You've met--and now you have to gauge if the other person is interested. In internet dating, that part is pretty much covered. That's why you are there; to find a date/boyfriend/husband. (Some married guys are on the internet pretending to be single, but they just suck. There are also married guys in open relationships--they don't suck, but I'm not interested.)
We do not, and must not, make the assumption in real life that the object of our affection is actually available. There could be a girlfriend, wife or fiancé and this must be ascertained early on in the encounter. Let me state the obvious: it is a bad idea to date a married guy. There are differences of opinion on whether it’s ok to go after a guy who has a girlfriend. I say, it might be ok, depending on the exact circumstances. Under no circumstances do I think it’s ok to go after or date guys who are engaged, married or living with someone. I’m very, very leery of dating someone who is separated-but-not-officially-divorced. Generally it’s a bad idea. It is verboten if he is still living in the same house with his wife, even if she is a soon-to-be-ex.
My main reason for not dating separated men is that when my parents were separated my dad thought that meant it was ok to see other people but my mom didn't. They did get back together after being separated--at least for a while. My point is that the parties to the separation may not be in agreement as to what it means. It leaves you in a terrible position.
I recently broke my rule and, last November, I dated a separated guy for about a month. He didn't go back to his wife or anything, but he was an emotional basket case (and a heck of a lot of fun to be with) and he just couldn't handle a new involvement. Moving on....
This sounds like something your mother would tell you, but check for a wedding ring. A good guy will mention his girlfriend/partner early in the conversation. (If a cute guy doesn't even give you a glance, it means that he's married or otherwise unavailable. You are as cute as ever, he's just trying to be good. Or he’s not interested.) Don't stop talking to him. Keep smiling, take a breath and see if he has any friends around. There is nothing wrong with having a conversation with an attached guy, just don't spend the whole night with him. If you are at a bar or a party make sure to move along after half an hour or so. But, if he's wearing a wedding ring, even if he doesn't mention a wife, just go ahead and assume he's married. Because he is. Guys may wear enormous class rings for God knows what reason, but he doesn’t wear a gold band on the third finger of his left hand unless he is married. He's wearing that ring, he's married. Go ahead and ask him. You'll see.
An example. I was 17, living in the dorms and starting to spend a lot of time at the Last Exit (click for a startlingly accurate description of the place). I had also begun my obsession with Vespas. I didn’t own one (yet) and I’d only ridden on the back of one once, but I was always looking for them and thought about them quite a bit. A friend of mine was waitressing at the Exit and she knew about my obsession. She also knew that a new waiter, John, had a Vespa. There was an all-ages show one night at the Lincoln Arts Center and she said she would arrange for John to give me a ride so I could, you know, have a Vespa experience. She introduced us and for one reason or another, he couldn’t give me a ride there, but for some other reason, could give me a ride home. Some friends of mine were having a party that was on the way back to my dorm and I invited John. It made quite an impression on my friends when I showed up with John on the back of his scooter.
A few days later, John invited me to go to a poetry reading with him. Gary Snyder. John was very into the Beats and I am the kind of a person one invites to poetry readings or the opera. I had read On The Road, but wasn't familiar with Beat poetry. I thought, “He likes me. And he has a Vespa.” Ah. I was 17. Remember that. (And how old was John? 20 or 21--something like that.)
John even gave me a little Vespa pin that night when we were back at his room (in a boarding house) then he took me home. I dropped by his room one day to see him and he didn’t open the door. “I’m busy now—I’ll see you later, ok?” He said. Umm, ok. I knew something was up, and my gut was telling me there was a girl in there, but I didn’t really get it. God I was naïve. I couldn’t think up half the situations I found myself in.
John and I never kissed and I didn’t think he was my boyfriend. But I did have a little crush on him and I thought, maybe, we were sort of dating. Or something.
Then I talked to Stella. Stella is what I would call a “bad friend.” She is also what I would call a “crazy person.” We had been very close earlier in the year, but had had a major falling out. She was friends with the waitress who had introduced me to John. She asked me about John. And then she said, “You know his wife was here.”
“You know he’s married, right?” Stella asked, knowing very well that I had no idea.
“Sure. Of course.” I lied.
“You have been spending a lot of time with him, so I assumed he told you. If you don’t care, then I guess it’s no big deal.”
“We’re just friends, so there’s not a problem.” I said.
Oh boy, I can remember the pain of holding it together for that conversation. If I were the type of girl who cried, I would have ran off for a good cry right then. But I was more the type of girl who could not bear to lose face in front of anyone. But, especially not in front of Stella, who was the queen of dropping this kind of bomb. This wasn't the first time she'd pulled a number like this on me, but this time I didn't argue with her because I knew she wasn't lying. Funny that, because Stella is the biggest liar I've ever met.
I eventually found John at The Exit. I was sitting at one of the big round, wooden tables and it was a sunny, lovely Spring day. John came in and I noticed his thick, gold wedding ring. Of course, I'd seen it before, but I didn't realize what it meant. I assumed that he would have mentioned being married. I said hello to him and we chatted, mundanely, for a while. Then I said, "So, were you going to tell me that you were married?"
"You are married, right?" I said.
"But you knew. I figured you knew." John said.
"Uh-huh. Right. Of course I didn't."
"But I'm wearing a ring."
"How many married people do you think I know? Look, you know I didn't know. You should have said something. But, whatever, it's fine." I said.
"Ok. I don't see what the big deal is."
We actually continued to be friends for some time after that, after I got over being angry at him and feeling stupid. He wasn't such a bad guy and he'd never made me any promises. He did eventually get divorced but he sure wasn't the guy for me. I learned that it helps to know that the guy is married right from the beginning--then it's easy not to get interested. It was a little bit of work to stop being interesting in John, but I managed it. He really was a dope.
Grateful for: learning that lesson the easy way.