How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘unconventional 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 Lover in the Mob

You can have respect without love, but you cannot have love without respect.
—Jayson VanVerten

Sooner or later, you are likely to encounter an interesting man who does not seem to fit the usual classifications of jobs and professions. He does not seem to actually work anywhere, yet he is well dressed and obviously has lots of money. He talks a lot about business, but what business and where it is located is very vague. Generally, all he will explain is that he has some business to take care of—business that keeps happening outside of business hours and ordinary offices. Exotic trips happen or carefully planned trips are called off or postponed for no apparent reason. General questions are met with a blank look; detailed questions are met with a blank wall. It should not take long for someone to figure out that what is involved here is what Grandma would have referred to as something shady.

The man who is reputed to have underworld connections or who simply has an unsavory reputation or who lives well with no visible means of support is not considered by the conventional world to be respectable and so is not socially acceptable. Even if he does not look like the stereotype of a gangster, if there seems to be a strong possibility that he actually is a gangster, then your role as his woman, or even as merely his close friend, places you in the role of gun moll.

Gun Moll Magazine

Gun Moll Magazine (Photo credit: Terry McCombs)

Some of your acquaintances may find that exotic position to be interesting or titillating, but others will assume that by associating with known criminals, you must yourself have criminal sympathies if not actual criminal inclinations. Most likely, you will find that with a lover from the mob, your social connections are restricted to others who live in the same milieu. He can take you into the demimonde much more readily than you can take him into the company of law-abiding wage earners. Once you are known to have such notorious companions, you may yourself be less welcome if you later wish to return to your more conventional friends.

The underworld is vast and nebulous and operates by quite different rules than the ordinary world. If you are going to accept the many benefits of life on the fringes of respectability, which include for a start the avoidance of routine and access to a ready supply of money, then you must come to terms with the fact that it probably is better that you do not know exactly where the money comes from or what it is for.

A woman I know who was associated with a professional gambler was quite enthusiastic when he was on a winning streak—and quite derogatory when he started to lose. If you accept what men like this have to offer you, you do not necessarily have to take part, but you have to accept the morality of what they are doing. And you do have to accept the drawbacks as well as the advantages.

You must remember that the man of respect demands just that: respect. If you believe in capital punishment for evil persons who sell soft or hard drugs to teenagers because you think that it is a sin, then you had best back off unambiguously and quickly.

It is also important to remember that men in the underworld, even those on the fringes of the underworld, are used to breaking rules and to getting what they want. Often, they will be more territorial with “their” women than will men who are upstanding citizens, and they are often more ready to turn to violence as an expression of their feelings or as a way of enforcing their demands. There is also the potential danger of “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” with him.

The lover in the mob may be exciting, but he can also be dangerous.

Muddled Motivations in Contemporary Relationships

"The boys next door" MAHS 2010 one-a...

"The boy next door" (Photo credit: Nic's events)

A woman is more influenced by what she suspects than by what she is told.
-Robert C. Edwards

In talking about exotic lovers, it’s important from the outset to insert a word of warning. Exotic relationships are by definition “unconventional.” They involve relationships which outsiders regard as unsuitable because they violate some major or minor community taboo.

When a girl falls in love with the boy next door, no one asks, “Why him?” Her motivation is taken as being as obvious as the rising of sap in the spring and as the hormonal explosion that sends young blood singing in young veins. If the boy next door loves her back, we are charmed by their innocence and exuberance whether they are shy sweethearts of eight or passionate steadies of eighteen.

However, if that same girl were to fall in love with a somewhat older man from India, Saudi Arabia, or Central America, we would instantly demand an explanation of “Why him?” Just being “in love” does not seem to be an adequate explanation. “Is he rich enough to be worth it?” asks your aunt. “Do you think she has a father complex?” asks your cousin who is a sophomore majoring in psychology.

A little psychology goes a long way.

“He just has the usual obsession about white women,” declares your bigoted uncle. “Lots of foreigners are desperate to become citizens,” reflects your other uncle who is a lawyer.

All of these questionings and pondering take their toll even if you defend yourself stoutly against such allegations. The toll is that you are forced to examine your own motivations more than most people do and, in the process, you also have to reflect upon the motives of the man in question. An older  woman friend of mine who was happily financing her young lover through his last year of medical school overheard one of his catty friends remark, “Well, it is one alternative if you can’t get a scholarship.” She knew he loved her for herself alone and not for her tuition fees. Didn’t he?

Examining motives raises the specter of doubt. Every time there is an unconventional liaison, the motives of the man and woman involved will be suspect to everyone, including each of the two people in the relationship. This is a fact of life that you must accept if you seek out what others would deem “unsuitable” men. It is the price you pay for being a nonconformist. If you can accept it, then you need only follow two rules. First, pay attention only to your own suspicions, not to those of others. Second, having examined your lover’s responses and your own and found them reasonably reassuring, do your best to disregard them.

New Horizions in Contemporary Relationships

Yet all experience is an arch where through
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
—Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”

Many people spend most of their time interacting in the confines of rather narrow social boundaries. They stick to their own kind and are expected to do so. They interact in ghettos of one kind or another, perhaps not so much because of prejudice as because the kind of people they are most likely to meet turn out to be, by and large, much like themselves.

Several dimensions are involved. White women, for the most part, interact with other white people. They tend to spend time with people of the same social class—be it upper, middle, or lower—that means people with the same levels of education and wealth and with many parallels in terms of lifestyle. Whether or not religion per se is very important, Christians tend to spend time with other Christians and Jews with other Jews. Add to that an expectation of age stratification, which creates almost an age ghetto. Except for one’s own parents or one’s own children, the young associate with the young, the middle-aged with the middle-aged, and the old with the old however these life stages are defined. People in the workplace may interact with various age groups in the course of carrying out their jobs; but at the end of the workday, when socializing outside the workplace, they are likely to do so with those relatively close to them in age.

When you look at your friends, most likely, they will turn out to be a homogeneous group. Most are in the same general age group, most are of the same race and religion, and most have about the same amount of education and money. Often, they are in the same line of work and live in similar neighborhoods. They are people like yourself.

There is nothing wrong with friendships with people like yourself. You understand them easily, you can empathize with their problems, you can make yourself understood. There is nothing wrong with such friendships—except that they can become very predictable. You know these friends so well that they seldom surprise, seldom outrage, seldom enlighten you. The hazard of such homogenized associations can be serious in a friendship and fatal in a love affair. It is the hazard of boredom.

The Graduate Original Soundtrack album cover.

The Graduate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man who is different from you is exciting because he provides a contrast to you, a new perspective. The exotic man is mysterious, and you are challenged to solve the mystery. He has the additional appeal, and danger, of forbidden fruit. He may be considered too old for you, too young or too married. In a white community, a black man is exotic; in a black community, a white man is. The exotic lover may be, in some way, unpresentable by virtue of what he does or who he is or where he comes from. He is certainly not the boy next door. The contrast between you, the sense of being different, is simultaneously a source of delight and a source of problems.

In future posts I will talk about the pros and cons  of various kinds of “exotic” relationships.

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