When I was single, I had one major hard-and-fast dating rule: do not go out with married men. Not that I had hundreds of married men (or any other men, for that matter) lined up, eager to date me, but if I had, they would have been turned down. Even if I hadn’t witnessed a number of friends being crushed and nearly ruined by men who were “on the verge of divorcing” their wives (most of them were still with the same wives years after my friends had moved on), I like to think I still would have been wise enough to think two things: 1. a man who would cheat on his wife would probably cheat on me and 2. that poor wife! You see, I was raised in an era in which all statistical data pointed to the prevalence of cheating husbands and the scarcity of cheating wives. I’m perfectly aware that much of the evidence that was collected to support that finding was gathered when it was more socially acceptable for men to cheat, much less so for women. Thus, results were skewed by lies. My own (completely unsupported. I should have stuck with psychology, so I could design experiments and study this stuff) theory, though, is that women probably did stray less than men, especially in the days when they needed men to support them and to help take care of the children, so were strongly vested in keeping the family together (besides, taking care of a husband, the children, and a house all by themselves was so exhausting, who had time or the energy to stray?).
Being married, on some levels, has made life so much easier for me. I no longer think of any men I meet as potential dates; I'm more relaxed than ever around them; and I no longer shy away from men wearing wedding bands. What I’ve discovered is that if I meet an adorable married man, I’m almost guaranteed to meet a woman I’m immediately going to want to befriend. In fact, the difficulties I’ve often had throughout my life in getting along with women (I’m just not a stereotypical woman. I don’t like to shop; I have an extremely high tolerance for messy houses; I don’t mind if my husband spends hours watching sporting events, because either I am watching with him or I view it as wonderful, extended “alone time;” I don’t have children and am not as crazy about babies as most women seem to be; and I can’t stand to talk on the phone, unless I’m talking with someone I never get to see, and it’s been a while since we last spoke) disappear when I meet the wives of male friends. I seem to meet women who are much more like-minded when I start with their husbands.
Let me give you some examples. I knew Becky’s husband Mike long before I met Becky. Before she came along, I hated his first wife for not treating an obviously wonderful, sweet, and well-rounded man the way he deserved to be treated (mind you, I’ve never laid eyes on the woman, but she couldn’t possibly have had any real taste). I don’t hate her quite so much anymore, though, because that relationship obviously wasn’t meant to be. I loved Becky before I’d ever met her. You would have, too, if you’d seen how giddy Mike was when he announced to me he was getting engaged, and when he said, “If I’d known this is what it’s supposed to be like, I never would have gotten married the first time.” Of course, the fact she’s English helped my empathetic heart. Poor thing was moving to this insane country, coming to work for our insane company, and embarking on her first year of marriage (not always an easy time for those of us who never planned to get married) all at once. She handled it all much better than I would have (I probably would have been on the first flight back to Heathrow after about two months).
Then there’s my friend Ann. I met Ann’s husband Vince when my former boss was wooing him, trying to convince him to move from California to Connecticut. My boss got it into his head that I needed to introduce Vince to my hometown (which I have to admit, if you’re going to move to this area of Connecticut, really is one of the nicest towns), and I was granted a day off to look at real estate with Vince, who is very friendly and a real “guy’s guy.” I quickly decided I liked him very much (good thing, because when I left that company, he took over the supervision of the editors I’d been supervising. Being a “mother hen,” I was very worried about leaving them all to flounder under some complete stranger). It was a while before I got to meet Ann, but we were instant friends as soon as we did. You know how you often feel you’re never going to have friends like the ones you had in college, people with whom you can talk about anything? Well, Ann is one of those friends like the ones I had in college.
And then, of course, there are blogosphere friends. For some reason, I actually “met” Hobs before I met Dorr and was instantly converted to reading his blog religiously. Then I began venturing over to his wife’s blog. Both of them were a bit intimidating at first, so much more well-read and knowledgeable than I, but then I met them in person, and all that faded away. I adore them both, but in real life, I hang out more with Dorr than I do with Hobs. As soon as we’re comfortably settled in PA, Bob’s and my campaign to get them to move down will begin in earnest.
Finally, I still have wives to meet. I’ve known Danny for two years now, but he lives all the way out in California, so we don’t see each other much, and I’ve never met his wife. I’m absolutely convinced that when I finally meet her, though, she’s going to be like a long-lost sister. Poor Danny won’t be able to get a word in edgewise. Oh yes, and when I eventually visit France to meet and tour cheese caves with Mandarine, I can imagine that his wife (provided she speaks English) and I will be so engrossed in conversation, I might forget to taste the cheese. If she doesn’t speak English, I’m sure I’ll pick up French in no time.
Why would any woman want to have an affair with a married man? Isn’t it much more fun to get to know and love their wives?