I read your column a lot and now find myself in a situation, so it seems like a good excuse to write in.
A year ago I met a woman and fell for her right off. She's perfect. Mature, attractive, compassionate, all that. She was (and still is) married, so I didn't say anything. Last summer she separated from her husband and moved into her own place, although she never got divorced. I still didn't say anything but started spending a lot more time around her, eventually bringing her flowers, chocolate, etc. as a passive way of saying I care without trying to make her uncomfortable.
She always seemed to be excited and really interested in me, and eventually I asked her about dating, to which she responded, "No, I'm still married." Then two weeks later I found out she has been dating a third guy and suddenly she's in a relationship with him (he's also half her age).
So I went to her and said I felt hurt and asked what was going on, to which she replied, "You should have explicitly asked me out with the stated intention of starting an intimate relationship." Now I feel like not only was I lied to, but by not being aggressive enough I missed a wonderful chance.
I feel like most women I know wouldn't have been this obtuse. On the one hand I feel like if I had been more aggressive things would have worked out, but then something seems fishy about her behavior. How would "reasonable" people interpret this?
Dear Confused Guy,
I think a reasonable person would reach the conclusion that this is a married woman. You say so yourself. She's separated but not divorced.
And then the reasonable person would say, Stay away from married women. They are not available.
They sometimes seem available. Sometimes they go out and get drunk and act as if they're available. Sometimes they go live somewhere else for a while and that makes them seem as if they're available. They even go out with other men. But they are not available. They are especially not available to you, especially in the way you want them to be available.
Had you been more aggressive and told her that you wanted to take her out with the explicit intention of starting an intimate relationship, you might now be in an intimate relationship with a married woman. That is not a good situation.
You did the right thing in the wrong way, in spite of your worst intentions. You told her in vague, symbolic terms that you were interested in her but weren't going to make a move because you recognized that she was still married.
You yourself say you sent this message in a passive way. Without meaning to be insulting, I'd say it was a little creepy, like a puppet show. You said, in a high squeaky voice, hiding behind the couch, Here are the chocolates and the flowers and this is us in some world where you are not married and available and here is me being crazy about you and giving you chocolates and flowers but not really, because you are married.
You sent her a complicated message that said you have complicated feelings about her. I think she got the message and acted appropriately by remaining unavailable to you.
Her life is already complicated. The last thing she needs is a complicated guy. If the affair she is having is working it is probably because it is not complicated. They are having a transaction. They are trading necessary favors in the moment.
Be glad you're not involved with somebody who's already involved. If you can't get involved with people who are already involved without getting involved, don't get involved. That's my advice.
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