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She said because they can cater to her needs. I also remember a Ghanaian actress once made a comment about women having to depend on men to sustain themselves.


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He admits he has been a bad husband. What makes you think he will not make an equally rubbish secret boyfriend, asks Annalisa Barbieri. I am a woman in her early 70s who has lived half her adult life alone. I divorced in my 40s when my children were older teenagers.

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SHE was an editor, he was a writer and they met ''on line'' or by computer.

It was strictly business until he began to call her on the ''personal mode. Despite the high-tech twist, it was an old story: a married man, a single woman, hotel trysts in distant cities. While packing his suitcase one morning, he noticed lipstick stains on two shirts and discarded the shirts, saying, ''I can't take them home.

She was among 55 single women whose liaisons with married men were studied by Laurel Richardson, an Ohio State University sociologist. In-depth interviews with these women and shorter interviews with other women in the same situation formed the basis of Dr. One of her study's major findings is that an affair with a married man is no longer taboo but a recognizable social pattern for a diverse population of single women.

Eligible single men are in short supply and married men seem willing. The women in the study were 24 to 64 years old, with a median age of They came from all social strata and geographic areas.

They held blue- pink- and white-collar jobs. Most had been married once and most had affairs with older men, many of whom were mentors or bosses. For some, the affair was a solution to the shortage of potential marriage partners.

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But for many more, it was a way of avoiding marriage when other priorities were pressing. In this respect, the other woman of today differs from her counterpart in the past.

Her goal is not to marry, Dr. Richardson said, but to enjoy the male companionship while pursuing other goals, such as building a career, surviving a divorce or earning a college degree. Nor do the subjects in her study fit the stereotype of other woman as ''economically parasitical, psychologically sick and socially deviant,'' the sociologist said.

While a few of them spoke frankly of exchanging sexual favors for financial gain, the vast majority felt freer, stronger and more independent with married men than with single men. When love walked in, however, independence flew out the window. Richardson said.

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The more they withdrew, the more dependent they became on him. A woman whose lover lived in another city and called her every Friday night said: ''I began to resent having my freedom to come and go restricted by his phone call. He was controlling me from a distance. In the women's view, sex was not the primary reason for the affair.

Some relationships went on for six months or more before becoming sexual, in part because married men were likely to wait until the women expressed a willingness for sex. By contrast, ''single men think you owe them sex because they're so nice to go out with you,'' one woman said, chalking it up to ''the man shortage. Affairs with married men helped some women overcome sexual repressions.

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Having set aside the adultery taboo, they said, it was easier to suspend other restrictive attitudes. The women did not regard affairs with another woman's husband as ''a sin, a grievance or a breach of sisterhood,'' the sociologist stressed, but tended to think of the marriage as temporary, considering the divorce rate, and of the wife as nonexistent.

Another reason for the lack of guilt, she said, is that few women deliberately set out to have affairs with a married man.

Often it started as a business relationship. He had a wedding band and a picture of his family on his desk. It seemed safe. The affairs lasted four years on average, longer than the women had expected.

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The men usually ended the relationships while the women tried to part on a good note, as friends. Friendship is how it started.

Richardson said, ''she can feel that he is worthy, after all, that her judgment is not totally faulty and that she loved well, if not wisely. In this sense, she added, the other woman is Everywoman. View on timesmachine.

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