I Love A Married Man

This is my intro to both this post and its companion post, ‘Loving A Married Woman.’ If you love a married man and you’re in a love relationship with him, read this post. You are engaged in what is commonly thought of as a ‘triangle.’ Triangles are rough on the heart. Fundamentally, they are unstable, like three legs on a table. Something always goes wrong, or at least it should, because triangles usually end up hurting people more than anything else.

Triangles exist simply because a problem is not being resolved in a marriage. Two people get married and have marital problems, instead of resolving those problems either by fixing the relationship or ending it, which by the way can be a valid resolution of a problem, a third party is brought into the relationship and now you have a triangle.

This post focuses on a triangle with two women and a man. In this triangle the man is at the apex. Two women are vying for one man. There will surely be a fair amount of overlap with what goes on when you have two men and one woman in a triangle. Although one big difference is the man’s psychological issues are in control of this triangle. In this culture and a bunch of others, men get a lot of encouragement to be polygamous.

Borrowing from its zoological application, polygamous men are men who mate with more than one woman regardless of whether or not they are formally married. Let’s analyze this a bit. There are plenty of people who believe the body or simply biology can account for this just fine. There are others who think that men learn polygamous values through education and social expectation.

My personal belief is there’s a lot of learning taking place when a man grows up. He learns what it means to be a man by watching older men in his life. He learns how to be a lover and husband in pretty much the same way. Many cultures exist that promote and expect that married men will ‘cheat’ on their wives. In some cultures its a sign of virility and reaps a load of respect from other men.

Some cultures have the same expectations but expect that men will hide their infidelities. Their wives know, even the children know, but it is kept hidden beyond perception or discussion. No matter what culture you are currently in, even our largely moral culture of monogamy and divorce in the USA, men live by a different and double standard than women when it comes to infidelity. So how does this affect the male dominated triangle?

For one thing a man in such a triangle would be inclined to see it as less of a problem. In his long-term marriage there have probably been triangles before and there will probably be triangles after this one. There would also be a greater probability that his wife knows about her man’s infidelity. Call it women’s intuition or whatever. The point is she knows but won’t give her husband his walking papers. The reason for this can be found in her self-esteem. Since we’re talking about her, let’s start this off with a psychological look at the married woman in a male dominated triangle. What do we know about her?

She probably feels a bit bad about herself, unable to confront her husband, or make a threat to separate if there’s any more infidelity because she feels that she would have a hard time living without him. She’s the saddest figure in this type of triangle because chances are she wants her marriage but doesn’t know how to make it work. As I indicated, standing up to her husband is the hardest task she’s facing.

She doesn’t want to risk being alone. Her torment often shows up as a phoniness she presents acting as though she doesn’t know and doesn’t care what her husband does. If she could she would leave him because she feels wronged and disrespected by his actions. On the other hand, if she did she pictures a life without love because she feels bad about herself as a person. See the connection between self-esteem and a willingness to tolerate infidelity?

The ‘other woman’ is looking for someone else’s man initially out of convenience. Just like the ‘other man’ in the female dominated triangle, she tells herself that it’s best to be with a man who goes home to his wife after being together with her. This of course only works up to the time when she and the married man get attached to each other.

Once attached, she starts thinking about being together more, and he gets used to the ways she helps him tolerate his marriage. This is when convenience turns into jealousy, disappointment, and resentment. Once again she is looking for love in the wrong place and with the wrong person.

This ‘other woman’ like the ‘other man’ has a thinly disguised intimacy problem more visible to others than to herself. She is really looking for love, and the evidence for that shows up when she forms an attachment to the married man. There’s another dynamic that applies to some of these women and is often noticeable by married men in general.

That’s the appeal a self-confident married man has when he’s with his wife and single available women see him. It’s as if they look him over wondering things like what he has to offer and whether or not he could be ‘turned’ away from his wife by the right woman. Single men in this setting often get much less attention since they’re visibly clamoring for an opportunity where ever they can find it.

So let’s assume that this kind of triangle, two women and one man, feels like an opportunity for the ‘other woman’ to get love from an unattainable man. Maybe it’ an ego boost for her. She was able to turn this married man away from his wife. She won the competition, or so it seems. I’m pretty certain that whatever boost she is getting will become limited and a ‘curse,’ once an attachment forms. Attachments are precisely why triangles aren’t very stable.

It’s hard to share a man you desire with someone else who has legal rights. There’s always a feeling of potential loss hanging around. And of course, that horrible scene when you bump into your married man lover with his wife at a restaurant at a nearby table when you are with a date or a friend or God forbid, alone.

For some ‘other women’ when that sort of thing happens the relationship ends. These are the women who believe, ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ as the creed they live by when loving a married man. If I don’t see you with your wife I won’t think about the fact you have one. If I see you with your wife then I have to think about and feel the limitations in this kind of love-life. One more thing, for some ‘other women’ I have worked with, the realization that they weren’t getting much out of this arrangement was pivotal in changing their minds about staying in the triangle. Since most women in this situation will value relationship as equal to or more than sex, inevitably they get to the point where they feel the real limitations of this triangular arrangement and make a change in it.

Now on to the married man, leader of the group, the dominant member of the triangle. No doubt there are marital problems that he and his wife are avoiding or ignoring. Sometimes relationships get stale especially if you don’t work on them. Sometimes people in relationships get stale especially when they stop working on themselves. The wife lets herself go, they get into different work schedules, the kids get all of her time, or Dad’s at work all the time. Stuff like this can make a marriage feel distant and minimize communication.

If the married man took a risk and said to his wife that the marriage is damaged and needs repair before making a triangle, they’d either fix it or part company. Good either way as far as I’m concerned. Why should two people be forced to stay together? If they fix their marriage, beautiful. Although fixing a marriage that has grown stale is no easy feat. It usually takes dedication, shared responsibility, and a little time and patience. I can understand how some people want to avoid doing all that work with an unpredictable outcome. This is all fine and dandy except for the fact that there might be more to the story.

When a married man let’s his marriage go, and his wife sort of let’s it go too, they may have a more hidden agenda. They might be shaping the relationship into something other than husband and wife. The common prototypes for a stale marriage are usually borrowed from the family of origin: father-daughter, mother-son, and brother-sister are the most common. Transforming a marital relationship into one of these prototypes is commonly an effort to hang onto the marriage now in a triangular arrangement.

Let’s try the mother-son prototype as an example. Married man stops having as much sex with his wife and distances himself from her controlling involvement with the children. Maybe she gets a bit heavier which reinforces the decrease in sexual intimacy and dominates the care of the children. Now, when he looks at his wife he sees a mother. A woman consumed with the role of mothering. So much so, mothering even gets directed at him from time to time and he learns to live with it.

Other needs that no longer feel comfortable in the marriage go to the other woman, especially the sexual ones. Point is, no matter how passionate the ‘other relationship,’ he would never think of living without the security his wive provides him. Of course he’s got the kids too, which can add a layer of guilt to avoid. So there you have it, a relationship change in his marriage that supports the formation of a male dominated triangle.

A married man in a triangle with two women, his wife and ‘another woman,’ is more often than not bonded to his wife’s security as a maternal presence, and attached to his lover sexually. Again, this kind of division of love is bound to be unstable and rocky at some point down the line. This married man is actively trying to make up for disappointed childhood-adolescent love needs that were never adequately satisfied now in his marriage.

When that happens, as in the case of the male dominated triangle, the earlier childhood needs take priority over adulthood needs for love. The married man is bonded to his wife in the hopes of getting his early needs for love satisfied in that relationship. In order to better tolerate his efforts to make that happen, he needs a triangulated lover while hanging onto his maternal wife.

Thank God I’ve never witnessed a person successfully make up for lost childhood love in an adult love relationship. What I have seen is triangles formed and broken painfully for all parties involved. Think of what would happen to us if we could successfully satisfy unfulfilled childhood needs for love in adulthood. Nobody would have sufficient motivation to grow up. We all get one chronological childhood. If it’s lousy you get to learn about and use your ‘internal resources’ to grow yourself as an individual. Not a bad alternative if you ask me.

When a person has to do something like this he or she grows in character. What our married man needs to realize is, what he wants is an illusion that is only limiting his love life. When the triangle falls apart because his lover gets wise, or his wife grows the courage to leave him, or he himself wakes up and takes a sabbatical from the triangle to soul search about his love life, that’s when he really gets a chance to make the changes needed to have a satisfying love life.

Dr. Thomas Jordan, clinical psychologist, author of Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life. Need help fixing your disappointing love life? Confidential Love Life Consultations available by phone, inquire at drtomjordan@lovelifelearningcenter.com.


Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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