When Honesty Isn’t His Policy: Sometimes You Have to Listen To What A Man Is Not Saying

July 16, 2012  |  

I’ve done a lot of things I’m reluctant to admit in public. Near the top of the list is the fact that I once dated a married man.

To be fair, he was from the Islands and only got married to gain citizenship. I had never heard of anyone doing such a thing (outside of that awful Sandra Bullock movie), but apparently he went to college in the United States and risked deportation after graduation. His girlfriend at the time offered to marry him so he could stay in the country. Three years later, when I met him, he had moved to a different state and she had moved on to another relationship. In fact, she had a two-year-old child with a new beau.

They were over, but he was still legally married. I had no idea and, unfortunately, he was one of those men willing to conceal the truth for his own selfish gain.

His name was Malcolm* and we worked in the same building downtown. We met while going through a revolving door. I agreed to a lunch date in the food court of our building that day and we ate lunch together every day after that.  I was only in the city for an internship and didn’t know anyone else, so he and I hung out all the time. He even took me on a trip to Myrtle Beach (and was floored when he realized that my celibacy pact applied to all fifty states, but that’s another story.)

Malcolm had told me all about his childhood and growing up on an island and the culture shock he had experienced after moving to the US. I knew his family was still living on the island and that he hadn’t been back to visit them, but I never thought to ask him any real details about how he was able to stay in the United States.  I just went about blindly being wined and dined by this man who was keeping an epic secret.

It was during one of our lunch dates nearly three months in that he told me the truth. I’ll never forget we were eating Stromboli from Sbarro’s when he looked at me solemnly and said: “I have to tell you something….I’m kind of married.”

Because marriage is not on some sort of sliding scale ranging from “very” to “not really”, I ignored the “kind of” part and sat there in stunned silence. I couldn’t understand how his marriage hadn’t come up in a single one of the hundreds of conversations we’d had since we met. I racked my brain trying to remember if something should have clued me in to this revelation. I couldn’t come up with anything.

He kept talking about how his marriage didn’t mean anything and how it really “didn’t count”. I don’t believe holy matrimony should be taken lightly and therefore wasn’t a bit comforted by his flippant attitude toward it. Besides, as it turned out, theirs wasn’t some drunken Vegas chapel shindig, officiated by Elvis and consummated in an abandoned truck outside of a seedy casino. They’d had a real wedding with the digital pictures to prove it. To make matters worse, he said they were in love at the time, but both pretty much knew that the marriage was one of convenience. When they broke up, he didn’t bother filing for divorce because I’m sure he didn’t want to raise any red flags with Immigration. They simply just went their separate ways with their marriage still on the books.

As for me? I was done.

You always hear the Maya Angelou quote (often erroneously attributed to Oprah): “The first time someone tells you who they are, believe them.” As someone who possessed a disconcerting knack for ignoring waving red flags on date number one only to be genuinely shocked when inevitable disaster struck months later, I knew that advice was for me. So, well before Malcolm, I had begun paying close attention to the things men said from the moment we met. I pointedly listened for the unambiguous “I never want to get married” or the stories that start with “When I was in prison,” or the casual Agnostic comment whenever I mentioned church.

What I didn’t know to do was listen for the things he wasn’t saying.

Sometimes, these things can be the extra toothbrush in his bathroom or the tattoo on his wrist bearing a female’s name or the fact that you’ve never met a single one of his friends or, in my case, some citizenship papers. The sad truth is that people are not always honest about who they are up front, at least not verbally. Some people will go to incredible lengths to conceal the truth until their truth finds them out or their conscience just can’t take it anymore. Others will simply withhold information until they’re specifically asked. It’s all intentional deceit and entirely too common.

Maybe I would have figured out the marriage thing had I asked more questions, but that’s something a person should come out with right away whether asked or not. He willingly kept me in the dark about that fact.

In the end, I didn’t reward Malcolm for his honesty by continuing to date him as he suggested I do. Instead I told him that being married, whether he felt it “counted” or not, was a deal breaker in my book and I only regretted that he wasted my time. I reminded him that there are plenty of women out here ready and willing to date someone else’s husband, but I wasn’t one of them.

His secret told me that he wasn’t trustworthy and, well, I believed him.

Have you ever found out someone you were dating was keeping a secret? How did you find out? How did you respond?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink

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