The Advocate For Cheating & Other Married Men

In my 10-year-dating life, I’ve seen a number of different kinds of relationships and dates, which have given rise to the Character Sketches. Now I come up against yet another one – The Married Man.

First and foremost, I’d like to say that I have a lot of respect for the institution of marriage, and indeed, no less for arranged marriages. My parents had an arranged marriage and they celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary this year. If you ask then, why I’m not married, well it is simply because I haven’t found anyone I can have that kind of a relationship with, yet.

It is a fact that the social environment is very different today than the one that my parents met and and started their relationship in. Neither mum nor dad really have independent friend circles, let alone know too many single people of their generation. I belong to several social circuits that include couples, some where I’m friends with the guy, some with the girl.

Friendships themselves have changed. While my parents would never even consider introducing a flirtatious note into their discussions with their social groups, my generation itself seems to be a flirty one. Sex, attraction, relationship are all a little too ‘out there’ if you ask me. Romance, privacy and intimacy have been sacrificed to free expression, enhanced comfort zones and devil-may-carishness. Okay, I’m getting preachy. I enjoy being a part of this world, it works for me. But I think in an attempt to get it all out there, we’ve meandered so far into the grey that we may have lost sight of black and white.

Now here’s the thing. Being as I am, a single woman who’s also friendly and approachable, I find my social circuit quite expansive and complex. The Married Man is only one of those many dark alleys in this complex terrain. How do I treat him? If he has been a friend before he acquired the tag, then the situation is relatively simpler. I take heed of how his wife feels about his women friends and our friendship accordingly moves along or away. That’s how much I respect marriage…enough to think that a spouse does have the right to deliberately or inadvertently alter the nature of one’s other relationships.

How about if the Married Man is someone I’ve met later? Do I treat him like I treat all the other guys? The flirtatious tone does need to be dropped, not everyone gets that it’s part of my personality and has little to do with the person I speak to. But what about when the guy is flirting with me? And before you jump to the defense of poor mankind and how they’re all just misunderstood souls and not every man is like that, let me just say I’ve been propositioned, flirted with and pursued by a sizeable number of married men too.

It’s not the fact that they’re married and flirting with me that shocks me so much. It is the cool rationale that they feed into it. There’s the occasional ‘my wife and I don’t seem to be in love really’ bugger who hasn’t figured out that I never fall for the crybaby sop types. Then there’s the blatant ‘So?’ which at least I can counter with an equally blatant ‘So I’m not interested.’ with zero fear of hurting the guy’s seemingly non-existant sensitivity. And then there is the last one, the Advocate. I call him thus not on account of his profession (he could be a doctor or a mechanic for as much as it matters). He’s the best advocate ever, for cheating and he has his facts and evidence on hand. The jury may very well be’s tempting to say the least.

This guy may be a Male Slut, he may be a charmer or he may not. The point is he has an almost breakproof logic about why it is perfectly legitimate, reasonable and valid to commit what I cannot think of as anything but adultery. There is the elaborately constructed dialogue over today’s moving social order liberally spiced with statistics about divorce rates, paternity suits and pre-nuptial agreements. There are references to Freud, Darwin and Einstein in a discussion about people’s relationships. There is the sweeping confidence that makes you alternately wonder whether you’re being old-fashioned and how he can be so cold and hot at the same time.

I’ve been flattered, appalled and insulted by offers of this type. And finally I come out of the fire of sin and temptation, I believe, unsullied. The last time I was made to endure one of these conversations, I finally said,

I don’t want to hear about whether the institution of marriage is valid anymore or not. It has sanctity for me because I say it does.

The thing that really bothers me is the fact that I seem to be carrying the onus of fulfilment of committment, of the guy to his wife. There is of course no denying that if I say no, he’ll just take his interest elsewhere. And what’s more, if I were to say yes, it would just fall on my lot to be branded that horrible name – the other woman, the one that messes with married men. And finally, it is the knowledge that it isn’t so much fear of social stigma that makes me say no, I say no because it doesn’t feel right.

It’s not my fault he got hitched too early or to the wrong person or for the wrong reasons. It’s not my problem that he has made a commitment that he doesn’t want to honor. And it’s never going to be ‘just sex’ for me. Or even if it is, ‘just sex’ doesn’t happen with someone who has made a public vow to not have sex with anyone other than the person he married.

Now let’s pull back a few steps. The above is when it reaches that critical point of deciding which way a friendship is going to go – platonic or otherwise. But how about that vast, grey area before that? Is it okay to watch a movie with a guy friend who just happens to be married? Is it okay to meet him for dinner? Coffee at midnight? Don’t these smack of dating?

The old ‘it is the intention that matters’ doesn’t hold. That’s not what real life is about. Real life is about human beings who experience attraction and relationship in fluctuating, varying tones every minute. And in a gray world, sometimes you have nothing but your own stubbornness to carry you through the tide (even if you’re all by yourself at the end of it).

I don’t have any answers and truth be told, I’m not looking for any. But I am certainly wondering if any of you has experienced what I’m talking about, from within the marriage or from the outside, like I have. And what do you have to say about it?

ssp of August 1, 2009

12 thoughts on “The Advocate For Cheating & Other Married Men

  1. yeah, you hit the nail on the head. thankfully i’ve not been propositioned by any married women (or too many women of any relationship status – poor me!!!), but i agree with you one hundred percent. i’d go a step further and say it also applies to hanging out with one half of officially dating couples too…although i’m probably cool with movies and late night coffee and stuff, i’ll draw the line the moment it feels wrong.

    the benchmark i use to determine where it “feels wrong” in the big bad grey area is simple: would i be fine if someone else did the same thing with my (currently fictitious) girlfriend? it becomes a lot simpler that way 🙂

  2. Very well written!!!
    I have faced the same in the past. If your friend was not married then, and is now married… the equations change. Its more about them and her than him. And if you meet a man already married… both of you would keep that distance… It just happens. Sometimes dinner at 9 sounds good with him and sometimes it just doesn’t.

  3. I agree with you! I have felt really uncomfortable going on individual dates with married men. If its professional, I make sure the meeting is kept that way. And I automatically feel comfy if I know the spouse. Plus if I get the slightest hint that the guy wants out of the marriage or has trouble and is looking for outside support, I am quick to stay miles away. Clearly that ‘Other Woman’ stigma is scary! Plus with women who are naturally suspicious or sensitive, I tend to stay away from their men.

  4. ❗ You know woman, there’s some kind of telepathy going on over here.
    This last month, a friend who also happens to be married to another friend, has started showing signs of emotional attachment to me. I’ve given him no reason to suddenly fall in love with me. So I spoke to this person and made my stance on this clear. But he seems to really look forward to having me in his/their lives in some capacity. I tried to desist but it was adding a lot of confusion to my already confused life.
    So right now I am just going with my gut feeling. And my conscience is such a dragon that it’ll reduce me to tiny flecks of ash were I to cross any boundaries. 😀 And of course, this friend knows that I’ll entertain no transgression on his part either. I guess if you’re really good friends, then this can be worked out.

  5. I generally agree with the bulk of the article, but one statement about the grey area seemed a bit off.

    You said:

    The old ‘it is the intention that matters’ doesn’t hold. That’s not what real life is about. Real life is about human beings who experience attraction and relationship in fluctuating, varying tones every minute.

    I think it does boil down to intention. We all experience attractions – that’s biological and it’s silly to fight that. But what you do with the attraction is intention. When we evolved into human beings, we got a few extra layers of brain that help to keep our reptilian midbrain instincts in check; and one of the major drivers of ‘civilization’ as we know it, is our ability to control our desire for instant gratification in favor of less tangible long-term benefits. The ability to stop ourselves from having sex with everyone that we are attracted to is one of those.

    We all have the ability to control ourselves. So if something happens, if “one thing leads to another”, it is because that was the intention all along. “I had no intention to do that, but it happened” is a lame rationalization. In any field other than romance and sex, people don’t get away by saying “one thing led to another.” (Imagine: “You are accused of murdering the victim; how do you plead?”, “Your honour, I did not intend to, but one thing led to another, and I killed him”, “Oh OK! In that case, you are free to go.” Doesn’t work. The guy is still guilty.)

    Now of course, if (like Harry in ‘When Harry met Sally’) you are arguing that all men always have an intention of getting sexually involved in any relationship with a woman, then that’s a different argument. But I did not think you were making that argument.

    And also, even if ‘it is the intention that matters,’ there still remains the tricky issue of judging what the intention is, in any given relationship – but that probably is a different blog post…
    .-= Navin´s last blog ..Can a rainbow last forever? =-.

  6. @krist0ph3r: The only trouble with that is it brings us face to face with our own hypocrisy – how much leeway we are willing to give ourselves versus how much it hurts us that our partner would do the same. Still, I think it’s a good reference point.

    @Vartika: So you’re saying its all situational? I guess so. I spent a couple of hours talking to a married guy friend through the night yesterday and there was nothing that felt even remotely wrong about it. But I’ve also had a coffee with a married friend at 4pm and wondered whether I’d strayed into the wrong side of the grey area.

    @Rehab: That’s the safe attitude, it avoids messes. The only thing is, don’t you think (at least in some cases), it seems unfair to discriminate against a man, as a friend, just because he’s married?

    @Aditya: 🙂

    @Rakhi: The same conclusion I reached after speaking to a married friend earlier this weekend. To exactly quote her, “I tell myself its chemical, that’s all. And some friendships should go beyond that and be able to overlook the temporary blips.”

    @Navin: So it doesn’t matter if there is attraction in an ‘inappropriate setting’ (committed person with someone other than the partner). What matters is whether the two people choose to act on it or not? Hmm, that’s a mature viewpoint. It’s just that it still feels uncomfortable to be in such a situation, even if you completely trust yourself as well as the other person to never take a step out of line. There is also the matter of the partners in question. I know a lot of people claim to be ‘fine’ with the idea of attraction happening even beyond the commitment but in truth, when faced by the situation, most people (and this does include me) find it really, really hard to deal with. There is insecurity, jealousy and resultant fights that creep in. I also know that most happy couples I know tell me that trust is the key to working through this. But then, largely we, the single people, seem to be adrift in a sea of faithlessness and instant gratification when it comes to relationships. And practicality wins over emotional messes any day so its just easier to avoid such situations by either not being friends with married people or by not getting into committed relationships that demand trust.

  7. I’m not so sure that completely avoiding such relationships is the best approach. It’s certainly the easiest, but you would probably be denying yourself some really great relationships by doing this.

    To simplify the terminology, I’m going to use ‘single woman’, ‘married guy’ and ‘wife’ as the canonical example – but most of my comment will also be applicable to other combinations, such as ‘single guy, married woman and husband’.

    Consider these three conditions. #1)The single woman is sure to not step out of line, #2) The married guy is sure to not step out of line, and #3) The wife believes #1 and #2 and is OK with the whole thing. If the single woman is sure of these three conditions being true, I don’t think the situation would be uncomfortable. To be uncomfortable, one of these three conditions has to be missing. Usually, the most tricky is #3. The married guy might be sure of #3, but it is difficult for the single woman to be sure of it, unless she is very good friends with the wife.

    If single woman is not sure of #1 or #2, then of course she definitely should avoid the relationship. If she’s is not sure of #3, but guy claims that #3 is true, then it boils down to whether she believes the guy or not, but I can certainly imagine situations where believing #3 is not too much of a stretch.

    From the point of view of the married guy, if #3 is not true, he definitely needs to back off; and then put lots of effort into figuring out, and fixing the underlying, fundamental problem in his relationship with his wife that is causing the insecurity. Avoiding coffee with single women at 4 pm is like giving cough syrup to a Tuberculosis patient – it might suppress the symptoms for a little while, but it will not cure the disease. Serious medicine is needed to avoid a bed-ridden relationship.

    My main point is this: if you can navigate the treacherous currents around conditions #1, #2 and #3, there are some great, life-long, and possibly life-changing relationships awaiting you on the other side. That’s worth fighting for, don’t you think?
    .-= Navin´s last blog ..Can a rainbow last forever? =-.

  8. @Navin: You are right (of course!). I guess the last statement says it all. If the relationship (marriage or friendship) is important enough to you, you can make it work. Then it just comes down to whether one is in it with the willingness to put in all the effort that it takes or whether it’s just another way to pass the time…in which case the answer will be ‘no’ and so the relationship becomes disposable.

    @rambler:I’ve enjoyed the comments on this one too, particularly Navin’s perspective. That’s why I cross-posted it on Facebook Notes as well to bring in some more discussion on the topic. However, I think the readers of my other blog may not quite enjoy this discussion. I prefer to keep the two blogs separate in their identities and content so I don’t share posts across (even if cross-link).

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