A while back, I was interviewed by a major media outlet that wanted to know the most common places where affairs start. I immediately knew what would be at the top of the list—the workplace.
And it wasn’t just a hunch or theory, either. I had spent well over a year documenting where my clients—or more specifically, my clients’ unfaithful spouses—had met their affair partners. I knew the answer before the official results came in. And for the record, the workplace was in the number-one spot by a long shot, with the runners-up (such as the gym, social circles, etc.) being in a more or less collective and distant second place.
My point is, if you’re worried that your husband or wife is having an affair with a co-worker, or is close to having one, your worries may indeed be justified. I don’t want to sound any alarm bells, but the statistics do speak for themselves.
Ask yourself these questions
But how do you know you’re not just worrying for nothing? You can start by asking yourself these basic questions:
Is my spouse spending more time at work?
Is my spouse being more secretive with their phone, other devices, or social media accounts?
Is my spouse taking better care of themselves or paying more attention to their appearance?
Is my spouse dissuading me from coming to their workplace or attending workplace social functions?
Is my spouse acting more suspicious of me or accusing me of cheating?
Is my spouse being sweeter and more attentive to me than usual?
Is my spouse paying less attention to me or picking more fights than usual?
Is my spouse showing less interest in sex than usual?
Is my spouse showing more interest sex than usual?
And just to expand a bit on a couple points that seem contradictory: a married person who is cheating may either be nicer or nastier to their spouse, and may either show more or less interest in sex than is typical for them. There are various reasons for this, though those reasons go beyond the scope of this blog; however, I wanted to mention those points anyway.
Add this to the list
There’s one more point I’d like to add to the list. You may also find that your spouse may talk a lot about their co-worker, perhaps sharing an amusing anecdote about them, admiring something they accomplished at work, or even saying they want to watch a TV series that this co-worker recommended.
Although you might assume that a person who is having an affair would never talk about their affair partner for fear of being found out, and while that is often true, it’s just as often true that an unfaithful spouse will talk a lot about their affair partner—albeit in a casual, safe way. After all, people are people, and we like to talk about what or who is on our mind. It gives us a little buzz.
Now, aside from the workplace-related questions, the remaining points I’ve mentioned are in fact typical signs of any kind of affair, not just an affair with a co-worker. It’s just that a workplace affair is a particularly challenging beast to deal with.
What to do and what not to do
So, what do you do if you believe or know that your spouse is having an emotional or physical affair with a co-worker?
You can try to talk about it, but you’ll probably just end up arguing and making the situation worse.
You can ask your spouse to ask for a transfer to a different department or quit their job and find another one, but they’re unlikely to do either. Again, you’ll just end up arguing or issuing empty ultimatums.
You can order your spouse to go to counseling with you. Just know that the counselor won’t be injecting any truth serum into your spouse’s arm, and that very often unfaithful spouses will attend counseling as a way to buy time, blame you for something, or even find a justification for their relationship with another person.
Your very best option
What option does that leave you with? In my professional opinion, it leaves you with the very best option, and the one that is most likely to make things better, instead of worse.
If you’ve expressed your concerns and they’ve gone unanswered, and if you’re reasonably certain your spouse is indeed involved in an emotional or physical affair, stop doing what hasn’t worked. Start doing something different. Something real.
This is a tough issue that will require more help and more commitment than a reading a blog. It will require you to consider this problem analytically and thoughtfully from all angles, and then make an actionable plan that is tailored to your situation. This plan must be a detailed one, and it must prepare you for how you will respond to your spouse’s behavior in a practical and purposeful way.
Your ultimate goal:
Your goal is simple, but not easy. It is to motivate your spouse to end the co-worker affair on their own. This is your goal regardless of whether the co-worker relationship is an overly close friendship or emotional affair, or whether it is a physical affair.
An impossible task? No, not impossible. Tricky, yes. Emotional, yes. Frustrating, yes. But if you want to handle things smartly, not just reactively, it has to be done. My #1 Marriage SOS™ online crash course Overcoming Infidelity // For Betrayed Spouses, which includes insights and strategies to manage a spouse’s workplace affair, can help you do it.
Because despite the pain and frustration that comes with having to deal with this kind of marriage crisis, you can save your marriage and go on to make it stronger than ever.
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Debra Macleod, BA, JD, is the founder of MARRIAGE SOS™, a proven and no-nonsense way to save a sinking marriage. She has served as an expert resource for major media around the world, from The New York Times and Entrepreneur to ELLE and Men’s Health.
Visit her homepage to see all Marriage SOS™ Online Crash Courses or book a phone consult.