My husband had a work affair, and, at the time of writing, is still working with his affair partner. Like right at this second. She will be sat in her part of the office. Him in his. Working. And most of the time I’m ok with that. OK. Not good. Not fine. OK. I wasn’t always but I’m going to take you to where we are now. Not perfect but a lot better.
First of all the background. My husband, who explains things in his own words here, had a 6 month work affair with a woman, H. She was separated but still living in her home with her husband and child. It was emotional in nature. They progressed as far as sexting but both maintain no physical intimacy happened. She is a manager in the department my husband works him and he is junior to her. My husband ended the work affair in June 2018 & they still work together.
It’s over a year since the affair started and nearly 8 months since it finally ended. In order to leave his job and find another my whole family would struggle with financial repercussions and penalties, as well as adding further upheaval to an already difficult situation. It was a decision which he made, ultimately because I refuse to get involved in this decision other than to express how it makes me feel at various times, i.e when I struggle with him working with her and the anxieties that this presents.
When a work affair ends.
A work affair, just like any affair, needs to end unilaterally. If the affair partner and your partner agree to separate then really they still have a bond, they could just as easily decide together to get back together. Unilateral endings leave no room for people to creep back in. There are some great affair recovery videos on this subject, start with this one and follow the trail, it’s a three or four part series. It talks about how the door has to be firmly shut to the affair partner. No little cracks. No single little minute bit of hope that the affair partner has to get back in. The affair has to end and it has to end unilaterally. No joint decisions. That there is not negotiable.
The Pitfalls of Continuing to Work Together.
Like I said before, a work affair is anxiety provoking even after it’s unilaterally finished. Of course the fact that not only will they see each other most days in passing, but they have to communicate about work things fucking grates on me, some days it reduces me to tears, some days memories flood of the time that I thought that the affair was over but actually it had just moved to a work platform they used to chat on (and directly lied to me about it). Sometimes I have to go to your work and I see her there, she usually shoots me a disgusted look and this usually reduces me to tears. I am generally flooded with comparisons with her afterwards, how different we are.
I avoid his work place now for that reason. Our social life with his work colleagues is seriously limited due to her presence at most events. We can’t have a normal work social life with those people because of this. Work outings, Christmas parties, and everything in between are tense conversations before hand, and either he doesn’t attend or we attend together for part of it. I’m not controlling that, he wants to make me comfortable.
Then there is boundary setting.
When the affair had only recently ended, my husband was not the man he is now. He did pretty much nothing to try and recover our marriage in those early days. Every mistake you can make he made. He didn’t engage in any kind of therapeutic activities. Didn’t engage in recovery activities. Just sat there saying everything was fine. White knuckling it through. This led to many problems.
First of all, they still “chatted”. It was about work of course, but it was chat. Unnecessary. It hurt a lot to see it and it led to arguments which went on for days. Arguments in which he was defensive. In which I was thrown back to day one again and again. Eventually he got it. Something switched in his head and he realised her toxicity, and how damaging that seeking of approval he was. The conversations stopped. They just stopped. All of a sudden. Her interest in my husband did not though. She messaged him late at night and he told her not to. She followed it up at work, he told her no, she said she missed him. He set boundaries several times before she finally got the message.
This is another one that needs to be unilateral, clear and fucking idiot proof. No communication that isn’t essential, necessary, and short. Nothing work related needs chat. Essential work related things dont need private meetings. Nothing work related requires private messages. A quick “no that is not appropriate” is required if the boundaries are pushed.
Who to tell at work
My husband made his boss and her boss, and ultimately their bosses, aware of the relationship and that it had ended, he also made HR aware of it. Everyone was clued in. She didn’t know that for a long time, she went to her boss when she thought her job was at risk and he already knew. My husband took control of it early on. This meant that people understood when he copied in his boss to essential communications between them. It also meant when her, and her employee, started behaving badly towards him and becoming obstructive to him doing his job, that he could put a stop to it quickly.
This was another boundary for him. He also told two colleagues who were friends. They were compassionate and helped him to work through his days safely, bounce when he questioned whether he was being crazy or not. They supported his wellbeing, his mental health throughout and for that I am so grateful. Openness, and honesty, was very freeing for him but he picked carefully.
Transparency is essential. Early days I needed to know about ever interaction. If they were in a meeting together I needed to know when it was happening and what was said between them even if it was the most mundane of work things. I saw emails between them and had a report each day at the end of the day as to what had happened. From her choosing to make coffee at the same time as my husband “coincidentally” to meetings about privacy. I knew it all. I was able to have access to his work phone.
Over time it became more triggering than reassuring to get these things and I asked that only non work communication was reported. He did not start any but on occasion she did. That became less and less as time went on. Reality being that she finally got the message. Finally got the idea that this situation which she thought was temporary, that she described as “towing the line”, wasn’t going to change.
Can you leave your job?
Reality is, our life would be easier if he moved on, but he has 3 more years there. She is unlikely to leave as she’s just moved whats left of her life to the area to do this job. So we both have to live with this situation and its fucking hard. Sometimes I get sick at the thought of them eating lunch together or the memory of them having “work meetings” together in the staff bar which were far from about work.
I am furious at her for how she toyed with my husbands life when he confided that he was planning to end his life and she did nothing. She takes no responsibility for this by the way, she couldn’t break his confidence (really!?) and she wasn’t his direct manager so her boss supports her decision to let him stay at work and leave work whilst wanting to end his life and planning to end his life, and did nothing. Told no one. On a human level I can never, ever forgive that.
If he could leave, I would have wanted him too. It would have been easier for us, especially in those early days, if a clean break could have been sought, so, unfaithful, if you plan to stay in your job please consider it carefully. It won’t be easy for you either, you have to face the shame of what you’ve done daily. You’ll have to consider every move you make and whether that makes you safe for your marriage.
The TL:DR for the impatient folks:
To give you an idea, in brief form, of the things we deal with because of him still working with her:
- Anxiety that they could easily continue their relationship – this effects our son too.
- That he has to breach security in order to make me feel safe by sharing his email / chat.
- He has to relay to me mundane parts of his job to me to fulfil what’s happening with her which can take up time together.
- Bringing her up in conversation, even passively, is loaded and triggering for both of us.
- That I suffer severe anxiety about seeing her, it often reduces me to tears, restricts my movement around his workplace (a public place).
- He has no social life with work in any real sense.
- I have a constant need to compare with her due to her being a consistent part of our life.
- I often get anxious when I know they will be having a meeting together.
Because of this work affair she is always going to be part of our lives whilst they work together and you have to get the reality of that in your head and what it’ll take to make it work. It’ll be tough, there will be tears and life will be more difficult than if the work affair was over and the affair partner was a distant memory. Really really think hard.
Pin it for later.