update: I don’t want to eat or travel alone with people of the opposite sex

Remember the letter-writer who didn’t want to eat or travel alone with colleagues of the opposite sex? Here’s the update.

I am the person who wrote in last year about not wanting to attend business lunches or travel with someone of the opposite sex, and I wanted to give an update.

First, I do thank you for the response. I don’t want to exist in a business vacuum, and you gave me the blunt answer I was looking for, so I know what to expect elsewhere. I’m picky about what I will engage with in online comments, so I didn’t respond to a lot of them. But for the record, I don’t isolate myself at work, and I have regular meetings in a meeting room, by myself and with others, no matter the sex of the other attendees. The vast majority of my department works from home, and I do part of the time, so that’s even less of a concern then it already was.

There was a lot of helpful information from the comments. I did have a long discussion with my husband later and we narrowed it down to both of us having objections to long, extended trips alone with someone of the opposite sex in the same car, although my objection does come partly from PTSD, and both of us do want to play it safe about our marriage. Long exposure in a business relationship can turn into close friendships, and friendships into more, sometimes without people realizing it until they’re emotionally involved. I have two friends that this exact thing happened to, and it ended up imploding their marriages, so it can happen and it’s still in my thoughts, and I’m still very careful. (It’s not likely I’d have to travel anywhere by plane, but he and I will discuss that if it ever comes up.)

I ended up bringing this up with my manager (who is a woman) later, without including the PTSD, and she told me that she understood and that it was fine to take a separate vehicle to travel long distances. I don’t have a problem with staying in the same hotel, and these trips are more rare, even for people above my position. Others might object to the line I’ve drawn, but it works for me and my husband and appears to work for my boss. I’ve attended lunches and taken short trips (30 minutes of travel) since I wrote in to AAM, on my own with a male supervisor or outside vendor, which is new but okay with me. I care less about what others think, although it’s still a little bit of a factor, but the point is that I know I’m fine, so if people have a real problem they can talk to me directly.

Your response and the reasonable, measured comments about setting up boundaries for situations like business travel and lunch were a big help, and a lot to think about, so I really do thank the commenters who took the time to respond and give advice that helped in a big way. Thank you!

{ 426 comments… read them below }

      1. C4T!!!*

        “the point is that I know I’m fine, so if people have a real problem they can talk to me directly”


  1. NYC Redhead*

    FWIW, I would avoid sitting with any colleague on a plane trip. That is my quiet time and I use it to prepare for the meetings I am having. Others might be nervous fliers. So I think its perfectly reasonable to make plane arrangements separately, or explain that you prefer to be on your own while flying.

    1. Let's Talk About Splett*

      Yeah, and not to Monday morning QB but if it comes up again if you ever have another boss or another job, I’d probably go with “I prefer to travel on my own” in regards to the car trips, too.

      1. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

        As a manager I’d be fine with someone travelling alone, but I’d probably draw the line at reimbursing two mileages.

        1. KDT*

          Reimbursement is around $0.50 a mile. Are you really going to make that big of a deal about it?

    2. Kate*

      When I have to sit near colleagues on a plane, I like to tell them, “Don’t worry. I have my spare barf bags.” (Depending on our relationship, of course) But I’m with you. I actually do carry spare barf bags for emergency situations and prefer to try to get in my calm zone to get me through the flight. Usually my colleagues are the same way though, so even when we sit near each other, we don’t chat.

    3. Boredatwork*

      I recently had to book work travel with colleagues, and one of them seemed perplexed that I would not want to be their seat mate. I spend way too much time with my co-workers as-is, the last thing I want is to be stuck next to them for 3+ hours.

      1. irritable vowel*

        Especially since sitting next to someone in a tiny seat on an airplane literally means touching them for the entire trip. No thanks!

      2. laylaaaaah*

        I had a colleague who used to insist, to make my life easier, that she book our train tickets to and from conferences, meaning we were always sat together for the full 4+ hour round trips. I like train journeys where I can sit and be quiet and have space to think. She did not. I was so glad when she decided to start driving instead.

    4. Emily K*

      I once planned to go to a music festival out of town with a few friends, but in the end it ended up being just me and one other friend who went. A perfect encapsulation of the difference in our personalities is that I assumed without much thought that we would travel separately and meet up in the destination city, which is how things had generally been handled in the past when our group of friends traveled somewhere, everyone made their own arrangements, some people traveled together, others alone – I was almost always one of the ones to travel alone because I value that decompression time to myself. She assumed we would be buying seats next to each other on the plane and traveling together to the airport because she was never one of the people who traveled alone and couldn’t fathom why you wouldn’t want to travel with someone if you could.

      It was super awkward and I resented her presence the entire time and was probably super snappy and rude towards her. We actually never traveled together again after that, with a group or not.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Huh. I guess it’s easier to clarify up front. If a couple and my husband and I were traveling, I think I’d default to assuming two separate cars for space, but OTOH, if it was just me and one friend, I’d assume one car. But I definitely get where you’re coming from. Sometimes we travel with my parents, and once we got to the place in life where we could afford it, we took to separate cars. My parents are sloowwww travelers. Who needs 15 minutes to pee? My mom! Who wants to sit down and linger over lunch at a truck stop McDonald’s? My mom! Gah. I couldn’t take it. (And to be fair, she was probably annoyed with our impatience.)

        1. Bacon Pancakes*

          Ugh, we are looking at taking a week-long out of state recreational trip this fall… and my parents are likely coming. And I am dreading everything…EV. ER. Y. THING. about it.

          1. Free Meerkats*

            I have told my wife that we will never take a road trip longer than a day together again unless and until we get an RV. My non-touristing road trip modus operandi is get in the car 8 AMish, drive with stops as necessary, find a hotel 8 PMish, PRN. Hers is get in the car around 9, maybe 10, an hour or so for lunch (at a national chain casual dining restaurant – a different point of contention), find a hotel around 5 PM. And she spends the drive mostly sleeping, so I get nearly the same amount of conversation; but alone I can listen to audiobooks, it disturbs her sleep if I do while together. Though I do need to stop to pee more often than she does. Seattleish-Vegas is 3 days with her, a day and a half alone.

            Good luck with your family trip, Bacon Pancakes (now I know what I’m making for dinner…)

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Meh. The whole point of a road trip is the journey. If you just want to ger from A to B…fly. The national chain restaurant thign though…I’m with you on that.

              1. Name Required*

                The whole point for YOU is the journey. Not everyone can afford a plane ticket and some of us are about the destination. It would seem you missed the point of the OP and that poster, which is, different people have different needs.

              2. Free Meerkats*

                Usually the trip is back to the Midwest to visit family. And the trip involves visiting family along the way, at least for coffee. Flying won’t work; for one thing, there’s no commercial service to half the places they live.

                If it’s just to visit Mom, then sure, fly into MCI or STL (whichever has the lower airfare today), then drive halfway to the other one.

                1. Driving Hard is the Journey*

                  Columbia, right? This made me grin, Free Meerkats.

                  I love road trips, but to me the “journey” is long stretches of open driving without stopping. Meandering and lingering over meals and late starts and early stops are some people’s journey, but I drive places because I love to drive and to be on the road, RUKiddingMe, and that is the journey for me.

    5. Consulting Gal*

      I purposely pick a different flight/hotel than the rest of my team. For the same reason, I enjoy separating and enjoying what ever city I am.

      1. ALibrarian*

        The colleague I work most closely with and I attend the same conference every year and I usually try to find out what hotel she’s staying in so I stay in a different one.

        But it’s not actually about her…I try to book hotels that fewer conference attendees will be inclined to stay in because otherwise it’s just WAY too much librarian-ing for me

        1. Bibliovore*

          That is so, so funny. I love being at the conference hotel and the serendipity of running in to colleagues for all over. I do treasure my down time and when I am done. I am done. My husband and I purposely sit separately on airplanes. Imagine his shock when a “helpful” gate agent switched his seat to one next to me and he hadn’t noticed until he boarded the plane and saw that his aisle seat 30 rows back had been traded for a middle seat next to me in the bulkhead on a full flight.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        Every place I’ve worked has had a “no more than two people from the same team on the same flight”. It made booking flights interesting for the admins when all 20 of us went to the same conference, but software companies have gone under when that rule hasn’t been followed and the worst case scenario happens.

        1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

          Whaaaaa? You’ve worked for multiple companies whose primary concern when booking travel was a plane crash taking out a team? That’s so… fatalistic. I guess I’ve never worked anywhere where what we did was so significant that we worried about that stuff (I mean, beyond the usual gosh it would suck if we all died in a crash idle musings…).

          1. Typhon Worker Bee*

            I was once part of a group of ten (academic faculty and staff) who flew down to the States for a meeting with a large pharmaceutical company. Our hosts were flabbergasted that we were all allowed on the same flight! It’s something that people do joke about whenever multiple people travel together, but there are no actual rules or anything.

    6. No Mas Pantalones*

      I’m an admin who schedules travel for my group very frequently. I’ve always gone out of my way to make sure they aren’t sitting anywhere near one another when flying with coworkers. They all noticed immediately and almost all of them have thanked me individually. To me, it was a no brainer. Apparently to some, not so much.

      1. mcwriter*

        Thank you for this! My very first week at a new job, I was supposed to fly transatlantically with a new teammate to our European headquarters. Our admin booked us in separate rows. When my new coworker arrived at the airport, he found out we weren’t sitting together – and took it upon himself to have the gate agent make the switch, somehow without my consent! He just handed me a new boarding pass when I met up with him at the gate. I was not happy at having to spend 8+ hours crammed next to him on an overnight flight, especially on our third day working together. Thankfully (?) he fell asleep right after the dinner service, but no good.

    7. Becky*

      Heck, I travel internationally with my one of my best friends often and we know that us sitting beside each other on a plane for 6+ hours is a big NO.

      1. the gold digger*

        I don’t even want to sit by my husband that long! :)

        OK, I do, but if he is offered an upgrade to first class, I always tell him to take hit. Why should both of us suffer in coach? He’s six inches taller than I am and the extra room makes a big difference for him.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          We fly Seattle to Casablanca (yeah, Morocco) every couple of years. Husband is 6′ 5″+ so he needs the leg room. I’m 5′ 5″ (we don’t look weird together LOL) so I don’t need it like he does. That said, I’m not spending that long sitting in Anchovy Central if I have an option. We always do business/first (hence the only every couple years instead of every year…gotta “save up”), but if push came to shove, I would take the hit and let him have the leg room if there was only one seat open.

        2. OrganizedHRChaos*

          Ok, I just spent the last two hours reading your TGD blog… I need to know the other blog site!!! I am going to lose my mind over this. LOL It’s driving me nuts. Can you spill? Is it private? Ugh.. so many nosey questions. LOL

    8. sam*

      Yeah – I’m someone who certainly doesn’t have the same dilemmas about traveling with opposite-gender work colleagues in general, but whenever I travel for work, I ALWAYS try to sit separately on the plane – regardless of the gender of the colleagues I may be traveling with – often because I want to either sleep, read or just space out with headphones on the plane. Or, if I have to do work, it’s reading work – I’m not having work discussions on a crowded airplane.

      That’s an easy excuse to not sit next to someone you work with, and you don’t have to bring in any of the more personal aspects as to why.

    9. CoveredInBees*

      Yeah, I think the people who *want* to sit next to colleagues on a plane are vastly outnumbered by people who would like the time alone. I don’t think a request for separate seats on a plane would be considered weird at all. That said, I think sitting with a colleague on a plane would make me far less inclined to have any romantic interaction with them.

    10. banana&tanger*

      I travel by plane for work a bunch, especially of late. I’m currently taking frequent trips with one colleague, and am very glad that he has no desire to sit together. Generally we have to share a car at our destination, but we don’t eat meals together usually, and it’s made all this travel — 8 different places in the last six weeks — tolerable. It helps that I have pretty high tier status and get upgraded frequently.

  2. Amber Rose*

    If it works then it works. I’m happy for you, that you were able to find a solution everyone could be reasonably content with. Thanks for the update! :)

    1. Pollygrammer*

      Agreed! It seems like a very practical arrangement.

      I do hope you can maybe slowly acclimatize to being at least friendly-coworkers with members of the opposite sex, at least in terms of trust in yourself and your marriage.

      1. Indie*

        She said that they were ok with office friendliness, but not long in-car bonding sessions. Lots of people would automatically assume that level of boundary. It also sounds like a pretty trusting marriage if they are able to have an open, honest conversation about such things so maybe we should be the ones to trust the OP?

  3. sunny-dee*

    I don’t know what the PTSD is — if the OP has suffered any kind of assault in the past, then that definitely changes the calculus.

    Re long trips: I wouldn’t want to take them with any coworker, frankly. If I’m spending 4+ hours in a car (for example), I want some alone time to decompress — I’d feel like I’d have to be “on” the whole time, and I find that wearying. It’s not sex related.

    Re things like lunches and coffees, that really is different. I actually understand the motivation and feel that myself — I want to preserve my own reputation. That said, I do two things: 1) keep meals in public and simply accept that I can’t control other people’s perceptions (for crying out loud, I heard a waitress make a comment about a sugar daddy when I was in college when I was out at lunch with my own father) and 2) control my own relationships with male colleagues, regardless of whether we’re alone or not. I know several people who’ve had affairs at work, and, honestly, the travel wasn’t a factor (except for privacy, I guess), but the overall relationship even in group settings was definitely an issue. So, I just have certain internal boundaries, and it’s all good.

    1. LouiseM*

      So…if she has PTSD for some reason other than sexual assault it’s not ok for her to draw this boundary? That isn’t for us to decide.

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        I think sunny-dee’s just making the statement that it adds a layer of extra complexity to PTSD and having to discuss it at work, not that one type of PTSD is more important than the other.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Yes, this. ^^^ Trying to deal with a significant past issue is an entirely different scenario than a more general preference / life style choice.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        And that it wouldn’t necessarily be triggered by the travel situation if it were due to a different reason (child abuse, war, surviving a fire, etc.).

      3. Specialk9*

        You seem disinclined to give the benefit of the doubt. I read that as “apparently sexist behavior that is actually rooted in fear of assault is very different from sexist behavior rooted in sexism”.

        (Not that I think that this behavior when done by a woman is sexist – though it *definitely* is from a man, and it’s suboptimal for a woman succeeding at work – but using pointed language to make a point.)

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          Ugh can we please not get into the women can’t be sexist and non whites can’t be racist discussions again?

          1. bohtie*

            Removed. You are welcome to disagree here, but you need to be civil in doing it.

            1. Foxtrot*

              That’s really antagonistic and whether or not it is a “fact” isn’t the line to draw. I’m a female and either something is sexist or it’s not. You lose credibility to say it’s sexist when men do it and ok when women do it.

          2. Specialk9*

            I didn’t say that about sexism, and didn’t even mention racism, you did. You seem to be projecting hard and not reading carefully enough before shooting off a hasty response, and it’s pretty rude.

            I didn’t say women can’t be sexist. We absolutely can, in fact we’re often the enforcers for sexist rules.

            What I said – in echo of what Alison wrote in the original post – is that *this behavior* isn’t sexist when done by a woman. That’s because (again as Alison wrote) women aren’t in a position of power, blocking a disempowered group from accessing power. The worst impact here is that the woman making that choice is blocking *herself* from success. When a man does it, he’s blocking an already disempowered group from success.

        2. Original Flavored K*

          I have a hard time considering a behavior any kind of *ist when it’s rooted in, you know, preventing a thing that actually happened to somebody from ever happening to them again. Made complicated by intersectionality when race and social class get involved, but, still: cisgendered men are overwhelmingly the ones who commit violent acts against women (cis or trans), usually but not always of the same race. When a woman (cis or trans) has personally experienced a violent act committed by a cisgendered man, it doesn’t feel right to me to say, “But that was one specific man, you don’t get to be afraid of all of them,” especially when 1 in 11 American men will admit to committing rape so long as the word “rape” isn’t used.

          When you’ve already been burned, and 1 out of 11 will burn you again, it’s hard not to flinch when you see the eye of the stove.

      4. Not a Morning Person*

        I only see assault; sexual assault is not mentioned by sunny-dee; just speculation that “assault” is one potential reason for PTSD. Yes, the OP mentions that spending long periods of time one-on-one with a man would not be comfortable and she avoids it, but nowhere in her earlier letter or in this one does she say that the PTSD is for a sex-related assault, only that the PTSD complicates her feelings about being alone with a man or feeling like she’s the object of speculation when she is out in public with a man who is not her husband.
        Regardless of the cause for the PTSD, many uncomfortable situations can create unreasonable feelings in people suffering from PTSD. And I’m saying unreasonable as a description of feelings that don’t fit the reality of a current situation, when someone is actually safe and far away from any danger, but their feelings and the PTSD won’t let them feel safe. OP, I’m glad you found an accommodation that works for you and I hope you are also getting help for the PTSD.

      5. RUKiddingMe*

        It could be sexual assault or even something like constantly being hit on by guys who think every woman is a conquest. I mean given enough time, it almost always happens even though it is a totally inappropriate time/place/situation that any reasonable person would understand.

        Trust me I am so not “all that” I can think of only a couple (and I mean like two) of men over the years who didn’t make some sort of sexual advance whether very in your face obvious (e.g. “wanna fk?”) or super subtle in order to maintain plausible deniability. I would describe my reaction to spending time alone with males as PTSD based on these experiences, decades of them.

        I don’t have to travel with/eat or have coffee with males who aren’t my husband or other relatives, and I have no concern that anything could possibly become “more” than casual/work related interaction on my part, but still it makes me suuupppeeerrr uncomfortable.

        It’s triggering big time even to be seated next to some random guy on a plane…triggering enough that if I am traveling alone I buy the second seat.

    2. Judy (since 2010)*

      About a year after we were married, my husband went to Germany on a business trip. My brother came to visit that weekend, and we went to the town’s big festival. DH arrived in Germany to at least 3 emails from co-workers stating that I was at the festival with some other guy.

      Glad I’m in a larger city now.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        That frustrates me because I assume you weren’t getting handsy with your brother! What was the heads up? “Your wife was spotted walking about 18″ from some other dude at a festival this weekend.” Yeah. Okay. What did they actually see that was worth reporting?

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Yes, exactly. And of course people in an illicit relationship frequently go to a music festival – I mean, how hot is that! /sarcasm

        2. Liane*

          “’Your wife was spotted walking about 18″ from some other dude at a festival this weekend.’ Yeah. Okay. What did they actually see that was worth reporting?”

          Miss Manners (the First) once got a letter along those lines. (“Person said they saw [person important to me] at X doing ABC with So & So. What’s the polite way to handle this?”) Miss Manners ended the reply with, “and if Miss Manners were you, she’d drop Person, as they are clearly up to no good.”

        3. No Mas Pantalones*

          My first instinct would be to put it back on them. “Okay. I’m curious as to why you’re telling me this. What’s your intention or motivation?” (Because we all know the motivation is to fan the flames of drama.) Nosy busybodies are NOT good with direct confrontation, even it’s it’s delivered in a calm, civil demeanor. Shuts that shit down real quick.

          1. Specialk9*

            Answer: sputter sputter, how dare you not appreciate my attempt to HELP YOU?!? (Slam door)

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            A lot of people who have been cheated on are grateful for someone telling them.

            The strangeness is not the notification, but the assumption that a pair of siblings are having an affair.

            1. mark132*

              And a lot of people also “shoot” the bearer of bad news. This is common enough to be a trope aka “shoot the messenger”. So unless I have a special relationship with the person, I keep my mouth shut.

            2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              The strangeness is the assumption that merely socializing with a person of the opposite gender indicates an affair, or anything untowards going on at all.

        4. TootsNYC*

          oh, I can totally see that the body language with a sibling would be more intimate than with a friend of the opposite sex.

      2. Consulting Gal*

        That is just too much potential drama, Why get into that with a coworker of all people.

      3. Sabine the Very Mean*

        A neighbor saw me river rafting with a male friend. He immediately knocked on our door to inform my partner what I was up to. My amazing partner recognized the implication, put his hand up indicating STOP, and said, “I would appreciate it if you would stay out of my girlfriend’s affairs–even if it is a literal affair”.


        1. Former Employee*

          I immediately went to “Stop! In the name of love.”

          I often cringe at the (over) use of “amazing” when used to describe the writer’s SO, spouse, etc. However, in this case, I have to agree – that is the correct word to use. So happy for you that you have found a truly amazing partner.

      4. Xarcady*

        I spent a week with my brother–his wife was out of town at a conference and their three kids were all under age 5 at the time and one of them is severely physically handicapped. I was there to help with childcare and daycare runs and things like that.

        Someone from their church gleefully reported to my sister-in-law that my brother had shown up in church Sunday morning with the kids and “another woman!” And clearly this “affair” had been going on a long time, because the children were very friendly with me.

        Because, yeah, church is where you take the woman you are cheating on your wife with.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Swear to God, some people are so desperate to sniff out an affair that they don’t bother to spend a nanosecond thinking through the implications of their accusation. A relative of mine and I were having lunch in my hometown, in a diner with big windows on two sides overlooking one of the busiest intersections in town, and she expressed GREAT concern that a man from her church was having lunch “alone” with a female coworker. I said, “They’re ten feet from a window overlooking Main Street. If they’re having a secret affair, they’re doing a terrible job of it.”

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            To be fair, Madame Secretary did this with their Very Illicit Spy Work–lie to your wife and kids about where you are going, then walk a couple of blocks to a coffee shop where you sit at the front of the patio having an intense conversation with an attractive person of the opposite sex, scramble when kids discover this is what you meant by “Going to the Archive. Very boring. You don’t want to come.”

            Like, heaven forfend they meet at the BACK of the coffee shop. Or–here’s a thought–at the very boring archive.

        2. Observer*

          Because, yeah, church is where you take the woman you are cheating on your wife with.


          What did his wife have to say? I think I would be too stunned to react, but some people have more presence of mind than I do.

          1. Thlayli*

            That made me laugh too. I once went out for a drink with my Dad and people we spoke to thought we were together – this was when I was 19! And no, my Dad and I are definitely not touchy feely we were literally just having a drink and a laugh. Some people are idiots.

            1. Carrie*

              I regularly go out to lunch with my dad, and once kissed him on the cheek as we were parting on the corner so I could head back to my office. A passing girl muttered “So gross” under her breath.

              Aside from the fact that people do kiss people they’re not sleeping with, what effing business is it of hers?

        3. Positive Reframer*

          I watched approximately 15 minutes of an episode of Deacon but gleaned the best quote. “You’re supposed to be spreading the Gospel, not gossip.” I’ve found it immensely helpful to repeat.

          1. Specialk9*

            “You’re supposed to be spreading the Gospel, not the gossip.” awesome.

        4. Student*

          I frequented fast-food restaurants with my boyfriend when I was in college. We’d go to this one taco place about once a week for several years. Most of the staff recognized us.

          My boyfriend had a big beard. One of my relatives kicked it, and he shaved the beard in preparation for attending the family funeral (his call on shaving; not mine).

          Within a day or so of his de-bearding, we walk into the taco place. We were chatting normally, I’ll note – obvious in there together to eat, but not canoodling or any public displays of affection.

          While we were waiting in line for tacos, the Short-order Cook storms out from the kitchen to the front, to stand before us. Short-order Cook had been there forever, but only talked to us once or twice – he’d give us a smile and a wave occasionally. He fixes me with a glare at me. He says, “Does your boyfriend know you’re out with this guy?”, gesturing at my de-bearded and bemused boyfriend.

          Being rather flustered in the moment, my boyfriend and I both made an effort to reassure Short-order Cook that my boyfriend had merely shaved, was the same guy, and our relationship was fine. I joked to my boyfriend that taco place clearly has his back to try to defuse things. Apparently, some people get very invested in complete stranger’s love lives. I did carefully avoid taking my brother to taco place when he came to visit me out of concern that there’d be another awkward scene.

          1. Seriously?*

            I went to a restaurant for happy hour with a coworker. He went to that restaurant every week with his girlfriend. The waitress was acting really weird and we couldn’t figure out why until his girlfriend joined us (she worked too far away to make it in time for the happy hour deals) and the waitress starting acting normal again.

          2. FutureDogtor*

            During my internship, I used to get pizza at one particular place (small town, not a lot of options) on my day off with my fellow intern, who was also a very good friend and of the opposite gender, pretty much every week. At one point his girlfriend came to visit and he took her there. They didn’t say anything to them, but the next time he and I went they just looked very concerned for me.

          3. Susana*

            I have to wonder why you fed the meddling beats by responding to that jerk at all. You don’t need to let him know that – not to worry! You aren’t a scarlet woman who needs to be reported to the fidelity police! — the man was your boyfriend. All you need to say is, stay out of my business. The idea that you are obligated to explain the situation if you’re not doing anything “wrong,” is, well, wrong. What if you were there with another man – affair or no? Still not his place to comment or chastize.

            1. Student*

              As I said, I was pretty flustered in the moment. I was trying to get out of very public scrutiny of my fidelity as fast as possible. I recognized in the moment that it was wrong of Short-order Cook to accuse me of infidelity like that, and my relationships really were none of his business, and that it should be fine for me to get a taco with any arbitrary male.

              In my defense, pointing out that Short-order Cook’s accusation was completely unfounded was very effective at shutting this encounter down and making the Cook rethink his approach. By calmly pointing out that he was accusing me of cheating on my boyfriend… with said boyfriend, it was very evident to everyone that the Short-order Cook was getting upset over nothing and had terribly misjudged a benign situation by jumping to conclusions. He did turn beet red, apologize, and make a quick retreat back to his kitchen station. It was probably more effective than any indignant lecture I could’ve given in the moment.

              1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                There’s a restaurant around the corner from our house that my husband and I have been going to since we started dating 14 years ago, and they know us well too. I’ve also gone there on my own with male friends. I can’t imagine any of the employees acting like that, but if they did, I’m an old, foul mouthed, take-no-shit lifelong feminist and my only answer to that BS would have been a hearty “go fuck yourself.”
                Hell, even if I WERE having an affair, that’d be my answer, because it’s none of their business either way. (But I totally get what it’s like to be flustered & caught off guard!)

          4. RUKiddingMe*

            I’d be more pissed that the cook thought it was his place to police my behavior/relationships. Did he think he was guarding your boyfriend’s property?

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              Yep. Whether I was there with my unrecognizable BF, brother, gay best friend, ex-BF, uncle, the mailman, or actual affair is nobody else’s business but my own, and I’d have told that guy to fuck right off.

        5. Creag an Tuire*

          I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous, actually — that she thought your brother would take his affair to church, or that his toddler-age kids would know about it.

          Because we all know that the under-5s are great at keeping secrets and not blurting out embarrassing things in public. XD

      5. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

        Way back in high school, someone saw me being friendly with my brother between classes (I grabbed him in a fake headlock and rubbed his head), and decided to tell everybody that I was dating somebody. I was flabbergasted when it got back to me. Some people decide what they want to see.

        1. T*

          I was pretty quiet and nerdy in high school and my beloved little (giant) brother was two years below me. At one point he had a class just after mine in the same science room so, naturally, as we passed each other in the doorway I dropped the shoulder and caught him with a solid hit right to the solar plexus… people had a lot of questions.

      6. Esme Squalor*

        My dad is from (and routinely visits) a very small southern town where everyone knows each other. Years ago, he bought a convertible, and drove it down to visit my grandmother, taking my sister with him. Once he got to town, he stopped at a few places along the way to say hi to people and shoot the breeze, and I guess a lot of people saw him out and about, because by the time he got to my grandmother’s house, she said several people had called her and told her in scandalized tones, “Frank is out cavorting around town in a convertible with some young blonde!” My sister was approximately 14 at the time. (Small southern towns are the worst.)

        At a certain point, evil-minded gossips will find impropriety ANYWHERE because they’re constantly looking for it, and desiring its presence. I feel like it’s better to live your life not bending over backwards to cater to their kind of optics, because it will never be enough. I don’t want to live in a world where a dude has to be afraid to drive his own teenage daughter to her grandmother’s house.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          I once got to be the target of that gossip for going around town with my FATHER. I was 15, lived out of state with my mother, and was visiting my dad for 2-3 weeks in the summer. My stepmother was told all of the *salacious gossip* about me being seen eating ice cream with my dad and was furious with me, because she is a frankly awful human being I don’t speak to anymore.

      7. General Ginger*

        Oh, that is so frustrating!
        A friend of mine had long, luxurious rockstar hair for years, and right after he cut it, several people messaged him about the guy his girlfriend was seen out with.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          I would have played it up as salaciously as possible “I KNOW I was in bed with BOTH of them last night!” etc before I then sent a picture of my new hair “you ASS I got a haircut MYOFB!”

      8. Lynca*

        People would come to my mom and tell her they saw my dad talking with X person! He even gave her a hug! In the middle of a store, while we (his kids) were with him! We just thought you should know! Not even knowing it was just a good friend or a relative.

        My mother just deadpan told them, “That’s just one of his girlfriends. I’ve stopped keeping track.” It was surprisingly effective at getting them to leave her alone about it.

        1. Susana*

          Oh, I love your mom. When people say “I thought you had a right to know,” they are lying. They are actually get some pathetic cheap thrill out of sharing what could be hurtful information. And more likely, unfounded gossip. But the point is, it’s not their place to police other people’s relationships.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          I hang out with a lot of ex-boyfriends, and our social group hugs hello / goodbye. My husband said basically that the first couple of years, and then people stopped telling him.

      9. Vivien*

        When I was a teenager, I went with my stepdad to get groceries, including beer for my mom. There was a bit of a flub because I unloaded the beer from the cart, which is apparently a nooooo when it comes to complying to liquor laws.

        A few weeks later, a woman my parents knew was talking to my mom and saying, “I saw your husband trying to buy beer for a much younger girl!”

        “No, my husband and daughter were buying beer. For me.”

      10. Aitch Arr*

        When I was in college, my parents and I went out for a fancy dinner in San Francisco. We were walking arm in arm with each other, my dad in the middle. We passed a man and heard him mutter under his breath, “sonofab*tch has all the luck”


    3. Breda*

      Yeah, it sounds like this has landed in very unobjectionable territory! I would also prefer to travel alone on long trips, just because there are very few people I want to talk to for that long. And lunches and coffees are pretty necessary, but you can control your own behavior and know that whatever other people are reading into it is more about them than it is about you. (They will usually assume it’s a business meeting if you’re in business attire.)

    4. Nita*

      OP didn’t get into the specifics (which is her right!) but did mention in a response to the original post that she has PTSD in connection with men.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Yeah, that’s why I was trying to hedge a little in my response. When I was first starting out professionally, I was very concerned about how I was being perceived, especially if I was out with slightly older, married men. Or how to handle coworkers flirting or whatever. To me, that’s one of the things that everyone just kind of needs to learn for themselves — what boundaries are you comfortable with, how do you want to manage situations. (And, as I matured a little, to realize I can’t control other people’s assumptions, just my own actions.)

        But figuring out those kinds of personal professional boundaries is an entirely different situation than trying to navigate PTSD or triggering situations. That is much more personal and much more difficult, and I don’t want to be flippant there, like, “whatever, you’ll get used to it.”

    5. JSPA*

      Depending on all kinds of factors, some abuse survivors can be left feeling shaken about their ability to sense normal boundaries, or recognize the boundary crossing of other people, or manage unexpected intense interpersonal emotion. Depending how the PTSD manifests, it could also leave her in a situation where she’s at a greater physical or emotional risk. Or it could put her at risk of doing or saying something that could be misconstrued by another person, in ways that are, for whatever reason, either more likely or more problematic with a person of opposite sex.

      It would be sad if this meant that survivors have to wall themselves off forever! (Or more correctly, it does happen, and it is sad, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s always a better alternative that’s achievable.) She’s in therapy. Presumably one goal is to mindfully shift the boundaries of her “safe sandbox” outwards when she feels safe doing so, and has reinforced the necessary coping skills.

      Why the distress? Probably this: OP and spouse defaulted to a version of the “small sandbox” that’s commonly been used by people who don’t care either to know or acknowledge that working on one’s skills is a great, affirming alternative to walling out most of the world. That’s raising a lot of hackles.

      But if she instead had said that, following an abusive experience with multiple people, she could not be comfortable as the only woman in a group of more than 10 men, we might be responding very differently. If this were Captain Awkward or Savage Love, instead of AAM, she might have discussed all kinds of relationship-y details that really, honestly, don’t belong here. (Maybe her husband is essentially her “training wheels” for learning to trust men, in close proximity. Maybe they both were trained, when young, to reach out for comfort in inappropriate ways, and they’re both taking a time-out from that. Maybe this is the ultra-vanilla version of chastity belts. There are a thousand maybe’s. None of them really our business.)

      I for one am glad to presume that OP is likely more capable than I am, and more capable than you are, of figuring out a way to run her own life in a healthy manner. The path she’s on hasn’t yet taken her, and may never take her, to whatever particular spot you or I are standing on, today–so what? She’s trying to make sense of social norms. She’s in therapy. She’s taking responsibility for her actions (and not for the actions of others). She’s going to be mindful of not making it the job of others to handle her relationship boundaries for her. She’s trying out some new boundaries, with care, and self care. She deserves praise.

  4. Sara*

    I’m glad you found something that can work for you, and have revisited the problem to discover your specific issues. I think that what you’ve compromised with is a good work around, plus it doesn’t prevent you from networking or limiting your involvement with your project/company/postion.

    Good luck!

  5. YB*

    OP, you took a lot of flack on the original post (and have already received one unkind comment on this one) and so I’m glad you weren’t put off and came back to update us. I just wanted to say that while some of your views about gender relations might be different from the norms in some cultures, to a degree that inspires ridicule in some people, I completely support your right to live by your values and do what feels right for you and your marriage. Best of luck!

    1. Phoenix Programmer*

      I am not finding an unkind comment and I am also not seeing a removed flag?

        1. Specialk9*

          The one where he pointed out the slippery slope fallacy, or the one where he said the Pence Doctrine is a harmful one? I don’t see how either one is unkind at all.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I removed it very quickly. If I remove a rude comment quickly enough (or if I’m multi-tasking and have limited time) I don’t consistently leave a note saying it’s gone. (Do y’all want me to? I can. I’m not sure how much people value consistency on stuff like that.)

        1. Susana*

          Nah, you work hard enough, AaM! Thanks for making sure the comments stay civil.

        2. Flash Bristow*

          As a reader, no need to add to drama by saying there was something offensive but it’s now gone.

          As a poster, if I got moderated I’d be mortified and want to learn from it, so perhaps a private “I’ve removed your comment from (link)” would be useful.

          This comment based on actual experience of being modded from somewhere that my genuine intent was to be helpful, and not being told until I couldn’t comment, then was informed I was banned for three months for this well-meant first offence. Oh. I was disproportionately upset.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The problem is that I don’t usually have an email address for the person, so most often I have no way to contact them to tell them. So it’s post it here or not explain it at all. (Entering an email address is optional and most people don’t unless they want a gravatar to appear.)

    2. Scubacat*

      Of course people can live their lives according to their own moral code. Though Alison correctly points out, there can be consequences when acting out of step with normal business practices.

  6. LouiseM*

    People were so awful to OP on the original post and jumped to all sorts of unfair and frankly inappropriate conclusions and assumptions about her character and relationship. I’m really glad to read this update.

    1. Mike C.*

      I didn’t see this at all. There were over 900 comments, so I’m not sure how one could generalize what was said.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        I don’t think very many of the original comments were unkind – it seems to me looking over them now that most intended to be kind – but some people did jump to conclusions, and there was lots of people on the “Get over it – it’s the 21st century” bandwagon. Nearly everybody said it more politely than that, but that was the impression many comments gave *me*, at least.

        But there was a lot of good guidance there, so I’m glad the OP was able to glean that – and I’m really glad she reported back with an update.

        1. Susana*

          Yeah. I think the complication here is that it’s hard to respect OP’s values or presumptions without also seeing them as a condemnation of the values and behaviors of those of us who do work with/travel with/socialize with people of the other gender. I’m glad she found a solution, really. And glad her boss found a way around it. But I can totally see a boss saying – sorry; your job means you will have to go to a conference with a colleague of opposite gender, and I’m not paying to have a chaperone along because it makes you uncomfortable. And what does OP think of the rest of us, then – that we are all just looking for ways to have illicit affairs? And even if we were, whose business is it? (assuming they do not affect the workplace, of course). But I am glad this worked out for her.

          1. Wintermute*

            I think you did a good job of unpacking the sentiments and emotions behind the statements, here.

      2. Long time lurker*

        I don’t think LouiseM meant everyone in the original comments (though she can correct me if I’m wrong), but there were definitely some awful ones. I admit not remembering any specific examples, but I remember having to stop reading because people were being so judgemental of OP’s values. I’m not talking about disagreeing with said values (unsurprising) or bringing up the consequences to OP’s career (very important and helpful). There were a lot of unkind assumptions flying around.

        1. LouiseM*

          Yes, thank you, long time lurker. I said “people,” not “everyone.” (As a side note, it’s bizarre to suggest you can’t generalize when there are a large number of comments–it is not very difficult to note general trends)

          1. This is She*

            Agreed. Just to be a pedant, it’s actually easier to generalize with *more* comments, not fewer. Trends are easier to identify the larger the data set blah blah…. :)

          2. Mike C.*

            There was a really strong implication that you were pointing towards a large portion of those comments.

  7. AnotherAlison*

    The OP is fortunate that her manager approves two cars for long trips. I think you could often find a way to make this not look weird, too, if you ARE concerned about outside appearances. A pair of male coworkers had to take a 4-hr trip, and the day before leaving, the junior one told the senior one that he was going to need to stop every hour because of a back injury. Not an unreasonable request, but also not an unreasonable thing to say no to and propose separate cars for. I don’t mind traveling solo with (most) coworkers now, but it’s weird when you don’t know them well, or they are quirky. You have to be at that level of comfort with inevitable bodily functions that most of us don’t want to be at with coworkers.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Agree on the approval for two cars. We have eight people driving to a conference this summer and our travel people have asked us to use as few vehicles as possible. Grant money is paying so it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it looks like it is to them.

          1. Is It Spring Yet?*

            The environment? Being environmentally conscious?

            Caring about the environment and trying to keep impact to as small as a person can is a pretty Big Deal to people.

            I find food wastage upsetting, so i have huge compost piles and am very strict in my home about how things get disposed. When it doesnt impact others negatively I do the same thing out and about.

            Reducing emissions is a Cause some people embrace quite firmly.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              True, but sometimes one has to make choices between things.

              If traveling in fewer vehicles means causing someone severe anxiety or panic attacks, will exacerbate chronic pain or other health issues, or will in other ways negatively effect one/some/all of the travelers, environmental concerns come second to accommodating people’s needs.

              I say this as someone who had to overcome a lifetime of resistance to using paper plates or running the dishwasher on less than a full load, but it sure as hell beats the cycle of ADHD related panic attacks because I can’t keep up with even the tiny amount of dishes I make on my own. It ends up with me in such a severe anxiety spiral that I don’t *eat* for DAYS rather than make another dirty dish or face the pile in the sink. Which I guess benefits the environment when I starve to death but sure doesn’t benefit me.

            2. Courageous cat*

              If you did it all the time, yeah, but it seems like a small fish to fry in the context of a couple business trips a year.

            3. Zillah*

              This feels a little like the plastic straw issue. You’re not wrong, but it’s problematic when people are so focused on environmentalism that they forget the people – especially since those people often have other societal challenges they’re navigating.

            4. Political staffer*

              I consider myself to be fairly ‘green.’

              But every time an employer has proposed ride/car sharing, it meant me chauffeuring coworkers with no additional compensation (not even money for gas). My car time is my me time, and having a car full of coworkers takes that away.

            1. JSPA*

              There are a thousand ways to be greener. Pretty much nobody does all of them. If someone can’t do one of the things that society is currently focused on, they can make similar cuts in stuff that most of us currently ignore. Getting hung up on there being only one set of ways to improve things is a turn off to people who might otherwise creatively engage.

              Maybe she has backyard goats and makes her own yoghurt, while most of the people who are car-sharing eat the stuff in plastic tubs. Maybe she hang-dries all her clothing. Maybe she has a worm bin. Maybe she plants trees.

              1. Aegis*

                I doubt it, someone who writes a response like that is unlikely to be environmentally conscious. Car emissions are a pretty big thing, and to call it a small fish speaks volumes.

    2. SamSam*

      My office was sending 8 people to a conference several states away, and the guy organizing it proposed they all take a van together for the 9 hour drive. The craziest part of it was that I was the only one in the room horrified by this idea – multiple people started chiming in what a great idea this was.
      Even though I wasn’t going, I felt I had to chime in on those poor people’s behalf. They finally gave up and decided to fly everyone out when I pointed out that *somebody* would have to do all that driving, and would Highest Ranking Manager on the Trip do it?
      I can’t imagine spending that long in a van with coworkers – it sounds like a nightmare to me. And as someone who snores, I barely like sleeping in front of friends, let alone falling asleep in a car full of people I have to work with.

  8. STG*

    Glad that your manager was able to come up with some workable options for your situation. I wouldn’t be able to do the same without footing the travel bill out of my own pocket.

  9. Cait*

    OP, I commend you for reevaluating things with your husband and coming back with an update. The vast majority of readers really do want to help and I know I especially appreciate when OPs send updates.

    I would just encourage you to keep working on trust – trusting yourself that you will not behave in a manner that you’ve seen others do (you reference friends’ marriages imploding), trust your husband as he ventures out and trust your marriage. You guys do you but don’t let fear of “what-ifs” or “this-can lead to this- to this” hold you back from career opportunities, social well-being or just living without stress.

    Finally, if your PTSD is impacting your day-to-day life, I highly recommend seeking therapy. There is nothing shameful or wrong with getting help.

    Wish you all the best!

    1. LiveAndLetDie*

      I second this encouragement to work on trust. The OP’s statement of “Long exposure in a business relationship can turn into close friendships, and friendships into more, sometimes without people realizing it until they’re emotionally involved” indicates to me an unhealthy view of opposite-sex encounters, and I would encourage OP to examine their philosophy here further. Close friendships with opposite-sex folks are not a bad thing, nor do they always lead to badness. :)

      1. Penny Lane*

        Or put another way – there’s nothing magical about being in a car with a person of the opposite sex (being heteronormative for a moment here, as that is germane to the OP) that is more compelling than simply … well, knowing / working with another person. I mean, really, plenty of people have had affairs with coworkers and they didn’t necessarily start out by long car rides. The perseveration on the car rides is a bit unusual IMO.

    2. Penny*

      Agreed. It’s a huge leap to go from sharing a car with a coworker to having an affair that destroys a marriage. That’s not a healthy way to view relationships.

      1. CityMouse*

        I agree. I think a lot of people objected to the implication at the time because it has been used as a justification to hold women back professionally, especially in fields like lab science and engineering. It triggers alarm bells for some people.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          That was the part which sat wrong for me about the original letter. Someone above suggested that people who commented with disapproval might feel judged for their own choices by the LW. I didn’t feel that at all… the LW made it clear that she was not implying there was anything wrong with anyone else taking trips with opposite-sex colleagues; only that she felt uncomfortable with it. That wasn’t my problem.

          My problem was that the LW’s choices are discriminatory, and when most people discriminated in that way, the result was that women were kept forcibly out of the business world because of it. If enough people were to choose that way again, women would once again be forced out of the business world, because men still hold enough of the power that they could easily ensure that *they* suffered no ill consequences from a general social policy of separating men and women. The business would follow where they went, not where the women went.

          When I make decisions, I look at them from an almost Kantian perspective. If everyone did the same thing I’m about to do, would it make the world a worse place? If so, by what right do I think it’s okay for ME to do it, but not for other people to do it? And usually, I don’t.

          It didn’t feel right to me for someone to ignore that perspective so completely, and to take for granted that it’s okay for the LW to do something but not okay for everyone else to do likewise because that would cause widespread sex discrimination and the erosion of women’s rights in the workplace. *Especially* when the LW herself was so concerned with slippery slopes in making her argument for why it was reasonable for her to discriminate professionally against male colleagues.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I wonder if there is a (fundamentalist, conservative) religious component to the OP’s world view vis a vis people of the opposite sex spending time together. I wonder as well if that isn’t maybe partially responsible for the PTSD in some way. I also wonder who wrote the book of love… Inquiring minds need to know.

        1. anonymouse*

          if there is, it’s not your business. I find the people judging OP are the same ones that made excuses for the man that didn’t want to shake women’s hands due to his religion….the implication being that people seem to have decided that this OP is a “fundie” but a man from a non-Christian religion should be ok to follow his beliefs.

      3. Trout 'Waver*

        This REALLY stood out to me. Affairs are things that people do. They aren’t things that just happen. The OP is removing all agency from the people involved.

        1. Gadget Hackwrench*

          This is really the one sticking point for me. It drives me nuts when people try and excuse cheating by saying “it just HAPPENED.” No. It did not. You made a choice. If you choose not to cheat, you will not cheat. It’s that simple. No other precautions required. Just as if I choose not to steal, I will not steal, no matter how much I might want that thing I can’t afford. There’s 0 excuse. (Except maybe like, a manic or psychotic episode with acknowledgement and remorse once the issue has been controlled.)

        2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Yes, exactly. People CHOOSE to have affairs. They don’t just fall into someone’s lap.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, my knee-jerk reaction was that she’s got this backwards: Something was festering in those marriages that left the door open to temptation. I have quite a few (objectively attractive) male friends (some of them of decades’ standing) with whom I would never consider fooling around, but then I’m very happy with my own relationship. It’s just not a thing–I already have that kind of attention waiting for me at home and I would be offended if a male acquaintance knew this and made a pass at me, anyway.

    4. Indie*

      I don’t think they have to spend hours in a car with others when they dont want to in order to prove something to themselves. I dont see how that would alleviate stress. Equally, people have different attachment styles. Maybe you wouldn’t get attached to someone through conversation, but they know that they would. I don’t see why they aren’t allowed to trust their own instincts on this.

      1. Susana*

        Honestly… if you’re sincerely worried you will get dangerously attached (and by dangerously, I mean that your committed relationship will be imperiled), then maybe working in any office is not for you. Work from home, work for yourself. But these decisions don’t happen in a vacuum – it makes it harder on the rest of the office to adapt. I can’t imagine having to work with someone who refused to have a conversation with me of any depth because of concerns it might “lead to” something (never mind that I’m not interested in said person). So that’s what I struggle with here. I of course don’t want OP to be uncomfortable at work, but what if the accommodations make everyone else uncomfortable – even if it’s just the presumption that they’re all a bunch of adulterers and fornicators waiting for the first opportunity?

        1. Indie*

          I have male friendships and in depth conversations at my current office. I kept relationships more surface friendly and just average professional at my last workplace because it’s not a big deal. I dont owe my friendship to anyone and neither does the op.

          1. the gold digger*

            Nope. A former boss once started to tell me a story about his wife. He was expressing some frustration about a fight they had just had and I told him I didn’t want to hear the story – that it was too personal. He realized I was right and left that boundary in place.

            1. Indie*

              I remember reading that and thinking it was an excellent boundary. Even if the married person is honestly just venting, nope no no. It’s not just that untrained therapists can’t deal with transference – it’s super inappropriate for work however it plays out. Not only that, it’s disrespectful to the spouse to be badmouthed at work.

          2. Susana*

            Of course you don’t owe anyone your friendship (and even our work friends – the test is whether you say friends after one of you leaves). But you do owe your colleagues your cooperation and collegiality. Which means meeting with them one-on-one, and traveling alongside a co-worker of other gender. Refusing to do so inconveniences the rest of the office. And yes – you can run your home life as you like, but you don’t get to behave at work with the implicit belief that people of different genres who talk alone are a bunch of hussies and adulterers.

        2. Zillah*

          I think that saying the OP’s concerns mean that maybe working in any office isn’t for her is a pretty dangerous leap, and I’m not even sure what kind of actionable advice there is in it.

    5. Joielle*

      Yeah, this update still left me with a weird feeling and I think this is why. It’s great that the OP and her husband are on the same page, but that page seems to be based in fear and mistrust. There doesn’t have to be something sinister about friendships with someone of one’s preferred sex, and holding on to that mindset could be really limiting to OP’s career – and just her life in general. I agree that therapy could be really beneficial for OP (and probably her husband too)!

  10. Kilowatt*

    Good that it’s working for you. For that matter, I do avoid to sit next to my colleagues (any of them) in airplanes and I do think it can be really tiresome to travel with them by car, but because of other reasons (I find it awkward when everything is too silent and I start thinking and wondering if I should start another topic of conversation, which consumes me a bit).

    1. Just Me*

      I’m the opposite of you! I find it super tiring to always be talking, and am happiest when everyone is comfortable with there being extended “companionable silences” on long car trip. I actively resent people (like my mother) who cannot leave any silence unfilled…

      1. LiveAndLetDie*

        I also value silences and comfortable downtime in which folks are happy to just sit nearby but not actually interact. The “can’t stand a quiet moment” folks get my nerves going!

        1. Wait, what?*

          Comfortable silences are awesome. A little while ago, I ran into my work friend on the subway first thing in the morning. I moved seats to go sit by him. When he saw me he gave me this look that screamed, “It is too early to talk to anybody yet.” Instead of saying, “Good morning”, I said, “Read your book.” He sort of nodded and went back to reading. I did the same. When we got to our stop, he put his book away and then we greeted each other. It was kind of nice.

          1. the gold digger*

            I knew my new co-worker was One of Us on our first out of town trip with our boss. He told her we would meet at 7:30 a.m. in the lobby for breakfast and she said, “No. I eat breakfast alone.”

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Same. I like some conversation for awhile, but then it is okay for things to fall into companionable silence. I drove to a festival last year with one of the women from my women’s group, and she never once shut up for the entire four-hour drive there nor the four-hour drive back. I was about to go out of my mind, because every time I would be just about to become immersed in my own thoughts, she would pipe up with another topic of conversation, and I could tell that she was doing it because she was uncomfortable with any silence at all. I am never going on a long trip with her again as long as I live!

        1. Kimberly*

          Was she driving? I’m from Texas, so used to car trips. 3 hours to Austin, eat lunch with a cousin, go to a few places, drive 3 hours home in one-day car trips and 15 hours are we out of the state yet car trips. I will talk the whole way – and I’m alone in the car or I’m talking to air and my niece and nephew have their headphones on. If I just think silently – I see what I’m thinking instead of what is in front of me. I’ve never been able to really explain it to people. It isn’t something you want to happen when driving. For some reason, talking/singing turns off this in my head – I hate driving and if other adults are going they drive and I kid wrangle.

      3. Baby Fishmouth*

        Are you my sibling? Because that’s my mom, and it drives me NUTS on long car trips. As a teenager, I loved reading a book or the newspaper when I ate breakfast, and I would start seething when she would come into the kitchen and start talking and not stop for 30 minutes. I would even stop interjecting and responding, and keep on reading, and she never took the hint. I love my mom to bits, but it’s a large part of the reason I never moved back home after uni and rarely travel with her.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        Dear god, please do not feel obligated to keep up the conversation on a car trip. I have not yet had to throw myself from a moving vehicle to escape this but I cannot promise that I wouldn’t.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          A year ago I went on a 6-hour road trip with *four* coworkers. They are all nice people, it was (fortunately) a very large van, and we all get along pretty well, but gosh, it might have been very very bad. Thank goodness for books and listening to podcasts through earbuds, that’s what I say.

    2. Positive Reframer*

      If there is only one other person in the car I do feel so weird to just not talk, with 3+ people I’m fine just doing my own thing. Also who gets to pick the music? And do we have to listen to music because if I’m driving I can only handle that for like 45min. can we listen to an audiobook instead?

      1. only acting normal*

        Re music. In the UK the default on shared work car journeys is BBC Radio 2. I don’t think anyone knows why (maybe because it’s nation wide not local, and isn’t too youth focused?)
        Although at work we have occasionally gone for “The Infinite Monkey Cage” podcast – science and comedy, so appropriate for a STEM organisation. :)

      2. Snow*

        The rule in my experience is that the driver picks the music (or audiobook, podcast, whatever). Ideally the driver will consider the rest of the car, within reason (for example, screamo might not be ideal). But in the final analysis, the driver gets to choose, and passengers don’t get to complain or ask for a change unless it is a really serious issue (for example, some sort of racist podcast).

    3. Indie*

      I used to get stuck in a car with the guy who complained about his wife. I could never work out if it was a pass or if it was just the topic on his mind when there were hoooouurs of silence to fill.

      I don’t think hours alone with a co-worker does much for professional relationships. Not always, anyway. There are people who can make perfectly appropriate small talk in short bursts who go to pot in this situation. But then i love my alone time.

  11. Triple Anon*

    I’m glad the OP found a solution. I find this topic interesting because I’ve been on the opposite side of it. I’ve had people refuse to spend time alone with me or sever friendships because they were of the opposite sex and in a relationship. One person even said, “Don’t talk to me in public.” We were working together.

    I think that it all comes down to your ideas about gender and relationships. Some people aren’t comfortable with opposite gender friendships and some are. And I think it has a lot to do with how you view gender – how important it is, how much of a fixed thing it is, etc. I respect people’s different views on that, but I there has to be a way for the different schools of thought to coexist and communicate better. That’s a comment about society in general, not directed at OP.

    1. MLB*

      I’ve had the same thing happen to me in the past and this way of thinking really bothers me. It says that nobody should be trusted to be in any type of platonic relationship with someone of the opposite sex.

    2. Indie*

      Thats their right – but I’m side eyeing their way of treating you. They sound weirdly harsh.

      1. Susana*

        Yeah, I’ve had platonic male friends basically end their relationships with me because of a new gf or wife (and in a lot of the cases, because new gf or wife didn’t like it, but that’s a separate issue). And yes, that is their right, in personal relationships.
        What makes this case more complicated is that you really don’t have that right so much at work. You’ll have to interact with people of different genders, ages, religions, ethnicities etc. If you don’t want to have lunch with a colleague alone – don’t. That is your right. But you don’t get to say you will not work one-on-one on a project because the colleague is of the other (it’s not “opposite,” btw) sex.

        1. Indie*

          Opposite sex is in the title of the column. If you’re talking about people generally I might say ‘other sex’ to account for gender and sexuality spectrum, but I think the OP is specifically concerned with the opposite end of that spectrum, not with gay men or women. I’ve never experienced an inappropriate gay person either; it’s always straight dudes. I agree with you though that it is ludicrous to turn down work stuff with….anyone. My understanding was the OP wanted to opt out of non work stuff.

          1. Susana*

            No, my point was that the expression (which I find myself using) suggests men and women have two very different – opposite, even – ways of looking at things and behaving. Which is part of where we get this canard that men are dogs trying to get any woman into bed, whil women are trying to protect our reputations. It’s a small point, and one I myself don’t pay attention to enough. I just find the term sort of alienating and confrontational.

  12. HS Teacher*

    If I have to travel with coworkers long distance, I’m much better in groups than when it’s one on one, unless I am already friends with the person outside of work.
    We had a group of teachers going to capitol for the walkout. What initially was supposed to be five of us turned into just two of us. I ended up deciding not to go because I was uncomfortable travelling two hours with a coworker I barely know.

  13. Specialk9*

    Thanks for the update, OP. That one hit a nerve in the comments, and I’m sorry you had to sort through all that — but gosh I commend you on taking it in, talking with your husband, and refining what your negotiated relationship rules are at this time.

    I have found my self doing a lot of thinking after the Pence revelation/backlash, and your letter. I am a deeply liberal Jew, but grew up deeply conservative evangelical Christian. I still trip over internalized rules from my youth, some based on values I have since rejected — and this was one of them! I realized I was as a general rule avoiding 1:1 with men at work, socially. I’d lunch with 2 men, but usually not 1. Unlike you, OP, that didn’t line up with my values so I’ve been working on making my behavior match my values.

    Many of us do the best we can to live lives of integrity and honesty, but sometimes it’s hard to sort through what that means in the application. Kudos for really engaging in that process.

    1. Jesca*

      See, I grew with no religion and no huge ideals on internalized gender norms. Actually, all three of us: my brother, my sister, and I are all the breadwinners in our families and really blur the lines in many ways of any type of gender beliefs without even thinking about it. But I also went into the world with this belief that everyone would just view me without gender. As in, gender would not factor into anything I said, did, or even who I engaged in. I was so terribly wrong. For various reasons, I do not have a lot of close opposite sex friendships. The reason has nothing to do with trusting myself. Once you are friend-zoned, you are in that zone forever. The problem is a lot of people have a very firm belief they are entitled to step out of the zone any time they wish and that the other person should just be complicit. They also believe they can torpedo your other relationships, give you “bad advice”, lie, and do any number of things just to try to get what they feel they are entitled to. All with the smile and guise of the “nice” person. Because of my naivete entering *adult world*, I am hugely suspect of the motivation of the opposite sex. It is a personal choice and it does not affect anyone else, either, for myself or for OP to function this way particularly when we still live in a society that lacks respecting so many many important boundaries. At the end of the day, it is not worth the drama.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        My experience is that this gets better as you get older, but watch for people who push boundaries. Anyone who has to use ‘just joking’ to excuse a comment, for instance. Avoid them because of that behavior, not gender.

      2. Susana*

        Jesca – just set boundaries and insist on them. You don’t have to cave into someone’s effort to manipulate you. The answer is not to just avoid people of the other sex. YOU have a say. Use it.

        1. Zillah*

          I don’t think that there’s one right answer, and it’s really problematic to assume that there is. People’s comfort levels and perspectives change over time, and that’s okay.

      3. Male female sometimes camel*

        To be honest, if you’re an attractive woman, it’s really hard to make genuine male friends. I do have a few and they’re wonderful but there’s no mutual attraction between us and we never talk about sex. With many others – it just never worked. Either I was also attracted to them and things happened or they wanted me, I didn’t and they either respectfully removed themselves from my life or they pushed me beyond my comfort zone.

        1. Zillah*

          This. At this point, I just have very little interest in getting close to straight/bi men – of course there are some out there who are great, don’t push boundaries, and don’t play whatabout games, but IME, they’re far outnumbered by the number of men who are just… kind of exhausting to be around, and that’s not something I’m interested in wasting my energy on.

      1. Specialk9*

        I wrote most and then changed it to many. 2016 has changed my belief in the prevalence of actual goodness in the general population. But I suspect that the group that writes/comments here tips more toward the thoughtful and trying to be better, so perhaps “most” works here.

    2. Nita*

      I’m not sure it’s a religious thing! I grew up with zero, zip, no religion and still have moments of being very uncomfortable being 1:1 with men I don’t know well. Not every man, just some. Maybe it’s gut instinct – if I’m feeling uncomfortable, often something will happen that will prove I was right to be uneasy. I haven’t gone so far as to remove myself from the possibility of being 1:1 with strangers, because that would mean quitting my job. However, no one should put themselves in a situation where they’re feeling uncomfortable/unsafe if they have the option not to, and I’m glad that OP has found a solution that works.

      1. soon 2 be former fed*

        I’m black, and I do hope that your spidey senses aren’t triggered simply because a man is black, particularly
        if he is young and casually dressed, ala Starbucks. Too much of this.

        1. Nita*

          Gosh no! I get why you’re sensitive, but you’re jumping to the wrong conclusion. Most of the men that made me uncomfortable were white, as it happens. And it was not just “spidey sense” that was in my head – several of them made very off comments, or tried to put their hands on me. Now that I think of it, the ones I had actual problems with were all older, somewhere past 50.

        2. Indie*

          Another woman here, and Nita’s experience is so very common that I’m amazed you’ve never heard of this. The famous quote ‘men are scared women will laugh at them, women are scared men will kill them’. Never heard of that one? Not always but sometimes a random guy will just spook my spidey sense. He’s always been the same race as me (white) and he’s always dressed in a very unassuming, nondescript way. Subtle behaviour too. I would usually be baffled as to what it is about him that has tripped the wire. It took some time to figure out that it’s usually because he’s sitting too close and he’s watching me when I’m not looking. I love it when men are clearly very aware of this problem and are giving me space.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Oh yeah, it’s always some entitled white guy that triggers my spidey sense. I agree that there’s usually some action that’s doing it – too close is the usual one, looking too long. And then there was the guy who threatened to fight a couple of different men the first time he came into the bar. The gay bar which had had exactly 0 fights in the seven years I’d been going there.

            It is (for me) actually less nerve-wracking when a PoC stands closer to me than my comfort zone, because I can chalk that up to cultural differences.

            But in general, you’re right to be concerned, as many people do have an element of racism in their spidey sense.

  14. Mike C.*

    I did have a long discussion with my husband later and we narrowed it down to both of us having objections to long, extended trips alone with someone of the opposite sex in the same car, although my objection does come partly from PTSD, and both of us do want to play it safe about our marriage. Long exposure in a business relationship can turn into close friendships, and friendships into more, sometimes without people realizing it until they’re emotionally involved.

    This is one large slippery slope fallacy, with a dash of oversimplification. Lots and lots of us work closely with our peers of various genders without forming emotional bonds, close friendships or cheating on our spouses. Even then, the vast majority of us are able to set limits way before you get to the point of sleeping around. Furthermore, you can’t just look at the workplace here, you don’t have complete pictures of the marriages of your friends, it’s much more likely that there was a lot more going on than you are privy to.

    When it comes down to it, how do you think that those of us who don’t engage in the sort of boundary setting that you do somehow resist cheating all the time? Or do you imagine the rest of us just sleeping around all the time?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      What if she isn’t worried about what any of the rest of us are doing?

      Which is, like, what’s in the letter. She isn’t asking how to stop Suzie in Accounting from having a meeting with Fred in Sales about his guacamole deduction.

      1. Mike C.*

        You misunderstand me. I’m not assuming that the OP is worried about other people, I’m asking if she’s ever considered the fact that most of us don’t follow such strict rules and yet don’t go sleeping around with our coworkers.

        If “Long exposure in a business relationship can turn into close friendships, and friendships into more” were a complete explanation for infidelity, then there would be a great deal more adultery going on.

        1. yasmara*

          I just can’t get over that if I made a rule like this, I literally could not do my job.

          I guess the OP must think she can, but I can’t help feeling like this is so outside the norms that it will impact her job or career someday. I don’t think it’s piling on to point that out.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            That’s a choice she’s allowed to make, just like many women choose teaching and nursing because it’s easy to drop in and out of the job market when you have kids.

            1. That Lady*

              This is really a quite sexist comment, and I’m genuinely surprised to find something so dismissive of two respected professional careers here of all places.

            2. Sami*

              Wow. That’s a terribly demeaning comment about well-respected, professional, and very demanding careers.

          2. Courageous cat*

            Agreed 100% – even if people respond to it well, the majority are still going to view someone strangely for requesting this. I mean, Mike’s Pence weirdness around women didn’t become such a Big Thing for no reason. Whether right or wrong, I feel like more people than not are going to view this trait as immaturity.

        2. Triple Anon*

          I think it’s an individual thing. It has to do with people’s ideas about gender and gender roles. People who feel that way probably tend to pick more traditional career paths for their gender and therefore don’t have as much unstructured, unsupervised interaction with the opposite sex.

        3. CityMouse*

          I have directly mentored about a dozen people, roughly half of whom were men. Treating them differently based on gender would have prevented me from doing my job.

        4. Seriously?*

          But when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter. The OP has backed off the part that could cause professional problems (not wanting to have meetings or meals with men) and drawn a line that many other people have for a different reason (not wanting to spend long car rides with a coworker). Whether her concern over opposite friendship is unfounded or not is really no one’s business since it doesn’t affect anyone but her and her husband.

        5. Jules the 3rd*

          I thought that something like 50% of relationships had at least one bout of extramarital relations. I don’t think OP is overstating the concern.

          I don’t choose her method of dealing with it, but it’s her choice to make for her.

    2. Dankar*

      Exactly. If it might give the OP some peace of mind–generally people don’t stray unless they’re unhappy or there’s something else going on behind the scenes. If she and her husband are comfortable in their marriage and feel that their bond is still strong, then it’s likely neither has anything to worry about. It’s good, though, that they’ve found a solution that will work for them and that their employers can accommodate.

      My partner and I spent significant periods of time apart last year, and neither one worried once about the possibility of infidelity (and he had a number of female coworkers!). I was more concerned about how often he would remember to do laundry…

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I’m in a different city from my husband and sons right now (long-term). He does have the one kid at home, so that should keep him in line (joking).

        As the daughter of a cheater, it really IS difficult to not worry about being cheated on when you put this much space in your relationship, but I tell myself that I can’t force my husband to be faithful by micromanaging him and not allowing him to do things (like have female clients–he’s an electrician in women’s homes all the time, and I’m a woman calling on male clients and traveling with male coworkers). I have to treat him respectfully and lovingly and hope that he chooses to be faithful. You can only manage yourself and hope your spouse’s behavior reflects your own. For us, setting boundaries like the OP’s would be a sign of mistrust and would do more harm than good, but if it works for them, that doesn’t offend me at all.

        1. Queen of Cans & Jars*

          I can’t force my husband to be faithful.

          This is an excellent point! If someone wants to cheat, they will find a way to do it, regardless of how many roadblocks you (the general “you,” not you specifically :)) but up. I think it’s a bit like someone who abuses drugs or alcohol; as much as you try to remove all the temptation, there’s still a void there that they’re going to fill whether its with gin or mouthwash.

      2. Male female sometimes camel*

        People also stray because of their own bad character or because they’re narcissists. Some people (usually men) cheat because they can.

    3. BuffaLove*

      Yeah, I don’t want to be unkind to OP, but they should keep working on challenging those internalized beliefs… even if you do find yourself too emotionally involved with a coworker, it doesn’t mean cheating is inevitable. It’s normal to have the feelings, and crappy to act on them.

      That said, if the current arrangement works for everyone involved, that’s great. Hopefully if they switch jobs, their future boss will be just as understanding. The separate vehicles thing would never fly in my (government) office, so you’d definitely be limiting yourself if you opted out of those situations.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I actually think a mindset like OP’s contributes to cheating rather than protecting against it, because it imagines sexual tension and temptation where there is none. Better just to treat folks like humans, rather than as Potential But Forbidden Sexual Partners.

        1. Yorick*

          Right, this mindset sets up every male coworker as a potential love interest, and also assumes that your relationship isn’t strong enough to avoid cheating.

          1. soon 2 be former fed*

            I’m committed but not dead. I see a man who is good looking by my tastes, and may even be attracted to him if I were unattached. I observe it and move on. Men flirt with me, I non-react and move on. My husband is very handsome and I’m sure he gets hit on too. I don’t live in a bubble, and don’t expect my husband to either. What I do expect is self-control and integrity. Many years in and going strong.

            1. Susana*

              Totally agree, S2BFF. My feeling is – I find my partner devastatingly handsome and charming. Why would I be the only one? It doesn’t matter, because we love each other and are faithful to each other.

    4. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, I have coworkers I’ve worked with for a long time and never became friends with. I have coworkers whom I developed work-friendships with and never beyond that. I have a small handful of former coworkers I consider outside of work friends on Facebook, but rarely if ever see in real life. I have maybe one former coworker who is a friend I hang out with occasionally (it would probably be more frequently but she moved out of state).

      I have one or two coworkers (from my part-time retail days) I had a crush on, but nothing happened when I discovered the feeling was not mutual (and probably I wouldn’t have dated them anyway, as workplace romance is awkward). I have ZERO coworkers with whom I’ve engaged in an affair with.

      My husband is in a male-dominated industry, and he also has never had an affair with his female coworkers.

      Is it plausible that a coworking relationship might progress into an affair? Sure. But both people have the ability to say “no,” and I think most people do and/or would if they were in that situation.

      If we look over our friends, coworkers, relatives, etc, how many do you know who’ve gotten into extramarital affairs? With coworkers? I suspect we may be inflating the number in our head due to fictional sources, and fictional stories are always more dramatic than real life.

      1. CityMouse*

        If my husband hadn’t befriended a fellow engineer who happened to be female, I wouldn’t have my book buddy (we share books back and forth and talk about them over coffee once a month).

    5. animaniactoo*

      By having a better sense of the conversational boundaries you need to have to keep from sliding down the slope and sticking to them.

      My sense of the OP from her first letter was that she didn’t have a good sense of where those boundaries were and was therefore relying on an over-simplified physical boundary to keep her from temptation.

      I find it very reassuring that she and her husband were able to work on this together and fine tune it to something they are more comfortable with. That she took the suggestions that were made about creating those kinds of boundaries on board and is opening herself up to stepping into some of the territory that she previously considered off-limits.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah, the ability to have those kinds of negotiations is a really good thing in a relationship.

    6. Razilynn*

      I get that people don’t want to bash the OP, and I’m honestly glad her manager was able to accommodate her special request, because unless the other person had a really creepy vibe or was involved in a past situation that would make OP uncomfortable going forward, it is a special request.

      I still find the whole thing pretty odd. I just don’t understand how someone else cheating on a spouse indicates a greater temptation to cheat on your own spouse. This reads to me like there are severe trust issues in the marriage. I’ve on many, many occasions gone to the bar with a male co-worker to hang out for a few hours, stayed overnight at a male friend’s place, and shared a bed with a female friend after a long night out – and not once did anyone, especially not my husband, think I cheated on him.

      1. Triple Anon*

        That’s the way it is for me too. I have friends of both genders. But I grew up with a brother who was close to my age, and lots of neighborhood kids, and cousins. So platonic friendships with the opposite sex aren’t weird to me. I imagine if you’d had different experiences, it could be different.

        And, fwiw, the people in my life who’ve creeped me out or given me reasons not to spend time alone with them have been all genders – male, female, non-binary, cis and trans – about representative of how common those genders are in the world. For me, it’s been a people issue, not a gender one, but I get that people are different in this way.

        1. Razilynn*

          Yes, that’s why I said “other person” not “person of opposite sex.” That’s where I’m a little baffled. What if she had to travel with a lesbian? Or a M-to-F trans woman who hasn’t fully transitioned yet. Is there also a fear that another person, not just an opposite person, would make a move on her? Or encourage her to cheat?

          I’m honestly fascinated at the statement, “I did have a long discussion with my husband…both of us having objections to long, extended trips alone with someone of the opposite sex in the same car… and both of us do want to play it safe about our marriage.” Is her urge to cheat that great? I didn’t realize people had a seemingly unquenchable urge to cheat on their spouses, so much so that they can’t be in a car alone with someone they might “attach” to.

    7. LBK*

      When it comes down to it, how do you think that those of us who don’t engage in the sort of boundary setting that you do somehow resist cheating all the time? Or do you imagine the rest of us just sleeping around all the time?

      Yeah, this is the sticking point to me for the whole situation. What it boils down to is that you can foresee a situation in which you fall for someone else, which is…kind of depressingly masochistic? If you think there’s someone out there that you could love more than your husband, you deserve to have that person! It’s so strange to me how some people value a marriage vow more than their own happiness.

      1. Aud*

        I think television can give people a skewed view of relationships and sex with coworkers.
        Sometimes it makes it seems like people just hop into bed with anyone who they find even remotely attractive and are having sex in the copy room on a daily basis.

      2. Positive Reframer*

        Why would a transitory emotional state take priority over a long term commitment? What’s the point of making that level of promise if it is based solely on your enjoyment in keeping the promise?

        Also, “you deserve to have that person!” is a really dangerous mindset to have. I know you probably didn’t mean it that way but believing that a person deserved the affections of another has lead to some seriously messed up stuff.

        1. LBK*

          Ack, you’re right, that wasn’t well-clarified. I meant if you and someone else develop a mutual, consensual connection that feels stronger than your existing relationship, you shouldn’t cut yourself off from being in a relationship that will make you happier just because you’re already with someone else. Definitely didn’t mean that being attracted to someone entitles you to their affection, which I realize is how that could be read.

          And I’m not talking about something transitory; I’m not saying you should go have a one-night stand with your cute coworker because it will make you happy in that moment. I’m talking about someone you develop a genuine connection with over time that feels as strong or stronger than you current relationship. Those vows are made to be eternal because the love they represent is meant to be eternal; if you no longer find yourself in love with the person you made the vow to and/or find yourself in love with someone else, I don’t think you should resign yourself to being miserable for the rest of your life because that’s the choice you made when you were in a different place emotionally.

          If you fear the possibility of eventually loving someone else more than your spouse so much that you can’t even be alone in a room with someone of a gender you’re attracted to, you probably shouldn’t get married.

          1. Susana*

            Agree too, LBK. And I’ll go one more – I think one of the worst things you can do to a partner/spouse is to expect that person to be your go-to, singular confidante on every single issue and thought you have. One of my former male colleagues was a good friend – and I became friends with his wife, too. We’d all three socialize outside work (and he and I, at lunch during week). And he would talk about work stuff with me his wife couldn’t really relate to – she was in a different field – and didn’t necessarily want to hear about. She liked that he had me to vent to about this stuff. Didn’t weaken their marriage – more the opposite.

          2. Male female sometimes camel*

            You have a weird view of commitment. Commitment doesn’t mean “I’m committed to you as long as someone better doesn’t come along”. It means “I’m committed to you”. Your way of thinking reminds me too much of the FOMO (fear of missing out) mentality which is really not good for happiness.

            1. tusky*

              There isn’t one definition of commitment. Commitment is defined by the people in the relationship. That said, there are surely qualitative differences between “someone better came along” and “I fell out of love,” or “I realized I never actually loved my spouse,” or “this relationship no longer works for me (despite my attempts to maintain it),” or any of the other iterations of these things. Which is to say, commitment does not have to mean “locked into this relationship forever” (and I would argue that view of commitment has tended to have detrimental impacts on people’s well being, particularly women).

      3. General Ginger*

        If the lack of constant exposure to the opposite sex is all that’s preventing both parties from cheating, then I don’t know how much of a commitment a relationship like that even is.

    8. Basia, also a Fed*

      I agree with Mike C. Obviously, every marriage is different, and if you have found what works for yours, that’s fine. But my husband and I just assume that no one will cheat. We don’t plan our lives around arranging things so that no one is in a situation where they “might” cheat. When we got married, we just both promised each other that neither one of us will do it. It’s called trust.

      If I said anything at all like the paragraph Mike has quoted above, my husband would say “wait a minute – are you saying I can’t trust you?” It would be way more damaging to our relationship than traveling one on one with a man would be.

      For context, I travel overnight frequently for my job, often one-on-one with men my age. It would never occur to me or my husband that there was any problem with this, because, again, he knows I’m committed to him. My employer would never authorize the use of two vehicles for only two people, because it would be a waste of taxpayer money.

      And for those of you who think I’m naïve, my first husband cheated on me and we divorced over it. So, I know it can happen. But my current husband and I have agreed that we won’t, and if we didn’t believe each other then I don’t think we would have much a marriage.

      1. Detached Elemental*

        +1. My work requires periodic interstate travel. Often it will be me and one of my male colleagues travelling together (including one time two of us spent four hours driving from one worksite to another). We’ll stay in the same hotels, we’ll share a car/taxi, and we’ll eat together a lot (but not always every meal).

        My husband doesn’t have a problem with this. My colleagues’ spouses don’t have a problem with this. It’s accepted professional norms in my work.

    9. Indie*

      Maybe the way we stay faithful is by having ordinary friendliness in the office and not hours long chats in cars? Most of us would find that quite dreadfully tedious anyway and this is a perfectly appropriate ‘how friendly do I want to be’ boundary for them to want.

      Im also pretty leery of waving away their friends affair as the result of a ‘bad marriage’. If the OP and her husband ever experience a rough patch, they probably don’t want to add an affair to their rough patch. Now, I don’t think bad marriages even cause affairs, but if you do….their solution just makes even more sense.

      1. Basia, also a Fed*

        Yes, hours long chats in the car with someone you don’t know well can be dreadfully tedious. However, it’s part of my job. My career would be adversely affected if I were to tell my boss that I didn’t feel comfortable being in the car for four hours with a member of the opposite sex. As Alison said in her original reply, I would be injecting thoughts about sex where they clearly don’t belong. As I said before, everyone has to do what’s right for them, but I’m surprised by how many people are concerned about this. It seems so sexist to me. I assume everyone I work with is a professional and I treat them the same no matter their gender.

        1. Indie*

          I think if you’re in a bad marriage you dont want you should leave it. My friends cheating husband is still trying to get back home because he loves his marriage.

          1. LBK*

            I’m still not really following – yes, it’s obviously better to leave the relationship first before you start seeing someone else, but you said, ” I don’t think bad marriages even cause affairs.” What do you think causes affairs, if not dissatisfaction with the current relationship?

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              There have actually been some studies on affairs and their causes. There is no higher a percentage of bad marriages among those who have affairs than among married couples who don’t. Usually, it’s a matter of one spouse wanting the security and affection of their partner AND something else more exciting and fantasy-like, without the constraints of everyday adulting involved. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the marriage; it’s that they want to be able to drop the daily reality (even the pleasant daily reality) from time to time.

              But that is still a matter of the individual personalities involved and what they CHOOSE to have in their lives. It’s not a magic spell that comes down upon them by the mechanism of too many car rides together.

        2. Indie*

          Yeah I’ve done that too. Not everyone was professional though and I’m glad I don’t do it anymore. I was glad of the opportunity to do so – but I don’t think the OP has to be.

      2. LBK*

        Your second paragraph doesn’t really make sense to me, you think people who are in great relationships where they’re completely happy are the ones who have affairs?

    10. cryptid*

      Thanks for “various genders,” Mike. I assume most people like the lw don’t believe people like me exist or presume to know my “real” gender, but I always feel a little like nonbinary people highlight the silliness of this kind of stance. I’m not a man or a woman. Am I just…not included at all? Am I safe for both men and women? Do I only have to share space with other nb people? I’m agender, so I guess pangender people are my no-go opposite group? How much gender is precisely the problem?

      1. Indie*

        I don’t know that this is helpful, but yeah I’d consider you safe. I’ve never experienced problematic behaviour from anyone other than straight men. Gay women have never assumed I love them because I befriend them. I have extra boundaries around straight men because of my experiences with a minority of that group. It would make no sense to be wary of an issue that’s never come up for me.

  15. Noah*

    So the issue turned out to be: “I prefer to drive by myself or with somebody of the same sex for longer drives associated with work.” That’s really different than how it was originally and many, many people prefer to do these drives by themselves. I do, and that’s normal. OP had just presented it this way from the beginning, this would have been a non-issue.

    1. Seriously?*

      I think initially her discomfort was more broad, but she dug into what really bothered her and what she could live with and this is the boundary she came up with.

  16. Penny Lane*

    I’m glad that the OP has worked something out. If, however, the reason for not wanting to be in a car for a long period of time has to do with PTSD from a previous assault of some sort, it would have been immensely helpful to have had that in the original post, so I’m kind of puzzled why that didn’t come up. As I recall, that post wasn’t about traveling in a car specifically, but any kind of situation where one might travel or have a meal in a restaurant with a coworker.

    BTW, worst nightmare happened to a coworker of mine. She had a particularly annoying client (we all agreed this client was a Negative Nancy), and the two needed to be in India for a work-related meeting – though one was coming from the midwest and the other from the east coast, so my coworker didn’t think twice. My coworker sits down in her nice comfy business class seat, opens her computer, and in comes the annoying client – who has the seat right next to her!! So there goes working on other clients’ files or just vegging out ….

  17. Lady Phoenix*

    I still think that relationships only happen if BOTH parties want to make it happen. What happened to your friends’ marriages sucked, but they CHOSE to cheat. You can have close friendships and even crushes WOTHOUT cheating, and if you decide to cheat it is all on you.

    Also, sick of male/female friendship assumptions that they all lead to either sex or bad break ups. It is important to have good friends of all genders.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        I have awesome dude friends who we will never date. It’s all good! *fist bump*

      1. LBK*

        It’s especially hilarious to me since gay people tend to mostly be friends with other gay, and yet somehow we aren’t all sleeping with all of our friends at all times!

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          That’s good to hear cause I was starting to think I was Doing It Wrong.

          1. Damn it, Hardison!*

            I’ve watched too much B99 because my mind automatically followed your “I was Doing It Wrong” with “title of your sex tape!”

      2. Alex the Alchemist*

        Yep. Attracted to people of any gender here, and I still form close friendships with people and I don’t cheat on my partner.

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, under this paradigm bisexual people get no friends. :-b

        That or I’m nonbinary and thus vaguely imaginary and am safe to socialize with everyone?

        1. CityMouse*

          Yeah, as someone who has dated both men and women in the past, I find this hilarious. Orientation doesn’t mean “I would sleep with anyone of that gender”.

        2. Specialk9*

          I’ve seen a bunch of bisexual and asexual people post dark jokes here, about having to sit alone facing the wall and sit in a dark room. I get it’s a joke but also that there’s a real hurt feeling from how our society treats and overlooks you.

          As a straight cis person, can I say how glad I am for all of our wonderful bi, asexual, and queer of all stripes folks? You guys are awesome just how you are. Big internet high-fives, if you want them.

      4. Esme Squalor*

        I guess bi people in committed relationships have to sit in a dark, heavily locked room with the lights off at all times.

          1. Esme Squalor*

            You need to get a SAD sunlight lamp for your darkened bi quarantine chamber!

      5. Ethyl*

        Yeah it’s a bummer that as a bisexual person, I can’t be friends or coworkers with ANYBODY. Dang.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          You think you have it bad? I’m bisexual and I get carsick! My commute is apparently a constant melange of barely-restrained lust and nausea – it gets really confusing.

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I find this the most puzzling about the “men and women cannot be friends” narrative. Who’s to say that coworker Fergus is attracted to women in the first place? or, if he’s not, does that mean he’s not allowed to work closely or 1:1 with male coworkers?

      7. General Ginger*

        +1. I’m queer, most of my friends are queer, and somehow we’re all still just friends, not engaging in constant affairs with each other.

      8. Detective Jake Peralta*

        I have no real comment other than I see what you did with your name, because Amy Santiago ended up with her coworker. (at least I assume she did, I’m watching the series now, and they haven’t gotten there yet).

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I will not spoil anything for you, but I honestly never thought about that aspect of it :)

    1. Indie*

      I think this is great if that’s what you want. Is it ok for the OP to want different things?

  18. EvanMax*

    I just wanted to comment on this one statement from the letter:

    “Long exposure in a business relationship can turn into close friendships, and friendships into more, sometimes without people realizing it until they’re emotionally involved.”

    I feel like this is a negative kind of “magical thinking”, whereby relationships just “happen” to people, rather than people being responsible for their own actions.

    I’m faithful to my wife because that loyalty is a value that I believe in. Proximity to other women doesn’t change the calculus there; I made a commitment to my wife and I intend to keep that commitment to her.

    I won’t speak to whatever trauma the letter writer has suffered, because that is something different, but the undercurrent of jealousy (husband doesn’t want her spending time with other men either) combined with the fact that she believes that if she spends time with other men she will be unable to control her own behavior, both strike me as unhealthy ways of thinking, based, in part, on the notion of “love” being this magical thing you have to catch in a bottle, and then hoard away from the rest of the world in order to protect.

    I read an interesting piece earlier this week that drew a line from medical views of courtly love to modern toxic masculinity. The toxic masculinity piece doesn’t matter here as much, but I still think it’s worth a read for the way that it translates “courtly love” to the modern age. I thin the letter writer and her husband are suffering under some of the same assumptions here (and I do mean suffering. living like this doesn’t sound fun.) and I think it would be beneficial to take a look, and see how taking responsibility for your own relationships can be an empowering and freeing thing. https://goingmedievalblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/26/on-incels-and-courtly-love/

      1. DQ*

        I read this sentence as “medical/medieval views of Courtney Love” and had a whole other image going on.

    1. Work Wardrobe*

      Agree. It really makes me wonder if the OP and her spouse don’t trust themselves to maintain their own standards of fidelity when faced with a car ride in the presence of a coworker.

      1. Mom MD*

        Or spouse doesn’t trust OP to sit in a car with any unrelated male. Nevertheless, she worked it out to her comfort level. The marriage issue is another topic altogether.

    2. ExcelJedi*

      Thank you for saying this. I have plenty of friends of other genders – from work, school, and elsewhere – and I wouldn’t have staying in a relationship with my spouse for long if he saw them as threats, or expected me to stop making new friends because of him.

      Also, what does this say about us queer folk, who aren’t restricted to just one gender to fall for? Is every relationship a slippery slope for us?

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Well, don’t you know that you’re just lustful animals who want to bring everyone over to your side?

        Sarcasm intended, in case that was not clear.

        1. ExcelJedi*

          Whoops! I forgot, there are no friends for people like me, just potential notches in out belts. ;)

        2. Lumos*

          I thought the Agenda was trying to hide that we’re secretly dragons? It’s not? [/sarcasm]

      2. General Ginger*

        Hey hey, the Jedi aren’t supposed to have slippery slope relationships! Unless things are different for Excel Jedi?

      3. Wintermute*

        ExcelJedi aren’t supposed to have attachments, they lead to the Excel Dark Side (by that I think they lead to macros and trying to use a workbook as a substitute for a database).

    3. NotAnotherMananger!*

      My spouse, who grew up in a conservative, rural, evangelical area, had to be disabused of that exact negative magical thinking at the outset of our relationship. It confused me because, overall, he had entirely rejected those values and the pretty misogynist views of the religion in which he was raised – why did he think one day I was going to look across the conference table at Dave from Accounting and be lovestuck over the budget numbers? It took a lot of serious talks about how that thinking insulted me, my personal agency, and my integrity to turn the corner, and, of all things I can recall us fighting about in the early days, that was the one that almost lead to a breakup.

      I am not evangelical and do not profess to be an expert, by any means, but the one thing I have noticed in the decades of visiting his family/hometown, is that there DOES seem to be a significantly larger belief in external locus of control and lack of agency (mostly because what happens is “God’s will”, so interfering with it ranges from blasphemous to pointless). I kind of wonder if that plays into this sort of dynamic.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I was converted to evangelical Christianity by a group of born-again missionaries in the late 80s, along with a friend of mine, and as such was exposed to some of what this community reads/posts. My takeaway is that the evangelical community is still coming to terms with the fact that a married woman can work outside of home. The Bible says her place is at home, and as for not being able to make ends meet on one income, God will provide. They are still trying to make sense of this puzzling and alarming situation. Who knows what temptations lurk behind the office doors. Could even be Dave from Accounting!

        1. Specialk9*

          Just as the counterpoint, since I’ve been open about my similar background and reservations about female roles in evangelical Christianity, I do ALSO have plenty of friends who manage to be evangelical and strong educated women leaders. It’s not an absolute thing, and some people find a healthy way through that stuff. I didn’t, but my friends seem to have.

      2. nonegiven*

        >one thing I have noticed in the decades of visiting his family/hometown, is that there DOES seem to be a significantly larger belief in external locus of control and lack of agency

        This is exactly my uncle. He and his 2nd wife broke up both their marriages when he was ‘counseling’ her as a religious leader. It wasn’t their fault because the devil made them weak. Then it was God’s will somehow that they got married?

    4. Bea*

      This is so well said and thought out. Instead of all the boiling rage I was feeling reading this update. Thank you.

      My family is all faithful and have been with their spouses for decades. So I haven’t known anything else and find these magical ideas such a copout. Some people are just not trustworthy and stay for a million reasons that they choose to do, no wizard woman or man lured them from their righteous path.

    5. Specialk9*

      I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the direct line between medical chivalry, and toxic masculinity.

      I was trying to explain to my best friend, a guy, why I love the Iron Druid series, but hated the Dresden Files.

      I kept trying to explain why aggressive, non-consensual chivalry is so creepy and selfish. He kept thinking it was about opening doors, and I kept trying to explain that opening doors can be great — but with the certain attitude it was about the erasure of women, the demands that we respond a certain way (stroking the male ego) and how it feels like tipping a guy from ‘Schrodinger’s Rapist’ to ‘yeah maybe don’t be alone with this guy ever’. (He was deeply disturbed to realize Schrodinger’s Rapist was a thing and things petered out.)

      It just feels like that idea of chivalry settles into some people’s heads and goes super toxic. I’ve been rerunning the conversation in my head since and still don’t have it right.

      1. Anon.*

        Oooh thanks now I have a book to read this weekend. (and Dresden didn’t bother me too much, I will have to rethink on that one)

      2. Former Employee*

        Thanks for the “Schrodinger’s Rapist” reference. I’d never heard of it before, so I looked it up. Makes total sense to me. I see it as tying in with “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker.

    6. LBK*

      FWIW, I didn’t think the OP was necessarily saying that spending time together would inevitably lead somewhere or that it would cause you to lose control of yourself, but rather that it could deepen a natural connection you might have with someone that otherwise wouldn’t be given the opportunity to flourish. You’re right that you control your actual actions, eg hooking up with someone, but you don’t really control your attraction to someone, physical or emotional.

      To be clear, I still don’t agree that this is the right approach to avoid those kinds of situations. If you find yourself getting drawn to someone else, that can be important information about your current relationship that you should process rather than running from it.

  19. Work Wardrobe*

    “I have two friends that this exact thing happened to, and it ended up imploding their marriages…”

    That had nothing to do with work travel, and everything to do with the unbridled desires of two consenting adults.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Or ‘work travel’ was the excuse they used for their bad behavior.

    2. smoke tree*

      Although I did meet my partner at work, there is something about office life in general and work travel in particular that seems supremely unsexy. This is kind of the last place I’d consider a natural breeding ground for torrid affairs.

      1. NotAnotherMananger!*

        Yes! I was just commenting to my boss the other day that I had met a lot of people I liked as people at work but, not one single time, had I felt remotely physically attracted to any of them. I have a fairly deeply ingrained don’t-shit-where-you-eat philosophy, I think. Most of the times I’m here late at night, all I’m thinking is, “Man, would I really like to get this done so I can go home!”

    3. Penny Lane*

      Exactly! Guess what, OP? If your friend had wanted to cheat with Bob from Accounting, she would have done so. Whether your friend and Bob from Accounting happened to travel to Dubuque in a car for a long period of time has nothing to do with anything. You’re assigning the causative factor completely incorrectly.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Exactly, I am having trouble believing in a perfect, loving marriage that suddenly implodes for no reason other than a spouse’s working relationship with a colleague led to sex, as working relationships do. If only he hadn’t stayed late going over TPS reports with his subordinate, he and his ex-wife would still be happily together. I’m not buying this.

  20. Phoenix Programmer*

    The thing that gets me is the part about time alone leads to friendship leads to affairs. I mean people who are going to commit affairs will do so when the opportunity arises yes. But that doesn’t mean that everyone with the opportunity to commit affairs will. And frankly anyone who is blaming their affair on business travel is being a weeny and not owning up to their mistakes.

    If OP and spouse want to limit this for themselves fine but please don’t spread the misconception that sexually compatible folks can’t be just friends.

    1. Technical_Kitty*

      OMG so much this. I work in mining, it’s dudes pretty much as far as the eye can see at work. If I started sleeping everyone I was “compatible” with I wouldn’t have time to work. It’s a pretty insulting generalization.

    2. Bea*

      I’ve developed amazing relationships with men in my career. They’re supportive of my growing achievements and love what I’ve done for their businesses or how I’ve helped them do their jobs well.

      There has been nothing sexual involved and it truly grosses me out to think of them that way. They’re all happily married and I think their wives are badass wonderful women who are married to men who adore them.

      My male friends ask me for advice about what to get their wives or mention they’re going out for an anniversary dinner frequently. Then ask how my partner is doing on the project he’s involved in and so on.

      Seriously life does not revolve around a D finding all the Ps it possibly can.

    3. LawLady*

      And truly, I don’t love OP and her husband doing this for themselves either. Why? Because that belief system is what leads to women being unable to find mentors and work closely with the most powerful people.

      I’m a junior lawyer. The standard way to develop your career at a big firm is to find a few mentors who teach you and gradually give you business. It’s long hours over many years of working closely together. The majority of partners (and the vast majority of rainmakers) at my firm are men. If any of the partners in my firm believe this, they won’t mentor and develop me.

      I guess I can hope OP’s husband is self-employed with no employees, but the belief itself is actively harmful in most workplaces.

      1. CristinaMariaCalabrese (do the mambo like-a crazy)*

        Thank you for saying this. I too find this attitude harmful to others.

      2. Specialk9*

        Right, but OP is making a rule that harms her own career. That’s her right.

        I hadn’t thought about the husband side though, that’s where their rule can harm others.

        1. Wintermute*

          it doesn’t just harm her own career though, as LawLady said, taken in aggregate there is harm to others. This attitude writ large is what created the glass ceiling in the first place.

  21. ChippingInner*

    I am glad the OP seems to have found peace with it. I would still recommend addressing the trust issue, especially in light of her having PTSD to deal with. Lack of trust and fear can be so limiting in so many ways, and not all areas in (work-)life can be regulated as well as this one which seems to have been much thanks to an understanding manager.

    Not to spur any further fears but I feel I would have to take issue with the assumption that the solution is to limit the time spent with the opposite sex. There are allegations that many Mormons have ended up homosexual as a result of spending a lot of time together with other young men on longer trips. As ill-founded as it may sound, it illustrates that the underlying issue lies elsewhere.

    1. Bea*

      The age old fear that men cannot exist without sex, I mean those old stories about sailors at sea come to mind. Without bringing in any specific organizations, it’s very ingrained many places.

      Just like the priests who have been found preying on going boys. Or the attacks that happen between men on men throughout the world and history.

      Don’t be alone with anyone is what others boil it down to but group attacks and yeah.

      It breaks my heart knowing how scared some people are and live in all this constant fear of these boogymen we create to make sense of psychopaths who did something tragic at some point in human history.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Well, then you have men calling themselves “involuntary celibates” which assumes that women owe them sex. That plays directly into the ‘sex can’t survive without sex’ mythos.

        1. Bea*

          Awww those creatures and their fragile feels belong in their miserable tangled minds. Yes, those vile shop animals are not helping anyone.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          And obviously that was supposed to say ‘men can’t survive without sex’.

        3. Kag*

          As a woman who’s not interested in having sex with those men, does that make me a voluncel? Of course, I would prefer von Cel, as it’s much more aristocratic.

      2. Specialk9*

        Some of us are scared of specific people who did bad things to us directly, and we know it’s super common so learned to be wary – not bogeymen from history.

  22. Raina*

    I’m glad to hear everything is working out but OP must remember that this is WAY outside of business norm … don’t expect it to work out so smoothly in your next job.
    And in the update, OP states not caring what others think but in re-reading the original letter, I think there is an over-sensitivity to what others think or may perceive …

    1. DCompliance*

      I agree. Keeping in mind this is outside the norm is important, but if OP found a solution that is working, great.

  23. Bea*

    I’m glad you found a happy medium and got what makes you comfortable at work.

    Affairs do not just magically happen but whatever works for your marriage and you’re at least on the same page with your husband so yeah, glad you’re happy.

  24. Lady Phoenix*

    OP, if you haven’t done so, you should consider talking to a therpist or EAP a out your PTSD. They are there to help you!

    And even couples counseling can be good too! That way you can have a third, unbias party member to help find way to maintain you guy’s trust while striving for work independence.

  25. seriously?*

    Replace “opposite sex” with “race” or “gender identity” and would this still be acceptable?

    1. Annie Moose*

      I would hesitate to directly equate these situations, especially when we’re discussing a woman with PTSD who’s uncomfortable spending long periods of time with men.

      1. Foxtrot*

        It’s a fair equation, honestly. We don’t know what happened, only that OP has PTSD. What if rather than “men” her biggest take away was “black people” are rapists or “Mexicans” will hold a gun to my head? “Lesbians” are physically abusive?
        Mental health diagnosis should be used to get people the tools they need to succeed in life and thrive. OP may very well have gone through something traumatic that will require therapy and some boundary drawing exercises. It’s not ok to use PTSD as an excuse for bad behavior or inappropriate attitudes and just leave it at that.

        1. Specialk9*

          This seems like trying to find the least charitable reading for the OP. It’s really not necessary to coal-rake twice.

      2. yeah ok*

        Very well, I was mugged and sexually assaulted by two black men three years ago. I have PTSD from the event. Should I go tell my black coworker that I don’t want to travel/have a meal/be in a meeting with him?

    2. Long time lurker*

      Except not wanting to be alone with the opposite sex is a religious and/or cultural value that has an established history, though it’s less common nowadays. When you saw the original letter, you didn’t assume that the LW had a thing against men, did you? That’s why. We read that headline and know that *personal* values are a real possibility in what’s driving the person, as opposed to “omg that group of people are bad”.
      Whereas if an LW wrote in saying that they don’t want to interact with [insert race here], prejudice is exactly what we would have assumed.

      1. Mike C.*

        The belief still causes significant harm, as Alison demonstrated in her original response.

        1. Long time lurker*

          It can, yes, but it doesn’t have to. It depends on how willing society is to work around it. It’s not something fundamentally icky like racism.

          1. Specialk9*

            Really? I’m not sure I agree with that. I grew up in a very Pence-y religious culture, and I have *very strong* opinions about the harm it did to me, and even more the women who didn’t get out.

            1. Long time lurker*

              I can appreciate that. I know some people have had a negative experience with this, but as someone who has not, I don’t think it’s inevitable. The assumptions and thinking behind the belief, as well as how it’s applied and how it’s taken in conjunction with other beliefs, all play a role.

              1. Specialk9*

                I didn’t say it was inevitable. But I can say that harm is the most likely result of a fundamental religion-based economic inequality based on gender.

                I too know people for whom this isn’t true, but they tend to have other privileges that pull them up (white, upper middle class, college/grad degrees). But the setup is one that has serious fundamental (heh) flaws, and I’ve lived them.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Google “wage gap” and then tell me it’s not fundamentally icky.

              1. Wintermute*

                it’s really not, writ large, this attitude is what created the glass ceiling. Men wouldn’t mentor women for fear of “the appearance of impropriety” which meant no mentorship opportunities and less access to senior leadership which meant less opportunity for advancement which meant that at entry level women out-earn men in many fields but women as a whole earn less than men because there’s a certain level in the corporate org chart where women just stop flat.

          3. Working Hypothesis*

            I don’t think it can be done without harm of some sort, because even if society is “willing to work around it,” the way society works around it is by shoving women out of the workplace.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              Even if it is a religiously motivated sexism. We don’t give religiously motivated racism a pass, so why is it ok for sexism?

      2. Technical_Kitty*

        Racism has an established history too. Doesn’t make it okay to practice it now.

        And when I read her letter the first time I assumed she did have something against men, in the religious sense where they are assumed to be slavering beasts who can’t control themselves.

        If she has PTSD and/or feels (however rightly or wrongly) unsafe that’s fine, avoid away, it’s great that work is able to accommodate her. If she somehow thinks 1. men can’t control them selves, this is a BIG issue, or 2. that she won’t control herself, that is also a rather large problem, ans she should get to a therapist.

        1. Long time lurker*

          You misunderstand. The point isn’t that having a history makes something okay. The point is that the history of limiting interaction with the opposite sex specifically makes us aware that this is a personal value that one may have, not a vendetta against a specific group of people.

          With regards to assuming that LW believes men have no self control, I would argue that’s an issue with those who read into things that way, not an issue with those who express wariness at interacting with the opposite sex. There are so, so many people who have, and had, this value who don’t think that at all. In fact, there’s a comment just below about how LW may be referring to unwittingly developing feelings or becoming too emotionally close, rather than physically cheating.

          1. cryptid*

            Literally all of your commentary also applies to racists and homophobes. Historical precedent is not absolution for unethical, discriminatory behaviour.

      3. Susana*

        Maybe, but you also can’t impose your religious values on your workplace. Exercise, but not impose. She won;t have lunch with a male colleague alone? Her loss, and could hurt her professionally. Refusing to have one-on-ones with men at the office? Nope. Working in an office that is not a nunnery means working with men, and you don’t get to insist on a third person being there.

    3. Lehigh*

      I’d be pretty sympathetic with a black person who did not want to be alone with white people. I’m not sure it would be practical, but I wouldn’t consider them somehow “bad” because of it.

  26. Candid Candidate*

    OP, in light of the MeToo movement and your mention of PTSD, a lot of women reading this post can definitely relate to your desire to limit one-on-one time with men in a professional setting. And men reading this, maybe YOU are trustworthy and can’t understand why women would be afraid to be alone with you, especially outside of the office, but if you haven’t already figured it out, predatory men in professional contexts usually get away with it by acting like the charming good guy. We don’t always know who to trust, so we have to be careful.

    That being said, OP, part of what has created our culture of toxic men abusing women is this notion of the slippery slope, that cross-gender friendships will inevitably lead to sex. This notion that men can’t help themselves, that women are temptations in any context, that we can’t trust ourselves to be one-on-one with another gender without giving in to carnal desires – is a narrative that abusive men use to excuse their behavior, and to make women feel powerless. That’s the thing that we have to dismantle, if the workplace is ever going to be equitable and safe for everyone. It’s honorable to set boundaries to protect your marriage and to use discernment around how you interact with your male coworkers, but I would also caution you to reexamine some of your beliefs around male/female friendships being a slippery slope to sex, especially in a professional context.

    1. Long time lurker*

      Eh, I don’t agree with the OP with regards to male/female friendships leading to cheating (though I may be more sympathetic to her personal values as someone who also isn’t comfortable having male friends). But I disagree that this mentality feeds into abuse and victim blaming. “I can’t help myself no matter the circumstance (including when the other party is not consenting)” is different from “I know we’re both interested and so the possibility is dangling right in front of me which makes it really tempting”.

      Just to be clear, I believe that people are fully responsible for cheating regardless of whatever “temptation” they come across (also not saying that the LW doesn’t think this! I have no idea, I can’t make assumptions like that from the letter in either direction). But the idea that cross gender relationships will lead to cheating doesn’t directly feed into our sexual harassment problem.

      1. LBK*

        I think it promotes a narrative of inevitability that instills entitlement in men about the women around them falling for them if they just put in enough time.

        1. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

          Yeah, I mean think about arguments around women in the military or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, where the prospect of romantic/sexual attraction was used an excuse to marginalize and keep out certain groups or hyperfocusing on their performance and conduct. If you think that certain types of interactions will inevitably lead to those kind of relations, then it leads to dismissing people’s potential or locking people out for the sake of professionalism.

          And that’s a less actively harassment-flavored scenario. The idea of inevitability lends people more room for certain behaviors. If you expect say, a child to react more emotionally to a negative outcome, you’re probably not gonna side eye a toddler having a tantrum over not getting candy vs. an adult doing the same. If you transplant the idea “men and women in close proximity over long periods of time will inevitably, or more likely than not, engage in sexual behavior” and especially “men will act sexually aggressive to women” then it muddies the waters of appropriate workplace conduct. It allows cover for men to act and blame it on nature or “how men are” or “that’s what happens when you put men and women together” rather than….being assholes.

          And given that heterosexual men have been in power historically and still disproportionately are, this leads to them being in charge of what entails. This isn’t really a comment on LW specifically, as much as how these thought patterns lead to each other.

    2. Indie*

      Socially, you get to choose your male friends. You can choose men who are feminists, you can choose men who don’t think flirting is ‘banter’, you can choose men with an awareness of appropriate topics for conversation. That isn’t always true at work and people are allowed to nope out of non work contact where the vacuum of car silence is filled by:
      (Trigger warning on no 3)
      1) My wife doesn’t understand me..
      2) The girl I banged last night looked better with her clothes on..
      3) Hey how do rapists even rape? I can’t always get it in when my girlfriend helps…
      True stories, all. But Alison’s archives have worse.
      Plus, as individuals, we don’t HAVE to have opposite sex friends. That’s not everyone’s bag. The OP isn’t making social policy here.

    3. black man rising*

      So if a white woman didn’t want to ride in a car with me, it’s because I’m a man and not because I’m black? I doubt that. Enough with the coddling of this OP. If she can’t handle being around 1/2 the population, she needs to work in a box away from everyone else or a nunnery.

  27. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    I’m glad things are working decently for you, LW! And I have to give you props for bringing up your concerns with your manager in an appropriate way.

    About your husband – it’s between the two of you, really, but I really think that both of you need to let go of the idea that there’s a danger that any cross gender friendship can potentially threaten your marriage. Granted, I’m from the Northeast US, but it just seems like a very anxiety-provoking way to go through life. (Plus, it also assumes that the other gender can’t control their urges at all, which is kind of insulting, in my opinion. And don’t get me started on LGBT people – does this mean that bisexuals have to isolate themselves from everyone at work?)

    1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      (That last paragraph was specifically directed at the idea of cross gender relationships. As for LW’s PTSD…I don’t feel qualified to speak on her experience, and that might be the more relevant issue anyway. Plus, I just got a push notification about Charlie Rose, which I’m taking as another sign this is a legitimate concern.)

  28. Beth*

    God, I wouldn’t want to be in a car for hours with a coworker regardless of their gender. I barely want to be in the car with family for road trips! I don’t agree with the underlying reasoning that men and women interacting leads to ruined marriages, but in terms of practical actions, insisting on traveling alone for long hauls seems entirely reasonable.

  29. Not a Mere Device*

    If you’re trying to draw a line on coworkers become friends can become close in ways that endanger existing relationships, I suspect it would give you more flexibility, and a better social life and such, if you’re careful about the “friends can become more” part rather than the “coworkers can become friends” part.

    I’m guessing you have some guidelines that you use for socializing with people you don’t work with; the situation isn’t that different if it’s Fergus from accounting instead of Harry who you went to school with or Ron who lives down the street. You wouldn’t look weird at work for telling a visiting widget salesman “sorry, I can’t have dinner with you, my husband and I have plans” or telling Fergus “thanks, but I keep my work socializing to the department happy hours.”

  30. animaniactoo*

    I’m seeing a lot of comments attacking the OP’s thought process and views and I think they’re both judgmental and not realistic.

    1st – OP did not say that having a physical affair is what led to her friends’ marriages imploding. She said it was the emotional relationships that developed to be more emotional than intended. And she’s not wrong that unless you have a really good sense of where the boundaries of conversation are, it’s possible to really slip into an emotional connection that feels too important to give up and possibly even more important than your marriage without ever having made an active choice about it.

    Which moves into 2nd – OP also describes an environment and probably a background upbringing of small-town deep bible belt thinking and nosiness. A lot of what is (was, sometimes still is) taught and commonly held in such areas/backgrounds IS that the way to prevent yourself from being attracted to or acting on temptation is not to allow yourself to be alone with someone. It’s part and parcel of how you’re taught to conduct yourself with modesty and avoid temptation. People in general aren’t taught the explicit understanding that many of us have of how to be attracted to someone and yet hold a distance. How to keep it from developing into something more. Because… you shouldn’t even be attracted to someone else, and it’s actually quite a sin if you are, instead of part of being a human with a mind and eyes.

    Top that with surviving an abusive marriage that even further shakes your own confidence in yourself and… well… yeah, you can so easily have someone who sees rigid forms of thinking as being protective. Both from herself and from others.

    But this OP deserves mad kudos in my book. She’s looked around. She’s not trying to tell anyone else how to run their life or judging them for it. She’s questioning and working with her husband and open to feedback and venturing into new territory with a broader perspective of what she can do and how. I find that really commendable, and I think it sucks that people are judging her so hard for where she started without really thinking about how she got there or how open she is to both only applying her boundaries to herself and adjusting those boundaries after more consideration, based on the feedback she received before. Without being willing to give her some benefit of the doubt and credit for how she’s approached all of this and what she’s done about it.

    And for the record… the kind of emotional affair the OP describes her friends falling into CAN happen even to people who have their eyes open about it. It’s just a lot less likely to. So I’d also like to see less judgment of her statement from that standpoint as well. Because she’s really not entirely wrong. Maybe it’s only a .05% chance. But she’s choosing that she doesn’t want to risk even that .05% and I think that’s her choice to make, to decide where the hard boundary that is going to be more difficult than she wants to navigate is.

    1. LawLady*

      I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here and I think the OP deserves kudos for considering other peoples’ approaches and being non-judgmental. That said, I want to push back a little bit. I think you’re thinking of OP and her husband’s boundaries as being victimless. Let people live how they want to live and all that.

      But when people set boundaries such that they’re unwilling to work closely with those of the opposite sex, the victims are the people who don’t get the work and mentorship they could otherwise get. If there were no imbalance in the genders of powerful people, that would maybe be okay. But in the world as it exists, the effect of these boundaries is that women do not get to work closely with the most powerful people.

      You’re right that there exists a small chance of affair coming out of working closely with the opposite sex. But that has to be balanced against the (potentially large) discrimination that results in the kind of boundaries to prevent that small chance of affair.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Yes, but OP has backed up off that and narrowed it down to only the long-distance traveling together. In the update here she says she’s doing business lunches and traveling short distances alone with male coworkers or outside vendors. So she’s removed that hurdle and is replacing it with the reasonable conversational, etc. boundaries that most people rely on to keep the conversation/relationship from evolving past “work relationship”.

        1. LawLady*

          That is definitely an excellent step. But she is still wary of business relationships turning into friendships, etc. In a lot of professions, mentoring is key to progressing. Honestly I just don’t think that kind of mentoring is possible without a personal, non-transactional relationship existing.

          At big law firms, for example, the way you develop is by finding a few senior lawyers to mentor you and gradually give you business. It requires many hours spent working together, and it also requires that partners take a personal interest in your career development, send work you’d like your way, etc. I think if a male partner in my firm had the boundaries OP is talking about, there’s no way he’d be able to mentor me like that.

          1. NotAnotherMananger!*

            Yes, and big law firms historically have big problems with partnership diversity and poor percentages of women among their ranks, so find another barrier to chipping away at the boys’ club is disheartening.

        2. LawLady*

          To be clear, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying and I certainly don’t think that there’s no place for workplace boundaries.

          I just wanted to point out that these boundaries are not costless. If the couple wants to share a facebook account so that there are no social connections that aren’t shared as a way to prevent affairs, that’s a little weird, but fundamentally doesn’t harm anyone else. (I know a few people who have that particular boundary.) But the workplace boundaries do have a countervailing cost.

          1. animaniactoo*

            They can, but I think it also depends on the particular profession. In my current profession, I can have the boundaries OP and her husband have and never have it affect a single thing about my job or advancement within my role.

            If you’re in a profession where that’s not the case, it’s a good thing to be aware of and push back on the uneven effect.

            I think there may also be some room between what you’re thinking of as “working closely” and what other people would view as working closely enough to get the work done.

        3. Uncanny Valley*

          Was posting a separate comment but I agree with animaniactoo.

          This is why I appreciate forums like AAM, always a healthy discussion.

          I have found that at times, we are quick to give someone a pass and are more sympathetic if their reason for a specific concern/action is one we agree with or can relate to. What if OP has simply written, “I have had really bad experiences traveling with male co-workers in the past and I prefer not to do travel alone with them or share meals”

          Of course, OP’s reasons were more personal. Think of it though, many corporations encourage their employees to avoid impropriety or even the appearance of such all the time in the workplace. This goes way beyond personal interaction. This includes taking gifts, talking about trade secrets, the list goes on in on. The company want’s their employees to represent them appropriately. There are at times there are epic fails as we have learned from this great site!

          There is a balance between fanatical paranoia and being reasonably cautious. The METOO discussion has brought to the fore problems that have been going on for a long time and people of both genders are speaking up. I hope that there is room for consideration and appreciation for people like OP who are doing their best to reconcile their personal concerns with the requirements of the professional world. She at least was willing to seek advice, otherwise, we would not be having this healthy discussion about her situation.

          1. NotAnotherMananger!*

            Having a traumatizing experience that makes being along with male coworkers distressing is entirely different from having a moral code that segregates by sex to avoid temptation, so, yes, the reactions would be different. A PTSD diagnosis may require an employer to provide reasonable accommodation (and allowing the LW to travel separately would be a reasonable accommodation). It’s a medical issue.

            Believing that men and women being alone together is a path to temptation is not a medical issue. I guess it could head into “deeply held religious belief” territory, but that’s not the same thing as a limiting medical condition and should not be viewed/treated the same way.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Agree, and there’s also a bit of a difference between saying “I think I might fall for a coworker if we spend too much time one-on-one”, and saying something like “Long exposure in a business relationship can turn into close friendships, and friendships into more, sometimes without people realizing it until they’re emotionally involved.” As in, this can happen to anyone. One minute you’re in a business meeting with a colleague, and the next you’re both imagining each other without clothes on and fantasizing about each other while with your spouses. All because of those business meetings. This is a fairly incorrect assumption to make about how most of us interact with our coworkers. There are probably outliers, but most of us are professionals.

      2. President Porpoise*

        Yeah, but we’re talking long car rides with other people. That’s a professional opportunity that’s really not much of a professional opportunity.

      3. Indie*

        Ok but does that mean an individual woman can’t decide to be a SAHM? Because all women will catch the idea like the flu and no woman will progress professionally if one woman doesn’t? Besides, the OP is best placed to decide if she will progress or not. I progress professionally without travelling alone with men because there’s simply no call for me to do so in my line of work. I actually, unlike the OP, wouldn’t care that much about doing that as long as it’s a same day return trip. It’s the staying overnight away from home (which does not bother OP) that would kill me. Not out of fears of an affair, but just a very strong attachment to my own bed. I think work travel is a form of out and out madness. But I appreciate that you know, people are individuals and might be actually different to myself.

    2. OP*

      I wasn’t really planning on engaging in the comments on this post, because I’ve found what works for me right now and I’m sure it’ll be a topic of conversation with my husband in the future, so there’s not too much need to rehash anything, and I know I can’t convince everyone that I’m not some horrible person in some way. But I recognize your username from the prior post and your comments are the closest thing I’ve seen to exactly what I’m trying to convey, only you said it better. I am very private about my life, my marriage, and what my past is like, but I do recognize that my reaction to those things affects my business life, which is why I ask others in RL about what’s appropriate and why I wrote into AAM when I got mixed RL opinions. Unfortunately the original post didn’t include some details that the comments did, as in reading the comments I realized that I wasn’t giving all of the story, and then I needed to control what I told everyone because, frankly, there are things that aren’t anyone’s business (my detailed past, my therapy status, how much I trust my husband) and everyone made a LOT of assumptions that are untrue. I don’t and can’t take on being everyone’s poster child for ideal workplace or life norms, I just can’t. I have to handle myself right now. But I don’t have time to correct everyone. I kept referring back to the comments that you made in the prior post, and they made so much sense, and you’ve repeated that pattern here to the point where it sticks out to me. So even though I’m obviously writing this knowing that others will read it, I did want to say thanks again for understanding exactly where I’m coming from.

      1. LawLady*

        OP, I think there’s a good chance you won’t read this, but I want to write it anyway. Comment sections on advice columns tend to discuss things in a very broad, hypothetical way. There’s a lot of “I wonder if OP thinks x” and then discussion of how x thinking can lead to different outcomes. I know to you it feels like unfair assumptions because you don’t think x, but I think most commenters are just thinking of it as more of a thought experiment. And in your situation, you’ve given 2 explanations for a set of personal boundaries. One of your explanations touched off a ton of discussion and hypotheticals, some of which won’t relate to your specific situation. It’s still a really valuable conversation to have, I think, but I’m sure it’s jarring for you because you asked a specific personal question, and did not ask for a broad discussion of thought experiments.

        The sum total of all that is that I think just about everyone here recognizes that you should do what’s best for your mental health. It seems like you’ve come to a good solution and I wish you well.

        1. OP*

          I was hoping that animaniactoo would reply so I checked this post in one last shot and saw this.
          I understand that some people have the perspective of it being a ‘thought experiment,’ but I feel that’s too charitable also, given the comments I’ve seen specifically directed at me, and not in the ‘attitudes like this contribute to x/y/z social problem’ way, which I can attribute to a thought experiment and a larger discussion about social issues, but in the ‘OP should be working in a box because she’s probably racist’ way. The latter is not a thought experiment, it’s just plain mean spirited and based on literally nothing that’s been posted here, and it’s the reason why I don’t participate in many comment threads on this site in general, and was picky about the ones being made when I wrote in. Alison writes great responses to things, and I know there’s a community here so I made a choice to engage in it somewhat when Alison chose to answer my question, because not all comments are bad, as evidenced with animaniactoo’s advice. But not all posted assumptions can be dismissed as a thought experiment.

      2. animaniactoo*

        OP, I’m not really sure how I ended up back here today. But I did and I found your comment and while I’m not sure now that you’ll ever see it, I wanted to say that I’m really glad my comments helped you and you’re welcome.

  31. Matilda Jefferies*

    OP, you’ve clearly put a lot of thought into this. It’s great to see that you were able to come up with a solution that works for you, your husband, and your grandboss. Thanks for the update!

  32. The Good Receptionist*

    I differently dont want to travel for long periods of time with any coworker. Sometimes you just need time to decompress and gather your thoughts. As for the rule. I see why some would think its silly but when you have personally witnessed (as OP stated) something happen between people who’ve worked together end so destructively, I guess it changes your perspective. Its like seeing a horrible/fatal motorcycle accident, While the there’s nothing wrong with a motorcycle, A person may find them to be particularly off putting. it may not make sense to anyone else but that person who witnessed it would want to be extra careful.

  33. Granny K*

    “I have two friends that this exact thing happened to, and it ended up imploding their marriages…” Or maybe their marriages were already in trouble and these situations were symptoms of a bigger problem. I know this is a work blog but there seem to be a lot of unaddressed feelings here. I checked the original post and PTSD seems to only be in this letter. I’ll say it: have you gotten counseling for your PTSD? I think it would help you understand your feelings, and the origins of your feelings, and perhaps feel less vulnerable around situations you find uncomfortable.

    1. MicroManagered*

      +1 about the marriage already being in trouble.

      (I think LW mentioned PTSD somewhere deep in the comments on the original post.)

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Or maybe their marriages were already in trouble and these situations were symptoms of a bigger problem.
      Yep. You might be confusing the cause and the effect.

    3. Indie*

      As someone who’s been the victim of infidelity I really don’t appreciate the suggestion that betrayed spouses marriages cause affairs. Bad marriages cause divorce. Cheaters cause cheating. Cheaters who have decided to stay in a marriage which is beneficial for them in some way. It’s ancient history for me, and I have benefitted from the education, but there may be people reading this who are going through the worst experience of their lives. It’s even more of a shock to the betrayed spouse if the marriage is otherwise happy and their spouse’s behaviour is loving. I was childless and escaped unscathed by leaving quickly and cutting off all contact, but there are people with extreme depression and PTSD from the experience of betrayal and the gaslighting that goes with it. Most commonly the cheater decides they want to stay in the marriage so much that they manipulate forgiveness by blaming the one person in the marriage who did nothing wrong. People who have to maintain contact because of children get worn down into believing this. Please don’t (unintentionally) make their job easier.

  34. Alton*

    I think that when it comes to things like not wanting to share a car with a coworker for a long drive, it can be doable to have boundaries without explicitly making it about gender (even if in reality, you would be more comfortable riding with a woman than a man). The problem is primarily when 1) it’s obvious that you act differently around one gender than another or 2) either you or your coworkers are getting short-changed professionally because of this. I think it could be an issue, for example, if you agreed to ride with a female colleague and used that time for an important work discussion but you wouldn’t do that with a male colleague. But I don’t think something like wanting to drive in a separate vehicle is so unusual that you can’t draw some boundaries across the board. It’s probably easier and more flattering to be seen as the person who drives by herself because she prefers to than to be the person who will drive with women but not men.

  35. MyBossSaidWhat*

    OP I’m so glad you found a work around – your boss sounds much more accommodating than I’m used to as well! I just saw your prior letter… people can be crazy and gossip can be brutal. (And as a woman in a field of mostly straight dudes, it doesn’t always take sexual preference into account!)

  36. There All Is Aching*

    I love this update, because there’s nothing better than an OP here at AAM willing to be open to new perspectives vs. solely wanting validation for one way of thinking. Happy to hear you’ve found a balance that works for you, OP!

  37. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m confused…what is the update? Just that the boss said it was ok to take separate cars?

  38. HA2*

    This seems like a great outcome. Nobody needs you to, in a professional setting, spend many hours alone with someone; the car trip for getting somewhere can very well be done separately. But you still need (and have left your self) the ability to do things like have a one-on-one meeting with a vendor or a work lunch or dinner.

  39. MissDissplaced*

    I travel fairly often for work, and I have to say that it’s rare to have to travel alone with male colleagues. Typically, the most time might be meeting at the destination airport and sharing a car rental, but with crazy schedules, that often doesn’t work out.
    Nowadays, Uber often makes more sense instead of driving. For trade show trips, it’s usually a group of us. It seems there are many ways to mitigate having to be alone without needing to make a fuss and/or having anyone really even notice. I’d think that might be the case at most companies, unless you’re at a smaller nonprofit where travel budgets are much tighter.

  40. Wren*

    I’ll admit I was a little concerned for you OP after your original letter. I’m really glad to hear that between circumstances and a little flexibility on both your part and your employer’s that you have a situation you’re comfortable and that you aren’t faced with disenfranchising yourself.

    This counts as a happy update I think :)

  41. Elisabeth*

    Oof, I went back and read the original post after reading this and have such mixed feelings. I hear and feel all of the things about losing opportunities because of this. That said, I was on the receiving end of the “one thing leads to another, I have no idea how that happened!” and it’s definitely affected my ability to be trusting of partners in their work situations. My (now-ex) husband suddenly one day said he wanted a divorce, and after some conversation, it turned out he had befriended the secretary at work (who I had never heard of/didn’t know she existed/never knew her name/he had never talked about her), started going to lunch with her, and so on and so on. When I said the only way we could repair this would be if he did not associate with this person anymore and be very open about who he was with and when at work functions, he refused and said he had to work with her on a daily basis so that wasn’t an option, and also that he could “hang out with whoever without reporting back”… ?! so I can sort of see if you’ve had some sort of traumatic past related to this, how it would be difficult to trust someone in the future and also want to set these sorts of boundaries, whether for yourself or the other person or both to be fair. Totally recognize that this is all about personal trust and history, though, and I think needs to start with a relationship-building or counseling solution rather than a “how do I handle my work situations” issue. I agree with the need to be open and transparent about who you are with and when to build that trust. My ex would often disappear for happy hours after work and be home hours after he said he would be with no explanation, but still expect I’d wait for him for dinner, but refuse to tell me who he was with because it “didn’t matter.” So…. how do you negotiate being transparent and open but also respect that each person has their own job that they don’t need to share every second of their day of?

  42. Big Biscuit*

    I understand long car travel with a business colleague one does not know well might be awkward for a multitude of reasons so I get that separate cars is a workable solution. I mean, I do things for my work over the course of a year with travel, meetings and lunches/dinners that don’t always excite me, but you do them and move on. In a job where apparently business lunches are needed, can you really expect to separate them out by gender? I’m probably being harsh, but has OP thought about a job where travel and business lunches aren’t involved? It sounds like the current position includes business relationship building and you build them in a multitude of ways and situations. If it’s about trust in a relationship, people have been cheating on each other in a thousand different scenarios since the beginning of mankind, it ain’t just through work.

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