can I refuse to be alone with a coworker who I had an emotional affair with?

A reader writes:

I am married and I got too friendly with another coworker. I ended up lying to my spouse about dinners out, traveling, and long personal conversations with this coworker. My spouse found out, and I confessed that I had lied. I also told my boss and he understood that I could no longer travel, be alone, etc. with this particular coworker.

My new boss, who is uber-aggressive, wants us to travel together for a sales meeting and told me to “lay my personal stuff aside.” This, of course doesn’t make me or my spouse comfortable. Normally, I don’t meet with my coworker face to face because we both work from home several states away and we don’t need to travel together. I feel like if I appealed to my boss’ manager, who has similar convictions, I wouldn’t have to travel with this coworker. I feel like a direct honest conversation would be best — “I love my job, but if this is a condition of my employment maybe I should begin to look somewhere else as to not hinder the team.”

My spouse says I should just look for a new position. I have been in my current position for 5+ years with excellent reviews. Any advice?

I’m … kind of sympathetic to your new boss’s position here.

I totally get why you don’t want to be alone with this guy. But at work, you’re generally expected to put your personal issues aside and work with other employees. Letting a personal situation impact work to the extent that you refuse to travel with someone or work closely with them doesn’t seem totally reasonable or realistic to me. Ultimately, this is a private situation, and it’s not fair to ask your employer to work around it.

That doesn’t mean that you absolutely must go on this trip, if you feel strongly that’s it a no-go for you. It also doesn’t mean that this kind of thing never happens at work; of course it does. And it doesn’t mean that your stance on the whole thing is wrong. But it does mean that that’s a flag that it’s time to work on changing jobs, because the requirements of this one conflict with your personal requirements, and it’s reasonable of your employer to say, “Look, we gave you a cooling-off period, but we can’t accommodate that forever.”

I don’t know if you’re right that appealing to your boss’s boss would get you exempted from this trip, but I do know that would be a good way to cause long-term issues with your own boss, who’s entitled to make the call on this.

I’m really interested to hear other opinions on this though.

{ 354 comments… read them below }

  1. TL -*

    I agree with AAM on this one; you’re hired to be a professional and that means being able to work with people regardless of extenuating circumstances (barring abuse/extremely unprofessional behavior on their part). Being uncomfortable with someone for personal reasons isn’t a good excuse for not working with them.

    Maybe you and your partner can work out some ground rules that would be helpful to settling peace of mind before the trip?

    1. BRR*

      Completely agree. Unfortunately I think the situation you want is not really reasonable. Either figure out a way to interact with this employee like any other employee or move on.

      Also definitely don’t go over your boss’ head on this. It’s searching for the answer you want to hear.

      1. Jeanne*

        Yes. It smacks of Mom said no so I’ll ask Dad who will say did you ask Mom. A decent Big Boss will defer to Boss on this. Your boss is not being unreasonable in any way. If the travel will damage your marriage, then you need a new job.

        You also need a therapist. The therapist can help you work on how to travel for work while retaining your spouse’s trust.

    2. Doriana Gray*

      Agree with all of this, even though I totally get where the OP’s coming from. Slightly different circumstances, but I turned down a job I would have been awesome at a little over a year ago because I developed feelings for a guy who worked in the division. It was completely irrational on my part, but I knew he was in a relationship and I didn’t want to make him (or myself) uncomfortable. My manager at the time couldn’t understand why I’d turn down such a fantastic opportunity to take another slightly less appealing (to her) one, and I definitely couldn’t tell her for the reason you stated, TL – professionals need to be able to work with all kinds of people regardless of personal feelings.

      Ultimately, I did what was best for my sanity. I knew I couldn’t be around this guy without the feelings becoming more intense/distracting, so I had to pass on the job. OP, it may be time for you to also remove yourself from this complicated situation before it affects not just your emotional well-being and (possibly) your marriage, but also your professional reputation.

  2. Lanya*

    I agree with Alison. Time to find a new job. Your new boss is right; your employer should not be expected to tiptoe around a personal emotional affair between coworkers.

    1. Amber T*

      Agreed. This is an overall sucky situation, but your boss obviously needs two people your in your positions to work together. If you can’t do that because of personal reasons (and I agree, you really can’t), you need to remove yourself from the job. I’m sorry, it’s not the answer you want to hear. Again, it sucks :/

    2. Whippers*

      Yeah; I’m actually really surprised that the OP’s previous boss was so accommodating. I think many employers would not be.

    3. WorkingMom*

      I also agree with Alison; but I agree with her on both sides that while you’re expected to be able to act professionally with all colleagues, regardless of personal feelings towards them – it might mean it’s time to move on, as well.

      I’m really sorry that you’re going through this – kudos to you for owning up to this and working to correct your behavior, and make things right with your spouse. I think ultimately, it’s time to be able to interact with this colleague and keep it professional, or move on. Neither is wrong – it’s whatever makes most sense for you and your spouse. Good luck to you!

  3. BSharp*

    I’m sympathetic to your spouse’s position. A new job sounds like a good fresh start. I know it’s tough to leave a good situation, but in this case, a significant break from the emotional affair might give you and your spouse some breathing room.

    1. Blue Anne*

      I agree. This is your job; if working with this person in this way is going to be such a big problem (and I completely understand why it is) it makes sense to begin looking elsewhere.

    2. AMG*

      I will say that in the meantime, stand firm on your resolve to not be alone with him. If you need to go over your boss’s head for that, then do it. No sense in investing in a relationship you won’t keep very long. Be prepared for it to backfire though and lose your job. Start aggressively looking for the new job.

      1. Sadsack*

        I think going over the boss’s head is a bad idea for the reason Alison suggested. Looking for a new job is a good idea though.

      2. Sunflower*

        I’d advise against going over the boss’s head. She needs the good reference when she starts job hunting.

      3. Graciosa*

        Umm, really?

        There’s no indication that the emotional co-respondent (new term!) cannot be trusted in the OP’s presence. I can see taking a stand if there was harassment of some kind, but the problem here is with the OP.

        Going over your boss’ head is a big deal. I mean, it’s a Big Deal.

        Doing it because you cannot trust yourself to behave professionally with a co-worker is human, and understandable – but it also sends a strong negative message about your level of professionalism. This is the kind of thing that can damage your reputation.

        Yes, if you really cannot manage to interact normally with emotional co-respondent without legitimately jeopardizing your marriage, you need to quit.

        But I think you need to have this conversation with your boss without escalating it. Letting your personal life impact your professional one to this extent has created quite enough drama already without bypassing your boss.

        1. sunny-dee*

          It may not be that the OP can’t interact normally with this person, though. It’s a matter of respect and trust between the OP and her husband. She had an affair (and emotional counts) with this guy. It is entirely legitimate for her husband to be unwilling for her to be traveling alone with this guy.

          The OP may be able to draw all kinds of boundaries … but that doesn’t make it okay for her marriage.

          1. Graciosa*

            No, it doesn’t make it okay for her marriage – nor is it okay for her to demand that her boss treat her like a special snowflake because her husband wouldn’t feel right otherwise. Messaging that this is what’s going on is not going to come across as professional.

            As I noted above, I think the OP needs to quit if that’s the case (legitimately jeopardizing the marriage) but I’m actually inclined to think the OP needs to own this rather than blaming it on the spouse.

            “I’ve decided I need to move on” seems more professional to me than “My husband doesn’t want me working here so I have to quit.”

            1. Chinook*

              “As I noted above, I think the OP needs to quit if that’s the case (legitimately jeopardizing the marriage) but I’m actually inclined to think the OP needs to own this rather than blaming it on the spouse.

              “I’ve decided I need to move on” seems more professional to me than “My husband doesn’t want me working here so I have to quit.””

              This bears repeating. The OP’s husband is not telling her not to work there. He is telling her that he has certain boundaries that need to be met in order to regain his trust. It is up to the OP whether her husband’s trust is more important than her career. She overstepped the line and she has to take responsibility for the long term repercussions for these choices.

              My one question for the OP is did she go to her husband with the news of this trip and all the ways she could be responsible and trustworthy by not being alone with the coworker or did she go to her husband and just say this is the problem and I can’t do anything about it? One of them is showing how she has changed while the other is making it her husband’s problem to deal with (and his logical response would be don’t go).

          2. Ad Astra*

            I can absolutely see why this would make OP’s spouse uncomfortable, but it may be something OP and the spouse have to deal with until OP finds a new job. Refusing to go on the trip because of an emotional affair is going to come off as unprofessional. It’s not really the OP’s choice to spend time with this person; it’s a requirement of her job. If this is an insurmountable issue in the marriage, perhaps OP should quit immediately rather than looking for new work.

            I can’t see a situation in which everyone gets their preferred outcome here.

        2. BSharp*

          Agreed with the point re: harassment. If the coworker had wronged OP, my answer would be totally different. Nobody needs to be coerced into spending time with their abuser. But in a consensual affair, the burden is really on OP to find a way to make the job work or find a new job.

          I’m very glad the old boss was understanding. That was gracious and elegant of him. The new boss’s position, while inconvenient for you, is understandable.

    3. videogame Princess*

      It also may help you with work as well. Being near this person may well be detrimental to your productivity.

    4. Ashcat*

      Bsharp really nailed this one. You can take this as a significant learning experience and really begin getting things in order to move on. As for the upcoming trip, I’d think long and hard before escalating this to someone above your new boss. They are likely to view this as you skirting around them because you didn’t like their final answer, (a final answer that was for all intents and purposes, pretty reasonable). Coupled with the emotional affair and the effect it’s currently having on your work relationship with this person, I can see new boss et. al becoming exasperated by the whole thing. Do as much as you can to minimize your face to face with this person during the trip, and use it as motivation to move on.

  4. LBK*

    Yeah, I’m with Alison and your manager on this one. I completely understand if what you need to move on and to maintain your marriage is to not be around this person anymore, but if that directly conflicts with what you need to do in order to get your job done, then you need a new job. I don’t think you can reasonably expect your employer to work around this long-term any more than any other break up (because that’s essentially what this was).

    1. Fedhopeful*

      Completely agree! After all, without harping, the situation is OP’s fault and was created as a result of OP’s decisions.

    2. INTP*

      Agree with this. I also don’t think you have much of a future in an organization where you have a reputation as someone who wants to get out of business trips because you had an affair with a coworker (I think the “emotional” will get left out at some point in the grapevine, or some people will not differentiate the two) even if you could get any work with him removed from your immediate duties. I totally understand your side here, but in this case the onus is on you to find a job that doesn’t conflict with your personal requirements rather than on your employer to accommodate your personal requirements – you made the decision to have the relationship and create the situation, not your employer.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Great points here, particularly about the “emotional”. I think a work grapevine, even with managers involved, will start to get sloppy with the details. I too think it is best that the OP begin a job search.

      2. Ted Mosbey*

        Yea I agree. Working and organizing around office romances is not something I would ever be willing to do.

  5. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

    This is a tough one, but ultimately I think Alison is right. There are situations where people have legitimate reasons for not wanting to be close/intimate with coworkers and of course “travel” depends a lot on the circumstances (like sharing a hotel room v taking the same plane) But in this case, the discomfort is entirely due to a personal matter and shouldn’t be impacting on your work.

    (For the record, I don’t know exactly where I’d draw the line – “I know it when I see it”)

    Normally I’m not an advocate of “you should be forced to give up a job you do well and enjoy”, and indeed I wouldn’t automatically say that here. But you do have to find a way to meet the requirements and duties of your job whilst balancing your relationship, and if one has to give then you might have to make that call – you can’t ask your work to accommodate your relationship problems forever when it’s negatively impacting your role (again, there are situations where work should be accommodating marriage problems, but this isn’t one of them, IMHO)

  6. Bonnie*

    I think it’s important for OP and spouse to explore what is still causing the issue with this co-worker. Are there concerns that seeing them will bring up old feelings and the emotional ties? Will OP just fall back into that same pattern as before?

    That seems to be the biggest issue here…

    1. Green*

      It sounds as though spouse has made not-being-alone-with-X a condition of reconciliation (which is perfectly reasonable in my book). I think the only thing they need to work on here is how to balance condition-for-job with condition-for-reconciliation. If the marriage is more important, then OP probably needs to find a new job.

      1. Koko*

        I would actually argue that not-being-alone-with-X is only reasonable if the employer will allow it. If the employer stops accommodating the request then the ultimatum has become, “Quit your job or I’ll divorce you,” which is a much bigger ask than, “Don’t hang out with him again or I’ll divorce you,” when it’s not tied to employment.

        1. Green*

          It is absolutely appropriate for a spouse to ask you to quit a job where you work with an affair partner. You can then decide your own priorities. This is only a problem because the OP decided to have an affair with a colleague.

          1. Chinook*

            “It is absolutely appropriate for a spouse to ask you to quit a job where you work with an affair partner. You can then decide your own priorities. This is only a problem because the OP decided to have an affair with a colleague.”

            I agree. And keep in mind that the spouse also suffers the affect of the OP quitting her job as they are financially tied to each other, so this is not necessarily a comment that would be made lightly.

            Also, part of the reconciliation process should be about what it takes for the OP to help her husband heal from the betrayal she caused him. He is an innocent party who did not ask to be cheated on (and, frankly, an emotional affair can be just as damaging as a sexual one to a spouse) and is suffering the consequences of the actions of two other people without there being any positive side (i.e. the OP atleast got to have enjoyable time while the affair lasted). If she has to suffer a job loss in order for her husband to trust her, than that is the price she has to pay.

          2. KellyK*

            Definitely. Making this about the spouse being unfair ignores the fact that the OP’s actions created the problem in the first place.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Whether it’s reasonable or not depends entirely on the circumstances of OP’s marriage and her interactions with the colleague. Absent OP’s husband being controlling and abusive (which there is pretty much zero evidence of here), I don’t think any of us have enough information to say “don’t travel alone with this dude” is unreasonable.

          And it may very well be reasonable. If the co-worker is not over OP, if there is some level of chemistry or lack of self-control that makes it likely OP is not 100% safe to be on a business trip with this co-worker?

          1. Koko*

            I think you’re right that it depends on the marriage. It’s hard to say since I’ve never been in the position but I tend to think that I would probably call my spouse on the ultimatum and let them divorce me over it if that’s how they feel. If they’re going to forgive me, I would expect the terms of the forgiveness to meet halfway and not be overly onerous to meet…I think true forgiveness involves constructive conditions, not punitive ones. Avoiding a social contact is easy. Changing jobs is a much weightier decision that likely significantly negatively impacts my quality of life. How does our marriage heal if I resent my spouse for insisting that I quit my well-paying job that I’m good at and enjoy and I’m forced into some job that is toxic, pays less, isn’t as enjoyable, etc. and I come home every day in a foul mood because my job sucks?

            I am also a person who favors restorative justice in the criminal justice system because I’m more interested in outcomes where the criminal can redeem himself or herself and go on to lead a happy and non-criminal life. I may have chosen to have the affair but he chose the conditions of forgiveness and I don’t think prisoners often have kind feelings towards the people who put them there even if they know they were wrong to commit the crime. For the kind of relationship outcome I care about, being told I have to quit my job is a step away from reconciliation, not a step towards it.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I dunno, I think if I were the one who screwed up my well-paying job that I’m good at and enjoyed because I had an emotional affair with a co-worker until I got caught, it wouldn’t be super fair of me to resent my spouse if they wanted me to maybe try and get a job somewhere else? And it also wouldn’t be fair to blame my spouse if I did find a new job and it turned out to be toxic?

              It absolutely depends on the circumstances of the marriage and the people involved. But this is a situation where the affair ended because the OP got caught, not because OP ended it first, and in that circumstance I can easily see a spouse being concerned that OP still has feelings for this person or didn’t really want to end the affair, and a responsible and regretful spouse who DOES still have chemistry with an affair partner will want to stay away from that particular cookie jar.

              TL;DR, absent anything that suggests actual controlling/abusive behavior, I don’t think it’s fair to judge the OP and spouse’s decisions based on “in a totally hypothetical situation in an entirely different marriage, this is what *I* would do, so your situation sucks”.

            2. Green*

              That’s a fair decision to make on trade-offs of job (and resentment) vs. marriage. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not OK for the spouse to make their own decision regarding under what conditions they’d be happy in their marriage.

            3. Chinook*

              “How does our marriage heal if I resent my spouse for insisting that I quit my well-paying job that I’m good at and enjoy and I’m forced into some job that is toxic, pays less, isn’t as enjoyable, etc. and I come home every day in a foul mood because my job sucks? ”

              And how is your spouse suppose to heal from a wound he didn’t inflict or ask for when you insist that your job is more important than your marriage? How is your spouse suppose to react when they know you are going to be away for a week with the other person? Isn’t that going to be just as toxic for them? How are you suppose to come together as marriage partners if you show that your wants are more important than your spouse’s feelings?

              1. Koko*

                Working a crappy job is a concrete reality. My spouse’s imagination running wild fantasizing about what I might be doing at work is just that – a fantasy. So I don’t think it’s just as toxic at all. I would expect avoiding a negative reality to trump avoiding a negative fantasy. Spouse has to learn to trust me again. If I didn’t work with the guy, it’d be fine for me to avoid him while that’s happening. But the fact that it’s my job involved creates an extenuating circumstance that increase the need for him to just take the plunge and decide he can trust me or decide he can’t.

                I really don’t consider it “my wants.” A job goes way beyond that. It’s where you spend 1/2 your waking hours. It’s how my spouse and I pay our bills. My spouse’s feelings of insecurity, however understandable they may be, don’t trump our need to pay bills. Spouse insisting on this course of action would tell me that his jealousy is more important than our quality of life.

                It’s probably worth mentioning that I’m polyamorous so maybe this is why I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around so much of this. In my community that level of sacrifice would just not be on the table unless both spouses were willing. It would be considered excessive.

                1. KellyK*

                  Again, you have no evidence whatsoever that the spouse is insisting that the OP take whatever horrible job they can. “Working a crappy job” is a fantasy that you have created that may or may not reflect the OP’s employability or the job market in their area. For that matter, “My spouse might do the exact same thing they’ve done before in the same situation, with the same person,” hardly qualifies as a fantasy.

                  I think that being poly really does affect your take on this, because it’s a relationship you wouldn’t likely want to be in. But for people who expect and agree to monogamy, it’s a big deal. But what you or the poly community in general considers excessive isn’t at all relevant to the individual relationships of someone outside of that community.

            4. KellyK*

              How does our marriage heal if I resent my spouse for insisting that I quit my well-paying job that I’m good at and enjoy and I’m forced into some job that is toxic, pays less, isn’t as enjoyable, etc. and I come home every day in a foul mood because my job sucks?

              That’s an awful lot of assumptions. If your spouse insists that you quit immediately with no notice and nothing else lined up, and that destroys your career permanently, sure, that’s unreasonable. But all we have from the OP is “My spouse thinks I should look for something else.” That doesn’t preclude finding a job with similar pay and working conditions.

              Also, “don’t spend time alone with the person you cheated on me with” is hardly comparable to being in prison. It isn’t as though the spouse forbids the OP from work travel entirely, or forbids them from having friends of the opposite sex, or makes them live by the Billy Graham rule. “Stop doing the exact thing that gave you the opportunity to have a relationship that you hid the last time,” is a perfectly reasonable expectation.

          2. Chinook*

            “If the co-worker is not over OP, if there is some level of chemistry or lack of self-control that makes it likely OP is not 100% safe to be on a business trip with this co-worker?”

            I have been there, done that with DH (in my better moments, I call it his “poor choice in female friends” and, yes, we are still married) and I can say that I don’t care if he has any chemistry with them or not, he has lost the privilege of being trusted with them (yet I have no problem with him having female friends in general, though he has to let me know about them so I know he isn’t sneaking around – trust takes time). As for lack of self-control, trust in their word that they have self-control once again is something that builds up over time and can’t be done in just a few months.

            Does it suck that the OP may have to leave her job because of this. Absolutely. But, she has to ask herself if her job is more important than her marriage.

            1. Anon for response*

              Chinook, all your comments on this thread are spot on, and I wanted to give you a virtual fist-bump of solidarity.

              This so much:
              As for lack of self-control, trust in their word that they have self-control once again is something that builds up over time and can’t be done in just a few months.

              (Sometimes even years, depending on the spouse. My spouse has always been one to have many female friends, and I’ve always been more comfortable with male friends myself, so I do not want to be hypocritical about this with him, but if I start hearing a friend’s name mentioned a lot, it is hard not to be uncomfortable.)

        3. sunny-dee*

          I have a friend (actually, my best friend’s sister) who had an affair with her boss, and her husband’s response was straight up “quit your job, or I’m getting a divorce.” There really can’t be any reconciliation if you’re in constant contact with the person you had an affair with.

          The only way the OP has managed to do it so long is that she and the guy are in different offices and don’t see each other daily. But it’s not unreasonable for a spouse to ask you to quit a job so you’re not around someone you had an affair with.

          1. Sorcha*

            “There really can’t be any reconciliation if you’re in constant contact with the person you had an affair with.” Like most things about this discussion, this is not an absolute. It depends on many factors, but there can certainly be reconciliation in such a situation. I speak from experience here.

        4. KellyK*

          I think you’ve got a point that they should both reevaluate the situation now that the OP’s job is likely to be dependent on traveling with this person, but I don’t think it’s fair to the OP’s spouse, whose side we don’t get to hear, to frame it as an “ultimatum” of “quit or I’ll divorce you.”

      2. nikki*

        Actually, she writes the following, “My new boss, who is uber-aggressive, wants us to travel together for a sales meeting and told me to “lay my personal stuff aside.” This, of course doesn’t make me or my spouse comfortable.” so it sounds like she is equally uncomfortable with being alone with him herself. Let’s not assume this is all the husband, maybe she knows herself well enough and that she still finds herself vulnerable for some reason. But again if that is the case, new job is needed.

    2. LBK*

      Eh, I think it’s natural to not want to be around someone that threw a major wrench into your life, at least not right away. I don’t think that always implies that you’re worried about old feelings returning, but people aren’t robots – you don’t just flip a switch and immediately remove all the awkwardness, pain, guilt, etc. of what happened, and seeing the person again is a constant reminder of all of that. I’d find it really hard to focus on work with a big glaring signal of my mistakes sitting at the conference table next to me.

      1. Bonnie*

        I guess I’m just assuming there has been a good bit of time that has passed in this scenario given that bosses have since changed…

        1. Green*

          OP has only been at the job a total of five years. But regardless of time, I think that what works in their marriage isn’t the issue here. It’s how the conditions of their marriage interact with the conditions of the job.

          1. Bonnie*

            That doesn’t say much about how much time has passed since the issue with the coworker came up, but I get what you’re trying to say.

            I just find that typically, when these concerns come up it’s difficult to just say “new job, the problems won’t follow me here”. Just because there is a change in the job doesn’t mean that those underlying fears just disappear.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Yeah, but part of rebuilding trust is showing that you are putting your spouse first. The husband isn’t just being jealous and possessive randomly — she had a real affair with a specific person, and he doesn’t want her around that person any more.

              It is possible that he could still be mistrusting even if she went to another job, but there’s no real evidence of that yet. His only issue is that he doesn’t want her to be around a certain coworker, and that’s pretty understandable. (And also one of the first things a marriage counselor would say for her to do.)

        2. Anon for response*

          I was on the spouse’s end once, and it was just a friend of a friend who lived 4 hrs away, but I would be PISSED AS ALL HELL if he ever spoke to this person again (I don’t care if it was just a nod and hello as they passed on a crowded sidewalk), and it has been 2 years.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I don’t mean to be pedantic or deny anyone’s feelings, but I have to say something about the comments above.

      I don’t think it’s helpful to think of it as the coworker throwing a major wrench into OP’s life. The OP apparently has unmet needs, but as far as we know coworker is not the one who is married, the OP is. The OP needs to deal with whatever caused them to get into an emotional affair or it will happen again with someone else. The coworker could have made advances on them or not, we don’t know, but no one is responsible for the OP’s fidelity but the OP.

      And I personally don’t feel that prohibiting your spouse from being around certain people is a good sign for the relationship. If you don’t trust your spouse, then that trust needs to be built or earned or whatever, or the relationship is in trouble. I can’t say that they shouldn’t ask for certain things, but I think the OP would do better by their marriage if they would focus on being trustworthy and faithful rather than not being around certain people.

      I’m sorry if this feels like I’m invalidating certain peoples’ feelings or approaches, but I think that certain approaches to infidelity are like banning personal calls or internet usage in the workplace instead of focusing on productivity: they are not getting at the root of the problem, and so the problem will probably crop up again, and you’ll wind up playing whack-a-mole trying to fix it.

      1. Adam*

        Agreed. While I have OPINIONS about people who get into affairs with people they know for a fact are already committed, ultimately the co-worker is inconsequential to the OP’s relationship with their spouse. If it hadn’t had been with him, it would have been with somebody else.

        It’s on the OP to figure out what works for everyone and respect their spouse’s feelings, and unfortunately right now their choices are either to conduct themselves professionally around the co-worker and/or bite the bullet and find a new job.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Well, but does the other party KNOW they were perceived as having an affair? The OP and her husband feel that way, sure, but that could be about the OP’s feelings – the other party could just have seen it as a great, intimate friendship, unaware the OP had fallen in love, or whatever.

          I am SUPER uncomfortable with the idea the other party is in the wrong here, based on the info given.

          1. Adam*

            I try not to mince words too deeply with their letters, but I assume that since the OP used the word ‘affair’ that there was some mutual give and take between them and the co-worker. It’d be kind of weird for the OP to describe it as an affair if the truth of it is that OP became mentally/emotionally fixated on this other person who in turn was either completely oblivious to this or was trying to ignore them/shut down that sort of contact.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              I took the OP describing it as an affair on their part because they are married, but what they described – “dinners out, traveling, and long personal conversations” – are totally parts of normal friendships, and could mean anything. OP could have been getting emotional intimacy they weren’t getting at home, and had love-type feelings without the co-worker knowing. There’s nothing at all in the letter about how co-worker felt.

              1. Collarbone High*

                Agreed, and I think it’s unfair to the other person to cast them in the role of homewrecker — to the point of taking it to the boss’s boss, and making this widely known in the company.

                I’m close friends with a lot of colleagues, male and female, and I’d feel extremely awkward, betrayed and angry if one day my boss told me that I couldn’t go on certain trips (especially if this negatively affected my career, as I’m sure it would) because one of those colleagues and their spouse had decided we were too close of friends. I sure as hell wouldn’t be happy that rather than telling me that and quietly curtailing the friendship, they’d told the higher-ups we were having an emotional affair, and asked them to take steps to keep us apart. The other person is essentially being treated like a harasser over something that should have been handled by the two parties involved.

              2. Liz*

                The OP describes it as an emotional affair, which means the discussions went beyond normal work or even friendly conversations. I talk differently with my husband than I do with my [female] best friend, although I have long personal conversations with both. The coworker would have to be a little obtuse to not notice the tone sliding from “friendly” to “intimate”.

              3. boop*

                I think if it gets to the point where OP feels the need to keep the normal friendship things a secret from spouse, it’s no longer just normal friendship things.

      2. Colorado*

        YES! This goes deeper than avoiding certain person or finding new job.
        And I had to look up pedantic, my word of the day now.

      3. Erin*

        I hear you, and I think you put this really tactfully.

        When it comes to infidelity (or emotional affairs in this case), I agree with you that prohibiting your spouse from being around other people, or in general putting restrictions on them, is not productive. BUT I think asking them not to be alone with *that other specific person* is not unreasonable.

        Reasonable: Asking the OP not to go on this business trip with someone they had an emotional affair with.

        Not reasonable: Asking the OP to never go out to a happy hour again, or texting them every five minutes while they’re there, or showing up to their work unannounced. Or, constantly checking their phone/email/etc.

        I agree that asking them to stay away from that other person is not really getting at the root of the problem, and clearly other steps need to be taken. But asking your partner not to be alone with this other person again is, IMO, not unreasonable at all.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I would agree with this differentiation. This isn’t “I don’t trust you with other people”; this is “we both acknowledge your behavior with this person hasn’t been trustworthy, and it’s fair that I shouldn’t have to worry about this any more.”

          1. Minion*

            Ha! I wrote a whole three paragraph reply saying basically this same thing, then deleted it without posting because it was too wordy and I didn’t think I could say what I wanted to say succinctly.
            Thank God for people who can just cut to the chase!

        2. Green*

          You captured this really well. I think it’s absolutely reasonable for spouse to have insecurities; I’d assume they’re working on these, but having boundaries regarding interactions with specific affair partners is something OP could have reasonably agreed to. What isn’t reasonable is expecting OP’s work to agree to that because OP did.

      4. BethRA*

        I agree with you that prohibiting one’s spouse from being around a specific person isn’t a good sign, but neither is the fact that OP allowed a work relationship to cross some very important boundaries and to create distrust in the first place. Sounds to me like they are/have been working on rebuilding trust (and I give OP major credit for recognizing that lines had been crossed and taking steps to fix things and address the real issues in their relationship).

        Cutting off contact with the 3rd party does not get at the “root of the problem” but it does make it a lot easier to focus on those core issues.

        I’m with AM on this one, and with folks who say it’s time for a new job. Long term I think everyone will be better off.

      5. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I agree with you. It seems to me that by saying, “don’t be near this person”, Spouse is really saying, “I don’t trust you around this person.”

        At the risk of reading motivations, I think that by avoiding the coworker, OP may not trust herself either.

        Whatever the root cause, that must be addressed between the spouses. However, this is a work issue, not a marital one, and I agree with Alison and the boss. The OP and the coworker created the situation and they must resolve it somehow. Avoiding each other doesn’t work for the company (and I would imagine not for some coworkers).

        Remember the letter writer whose dept had bent backwards to accommodate a split couple and the toll it took on the whole team? I can’t look at this as an isolated case but one that affects the work dept as a whole.

        To be blunt, OP can suck this up and deal, talk to coworker and resolve it, or look for another job. I doubt an employer will put up with personal baggage to the point where it interferes with business directives. Honestly, I wouldn’t.

      6. Artemesia*

        Maybe. But I think it is quite possible to fall in love with someone regardless of the status of one’s own relationships. In fact, it is fairly common. The key is for any of us to recognize when a line is being crossed for us emotionally and pull back and not allow it to progress to an emotional affair. The OP didn’t do this, got caught and now has a situation in her marriage. Sounds like time to find a new job.

        But this sort of thing is a normal hazard of any job or in fact living in the world and the important thing for a marriage is being able to manage these perfectly normal feelings without going across the line. I’ve been married nearly 50 years — of course I have been attracted to and had deep friendships with other men in 50 years — it is part of being human. They didn’t threaten the marriage because I recognized when a friendship might be a threat and was careful to avoid situations where temptation might overcome prudence.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Right, I would think your spouse trusts you around other men not because you’d never be tempted, but because you’d handle any temptation with forethought and self-control, whether that meant modifying your own behavior or simply reframing your thoughts by remembering how the grass is always greener or how it’s easy to idealize someone from afar.

          1. fposte*

            And there’s another axis on the graph, too, I’d say–it’s “What kind of partner would I be to seek a restriction without cause?” It’s a little like parenting, in that it can be understandable to *want* to seek a restriction because it makes you feel safe, but that’s going against the ultimate goal.

      7. Laurel Gray*

        I read this letter thinking the same. I think the OP is calling on her management to do work for her relationship that needs to be done at home. Of course we don’t have (and probably don’t need) all the details of what happened but it is hard not to see some of this as being a trust issue among OP and spouse. A part of me read the letter and thought “suck it up and put your loins away for the sake of your career on this trip, OP” when I read this letter, but I don’t even know if it is that simple. I would be mortified going to my manager about a business trip for the reasons the OP has.

        1. sunny-dee*

          I think the issue is — the OP lied, continually, about what she did with this coworker. Her husband (not wrongly) needs to see that she has drawn some boundaries there. If she goes and then tells her husband nothing happened — can he really trust her? Because she has lied about her relationship with that man before.

          I also agree it’s entirely reasonable for the company to require her to go. In cases like this, you need to choose what’s more important, your husband or your job.

          1. Ad Astra*

            I would argue that this business trip is a big opportunity to practice trusting again. Not that I’d normally recommend seeking out someone you had an emotional affair with, but it seems that their traveling together can’t be avoided, short of quitting her job without having something else lined up. I can totally understand the OP’s and the spouse’s discomfort here, but if the spouse will eventually have to trust OP again for this relationship to work.

            1. Green*

              I’m not myself big on reconciling post-affair, but while I would be able to trust my spouse again in the future (after hard work and therapy) I would not want my spouse to be alone with their affair partner ever again.

              1. Ad Astra*

                Well, no, I wouldn’t want that either. But I might think it’s worth putting up with just this once in order to avoid quitting a job without having something else lined up. Of course, I’m assuming here that there’s no way to keep the job AND avoid being alone with this coworker; it sounds like the OP is desperately hoping that there is.

      8. A Non*

        “And I personally don’t feel that prohibiting your spouse from being around certain people is a good sign for the relationship. If you don’t trust your spouse, then that trust needs to be built or earned or whatever, or the relationship is in trouble.”

        Well, if there was an emotional affair, presumably the relationship is in trouble and they are working on the rebuilding trust part. It’s not a good long term solution and it’s not a complete solution by any means, but it’s reasonable as part of the reconciliation process.

        1. Anon for this-been there*

          Yes, I would see it as reasonable. After infidelity of any sort comes to light, the relationship is fragile. It’s unhelpful and punitive to put general restrictions on the offending party, but reasonable and helpful to limit situations that could trigger new drama while the relationship is still in active repair mode. It sounds likely that the terms of the job were doable before, but no longer are; frankly, I wondered if the spouse may have been relieved to have an “excuse” to encourage the OP to find a new job without feeling like a controlling jerk. When you’re on the OP’s side of this, you have to be not just trustworthy but transparent for a while, and the workplace element makes that much more complicated.

      9. Anna*

        I think the OP came for advice on how to handle this with their job; not to get an analysis of how their spouse’s response to the situation is a good or bad sign for their relationship. While whatever issues MAY follow the OP to a new job, not a single one of us knows if that will happen or if they’ll have it worked out by then. Basically any discussion of the ins and outs of the OP’s relationship really shouldn’t be up for discussion.

        1. Bonnie*

          I think “analysis” is a bit of an exaggeration here.

          While I understand where you are coming from with this comment, the whole point of having this brought up in a public forum is so those people who may have similar issues/concerns have a way of getting advice on an issue without necessarily outing themselves for it.

          If the only focus was to answer one person’s immediate question and nothing else, it would be pretty hard for others to relate to.

          I think it’s important to bring up the possibility that this business trip issue, this workplace issue… everything mentioned above may repeat itself in the future. There is no one easy answer and acknowledging that is important.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I understand. I was motivated to mention the root problem because limiting contact might not be sustainable in the long term both professionally and personally. The OP might need to consider what to do if an employer doesn’t want to accommodate their request, and I hoped that my comment might help in that case.

        3. LBK*

          Yeah, this is exactly what I was going to say. I really don’t think this is the appropriate place to tell the OP what they need to do to fix their relationship.

          Furthermore, it doesn’t just have to be about whether the spouse is fine with it or not – the OP is also allowed to not want to work with that guy anymore, too. I probably wouldn’t if I were in her situation, regardless of if my spouse were okay with it or not. However, that’s not the business’s problem to solve, which is why I think the OP is the one who needs to fix that aspect by getting a new job.

        4. Traffic_Spiral*

          I agree. From her and her husband’s point of view, it might be perfectly reasonably to go ‘no alone time with this guy.’ However, it is equally reasonable for the boss to be like “it’s not my fault that you couldn’t keep your emotional dick out of the company ink – do your job!”

      10. Anon for response*

        As one who would “forbid” my spouse from seeing the person involved in an emotional affair, I wanted to clear up a few things.

        It’s not that I don’t trust him today, but it still hurts my feelings to think about before. Anytime it crosses my mind (like this whole discussion, dammit), it reminds me of those hurt feelings, of a full year in counseling, of the times we almost ended our relationship. It is more that your spouse did something wrong and to protect your emotions, they have to make the change of making sure your life is never interrupted by that wrong thing again. Some people aren’t as harsh.

        I’ve known someone else who is a very close relative (not my spouse) who rekindled a phys/emo affair 25 years later, so you can see why I would personally be concerned.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          And I respect that first and foremost, your relationship is between you and your spouse, but also that my reasons don’t work for everyone. I can see asking someone to limit their interaction possibly as a way of proving that they’re trustworthy before trusting them with more freedom.

          Anyway, thanks for explaining it a bit more to me.

        2. Bagworm*

          I’m really sorry for the bad feelings but really appreciate your sharing your perspective. It adds a lot to the discussion (for me at least).

      11. neverjaunty*

        The way to rebuild trust is by behaving in a trustworthy manner. That may include “stop hanging around with this person” and “don’t travel alone with this person”, depending on the circumstances.

      12. Melanie*

        I feel icky for even typing this but here goes..

        I suspect the original poster would also want to re-consider leaving a job she seems to love unless 100% sure the relationship is worth losing 5 years and starting over elsewhere.

        Woman to woman.. we generally look elsewhere for good reasons and being on a leash isn’t going to fix the issue (I could be wrong!!). Who’s to say he won’t be nervous when you’re in another position and having to travel? Are you going to be banned from travelling with all males?

        I know you feel indebted to your partner but there are other things you can do to show loyalty. Being on a leash isn’t going to do anything except make you miserable.

        1. Anon for response*

          TBH, this is a good point. When I went through this with my spouse, we had already acknowledged that we were having problems, a few months before he ever met the other person. We didn’t work on our issues until much later though, so things were ripe when it happened. If we had never worked on our relationship, this could happen over and over again. I have to be secure in our relationship, or I am nervous in all sorts of situations (sometimes I get it in my head that things are bad again for no rational reason–really). She has to get the marriage back in shape, and once that is done, with enormous amounts of time, patience, and love, the spouse will be able tolerate her being in close situations with other men.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Yes, woman to woman, I’d say you’re wrong, especially at the idea that setting reasonable boundaries to restore trust is somehow being on a leash.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think there’s a right/wrong here though.

            I personally wouldn’t rebuild trust by rules like this; to me, they’re sort of the opposite of trust (although I can understand why people find them helpful in some situations, on a short-term basis only). My take is that either you can trust the person or you can’t, and the need for rules actually says that you can’t. Other people may have a different take, and that’s reasonable too. I think it really comes down to what works for you in a relationship, and whether that’s well aligned with what works for your partner. I don’t think it’s right/wrong so much as just compatibility of perspective.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I’m not saying that the OP’s situation is right or wrong or that a single perspective is correct. I’m disagreeing that there is some inherent feminine truth to the idea that no affair happens without a good reason, and that setting boundaries to restore trust is always the same as being “put on a leash”.

            2. LBK*

              Agreed completely about the compatibility of perspective – I don’t think you can ever definitively say what’s best for all relationships in general, nor do we have enough info to make a specific judgment call here. Speaking personally, even if I trusted my partner I could see putting a temporary ban on them interacting with the other person not out of fear of relapse, but because just the thought of them together would re-open the wound. It would be really hard not to relive those initial gutting moments every time I thought about my partner being with the other person, especially at first.

      13. Jill*

        What The Cosmic Avenger said is kind of where I was going to go. If OP goes over the boss’s head, the impression it’s going to give is, “I need my boss to police my behavior when it comes to my romantic/sexual attractions.” Sooooo not the impression you want your higher-ups to have!

        Having had a parent that cheated – and having had the other parent do the whole “you’re prohibited from being around your love interest” thing, I can tell you that what’s needed is good couple’s counseling. This is not a problem that you can shift to your employer to fix!

      14. Chinook*

        “The OP apparently has unmet needs, but as far as we know coworker is not the one who is married, the OP is”

        Please tell me that you didn’t mean to imply that the affair is the spouse’s fault, because that is what the first part of that phrase means.

        As for “prohibiting your spouse from being around certain people is a good sign for the relationship,” you are right. If this were to happen without an affair taking place, it would be unhealthy and a red flag. But, after an affair, it is one of many actions that need to happen in order to stop the relationship from being unhealthy. The number one thing that needs to be done is for trust to be built. A vow has been broken (not just an ordinary promise) to be faithful (emotionally or sexually) and one of those ways you do that is by doing what your spouse has asked you to help them heal. The marriage is not the only thing that has been harmed, but the spouse himself as well. When you have been cheated on (especially when you remain faithful), the reality is you lost the one person who is suppose to have your back while the cheater still has, in their life, someone they can trust. Unlike most relationship injuries, this is the type of thing that can have an innocent victim who is then told that they have to suck it up and move on or risk losing everything else.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I definitely didn’t mean to imply that it’s the spouse’s fault. The OP needs to figure out what they feel they’re missing, if maybe they can get it from their marriage with better communication, and if not, how big of a deal it is for them.

          Maybe they have a need to be the center of attention, and therapy would help resolve that.

          Maybe they’re not getting emotional intimacy, and their spouse isn’t willing to change.

          I wasn’t assuming anything, I was just stating that they were seeking something, because that’s the root of their problem, and if they “fix” it by moving to another job, there’s still a good chance that this issue will crop up again in some other way.

          1. Honeybee*

            Meh, I’m not sure I agree with the assumption that people have affairs because they are missing something. Certainly some do, but people in relatively happy marriages cheat too. Sometimes they do just because they can; sometimes they just want to try something new; and sometimes the emotional intimacy of another person is just too tempting even though they’re happy where they are.

            1. Nancy*

              There’s no way to judge how happy a marriage is from the outside. You can’t know people’s real desires and you have no idea whether they’re being met by the marriage, even if that desire is just to act as if they aren’t married.

              Everything you described is a case of getting something outside the marriage that can’t be obtained within it.

  7. YourUnfreindlyPhlebotomist*

    Is it possible that the new boss doesn’t understand the severity of the problem? If you really don’t need to travel with this person and avoiding that has worked fine maybe just clarifying the situation would solve the problem? If not and your boss is insistent that it’s your job then I think Alison is right and its time for something new.

    1. LBK*

      I don’t think it matters – if an employee I’d just taken over came to me and said “Just FYI I can’t ever work with Bob because we have personal history that makes it uncomfortable” I would definitely look askance at them. Much like any other personal conflict, I’d wonder why the employee thought that was appropriate to bring up to me as a factor in making business decisions.

      1. YourUnfreindlyPhlebotomist*

        I got the impression that things had been working well without them working together for a while and that it was just the new boss wanting to shake things up. I completely think that if its going to be a actually problem for the company rather then just an “oh , yea it’ll work that way too'” then she should find another position.

      2. Adam*

        Yeah. I found it interesting that the OP labeled their new boss “uber-aggressive”. That may be true, but as described I didn’t see the boss do anything that seemed unreasonable in this situation. And if I were the boss’ manager and OP went above him to me about this, I would listen but frankly wouldn’t entertain the request.

  8. The IT Manager*

    I 100% agree with Alison.

    I have sympathy with the LW. She is trying to do the right thing for her marriage, but if that right thing means that she can’t go on business trips that the person in her role would normally go on then her personal stuff is impacting work and possibly co-workers when someone else who is not the best to attend has to go. The solution is for you or your emotional affair partner to find another job so these situations stop coming up. And it sounds like it would be you because your emotional affair partner is not balking on trips where he would see you.

    I don’t think you should blame your new boss here. It’s good that your old manager accommodated you, and it’s great that she accommodated you right after everything all came out, but to accommodate you long term because of this personal issue is probably not the best management decision.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I reread the letter, and I do wonder what “travel together” means. Drive in the same car for long distances? I don’t think that’s necessary. If it’s a cost thing, can you suck up the entire cost (not request reimbursement) of travelling by yourself?

      Stay in the same hotel room? Lots of people think you shouldn’t be forced to share hotel rooms with anyone on business travel so you could push back on that point, and if they don’t budge, again, offer to suck up the cost of a private hotel room.

      If you just object to being in the same town/hotel/room as your affair partner, well then I think you have to find a new job.

      1. hbc*

        Yes, it’s possible there are workarounds depending on her level of comfort, and what her husband can tolerate. If keeping that job is worth paying for a separate drive and covering a hotel in a different complex, for example, float that idea to the new boss.

        Though if he’s actually aggressive (and not just ultra-accommodating like the old boss), he might care more that he’s being obeyed than the fact that the solution makes everyone happy without costing the company more money.

        1. Amy UK*

          To be honest, I’m not aggressive at all and it would irritate me if my employee asked for something, was told no and then went off to plan how it could work rather than accept my answer. Expecting your team to work together isn’t an unreasonable expectation, so even if there are work arounds the OP can suggest, they aren’t relevant if what the boss wants is a team where everyone can work with anyone.

          I think it would be very tone deaf of the OP to come back and say “I’ve found some workarounds for the problem” which are all based around solving her problem (“I can’t work with him”) rather than the actual problem the boss has (“My team needs to work with anyone and everyone”). Paying for her own hotel rooms, transport etc doesn’t solve the problem of “I refuse to work closely with this colleague” because presumably they’re meant to be in close contact at the work location as well and there’s no workaround for that.

          While the OP saw her old boss as fair and accommodating, the new boss might see their predecessor as too willing to pander to the team and unreasonable requests. I’m a teacher, and I see this all the time. Kids think that the teacher who accommodates all their wants is the fair and kind one, and anyone who asserts boundaries or says ‘no’ becomes the aggressive one.

  9. EJ*

    I’m on the new bosses side… whatever affair you chose to have at work is on you. You can’t expect work to be sympathetic to you [or your spouse] because you screwed up. You took chances of screwing up your work when having an emotional affair with someone at work. This goes for anyone, whether you’re single or cheating on a spouse. When things go sour consequences of your actions will bite you in the butt. It’s not work’s problem, nor do they have to accommodate any of it.

    1. AnotherFed*

      Exactly. And then asking your boss to not make you work together again because of your office romance gone wrong is even more unproffessional than the affair in the first place. If a high school intern asked me to separate them from an ex, we’d have a conversation about professionalism and workplace expectations, but if a professional adult on my team came to me and requested the same thing as this OP, they would be gone.

  10. deathstar*

    The other side of the coin: while we ought to be professional at work at all times, work is probably not the end all and be all of our lives. It has recently struck me (I work in an academic environment) that: many of the staff members who have sacrificed relationships and family for the sake of their careers are displaying signs of regret and emptiness at the third-quarter mark of their careers. At the end of the day, the cliche is true: Very very few people look back on their lives and wished they had prioritised their careers more; more have regretted not spending more time on the relationships that matter. So i’m going to go with: work on this with your spouse, keep talking: with his/her understanding, while tough, you might be able to stay where you are. But if this puts a strain on family relations, I’d have another think.

    1. Amy UK*

      Eh, you can make the opposite argument as well though. Plenty of people (mainly women) sacrifice their career for relationships and family and regret it when they try to re-enter the workplace after a divorce and find it hard to get employed.

      Plenty of people look back on their lives and wish they’d concentrated on their career more, for various reasons. Very few would say “I wish I’d chosen work over my family”, but plenty would say “I wish I’d allowed a bit more time for myself to pursue my dreams to some extent, rather than sacrificing it entirely for my children/spouse”. It’s airy fairy nonsense to say that “very very few people wish they had prioritised their careers more”; there’s a hell of a lot of women out there martyred on the altar of putting everyone else first and following traditional advice. (And to be clear: I’m not talking about happy SAHM here. If someone’s happy with their choice then awesome, but a lot of women I know weren’t.)

    2. CEMgr*

      When you survey only those who are successful enough to have had long careers in an academic environment, you are introducing a massive observation bias. Presumably results would be quite different among the unemployed and marginally employed, or even just those successful in a different field.

  11. Been there*

    Oh, how I have been there. It’s a sucky situation, but it is your problem. Your boss and your husband are both justified in their feelings, and I think the immediate solution is either to see whether you can get out of *this* trip, or else reassure your husband through whatever means necessary (checking in with him regularly, ordering room service instead of going to dinner with your coworker, etc) that nothing is going to happen on this trip that wouldn’t happen if he were standing right next to you.

    And then look for another job. Yeah, it sucks that you’ve been a great performer and you have to leave anyway. But it’s an impossible situation to put “forbidden fruit” in front of yourself for an extended period of time, or to ask your boss to deal with a problem that you and this coworker created.

    Sorry to be harsh. I do empathize, though. I went too far with a coworker once and what I regret most about it is that it made it impossible for me just to be normal friends with him ever again.

    1. michelenyc*

      I 100% agree! You and the co-worker created this situation and you just can’t expect your job to accommodate your mistake. It’s unfortunate that it affected your professional like but I do think the best thing for you to do is to explore other opportunities.
      While I did not have an affair with a co-worker. I had one with a close friend and it pretty much destroyed our 20 year friendship. You think you can go back but sometimes you just can’t.
      Best of luck!

  12. Swarley*

    I think that your employer was generous to accommodate your situation for as long as they did. And I definitely understand your spouse being uncomfortable with all of this. That said, it’s not unreasonable for your new manager to expect you to put your personal issues aside and have professional interactions (including travel) with this coworker. If you don’t feel that you can reasonably do this part of your job then it’s probably better to move on.

  13. AnotherAlison*

    You need to find a new job. As you well know, this is a self-created personal problem, not a work one. I think your spouse would be more comfortable if you weren’t ever crossing paths with this person again, and even if you don’t travel together, there is IM temptation, etc. (Not that you have to be working in the same place to have that temptation, but, working together adds a way for you to cloak what is going on from your spouse.)

    Also, if you do have to travel together this one time, maybe the boss would be willing to let you get separate cars and stay at separate hotels so that they only time you’re really together is with the client. I recently had a trip work out that way, but for none of the OP’s reasons.

    Lastly, it’s not my business, but if you haven’t gone through counseling together, seriously consider it. Emotional affairs can be a bigger deal than you think. It might be a bigger deal in your spouse’s mind than yours, and even more than they’re letting you know.

    1. Adam*

      I second the counseling suggestion. Everyone responds to these things differently, and I’ve known people who truly feel emotional affairs are just as bad if not ever worse than purely physical ones, and I can see why for a lot of reasons.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        “I’ve known people who truly feel emotional affairs are just as bad if not ever worse than purely physical ones, and I can see why for a lot of reasons.”

        At the risk of TMI, I’ve told my husband that if he has a one-night stand, just tell me and that’s OK. Purely physical, and I get human nature. But if he ever gets emotionally involved with someone, that’s a huge problem. And before someone asks, I have the same deal. May not be everyone’s cup of tea but it works for us.

        That said, if I dipped my quill into the company ink (can I do that as a woman?), the consequences are mine to resolve, not my employer’s.

        1. Adam*

          I think it was illustrated really well in the film ‘Love Actually’ with the Alan Rickman-Emma Thompson relationship. He starts to have eyes for the young hot woman in his office while spending less and less time on his wife and mother of his kids. I don’t think he ever puts so much as a hand on the young woman, but their talks and the expensive gift he buys her long-jump well past the point of acceptable interaction. I forget what exactly his wife is aware of but she definitely knows something is going on and when her Christmas gift from him is a bargain bin CD her quiet breakdown is truly a sad moment.

        2. Anna*

          This makes absolute sense to me. It doesn’t mean there won’t be things to talk about, but there is a difference for a lot of people (not so much me, but that’s just my personality). And yes, no matter what the consequences are the OP’s and coworker’s to resolve. It just might be time to move in a different direction.

        3. AnotherAlison*

          I’m not sure I completely agree with handling the one-night stand type scenario this way, but I think it’s kind of based on your spouse’s “love language.” My spouse is not one to sit and talk about feelings, and so the physical side is not usually “just” that between us. So I think both would be deal breakers for us, but I can see how it could work for others as you’ve laid it out.

          I’ve seen some spouses flip out because their husband ate lunch at “their” place, or someone gave someone else candy. Those aren’t special things in my marriage, so I don’t think that would be the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, where it is for others.

          1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            I totally get it. It’s unusual, I know. It’s not that sex isn’t special to us, it is. We just both understand the nature of physical chemistry. We’ve been together 20 years and have no illusions about maintaining monogamy (seems alomst impossible). To us, emotional involvement is key and that’s where the infidelity happens. I don’t advocate this arrangement for all.

            Now if he ever puts the toilet paper on the roll under instead of over, that’s it. The marriage is ruined :)

            1. moss*

              Long term monogamy is completely possible, actually. I think it’s very damaging to act like cheating is the norm or that someone can’t help it.

              1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                I said *almost* impossible, not completely impossible. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

                I appreciate that you have a different opinion, but I do not appreciate the implication that I am damaged in some way for believing in human nature and biology over social convention. I don’t judge those who commit to each physically, exclusively, for their marriages, and I don’t think I should be judged for feeling differently.

              2. Nancy*

                Cheating and an agreement that it’s ok to go outside the marriage are two different things. Don’t conflate the two.

        4. TB*

          It also reminds me of the book “Heartburn,” in which the main character’s husband tells her he has fallen in love with another woman, but claims they haven’t had sex, as if the falling in love part was okay but the sex part she wouldn’t be able to accept. (Great book. Don’t know about the movie, but it’s a great book. RIP, Nora Ephron.)

  14. Althea*

    Agree with Alison. If I was the manager here, I would also find it troubling that your emotions/passions are controlling your behavior to the extent you describe. You can’t help feeling what you feel, but you can certainly control how you behave. As strongly attracted as you may be, it’s on you to not have intimate conversations, private dinners, etc. If you have trouble on the trip, just imagine your husband and boss in the backseat listening to you and watching you. Would they be upset by what you are saying/doing? Then cool it…

    1. hbc*

      To be fair, OP might be totally cool in those situations, but Husband isn’t since he *can’t* sit there in the backseat. It’s not much of an improvement from a work perspective, though: “I can’t control myself around him” and “My husband won’t let me be around him” are both non-starters.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I see your point, but there have been letters here where husband attempts to (or actually does) take control of the wife’s professional boundaries. That’s a blurring of boundaries, and generally not advisable.

        I get the husband’s POV, but he doesn’t have the right to dictate who OP does and doesn’t work with. The employer does.

        1. Anna*

          I think in this case it’s fair for a partner to insist on no contact or whatever. The problem only came in when the OP expected their boss to accommodate them. What would have happened if Old Boss hadn’t been accommodating? The OP probably would have found a new job anyway if they wanted to salvage their marriage. It’s absolutely fair for someone whose trust has been broken to have conditions on having trust restored.

          1. Althea*

            It’s really more in the realm of Dan Savage than AAM… but I don’t think a spouse who can’t trust their partner’s behavior should be in the marriage. You either trust your partner to behave within the boundaries of the marriage, or you don’t. If you don’t, it’s really not much of a marriage.

            It’s on the same level as a working relationship. If you can’t trust the person to behave, why would you want to continue the professional relationship?

            1. Anna*

              This is an absolute side note, but I don’t think that’s true at all. If trust is broken, it’s about building it up again. Dan gets it way wrong sometimes, and I think if that were his answer he’d be way wrong about it. Marriage (like so many other things) is not a binary (not much of a marriage/always a great marriage). There are shades in there and probably a lot more shades if someone has broken trust. What you’re saying is like, “Oh, I know you broke my trust, but I trust you anyway and always!” That’s not how it works.

            2. Chinook*

              ” but I don’t think a spouse who can’t trust their partner’s behavior should be in the marriage. You either trust your partner to behave within the boundaries of the marriage, or you don’t. If you don’t, it’s really not much of a marriage.”

              That is true…before an affair. After an affair, you have proof that your partner can’t be trusted with a specific person. It is then up to the partner to regain that trust, not the one who was cheated on. If the OP has been at the job for 5 years, odds are pretty good that the affair only ended a few years ago, which means that rebuilding trust is still in the infancy stage.

        2. hbc*

          He doesn’t get to dictate who she works with, but he *can* decide he is uncomfortable in a marriage where his wife spends alone time with the person she misused alone time with previously. He can definitely dictate that the terms of his staying married to her include no solo time with an affair partner, and leave it up to the OP to decide whether that means the end of her job or her marriage if the two come into conflict.

          Unless and until he contacts work and starts trying to rearrange her travel schedule for her, or check up with her coworkers on where she is when she’s an hour late from the office, he hasn’t blurred any lines.

          1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            Husband can absolutely be hurt, and he can absolutely express his desire for OP not to see the coworker. I don’t dispute that. I dispute Husband’s rights for OP’s employment conditions.

            If OP is saying she can’t work with coworker because Husband is uncomfortable, then OP is allowing Husband to dictate employment conditions as part of his hurt, and that’s where he doesn’t have the right. OP blurred the lines and it’s on OP to unblur them.

            Life is messy. I feel badly for everyone involved. But this is really down to what is required of OP at her job and what is required of her marriage, and those can be mutually exclusive.

            1. Kate M*

              But I don’t think he’s dictating employment conditions in that situation, he’s merely saying what kind of marriage he is ok being in. If he says, “I’m not comfortable staying in a marriage where you see your affair partner regularly,” he’s just saying what kind of marriage is acceptable to him. Then, it’s up to the OP to decide what to do from there. She could decide that her job is more important than her marriage, and they decide to divorce. She could try to find a workaround with her employer where she doesn’t have to work with coworker (which worked ok in the beginning for OP – but I agree with Alison, if she is getting pushback on it now, it’s no longer ok to do). Or she could decide that her marriage is more important than work, and find another job. But her partner stating this isn’t dictating her terms of employment, she’s always free to reject his marital wants/needs and no longer be married.

            2. sunny-dee*

              If it’s up to her to “unblur” them — what else would you recommend? Lots and lots of alone time with the guy where she totally doesn’t cross any boundaries?

              There is nothing sacrosanct about work. It’s something you do for money. Yes, we get a lot of personal affirmation and enjoyment and satisfaction from it. But it is a thing you do for a few hours a day for money. And it’s something you do at one place only for a few years before doing it somewhere else. In theory, at least, a marriage is for a lifetime. It is a different kind of commitment altogether, and if the OP’s husband needs her to avoid being around someone she had an affair with to protect their relationship, then that is very much his right.

              1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                I’m not saying work is sacrosanct – but you’re right, it’s about earning money. Money is earned through work, and your company sets your priority. If boss says go on trip with X, that’s part of the job.

                OP can refuse to go, but OP has to face he professional consequences of that decision. OP is letting her husband dictate to her what her professional lines are by trying to abide by the no contact dictate.

                OP also needs to work on her marriage, of course, but I’m trying to stick to the employer piece here, not the personal part. And yes, if she can’t find a way to work with Coworker, then finding another job is a solution. Might not be a satisfactory one, but it is there.

              2. TB*

                Sure, it’s his right. It’s his right to ask for anything he needs/wants. But it’s not his right to demand that OP’s boss give it to him. (Or that she demand it by proxy.)

            3. CMart*

              It’s really all semantics, isn’t it?

              Just because Husband is uncomfortable with/does not want OP to be working with Coworker, doesn’t mean that the OP *must* quit their job. Husband is totally within his right to tell his spouse if he doesn’t want her doing something–it’s just not his right to actually stop it, which as long as he’s not calling up Boss and demanding it, he isn’t, really. It’s up to the OP to make that choice.

              It’s the same blurry difference between “setting boundaries” and “giving an ultimatum”. They’re essentially the same thing, it’s the execution that sets the tone.

            4. AnotherAlison*

              This could go in so many parts of this thread, but I think it fits fairly well with this line of the discussion.

              My dad had an all-in affair AND he did have to quit to save the marriage. My mother went back to work, and my dad took a much lower paying job for a while. He was an over the road truck driver (ahem, affairs are incredibly common in the line of work. . .just listen to country music for a while), and his new job was home-every-night work. A couple years later, he went back to driving over the road. I’m not sure how my mom was able to trust him again, but she did.

              Now, it was different than the OP, because she wasn’t effectively telling the employer that he couldn’t drive and trying to twist the arm of the employer into letting him say, do a warehouse job instead. She just said nope.

              I think it’s fair for the spouse to draw their line; it’s up to the OP to decide if she wants to raise the issue at work or renegotiate the line at home.

            5. Nancy*

              If OP is saying she can’t travel with this co-worker because her husband has forbidden her from being alone with him, OP has entirely missed the point.

              If her husband needs her to not be alone with the guy, that’s what he needs. If she wants to keep her marriage, it’s her responsibility to make the decision to honor his request for what he needs to heal. There’s worlds of difference between forbidding someone something and saying “I can’t handle it right now if you do this thing.” If you’re looking out for your spouse, you do your damnedest to do what they need you to do.

              Their relationship is going to be fragile for awhile. Like someone said above, this kind of betrayal is especially bad because this is the person who is always supposed to have your back; regaining that trust means doing what you need to do and looking out for your partner. You’ll note the lack of qualification there; I didn’t mean “if it’s convenient”. You don’t pay lip service and then do go ahead and do the thing that’s easier just because it’s easier.

  15. Del*

    I think your husband is right that it’s probably time for you to be looking for a new job, OP. You didn’t say how long it has been since the emotional affair ended, but if it’s been more than a month or so and you still don’t trust yourself to behave professionally in this situation, I would say that it sounds like a fresh start without this entanglement would do you a lot of good.

    In the immediate moment, though, how much alone time would you be spending with this coworker? Would you be sharing a hotel room? Spending hours together in the car? How much can you minimize having nonproductive time together? For example, if you’re flying, sit separately on the plane. Have separate hotel rooms if your company will reimburse that.

    And something that occurs to me is this – while you’re away, have an “emotional affair” with your husband. Think about him, text him at occasional moments, try to make him the one who is a constant positive presence in your thoughts.

  16. Sunflower*

    I don’t think you should go above your bosses head for this- I think it would make you look really bad to both your boss, his manager and any of your coworkers. Going above your boss should be reserved for really sensitive, important issues and shouldn’t be done lightly. Going over his head over this issue would give the sense to me that you don’t really understand or care about the priorities of your company. Plus if you do decide to have this conversation, you’re essentially telling your company you’re going to quit. IDK your employer but if they are the type to escort you out the door, you’re setting yourself up for a bad situation.

    I think every sign points to you should look for a new job. Your new boss doesn’t want to accommodate this occasion so I’m guessing he’s not going to care too much about accommodate you going forward. You didn’t mention any sad feelings about leaving your job so you don’t seem too attached to it.

    I feel for you OP. These things happen and we never mean for them to. I think the best situation for you, both inside and outside of work, is to put this behind you and leave your company with a good reputation to help you grow in your career.

  17. EmmaBlake*

    I’m having a hard time trying to think of how the employer is obligated to do anything. This is OP’s job. Presumably, OP was aware that said job required X amount of travel with various people when she took the position. It is unfair to expect the employer to change that agreement because of OP’s self-inflicted marriage strain. It was wonderful of old manager to allow time for things to cool down, but honestly how long are they supposed to offer? This is a personal relationship issue, not a work issue and should be treated as such. If OP can *never* be around her co-worker again for fear of falling back into whatever was happening, she has more issues to sort through than not wanting to go on this business trip.

    I don’t mean to be harsh, and I completely understand not wanting the strain on her already fragile marriage. But the strain is only hidden if the feeling are only being suppressed because of distance and haven’t truly been put to bed.

    1. Anna*

      I don’t know if the “travel with certain people” really applies as I’m sure when the OP started working, they didn’t expect to start an emotional affair with a coworker. In fact, if the OP had projected that as part of their decision to the job, that would be pretty weird.

      1. EmmaBlake*

        I didn’t say travel with “certain” people, I said “various.” OP knew travel was a requirement of the job. She knew that this travel would require her to interact with other employees. She knew all of this when she accepted the position and then when she started having the emotional affair with one of the coworkers she had to travel with.

        It is not the employers responsibility to babysit their employees’ marriages. If OP and coworker are the two that need to go to this business meeting, than OP must act like a professional and do her job. “I had an affair” is not a valid excuse not to do your job.

      2. Elle the new Fed*

        Her employer certainly didn’t dictate an emotional affair as part of the terms, she brought that in. It doesnt sound as though the employer changed the terms, OP did that herself.

  18. Ann O'Nemity*

    I think the old boss was really generous for accommodating this problem in the past! The OP must have been a really valued employee. Hopefully those job skills will help the OP find a new job quickly, because that’s exactly what needs to happen now.

  19. K.*

    I’m reminded of the letter writer who was being asked to switch shifts at an inconvenience to her because two of her colleagues had broken up and couldn’t work together. Overwhelmingly, the advice was to stop accommodating the coworkers. The situation is slightly different here as there was no third party spouse to consider in that previous letter, but yeah, OP, your job isn’t required to accommodate you here, and should not.

    If your spouse is requiring that you no longer see or speak to this colleague, that’s a reasonable position, IMO. I would be inclined to assume that someone would leave a workplace in the aftermath of an affair because the situation is so fraught, personally and professionally, and this is an example of that. Start looking.

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      Yes! I mentioned this in a comment upthread – this letter is almost from the other side of that position and while I empathize with OP, the result is the same. Coworkers and managers cannot and should not be expected to manage these types of issues unless they mess with performance – and I’d say this example messes with performance.

      Honestly, if one of my team members said they couldn’t work with another one of my team members because of a personal matter, it’s up to them to work out. If it continues to bleed, I can send one or both to another team or out the door. OP’s manager can do the same, and OP may want to tread lightly or get out, as advised.

  20. Ann Furthermore*

    This is totally NOT the same thing at all, but I had an absolutely awful boss once that made my life hell for about 6 months. I was able to change jobs, which was great.

    A few months after I moved, my new boss put me on a project where I would be working very closely with the horrible ex-boss. I told her I didn’t think that was a good idea, given our history, and she said, in short, “Suck it up and deal with it.” I did, and we actually ended up working pretty well together. I’m glad my boss was a hard-ass about it, because it forced me to learn how to put my personal stuff aside and figure out how to focus on what had to be accomplished. It was a great learning experience for me, and I’m glad I was put in a position where I pretty much had no choice but to figure out how to deal with it.

    That being said, I’m not sure I’d be able to do the same thing in this situation. On the one hand, you might find that the spell has been broken and you’re able to move on and work together with no problem. On the other hand, you could find yourself back in the same place you were before. Only you can know for sure.

  21. Erin*

    I’m sorry you are going through this. This is a really tough one.

    One the one hand, your spouse is not being unreasonable in asking you not to take this trip/work closely with this coworker. On the other hand, your boss is not being unreasonable in asking you to set personal issues aside and take this trip.

    As this is a work-related blog with work enthusiasts, my opinion might not be the most popular, but this is what I think:

    I think you should make your spouse know that they are Priority Number One and the job is Priority Number Two. I think you should talk to your spouse, not your boss’s boss, or anyone else at work about this. This is for your two to figure out together, not for you to involve more people at work in.

    What would happen if – worst case scenario – you refused to go on this trip and ended up losing your job? Would you and your spouse be able to live on one income for awhile? Is this something your spouse is willing to risk? How much is your spouse willing to let you put your job on the line, here? If going on this trip is a deal breaker for them, then you guys need to discuss the consequences of that (ie possibly living on one income for awhile).

    I would let your spouse know how much more important they are to you than this job. That you’ll do anything to keep your marriage strong, etc. etc. But if you lose your job, you both have to deal with the realities that will follow that.

    What if you said: “I am actively job searching as of today and will do everything in my power to move jobs as soon as possible. But I can’t put my job on the line in the meantime and risk getting fired. I have to take this trip.” And then see what they say. I think that’s probably your best bet.

    1. CM*

      I agree completely. It’s not clear from the letter whether the spouse is demanding that OP is never alone with the co-worker, or whether OP feels that they can’t be alone with them. Either way, I think OP and spouse need to set some guidelines about dealing with this particular trip — or, as Erin suggested, think about the consequences of not going — while OP job-searches.

    2. Helka*

      This is a really good and thoughtful response! My only caveat would be this — take your spouse’s answer into consideration, but don’t quit your job/put it in jeopardy just because he wants you to. Be sure that’s an outcome that you also accept and are willing to deal with.

      And if it is, honestly, I would say gracefully resign instead of turning this into an ugly, reputation-staining mess that ends with your boss having to fire you.

    3. Ad Astra*

      This is exactly how I think things should go. If the OP has an in-demand skillset and a lot of money in savings, it might make sense to just resign right now. If they have less room for error, financially, it might make sense to just go on this trip. But there definitely needs to be some discussion about the realities of each decision, because none of this is happening in a vacuum.

  22. Terra*

    To play devil’s advocate I’d say there’s potentially an argument to be made that if your former boss made a commitment to you that you would not have to work/travel/etc with this person than the company ought to honor that agreement regardless of why it was made. For example, if an internal HR person agrees to add an extra week of vacation to an official job offer then the company should honor it regardless of if they did it because they thought you were the best candidate or if they were hoping to ask you out. Since you have five years of excellent reviews you may be able to go back to your boss and make a case that this is a deal breaker for you and you feel they should honor your previous bosses commitment. If you do that though I would try and phrase it as the company honoring an agreement and less why the agreement was made. I also wouldn’t go above your bosses head but if you really feel the need to I would again phrase it as honoring an agreement.

    Ultimately though looking into finding a new job may be the best overall solution for you, your spouse, and the company.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      I see what you’re saying, but ultimately there’s a difference between “X many weeks holiday” and “we can fluctuate your job duties”. The OP agreed to certain duties when she signed up with the company, so on the reverse side, they have every right to hold OP to those now. I also think that giving the reason for wanting avoid this may be partly why the boss is insisting on travel; there’s clearly awkwardness/tension between two people on the same team, and the boss is allowed to decide that if they can’t work together one has to leave the role (internally or externally moved)

    2. Laurel Gray*

      This would make sense for so many other scenarios that end up here but I just don’t think “I can’t work closely with the coworker I had an emotional affair with and ex-boss said this could be accommodated” is the hill any professional would want to die on.

    3. neverjaunty*

      1) “There’s an argument to be made” that the earth is flat or that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time; they’re just not very good arguments. Similarly, it’s not a very good argument that Old Boss accommodating OP when she was fresh off ending an affair constitutes an employment agreement that binds the company, just like negotiating for additional salary or extra vacation. Phrasing it as “you promised me” is going to come across to the boss exactly as you meant it – something that OP thinks sounds clever to try and pressure the boss into doing something she isn’t really entitled to.

      2) The devil has enough advocates.

    4. BRR*

      I get your point, but is it reasonable to have to honor all previous agreements? What if you succeeded a manager who was too lenient or just terrible at their job? I’m not saying there should be a blanket rule because there have been letters here about managers who have (in my opinion) wrongly gone back on existing agreements. But if I started and an employee came to me and said there was an agreement that they can’t work with another employee I would ask for more information but would foresee the answer being too bad.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, agreements change all the time with new managers. And it’s worth remembering that often people are *hoping* they’ll change–that the “no telecommuting” agreement will change to a yes, that the raise will be reconsidered, and so on.

    5. Amy UK*

      “Not having work with a certain colleague” is not comparable to an extra week of holiday. One is a perk offered to lure in a great new hire. The other is a temporary stop-gap to try and sort things out after an employee screws up.

      One says “we’d love to hire you” and the other one says “We’re trying hard not to fire you”.

  23. Anon for this one*

    I am the manager in a similar situation. I have an employee (B) who has told me he cannot work with his ex (G), who reports to another manager, because his new wife is jealous. B’s and G’s relationship was before I joined the company, and it was apparently over before he met his wife. When he originally came to me about this, I told him that they weren’t currently working on the same project, and while I didn’t have any plans to put them on the same team, we are a small company and they were going to cross paths occasionally and he would have to deal with it. Looking back on that conversation, and subsequent events, he clearly didn’t hear me say that last part.

    He works remotely, and when I needed him to be in the office for a week earlier this year, he didn’t want to come and gave the fact that G would be in the meetings he needed to attend (they were group meetings of 20 people, not one-on-one). He also got G’s manager involved once because he didn’t want to be part of a conference call where she’d also be on the line. I had to tell him that attendance is a condition of his job, and he did participate in both events, but honestly it’s just really annoying to have to deal with it at all.

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      You have more patience than I have. In that matter, B would be off my team at the least, possibly gone from the position. Putting conditions on one’s own employment and playing end-runs with other bosses? Not cool.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. And this one has even less excuse as there wasn’t an affair while this guy was married. To expect the workplace to referee this sort of thing is gross. I’d have told this guy that 1. he needed to do his job including when that involved working with the X and 2 that trying to do an end run with her boss was both insubordinate and unprofessional and if it happened again, he should start looking for another job. He needs to be bounced hard on this.

    2. Laurel Gray*

      Very annoying indeed! Maybe fire him for some of the insubordination going on and maybe his wife can save some of the jealousy and insecurity energy to heat their home or keep the lights on.

    3. Anonymosity*

      I am able to avoid my former office crush who blew me off (which hurt my feelings, but that’s my problem) because he is in another location. But we still could run into each other at certain meetings, etc. Fortunately, I can avoid them because attending them is not essential. If it were, I would just either pretend not to see him or say a friendly hi and nothing more. I already prepared a script if he were ever to bring it up. I don’t expect I would ever have to use it, but it’s there just in case.

      If B and G’s relationship ended with a huge amount of animosity or weirdness, I can understand why he wouldn’t want to be in the same room with her, but he’s been out of it long enough to have met someone else and married her. If he wants to keep his job, he needs to find a way to deal with it. And he needs to have a talk with his wife because this is ridiculous. It’s not the same situation as the OP’s. I would be pretty upset if my SO threw a fit over someone I broke up with before we met when I’d given him no reason to not trust me.

      1. DoubleSecretAnon*

        I work with my office crush, who had at one point blown me off. TBH I’m VERY glad that he did. I’d just come out of a long marriage with zero knowledge of what dating was, what I wanted from it, who’s right and who’s wrong for me, etc. It would’ve been a disaster, had we started dating each other while working together. It would’ve ended with 100% certainty, and my career probably would have suffered. (just because the two of us would’ve no longer been able to work together, and he’s a super valued employee, so I’d have had to, I don’t know, change jobs or transfer somewhere else?) I am totally and completely over the crush. (Granted, it’s been years.) He’s met my current partner and my last ex. I met his partner. There’s zero awkwardness. I have no recollection of why I had that crush on that person. Hang in there. This too shall pass; you two won’t have to avoid each other forever. (But you would’ve had to, had you gotten together and broken up.)

        I’m in total agreement with your assessment of B’s new wife’s behavior, this really is ridiculous, and she needs to stop trying to undermine her husband career over something that is a non-issue.

        1. Anonymosity*

          it’s easy to avoid him; he changed locations, and we have never run into each other outside work. I’m pretty much over it, but I do wish I could meet someone to help me forget about it. I find my mind drifting in that direction now and then and it’s annoying. I don’t want to think about a person who blew me off. (Somebody asked me what I would do if he suddenly showed up and said, “Hey, I do want to go out with you after all.” Answer: I literally have no idea.) But as far as work goes, there isn’t anyone else around here who I’m even remotely interested in, so at least I don’t have to worry about it happening again.

          Yeah, she sounds like a drama queen.

    4. neverjaunty*

      Oh, I’m sure B heard you say that last part. Maybe it’s time for a documented meeting with B where it is explained to him that if G’s presence means he cannot perform his job duties, he needs to find a position somewhere else that’s a better fit for him.

      (And who knows, maybe Mrs. B has a valid point, that B is not really over G or has severe mention-itis or that B otherwise can’t really work professionally around G. But that shouldn’t be your problem.)

    5. Anon for this one*

      Just to clarify, things have been fine since I had the second conversation where I told him that he was required to participate in these meetings. If he had continued to refuse, I would have had to fire him.

  24. Just a Thought*

    Here a question – how is your emotional affair partner handling things: For example, did they not want the affair to end? If you are alone with them are they going to be professional or are they going to start trying to get you back? If it’s the later, then I think you have a stronger case for not working with them as that could expose your company to a sexual harassment suit…just a thought.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I wondered about how it ended. Has OP said to the other person something to the effect of “I am married and not interested in a relationship with you, so lets just keep it to the bare minimum of what we need to do to conduct business together?” Or was this a situation where the dinners out, etc happened last time OP and the person were in the same place at the same time (past sales meeting, etc?) and OP just did a fade out on this person?

      I think OP and spouse need to get to counseling, stat. I also think if OP is going to make this trip, s/he needs to make it clear to the other person that they are only there for a business trip and she is not interested in having dinners or otherwise socializing – so it isn’t just an awkward “hey want to grab dinner tonight?” conversation every night but the boundaries are clear before the trip.

      And if the affair partner can’t take a clear no for an answer, or continues to badger OP, then OP has grounds to turn it back around on how she can’t work with this person because of the other person’s behavior – but OP not going on the trip because s/he fears what might happen is not a valid reason, in my book.

    2. Biff*

      Thought the same thing. I know upthread they’ve decided this isn’t a factor, but I’m not so sure.

    3. BRR*

      I’m curious about it as well. But knowing what we know, the LW can ask their boss once but they made their bed and now have to lie in it. I think even hinting at getting litigious is so far from what the LW should do. Nothing comes close to hinting that this was forced.

  25. AnonWithFriends*

    As someone who’s had many close opposite-sex friends, and has also had an unhappy marriage, and also had been dragged into an emotional affair once, I wonder… How do you tell the difference between an emotional affair and a good healthy friendship? Also, how do you tell the difference between a supportive spouse, who wants the best for you and your marriage, and a controlling one whom you have to lie to anytime you have a personal conversation with another guy? Not to turn on the OP, but from reading their letter, it could be either one. It could be two partners trying to save a healthy marriage, or it could be one spouse brainwashing the other and telling them who to talk to, who to have dinner with, where to work etc. As such, I’m not feeling qualified to give advice one way or another. A lot of things could be happening here that we’re not aware of.

    In the case of my emotional affair, the person was talking love and feelings and trying to move things to a physical plane as quickly as possible. OTOH, I have had close friends who were coworkers, some of whom are still close friends, but who respected my marriage, as well as their own. We had long personal conversations, dinners, spend time together on business trips, etc. None of that changed the fact that were platonic friends and, at least as long as both of us were married, nothing else was to even enter our thoughts, let alone a discussion. I have a hard time discerning from OP’s letter which one it was in their case. I am not seeing enough proof in the letter that it was an affair, emotional or otherwise.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      If you’re lying to your spouse about the friendship, it’s not a “good healthy friendship.”

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Strongly agree. Also wanted to add I don’t think an emotional affair is one where a person is trying quickly to graduate into getting in bed with you. I think it was more of someone with intentions saying whatever to try and get you onto that page with them.

      2. AnonWithFriends*

        There was a time when I lied to my spouse about buying a banana for our 3yo. Which is why I ask.

        1. Anna*

          Probably not for the same reasons. I mean, I don’t know why you might lie about banana purchases, but that banana purchase coming out now would probably not put your relationship at risk. A healthy friendship shouldn’t include lying.

          1. AnonWithFriends*

            Because it was too expensive in his opinion…
            It would not put my relationship at risk now, because we’ve been divorced five years. All good things come to an end.

            1. TB*

              Then I think you have to go with the “reasonable person” metric. Does a reasonable person think a banana is an inappropriate splurge for a 3-year-old? Probably not. Does a reasonable person think sharing secrets and emotions with a coworker that would normally be shared with a spouse, and lying about it, is an inappropriate relationship? Probably yes.

              1. AnonWithFriends*

                “sharing secrets and emotions with a coworker that would normally be shared with a spouse” would be a physical affair, which, according to the letter, this was not. Doing things that would’ve been perfectly totally 1000% okay if OP had done them with a girlfriend, and then lying about it because OP’s husband thinks it’s an inappropriate relationship (because why?)… mmm I don’t know. Would OP’s husband have the same reaction if OP befriended a woman at work? She lied because she knew he wouldn’t approve, well why wouldn’t he approve of a platonic friendship?

                1. TB*

                  “sharing secrets and emotions with a coworker that would normally be shared with a spouse” would be a physical affair”

                  That’s your opinion, and you’re entitled to it. I think to most people, sharing body fluids would be a physical affair. Hence the word “physical.” :-) Either way, as others have pointed out downthread, it’s a moot point – an affair is an affair is an affair.

                2. KH*

                  A “physical” affair includes touching, kissing, and potentially sex. How do you get “a physical affair” from sharing emotions and secrets, which is clearly an emotional affair?

                3. MashaKasha*

                  I honestly don’t know of any “secrets and emotions that would normally be shared with a spouse” that cannot be shared with a close friend of either gender, and do not involve sex or actions leading to sex. If there are not sex-related secrets and emotions that you can only share with your spouse and partner, then I’ve been cheating on all of my SOs all my life with male and female friends. also with my children. I find it very troubling that a close friendship can be twisted around and called an affair, TBH.

                4. Katie the Fed*

                  MashaKasha – I wouldn’t overthink it. It’s not like a legal standing. And if you’re in one – you’ll know. The only thing that really matters is what you and your husband or wife consider to be a problem. If it’s not a problem, don’t sweat it :)

      3. Meg Murry*

        If you feel that you have to lie to your spouse about any time you would have dinner or do other friendly activities with another person (or especially if you feel that you have to lie about friends of whichever gender you are attracted to), then you either have a problem between you and your spouse, or you need to work on where you set your boundaries with your friends.

        If you feel you have to lie about friendship or activities with only a certain person or certain people, that points more to the issue being your relationship with those people, not your relationship with your spouse.

        Although regardless of the friendships and whether they are or aren’t emotional affairs, you also need to consider the needs of your spouse in general. When I say to my husband “I feel like you prioritize hanging out with friends A, B and C more than spending time with me” – that is not because I feel like he is having an emotional affair, but because I’m just feeling neglected in general. Its ok to not want to do all your socializing with your spouse, or even occasionally feeling like you would rather go out to dinner with a friend than your spouse from time to time. But if you start lying about how you spend your time to your spouse (whether that be about who you spent it with, where you went, how much you drank during that time, how much money you spent, etc etc) there is a problem of some kind there.

      4. Oh no not again*

        Or not a good, healthy marriage, if the spouse being lied to is controlling or abusive. There’s not enough information to know which it is.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Thank you. Some spouses don’t let their spouses have any opposite-sex (or same sex, depending) friends at all, which is insanely jealous and boderline abusive. It’s especially damaging to bi people, for whom *everyone* might be considered a risk…

      5. BRR*

        Kind of being butthurt here so I apologize but it could also be an unhealthy marriage. Either way if you’re lying to your spouse about a friendship, take an in-depth look.

      6. Just another techie*

        I disagree. Something is unhealthy, but not necessarily the platonic friendship. Victims of emotional abuse in their marriages often lie to their abuser to preserve a safety net. Step 1 in the abusers handbook is “isolate the victim from anyone who cares for her, friends, family, college roommate, anyone.”

        Which is not to say that’s what’s happening in this letter. There’s no indication that LW’s husband is awful in any way. However, for the sake of anyone else coming through and reading comments, I think that blanket statement shouldn’t stand.

        1. Chinook*

          “Step 1 in the abusers handbook is “isolate the victim from anyone who cares for her, friends, family, college roommate, anyone.””

          Note that the abuser isolates the victim from everyone. In an emotional affair, the lying about a friendship or activities with said friend only involves on person (i.e. you would have no problem saying that you had dinner with Dave because he is just Dave but you would never say that Wakeen also came along because…)

      7. Lindsay J*

        Or at the very least, one of the relationships (either between you and the friend, or you and your spouse) is unhealthy.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      If you’re lying to your spouse about it, it isn’t a good healthy friendship (assuming your spouse is a reasonable person).

    3. SuperAnon*

      A “healthy friendship” becomes an emotional affair when you are getting your deep personal needs (for affection, attention, validation, etc.) met by someone who is not your SO, to the detriment of your existing relationship. The lying is a gigantic red flag. It could be that the spouse is controlling/abusive, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case here.

      1. AnonWithFriends*

        The spouse is saying OP should change jobs because of someone who lives and works several states away… this letter is really giving me a weird vibe. Perhaps I’m projecting too much.

        In my case, the spouse and I had a talk where he said, “I don’t love you anymore, I don’t want you anymore, the things you did to lose my love are… (laundry list) But we’re staying together for the kids!” and we continued staying together. So yeah I admit that, at that time, I ended up having my needs for human company and validation met by a random creep at work, because it wasn’t happening at home. One thing I know is, when you’re in a marriage like this, you no longer know which end is up, and things you do, both each of you on your own and as a couple, no longer make any logical sense to any outside observer, because you both have a messed-up perception of both yourselves and reality. (Then again, it’s probably not the best of times to make new opposite-sex friends, for the same reason.)

        1. Clouds in My Coffee*

          “When you’re in a marriage like this…”

          Okay, but her marriage is not your marriage. You seem to projecting a lot of your own experiences onto her letter without using them to give perspective or advice. We can take her at her word that this was an emotional affair, that her husband’s request was reasonable, and that she wants to save her marriage. She’s asking how to handle this at her job.

        2. SuperAnon*

          I totally understand what you’re getting at, but I also think it’s perfectly reasonable that the letter can be taken at face value. It doesn’t matter that he lives and works states away; they are going to have to travel together, which could easily rekindle feelings. I would think there would be at least a red flag or two if it were an unhealthy relationship (husband demanded that she quit before this travel situation came up, or has always discouraged her from having male friends, or something).

          And I know it isn’t always black and white… part of the reason why I had my emotional affair was because my relationship is/was not the healthiest, but I still recognize that I am at least 50 percent responsible for creating the situation, and as I said below, I definitely could have written this letter nearly verbatim.

      1. AnonWithFriends*

        I would need “proof” if I wanted to give advice to the OP. Reading through the letter, all I see is I have no idea what’s happening and have no advice to give. Her spouse might’ve put it into her head about it being an emotional affair. Or not. I don’t know.

        1. Sunflower*

          Well the spouse didn’t seem to have any problems with them continuing to work at the same company as long as they weren’t alone together. Methinks if he was really controlling, he would have had a much worse reaction to finding out about the affair and would have demanded she quit the job after.

          I also don’t see any of the spouse demanding anything. First off, spouse hasn’t told her she can’t travel alone with this person- only that it makes him uncomfortable. OP herself said she is uncomfortable spending alone time with him. Sounds like OP and her husband both know it’s a shit situation and he agrees with most of AAM- best solution is to get a job.

        2. Sunshine*

          Which is why we should take the letter at face value and offer advice (or not). She’s not asking to validate whether or not it was an affair – just how to move forward in her job.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, it’s interesting to me that this letter is bringing out a lot of subtext-hunting. And I don’t think it needs it–it’s a perfectly valid question as stated.

            1. BRR*

              I felt the letter was very direct and people are trying hard to read into it. But the LW said they had an emotional affair; not flirting; not an unwanted advance; and now the result is their spouse (reasonably) doesn’t want them working with that person. Their boss has a (reasonable) policy of you have a job to do. The LW was very upfront and stayed mostly objective (snaps to you LW, it was concise and I feel informed).

              1. fposte*

                And I don’t blame the OP for asking about avoidance, especially in the immediate aftermath. Sometimes the hardest letters are when nobody involved is evil.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              OP was not asking for marriage advice. She was just asking about what to do at work, what recourse does she have?

        3. Not So NewReader*

          If every LW had to prove things, no one would write in.

          There are some assumptions we have to make here. One assumption is that every LW is a competent adult and is stating the situation as it exactly is. I think that it is over-thinking the question to ponder the husband’s roll behind OP’s question. We could question the roles of other people in every LW’s life and, over time, totally negate the value of this blog entirely. We have to assume that the situation is as stated. I am willing to go with this perspective, because I have seen some pretty candid confessions on this blog that lead me to believe overall the people here are in earnest. For the most part, people who read and write here genuinely want help with their quandary.

    4. NicoleK*

      1. How do you tell the difference between an emotional affair and a good healthy friendship? emotional affair = emotional attraction and/or physical attraction. Good healthy friendship = no physical or emotional attraction.

      2. How do you tell the difference between a supportive spouse, who wants the best for you and your marriage, and a controlling one whom you have to lie to anytime you have a personal conversation with another guy? Trust or lack of trust. An abusive, controlling spouse will distrust you without any cause or reason.

    5. BRR*

      I think with an emotional affair you know (do I win the award for the world’s best answer?). There’s that extra spark there.

      I think it can be harder to tell with your spouse. Because it really depends on the situation if they’re being reasonable or not. One way that might be helpful is asking would you be ok with them having the same behavior.

    6. Chinook*

      Healthy friendship (when you also have a healthy marriage) – your spouse knows about it and there are certain things you would tell your spouse that you would never tell your friend

      Emotional affair (when you have no reason to fear your spouse) – your spouse doesn’t know about your friend or what you are doing together, you feel a need to hide the friendship from your spouse, there are things you would tell your friend that you would never tell your spouse.

      To me, the biggest sign would be how you answer the following: You are away from civilization for a few weeks and you get a phone call – who do you hope it will be?

  26. YourUnfreindlyPhlebotomist*

    Here’s a thought, and it may be a stretch but in such a technological world they could still being having and affair if they wanted to. They both work from home therefore its pretty clear that they can both work a computer, smart phone ect If the OP is maintaining an appropriate working relationship from a far and the coworker is being respectful as well, they very well maybe able to work together on the rare occasion that their jobs call for it. I wouldnt go as far as to say share a hotel room but its probably not something the company would push anyway.
    OP could consider giving it a shot, they may be stronger then they think, the spark may just be gone. If it works and all is fine then they might just get to keep there job and marriage and all will be happy.

  27. VivaL*

    Lots of folks have addressed the emotional aspect, so I’m going to address the logistical –

    I’m curious about how much traveling has to be done together. They could do this sales meeting completely independently of each other I think. They are from separate territories already – presumably they wouldn’t be on the same plane/car to this meeting. They could book different hotels (no sharing a room – that’s a normal business practice, not a special request thing) which would then necessitate a separate car or cab. If they go to a meal with clients, they can sit separately completely naturally. They don’t need to take others meals together, either, as the OP could do his or her own thing for meals and structure his or her travel to minimize the amount of time in the city.

    Essentially, they could approach this trip entirely separately, as independent colleagues, rather than folks ‘traveling together to a meeting.’

    Not sure if that is acceptable solution within the marriage, but it might be a good temporary solution/this one time solution until the OP can find another job, or another acceptable solution.

      1. sunny-dee*

        I think this is the trust issue for the husband, though. Probably not much contact at all is required — but she has previously lied about having dinner and drinks together, long talks, etc. She could put a lot of distance between them and tell her husband that — but it’s hard to believe her since she’s lied about that exact same thing in the past.

  28. spek*

    “I love my job, but if this is a condition of my employment maybe I should begin to look somewhere else as to not hinder the team.”
    You are ALREADY hindering the team; asking everyone to dance around your poor decisions and the consequences of your personal BS…
    Be a professional, perform your job without making this a burden on anyone else, or quit. You must realize how annoying this situation is to your manager…

    1. Merely*

      Is it just me, or does that “if this is a condition of my employment” statement sound like an ultimatum?

      1. Katie the Fed*

        that’s exactly what it sounded like. I’d bet that most of the time people make ultimatums to their employer they lose. You’re very rarely in a position of power when bargaining with an employer.

  29. Katie the Fed*

    What? No. Of course working with colleagues is a condition of employment.

    If you are unwilling to work with a colleague (as long as that colleague hasn’t done something to you) you need to find a new job.

    You’re asking your employer to make a special allowance for your own poor decisions and marriage. That’s not at all fair to your employer. And frankly you’ve already put this guy in a difficult position by telling your new boss about this.

    You have two choices – figure out a way to work with him, or get a new job. Your marriage is your business but it’s probably best for everyone if you opt for Door #2.

  30. KarenD*

    (rare delurking)

    I am poking my head out because I somewhat go against the flow here. Does New Boss understand that this is a Big Enough Deal that he’s potentially going to lose a valued employee over it? Clearly, the previous boss did. Sounds like the boss-of-boss still does.

    OP refers to New Boss as “uber-aggressive.” How does that fit in the company culture? Is there a lot of “Suck it up, Buttercup” or is it more common to accommodate employees who have serious issues? At my employer’s, I suspect people in the situation the OP describes would be strongly discouraged from working together, even if they didn’t have a problem with it.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I normally love and believe in the losing a valued employee argument when it is made on AAM. However, this is an employee that had an emotional affair and wants management to make an accommodation for her spouse – not management’s problem. A better question could be does OP understand how her decisions may cause her to have to split from an employer she has liked and enjoyed working at for over 5 years? Couldn’t one also argue that OP’s stance is showing lack of professionalism which could indeed change their opinion of her? Whether the boss is laid back, a micro-manager, or a psycho that squeezes the toothpaste from the top, asking what the OP is asking is unreasonable.

      1. Anna*

        The only thing I don’t agree with is that it’s not really the spouse the OP is asking the manager to accommodate. The OP wasn’t forced to make the arrangement with Old Boss and could have just found another job at that time and the OP is deciding their marriage is important enough to salvage, so it’s not really this unreasonable crazy demand coming from outside; it’s a condition the OP agreed to in order to salvage their marriage. It stands to reason the OP sees it as reasonable that their spouse would have some conditions on earning back trust.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      “Does New Boss understand that this is a Big Enough Deal that he’s potentially going to lose a valued employee over it?”

      I can’t imagine any decent boss letting an employee dictate terms as ridiculous as this, unless they had some truly unusual skill set. Working with coworkers is a fundamental part of employment. Requesting that you not be alone with or have to travel with a certain coworker because you fell in love with them is incredibly inappropriate. And if you’re going to ask for such an enormous and unusual accommodation you’d better have a LOT of value to the company they can’t find by replacing you.

      1. AnotherFed*

        And you’d better be valuable enough that you’re moved to a new manager affter going over New Boss’ head over something this ridiculous. Otherwise, you may win this fight, but you sure won’t win when it comes to performance evaluations, raises/bonuses, prime project picks, etc.

        1. KarenD*

          I would probably go back to New Manager first and try again, honestly. But yeah, I can see a scenario where Boss-of-boss could be very angry and upset that nobody gave them the opportunity to weigh the loss of a good employee vs. extending an accommodation that had already been made.

    3. Oh no not again*

      Yeah, if I was the employer I’d worry about a potential sexual harassment lawsuit. I’d accommodate as much as is reasonable. Of course, the employer doesn’t have to do anything.

      1. Elle the new Fed*

        Wait, what? From whom? OP made the emotional affair sound like 2 consenting adults, so I’m confused where sexual harassment comes in to play.

        1. Oh no not again*

          Sure, but the dynamic can change. We simply do not have enough information. It may have been consensual at one point and now the OP doesn’t want to be involved. Perhaps the OP’s coworker wants to be involved. *shrugs* We don’t know. And if an employee is responsible to admit a past emotional relationship AND the place of employment can accommodate minimal contact AND it also does not inconvenience anyone, why not accommodate? Humans are human. Relationships happen. If it’s a hassle to accommodate, of course the employer doesn’t have to do a thing.

      2. Sunflower*

        Worrying about a sexual harassment suit would be a reach. They had a consensual, emotional affair(which may or may not have included any sexual undertones) and now both seem to be over it(OP didn’t mention once about being scared around him or a desire for the him to continue the affair).

        Also consider other employees of the company. ‘Reasonable’ is a shaky term. ‘Reasonable’ could mean sending another employee to the meeting instead of OP. If that employee was me and I had to work overtime, find childcare while I was gone, re-arrange plans I had made, I’d be PISSED and seriously wondering about how professional the company I’m working for is.

        1. Oh no not again*

          I don’t consider having someone else to fill in reasonable, but separate hotel rooms and separate travel to and back is reasonable. Having a policy like this would be a good idea in general. Sexual harassment is a stretch, but it sure is possible.

    4. Graciosa*

      I think I’m more in Laurel Gray’s camp on this one than in Katie’s – mostly because I can’t think of an employee valuable enough to be “accommodated” in avoiding the natural consequences of their own decisions.

      I say that as someone who does a lot of what might be considered accommodating for ordinary employees. It is normal and routine for there to be adjustments for child care concerns, family issues, medical or business appointments, service calls – whatever. Normal life happens, and we all work around it – but none of those requests rise to the level of not wanting to work with a professional colleague who does not appear to have done anything management should be concerned about.

      I would be all over this if there were allegations of harassment, but there aren’t any here. As a manager, I don’t want to “accommodate” people in not wanting to do their jobs – other than by being polite in accepting their resignations.

        1. Graciosa*

          Fair enough – I may have overreacted to the possibility of a skill set unique enough to justify this. I just couldn’t imagine one.

          In retrospect, you may have been smarter to at least leave open the possibility – I shouldn’t assume I can think of absolutely everything! ;-)

    5. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      You assume OP is a valued employee.

      I’m not trying to be insulting, but we don’t know that from the letter. I could argue that an employee who directly rejects a business objective is not a valued employee, even completely putting the affair aside.

      New Boss might be very happy to get rid of the insubordination, and OP laying down ultimatums about who she will or will not work with might give New Boss that opening. Depending on how OP is handling this, the situation itself could be a tipping point, but isn’t really in play.

      At the end of the day, OP is talking about refusing her boss’s direction and going over his head to get her result. That’s insubordination all day long, and can rightly lead to termination. The conditions prompting that insubordination are irrelevant.

      1. BRR*

        So true, it appears that the employee is good at their job but is it a super special skill set. An employee with great reviews and a valued employee are different.

        This might be reading into it too much but I read “uber-aggressive” as something along the lines of the LW framing their boss as being unreasonable in this situation.

  31. SuperAnon*

    Ugh, did I write this letter in my sleep? I had a brief emotional affair with a coworker – nothing terribly scandalous, but it definitely crossed the line (waaay too much chatting and flirting on the clock, a few one-on-one lunches, a couple dinners, and a metric ton of lying to my long-term boyfriend). I shut it down a few months ago, told my boyfriend everything, and we’re soldiering on. This guy is in another department, and we never would have needed to work together if it weren’t for a new project that’s bringing our departments together. (And you couldn’t write it better – we have to spend long days together in the woods doing fieldwork.) It’s brought everything back to the surface with my boyfriend, and he asked me to make sacrifices that I wasn’t willing to make, including telling my boss that I’m not comfortable working with this person due to a past relationship. I’m doing my best to be an open book and to put a ton of energy into building our relationship back up, but I’m not going to risk my job (I’m still very new) that I worked my butt off to get. Of course that’s just me; I imagine things would be different if we were married or if jobs in my field weren’t so freaking hard to come by.

    Anyway, I know this isn’t terribly helpful, but I do think your options boil down to (1) get a new job, or (2) go to the meeting, be professional but emotionally distant from your coworker, and do whatever you need to do to help make your husband comfortable with it. Your new boss has already told you his stance on it, and I just don’t see you getting out of the meeting without rocking the boat. I’m not willing to do much boat-rocking myself, but maybe you are, and maybe it won’t end up having long-term consequences. I definitely don’t think it’s unreasonable for your boss to ask you to work with this person despite your past. That’s just part of work, IMO.

  32. Biff*

    I’m really torn on this one. Normally I don’t have any trouble coming to one side or another, but this one has me twisted up. Here’s why:

    I don’t think it is good idea to set a precedent that people travel alone together with people with whom they are uncomfortable. I realize that’s not quite this letter, but if you’ll bear with me a moment, I’ll get to why I feel that it could be relevant. Over the years I’ve worked with some seriously creepy people and traveling with them would have been out of the question. I was once asked to drive with two people who always made my spidey-senses tingle and I simply arranged for it to be impossible. I’m not willing to endanger myself. In fact, several times when people have written in about scary drivers or being asked to travel with someone who has designs, we’ve told them to figure out a way around it.

    I don’t like asking people to ignore their instincts, and I just couldn’t, in good conscience, ask someone to travel alone with someone with whom they were truly uncomfortable. Now, I might ask them to travel together as part of a larger group, but not alone. (Puts on SJW hat) I do feel like women are asked to shelve these sorts of feelings more often than men are, which is worrisome to me. I think it sends a message that women need to endanger themselves OR make themselves available emotionally or sexually to really be part of the job market.

    But moving right along….I think all this is relevant to the OP’s situation because sometimes when people cut all contact with a previous partner it’s because the partner can’t disengage. When people can’t disengage, sometimes things escalate. If the former emotional affair person still has feelings, they may have been festering for months. It could turn violent or ugly. The fact that former affair partner didn’t raise concerns makes me feel like they may be viewing this trip as a second chance.

    Ultimately, yeah, I think that the OP needs a new job if traveling with Former Beau is an inflexible requirement. But I also feel like the company would do better to not ask people to travel and stay in close quarters with people around whom they are very uncomfortable.

    1. TB*

      I see your point, especially about women being told to ignore their instincts (hello, Gavin De Becker), but I don’t think it’s a valid analogy. The OP has nothing to fear from this coworker, or at least nothing that was disclosed. It’s not a matter of personal safety.

      1. Biff*

        Regardless of this exact situation, it sets a precedent that could become really bad news for someone down the line. I’m not saying it should, but it probably will.

        For example, Adonis drives like a maniac, regularly gets speeding tickets and refuses to stop at rest areas. Also, once he gets the keys at the designated ‘driver swap’ spot, he refuses to give them back no matter how long the trip is. Everyone knows this. BUT….. because Susan and Fergus had to travel together for Trade Show 2016, no one is willing to ‘cave’ and look like employees can make travel demands and so it is decided that Biff and Adonis can suck it up and share a car to Vendor Presentation (a nine hour drive due to bizarre location.)

        Obviously, Biff (that’s me) isn’t getting in that car, no way, no how. But, it’s a condition of employement. I’m out of a job.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          But that’s a very different thing! “I don’t want to travel with Bob because he hit on me/drives like a maniac/makes racist comments” is very different than “I can’t travel with Bob because I have a bad feeling.”

          1. fposte*

            Right, and we’re getting into areas that might expose the company to liability, and also that aren’t gender-dependent.

            1. Biff*

              OP never actually says why she and her spouse feel uncomfortable. I do wonder if the coworker took the break up badly.

              1. KellyK*

                She and her spouse feel uncomfortable because this is the person she cheated on her spouse with. The very obvious context is that the spouse is concerned it would happen again. The OP might be concerned it would happen again, might just not want to upset the spouse, might feel awkward about spending time with the coworker, or all of the above. You don’t need to invent a stalky ex or an unsafe situation to explain any of that.

                *If* the coworker had been hostile or creepy after the breakup, it would be totally reasonable for the OP to say, “I don’t want to travel with Coworker, because he’s done X, Y, and Z.” But she’s uncomfortable because of *her own actions.* The burden of dealing with them should be on her, not her employer.

                For that matter, if employers have to yield any time an employee feels uncomfortable, that means (hey, can I borrow that SJW hat a sec?) men who refuse to be alone with women have to be accommodated, to the detriment of those women’s careers, or people who don’t want to be alone with people of other races or religions can cite a vague icky feeling and get out of it. Which I don’t think you really want.

        2. TB*

          Again, you’re taking “I can make a case that this is contrary to my personal safety” and comparing it to “this is emotionally icky for me and/or my partner,” and they are SO not comparable.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. And women who are difficult because they have a little hissy about traveling with men or other perfectly normal professional work with men, just make it that much harder for other women in the workplace. When I was young, women were often blocked from advancement or from management positions because women couldn’t be asked to work late, or travel alone or with men etc etc because ‘women’ ‘fragile’ ‘protect.’ This is the kind of situation where any employee needs to pull up their socks and get the work done.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Yes, this is what made me uncomfortable with it – I honestly believe the OP brought this situation on themselves (sorry OP!) and would be better off looking. Also, given the coworker is “several states away” – switching jobs would remove any last connection and probably reassure OP’s husband, if it’s feasible.

      But. BUT. It feels like we’re saying “never ever” here – and I imagine that advice would be different if the coworker had pursued OP while OP ignored them and OP was thoroughly creeped out by this person; or if they had some other inappropriate history that was not caused by OP’s actions. I don’t want to say that an employer should “never” have to accommodate an employee who doesn’t want to work with another, specific, employee, because sometimes there are very good reasons for that.

      I don’t think an employer should have to accommodate a personal issue between two employees that is not a safety issue or potential safety issue, although I do think it’s courteous of them to do so if they can, especially in the very short term right after it arises. So I don’t disagree with the advice to the OP. I just disagree with the hard line I’m seeing in some of the other replies that it’s never reasonable to demand an employer accommodate an employee not wanting to work with another.

      1. fposte*

        I think you’ve summed up the line pretty well there. I might expand “safety” to include harassment/discriminatory hostility, for the workplace’s own benefit, but yes, there are times when it makes sense to take the trouble and accept the inconvenience to rearrange workflow plans. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them.

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        ” I imagine that advice would be different if the coworker had pursued OP while OP ignored them and OP was thoroughly creeped out by this person; or if they had some other inappropriate history that was not caused by OP’s actions. ”

        This would be absolutely true of my statements so far. If OP had a safety concern due to Coworker’s behavior, that’s a totally different issue to address with an entirely different resolution.

        This isn’t fear or safety concern, but personal discomfort. Apples and durian fruit.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      I really, really do not understand this line of argument, especially this:

      “I think it sends a message that women need to endanger themselves OR make themselves available emotionally or sexually to really be part of the job market.”

      If you’re being asked to travel with a coworker who has made lewd or inappropriate comments, then by all means speak up. But just because your “spidey sense” is tingling? I really don’t get that. You’re traveling with them – sharing a car or plane ride, staying at the same hotel (not in the same room, right?). I don’t see how that makes you any more vulnerable than any other interaction you could potentially have with this person.

      If we’re talking about sharing a room, then fine, I totally get that. But I don’t see how a travel request otherwise has anything at all to do with sexual or emotional availability. And, yeah, if your spidey sense is making it hard for you to travel and that’s a major requirement of the job, I think that’s going to hurt you professionally.

      1. Biff*

        So, I live out in the western US, which means that you can drive for 3-4 hours at a stretch and not find meaningful civilization. In certain parts of a drive I make regularly, there are no stops for hours at a stretch. If I got in the car with someone who made me worry AND it ended up being a valid concern….. well, it’s very unlikely I could “undo” that decision with any haste. Even if I could get out of the car at a rest area or gas station, I may not have cell coverage to call for help. I might not have other cars to approach for help. I think this would be different on the east coast — more chances to pull a hail mary if was absolutely necessary. So I pay attention to my spidey senses before I get in a car with someone.

        (I can actually count on one hand the number of people I’ve let drive me somewhere in the last five years.)

        I’m certainly willing to travel on a plane with Adonis the Scary Coworker, or be in the same hotel. But sharing a car is a LOT like sharing a room. It’s very easy for them to keep you well and truly trapped in it. Also, in a car, if someone wants to touch you inappropriately, there’s very little you can do to stop it that doesn’t potentially endanger your life. Not true in a plane.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          If we loop this back into work related, riding with a coworker behind the wheel who you think is a danger on the road, isn’t an unreasonable thing to bring up to a manager seeking an accommodation like driving separately, taking a train or bus, or flying. But seeking a generic “I can’t go” accommodation because you used to be romantic with a coworker and you can’t be around them for the sake of your relationship just isn’t something reasonable to ask of your employer.

        2. Graciosa*

          I don’t agree with your assumption that you can’t stop someone from touching you inappropriately in a car – or that you’re necessarily helpless while driving in the west. I do the latter fairly frequently, and while cell coverage isn’t perfect – we do have some remote areas, but not generally along the highway! – it does exist. There are even emergency EPIRBs (some designed for one-handed operation) that would alert authorities to a problem in areas that truly lack mobile coverage.

          I actually do believe in trusting your instincts – but that’s a little different from making broad assumptions that ordinary situations are fraught with danger. If there are only a handful of people who have driven you anywhere in the last five years, you may be operating more along the lines of allowing only a few trusted people into your “secure” zone.

          This is different from trusting your instincts, and can actually interfere with your ability to distinguish a true threat. The small voice warning you that there’s a problem gets lost amid the constant shrieking of “Danger! Danger!”

          I agree that fear is a gift – but too much of it can turn into a handicap.

          All of that said, I firmly believe you get to decide what your limits are using whatever criteria you wish. Where I have an issue is more with the OP deciding that normal business activities are too risky not because of a legitimate safety threat, but because they may present too much temptation or pose a risk to the OP’s marriage.

          The OP can certainly decline – and probably needs to leave the job if normal business trips are just too much – but I don’t think she gets a pass just because we don’t want to discourage someone who might have a different, legitimate reason for being concerned.

          1. Just another techie*

            >>This is different from trusting your instincts, and can actually interfere with your ability to distinguish a true threat. The small voice warning you that there’s a problem gets lost amid the constant shrieking of “Danger! Danger!”

            So true! Gavin De Becker’s book _Gift of Fear_ does a really good job of elucidating the difference between fear and anxiety, too.

        3. fposte*

          But then it sounds like your comfort level is too low to be viable in some jobs. Which is fine; mine is too for some things. But that’s not something I can than require a field with those expectations to adapt to or work around me on.

          I think there’s a bit of conflict in different feminist discourses on this kind of topic. On the one hand, there’s the “trust your instinct and be aware of being vulnerable” discourse; on the other, the notion that women should be able to avoid basic industry expectations is something that I find ultimately anti-feminist, especially when it’s argued in terms of emotional comfort. I don’t think we’ve really found a way to mesh those discourses.

        4. TB*

          And what does that have to do with traveling with someone with whom you are actually very comfortable? So comfortable, in fact, that you’ve had an emotional affair with them?

          Personally, I think trying to make this a safety issue is actually an insult to those who do have true safety issues.

    4. Helka*

      You bring up good points, but I don’t think that feeling uncomfortable around someone because of what they might do is really all that comparable to feeling uncomfortable around someone because of what you might do.

      I do feel like women are asked to shelve these sorts of feelings more often than men are, which is worrisome to me. I think it sends a message that women need to endanger themselves OR make themselves available emotionally or sexually to really be part of the job market.

      In this specific situation, I disagree with what you’re saying here. The OP is not being asked to make herself emotionally or sexually available to her coworker, nor is she endangering herself. She’s being asked to work with someone she previously was way too close with, and conduct herself as a professional adult. Presumably, the same expectation applies to the coworker — but we don’t have any indication that if the OP maintains her own boundaries and remains focused on not backsliding, there would be an issue with the coworker stepping out of bounds.

      1. Biff*

        The OP said she told her previous boss that she couldn’t work with this person pretty much ever again, and the boss appears to have agreed with her. To me that indicates that there is some safety element at play here.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think there’s anything in the letter that indicates that. It sounds to me like the OP and her spouse agreed she wouldn’t be alone with the person again because she broke some trust in her marriage. If there were safety issues, that’s a big enough deal (and different enough from the topic of the letter) that I’d expect them to have been mentioned.

        2. fposte*

          I think that’s a big overreading. Saying “Fine, I’ll send Beth instead” doesn’t mean the boss feared for anybody’s safety. It could mean the boss was a pushover; it could mean the situation was a flexible one; it could mean the boss didn’t care much who went; it could be the OP seemed really upset and the boss wanted that to stop.

          And given that the OP, who did talk to us, said nothing about safety, I think it’s a real red herring to bring it up.

        3. Mochafrap512*

          I see your points that you’ve made above, but I think we should take the op’s letter at face value. I’m a very analytical person and analyze everything, but this isn’t something to be beaten to death.

        4. Oryx*

          I think you’re reading far more into the letter than what has been presented. I’ve had bosses who have been sympathetic to the point that I can see them accommodating this kind of request purely because they know it would make the person asking uncomfortable and/or put them in an awkward position. That doesn’t necessarily translate to any safety issues and considering that wasn’t mentioned, I think that’s overreaching.

    5. some1*

      “I just couldn’t, in good conscience, ask someone to travel alone with someone with whom they were truly uncomfortable.”

      But this isn’t trying to get out of traveling with a coworker who makes racist remarks or stares at your breasts. The LW bears half the responsibility for the discomfort here.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Yes, this. I don’t think the comparisons to women’s safety etc are making sense in this context at all. Totally different issues.

        1. Just another techie*

          Agreed. I’m actually pretty offended by the insinuation that something freely chosen and fully consensual is even remotely the same as someone being creepy, lewd, or dangerous. Yuck.

      2. Sunshine*

        Yes. That’s the distinction I was failing to come up with. No evidence that the coworker is a threat at all. Just that it will be uncomfortable, and that’s partly OPs fault. (Sorry, OP! I do sympathize!)

      3. Biff*

        We don’t really know why they can’t work together. OP didn’t tell us. It might be because OP’s spouse said “nope, nada.” It might also be that the coworker had a very negative reaction to the break up of the emotional affair.

        1. some1*

          Because a former flame taking the break-up badly is usually something people forget to mention when trying to explain why they don’t want to be around that person anymore?

    6. EmmaBlake*

      The fact that the former partner didn’t raise concerns made you jump to the conclusion that he is still harboring feelings and looking for a second chance? That’s completely unreasonable to me. I think a lot of people are projecting onto the “other man” that he’s emotionally unstable or potentially violent and its catagorically unfair. Maybe the man OP had an affair with actually knows how to act like a professional adult and wants to simply do his job, which is EXACTLY what OP should be doing.

  33. MikeP*

    While I agree that the employer shouldn’t be obliged to work around LW’s personal issues with co-workers (much less LW’s SO’s issues with same), I *am* curious – just how was the first boss able to accommodate LW’s wishes, but the second boss is apparently unable (or at least, unwilling) to? Do they actually *need* to make this trip together? (as VivaL asked) Or is new-boss perhaps needlessly forcing them to work together as a lesson?

    That said – if that actually is what new-boss is doing, it probably is time to find a new job anyway.

    1. fposte*

      It seems unlikely to be a lesson to me, beyond a lesson that you work with who you’re assigned to work with. I also suspect the assignment came up before the information about the OP’s reluctance; otherwise it was a strange and ill-advised intro to the new boss of “And by the way, I don’t ever work with Percival.”

    2. hbc*

      I somewhat agree, in that it might be that there are 20 people in this state who can go and 20 people in that state, so why not roll the dice again and find a different arrangement. But chances are, if you’ve worked so much with someone in the past that you can go from being acquaintances to friendly coworkers to friends to emotional affair partners, you probably work together enough that complete avoidance is difficult.

      1. fposte*

        And also it’s not fair to other co-workers to stay in the dice pool when the OP is removed from it. I think if I were the new boss I’d be seeing prior accommodation as a transition time–okay, we asked people to go out of their way when it was new and awkward, but now this is the norm and I can’t ask other people to carry additional weight for that.

        For all the nuance of “emotional affair,” it really is pretty much an office romance that ended, as people are saying. And generally workplaces can’t go out of their way to keep exes separate, and that’s one of the reasons an office romance can be a problem–sometimes it means you can’t reasonably stay at at employer.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          En pointe, fposte. Whether the affair was physical or emotional is irrelevant in the workspace. The fallout is still the same.

    3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      But why should New Boss be willing to further the arrangement? This was a nice-to-have the old boss did. For all we know, Old Boss did that to avoid dealing with the situation, and New Boss can’t allow the department to be hamstrung over personal issues.

      It may not be that New is unwilling to accommodate, but that accommodation might not have been appropriate in the first place.

  34. Pep*

    I’ve been in this situation before and I found a new job. Best to get out of that environment if you really want to move forward with healing your marriage.

  35. scmill*

    I agree with the others and with your new manager. This is one of those “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine” situations where you needed to plan your exit before this came up. Find a new job if you and your spouse cannot come to terms with this.

  36. MaryMary*

    I’m working through a related-but-different situation with a coworker now, and I’d like y’all’s perspective. My job requires quite a bit of local travel, but overnight travel is rare. I’d say we need to stay overnight up to four times a year, depending on your clients and if we’re paying for anyone to go to conferences that year.

    I have a coworker who used to have no problem traveling overnight, and would actually volunteer for it. Within the last two years, he’s pretty much stopped doing overnight travel altogether. Generally, it’s not an issue. Someone else can cover the one-off client meeting or benefit from attending a conference. But last month, a new client we work on together wanted us to visit all of their locations. It was obvious to the client that he got weird about the travel, and I ended up going to four states in five days.

    If this happens again, do I push back? And how hard? The most he’s said about not traveling is that his family needs him at home. He has three kids (elementary school to high school age) and his wife is a SAHM. The rumor mill says his wife no longer “allows” him to travel overnight without her. There are certainly family situations I’d be sympathic to (single parent, or young children, or elder care support). But if the rumor mill is correct and this is a marital issue similar to OP’s, I’m not sympathetic anymore.

    1. fposte*

      I’d push on the reason a bit more. “Right now the reason you’re giving applies to everybody, and I can’t let you off more than anybody else for wanting to be at home. Can you give me more information about what’s made the difference now? Because I’ll need that if I have to work around it; otherwise I have to prioritize distributing the burden equally.”

      1. Biff*

        Definitely this. Don’t rely on the rumor mill. I know that in the past I’ve let the rumor mill come up with an explanation when I wanted to stay silent. It may be much easier for your employee to let people believe there are marital issues, when in fact, his wife is very ill and needs his help with the kids/a child is very ill/his anxiety has taken a turn for the worse/whathaveyou.

      2. A Bug!*

        Would that be appropriate coming from a coworker, though? MaryMary’s not the manager here; she’s the one stuck with the extra travel to cover her coworker’s refusal.

        I do agree that the guy needs to be accountable to somebody on this, but I’m not sure it’s his coworkers. I’d advocate for MaryMary talking to the manager about it in non-speculative terms, and hope that the manager is reasonable about handling it. If business travel causes a strain on his relationship, he should find a job that doesn’t require business travel.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, good catch, I missed that MaryMary’s the co-worker; I was definitely thinking of her as the manager. I’d loop the manager in and note that this is starting to look like extra that the colleagues are expected to handle on their own.

          1. MaryMary*

            To make it more awkward, this coworker is senior to me. I don’t report to him, exactly, but he’s a tier up from me. And at that account executive/VP level, people really don’t have managers. I could go to the CEO if something highly inappopriate was happening (illegal, unethical, unsafe). I could complain to my manager if something is negatively impacting my work, but her influence is limited. Part of why I’m hesitating is that I don’t know if this is a hill I want to die on.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I could see that with a co-worker. If it’s mostly annoyance that the pretext is flimsy and the actual burden isn’t much, I’d probably let it go. But if the travel was significant to raises, assessments, etc., I’d want it to be damn clear that the rest of us were doing more and should be recognized accordingly.

  37. noone*

    Alison, why did you assume the LW was a woman? The letter was written in gender-neutral language for all except the boss.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          OP mentions Husband, so assuming coworker is male is a fair one. Sure, OP could be bisexual and the coworker a woman.

          Does that have any bearing or relevance on the advice given or the situation as presented?

          (I say this as a proud member of the “family”)

          1. Merely*

            Oh, I must have missed it! Where does the OP say “Husband”?
            There’s no relevance to the parties involved or the advice given, which I agree with wholeheartedly. I was just aware of (and enjoy) Alison’s tradition of assuming female until proven otherwise, so I was curious why she assumed male this time. Thanks for clarifying.

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              You didn’t miss it because it isn’t there :) I apologize. OP refers to one boss as “he”, and I had read that as referring to spouse, not boss. My assumption was wrong.

              As plagues Daffy Duck, pronoun trouble.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Cultural conditioning, I suppose. You’re right that the spouse may not be a man.

          But yeah, it’s easier to use pronouns than having to write “the spouse” every time. and I tend to assign pronouns here as easier shorthand.

          1. Chinook*

            I would say the assumptions are not just cultural conditioning but also playing the statistical odds. The majority of marriages are between a husband and a wife. When information is lacking, I would think it is better to go with the odds (grammatically) especially if the advice would be the same regardless of gender.

    1. YaH*

      I am so glad you mentioned this! There was a comment upthread where the commenter said “woman to woman”, as in, “I’m gonna lay it all out for you because you’re a woman too” that really got under my skin. And all the assumptions that the OP is a woman and has a husband- instead of a woman with a wife or a man with a wife or a man with a husband… it makes me cringe.

      Also, Alison, the comment format is really weird, and I don’t know if this is how it’s always been. I tried posting a comment, got a WordPress error because my username didn’t autofill like it used to, then when I tried to go back to fix it, it not only expanded all the replies again, it put me randomly into a different comment thread rather than where I was originally.

  38. voyager1*

    We are all assuming that person who LW is needing to travel with is okay with traveling with the LW.

    LW please find a new job. Also be ready to tender a resignation of new boss forces you to travel and you want to save your marriage.

    1. neverjaunty*

      I don’t think we’re assuming that, but we have zero information about the OP’s affair partner. Maybe he’s totally over OP, maybe he’s hoping it will start up again, maybe he’s capable of being professional – who knows. What we do know is that the affair ended because OP got caught, and OP and her husband have agreed that this is an appropriate boundary.

      1. BRR*

        Exactly. Plus we don’t even know how the LW feels. To me, all of the rules were because of their spouse. Maybe they can act professional but their spouse is uncomfortable. Maybe the LW cannot control them self. We’re generating more questions than the LW asked.

      2. A Bug!*

        Agreed, I don’t think the other person’s comfort at the moment is necessarily relevant, so there’s no need to assume anything about it. Unless the other person has a particular reason to feel unsafe with OP on business trips (and there’s no basis for that in the letter), then they’re both in the same boat. They had a consensual relationship that ended, and management shouldn’t have to be going to lengths to keep them from having to work together.

  39. FD*

    This is a very interesting question, though I definitely feel for the OP in this situation. It sounds like she knows she made a mistake, and is trying to repair the situation.

    I am curious though, how people distinguish between an emotional affair and just friendships? I’m not saying that to be contrary–the OP and her spouse obviously both feel that she did something wrong. I’m just curious where people draw the line in general.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d say an emotional affair is where you have primary-partner-level emotional intimacy with the other person, and it’s interfering with your emotional intimacy with your partner. And actually, even before that, I’d count it as an emotional affair if you’re lying to your partner about it and/or it would be an issue if your partner found out (assuming that person is not inappropriately controlling).

      Carolyn Hax has a good discussion of it here:

      1. Ad Astra*

        I have always wondered where people draw the lines between friendships and emotional affairs (whereas the lines are pretty clear with physical affairs), so this is really interesting. Sounds like the behaviors themselves would vary quite a bit from one relationship to the other, depending on how each couple experiences intimacy. Thanks, Alison!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Generally we treat all our friends in a similar way, we talk about similar topics with all our friends. If a person seems to share in intimate topics more than anyone else including a spouse, that would be a clue. If you tell that person personal things before you even tell your spouse, that is a clue. If you are valuing this person’s opinion on things as much or more than your spouse’s- it’s another clue. If you find yourself, refreshed/renewed with this person and not with your spouse, you have another clue. If you have no energy left for your spouse and your spouse’s concerns- watch out.
          It’s referred to as an affair because there is no one aspect to it, there are numerous aspects. I could eat lunch every day with the same person. That does not mean we are having an affair. It’s when that connection/bond is equal to or trumps the connection/bond with the spouse that is when the problems start.

      2. Anon for response*

        On the second part (lying and it being an issue with your partner if they found out), I’d like to add that a lie of omission would count in my book. Also, the behavior may not have been not have been an issue if your partner found out originally but once you have lied about it, then it’s an issue.

        Example 1: Have lunch at cool restaurant, just you and “Friend”. If it had you and two other coworkers, you would have mentioned it, but instead you don’t bring it up. Counts as a lie when you’re hiding it.

        Example 2: Receive text from “Terry.” Partner asks who “Terry” is and you say “Terry” is just a vendor rep. Partner finds lots of personal emails from Terry. Even if there’s nothing intimate in those emails, I believe it meets the threshold for an emotional affair. (Now if those are teapot-related emails, of course not, but I’m saying you have ongoing convos about personal-but-not intimate things with this person.)

        1. Anon for response*

          (If you had originally said Terry was a close professional friend, I’d be kind of pissed, but not the level that it escalates to once you tried to pass it off as a business acquaintance.)

    2. FD*

      I think these are interesting responses! I definitely think that the dishonesty is a major marker–it’d be a concern, even if it weren’t about a relationship (i.e. lying about money can often be a red flag in a relationship).

      I think Carolyn Hax really hits it on the head. It also reminds me of a blog post I read years ago about how all partners should come up with a working definition of ‘cheating’. (This was in a blog about poly relationships, but a lot of the advice would be good for any configuration.)

  40. Karyn*

    I didn’t have an AFFAIR, but I will say that this same rule applies to friendships in the workplace. I was very good friends with a guy in my office, and then the friendship imploded (long story involving his girlfriend sending me bitchy texts in response to a conflict he and I were having). However, we maintain a cordial relationship because neither of us expects that our bosses work around our personal issues. It’s just part of having office relationships (friendly or otherwise) outside of the workplace. You either deal with the fallout or get a new job.

  41. One of the Sarahs*

    I apologise if I’ve missed this point mentioned already, but I really feel for the co-worker here too. It’s the OP who defined it as an “emotional affair” but just because OP defined it as that, doesn’t mean the co-worker did too – did they know the co-worker was relying on them as primary partner, as per the definition above, or that the OP was lying to their spouse? If OP felt they were falling in love with co-worker, did co-worker know?

    OP wants to never be alone with co-worker, because their spouse doesn’t want them too – but what does that do to the co-worker’s career & reputation? I would guess they’re already being looked on askance by the managers thanks to OP requesting they never work together, so I hope very much that the OP is framing this as “I can’t trust myself around them” rather than “they are not trustworthy to be around” (though I am also feeling red-flag-y, like other commenters above, because what is *really* going on is OP is meaning “Please make staffing decisions based on the fact my spouse doesn’t trust me” and that definitely is a step too far).

    I am having all kinds of feelings about this. The OP presumably liked and respected the co-worker enough to develop “emotional affair” feelings, but it feels like co-worker has been completely sacrificed to save the OP’s marriage. If the manager did agree, would OP expect the co-worker to be denied opportunities that could help their career, or would they be happy to take the ‘hit’? And how does the co-worker have to explain this to colleagues when they ask why OP can’t be in the same space as them? Ugh.

    1. neverjaunty*

      You’re reading an awful lot into this letter that isn’t there, we have no way to know, and which really isn’t relevant to the question OP asked. Nothing in the OP’s letter says that she is blaming the other co-worker, said OCW isn’t trustworthy, or that OCW is being criticized or held back at work.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        But that’s the end point of what the OP wants – if they are saying to manager that they can’t travel with, or attend work events with the co-worker, the manager can only comply by choosing one of them not to come in for meetings/go away to work events/opportunities. Of course that impacts on co-worker as well as OP – how could it not?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Or the manager can chose to say “suck it up, buttercup”.
          Of course it impacts the both of them. But no where is it written that life is without impacts. I am not sure what is gained by considering the coworker. It seems that OP no longer is in contact with him so hopefully he has gone on with life.

        2. neverjaunty*

          The OP has already told her manager that she cannot go to those events because of her history and feelings for the co-workers. There is, again, nothing in the letter that suggests OP is saying “send me, but not him”, or “you have to choose between me and him” or “he is not trustworthy”, or anything at all that suggests OP has put anyone’s conduct other than her own at issue. You are, as you say, having all kinds of feelings about this, and they seem to be based on a lot of speculation.

  42. Former Retail Manager*

    Gobs of comments on this one…whew! AAM’s advice is on point.

    Maybe I missed it above, but……could it be possible for OP to stay? The underlying tone seems to imply that if these two were to travel together, spend time together, etc. that the emotional affair would/could begin again. This all seems to come from OP’s side with no mention that the other party would want to strike it up again. Considering that they live in separate states, perhaps the other party was just hoping for a “friends with benefits” situation on work related trips from time to time and the emotional connection was his way in? What’s to say that he is even still interested in OP? Assuming he is unmarried, it is unlikely that he is willing to deal with all that drama and I’m sure he has other options. I’m not saying all this to make OP feel bad, but rather to point out that perhaps he has moved on and it’s rather difficult to have a one-sided emotional affair. While I understand OP’s husband’s dismay at their working together, I wonder if his opinion would change if he could somehow be reassured that neither party was interested in the other any longer, albeit for different reasons? This, perhaps combined with routine check-ins while traveling and maybe some Face Time convos might be enough reassurance to put this behind them and allow OP to continue working as a professional in a job she enjoys and is great at?

    And from personal experience, while changing jobs may fix the immediate situation, if your spouse doesn’t trust you, they will wince at the mention of other male’s names at other future jobs and wonder if you’re engaging in the same behavior again, at least for awhile. How long depends upon the person….maybe a year…..maybe 5….who knows? Depends how violated they felt by what transpired. If you have a job that you love, are good at, and has growth potential, I’d think long and hard about throwing that away for a spouse who still may not trust you, rightfully so, for quite a while. Best of luck OP!

  43. J*

    Over 300 comments, but the bottom line is that OP showed contempt towards her spouse, and is now showing contempt for her boss and job. Does her situation suck? Sure, but she created this situation and is still trying to defer responsibility. And she continues to show contempt for her spouse by saying she would potentially resent them if she quits and doesn’t like her next job! Tremendously selfish behavior.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoa, I think that’s unduly harsh. We don’t know the OP’s situation or what led to the situation with her coworker, and I don’t think she’s selfish in trying to figure out the right response now; I’m sure this is very hard to navigate.

      1. J*

        She’s talking about going over her boss’s head and is also somehow preemptively blaming her spouse for hating a job that she doesn’t even have yet. Contempt and blame shifting all the way. She even pre-cogs herself somehow. A masterpiece of selfishness.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          If she was truly selfish she would not have written in here. She would have decided “I want to do X and the heck with what anyone else thinks.” Truly selfish people don’t generally write advice columnists because they already have their own answer.

  44. V*

    Do you actually need to be alone with the other person as part of this trip? I’ve travelled with colleagues before and never been alone with them; we have separate hotel rooms, large group dinners or eat on our own, and our own cars.

  45. bopper*

    What is more important…your job or your spouse?

    I completely and totally agree with your spouse that you should not travel with this guy. If you do, you are going to hurt your spouse. Protect your marriage and Start looking for another job if you have to.

  46. Nancy*

    Generally if you break promises, you do find yourself in a bind.

    Running from conflict isn’t that great a strategy.

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