Gentlemen—wear a ring and be upfront about your relationship—or you could hurt someone.
Last year I was sitting in the back room of my favorite coffee shop late one night swiping through Tinder profiles, when a guy walked by, cracking open a beer.
“You’re having a lot more fun than I am!” I said, gesturing to my almost empty coffee cup.
It turned out that he was drinking a bottle of Pellegrino, not a Stella as I’d thought, but instead of going back to his table, this guy stood in front of the couch where I was sitting and started talking to me. About ten minutes into our conversation I asked if he wanted to sit down, and he did. We talked until the coffee shop closed, and he walked me out, pausing an extra moment at my corner before we said goodnight and parted ways.
I can’t believe I met someone in real life! I thought, as I walked the remaining block back to my apartment. After solely meeting men online for so long, having a flirtation with a guy IRL felt like a throwback to the early-2000s when I used to meet and get asked out by guys at bars or the restaurant where I waited tables or even on the subway.
Pellegrino Man did not ask for my phone number, but there was clearly an attraction there and, having seen him around my neighborhood before, I felt certain that I’d run into him again.
A month later, I did, walking down the street wearing a newborn in a BabyBjorn, holding hands with another child, and side-by-side with what appeared to be his wife.
On that night at the coffee shop I’d checked to see if this man was wearing a wedding ring, and he was not. He hadn’t mentioned having a wife or baby—he’d only spoken about a child in a vague way, which, in conjunction with a reference to his relocation from another state, could have been construed as the circumstances of a recent divorcé.
It was surprising, but not devastating, to discover that he was partnered-up at this point. A few more late-night coffee shop conversations with this guy, however, would have led to a crash of disappointment that could have easily been prevented—had he just worn a ring.
“What’s wrong with a little harmless, ring-less flirtation?” you might ask.
It may not be a big deal to you, and perhaps your wife doesn’t even mind. But there are others you could be affecting with your omissions and vagueness. So out of thoughtfulness for all the single ladies, consider this a friendly PSA about how to convey your relationship status to those of us who are still searching.
Wear a ring
This is the simplest way to show that you’re married—just wear that ring that was slipped on your finger on your wedding day. It tells all the hopeful single women you encounter that you’re off the market, so when you pass by cracking open a Pellegrino they can glance up, see that you’re already taken, and go back to swiping on Tinder.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Of course, there are valid reasons why married men don’t want to wear a wedding ring. Perhaps you don’t like jewelry. That’s OK. You have other options. This isn’t always feasible for everyday interactions, but if, for instance, you’re in a workplace environment, you can strategically display a few framed photos of your wife and/or family on your desk. Your single colleague who’s always wearing her prettiest dresses on the days she has meetings with you should get the message.
Talk about your wife
No photos? No problem! Another thing you can do is talk about your wife. Bring her up in conversations, the sooner the better. And don’t be afraid to use that “we” pronoun.
In my 20s I had a flirtation with a guy at work, and every Monday when we talked I’d ask him what he did over the weekend.
“I saw a movie,” he’d say, or, “I went to a party.”
It wasn’t until I was on what I thought was a date with him one night at a Mexican restaurant when he mentioned, in passing, that his girlfriend loved guacamole. A heaping serving of awkwardness over nachos could have been avoided if he’d just used the word “we” when describing his weekend plans.
Don’t heavily flirt with single women
If you don’t want to wear a ring and don’t have any photos of your wife and refuse to use accurate pronouns, at the bare minimum, do not flirt heavily with single women. A little light flirting from time to time is fine. It’s hard to avoid altogether, and a life devoid of flirtation is pretty bleak. But spare us the hardcore stuff—the intrigue, the held, meaningful gazes, the casual physical contact, the double entendres.
Ditto for unmarried men who are engaged or have a serious girlfriend.
If all else fails, do not leave it up to the woman to determine your relationship status
A couple of years ago I had a crush on a guy in my Pilates class. He talked about his kid, and used “we” to refer to activities the two of them did together. But he never mentioned a wife, and after him saying that his plan for a Sunday afternoon was to do laundry, I thought it was safe to assume that he was divorced.
After a month of our lengthy post-class conversations outside the Pilates studio every week, I had to know for sure if he was available, so I straight-up asked him if he was single.
“I’m not,” he said grinning, and nodding sympathetically.
He didn’t elaborate. Did he have a wife? Fiancé? Girlfriend? No idea. But any of this would have been useful information for him to bring up between all those weeks of bridge poses and bicycle crunches, and not leave the burden on me to pry it out of him and then burn with shame at his delayed, and nebulous at that, revelation.
Navigating the dating world is complicated enough as it is, and misleading single women about your potential availability, even if inadvertently, only adds to the confusion. Given how difficult it can be to find an authentic connection, it’s natural to get excited about a flirty rapport with a new guy. A wedding ring is a handy symbol that alerts us to put our attention, and our excitement, elsewhere.
When a ring’s not there and you don’t mention having a wife, we think that you’re open to pursuing more than you’re truly able to, and feel let down to later learn that you’re not.
While leaving your ring off your finger or your wife out of conversations isn’t an outright lie, it’s not exactly the truth. Maybe you want to feel appreciated and desired, or get the jolt that comes from flirting with a woman you’re attracted to. But it comes at a cost—you could wind up hurting another person who’s trying her best to find love, and doesn’t happen to know that she’s looking for it in the wrong place.
Photo: Rolands Lakis/Flickr
And thank you for sharing this.