Discovering that your spouse had an affair is painful enough. But finding out that the affair partner is a co-worker, supervisor, or employee can be doubly devastating.
Imagine your spouse leaving each day to go to work, and the feelings of powerlessness—knowing that he will spend the majority of his day with a former affair partner?
Affairs in the workplace raise many questions for betrayed partners:
- Can I ask my spouse to leave his job due to a workplace affair?
- Is my financial security in jeopardy because of my unfaithful spouse’s infidelity?
- Does my spouse have potential legal issues as a result of a workplace affair? (He/she may be vulnerable to legal action if the affair partner is a subordinate or an employee.)
- Is it reasonable to expect my spouse to fire an affair partner (if he has the authority to do so)?
The consequences of workplace affairs are profoundly triggering and traumatic to betrayed partners. Because each situation is unique, and the issues can vary widely from situation to situation, there are no black-and-white or cookie cutter answers to these complex and hurtful dilemmas.
However, there are options for coming to a resolution about workplace infidelity.
Here are a few of the many requests a betrayed partner may make in situations of workplace affairs:
- Request that your spouse move to a different position, request a change of assignment, or move to another office location if the organization has multiple campuses.
- Request proof from the unfaithful partner that he has communicated clearly to the affair partner that their romantic or sexual relationship is over and that he/she wants no further contact.
- Request that any communication with the affair partner (if unavoidable in the short-term) be fully transparent. This could include being granted access to email correspondence or phone records, for example.
- If a change in position or reassignment is not feasible, the betrayed partner can request that her spouse not be alone with the affair partner at any time, or have contact outside the workplace (lunch, business travel, or happy hour, for example).
- Request that if your spouse is a business owner, that he be forthcoming and transparent about his hiring practices, interviewing process, business meetings, and other workplace activities that have been part of his past infidelity.
- Request that your spouse leave his job, or even sell a business.
This last option may seem severe or extreme, but sometimes leaving is the only option. If your unfaithful spouse had an affair with the owner of the business where he/she works or had multiple workplace affairs over many years, there may be few options other than to leave the organization or sell a business.
If you’re the unfaithful spouse you will need to make some difficult—yet potentially relationship-saving—choices. You’ll need to decide what is most important to you, and avoid the temptation of thinking of yourself as a victim if you agree to a request made by your partner, or if you decide to make a change in your employment situation to repair or salvage your relationship.
Decisions like these are short-term losses with long-term gains.
They can be a component of the trust rebuilding process, and in the end are a very small price to pay to ultimately salvage your relationship. And even if the relationship doesn’t survive, you will need to address the underlying issues and reasons you are seeking sexual partners in the workplace—a practice that is at best distracting, and at worst a legal matter.
Because workplace affair situations are so complex and impact betrayed partners on several levels, I recommend that betrayed partners have at least one—and preferably several—trusted advisors to help assess any potential risks (financial, reputation, or health), sort through options, and determine any specific requests you’d like to make.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
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