I must have missed the memo. Excuse me, but when did an ‘already-married’ status become a dateworthy trait? The internet, pubs, parties and all manner of social occasions are rife with married men partaking of mating rituals – the innuendo-ridden conversations, the excessive compliments, the lingering glances, the offers to buy drinks, the requests for phone numbers, even the unabashed booty calls. I thought these were reserved solely for single people. In fact, didn’t married people used to scoff at us singletons to have to resort to these tactics?
Here’s news. They still do (condescend to single people, that is). But they also participate in these supposedly-only-for-singles rituals. Status symbols-as-reasons-to-be-douchey are not cars, foreign vacations and posh addresses any more. It’s being married and being able to do the flirty thing too. I can’t think of a worse display of arrogance than this. It’s an outright ‘I am having my cake, I’m eating it too and I want it with buttercream icing on top!’. I’ve been at the receiving end of the attention of more than one married man like this. The patni, kids, successful career/money made things being done, flirting-even-though-I’m-married seems to be his latest goal. It’s startling and then when I get over the shock, amusing.
Here are some laughable things I’ve heard:
Women must like the challenge of a man they can’t have because they are married.
I was my wife’s second boyfriend so I’m allowed one more.
And then there is the utterly mystifying,
“I am really unhappy in my marriage. My wife doesn’t understand me.”
Why on earth would that be my problem? My friend calls it the ‘Pati, Patni aur Woh‘ play. He says a lot of women are suckers for such stories. He hastens to assure me that it doesn’t work on ‘intelligent women’ like me but that ‘sympathetic women’ are only too eager to pat the arm, go ‘There, there’ and coo about how sensitive the man is. Yes, thank you. I don’t like the implication that I’m devoid of sympathy but given the kind of male tantrums that have gotten thrown at me, for not being so – I think I’m okay with that. If this is true, I deduce that men who throw a hissy-fit that I’m not sympathetic to them are basically whining that I didn’t fall for their pathetic ploys.
The obvious next step to this is, of course, asking women why they’re dumb enough to fall for this. That’s what the men who use these ploys think of the women who fall for them. But it’s victim-shaming, isn’t it? Why should a girl be shamed because she was trusting and sympathetic? Never mind the fact that she gets shamed if she is not, also.
I think a married man who says or does one thing out of place deserves to be slammed publicly and consistently. It’s only fair, considering he’d get much worse, if he were a woman. Sympathy? Why did he get married in the first place, if it was so burdensome? And if he only discovered it later, why not end the marriage?
“Because it’s not that simple.”
They all say. Sure, then probably, Mr.MarriedFlirt, you ought to be spending that time trying to figure it out instead of preying on the singles scene.
Here’s a new one that’s popped up among this crowd – polyamory. Open relationships, modern thought, ‘that’s love, this is sex’ ideas get tossed about. Ask however, if his partner practises this tolerant attitude to his partner as well, and it falls apart. Polyamory & open relationships are equal rights things but not in these men’s minds.
And finally, there is the ‘Boys will be boys’. Shall I take that to mean douchey, irresponsible, selfish and incapable of consideration and responsibility? Fine then, remember that the privilege of consideration & respect is accorded to those who earn it, not those who feel entitled to it.
Pick-up lines, never the best openers and here I think I’ve stumbled on to the worst possible one ever.
Yes, I am back.
So what do we talk about today?
How about the reasons why men cheat? But I am sure there are tonnes of articles and justifications that you can find on the internet (Google informs me there are 4.7 million results when you type that phrase in)
So I thought I’d merely point you to a couple of very interesting articles someone shared online.
One was this review of Stephanie Coontz’s book “Marriage a History” which says:
“Marriage was a way of turning strangers into relatives, of making peace, of making permanent trading connections,” Coontz says. “There are many different languages that call wives the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the word ‘peace-weaver’.”
The other was a blog post written by Dave Pollard who writes:
Anthropologists have concluded that such settling is unnatural, and that is why the chemistry of love binds us to a single partner only for a brief period sufficient to produce offspring and ensure they are sufficiently provided for until they are weaned.
Personally speaking, I am attracted to people all the time, and I don’t mean it in a sexual way all the time. Today’s generation calls it by new names like “Friends with Benefits” and the needless need to label relationships.
Happiness comes not by defining and putting boundaries around a certain thing, but by expanding it.
In my decade of being married I can count the moments of true happiness and the hours of feeling burdened with expectations and pain and hurt.
Yes marriage is hard work. And while people crib openly about going to work on Mondays and celebrate by saying “Thank God it’s Friday” – no one (at least publicly) says they are sick of marriage.
Commitment. That’s a big word. A word that gets interpreted by different people even if its the same context. Add infidelity to that list.
Women say commitment has to be not just physical but emotional as well. However, every married man doesn’t share everything with his wife. How about bitching about his wife’s habits to the boys? Is that a break of commitment? How about sharing that with female colleagues? Suddenly the lines blur, depending on who the audience is.
“But its the intent” Do I hear you say?
Unfortunately, intent is never visible – no matter how much intuition you go by. What matters is behavior. In offices men and women often end up having “office spouses” – a usually platonic relationship. Would their “real spouses” call that “emotional infidelity”
In the overall analysis, every man and woman has different emotional, intellectual, sexual needs. So why not have different “loves” for each need. And such needs change with time too. People grow apart.
Our parents’ generation did not marry for love – hence they stayed together. If we marry for love at least we should be committed to love itself.
It is a fact that the social environment is very different today than the one in which my parents met and started their relationship. Neither mum nor dad really have independent friend circles, let alone know too many single people of their generation. I belong to several social circuits that include couples, some where I’m friends with the guy, some with the girl.
Friendships themselves have changed. While my parents would never even consider introducing a flirtatious note into their discussions with their social groups, my generation itself seems to be a flirty one. Sex, attraction, relationship are all a little too ‘out there’ if you ask me. Romance, privacy and intimacy have been sacrificed to free expression, enhanced comfort zones and devil-may-carishness. I do enjoy being a part of this world, it works for me. But I think in an attempt to get it all out there, we’ve meandered so far into the grey that we may have lost sight of black and white.
Being as I am, an independent woman who’s also friendly and approachable, I find my social circuit quite expansive and complex. The Married Male Friend is only one of those many dark alleys in this complex terrain. How do I treat him?
If he was a friend before he acquired the ‘married’ label, then the situation is relatively simpler. I take heed of how his wife feels about his women friends and our friendship accordingly moves along or away.
How about if the Married Man is someone I’ve met later? Do I treat him like I treat all the other guys? The friendly-flirtatious tone does need to be dropped, no matter how innocent. But what about when the guy is flirting with me? Much to my alarm, I’m frequently propositioned, flirted with and pursued by married men. It’s not just the fact that they’re married and flirting with me that shocks me so much. It is the cool rationale that they feed into it.
I’m not referring to the liars who feign their single status. Nor even the occasional ‘my wife and I are not really in love’ guy trying the sympathy routine.
There is another type of man who is not just unabashed about his cheating but actually derives confidence from it. This man usually has a breakproof logic about why it is legitimate, reasonable and valid to commit adultery. There is the elaborately constructed dialogue over today’s moving social order liberally spiced with statistics about divorce rates, paternity suits and pre-nuptial agreements. There are references to Freud, Darwin and Einstein in a discussion about people’s relationships. There is the sweeping confidence that makes you alternately wonder whether you’re being old-fashioned and how he can be so cold and hot at the same time.
He camouflages these in ‘normal’ intellectual conversations, the kind that we often get into with anybody intelligent. But the flirtatious, slightly dangerous tones lace every word. It’s hard to extricate oneself from such a situation. Does one slap a man who has just been talking to you, who hasn’t said anything explicitly offensive? The last time I got roped into one such talk, I found myself plaintively protesting,
“I don’t want to hear about whether the institution of marriage is valid anymore or not. It has sanctity for me because I say it does.”
I hated how whiny that sounded and how powerless that made me feel. Furthermore, it bothers me is that I (an outsider to that marriage) seem to be carrying the onus of fulfillment of commitment. When I say no, this man just takes his interest elsewhere. And whatever woman chooses to say yes, will be branded that horrible name – the Other Woman, the one that messes with married men. This man knows this fact and takes full advantage of it.
Now let’s pull back a few steps. The above is when it reaches that critical point of deciding which way a friendship is going to go – platonic or otherwise. But how about that vast, grey area before that? How do you know what’s appropriate and what’s not? Where does normal friendliness end and the reek of infidelity begin? Is it okay to watch a movie with a guy friend who just happens to be married? Is it okay to meet him for dinner? Coffee at midnight? Don’t these smack of dating? But is it fair to treat a married friend differently from an unmarried one?
The old ‘it is the intention that matters’ doesn’t hold. That’s not what real life is about. Real life is about human beings who experience attraction and relationship in fluctuating, varying tones every minute. The world has gone so grey, sometimes I miss the black-and-white times when everything was clearer.
Sometime last year somebody published a study done by someone that claimed that men have a gene that makes them more likely to cheat on their partners than women do.
That’s my reply. Yes, you got that right. I scoff, I sneer, I snort. I am skeptical. How on earth can one prove a thing like that? Besides one of the most profound things I heard in b-school was “There are three kinds of lies…white lies, damn lies and statistics.” And so there.
For all the men who love to hate me on the grounds that I am a feminist, kindly sit up and take note. I do not blindly assume that men are capable of every vile thing around. (Only the dumb, moronic things!)
Coming back to what I was going to talk about…..cheating in relationships. I think the world can be easily divided into two types in a lot of ways. One of them is this: Those who cheat and those who don’t. I could have said that as those who are capable of cheating and those who are incapable of cheating. But these days I’m beginning to think that capability is only a matter of attitude. And attitude is a momentary thing.
Personally I can’t fathom the dynamics of cheating. No, not what lies work best, how to say them etc. But deep within the cheater’s (I know that isn’t a word but its easy to say and easier to type) mind, what strange thoughts twist emotion and attitude?
There are enough of shattered hearts and tattered illusions out there. And there are people causing them to be so. Relationships are available to nearly everybody, stability grows on most people and love happens to a select few. But some people never stop looking. There is always that new person with a better body, smarter wit, funnier jokes, more money. There is always that one irresistable opportunity that it is wrong to take but what the hell, what is the point of an opportunity if it isn’t taken? Yet not everyone does. I wonder if most people stay loyal to their partners out of fear or out of values.
There is an interesting discussion about cheating with one’s body and with one’s mind. Cheating with the body, that’s so easy. Easy to define, easy to catch, easy to judge. But cheating with one’s mind….that’s a different ballgame altogether. Where does one draw the line? Is it wrong to feel attraction for another when one is in a relationship? If so, is it being true to oneself, to deny it? And if one admits it to oneself at least, how does one stop the mind assuming that as permission to run into the very dangerous realms of fantasy and yearning? From there on, cheating with one’s body is but a minor step that barely seems to matter either way.
The reason I don’t believe that cheating is a gender-specific thing is because I know a lot of women, close friends many of them, who admit to have cheated. What’s more I even know someone who continues to cheat with no intention of stopping ever. This lady is married and a mom and one of my good friends. While I’ll never admit it openly, I have a lingering doubt about the paternity of the child that she adores. I also suspect that she continues to have the rip-roaring love life that she enjoyed in her younger days.
But I’m not gossiping. I adore her (as I do all my friends). Yes, in my eyes she still is the fun, affectionate gal who can make me laugh and cry alternately. I will still take up for her if anyone dares sully her name. But yes, deep down I’ll agree with the person who does. Strange, is it?
Certainly I know men who have cheated too, particularly a few who even boast about it. In fact I think the typical ‘cheater’ (yes, it is a type, there is a particular kind of person who is prone to cheating no matter who they are with)….is a bit like a hunter, who likes to display his/her trophies. Hunting has been outlawed in many parts of the world. But people still collect furs and animal heads. And hearts.
Ever read the book ‘Peter Pan’? It was about a boy who never grew up. And a girl who followed him, cared for him, made his life comfortable and generally adored him. One day he forgot her and she accepted it. He was after all, the boy who never grew up. Some people don’t ever become adults. Some people are not meant to collide with the monster called responsibility. Their own or other people’s.
I’m sure a lot of people who have read and enjoyed Peter Pan will be fuming at my comparison of this much-loved character to an essentially weak, spineless, selfish person. No denying that is exactly what a cheater is. And yet, anyone who has ever encountered such a person may remember just what makes it possible for them to be the way they are…its called charm. People use charm like a personal wand of power. Seasoned with liberal doses of sweet words, mixed in carefully with empathy and topped with that magic ingredient….an unshakeable love of themselves. Don’t those describe Peter Pan too?
Interestingly most people I know who are this way are also very dependent. Not in the way that they need someone else to boost their egos or heal their hearts. But these are people who need someone to be the stage for the performance they put up. These are people who will wilt when the stage crumbles. Annoyingly enough, they are also resilient enough to find a new person who will be willing to be the backdrop to their antics.
Its not fair, sure it isn’t. One part of society runs around doing whatever the hell they want to with our emotions and trust. And the rest of us hang around to sweep up the broken pieces.
For my part, I wish I was a Peter Pan rather than a Wendy. But well, those who will forget, will, no matter what. And those of us who are meant to remember, just are meant to be that way.