How to survive dating a married man

Only a week and a half after meeting him, I was having a full-blown affair with a married man and could no longer recognize my life.

I’d been unemployed for almost a year and spent most of my time alone, on top of which I hadn’t dated or had sex in the four years I’d been hung up on my ex.

“The balance is off,” I said, swirling a French fry in ketchup. Lunch lasted for three hours and turned into coffee at a café a few blocks away, and then a lingering walk through the Manhattan streets as the sun warmed us on that bright fall day.

“Tell me something personal about you.” “I’m sober,” he said. After I left David I was in a daze, dizzy from our effortless afternoon together.

I’d be by his side regardless of how many friends’ couches he had to crash on, and through a shitty first apartment in a crappy neighborhood with no furniture and bare walls.

Warmth spread out from my heart and across my chest and I knew; I was going to make this work, and we were going to be able to have a legitimate relationship.

“This is my consolation meal.” “You’ll be fine,” she said, “I can already tell.” That week, my bathroom sink clogged, then my kitchen sink backed up, then the heating pipe in my bathroom burst, and then I broke my toe because I was thinking of David instead of paying attention to where I was going and slammed my foot into the bathroom door.

“I just got dumped,” I told the manager as I ordered a cheeseburger and milkshake.

That night he emailed me, “I don’t feel like pretending I didn’t feel something between us today.” Reading his words, I couldn’t believe he was so straightforward, and I was relieved. “Nope,” I said, pressing back against him, my eyes locked on his.

I didn’t feel like pretending either; I could pretend for years, wanting something more but subsisting on the pretense of a friendship with a subtext of sexual attraction, living indefinitely in an unfulfilling fantasy. Sitting across from him, he pressed his leg into mine under the table. “I should tell you,” I confessed, propping my elbows on the table and leaning forward, “I have this pattern with unavailable men.” I told him about the guy I had a fling with who lived with his girlfriend, and my ex I couldn’t get over, who was married when I met him.

We’d had a flirtation for a couple of months before his marriage dissolved, and started dating as soon as he got separated.

David told me that he wasn’t happy in his marriage but had children and planned to stay married for his kids, until his youngest—who was eight months old—graduated from high school.

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