Question Although there are no problems in my marriage, I am almost certain that I am entering the preparatory stages of a very destructive affair. I am a man in my 40s with a loving wife and four young children. We have a good sex life (considering we’ve been together for 10 years) and great conversations.
Thanks in no small part to her, I have now reached the point where I have a great job at a great company. But all this is under threat. I’m pretty sure my team member (“V”) is in her late 30’s and I have a crush on each other. We didn’t do anything physical (apart from one drunken night where our knees touched for about half an hour) and we didn’t discuss it. I’m sure it’s not me, just misreading the signs. She told me that I was making her tell me things that she had never discussed with anyone. I’m aware that the dopamine high I get from V is a simple addiction that builds naturally, but still, everything seems to get more intense.
I know my behavior is a cliché for someone my age. I have no intention of leaving my wife or cheating on her. I don’t think I should talk to my wife about B. It might make her feel insecure. I also don’t think it’s wise to have a direct conversation with V. I plan to carry on as usual, but to cover up the drunken conversation with V with how much I love my wife. The only other solution I can see is to start actively looking for another job.
Philip’s answer If your marriage has failed, the advice I’m about to give you might be different: don’t put your family at risk. Don’t be an idiot.
You can stop this affair by choosing to stop it. Don’t just try to stop it – it never works.
Things that can help: until you have things under control, stop drinking with coworkers, maybe stop drinking altogether (alcohol may be contributing to your problem). If you fantasize about V, don’t stop when you get that dopamine hit, but keep fantasizing. Imagine the children shocked and unhappy as their world crumbles; imagine that they are angry or trying to make you feel guilty about their adult life; imagine trying to make your wife out to be a bad person to justify your actions; imagine ten years in the future where sex with V is fine (considering you’ve been together for 10 years), but there’s a new guy at work who really likes you; imagine your children starting to call your wife’s new husband “Daddy”; imagine you are in your 90s and you look back on your life and you have the power to fix the past and stop yourself from doing the stupid things you were going to do in your 40s.
If you decide to take control of your current obsession, you’ll miss the thrill of touching your knees under the table. If you only talk about work, you’ll miss the closeness – even if it’s not physical – that you used to have. You will lose something, but it will not be the same as the pain you save yourself and your family.
Some people split into two, thinking they are a good, dutiful husband and wife and stay attentive at home, but still continue the affair. They see themselves almost as two different people, with little connection to each other. Some people cope with this split and can keep up the deception for decades. Do you want to choose to live like this? It can often happen that although the cheated on partner may not be consciously aware that they are being cheated on, they can become anxious and lonely. And, if you have the deepest and most connected conversations outside of marriage, you’re in danger of hurting your wife, even if you’re not physically cheating on her.
Sure, quit your job if it’s the only way to stop, but are you going to quit a great job every time you like someone? You don’t need drama! Things don’t just happen to you, you are in control of your behavior, you are not passive in it. Your emotions can drive anything away, but you don’t have to act on them. Take responsibility to stop this case from going any further. Stopping this flirting will hurt, that’s okay, you’ll get through the pain. This is nothing compared to the destruction of the continuation or hoping that it will just disappear without any effort on your part. Don’t act on your raging emotions. If you stop feeding them, they will shrink over time. If necessary, tell V that you think you’ve crossed a line and that your relationship will be strictly professional from now on. I hope one day you can openly tell your wife about all this. I wonder if you fear your insecurities, not hers?
In a long marriage, there will be temptations from both sides. The trick is not to act on the fantasy, not to take your feelings about the fantasy seriously, to laugh at it, preferably together.
Short answer: Feel the pain of ending your flirtation with V and end it anyway. Do not give in to your emotions, be their master.
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