Before the digital age dawned, dating was already pretty complex. It moved at snail-pace, was often marred by prolonged pining, and usually relied on common friend circles. So when the internet struck, bringing with it a whole lot of goodies, dating was potentially posited to become more convenient than it previously was. Fast messages, photo exchanges, and everyday chances at love. Digitised dating: what a dream! It's only now that we're becoming adept at managing our love lives online that we are awaking to the million, tiny speed bumps along the road. What if the guy you swipe right on is a fake profile? What if the guy you've exchanged numbers with isn't 22 but far, far older in age? And what if - the big if - the guy you're chatting with is married?
It isn't impossible. It has been known to happen to thousands of women across the world. A 2015 survey surmised that out of 1,282 active Tinder users (at the time there were around 50 million people on Tinder), "nearly 30 percent of Tinder users are married, while another 12 percent are in a relationship." The anonymity of online identity has been beneficial to many married men who find the lure of adultery exciting. And not just in major US and UK markets, but India too.
Aanchal (name changed), currently living in New Delhi, tells us of a similar incident that happened with an almost-married man when she was 21. "I met him via a dating app. We went on a couple of dates, hooked up once, but he wasn't for me I felt. So I told him as much. But he persisted and pleaded we stay connected on chat at least. I assented. A few days later, I stumbled upon his Facebook account, and a few posts and pictures later, I found he was engaged to be married soon. He hadn't said a word about it to me. I thought it best to inform his fiancée, and so I messaged telling her about all that had happened. I soon got a call from her, screaming at me about how all the messages were my fault and that she trusted her soon-to-be husband way more than a random girl. It was very, very messy. And guess what? The guy, in all this, had taken a backseat on the action."
6 Red Flags That Should Alert You
Falling prey to married men on the internet and becoming romantically involved with them is never the victim's fault (as long as she genuinely has no knowledge of his relationship status). It's a game that's out of her hands, either through the play of bad luck or just naivety. Unfortunately, in the arena of online love, women cannot afford to be naive anymore. To enjoy internet dating to its optimum, we have to be smarter, keener, and very judicious. We owe it to ourselves.
Here are six red flags that should immediately alert your senses to the possibility that the man you're talking to/dating online might be married:
1. Secretive About His Personal Life
A guy you're genuinely interested in, and who shows equal interest in you, will encourage a healthy back-and-forth conversation. Conventional online dating is largely based upon a question-answer type chat as the first method to get to know the other person. If you find that he holds back on very many details about his life, especially the most foundational ones like where he lives, what he does, his friends, family, pets, interests, your senses must perk up. If he prefers only listening to your side of the story without divulging similar details about his own life, then there are chances he may be married and is trying to keep a low-profile online.
2. Photos Are Too Less, Too Blurry
Note the pattern of his photos. If he is prudent in sharing pictures with you, has a minimal visual presence online, and his photos appear morphed or cropped too close, then something may be up. That's not to say that shy or introverted men don't exist. They do. But you have to try and make the differentiation between privacy and secrecy. Married men who indulge in dating often create safety nets around them by removing social media traces to avoid being tracked. Try looking him up on other social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to see if you can find more information/photos than he lets on to you.
3. Takes Impossibly Long To Respond, Gives Excuses
Okay, get this. Someone who is actually interested in you will find excuses to talk to you. They'll make time for you, even if it means going out of their way to drop in and say 'hi' without any apparent reason. That's sweet and what the initial stages of dating look like. Now if the guy you're talking to is taking too long to respond, it may either mean that he's not really into you or is committed. Watch out for the time he chooses to message you. Try to notice a pattern, if any. See if he is coming up with excuses each time you want to initiate a conversation. If he takes his own sweet time to respond and evades answering when you ask him about it, something's up.
4. Never Lets You Select The Date/Time/Place Of Meeting
Dating apps aren't designed to be the be-all and end-all in your pursuit of love. They're a first step towards meeting people you would like to. And meeting could also mean really, physically meeting. So if you find your online match bailing on you every time you ask to meet him, and in turn tries to take sole command over when, why, and how you both should meet, that's a major red flag. A meeting for you may depend on emotion, but for him, will depend on convenience. He will have to spin a spider web of the perfect timing, date, and place with the least-risk situation, lest his scammy two-timing be busted. Be careful.
5. Seems To Be Travelling A LOT
People travel for work, leisure, and whatnot. But it's highly improbable for a working individual to be taking vacation-length leaves in this day and age. Especially during the pandemic, when travel is restricted. If you aren't able to reach your online date, his phone's out of network, and he always gets back to you with a loose "hey, sorry I was travelling," it's highly suspect. Travelling is the most convenient lie he can tell you when he's busy with family or preoccupied with his domestic life. So, look out for any slip-ups in conversation. One way to do that would be to ask him at a later date about a trip he mentioned and see if it checks out with what he had said to you earlier.
6. Says He Lives With Friends/Roommates
Roommate - you know what that's code for. A partner, perhaps. Technically, a married man wouldn't be lying if he told you he lives with a friend/roommate. But on all other counts, yes. He will obviously deny you the opportunity of venturing anywhere near where he lives if he has a full home. Again, if you ask to meet his friends or drop into his place for a bit or even send pictures of his room, chances are, he won't consent. It will be easy for him to deny you these privileges on account of his friends being "messy" or "dudes," overtly telling you that you're far better away from all that.
And yes, you will be far better, and safer, away from guys like these if you want to have a knot-free, truthful love life. So get onto those dating apps, go after the love you seek; but don't forget your safety harnesses.
Views expressed are the author's own.