What if my partner's having an affair with a coworker? | Marriage advice from Dr Kathy NickersonJulie called me yesterday and explained that she recently learned that her husband, Todd, was having an affair at work with a co-worker. Julie confronted Todd about the affair, he admitted that he had been cheating, but told her he wanted to stop and to save their marriage.

Julie was thrilled to hear this, but a couple of days later, Todd told her that he really couldn't stop talking to or seeing his affair partner because they work on the same project at work. Todd went on to explain that sometimes they might even have to go on business trips together, since his whole team goes and he couldn't refuse to go.

Julie was crushed and wondered what to do about this...

  • Was this ok?
  • Should she just let him stay in contact with his affair partner and trust that everything would work out ok?
  • If he was willing to go to counseling and work on the marriage, should she just learn to live with Todd working with his affair partner?

I want to share with you what I told Julie because this is a really common and very tricky situation, so here goes...

 

No, it's not ok and it's not going to work out well.

 

I think of it like this: if someone told me they were an alcoholic and really wanted to stop drinking, it would not be ok for them to go work as a bartender, right?

When someone ends an affair, it's much like someone who is going "cold turkey" and trying to quit smoking (or drinking or drugs). It's really hard!

Your brain is telling you that your drug will make you feel better and will take away your pain. For a while, you can resist, because you have some willpower and a spouse who is looking at you with deep pain in their eyes.

But after a while, you start suffering and realize that your spouse isn't going to get better right away, so it's hard to believe that the situation will get easier.

And pretty soon, you're thinking,  "Oh screw it, this is so painful and so hard, it's never going to get better, I just want my cigarette (or drink or drug or girlfriend)."

When you think about it like this, you can see how dangerous it would be for someone to keep working with their affair partner.

That person will have the "Oh screw it!" thought and if their affair partner is over at the Xerox machine looking lonely, guess what will happen?

 

Ideally, no one should continue working with their affair partner.

It's just too risky for all involved and it makes it very hard (if not impossible) for the injured spouse to completely heal from the affair.

 

But this is not always possible, so what do we do about it?

Affairs are common among co-workers, so how do we handle it when we want to end the affair?

The answer is not simple because we have to look at the work roles of each person and see what possibilities exist....

 

If the straying spouse can be transferred to another position, division, team or shift where he/she will have NO further contact with the affair partner, that is ideal.

Depending on the company and the straying spouse's relationship with his/her boss, he can tell his boss why he wants the transfer. If there's a chance that the boss will not respond well to this information, it shouldn't be shared.

Instead, the straying spouse should explain that a transfer is desired because he/she is really excited about the new project or the new division and wants a change of pace.

(Note: if you haven't already, grab your FREE copy of the Affair Repair Kit for straying spouses, so you can learn how to keep healing your relationship. )

 

If it is a small company where there is no way of eliminating contact with the affair partner, the best thing to do is change jobs.

I know this is a major production, but it really is the best and wisest course of action. It doesn't have to happen right away, but the two of you should talk and come up with a timeline that makes sense for your family.

 

What if the person who had the affair is the boss or owner of a small company and the affair partner works for him; should he just fire the affair partner?

No, probably not. Firing someone is a complicated process with legal consequences and I'd encourage anyone in this position to consult with an employment attorney for guidance.

If there is an employee handbook in place, you must follow that handbook to the letter or risk being sued by the disgruntled employee (affair partner).

The best plan might be to help find the affair partner a "better" job with another company and try to grease the wheels for such an opportunity behind the scenes.

 

For example, I helped a couple recover from an affair where a prominent physician was having an relationship with his nurse.

The affair was discovered, the doctor wanted to rebuild his marriage and his business, and there was no easy way to remove the nurse from his practice. She was an experienced, well-regarded nurse and firing her (even following all office manual procedures) was not going to happen.

We handled it this way....

The doctor hired an office manager to come in and become the direct supervisor of all staff members, including the nurse. Once the office manager had been there about a month, some scheduling changes started to take place so that the nurse no longer had her ideal schedule anymore.

Simultaneously, the doctor started talking to his friends/colleagues about his amazing nurse and how she wasn't really happy at his office anymore and that anyone would be lucky to have her.

To a few close colleagues, he shared the real reason he wanted to help his nurse find another job. He essentially started networking for her behind the scenes and when any opportunities for a new position came up, he informed his office manager who sent emails to the whole staff informing everyone that "Dr. Jones down the street is looking for a nurse, if you know anyone, please let them know about this job opening."

As we'd hoped for, the nurse decided to apply for one of those positions herself and within a couple of weeks, she had a new job and things were back to normal.

The doctor and his wife continued to work on their marriage and are doing very well today.

(BTW, Do you need help coping and healing? Make sure to get your free Affair Repair Kit for Hurt Partners.)

 

Another complicated situation is when your spouse is a CEO, elected official, or public figure and their affair partner is likely to cause significant damage to your spouse's career or reputation.

In these cases, you need to be really strategic about how to handle the ending of the affair, as everything and anything can be used against your spouse in the court of public opinion or the board room.

Now, you might be thinking that it doesn't matter....

That you have been hurt, that your feelings need to take priority, that your spouse made this mess and that he/she deserves whatever the fallout might be. I get it, I really understand how you feel and you're not wrong... but think about the long term consequences.

What happens if your spouse is fired and struggles to get another leadership position?
What happens if your kids read about the ordeal on the internet?
What if your spouse can never hold office again?

We really need to handle this type of affair situation very, very delicately and I'd encourage you to work closely with your spouse's PR team (and/or your marriage counselor) to come up with a plan that will cause the least damage to all of you. If you need help navigating this situation, please reach out to me.

(Also, make sure to grab your free copy of 8 Reasons Couples Never Recover From An Affair, so you can know which other pitfalls to watch out for.)

 

In all of these cases, it's important to realize that it's going to take some time to make changes.

Few of us can get a new job overnight or help transition an employee to another company right away.

While the straying spouse is working on finding a new job or relocating an employee, you must be patient and resist the urge to make the situation worse by confronting the affair partner or telling the spouse's boss about the affair.

Even though some well-known relationship books encourage the injured spouse to expose the affair to the world, I really encourage you NOT to do this.

 

Exposing the affair, where you tell anyone/everyone about the affair in an attempt to get it to stop, does much more harm than good.

 

Telling professional associates of your spouse about an affair is a very damaging thing to do. It will harm your spouse's reputation and their ability to trust you in the future.

We want to make it as easy as possible for your spouse to get a new job. That's not going to happen if people are gossiping about your spouse as "that guy who had an affair with Kim from accounting," or if his superiors think he is problematic because he has bad judgment.

I understand that it's very tempting to call and inform people about the affair and hope that it just hurts the affair partner, but this is rarely the case.

Usually both people involved in the affair get hurt. Let's not add more hurt to the pile of hurt and pain that you already have to deal with.

(PS... if you haven't already, please make sure to get your free Affair Repair Kit - Hurt Spouses so you'll know how to heal from the pain and hurt you have right now.)

 

Now what if your spouse has a very, very specialized job or there are no other jobs in your area for your spouse?

Most therapists would advocate for you to move and find a new job. I agree that this is the very safest thing to do, but it may not be what you want to do.

(Note: If you're the straying partner and want ideas on how to help your partner cope and recover, make sure to get your free Affair Repair Kit - Straying Spouses now.)

If your spouse loves his/her job and you love your home and your kids are happy in school, uprooting everyone might be too much...

Only you can decide if moving is really necessary to help you recover from the affair; if it is, it's worth doing.

 

If you want to stay put and your spouse will stay in communication with the affair partner, here's what I recommend:

  • Ask your spouse to limit communication with the affair partner to the greatest extent possible. If communication must happen, chose the least personal way possible (i.e., an email is less personal than a phone call or face-to-face meeting).
  • Encourage your spouse to install someone as a go-between or intermediary between himself and the affair partner (i.e. the office manager in the story with the doctor and nurse above).
  • Have a full disclosure policy, where your spouse is to tell you any/all communication and interaction with the affair partner.
  • Use all of the tech tools to help rebuild trust, like Skype or FaceTime (which shows you are where you say you are and who's with you), Find a Friend App or other GPS tracker. Look for other apps that might be helpful.
  • Talk to your spouse about this week's work schedule, so you'll know what to expect. Plan to touch base every few hours with a quick text or phone call. Do this for as long as you need to.
  • Ask your spouse not to work late without informing you first. If it's an emergency, your spouse should call you and ask for your blessing and the two of you could discuss further options (i.e., you could go to the office and make sure everything is ok...)
  • Ask your spouse not to ever be alone with the affair partner, which means no driving in the car alone together, no work lunches together, no business trips together. Exceptions could possibly be made in time as your comfort/trust increases.
  • Keep an eye on how money is being spent. It's really hard for someone to relapse and have an affair if he/she doesn't have access to secret money.

 

Your relationship really CAN heal from an affair with a co-worker.

 

Ideally, your spouse would change jobs and have no further communication with the affair partner. If that is not possible, because your spouse is the employer of his affair partner or because he/she is in such a specialized job that changing jobs is not possible, there's still a lot you can do to make things better.

Please be patient with each other, this is a painful process and you'll only get through it by being kind, compassionate, and working together. I know you can do it. I believe in you!

 

 

More Free Resources For You

The Relationship Repair Kit - Straying Spouses

The Relationship Repair Kit - Hurt Spouses

How to confront your partner about their affair 

 

Dr. K's Blog - Infidelity

See All Our Affair & Infidelity Articles

 

You Might Also Like

How To End An Affair - Sample Break-Up Letter

Why Do People Have Affairs?

The Diamond Strategy - How To Get Your Spouse To Stop Talking To Their Affair Partner

The 3 Most Important Things You Can Do For A Happy Marriage

 

Tags: infidelity

Comments

  • Posted by Princess on

    It is so hurting and disgusting when people do this. My spouse cheated with many subordinates and colleagues over the years. Work was literally his playground. When I found out, I wrestled over whether or not to expose him because I know for a fact he would have been fired. If it weren’t for the fact that we have kids and I am dependent on his support now and after we divorce, I would have exposed them. Not only that, but the Bible calls us to leave vengeance in Gods’ hands. I’m more interested to see what God will do, because I’m sure I’ll just make a big mess. It’s hard to resist when you have so much evidence and the hurt is deep.

  • Posted by Diamond on

    I’ve caught found out about my husband cheating with a co-worker in the beginning of January 2017 .. we’re getting into petty arguments that would go overboard and he would leave the house for like a few days but I couldn’t understand why he would leave…. He would lie and pretend that he would be at his mom’s house when usually he would but I suspected otherwise. I began to see messages that she would send to him and I’ve heard voice messages to where it sounds like she was angry at him because he wasn’t answering his phone and I found out he had keys to this woman’s house…. So the question in my head is how long has he been seeing this woman and I began to think was the relationship between them that serious? Well each time I questioned him about her in different periods of time or found out something, he’s apologetic and he want his Marriage to work and I’ve even heard that he would cut all tide with her.. but for a whole year he lied to me. I’ve heard when asking him do he see her when he goes to work he claims no because they both work different shifts and when he comes into work she’s getting off but somehow I felt like it was a lie…. The feelings and thoughts that I had was that they were communicating over the cell phone, I also felt like she would bring him lunch to work or she would give him money at work when he needed it……. And I also felt like when we had our petty fights that’s where he would go when he leaves the house for days….. He won’t come out and tell me the truth even with it being right in front of his face !! It’s always it’s not what you think or yes I’ve been with her but I was using her for money and I’ve been with him for 20 years and we have 3kids together and all year it’s been a repeated cycle, when he says he’s not messing with her I always would find something that let’s me Kno that they are still messing with each other . But this last time really has me crushed because he video called me from work and we talked and everything and he says alright bae I gotta get back to work see you when I get off and I said ok baby, but I don’t think he realized the call didn’t hang completely up so I set there listening to his conversation with other companies workers but I here a woman and she began telling him about a problem she was having and he went on to respond to her with concern and says to her call me and let me Kno what’s goin on bae.. and he said I’ll be over there later alright “I love you bae”…. My heart dropped to my lap to here the man I’ve been married to and been with for 20 years tell another woman he loves them…….. When I told him I heard everything and broke out crying he went to apologizeing saying that he didn’t mean for me to hear anything like that and he didn’t mean what he said. And so I responded that you told me it was over and that you didn’t communicate with her anymore".. he went on to say that he Kno he was wrong and I told him to please tell me the truth behind this woman because we have been dealing with this same thing with the same person for a year now!!! He went on to tell me that he got wind of the woman coming across some money and he was being munipulitive and telling her what she wanted to here but he never meant for me to hear it and he didn’t mean it………… Now I’m torn Because the trust is not there and he’s now going for a Supervisor position on his job that would put him on the same shift as her and he would be over her but in a different department but he would still probably have to deal with her…… I’ve been hurting crying don’t Kno where our marriage is going to end up at… Part of me wants to separate until he Kno what he wants because I feel that he’s confused… He says he loves me and don’t want to leave our family and he says that our relationship would be much better if we didn’t have financial difficulties but I don’t know what to think or do…. I don’t make nearly as much on my job as he do and even if I was to leave him I would still need his support … Not only that Emotional ly I’m not ready and I Kno although he’s been seeing this person for a year that I Kno of emotionally he’s not ready Niether….. So I don’t Kno what to do…. Part of me don’t want the other woman to feel like she’s took something from me and she’s winning but I don’t want him to think it’s ok to continuously break my heart and I don’t want to look up and ten years has went by and he’s still dealing with this same woman… I’ve seen it happen to a family friend and she’s still with her husband but he’s secretly for years been making another life with someone else that knows he has a Family but refuse to bag off unless he close that chapter it’s like reading a book , you can cut it off when ever you choose but you can always pick back up in the chapter you left off, and I believe this is the type of woman I’m dealing with because she wants him no matter what the circumstances is…. What do I do in a situation as this???

  • Posted by Alexa on

    If he cheated, he will cheat again. If he lied….he will lie again! Need to ask yourself “can you lay in bed with man who was in bed with another woman and did things to her”? “Can you be in bed with someone who lies and erases his phone history/calls after work day”? I have waaayy too many little facts but my husband is denying any wrong doing. When I start asking him questions “why this and that and this and that”? His responses are like “you imagining things” After I talk to him, I feel like I am in mental asylum and going crazy! Since I noticed messages and calls on his phone from his co-worker (they talk like 6-8 times a day) she even calls him and texts him on weekends! He has her phone set to “silent”. My husband now erases phone history/messages before he enters home after work. I saw him do it. When I asked him “who is she”? His reply was “I don’t love her”. I did NOT ask him if he loved her, I’ve asked him “WHO IS SHE?” His reply again was “I don’t love her” to me, it speaks volumes because his sub subconscious mind tells me “I am involved with her but I don’t love her”…. we’ve been together 24 years married and only during this and late last year I began to notice patterns and how he changed… I think our marriage is pretty much done. I am not going to accept his apology even if he’ll confess sometime in this life time. Right now he’s denying everything… but suggested for me to go sleep with someone else if I have another man in my life……

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