Get any group of women together, and one subject is sure to come up: the apparent lack of good men to date. With so few quality specimens to choose from, many women decide they’d rather share a man than date down a league. Take Samantha Gilbert of Mineola, NY, who spent several years seeing a married man. “It wasn’t about infidelity; it was to fill the void in my life,” she says, admitting that “we considered his marriage an extenuating circumstance in his life.” As much as a woman may try to minimize her date’s issues, going out with a married guy means one thing — he’s not
going to be completely hers. And if you truly desire a real, committed partner (and who doesn’t?), then that’s what you deserve. A real boyfriend is someone you can call whenever you want, spend birthdays and holidays with and be affectionate towards in public. So, ladies, if it seems like every man you meet is already taken, here’s how to avoid settling for less.
Understand why you’re interested
For many women, sharing a man is still better than nothing at all. This isn’t just a fear of being alone, it’s often a learned behavior from childhood. Girls who grow up without a stable father may come to view men as being unreliable and unavailable. And low self-esteem can come into play: For women who are afraid of being hurt, dating a married man offers them a safety valve, says Basha Schanberg, LCSW, a counselor in New York City for over 30 years. “When a relationship isn’t monogamous, you don’t have to deal with the day-to-day problems of being a couple,” Schanberg says. When you don’t believe you deserve 100 percent or think of yourself as damaged, a married man might seem OK if he’s got other desirable qualities — such as good looks, a prestigious career, musical talent... whatever it is that attracts you.
Stop flirting back
Many affairs start when a woman allows herself to engage with a married guy by telling herself that he’s just being friendly. Once the chemistry is going strong, she can get swept away once the guy turns on the charm. To avoid such encounters, don’t tolerate any advances — even the most subtle ones — from an off-limits guy. “Cut a married man’s pursuit off at the start because if you give an inch, he’ll take a mile,” says Russell Price, author of Is That Your Man or Is Your Head In The Sand?
. Brand also points out that men who are willing to cheat are not men of character, so they won’t think twice about coming on strong even after you brush them off politely.
Stay out of danger zones
It’s hard for many of us to admit that we invite these flirtations ourselves — it’s much easier to believe that we’re merely victims. But when there’s a self-destructive pattern, we’ve usually played some role in letting it continue, says Schanberg. Do you make excuses to be alone with attached men? Do you avoid friends who look down on extramarital affairs socially? Do you make excuses for married men who stray, blaming their wives or the hands of fate? Make a point to go man-hunting with friends who share your (new) values, and socialize in places that draw actual
singles, not men looking for flings.
Date available men
Sure, if you date a married guy, you have an automatic excuse for why it won’t work long-term, but you also give up the hope of it working out for both of you
in the process. “Spending time with men who are unavailable means we ourselves are unavailable,” says Schanberg. “It’s a woman’s way of letting herself off the hook.” It’s easier said than done, yes, but make it your priority to go out with men who are emotionally available. It’s OK if they’re not all exactly “your type” — your first goal is to get comfortable in situations where you’re vulnerable, and you can achieve that with people who may not be soulmate material. Join a singles’ group, meet people online, ask coworkers to set you up... just get out there and practice dating someone who is more appropriate for you.
As you do, you may find that deeper issues are holding you back from pursuing love with a true partner — from intimacy fears to low self-esteem — and that’s why you kept returning to married men. Examine these issues honestly as they come up, even if it means getting help (like therapy). But above all, congratulate yourself — it’s better to make mistakes in a relationship with someone who could be The One than waste time with someone who’s definitely not.
Francyne R. Ellison is a New York-based motivational speaker, media advisor and journalist who has worked on the staff of
Honey, Heart & Soul, Savoy and