Married men

I'm a divorced woman and have a lot to offer, but I keep getting involved with unavailable men.

Published November 17, 2003 8:20PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I'm 44 years old and have been divorced now for six years. I am blessed with a successful career, a nice personality, some kids, and generally feel my life is going well. I am over my ex. In the six years since my divorce, I have had a few close relationships with men, but they have all been married. They were all in unhappy marriages, on the verge of leaving, but then never did. I end up alone again (no one to blame but myself for this), watching them go back to what they state as less than satisfactory situations that they somehow settle for. Of course, I think to myself "if I were with you, I would love you, appreciate you, we would be happy." But I never get that chance.

I have tried online dating -- I don't get so much as a wink or e-mail. I have tried being flirty with men in person at work and in social situations, but can't seem to get to first base with anyone who is single, and I always seem to be most attracted to the men who I later find out are married or with someone. I want to date and get into a relationship, possibly even remarry the right guy. I know it's a numbers game, and I can't even get on the playing field.

What am I doing wrong?

If You're Unavailable, I'm Available

Dear If You're Unavailable,

I wonder if there is something about men who are already attached that attracts you. Could it be that their inevitable departure is something you secretly long for, that their attachment places a time limit on your relationship that makes you comfortable? Perhaps you find it more convenient to lease than to own. Many people do. If we choose to go even deeper into your possible motives, perhaps on some level you want to be between a man and his wife. Could it be that you are trying to compete with their wives in some way, or even live psychically with both of them, so that his wife is a comforting presence in your life even though she is not there, even though if she were there she would be hostile -- as you would be if you were married and she were the other woman?

Which raises another possibility: Could you be repeating the other-woman drama? In your divorce, was there another woman involved? Did he leave you for her? If so, perhaps in some strange way you are trying to become that other woman that your husband left you for. Were there secret affairs? If there were, perhaps you are trying to repeat that drama, either because you found it satisfying, or because repeating it is some primitive attempt by your reptile brain to exorcise it, to get rid of it by repeating it.

I know this may all sound rather far-fetched, but I don't mind throwing out these possibilities in the hope that something may strike a chord with you, and you may see something that leads to some insight. In patterns there must be meaning. You must be after something, even if the "I" who is after something is a stranger to you. It might be that wounded little girl, or that howling, angry bitch you are afraid of, the one you don't let out because she scares the neighbors -- and your husband!

As I said, I'm free-associating. We're going into my head, the mad, surreal place of my dreams! And there you are! I see you! You're sleeping with my daddy! You're the harlot of my fears!

Well, anyway, you need to study your own relationship to infidelity. Is there something in the drama of infidelity that you are drawn to, that you just can't take your eyes off of, that you must handle, must be close to? What about your parents and their fidelity or lack of it? Was there some way in which you found comfort being with one or the other of them, confiding in them, being comforted by them, in a state that involved some kind of secrecy or infidelity?

I'm really guessing now. But the point is, you have to find out what it is about being the other woman that draws you to these men. And you have to find out if you even want a man all for yourself. If you're not ready for a commitment, you have to be able to say that.

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By Cary Tennis

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