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Help! I'm only attracted to taken men!

A divorced woman is drawn to married guys. Dr. Gail Saltz advises.
/ Source: TODAY

Q: Why am I attracted only to taken or married men? I prize the man who doesn't cheat, and am not attracted to men who act like they might cheat, only to those who respect their wives or girlfriends. I have not had an affair with any of these men because I am not interested in being that cruel to myself or to anybody else.

I am 44 and was married at age 17 for 17 years. He cheated too many times to count. I did not cheat. We have four kids.

I have been single and abstinent since our divorce 10 years ago. I wanted to finish raising the kids without having them compete with a man for my attention. Now that I am lonely and ready to date, I find the men I am attracted to are unavailable. I have serious crushes on these men.

Single men have asked me out and I have excuses, hundreds, and honestly I have not yet been asked out by anyone I am attracted to. I like to think that an attractive man will ask me out. I am attractive and college-educated, and want to get married again someday. Why am I interested only in men I cannot have?A: You were married at a young age to a serial cheater, so all your love experience to date has been negative. Now, your way of avoiding further hurt is to consider only men with whom you have no possibility of a future. It’s safe for you to have a crush on these men.

What’s more, these particular men seem to embody what you would like for yourself. In your fantasy, they have proved themselves to be good guys who don’t cheat.

Some women in your situation don’t find themselves attracted to anybody. But, clearly, you long for a good man of your own.

You need to figure out what went wrong in your marriage. Why were you attracted to a serial cheater in the first place? Why did you stay so long? How might you have contributed to the failure of the marriage, if you did? What have you learned from this marriage?

Only if you look inside yourself and understand that you are viewing these married men in an unrealistic way, will you be able to move on from the fantasy and to find somebody right for you.

It’s good that you acknowledge it would be wrong and painful to act on these thoughts in any way. No good comes from the pursuit of someone who is married.

Age 17 is young to get married. At that tender age, it’s easy to pick someone who is not a good match. You’re not likely to be good at working out difficulties, either.

Now, however, at age 44, you have much more life experience. That should equip you to be appropriately selective.

I suggest you take a risk. Even if you don’t feel attracted to the available men who ask you out, go out with them anyway. You don’t have to commit to them or even go on elaborate dates, but you should stick your toe in the waters and find out how to navigate a relationship that does not involve betrayal.

Of course you would like to feel great attraction to a man you are accepting a date with. But in this case, I suggest you put the cart before the horse. Your ability to feel attraction has been hampered by the trauma of your marriage — so cast that aside for a while, go on dates as the opportunity arises, and learn more about these guys.

Once you view them as three-dimensional human beings, you can see that the fact of their availability doesn’t automatically make them bad guys. As you grow more comfortable with available men, rather than automatically labeling them as undesirable, it’s possible that an attraction will develop.

Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: Idealizing married men, and longing for them, will only hinder your attempts to find a man of your own. Give available men a chance instead of dismissing them out of hand.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .