his infidelity. No matter how much the man complains about his wife or says that their marriage is an open one, we don’t know for sure. During our own divorces, we may have learnt that men can present their wives in an unfairly negative light. It is much better therefore to show sisterly solidarity and give the wife the benefit of the doubt. How would you feel if you were she?
Truth #2. We are worthy and valuable
When women say they don’t care whether the man is married or not, oftentimes they do care but think they aren’t worthy of a good man just for themselves. They think that they have to make do with whoever wants them.
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One woman divorced at age 50 told me that she was prepared to sleep with anyone who would want her because she had such a low opinion of herself. As many of us know, low self-esteem and loneliness can be real issues in a marriage and afterward. A boyfriend can help with validation, especially if the boyfriend is accomplished.
We might feel that FINALLY someone is giving us the attention we deserve. And if we’re not his exclusive partner, that’s a small price to pay.
We might think so little of ourselves that we can’t imagine anyone would want to use us or take advantage of us. But in a relationship where the woman is single and the man is married that is exactly what happens. We are being used for our bodies, our compassion, our time (there is no future in this paradigm), and money.
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In this precious place of reinventing after divorce, we need to make sure that all our relationships (new and old) are based on mutual benefits.
Truth #3. We lie to ourselves
Women who embark on relationships with married men often succumb to the lies and illusions these men create. Why? Because we so want to believe them. It’s probably connected to our tenacious commitment to love and happy endings. We kid ourselves into believing this love, this time, is like nothing we ever felt before. We tell ourselves this man is different or he will change because he’s chosen us.
Truth #4. Men’s Gains
On the Internet, a lot can be found on why men have affairs. Generally, it boils down to this: married men are seeking to have their unmet needs met. They are not looking for a wife substitute.
Indeed, there are some who’d argue that a mistress can actually improve a marriage. For example, if a husband is hyperactive, hypersexual, or has troubling anxiety issues, it is actually easier on the wife to have some of his energy spent elsewhere. As well, since a cheating husband is probably feeling guilty, the wife can manipulate him into spending valuable resources on her as a quid pro quo.
Then when vacation time rolls around, and the husband rejects the mistress and chooses to be with his wife and kids, the husband rids himself of the guilt of having an affair and feels like a great guy and husband for making his “family first.”
But do we want to service some other family’s ecosystem with our energy?
Is that fair to us?
Are there exceptions? Can it EVER end well?
Yes, there are men who leave their wives for other women. And many of us in the SAS community are examples of those who are/were left behind — abandoned wives. However, therapists agree that the number of men who actually leave their wives is few. It’s a rare man who creates a strategy to leave his wife and family. The majority of the time, men are looking for an addition, not a substitute for their wife and family.
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How not to date a married man
If I have sold the idea of not dating a married man, now is the time to ask “how”.
The first thing is to accept that it’s our responsibility to start a relationship or not. A relationship isn’t something that happens to us accidentally, but something we have taken actions towards.
Reinventing after divorce means stopping actions that could lead to an affair
Upon reading an article, I learned that acknowledging the potential for cheating within ourselves allows us to take preventative measures against it. It came as a surprise to me that we can possess such a level of self-awareness.
Initially, I was resistant to accepting my own responsibility in such situations because I did not want to impose any limitations on my freedom. However, I eventually came to the realization that the advice offered in the article is sound.
We need to avoid risky situations at an early stage. Not stay the night in the hotel after an office team building, not go into the hotel room of a male colleague, not go into the elevator with the man you like when tipsy.
Flirting vs friendliness
If we are honest with ourselves, we can agree that these things do lead to infidelity and we’d be better off not to do them. They are exciting exactly because they are so edgy. Catch yourself flirting and stop.
In our culture we sometimes misuse the concept of being “friends”. It can mean a lot of things including having casual sex. If we are honest, we can distinguish between being friends and flirting. And flirting with a married man should stop. And by the way, texting and commenting on his social media pages can also be flirting.
Ask direct questions
When meeting a man on a dating app or in person, make sure you ask questions. “Are you married?” Answers like “I am in the marriage for the kids” or “I am polyamorous” or “We have an open relationship” or “My wife hates sex” or “I am married but my wife lives in a different place and a fling won’t hurt anyone” all answer your question. He is married. Whatever the atmosphere or dynamic is with his wife and/or family, it is still a commitment and an ecosystem that means your relationship is not exclusive.
If you are already in a relationship with a married man, ask all the more questions: do you ever plan to leave your wife for me? What happens if I get pregnant? The answers will make the plans pretty obvious
In a relationship where one partner isn’t using the other, both partners invest equal amount of time, commitment and energy. To see how mutually beneficial your relationship is, calculate how much he listens to you, asks about you, or goes out of his way to help you. Is he available by phone when you have an emergency? Or is it just you listening to him drone on about his problems at work and with his wife?
As we reinvent after divorce, ask yourself what you want and trust the answer
Seeking to healthily rebuild our precious lives, we can still feel the trauma of our past and at times, not feel strong. There may always be a natural desire to seek companionship and someone to lean on. But we must remember that we have already survived a crisis, a divorce. And that crisis taught us, we will not die from loneliness. We need to believe that we deserve a kind person whom we can trust. If that person is unavailable, don’t settle. We can survive without him.
Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international communications expert, a writer about women and a coach. Reach out on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions as the vast topics can’t be all covered in one article.
SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives after divorce—on their own terms. If you are a discerning, newly divorced and independent woman, you are invited to experience SAS firsthand and schedule your FREE, 15-minute, private consultation.
We’ll help you understand what your next, black and white steps are for walking into your BRAVE unknown.
*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”