Online dating with a married man
Rosemary Counter's recent first-person account, "A Craigslist Missed Connection Lure," in the "Modern Love" section, is a pretty good example of how deeply irrational these things can be.She meets a man through Craigslist who treats her better than any man has ever treated her.Tentatively at first, then with gathering conviction, she begins to accept this gift from the universe—a man who seems to want nothing more than to take care of her. When he offers one day to pick her up from work, she recalls, "Nobody had ever picked me up or cared how I'd get home, so I happily accepted." Ten days into the most satisfying relationship of her life, a friend confronts her with the fact that she knows next to nothing about him. Why hide the wedding ring and go after single women, knowing you're just going to break their hearts?When she asks him if there's anything he needs to tell her, he bursts into tears and reveals that he's married, with one child already and another on the way. Some married men who make believe they're single online are like compulsive gamblers borrowing money to use at the gambling table, knowing they'll never be able to pay it back. As with compulsive gambling, some men have an insatiable need to win.It's especially painful when fate takes a woman for whom "nobody had ever picked me up or cared how I got home," and matches her with a man who can't stop acting out some horrible unconscious story of heartbreak from his own troubled past.The stories usually involve early heartbreak—children starved for love and told they're no good by parents who were treated the same way.Sometimes a dismal story of emotional betrayal echoes down through the generations, like a tale that never made any sense but still got repeated over and over.
Give them something good, like a marriage or a young woman's open heart, and they'll wreck it.We mental health professionals have lots of theories why—early emotional abuse, neglect, too few good role models, too many bad ones.It's puzzling that a married man would lie on Craigslist and romance a young woman, knowing he's going to eventually break her heart. It requires a particular kind of mind: You need to be able to think ultra-short-term, and to keep your feelings tightly compartmentalized so long-term considerations don't get in your way. They have to keep the thrills coming, or they feel catastrophically bored.Other men, more paradoxically, seem to have an insatiable need to lose.
You would think the obvious answer would be: for sex.But as a sex therapist I can tell you it's often not so straightforward.