If you fell for someone at work and they’re now off limits, should you keep pushing it? Is your partner giving you an unfair veto?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: What are you a little addicted to?

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Episode 32 – Dating a Colleague

If you fell for someone at work and they’re now off limits, should you keep pushing it? Is your partner giving you an unfair veto? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What are you addicted to?

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

Letter:

I am a 45 y.o. woman and have been married for 23 years. We started our relationship very young and “decided” to be monogamous. I use quotation marks because at the time we really didn’t know better; we didn’t really discuss openly different relationship styles. We didn’t know about long term relationships at all.

We have 2 kids ages 7 and 10. My husband has been a good guy but over the last years I have lost desire and he also stopped finding joy in life and would focus on family and life’s constraints, including allowing codependency with his mother, etc…. He became the “no, we can’t” guy.

After having been raised thinking that infidelity is an absolute wrong, lo and behold I fell deeply in love with “Guy at work”. This was a person who had helped me grow tremendously professionally and personally. He helped me become self confident and aware of different ways of loving, living and giving. I was not looking to fall in love with anybody but found myself with deep feelings for this guy.

I learned he felt the same way and without much foresight I gave myself into this new relationship, which lasted about 8 months, even though we both developed our feelings over many years of working together. It became so intense that for me to be honest with myself I decided to stop the relationship and think about what i really wanted in life.

I also didn’t want to do this behind my husband’s back. Initially I thought the issues I had with my husband were the source of my falling in love with someone else. As I progressed in therapy and reading and listening to podcasts, I realized that while my relationship with my husband could and should be improved, my feelings for “guy at work” were independent, and that I would like to try consensual non-monogamy.

About a month into couples therapy I disclosed my affair. I don’t think I did in the best way, and I’m not sure how I could’ve had the wisdom to do it in a better way, but I wanted us to work through the reality of our situation and felt I needed to be upfront with him. In essence I told him I had developed feelings for another person, that I still loved him and that I wanted to explore an open relationship.

He immediately went home to the computer and found a lot of my communications with “guy at work”. This hurt him immensely because he learned a lot of details that I believe have damaged him psychologically. My husband entered into a phase of righteousness about my affair. We started the slow process of building trust. I stopped all communications with Guy at Work I have not spoken to him at all over the last six months.

The problem is that I really don’t see myself going back to monogamy… neither does my husband, but he has put as a condition that “guy at work” is off limits… But HE IS the one I love and that I want to have an additional relationship with… I feel it is a very deep need and one that if my husband does not allow would just be devastating to me.

I also don’t believe that my husband should be able to control who I see. Although I believe that mutual non-monogamy is based on mutual consent, I don’t believe he has the right to veto who I love. I believe that ultimately we are on this earth to build meaningful connections and contribute to other people’s lives, and I don’t want my husband controlling that.

That said I wanna go through this process in a very careful and respectful way. I know that reading all of our texts was scarring to him. And even though he sees a benefits offer of an open relationship, he has told me that “guy at work” is off-limits. BTW, neither he nor I work at the same place anymore.

I would like to work with my husband and help him get through the trauma that he suffered. I have a few questions. The first one is whether it is possible to successfully open a marriage after an affair has been disclosed – a deeply hurtful for one of the partners. Second, will my husband be able to ever get over my feelings for a guy at work? He doesn’t even live on the same state so it would be a long distance relationship if anything…

I should also add that even though I deeply love my husband, and I find him attractive, I don’t desire him. He’s a good looking guy but I don’t feel that I want to have sex with him. I can do this occasionally if we have had the right level of affection, but that something that we’re still working through and I find myself not desiring to have sex with him as often. I am okay with that.

I would really appreciate your advice. Seems that most of the talk on open relationships is for twenty-somethings but many of us in our 40’s need it as well… Thank you so much!

Response:

A few things here. The first question you ask is, is it possible to open a relationship successfully after an affair? Yes, it is possible, but with some real big caveats here.

It is very, very rare for a person— or a couple that is already in an established monogamous relationship, for both of those people to decide to be non-monogamous at the same time. It’s usually one person that comes up with the idea. Quite a lot of times either that person has already cheated. Sometimes they have developed an interest in someone and that is something— that is someone that they want to pursue.

Rarely is it the case that they just kind of discover that they want to be non monogamous. Usually it’s something that spurs them to it and encourages them to break that barrier. Even if they’ve considered it before. It’s usually another person that they want to pursue, that has caused them to decide to make the move to either ask for it or have an affair. I think that the things that make transitioning from an affair to a successful open relationship are— for one thing, owning the situation.

It’s hard for me to say, you know whether or not you’re fully owning the situation itself. It sounds like you are. You admit that this was really hard thing for your husband, and that it’s been psychologically damaging to him. However, there’s one issue in the fact that immediately after you disclose this affair, your partner went home to the computer and basically, snooped. Snooping never really works out. And usually people snoop to find things that they don’t know.

And I find it really concerning that your husband decided to snoop when he already knew what he was going to find. That, coupled with the fact that you’ve said that he’s kind of lost his, you know, spark. That he’s been quite on the negative side. That he’s developed some codependency with his mother. These are— and that’s kind of your definition. I don’t know if that’s actually been a therapist that said that.

These are kind of really concerning things about him that I think he really needs to pursue with a therapist and it doesn’t sound like— it sounds like you have a couples therapist but I don’t know if he is seeing a separate therapist and I really think he needs to consider that because that decision to decide to go and then look for information that he knew was going to be damaging to him, is a really, really big red flag.

And it doesn’t sound like he actually apologised for violating your privacy because that was a violation of your privacy. He shouldn’t be allowed, even if you have cheated— that doesn’t automatically give him access or rights to explore any bit of communications that you’ve had with someone else. So you really need to be able to own up to things and be really, really honest in the fact that he’s kind of been self righteous about this and that he it doesn’t sound like he’s really sought help for this choice that he made is kind of a big barrier to this.

The second thing is honesty. Committing to full honesty in the future is also a big thing. And, you know, it doesn’t sound like you— and I may be getting this wrong— but it doesn’t sound like you’ve been honest with him about not desiring him anymore. Maybe because you saw his behaviour when you actually disclosed the affair. And you don’t really want to give him any more reasons to be depressed but you know, did that— did you explain that?  Because you said you still love him and you still want to work on things, but you need to be honest about the fact that you don’t desire him.

The other kind of question that you had that kind of relates to what I’m going to continue to say about whether or not it’s possible is, is it possible for your husband to get over his feelings? I think that obviously, your husband is projecting and blaming the responsibility of this entire fair on this guy at work. That really isn’t fair in a way. I mean, he has been really self righteous with you, which has shown that he does blame you as well.

I mean, it is equally your fault, as well as this guy at work. I don’t think it’s completely unfair for him to not feel great about you being with guy at work, because even though you did have the affair, and you decided to do that, this guy represents a lot of really negative things. And I don’t know what he read in those messages that he shouldn’t have read, but he’s not going to be able to get that just out of his mind.

Which isn’t your fault, because he shouldn’t have read that. But equally like I understand where you’re coming from. You talk a lot about, you know, mutual consent and mutual non-monogamy and he doesn’t have the right to veto. But at the same time, you didn’t give him the chance to consent to it to a non-monogamous relationship. You had an affair. And at this point, he can’t go back to the time before that affair. So you kind of removed his agency from the situation.

It’d be one thing if you saw yourself developing feelings for this colleague and you approached your husband at that time, and offered him the chance to either try an open relationship with you or go your separate ways, but you didn’t give him that option. So now he’s forced. He’s essentially forced into non-monogamy. Even if he can see some benefits out of it. He’s been forced through your affair into the situation and it’s not really— if you think about it, you now being like, “Well, we need to be mutually— have mutual consent and you can’t veto who I want to be a partner”.

You know, I get that and I fully fully support that. But I don’t really feel like this is a veto. I feel like this is a fair boundary, given what he’s been through. I think it’s fair enough, if you’ve had an affair, for him to say, “Okay, I will do non-monogamy, but I really don’t want it to be with this person”. I think honestly, like— I think that that’s not really a veto. I think that that’s the continuous circumstances by which he’s willing to continue in this relationship with you. That’s not really a veto.

It’s not as if you developed feelings for this guy and you were already in an open relationship with mutual consent. And then he tried to take that away from you. You pursued this, and you pursued it behind your husband’s back. And now you didn’t give him the chance for mutual consent then. And so I just feel like, you know, this— it may not make a lot of sense, and I do really feel like he’s projecting a lot of his feelings onto this guy.

And maybe blaming him a bit more than he needs to. But I think that given what’s happened, and given everything that he’s been through, even if some of what he’s been through is because he decided to violate your privacy. You know, in a perfect world, yes, he doesn’t get to control or veto any relationships, but you didn’t give him the the ability to consent to an open relationship. So I do kind of feel like it’s, it’s a fair enough ask, or it’s a fair enough boundary for him. And that’s kind of what he’s doing.

He’s putting his cards on the table at this point. Because once you’ve kind of broken your initial relationship agreements, you’re negotiating a new relationship agreement, and he has decided that okay, non monogamy is okay, but not with this person. And I think some people have boundaries like that even without an affair. Some people are like “You can’t— I’m not cool with you dating my friends”. A lot of people have very reasonable boundaries around you not dating family members. So this is now his boundary with regards to how he’s going to move forward in this situation and be able to cope with this and still stay with you.

And I think what you need to decide is whether or not you actually want non-monogamy. Or you just want to date this guy. And I mean, I think you really need to consider the fact that you haven’t spoken to him for six months, and he doesn’t even live in the same state as you. I mean, for all, you know, work guy could be in a monogamous relationship with someone else right now. Like, you may be building up all this and making all this kind of kerfuffle initially about this guy who you had this really intense connection with, but you haven’t spoken to him in six months.

So what you’ve communicated to guy at work is that he’s not your first priority, and that he will be chucked if and when your husband is upset. You know, he— I don’t know if he knew you were married, which also really, you know… I understand you’ve learned a lot from this guy, and he’s been wonderful and awakened all kinds of things within you, but if he knew you were married and was willing to participate in infidelity with you, that’s kind of… that’s not— that’s not consensual non-monogamy either.

So I would then question whether or not guy at work is able to participate in consensual non-monogamy because he’s already kind of illustrated that he’s not willing to participate in something consensual. He’s fine with it being non-consensual, which is a problem. And some people, unfortunately, are interested in cheating because it’s exciting and it’s and it’s secretive, but aren’t really interested in legit,  you know, non-monogamous relationships.

So, I think that’s something you need to think about. Because you’re putting all this on the line for someone who may not even be available to you right now. So, you know, you have to decide whether or not this relationship is worth giving your husband up. And, you know, or I think, given the status of your relationship, like… I know, you’ve been together for a long time.

Does he really want non monogamy or is he just doing this to keep you? You’ve been married for 23 years. That’s a lot.

You’ve got kids, who aren’t fully grown yet, but at the same time, you started this relationship when you were really young. You didn’t really know what you wanted. Now you know what you want. And I think you need to really sit down and ask yourself, is non-monogamy the thing you really want? Or is it just that you liked this relationship and you wanted ir to continue? And ask yourself some real hard questions about it. Is it really going to continue? Now that you’ve had this big upset?

Is it really going to be able to just pick up from where it’s left off with this work guy? Because you haven’t spoken to him in six months. You don’t even know where he is right now. And whether or not he’s with somebody else, or whether or not he’s actually interested in a consensual non-monogamous relationship or if he just liked the cheating. So there’s a lot of things to really consider there.

And to be fair, I don’t think it’s— I don’t think it’s completely out of the ballpark, and completely ridiculous for your husband to say, as a compromise, “I will stay and I will do non-monogamy because I may get some potential benefits out of that. So I see the benefits to me in doing this, but I don’t want you to pursue this guy you cheated on me with”. I feel like that’s a pretty fair ask, in a way. It’s a compromise.

But you have to decide if it’s a compromise you actually want to make, and whether or not it’s worth it for you. Because ultimately, that’s what it kind of comes down to. There may be a time in the future, you know, after the dust is settled and you figured out a groove with non-monogamy and you figured out what you both want it and it’s working for both of you. There may be a time when he’s not so bothered about guy at work, but I don’t think it’s… he can give you a time limit on that.

I don’t think he can realistically project when his feelings will be better. And I think because the onus is on you. You are the one that violated your agreement together. You are the one that lied. So you have to reestablish

That trust with him. And maybe you deciding, “Okay, you know what? I won’t see this guy”. It seems unfair to you, but part of it may be that that’s what he needs to reestablish trust with you to know that you are actually going to give up something because you haven’t had to give up something.

If you really think about it, you’ve had your cake, and you’ve got to eat it too, in a way. You’ve had your really fun relationship with this work guy and you’ve had your husband. He hasn’t, you know— He’s now just figuring out that those eight months like, we’re a lie, and now he has to adjust to that.

And now he has to figure out how to work out a new relationship now that his whole life has changed. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask for him to not want the person who was involved and knew about it (I’m guessing that guy at work knew that you were married) to not be a part of that. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask. So it really comes down to what you… what you’re willing to do.

So yeah, to sum up, is it possible to go from an affair to a successful non-monogamous relationship? Yes. But with some serious caveats about people got to be really, really honest with one another. They gotta own up to their shit. You have to be willing to own up on both sides to the mistakes that you’ve made. And you’ve got to, as I said, Be honest about, you know, the real situation. It doesn’t sound like you’ve been fully honest with him about where your desire levels are.

And maybe that’s part of it. And is it possible for your husband to get over his feelings? Maybe, at some point down the future, but I think that considering you’re the kind of the one that messed up here, you need to think about the fact that he is in a situation where his entire foundations have cracked and you’ve got to rebuild that. As you said, and maybe part of rebuilding that is, I mean, you haven’t spoken to for six months. Like I said, you know, you’ve clearly already separated from him in a way. You’ve already shown that and I don’t think it’s fair to say, “Okay, let’s not see him for two years and then I’ll go”.

You need to let your husband decide that and I don’t think it’s completely out of the ballpark of fair for him to decide to compromise by having an open relationship but not— but to say this person that you cheated with is off limits. I don’t think that’s— I don’t really see that as a veto power. I see that as his sort of putting his cards and boundaries on the table of like, “Alright, I will compromise on non monogamy but this is what I want”. And I don’t think that’s the same as a veto. I think that’s different.

It may not be suitable for you. I may not be happy for you, It may not be what you want. But I don’t think that’s completely unfair. So ultimately, it’s it’s kind of in your ball— It’s in your ballpark. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t use sports metaphors when I don’t know sports. It’s in— it’s up to you

to decide whether or not those terms you can agree with. And it comes down to, with the situation of lacking and desire for him, with his depression and the other I mean, I don’t know if he’s depressed.

It seems like he’s got something going on he needs to work on with somebody. Is it something that you want to continue? You know, is it non-monogamy that you really want? Or is it just dating this other guy that you really wanted? Because if you decide non monogamy is the thing you want and you can’t make this agreement with your husband could easily turn you know, decide to break up with your husband, go back find guy at work is dating somebody else.

That’s why you got to be really into non-monogamy, not just this guy at work because if you go back— You got to be okay with the fact that if you go back to guy at work and he’s with somebody else, and he’s not interested, or you know, what have you Are you fine with that? Or are you actually like, “Oh crap. I just wanted  guy at work”. Yeah. So it’s something for you to you to think about and pick through.

But I hope it helps and good luck.

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