How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘platonic relationships’

Single Men, Married Men, and Sorta Married Men

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.

The Eunuch Lover

There are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.
—Matthew 19:12

In the old days in the decadent East, men with kingdoms and sheikdoms had the privilege of keeping harems. The potentate might have as many as up to a thousand wives, and to relieve himself of the burden and responsibility of supervising them all, he would employ eunuchs. The eunuchs involved were castrated when they were young and grew up in a kind of limbo between the male world and the female one. Being sexless, they were allowed to enter the harem and to have direct contact with the wives.

Eunuch baptised, Snailwell

Eunuch baptised, Snailwell (Photo credit: TheRevSteve)

In some modern circumstances, some women elect to have what amounts to eunuch lovers: these men are not sexual partners, but they are more than just platonic friends in that their level of involvement is intense. What kind of men are eunuch lovers? Obviously, only in the most exceptional cases are they actually eunuchs although such might be the case
in our culture if you consider the aberrant situation of transsexuals who are midway in the process of their transformation. Eunuch lovers are often men who are homosexual and who can love a woman in the affectionate and emotional sense without feeling any physical passion for her. The woman gets whatever lovemaking she wants elsewhere. And so does he. And they continue a relationship on other levels. Women who are married to homosexual men are often by choice or by chance in the position of having intimate, affectionate, but asexual relationships.

Not all eunuch lovers, however, are homosexual. Some simply have a very low sex drive, so low that they might be more appropriately termed “asexual.” As one man described it to me, “If you think of a pilot light on a gas stove, my drive is like the pilot light, and everyone else seems to be like a big burner on high!”

In other instances, the eunuch lover is an ordinary man with presumably ordinary drives and desires, but he chooses not to express them with this particular woman. The woman in the affair may also be a practicing heterosexual but likewise chooses not to be physically involved with this particular man. These relationships are often marriages of convenience in which the couple derives benefits from one another apart from physical intimacy. For instance, the powerful politician who marries a vibrant, beautiful young wife may benefit from the attention she garners him on the campaign trail and at fund-raisers while she benefits from the social status and privileges bestowed on her as his wife. So they make an agreement. “We will love each other, we do love each other, we will act as lovers, but we will not physically be lovers.” While they are not lovers in the conventional sense of the word, they are perceived by most to be in a love relationship.

An Alternative: The Platonic Affair

Leisured society is full of people who spend a great part of their lives in flirtation and conceal nothing but the humiliating secret that they have never gone any further.
—George Bernard Shaw, Overruled

A couple may be obviously fond of each other. They may seek each other out and laugh at each other’s jokes and hold hands whenever they can. He may call her by a silly pet name, and she may respond “oh, you” in a suggestive and intimate voice. They may have many opportunities to have private time together and, presumably, every opportunity to have sex. And yet—they don’t.

Plato. Luni marble, copy of the portrait made ...

Plato (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Month after month, sometimes year after year, what appears to be a courtship, and a successful one at that, drags on and on and is neither consummated nor terminated. Such a wife has a lover in the affectionate and emotional and social sense of the word, but she remains inviolate. She has, in effect, a eunuch lover.

What they share is platonic love. As defined by author T. S. Winslow, platonic love is merely “love from the neck up.”

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