Run the Other Way: A Story of Redemption

While immersing herself in the Atlanta music scene, Vocal Producer Jan Smith also found herself caught in a relationship with a married man. After 12 years of living a lie, Jan eventually learned the importance of running the other way.


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Friends Don't Let Friends Date Married Men

Ginger Emas

One of the reasons I wrote Back on Top was due to my own foibles as I began dating after divorce. I quickly realized I was completely clueless about 21st century dating rules. It had been 15 years since I was single and looking. And to be honest, after my divorce, I didn’t know what I was looking for – or if I was really interested in looking at all.

But that’s no excuse for any of us to go out there with our eyes wide shut.

Yet, that’s just what I was doing, blindly dating as if the world was the same as it was when I was a teenager in the 70s, when the worst mistake you could make was getting caught making out in the back of your boyfriend’s car.

I was trying everything – dating online, speed-dating, going out with friends of friends, dancing in Midtown clubs – without a handbook or compass or first-aid kit. And for someone like me, who had not felt desired in years, I was an open target.

It’s no surprise, then, that the first man I had a longish-term relationship with after my divorce turned out to be married. Of course, I didn’t know he was married when I met him. And I didn’t find out until after we had dated for nearly six months. How can that be, you ask? I hear you; it’s hard for me to believe now – years later – that I was so unaware, so uneducated … so willing.

Today, I think – I hope – I would know. In fact, if I had had a little more experience at dating-after-divorce, I might have known in just a few hours.

But I was a newbie in a land filled with man-mines. And I was blown away.

Discovering this lie rocked my world in a way that even my divorce had not. Because I didn’t see it coming. Because his lies were so categorical and complete. And because prior to being involved with a married man, I had thought this situation was pretty black-and-white: He’s married. I’m outta here.

Over the years, prior to my own experience, I remember coaching more than one friend involved with a married man. Looking back, I’m embarrassed by my trite advice of, “you deserve more than this."

In my own case, when I discovered the truth I called him on it. He admitted it, and I broke it off. Done. Through. Over. But "over" took a longer than I ever thought it would.

I was in deeper than I had realized. Not necessarily deep into him, I understand now. I fell for the way he made me feel – feelings that had been dormant for years. It fed my ego. It fed my broken heart. It made me feel as if I existed, when years of a platonic and often disconnected marriage had made me feel invisible. And it was hard for me to let that feeling go; much harder than my blithe, previously uninitiated self ever thought it could be.

It was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had in my adult life.

After I discovered the truth, it took every bit of my willpower NOT to answer his dozens of texts a day. NOT to call him the dozens of times that I was tempted to “talk this out.” NOT to make up excuses for him… or for me. I didn't always succeed. That first f-you goodbye turned into several goodbyes ... I was not as strong or hardened against him as I would have imagined. I had to constantly focus to block out the memory of the words he had whispered to me, the feelings he had professed, the friendship he had offered. It is humbling to realize that you’re not all that … you’re just something on the side.

That thing about time being the great healer? I found it to be true, although in the midst of it time ticked by at an excruciatingly slow pace. A week after I found out, I could still barely eat; I felt sick with myself and what I now knew. A month after, I was furious – a much healthier step on the path to my own healing. Two months later, I was writing about it. Six months later, I was practically doing stand-up comedy about it.

I’ll tell you one of the most dangerous things I realized from my own personal experience, and from interviewing hundreds of women: no one can make a dead girl feel alive like a married man can. But it’s deadly just the same.

I made it part of my book’s mission to help others learn the red flags and warning signs, and to remind others like me to take ownership of our naïveté, to take responsibility for our actions, and to open our eyes and stop the tendency to be the “Queen of Denial.”

In Back On Top, I included a chapter called Love, Lies and Loans, in which I highlight all sorts of dating dangers. The bullet points seem so obvious now; but believe me, if you’re just stepping back out into the dating world, you won’t be thinking like a detective -- yet.

Here are just some of the clues that the guy you’re dating might be married:

· If you meet through an online dating site and he doesn’t have his picture posted. Everyone can find a way to post a photo. My friend Nancy says if he doesn’t, it means “he’s either married or ugly.” Hey, she said it. · He says he lives out of town but visits your town on business all the time.

· He’s rarely in town on the weekends.

· You’ve never met even one of his friends.

· He never invites you over to his house. (Even if he lives out of town, he could invite you to whatever city he does live in, after, say, four months, right?)

· He attends big events and doesn’t ask you to go with him (weddings, birthday parties, etc.) This actually happened to me. He went to a nephew’s wedding; he had a pretty big birthday; he won a sales trip. Nada. But I’m not bitter.

·He has more than one cell phone, but only calls you from one of them. (It used to be if a guy only called from a cell phone and not a landline that this was a red flag; not anymore. Nearly half of all cell phone users in the U.S. have given up their home extensions. But it’s still something to pay attention to.)

·He says he loves you after just a few dates. (This is a red flag for all sorts of things, don’t get me started.)

Years later, I’ve heard many stories similar to mine, and I’ve had many more experiences that have opened my eyes to how very human we all are. I’ll keep writing and warning—as much for myself, as for all the women I know and love, and for all of those I don’t know but with whom I share a sisterhood.

Friends don’t let friends date married men.

Ginger Emas is a 20-year veteran corporate writer in Atlanta, and most recently, the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a contributing blogger for The Balancing Act, Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) and skirt.com, the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured in More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia.

More Ginger Emas columns

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