I was stuck in my house all day Monday waiting on Hurricane Sandy to unleash her fury on the East Coast. I planned to be productive—touching up the edges on my most recent paint job and putting a dent in my read of Rebecca Walker’s Black Cool. Instead, I mindlessly spent (i.e., wasted) most of the day flipping through fashion magazines and scanning celebrity “news” sites to distract myself from impending doom. Oops!

It seemed “everyone” who wasn’t talking about Sandy was talking about the lavish bash that supermodel Naomi Campbell is planning to mark the 50th birthday (Nov. 7) of her billionaire Russian boyfriend, Vladislav Doronin. The details read (and looked) like an event planner’s wet dream: an alleged four-day affair in India, a booked solid palace where a one-bedroom suite costs upwards of $12k a night, and an imagined guest list that read like a Who’s Who of the world’s A-List. Must be nice.

Each article reveled in the would-be decadence of it all, but no one seemed able to avoid the figurative elephant that would be in the Indian room. Naomi’s very sexy, very rich boo? The one that’s held her down since 2008, accompanies her to red carpets, vacations with her around the world, and even once subjected himself to an inquisition by Oprah to stand by his lady? Welp, he’s still married. Bossip, unsurprisingly, took the hardest dig: “Guess when you can’t get married cuz your boo still ain’t divorced you have to get creative about other kinds of celebrations…” I mean, it’s true, but… Ouch!

When it comes to coaching clients or doling out dating/relationship advice, I take a hard-line on dating married — that includes separated, like Doronin — men. I can’t forget the story of YaVaughnie Wilkins, the jilted woman who dated a man who was separated from his wife for 8 and a half “serious” years. (Wilkins said she didn’t know he was still married.) But then, her boyfriend, after all that time, decided to go back to his wife. Wilkins made headlines after setting up a website showcasing mementos from their relationship and took out billboards in three different cities because she wanted to debunk many people’s assumptions that she was someone her ex had “just” passed (all that) time with but that she actually mattered to him, at least before he went home.

I’d heard or seen similar stories — sans the websites and billboards — from friends or friends of my family. One of them was the friend of my dad’s, so close to the fam that I called him “Uncle Chuck” and he always showed up at our house with “Aunt Kitty.” At seven or so, I just assumed she was his wife like all the other non-blood related women who I called “Aunt” who showed up with men I called “Uncle” (All of my parents’ friends were married too.)

But then one day, nearly a decade years later, “Uncle Chuck” showed up with a woman my mother introduced as “Aunt Lisa.” I’m sorry, who? My mother explained she, Aunt Lisa, was his wife.

Me (at like 18, upstairs in the kitchen two minutes later): He left Aunt Kitty? He’s re-married already!

Mom: Uhh … Aunt Lisa’s always been his wife. They’re back together.

Me: Huh?

Mom: Mind your business and take the potato salad downstairs to your father.

For good (and polite) reason, I never saw, heard from, and rarely heard of “Aunt Kitty” again. It was like she never existed. (Damn shame because I really liked her too.) Aunt Lisa was here… or er, back after all those years, sliding right back into her seat, an easily made claim since there was never a divorce, which meant she never gave it up. And that was that. I did learn a lesson though: separated means just that. It doesn’t mean “over.”

Neither one of these scenarios is likely to happen to Naomi Campbell — but I guess that’s probably what Wilkins and “Aunt Kitty” thought too, huh? Anyway, Campbell’s boyfriend has been separated from his wife for at least twelve years now, and prior to hooking up with Campbell at Cannes, Doronin had a seven-year relationship with another woman. Doronin’s wife seems to be okay with the situation as she, her daughter, her husband, and Campbell have been spotted at events together. Despite rumors from earlier this year that the wife had clowned Naomi and was planning to file for divorce, “friends” of his wife say she has no plans to do so and she and her husband live separate lives.

Doronin and Campbell travel the world together, he dotes on her, splurging on homes — note: not bags and shoes — and when they’re actually “home” in Moscow, they live together. Doronin seems to be building a life with Campbell. I don’t know why he’s still married. It doesn’t appear that he is still in love with his wife. Perhaps if I had a better understanding of Russian divorce laws, I could gander that his reasoning is along the “cheaper to keep her” lines. Maybe there’s another reason entirely.

I do know, Doronin seems happy, Campbell seems happy, and so does his still wife.  His divorce, or lack there of, doesn’t seem to matter to any of them. But should it? (That’s not a judgment. That’s a question.) There’s a popular line of thinking — that means you, Bossip —that Campbell is playing herself by being a mistress, that Doronin’s wife is getting played by having her husband publicly claiming another woman, and Doronin, well, he’s just a player.

Would you be okay with dating a separated man like Doronin? (Okay, what if he didn’t have Doronin’s money, power, or privilege? That was a joke… sorta.)

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk

 

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  1. Perspective, I have been reading a lot of your comments. I have thought about your comments and a lot of them make sense, and I have thought along similar lines myself in my own evaluations of the social reality I must navigate as a black woman. Personally, I support communities that are led by men and nurtured by women. I would like to have a husband to lead me and my household. I would like to meet a man who has his stuff together and wants to bring a woman on his ship to contribute to the voyage. I am also a Christian so I know what my beliefs command of male/female relationships. One of these commandments is for wives to submit to their husbands, and for husbands to take care of their wives. I am fine with this, and in fact I want this. There is a correct way to do this and it does not involve blind reverence or toleration on the woman’s part nor mistreatment/abuse/tyranny/oppression on the man’s part.

    My problem is that I have yet to meet a man/black man who has really risen to this occasion. The one relationship I had with a BM who wanted to pursue this arrangement kept delaying marriage and it is 3 years later and he’s still talking about “I gotta do this first, and line this up, why don’t you come live with me and finish graduate school and then we’ll get married”. Okay but I am 25 years old I’m not trying to play around! The closest I’ve come to meeting a black man who wants to pursue that traditional role is one who wants to TALK ABOUT IT and wants you to BE PATIENT while he does HIS THING, and makes you FEEL BAD about not BUILDING SOMETHING WITH HIM, but then wastes your time when its all said and done–years later and no ring, no proposal. So I do understand when some black men bemoan sisters not being patient with them, I am only like that because my time has been wasted before and let’s be real the WINDOW exists for a woman!

    And a lot of the guys I have met are simply NOT UP for being the strong male leader. Personally, I find it immature to be past 23 and still trying to “kick it”? Seriously? Now, I am willing to do my part and maybe I’ll have to put in a little bit more work in terms of my appearance and the social circles I frequent to get in better contact with these types of men. I mean, I am already college educated and live in a prominent mixed neighborhood, and I am physically fit and attractive but hey, there is always more work one can do.

    My only fear is that I will not find a man who wants to pursue the Biblical model and I will either be alone or pushed out of my race to find a man who will pursue that with me. When I go to church it makes me happy to see married couples with their children and the men leading the household and establishing that model so I do still have hope.

    I’m talking about a true Christian marriage with the man being the leader and protector of the household and the woman being the nurturer, and the two of them working as a team. Now I am not perfect, I am only human and I have many assets and some flaws. But overall yes I do consider myself a great catch. I’m smart as can be, very kind and compassionate and creative. I don’t have a lot of money but I am responsible and keep my credit excellent, stay in my budget, and I do read a lot about finance and investing so when I have more money I can build something that will last and not just spend. I am willing, in fact love, to do those traditional things– cook, clean, sew, knit, and I am very entrepreneurial and can be a great helpmeet to a husband but like I said I have yet to meet a guy who really wants to seriously pursue that, most just want to play around like this is high school and this is across all the ages I have dated from the twenties to the fifties! I remember I once offered to cook for a guy I was dating, in his twenties, and he did not want to come over to eat, he wanted to stay home and watch sports! I dated a guy in his 30s and he only wanted to text and meet at the gym to work out. I dated a guy in his 40s and he wanted me to come over and watch movies, and when I suggested going out he didn’t want to.

    I see the entire situation from a macro-level and I understand the historical, economic, social, racial, and gendered implications but I am a woman living in the here and now so I need some solutions that don’t involve compromising my beliefs. I do want to be with a black man but I am afraid if I keep seeking only black men I will end up unmarried and childless. In the meantime I’ve resolved I will keep working on myself and endeavor to frequent more social circles. But, I can see how a black woman could end up being very independent and comfortable being alone.

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  2. Fuchsia

    I don’t think it’s right to date a married man unless he is separated AND his wife can vouch for the separation. That being said, if the wife has a problem with it fall back out of respect for the situation. I personally couldn’t do it without feeling incredibly guilty about what the other woman may be going through as a result of our relationship, no matter what the man says. However, I do have friends that take no issue with marital status and I pass no judgment. I think for the married person it’s tacky to open one door before closing the other. But I understand life doesn’t always work out the way we want and in some situations things get messy and drawn out. I think in the Naomi situation money is a double edged sword. On one hand it complicates things, and on the other hand it makes it easy to create time and space between the two parties, therefore giving the illusion that it is a livable situation and that the marriage doesn’t exist or present a problem. All in all they seem willing to make compromises and sacrifices as long everyone stays happy. I’m sure the wife has a boyfriend, or it could be more like the open relationships that are trending in the U.S. To each his/her own.

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  3. MISS_EMCEE

    Can you guys please give this article the correct title. It should be “Iis it OKAY to ever date a MARRIED BILLIONAIRE OR MILLIONAIRE”. This man income is NOT of a man with a white or blue collar occupation.

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  4. apparently, non-billionaires have different standards of morality than billionaires. Can’t think of a context where this is not effed up for normal folks, but rich men have been able to afford all types of mistresses and concubines for centuries. Nothing new here and if that’s how they swing, then so be it. Not like Naomi has every been someone to look up to. I’m pretty sure she’s been available for whomever has the cash for a while, as is much of the modeling world.

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