Pati, Patni, Aur Main: The Difficulty of Dating Married Men as a Single Gay Man


Pati, Patni, Aur Main: The Difficulty of Dating Married Men as a Single Gay Man

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

“We can meet today after office and see how things go,” V said over the phone. I was scared yet excited. This was back in 2011 and my first date with a man. V was married, I was confused. This was my orientation into same-sex relationships and V was eager to be my guide. We had liked each other’s profiles – images were exchanged over Planet Romeo, a social network for queer people, and were chatting for more than a week. That he was married felt perfect back then, a surety that he would be discreet and restrained unlike the flamboyant and proud gay men I was wary of.

Though I felt like a conspirator in this act of betraying his wife, I had few options. All the men I found desirable on gay dating sites were married and I was done vacillating. About to turn 30, I was not sure of my sexuality. Morality could wait.

It’s been over a decade since I started dating men and most middle-aged ones come with the “married” tag. Many feel entitled and want “the best of both worlds”; there are few who feel suffocated in heterosexual marriages but have no courage to come out. What’s common among them, however, is the belief that dating men is not equal to cheating their wives. “At least I am not dating a woman,” is a regular refrain. Some have laid down rules of their own to escape guilt. R, for instance, didn’t let me touch his organ. I could have his rear end but the symbol of manhood was reserved for the wife.

Starting out, I found dating married men to be more convenient. They were more discreet and hence less likely to indulge in robbery or blackmailing, something I had heard was common in the gay world. They seemed to like me more – a man confused about his sexuality; somebody who was apprehensive just like them. I too started believing that there was nothing wrong in what these men in committed marriages were doing. “People find love in all kinds of situations. Maybe I become a reason that unshackles him from a meaningless, dreary family life,” I would humour myself.

All the men I found desirable on gay dating sites were married and I was done vacillating.

It took me a long time to realise, however, that a relationship built on deception is not what I was looking for. Married men are less likely to engage emotionally. Some would bombard me with Whatsapp forwards on deep love and friendship but wouldn’t agree to go for a short walk or hold hands in public, trying to wrap everything up in the room. They feared being seen with a man would challenge their stable family life or simply lacked bandwidth for any kind of emotional indulgence. It’s the reason married gay men prefer sexual partners with similar commitments. “It’s easier being with people like us. They know what it takes to be married and having responsibilities. We can be just friends and leave it at that,” V said once.

At first, it didn’t matter whom I dated. All I wanted was to be with a man, explore my sexuality. But with time, I craved for more than just the physical intimacy. Dating married felt like a power struggle; I’d feel helpless as they controlled how and when we date. There was always a limited time window; they always had to rush back to families. “What will I say at home,” would be a common response when I suggested they wait a little longer. A night out or a quick getaway was out of the question. The only person who spent a night with me was someone whose wife was visiting her parents. These unequal relationships were frustrating and instead of giving me the courage to come out, they pushed me into a shell.

I started meeting prospective matches through matrimonial websites. “You are always the dominant one in bed and don’t have feminine gestures. There should be no problem managing your marriage,” one of the men I dated told me. But was I not cheating a woman by convincing her to marry me? Could I live a life of pretence? My mind was full of questions. Some days I felt upbeat about marriage, on others it seemed like a punishment. I even said yes to a girl; our parents met, but I retracted in a few days. It wasn’t because my conscience was shaken; I was just scared. Somehow I convinced myself that she was not the “right” one. That’s what women married to gay men have to deal with – they are often tricked into taking the plunge. And are blamed if the marriage doesn’t work while the man’s lack of passion is overlooked.

I found myself trapped and devoured LGBTQ books and movies, hoping it would help me transform. I desperately wished love would flood my life and lead me on to the right path.

But was I not cheating a woman by convincing her to marry me?

Love didn’t arrive but something shifted in me after I had a big crush on a publicly out book reviewer from Mumbai. I watched his videos about LGBTQ literature on loop and DM’ed him on Twitter. We were soon video-calling each other. I had never experienced such passion before and even though our fling didn’t last long, it brought me face-to-face with my deepest desires. It gave me a taste of what a fulfilling relationship should be like. It also made me realise that there were many single gay men available, I just needed to wait for the right one to come along. Soon, I deleted the matrimony profiles and came out to my friends and family. And I decided I’d say no to married men.

After over two years of abstaining, I met A after the lockdown. He came with a Covid negative report. We went into the woods around a lake, a long-time fantasy. But I remained steadfastly clothed, not wanting to give myself away.

“There’s an empty room in my office. Maybe we can go there,” he suggested noticing my discomfort.

“Mmm I would prefer we travel some place. Will you go out for a night with me?” I asked.

“That’s not possible. I have a family,” he said. I nodded silently, agitated once. It was like I was stuck in a loop.

“We should meet again some time,” he suggested while we drove back.

“No,” I said calmly.

This was the first time I had turned down a married man. I am hoping it won’t be the last. I want to live my truth but not built on someone’s lie.