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Why do I attract married men?
September 27, 2009 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Attracting married men is my superpower. What gives?

I think I was bitten by a radioactive homewrecker at some point. What on earth am I doing wrong? I keep finding myself in the same situation where a married man, often with kids, is chasing me down and telling me he is in love with me while I'm trying to give him the coldest shoulder I can without being rude. I am not in a position where I meet a lot of married men at all, but I swear that if I was in a room with one hundred single men and one married man, it would be the married man chasing me around the room. It has gotten so bad that even my doctor started telling me he is falling in love with me.

It's always the same. They get infatuated, tell me that I make them wish they weren't married, and politely ignoring them just seems to make them want me more. If I keep attracting the same situation, there must be something about my personality that is doing it, so please help me figure out what the hell it is so that I can make it stop.

I have no interest in marriage or kids myself, so possibly maybe that has something to do with it? They want me before they find that out, but I still have to wonder if there is a connection.
posted by giggleknickers to Human Relations (61 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
You haven't described yourself or your interactions with these men before they begin pursuing you, so there's not much to work with here. What sorts of behavior do you think of as 'giving a cold shoulder?' What would you consider rude? Do you enjoy the attention?
posted by jon1270 at 7:17 AM on September 27, 2009


You haven't described yourself or your interactions with these men before they begin pursuing you, so there's not much to work with here. What sorts of behavior do you think of as 'giving a cold shoulder?' What would you consider rude? Do you enjoy the attention?

I often get described as "sweet." I have to confess that I'm a bit of a pushover and I'm not very firm out of fear of being rude. I give the cold shoulder by not flirting back, not responding to phone calls and text messages, and so forth. I do enjoy the attention if they are flirting with me before I find out they are married, but once I find out, I feel very uncomfortable and want them to leave me alone.
posted by giggleknickers at 7:21 AM on September 27, 2009


Perhaps you seem very positive, hopeful, and fun. If you're attractive, also, then you'd be a living representation of things often lost with maturity.
posted by amtho at 7:22 AM on September 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Perhaps you seem very positive, hopeful, and fun. If you're attractive, also, then you'd be a living representation of things often lost with maturity.

Then why don't I get anything near this kind of attention from single men?
posted by giggleknickers at 7:23 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most men find that they don't want to be married.

I should revise this: some men find that they don't want to be married and so pursure that which they can't, or shouldn't, have.
posted by dfriedman at 7:25 AM on September 27, 2009


This isn't meant this way it sounds but ... most married men won't pursue what they believe isn't available. There are exceptions but those are the ones who already where looking for trouble.
Don't flirt. Don't engage. Keep talking about their wives, kids, etc. They'll get the message.
posted by damiano99 at 7:27 AM on September 27, 2009


Keep talking about their wives, kids, etc. They'll get the message.

I do and they don't. Or at least it takes them far too long before they finally do.

But I would like to clarify that I'm not really asking what to do once it already happens. What I'm asking is what it is about me that is making me attract married men in the first place. What is it that unfaithful married men look for?
posted by giggleknickers at 7:31 AM on September 27, 2009


I.. think I know what you're talking about, and it has something to do with your personality. Primarily. And if you're cute to boot. Oof.

I have a friend like this. Can't quite put my finger on it. She makes older men tingle. And younger men find her intimidating.
posted by phaedon at 7:36 AM on September 27, 2009


while I'm trying to give him the coldest shoulder I can without being rude.

Repeatedly hitting on someone when a) they don't reciprocate and b) you are fucking *married* is pretty damned rude. You should return the sentiment.
posted by gaspode at 7:46 AM on September 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Here's your problem exactly: I often get described as "sweet." I have to confess that I'm a bit of a pushover and I'm not very firm out of fear of being rude.

I have a friend like this. While it's not limited to married men, for her, men are constantly falling for her. Well, no, that's not quite right. Because she's sweet, and quiet, and takes a long time to get to know, she's a very easy person for men to project their fantasies onto. I've seen this happen over and over again -- some guy decides she's the only woman for him, she's his dream girl, she's the most perfect woman that there is, blah blah blah. But it's not her at all that they've fallen for: it's that her quiet, sweet, non-confrontational demeanor allows them to fantasize that she's whatever it is they really do want.

If you want this to stop, you've got a couple of options: 1) stop flirting with people until you know if they're single or not, or 2) grow a backbone, stop being a pushover, and get firm with people. I suppose a third, cowardly option would be: get involved in a relationship with someone, so that you can use that to (try to) deflect their attentions.
posted by amelioration at 7:47 AM on September 27, 2009 [33 favorites]


So you are flirting and enjoying yourself, and at some point, the men let you know that they're married, when you didn't know that before? If I have that right, then that's the point to flip the switch. Don't worry about being impolite. You can respond to the news by saying "Oh, too bad. She's a lucky lady" or some similar such line. Then move on to "So do you have kids? How old?"

Some married men will push on and try to diminish/dismiss their family relationships at this time. "Oh, my wife is all about her business. Oh, she's barely interested in me any more. Oh, we each pretty much do our own thing these days. Oh, the kids can pretty much take care of themselves these days." The lightness with which they are trying to portray these commitments rarely reflects the reality. If you're hearing these kinds of comments, they're making a play. If they're making a play, you really need to cool it directly without leaving anything unspoken. It can appear to their muddled thinking that you're being coy or just need convincing. Married men that like to cheat are used to having to overcome initial objections in order to get someone to cooperate. So they don't view subtle, polite remoteness as a big issue and it may not turn them away adequately. Politeness can be risky with predatory-type people, because they don't interpret it as patience and politeness: they just interpret it as "I'm not being rejected. Therefore I'm getting somewhere and should keep pressing."

So be very clear and tell them "I'm afraid I'm not interested. Married men are off my radar - sorry."

You also need to figure out what's appropriate and not appropriate. is it that you're at a party, and you meet a guy who turns out to be married, and you spend a few minutes talking flirtatiously? Not really a huge problem. Provided you don't accelerate the interaction and make it clear you're not interested, nothing much is going to happen there. If they're showing up where you work, calling you or something like that, you need to be even more direct. There are some interactions that are just entirely inappropriate. Your doctor, for instance; it's completely unethical and totally inappropriate for him to tell you he's falling in love with you. It's a serious breach of professional practice, and he knows it. Stop seeing this doctor - he's crossed a boundary. To continue seeing him after this confession is to continue to play a part in his drama, indicating to him that you're interested in continuing this ambiguous relationship. That will give him hope that he can develop the relationship.

I understand this is a hassle, and is not easy. I do think you should look and think about what you're doing to indicate your availability for this kind of interaction. Perversely, shyness and insecurity, overpoliteness and patience, can actually single a person out as a good target for an approach. Some married men find it's easier to get into the sack with a woman who doesn't have a lot of defenses developed; confident women have fewer problems rejecting advances. I don't know if this is the case with you, but maybe it applies.

And finally, maybe you're not doing anything much, and this is a fluke. If so, just accept that men might come on to you for years to come, and begin developing those defenses and boundaries that you will need. Don't worry in the least about being polite. I swear, being polite gets women into more lousy situations in this world. But don't try to be silently cold, either - too ambiguous. Just be clear: "No, thanks. I'm not available for this."
posted by Miko at 7:50 AM on September 27, 2009 [14 favorites]


It has gotten so bad that even my doctor started telling me he is falling in love with me.


Wait, what?! That's inappropriate beyond words... You need to start confronting these situations instead of trying give your best 'cold shoulder'. Your polite strategy isn't working.
posted by sunshinesky at 7:51 AM on September 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


You say you do not respond to text messages and calls. What? How and why do they have your number? You are leading them on way more than you either want or are telling us here.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:51 AM on September 27, 2009 [12 favorites]


On preview:

What is it that unfaithful married men look for?

In short, malleability, insecurity, and poorly defined boundaries.
posted by Miko at 7:52 AM on September 27, 2009 [51 favorites]


What is it that unfaithful married men look for?

A pretty pushover? That's the attitude you need to change.
posted by sunshinesky at 7:55 AM on September 27, 2009


while I'm trying to give him the coldest shoulder I can without being rude.

So start being rude.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:59 AM on September 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm betting it's the "Grass looks greener on the other side" syndrome to older married men in the throes of dealing with the demands of the wife, kids and mortgage and their own shortcomings. Basically they see you as second chance to relive their youth.

I think you need to be blunt and pointedly ask when getting attention: "Are you married?" and if the answer is yes, then say "Oh fuck off, you cheating asshole" or some variation of. Never mind not being rude, because it's just going to encourage them with your "sweetness". They're not respecting your boundaries and I think you need to make them do so.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:00 AM on September 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher makes a good point-- men will think you're being coy when you sweetly turn them down, repeatedly or not.
posted by sunshinesky at 8:02 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Simple thing to do: wear a very big ring to indicate that YOU TOO are married.
as for most men not wanting to be married: I adore my wife, and have been married to her for going on 26 years. Can not imagine not being married to her.
posted by Postroad at 8:07 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


What Anthony said about fun. Your profile says you "like running up the down escalator". Personally, I am attracted to people who are fun and who don't complain often, and are generally happy. I would wager to guess that lots of men miss that carefree feeling something fierce. I would not break my wedding vows for this.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:13 AM on September 27, 2009


make yourself an "I don't date married men" t-shirt yo wear to parties

open conversations with "you're not married are you? every time I talk to an interesting guy, he ends up being hitched"

My favourite way to deal with odd situations is to make a joke of it - you share a laugh, but get the point across without being rude.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:14 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Are these men not wearing their wedding bands?
posted by DeltaForce at 8:16 AM on September 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think you may very well have to be rude to them, because being nice and hoping they take the hint is NOT WORKING.

Now, I'm not confrontational either so I feel ya, but the thing is here is that these guys are not Perfectly Nice Single Men pursuing you and you have no excuse not to date them other than "just not feeling it," i.e. a situation where you really should keep up the politeness most of the time unless they go creepy. These dudes are MARRIED. You have a built-in excuse to say no that is hard to argue with. Just start yelling at them (or at least saying it out loud), "YOU'RE MARRIED! I AM NOT GOING TO FUCK A MARRIED MAN! GO AWAY!"

Okay, maybe not so much of the yelling, but those words in general may have to come out of your mouth. A lot. Man, even your DOCTOR is doing this now? Squick, and find a new one.

And also, don't flirt unless you're sure they're single. Sounds like that is what starts the problem is that they assume you're interested and then stop noticing when you aren't acting interested.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:17 AM on September 27, 2009


What Miko said.

I know you asked how to avoid these situations entirely, but my guess is that men looking to so flagrantly step out on their wives are going to hit on pretty much all the pretty, flirtatious women they come across no matter what. However: most women would make it immediately obvious that they're not interested when the married thing comes up. "Not flirting back" isn't the same thing. It's not rude to not be interested, and to say so. Plus, some people deserve rude.

Some married guy texts a woman? Most women are going to text back "You're married. I'm not interested." Or confront him the next time she sees him and tell him to never try to contact her again. Or report him to the medical board. From these men's perspectives, by comparison, you're just playing a little hard to get.

Assertiveness training would be a really good idea, and would probably have benefits in other areas of your life too.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:17 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think I know what you're talking about. Frequently, especially on airplanes for some reason, I see cute, perky, friendly young women chatting with older, often married men. When I overhear these conversations it often seems like the women are more friendly than they need to be, presumably because they feel that there's an expectation that they should be perky! and fun! even with this person they don't know, and that anything less than perky! and fun! would be rude. Often the friendly chatter in these conversations comes across as (unintentionally) flirtatious--partly, I think, because these older, married men don't remember the subset of 20-something women who are just always perky and nice, and think instead that the woman is singling them out to flirt with.

None of that is to say it's all your fault or that you're asking for this inappropriate attention. I just think a huge part of this problem stems from the fact that you are "not very firm out of fear of being rude." You're comfortable giving the cold shoulder after they're interested, but I think you need to figure out why you're not that assertive when you first meet them. I don't know that married men looking to cheat seek out women who have a particular trait, but I do think that being "not very firm" makes you an attractive option once they've met you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:17 AM on September 27, 2009 [10 favorites]


In short, malleability, insecurity, and poorly defined boundaries.+++++++++

I read another post of yours, about dumping your boyfriend. In it you kind of take on responsibility for the fact that your boyfriend had attempted to commit suicide when his last girlfriend broke up with him. Obviously a person will be concerned with the feelings of someone they've spent a few years with, but combined with this post where you "feel bad" being adequately rude to these married men, I feel like you might have a pattern of feeling too responsible for other people's feelings. Married men and other men (and people) who are looking to take advantage of you LOVE THIS. You are their perfect target. They'll be able to manipulate you so easily. Do you know how easy you make it for them when you're so concerned with being nice? They know you'll never outright reject them and so they can keep pushing and pushing, and maybe they'll guilt you right into bed.

You need to realize that these men are not being nice and flattering. You're not the only women these men are trying it on with. In fact, maybe it would help if you considered it as insulting that they think they can get you to be their little bit on the side. How dare they, right? And when you're "rude," they won't be wounded forever. It will be a teensy little bruise to their ego. And then they'll go on to the next woman. Or to their wife.

So my recommendation is to work on your boundary issues re: other people's feelings. These men are strangers. Their feelings are not your problem. You are not responsible for their feelings/problems because they weaseled their way in under false pretenses. These men are doing something usually considered morally and ethically offensive, and they know it. Not only that, but you don't like it. So do not tolerate it.

As for "ignoring their calls and texts:" how did they get your number in the first place??? Hopefully it was before you found out they were married and they didn't guilt you into giving it to them because you felt like it'd be rude to refuse. But if you just ignore and give cold shoulders, well that's just doing The Rules and you're probably driving them even more crazy. Pick up the phone and say "Please don't call me anymore" and hang up. Or better yet, block their numbers!

And maybe you should learn how to more quickly determine whether a man is married. I have a feeling there are a lot of clues and hints they're dropping that you don't pick up on.
posted by thebazilist at 8:18 AM on September 27, 2009 [11 favorites]


What on earth am I doing wrong? I keep finding myself in the same situation where a married man, often with kids, is chasing me down and telling me he is in love with me while I'm trying to give him the coldest shoulder I can without being rude.

So be rude. It's a perfectly reasonable response, considering that what they're doing is extremely inappropriate.
posted by hermitosis at 8:20 AM on September 27, 2009


Simple guesses?

I suspect you are in a place(s) where there are married men. So there is exposure.

You are communicating verbally or non-verbally with them. (What other options are there?!) Something is suggesting availability. Dress? Looks, generally? Eye contact? The usual signals of interest? Any exaggerated beacons of sexuality present in your attire? (I.e., CFM pumps, exposed cleavage, silkscreened arrows pointing at your crotch?) Just asking. You are, after all, posing this question to strangers who don't know you. Also, as an unattached female of a certain age, you could be /probably are inadvertently broadcasting seeking behavior in general, and some committed / paired / married men are a susceptible population.

Also, it's apparent in your description that you are an ineffective communicator. Either the message gets across or it doesn't. If it does, the calls at work would not happen. If it does, the continued pursuit would not occur. Married men aren't stupid, any more than single women, I'd wager. Not to put to fine a point on it, but if what you are doing is yielding unsatisfactory results, you might consider trying something else. Repeat this until you achieve satisfactory results.

You may also want to consider this: the susceptibility of attached men. There's an old saw about wedding cake being the only sure cure for nymphomania. I phrase it "commitment is the poison of passion". Asymmetry in sexual drive is the rule in relationships, as even an elementary examination of the states would suggest. Usually, it is the male that maintains a higher level of sexual drive. They are seeking externally what the institution almost universally fails to provide, which may explain why more than half fail, and the other half are not wedded bliss.

As the church sign says "This isn't rocket surgery". Drop a worm in a pond and the carp will find it. Hello, Worm.

What's the puzzle here?
posted by FauxScot at 8:31 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


It sounds like you might benefit from some assertiveness training.
posted by orange swan at 8:31 AM on September 27, 2009


Then why don't I get anything near this kind of attention from single men?

Because they have a lot less to lose than single men.

Single men have a lot more in common with you--they can get hurt, whereas a married man is just seeking fun on the side.

Now, what to do. You're giving these married men the "cold shoulder?" I'm going to assume that means you are trying to signal something without saying it. You are going to have to say no, not just signal it. Because before you were interested and flirty, they don't understand your pulling away and of course they chase you. When they call or text, answer them or text back. Tell them very clearly that their attentions are unwanted. If they persist, tell them that you want someone who is unattached and that you don't want to end up like their wives are right now. You will be dropped like a hot potato, as we say in the States. It may seem harsh, but it is kind.

Now, why aren't you getting more single guys? I suspect it is ecause you are not giving them any demonstration of interest. Married men eager to cheat can flirt shamelessly, because if they are rejected, they go home to their wives and feel less hurt.

Single guys, no such luck. Although the pain passes quickly, being rejected hurts, so they look for women who show reciprocal interest. I'm going to make a wild guess and say that you don't initiate much with men. I'm also going to guess that you are cute and have an overly strong preference for bold men.

If my guesses are accurate, you are going to have to learn to initiate more on the flirting side. That means initiating eye contact with handsome men, smiling at them more and complimenting them and maintaining eye contact.

It has been my personal experience that women in Germany are more forward, so single guys are likely going for more available targets that are indicating their interest.

Also, come to America. A female German friend couldn't get the time of day from German men but was swarmed by American men when she moved here.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:35 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Miko has it:
In short, malleability, insecurity, and poorly defined boundaries.


Absolutely, positively DO NOT under any circumstances finish any sentence rebuffing a married man (or any other unwanted male attention) with the word "sorry".

Anything that even smells apologetic will be perceived as a sign of boundary weakness and sends a mixed signal that you might crack under additional pressure. I have been in the exact same position as you are now and the one thing that made a significant change was to develop my "inner bitch". Be fierce and no more apologies.

Think about how much respect these men have for their wives, or for women in general.
They will give no points for "being nice", so don't expect any.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 8:41 AM on September 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


So being "sweet" and playful is apparently the problem. It sounds like I need to stop being myself. Apparently single men have no interest in sweet and playful.

This thread has been depressing, but insightful. Thank you, everyone. I'll try and do that whole assertiveness thing, though I am completely rubbish at it.
posted by giggleknickers at 8:56 AM on September 27, 2009


So being "sweet" and playful is apparently the problem. It sounds like I need to stop being myself. Apparently single men have no interest in sweet and playful.

Please don't stop being sweet and playful. Just don't be sweet and playful when you're talking with a married guy. Be sweet and playful up until you're talking with a married guy and you feel its crossed a boundary. Then stop acting sweet and start acting cold and assertive.
posted by kylej at 9:02 AM on September 27, 2009 [12 favorites]


So being "sweet" and playful is apparently the problem. It sounds like I need to stop being myself. Apparently single men have no interest in sweet and playful.

Without actually seeing these interactions in person we're kind of spitballing here. Since you're the common factor you're in the best position to analyze what you're doing that attracts married men.

Do you live in a culture where wedding rings are common for men to wear? If so, I'm wondering if you're subconsciously noticing the rings and deciding that these men are somehow safe to flirt with in a way that single men aren't. If that's the case, try being on the lookout for rings to short-circuit that subconscious loop. Obviously not helpful if men don't wear them in your culture or you exclusively attract men that choose not to wear them, but maybe that would help.

Also, don't give your phone number out quite so readily.
posted by 6550 at 9:22 AM on September 27, 2009


They see you as gullible and/or with flexible moral boundaries, or at least they will until you give them some unequivocal feedback that you're not interested. Like others have said, they have nothing to lose in this situation and certainly aren't going to be on the hook for any plans for a relationship with you, so why not badger you until you give in.

It may be flattering to have someone take an interest in you but after you've been charmed into bed and dropped a few times you may come to understand it as a game to get in your pants, one that they'll perform on anyone who looks like an easy target. The women who don't get this are the ones who get strung along for years wondering when he'll leave his wife. He won't - he's getting exactly what he wants. The men who hit on you are wondering if they'll be able to charm you into a similar situation.

In reality it's about as flattering as men on the stoop who yell something at you about wanting to put syrup on your biscuits when you're walking home alone late at night, or try to get you to go back to their place after the bars close because they've got some great coke and you look like you want to party. They all want to have sex, and they cast a wide net because every once in a while some sucker falls for it. In those situations you wouldn't let someone down nicely and you shouldn't here either, you need to be firm with them.
posted by Marnie at 9:25 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


It sounds like I need to stop being myself.

No, no, no! Learning how to set boundaries doesn't change who you are! Learning to be assertive doesn't change who you are! Assertive is not the opposite of sweet. Self-respecting is not the opposite of playful. What you need to do is acquire a new skill, navigating interactions with married men, not change your personality.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:29 AM on September 27, 2009 [23 favorites]


I can't speak for single men everywhere... but I'm going to. Please don' stop being sweet and playful. Single men are frustrated enough trying to approach women because most (of the women) have turned to being cold and assertive due to endless encounters with jerks. Not all of us want to immediately get into your pants, and not all of us will jerk you around with games or come-on lines. There are nice, amazing singles guys out there. Please don't judge us all guilty until proven innocent.
posted by jmnugent at 9:33 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sweet and playful are wonderful traits. But, they can be misinterpreted. Thinking about being open and honest in conversations about where you see a relationship headed is your best bet to not have to change who you are. These men, all men, will continue to chase blindly until they hear that you are uncomfortable and do not wish to have them pursue you.

On specifically married men: Married men may experience sweet and playful less and less as they lose those first few days and weeks of relationship flirting etc. Single men are less likely to misinterpret your behavior as flirting because they experience this on a regular basis. Help out the confused married men with some clear communication. "I think you may be misinterpreting our relationship. I enjoy your company, but do nto want anything more than a casual friendship. It makes me uncomfortable when you try to pursue more than that with me."

Open communication about your relationship boundaries with others, not critical communication about how unacceptable their actions are, is the way to allow yourself to be sweet and playful without giving the wrong impression.
posted by elationfoundation at 9:35 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here is your "problem": You're probably hot.

Most married men are on the prowl. And you live in Europe, where extra-marital affaris are not frowned-on as much as they are in "other places". And you're probably hot. It amazes me how no one has yet to mention your appearance. Like that has nothing to do with anything. This is the typical Ask Metafilter M.O. - where everyone is so worried about making sure they appear politically-correct that the solution to the problem gets lost in all of the posturing.

Being "sweet" and having "poorly-defined boundaries" means absolutely nothing to a married guy if you're a hot size 4.

Married men have nothing to lose if they approach you. If they get shot down, well.. they're married. They have something to fall back on. It's no harm no foul.

Single men are afraid to approach you because you're probably awesome-looking. They take one look at you, say "oh, no way" to themselves and move on to something more in their league.
posted by Zambrano at 9:39 AM on September 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


Also, don't give your phone number out quite so readily.

Now this is the third person who has said this. Am I really supposed to quit my job, quit all clubs and classes I participate in, never make friends with couples, and tell all friends that they are never, under any circumstances to introduce me to any of their friends? Even stop going to see doctors since apparently I can't even get a prescription renewed without this happening to me.
posted by giggleknickers at 9:43 AM on September 27, 2009


Now here is a clue for you. Women who smile a lot when they are beautiful and are close to a guy will get a good deal of attention. Men tend to be a bit scared of beautiful women, but when the women smiles a lot, the signal is that the woman is fun, not to be scared and very accessible.
posted by Postroad at 9:51 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're probably hot.

I wear jeans and t-shirts and I'm a little overweight. That is not the problem. And I think that idea with men being afraid to approach someone who is too hot is just a silly excuse you hear when you feel bad about not getting male attention. I'm pretty sure that if a woman is really hot and beautiful, men will be falling over themselves to hit on her.
posted by giggleknickers at 9:52 AM on September 27, 2009


Let me, as a married guy many single female friends, say this: please don't stop being cute and playful, even with married guys. It's a scary thought that I can't talk to women ever again. There are women I feel like I can't even acknowledge sometimes, and I'm a pretty friendly person too. Much of what I (and my wife) do with members of the opposite sex gets misconstrued as flirting.

What you should do is, when it gets to the point where they're obviously flirting with you, tell them right the fuck off. There are definitely, definitely boundaries I don't cross. I don't try to hold anyone's hand; in fact I'm downright squicky about physical contact. I sure as shit don't text in the middle of the night unless I know the woman is a night owl who likes to go out. I make brazen invitations for women I know to meet my wife. I generally avoid personal questions about sex and the like. I don't always bring up right away that I'm married, mostly because I'm usually bombarding my conversation partner with personal questions, but I definitely do get around to bringing it up on my own initiative within the first couple hours of knowing someone.

Those are, for me, where the boundary between creepy lecher and a fun, yet attached, person to be around, lies. I think you might do well to adopt them. And then, when married men cross them, shut them right the hell down. Turn it off with a blatant, rude, no. I've done the same with married women, and single women who like me too much, and I don't feel bad about it. I've seen friends who've cheated and been cheated on, and those are things I hope never happen in my life. They ruin marriages. They're the nuclear option for a couple who's too damaged to work things out with communication and trust, and it's something that needs to be killed with fire. You're not just doing yourself a favor when you shut these guys down brutally, you're helping them and their families.

Take it seriously. Put up with nothing from men that you wouldn't put up with your own partner doing.
posted by saysthis at 9:57 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I really don't think the take away from this thread is that you need to stop being yourself. There is nothing wrong with being sweet and playful, but these men are seeing a green light where there is actually a huge red stop sign. So, you need to find where the disconnect is, and it sounds like maybe it's a question of degrees, meaning you need to regulate just how sweet and playful you are with them before knowing for sure that they are single. I'm not saying you are doing anything inappropriate per say, these married men are the ones in the wrong here, but since they have a skewed sense of boundaries, it will be the boundaries that you set which will eliminate this hassle and shut them down.

Think of it as the difference between who you are professionally and who you are when socializing with your dearest friends. There is a difference between being sociable, nice, and fun, and actually being the type of sweet and playful that is considered flirtatious. Sociable, nice, and fun can easily evolve into flirting once you know that this is someone who is available that you definitely want to flirt with, but being a bit more selective about who gets to see that flirtatious side might keep this from being a frequent occurrence. Unfortunately, there isn't a way to guarantee that this will never happen again, but slightly adjusting how much of your awesomeness someone gets to enjoy right off the bat should prevent this from being a frequent occurrence.

Oh, and once they do drop the marriage bomb, please feel free to be explicit about how rude, inappropriate, and unwelcome their sexual/romantic advances are. I'm not saying to make a scene, but you do not need to be polite. Directly stating that you are definitely not interested in married men is less open to interpretation and boundary pushing than giving someone the cold shoulder.

As for the lack of single guys approaching you, I'd just chalk that up to the lack of available, single men. Dating is hard and finding a guy you like who is available takes a phenomenal amount of patience. It can be frustrating, but it doesn't mean it won't happen. Unless you are specifically going to singles events or doing something like online dating, most of the people (men and women) that you run into will be already involved with someone. That has nothing to do with who you are, and everything to do with the way the world just is. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 9:59 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most married men are on the prowl.

As soon as I saw this I knew it had to be Zambrano. No, actually, most married men are NOT on the prowl. Not everyone lives in your universe, my friend. However, I do admire the consistency of your worldview.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:03 AM on September 27, 2009 [21 favorites]


I used to be you (minus the sweetness). Some wise friends explained it this way: I was seen as unconventional and with a rich life of my own. This, I was told, was attractive to men who felt that their problem was that they had "settled" too much. In contrast, single men who want a long-term relationship were, I was told, more interested in predictability and conventionality, no matter what they actually said. I was the kind of woman you had a fling with, not the one you settled down with.

Based on your earlier question about finding a career that provided full-time travel, you could be giving off vibes that you're not the settling kind. This would simultaneously push away serious single men and attract the married ones who want some spice.

What worked for me was deciding that I'm not looking for romance of any kind. Ironically, that has brought the single guys out of the woodwork.

I've been traveling a lot and plan to keep it up for the near future, and I don't want to end up with a partner who either complains that I'm gone too much or who wants to come along and then becomes high maintenance on the road (both concerns are based on my past experiences). While I think it might be possible to meet someone who would add to my life rather than restrict it, I frankly think I'm unlikely to find them, and this is the thought in the back of my mind as I chat with new people at social events.

Since I made that decision, I apparently give off "happy with my life, not interested in romance" vibes and, ironically, now attract single men, usually recently divorced ones who aren't sure what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I'm unlikely to get involved with any of them until they build their own, independent lives, but at least they're single.

This could also be a function of your age. When I was in my mid-thirties, for example, all single men vanished. They started reappearing as divorced men when I got to my mid-forties.
posted by PatoPata at 10:06 AM on September 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


So being "sweet" and playful is apparently the problem. It sounds like I need to stop being myself. Apparently single men have no interest in sweet and playful.

Whoah! No way -- you absolutely shouldn't change who you are. Just be a little more aware of how the people you're interacting with may (mis)interpret your behavior toward them, and when someone starts to cross a line you don't want crossed, be clear and unapologetic about rejecting them. The signals you're sending aren't the ones you intend to send, so you need to be clearer than just "politely ignoring" or not returning phone calls.

There's some (I'm sure unintended) blame-the-victim going on here, or at least that seems to be how you're interpreting the responses, and I really hope you won't take that as the lesson to be learned here.
posted by ook at 10:10 AM on September 27, 2009


It sounds to me like you're coping fine with married men coming onto you, but you wish that would happen less often. I have no idea why married men (as opposed to single men) approach you. Fortunately that's irrelevant: if you don't like the guys approaching you, start approaching the guys you like. Find places with high percentages of single guys, find out who is single, and approach them.

And yeah, you could probably stand to be a bit ruder to the inappropriate guys that approach you inappropriately.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 10:31 AM on September 27, 2009


I'm a lot like you, I suspect, and was raised to accept and apologise for things. I still feel that if there is a misunderstanding, it's my fault. If someone flirts with me, it's my fault. You get the picture.

BUT my life and self-esteem has really improved since I realised that occasionally letting out the other side of my personality is equally valid. You said you didn't want to stop being yourself--and you shouldn't. But is all of your personality being 'sweet' and 'playful'? When some married creep starts making advances, doesn't that make you feel angry, upset and creeped out?

If you show some angry, frustration or disgust, you are still being yourself. Even more so than if you were to force yourself to conform yourself to only being 'sweet' and 'playful'.

Bottom line, it's not your fault these married guys are flirting with you. If you feel uncomfortable and want them to stop, tell them. There's no need to let them down gently. You have the right to define how these conversations go and if you feel like telling them to fuck off and leave you alone [or the slightly more polite: you're married and I'm not interested], you definitely should.
posted by brambory at 11:03 AM on September 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have no interest in marriage or kids myself, so possibly maybe that has something to do with it?

This. I'm the same way and have spent most of my adult life dealing with the married men problem. I think the "no interest in marriage or kids" can easily be misconstrued into "hey, I'm open to anything except that, especially affairs with no strings attached."

Also, I think it's a reflection more of the men than of you. Keep being yourself.
posted by chez shoes at 11:09 AM on September 27, 2009


Am I really supposed to quit my job, quit all clubs and classes I participate in, never make friends with couples, and tell all friends that they are never, under any circumstances to introduce me to any of their friends? Even stop going to see doctors since apparently I can't even get a prescription renewed without this happening to me.

No, not at all. I had an incorrect impression about how married men were obtaining your phone number and I apologize for that and for my suggestion.

Re: the doctor. That's beyond inappropriate and at the least you should switch doctors and maybe consider filing a complaint with the appropriate agency.
posted by 6550 at 11:59 AM on September 27, 2009


Seconding, thirding, and fourthing what others have said:

Be rude.
posted by joshrholloway at 12:37 PM on September 27, 2009


Am I really supposed to quit my job, quit all clubs and classes I participate in, never make friends with couples, and tell all friends that they are never, under any circumstances to introduce me to any of their friends? Even stop going to see doctors since apparently I can't even get a prescription renewed without this happening to me.

No one ever even remotely suggested this. Honestly, your reactions to the mostly good advice here has been defensive and twisting what everyone is saying. No one wants you to stop being fun and cute and flirty. People are telling you to:

1) Where possible, STOP GIVING YOUR # to MARRIED MEN.
2) If you CANNOT avoid giving your #, and they call or text you to flirt, directly tell them that YOU ARE NOT INTERESTED IN DATING / SLEEPING WITH MARRIED MEN and you want to make sure that they understand that.
3) If your friends want to "introduce you to someone" and said someone is a guy, why not ASK your friends if said gentleman is married?

I mean, if this is a problem for you, then you have to be willing to change something (like setting some boundaries, like EVERYONE is suggesting, and not being cagey about letting married guys know when you are not interested).

Also, wtf, do they not have female doctors in your neck of the woods? Problem solved.
posted by tastybrains at 2:32 PM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think it's easy to have undesirable people chasing after you if you try to be a people pleaser. I only say that because I used to do that constantly; I would play by someone else's rules for our interactions, and next thing I knew, I felt obliged to hang out with people I really didn't want to see.

Solution? Make them play by your rules. It's not rude to tell someone no (or to back off) because you want something different than they do. Do what you want to do, interact how you want to, and if someone crosses the line, tell them so, then be prepared to ignore them.

Also, be sure to recognize when you might be misinterpreted as flirty. Sure, it might be very "you" to, say, touch someone on the arm a lot, but beware that a lot of guys see that as a green light that you're interested.

Lastly, if you want the attention of single guys, simply pay attention to them more (either in mixed company or no.) Guys love it when a girl is into them, and will often reciprocate.
posted by Turkey Glue at 3:19 PM on September 27, 2009


Am I really supposed to quit my job, quit all clubs and classes I participate in, never make friends with couples, and tell all friends that they are never, under any circumstances to introduce me to any of their friends? Even stop going to see doctors since apparently I can't even get a prescription renewed without this happening to me.

Of course not. Your challenge is to continue to do all those things, but develop your personal boundaries so that you know when interactions are becoming inappropriate. And work to be sure you are giving direct and clear, not mixed, signals.

1. Participating in clubs and classes: Someone calls you. They want to exchange notes from the last meeting they missed, see if you understood something in the reading, etc. Converse politely about the topic. If it veers into the personal ("I don't know, I just always feel this real amazing connection with you - it's like whenever we're discussing [class topic] you say exactly what I'm thnking") and it's unwanted, or you know he's married for sure, steer it right back: "Thanks a lot. Anything else? I've got to get going!"

2. Make friends with couples? Of course. Make friends with couples all over the place. Oops - the male in the couple, someone you KNOW is married, starts putting the moves on you? THEN they have crossed a boundary, and then you deal with it quite directly. "What do you think you're doing? Are you sure Sally would approve of that? Does Sally know you're here/talking to me on the phone? You remember you're married, right? This feels inappropriate to me. I need to tell you I am absolutely not interested in married men. I hope you don't think I'm flirting with you, because I have absolutely no desire to give that impression. Let me talk to Sally and clear things up." And do consider describing the weird interaction to Sally.

3. Introduction to friends? Yeah, if it's a setup, the first question from you should be "Are you setting me up for a date? Is this guy available or not?" If you mean a casual introduction, like at a party or an event, "Oh hi, Liz has told me about you. So do you live near hear? Married?" Chat like you would at any social gathering - No reason not to. It's not until there's a red-flag moment of flirtation or suggestion that you might need to make a clearer statement of disinterest.

4. Doctor? Totally inappropriate and probably against professional standards. Complain to his office, complain to his professional organization, and find another doctor.

Stand up for yourself here. Only you can draw the dividing line between appropriate interaction and inappropriate interaction. Develop some boundaries. If you need to practice it, get a trusted friend or two, and go ahead and roleplay the kind of interaction you end up in, trying some different responses. Reflect on what has happened in these situations and try to identify the moment at which things got weird. Was it before or after you walked off to a quiet corner alone together? Was it when you started talking somewhat intimately about travel or sex or other fun, flirtatious topics before knowing one another's availability level? Was it when you participated in a phone conversation even after it left the subjects that you really have in common, and turned into feelings and wishes and wanting to spend more time together?

You'll need to start getting better at hearing the alarm bells when people start crowding over your personal lines to the point where they're hitting on you.
posted by Miko at 3:24 PM on September 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


You sound very savvy with the realization that this type of attention is no compliment coming from THESE types of men.

The unfortunate truth is that "a good man is hard to find". You will increase your chances by putting yourself where single men are and staying aware of the scumbags who want to cheat. What a waste of time for you--!

You should think of yourself as a company/corporation. Corporations have "policies". Adopt a firm policy about dialog with married men. Something along the lines of "I never spend more than 60 seconds talking with married men in social situations"..and stick with it, because apparently you've been to across-the-board charming. Reserve your charm for eligible prospects only. If anyone thinks that is odd...too bad! You have your reasons and you definitely do not want to send out mixed signals.
posted by naplesyellow at 6:01 PM on September 27, 2009


Apparently single men have no interest in sweet and playful.

Not true, but, as Ironmouth put it:

Single men have a lot more in common with you--they can get hurt, whereas a married man is just seeking fun on the side.

Also, married men who are comfortable/confident making approaches "on the side" have the arrogance/confidence/whatever to make their advances. The singles guys who may be interested in could simply be far less confident of themselves.

Most married men are on the prowl.

Feel free to come back to Earth from Shitville, some day.

Also, wtf, do they not have female doctors in your neck of the woods? Problem solved.

Stunning news, I know but: some women are happy with male doctors. And, in this case, I'd echo that this actually deserves a complaint to a professional body about the doctor's behaviour. Seriously.
posted by rodgerd at 6:14 PM on September 27, 2009


Stunning news, I know but: some women are happy with male doctors.

Right, but her complaint was that she can't go to a doctor to get a prescription refilled without getting hit on, making it sound like this has been a theme with her male doctors. So, if she's unhappy with getting hit on, and she doesn't seem to think finding a new male doctor is going to put an end to the unwanted advances, then switching to a female doctor seems like a viable solution. I assume that in Germany the only options for medical treatment aren't married men -- like female doctors and single male doctors.
posted by tastybrains at 6:37 PM on September 27, 2009


I assume that in Germany the only options for medical treatment aren't married men -- like female doctors and single male doctors.

Apologies - I misunderstood your comment.
posted by rodgerd at 7:29 PM on September 27, 2009


I'll be the one to ask--is there any chance that you are giving off a different vibe to single men? Single men come with one of the scariest threats of all--of a relationship--with major life changing possibilities, sometimes with a lot of pain. Sometimes we give off negative vibes when we are unconsciously afraid of something.

I'm not saying that it is the case, but it happens, so the question has to be asked.

Actually I knew this very sweet, flirtatious (and hot) woman who had the opposite problem. She was married. And the same types of obnoxious men, only this time single, would 'fall in love' and decide 'she's the one'. Because she was a teacher, she couldn't always keep her distance.

But she did have self-confidence and was able to brush them off without losing her sweetness. I think that is the key. One mistake people make is thinking that being assertive is the same as being mean. It isn't at all! It is projecting complete confidence when you sweetly tell them that you are not in the slightest way interested in a relationship with a married person, so it would be better if they backed off.
posted by eye of newt at 8:16 PM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm with Miko. When I was in college and still a total meek super feminized pushover (always afraid to hurt someone's feelings or be misconstrued as making a fuss or being rude), I had a ton of men make inappropriate advances. Learning how to be more assertive and reframing your "first impression" Pavlovian defenses (I realized I was, without even knowing it, always meeting people with the question of how best to please them and make them laugh and feel at ease, special in my mind) is good advice. I think strangers can smell that ingrained need to please from a mile away...and I've been that 20something chick on the airplane someone above described (I cringe admitting that, a little). It got better once I got older, grew more assertive and comfortable in my personhood, and learned to be firm when it mattered.
posted by ifjuly at 2:35 PM on November 28, 2009


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