How can I ask my boyfriend about the fact that he's married?
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Dear Miss Information,
I have been seeing this guy regularly since we first met about six weeks ago. We hang out almost every other day. I like him very much, and it's clear that he likes me. On our second date, he casually mentioned in conversation that he was married. He said that most people freak out when he says that he is married, but they shouldn't because he got married to help his girlfriend with tuition or something like that, not to commit to each other for the rest of their lives. He continued to say that he should get a divorce, but has just been too busy.
Since this was the second date, I was totally caught off-guard and wanted to play it cool, so I didn't ask any more questions. But now that we've been seeing each other for a while, I want some more details, but don't know how to bring it up without it seeming like it's been on my mind all this time. I am sure that they aren't together anymore, as I helped him move and didn't see a trace of another girl, and because I've been hanging out with his friends (unless his friends are in on it). Should I just wait until things get more serious to find out what the situation is, or bite the bullet and ask him now? And if so, how should I do it without seeming jealous and clingy?
— How Married is "Too" Married?
Dear How Married is "Too" Married?,
One of the oldest entries in the Female Wing of the Hall of Insidious Stereotypes is the Spiral-Eyed Commitment Monster. Ladies got (fairly? unfairly? Gender Studies 101?) tarred with this reputation centuries ago. No matter how much we may enjoy getting our advanced degrees or wearing pantaloons, we still have to grapple with "not putting any pressure on anyone! Totes casual, man!" Sometimes the stereotype is warranted, but sometimes it just undermines someone's confidence in her legitimate concerns. You seem pretty firmly in the latter camp.
What I mean is this: saying, "Hey, let's elaborate on this whole 'I'm married' thing" is not the same as "I've been calling your parents and breathing heavily and hanging up ha-ha-ha-ha." Not only do you have a right to know whether he's really available, but he acknowledges that you have such a right. He told you on your second date that he was married, and good on him. As awkward a bombshell as that is, it sounds like he appropriately owned it, and you appropriately continued to get to know him. But by now you're getting more invested, so it makes sense to get clarification on what this whole "marriage" thing actually entails. Are you going to have to re-monogram towels? These things are important.
To be fair, there are some instances in which he could be married on paper and have it affect his life otherwise very little. It sounds like your bullshit antennae are up, though, which is great. I'm not saying he's necessarily hiding anything, but not getting a divorce from a defunct sham marriage out of "busyness" does raise a few questions. (Of course, divorces are nightmares — but isn't that the sort of thing one should have considered before signing on to a fake marriage?)
The longer you let the question linger, the crazier you'll feel. The easiest way out of the Hall of Stereotypes is just to ask him. Use a casual tone of voice and avoid wearing a wedding dress, and you should be golden. He deserves not to be cast as Lying, Two-Timing Snake (Male Wing, 3rd Floor), just like you deserve not to feel like Commitment Monster.