Like a waiting-list handbag or sold-out movie, unavailability
can make even an average man seem must-have. Why do we do it?

Love at first sight was something I never believed in - until
the night I met Andrew in a bar. He seemed my ideal man; 35,
charismatic, brilliant, incredibly successful and so sexy that I
was mentally undressing him before the second drink. Then he
dropped the bomb; he was separated with three children and
facing a messy divorce.

I thought I could handle it. But on our second date, when I
asked for more details, he blurted out the two words that strike
fear into the heart of every single girl; 'It's complicated.'
That's when I began to realize that his version of 'separated'
meant 'in his head'. The next 10 minutes were a blur as he gave
me the marital monologue. He was only staying for the kids, he
hadn't slept with his wife in three years, she had a
boyfriend... I told him politely that I couldn't handle the
situation, and got into a taxi. Five minutes later I was running
back to him, my heart racing as we fell into each other's arms.

The rational side of my brain knew that I was doing wrong but it
was having its butt kicked by my naughty side, the side that
wore fishnet stockings in anticipation of our illicit
encounters. The next few weeks were a blur of whirlwind trips to
New York, late night calls and romantic dinners.

I soon realized that sex with a married man is like scoffing
down an entire box of Krispy Kremes. It was incredibly decadent
and satisfying at the time but left me feeling guilty, empty and
a bit sick afterwards.

That's when the withdrawal started. I was madly in love with the
man I was convinced was my soul mate, but utterly miserable. At
least I wasn't alone, because every woman has at some point
lusted after a man who wasn't technically available.

Illicit Encounters

Cheating and the laws of sexual supply and demand constantly
make headlines which could be why infidelity websites seem to be
multiplying faster than celebrity reality TV shows. Most of my
girlfriends are smart, liberated women who could take their pick
of male suitors, so why do so many of us secretly lust after
taken men?

Some of my friends choose a no-strings relationship because it
gives them the freedom of hot sex, plus an ego boost without
commitment. The way I see it, attached men are looking to
recreate those first three months of love they no longer have
with their partners, which makes them much more driven in
pursuit of you.

Even if you don't share that attitude, it's easy to succumb to
flock mentality. It's the same logic that compels us to buy a
vest top we thought was hideous until we saw Kate Moss wearing
it. This could also explain why Pete Doherty now has so many
groupies, despite looking like he hasn't had a shower since 2005.

My friend, Lauren, 27, who works in publishing, is another case
in point. She had a fling with a guy she now admits she found
average looking and unexceptional - until she found out he had a
girlfriend. He said he wanted to end things but was afraid of
hurting her. She admits that this made her really competitive.
She doesn't know if she was addicted to him or just interested
in fighting over him.

It's not just a girl thing either. My male friends swear being
in a relationship makes them more attractive to women. My
friend, Charlie hadn't had a date for so long, tumbleweeds were
starting to grow in his hair, then after he met his girlfriend,
women started chatting him up. Perhaps being on the arms of
someone fantastic convinces women that you're a good catch.
Another male friend of mine wore a wedding ring to a friend's
stag party and was amazed at the amount of attention it garnered
from women.

A relationship doesn't have to be current for the man to be
classified as 'taken'. My friend, Julie, 25, has just finished
with someone because of his obsession with his ex-fianc饬 a
fiery French girl who'd left him after four months - five years
ago. It was ridiculous, she was competing with a photograph. But
she realized he wasn't ready to move on and walked out.

As for my romance with Andrew, I soon realized despite his
promises to move out of the marital home, the only baggage he
was carrying was emotional. Although he tried to placate me by
introducing me to some of his friends, there was always another
child's birthday / branch of his business opening in Moscow /
family holiday. Christmas came and went with no sign of him
going anywhere.

One night, after we made love and were lying in the dark, he
whispered, 'What will happen to us if I can't ever leave?' I
freaked out and started crying. He tried to comfort me, but the
damage had been done. I realized that the only thing worse than
the lies he was telling me, was the lies I was telling myself.
That's when I learnt I had to be strong enough to walk away.

Despite his many attractive qualities, that's when I discovered
the real downside of taken men. Because of their complicated
living situations and the stress of deception, ultimately it's
all about them and everything happens on their timetable. The
last time I saw him he said, 'My heart is still with you.' But,
ultimately, I want to find a man whose body is too.

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