How to Pick a Lover

No man worth having is true to his wife, or can be true to his wife, or ever was, or ever will be so.
—Sir John Vanbrugh, The Relapse
The world is always more complex than it first seems. At first glance, it would be natural to consider single men, and perhaps married men as well, as potential lovers. Among single men, we could include those who have never married as well as the divorced and the widowed.

Cover of "Married Men"

Cover of Married Men

Alas, it is not that simple. A man who is separated is still technically married in that he cannot yet remarry. However, he usually thinks and acts single and is socially considered that way.

A man who is living with someone is outwardly viewed as a married man by society even if he is not legally married. The U.S. census calls him a POSLQ, which is ungainly bureaucratese for “persons of the opposite sex sharing living quarters.” He is, perhaps, not quite a common-law husband, which is a matter-of-legal definition, but he is certainly more than a boyfriend.

To make matters even more complex, there are also degrees of being married. Some men seem to be “barely married” in that they come and go as they please and, in general, act as if they were single in spite of a wife and children who technically live in the same place with them. On the other hand, some men are “dreadfully married” in that their wife is a constant presence to be taken into account whether she happens to be physically present or not.

If you’re a single woman who selects a single man as a lover, you’ll find that he presents  no real problems. In this permissive day and age, lovers can be quite open about their affair, and few people are likely to object openly. The end point of the affair is also open: it could easily lead to marriage, or it could easily not. The situation is balanced and relatively uncomplicated.

If you’re a married woman with a single man as a lover, you’ll find that he presents a number of advantages. If you’re constrained by when your husband gets home or by when you can get a babysitter (and many other domestic details), your lover can arrange his time to suit your erratic schedule. The disadvantage is that in a very short time, he will resent having to do so. Men are used to being the ones who make arrangements and call the shots even in such trivial ways as deciding the time for a date. The married woman with an unmarried paramour reverses the roles and must do so with considerable tact. Conveniently, the unmarried man has to live some place; and often, his own home will provide a safe and opportune location for the affair.

The unmarried lover of a married woman is in a relatively powerful position in that his relationship is not balanced by a relationship with a wife. Almost always, that means he will exercise his right to have other women, just as you, as a married woman, have another man. The jealousy you may experience is made twice as hard because you have no legitimate grounds for complaint and because you are never exactly sure whom you should be jealous of or why. On the other hand, with a married man, his wife provides a clear-cut target for any jealousy you might feel.

The most common kinds of affairs, however, involve two other possible combinations: a single woman with a married man and a married woman with a married man. The subject of upcoming posts.

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Comments on: "Single Men, Married Men, and Sorta Married Men" (4)

  1. (anatomyofaffairs.wordpress.com) said:

    Awaiting your post on two married people. I think you will discover a majority of affairs in this group. I believe two married lovers make for a great relationship, except when one of them begins to want more.

    • I totally agree. The balance of power between two married lovers is likely to be much more even than in other combinations of lovers. However, the balance of power can readily change between two married lovers if the primary relationship of one of the lovers changes significantly, causing them to want more from extramarital relationship. Not sure I’ve expressed my thoughts very clearly, so I hope my comment makes sense.

  2. NormalDeviations said:

    This makes me wonder something. Affairs generally fizzle out, no? Those that don’t – that either continue as ongoing side relationships, or change to full relationships… is there any correlation to the status of each gender?

    In other words, are they more likely to crap out quickly if it’s a married woman-single man vs. married man-single woman?

    • You always ask the most poignant and insightful questions. I do think that most affairs have a limited shelf life. But like everything, there are exceptions. I know a couple, who appear to be happily married, in which the wife has now had a relationship with another married man for more than 20 years. Her paramour lives in another city that is more than five hundred miles from her home, so they see each other only about 5-6 times a year, which may be why it works.

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