A Reader Writes…
My husband of 17 years had an affair with a work colleague last year which got pretty sexual but did not get to the deed.
He has always maintained that he loves me and wants our marriage, however the affair continued after I found out and I asked him to leave which he did for 3 months and during that time the affair did not continue. He then returned and we are starting to rebuild our marriage.
She is now pregnant by her husband. However, she is next in command in the company and my husband maintains that she is the best person he has ever worked with, they have a bond and although he has recently resented her now wants to get past this and continue with their working relationship as it was – which was very close.
I have told him that their bond makes me uncomfortable and he understands this, however he is planning on taking her for lunch for her annual appraisal. I am starting to feel that the emotional connection has not gone away. How do I communicate this without becoming a dictator – he does not appear to understand this?
I let out a great big sigh when I read your letter. I can’t tell you how many hours I spend with clients on this problem.
The situation is made worse by your husband continuing to lie after being discovered. I’m also puzzled about why a work appraisal is done over lunch?
So why have you hit this roadblock? I think it is one of three possibilities or possibly some combination:
1. You haven’t explained your case properly. (I have to say ‘uncomfortable’ would not describe my feelings more exasperation, annoyance and a dash of anger: How can he expect to have a close working bond with this woman after he betrayed your marriage?)
Maybe you’ve been so keen to save your marriage that you’ve not been entirely honest about how much you’ve been hurt or did not lay down clearly the conditions for him to return—especially about on-going relations with the OW.
What would happen if you were honest? It does not mean that dictate but explain clearly the impact on you, what is acceptable and what isn’t (if he wishes to stay married).
2. He doesn’t feel heard. (In his mind, he has a good case for continuing as before and, if only, you would listen, he could talk you round to his way of thinking).
So have you ask him to explain, in detail, how it work, what would be the boundaries between allowable contact and tipping back into an affair? Don’t interrupt, get upset or contradict, just let him lay out everything and ask questions to get clarification.
3. The two of you don’t know how to negotiate. The answer is probably not going to be you having your way (she leaves the company and never speaks to him again) or his way (they can continue their friendship as if nothing happened) but somewhere in-between.
What is stopping you from finding a compromise that would be acceptable to both of you? You might like to read Help Your Partner Say Yes and Resolve Your Differences to improve communication and find a middle way through this problem.