Rebuilding the Marriage after a Workplace Affair
by Peggy Vaughan

One of the key factors in rebuilding the marriage is "severing contact with the third party." This becomes a particularly thorny issue for a couple when the affair began in the workplace. But any continuing contact (of any kind) continues to be a problem for the spouse. It creates an environment of anxiety and uncertainty that interferes with healing just as continuing to scratch off a scab interferes with the healing of a physical wound.

A common reason cited for the inability to sever contact after a work-related affair is "financial complications" involved in changing jobs. Of course, work is important in our lives—both as a source of pride and self-esteem as well as a source of financial security. But the issue is far more significant than simply making a practical decision to stay in the job; it sends a signal that the job is a higher priority than the spouse or the relationship. Accepting responsibility for making the decision to sever contact with the third party (even if it means leaving the job) is a critical step toward addressing the damage to the relationship.

There is often an attitude (related to changing jobs) that "nothing can be done; that there is NO choice to be made." However, everything (except perhaps death and taxes) involves choice. We may not like the consequences of the choices, but we have them nevertheless. So it's a matter of deciding which consequences you are willing to live with.

When there is a choice to place the well-being of spouse/family/personal life over professional or financial well-being—the likely results are immediate (perhaps temporary, perhaps permanent) loss of income/assets/business potential.

When there is a choice to place professional or financial well-being over the well-being of spouse/family/personal life—the likely results are unending pain to the spouse on two fronts: due to the meaning (in terms of what is most valued) behind the choice itself—and due to the fact that as a result of this choice, they are likely to suffer anxiety/uncertainty/suspicion/pain on an ongoing basis.

It all comes down to choice. I've known instances where people made extraordinary choices—changing careers, even moving to another city, etc. The main task for everyone is to be clear about their priorities—and to recognize that the choices we make reflect our priorities in life."

A spouse's concerns about ongoing contact are reasonable, based on the following quote from psychiatrist, Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of Secrets of Happily Married Men:

"Seventy-three percent of unfaithful men meet their mistresses at work. Most people don't choose to have an affair; some may even be morally opposed to affairs. Frequently it starts with a conversation. Then, it moves to a conversation about intimate issues and experiences in each person's own relationship. The distance between meeting someone and a first kiss is much longer than the distance between a first kiss and ending up in bed. It's a slippery slope, and you make choices all along the way."

Of course, it's not just men who have workplace affairs. For information about women having affairs at work, see: Office Affairs.

Finally, this should NOT be construed as saying work-related affairs are inevitable. Quite the contrary. In fact, awareness of the potential can help prevent unintended liaisons from developing in the first place. And couples who regularly communicate in an open and honest way about any temptations/concerns, etc., can avoid falling prey to this problem.

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