Advice Q1: A married man magnet?

This first letter is from a straight female.

Dear Lia,

I have a question for you that is really bothering me. Why would I suddenly find myself surrounded by married men (3 of them) trying to start something? It is really annoying. Mostly ‘cause all three would be great if they were single, but I’m not interested in an affair.

Am I sending out this signal or could it just be random? And how do I get the signal out to the nice available men out there?

It is frustrating. I met one of the guys at a party. His friend was acting totally into me and then introduced me to him. We chatted for a little bit but that was all. AFter the party they both started chatting with me on FB and I really liked the married guy. All three of us went out to dinner and then to see a band and it was a blast. But it was just before the dinner that I found out he was married. We went out as friends but he is definitely wanting more and I’m a bit pissed cause I liked him quite a bit until I found out he was married.

I want a boyfriend in my life. And my 8 year old son is in step dad search mode. He is constantly pointing out ways I can meet men. He’ll recite commercials for Events and Adventures for example, and he’ll point out excellent step dad role models, and then he’ll say things like “find me a good step dad like ———’s step dad”, who, by the way, rocks as a step dad and he is totally cute, so their mom scored! He walks his stepsons to school every morning and picks them up every day. He is very good to them.

While it is rather cute, my son is serious so it is more sad. But it’s not just for him. I want someone in my life. But I don’t want a married guy. It’s nothing but heart ache and pain for everyone and they aren’t available anyway.

My five rules are simple:

1. Have an income producing job

2. Have your own place to live

3. No addictions

4. Be available (emotionally, not married, over the exes, etc.)

5. Have your own transportation

I’d be more demanding, but frankly, these tend to eliminate so many men as it is!! LOL

More recently, I’ve included, no criminal record, no one on Megan’s Law website, and someone who wants to be a step dad. Tall and handsome, kind and funny would be nice too!

I’ve really had enough of this. Any suggestions?


Confused in California

Dear Confused,

As I see it, you raise three key issues in your letter.

  1. You seem to be attracting and somewhat attracted to married men and wonder if there is some sort of pattern to it all, and what your responsibility may be in it.
  2. Your son is dropping not-so-subtle hints that he would like you to bring a man into your life and a father figure into his, and it’s cute but you feel sad about it.
  3. You feel that you are ready for a relationship, yet one eludes you. You feel that your criteria are reasonable, but that even the most reasonable limits seem to cut out all of your options.

Let’s address them all. First, are you a married man magnet? Are you sending a signal?

Yes. You are most undoubtedly sending out the following signals: you are cute, single, vivacious, smart, independent, interesting, and seeking male attention. Stop sending these signals, immediately!

Har har.

Seriously though, so many of us have these ideas about straight men who want to have affairs with straight women and picking women who are young, stupid, clingy, needy, dependent, victimy, and a lot of us women may even fear that these are indeed the “signals” we are sending out.  But really, a lot of married men would rather have an affair (whether a romantic or a purely sexual one) with an independent, smart, attractive woman who doesn’t appear like she needs to be taken care of, perhaps because of that.

You are also single and looking to meet men, so you probably are doing a lot of eye contact, smiling, sucking in your gut and standing tall, ring checking (although I’m curious to know if you forgot that one with this last guy or if he just “forgot” his ring) and general North American mating behaviors. If you are doing any of these when attractive males are around, attractive males will pick up on it and likely notice you and be attracted to you if you are their “type”.

As for the guy and his friend from your anecdote: well, the most honorable scenario would be if Guy #2 (the one you liked) has an open marriage and his wife knows and blesses that he is interested in hooking up with other women. Gauging from the way you found out, I doubt it. More likely, he deliberately omitted information until he knew you were already into him, and then offered the information and put the burden on you of deciding whether you’d like to take it further. Tsk, tsk.

My advisory council asked: “When did she find out he was married? Before the date or after? It makes a big difference”

If you are dusting yourself off and just re-entering the dating world, a married guy might feel like just the sort of safe target for practicing your flirtation skills. It can be a problem if you are thinking that, but the right unhappy married man can bend that scenario to fit his fantasy.

Does this mean you have “signaled” him that you are willing to settle for kneeling at the edge of his table waiting for him to throw you crumbs? Only if you take him up on it.

Now, #2, your son. What a sweetie. He obviously wants you to be happy and he wants a father figure. But it’s not his call, is it? Don’t be afraid to remind him that you are really happy he cares for you, but finding a mate is an adult job, and while you are happy for his feedback, it isn’t really his business to feel responsible for your love life. And that’s what I’m reading into this: he feels responsible. Watch out for parentifying him: turning him into your “little man”, getting emotional needs met by him and not letting him be a kid. And it’s important to set boundaries with his overzealous concern, sweet guy that he’s being. Don’t be afraid to lean on all the male role models in his life that you are not dating. This does not substitute for a dad or a good stepdad, but it will help.

That being said, perhaps he is in a unique position to comment on something you might already be suspicious of: maybe you aren’t making that big of an effort to meet men right now, and that is why these married dudes seem easy and tempting. Set boundaries, but then secretly take some of his advice of how to meet men. And if you want to be in a relationship, my advice is to make that a priority and spend time on it. Including going out on multiple boring short first coffee dates that lead absolutely nowhere and not getting discouraged, cause you need the practice. Including not giving up, not taking rejection personally, and making it a numbers game.

Ok, last but not least: your criteria, your readiness, and your yearning for a meaningful relationship. Again, maybe you aren’t spending as much time as you could looking because you still need healing. Have you done your work of healing past hurts? Are you really ready? If so, don’t worry so much about the married guys. Flirt for practice and make it clear you don’t want anything with them. Don’t lower your standards, either, but perhaps you could find a way to modify the ones that could stand modifying. Like, does he not have an income producing job because of a recent layoff? Maybe you could modify that one to include people seriously looking for work. Or saving up for a car. As for being over the exes: maybe he is not now, but is he doing the work to get over it? If so, maybe you being in his life could turn the tides. If they are flaky and not really serious about any of those, you will know. You can always let the dude know that you find him relationship material but have a concern about the lack of job or car or getting over exes, and it could be the turning point he needs, or the one you need in order to let it go. I know it is a cliche, but continue to put yourself out there and have fun, and be around your friends and people who think you are awesome, and do fun stuff and laugh a lot, and keep your eyes and heart open, and it will happen.

Need advice? Email me, writing the word “advice” in the subject header. All questions can be asked and answered while protecting your confidentiality. If you don’t want me to print something, be clear about it.



About Lia Salciccia Prusha

therapist and blogger
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