I’ve been accidentally dating my boss’s husband

A reader writes:

I’ve been accidentally dating my new boss’ husband, and I don’t know what to do.

I landed my dream job at my dream company. My boss is usually supportive and competent. My only issue is that she’s made some homophobic comments (I’m a gay man), but this is a conservative area and I’m not out at work It’s not a big deal for me personally because I’ve dealt with this kind of comments at every job I’ve ever had and honestly, she’s not as bad as many of the people I’ve dealt with.

I also recently started a relationship with a guy. We were keeping it quiet because I’m not out and he told me he isn’t either, but I really liked him and he was smart and funny and everything I’m into. It wasn’t just sex; we were dating for six weeks.

I might have gone on like this for some time, except there was a work party to which it was okay to bring a plus one, and my boss brought her husband, who turned out to be the man I was dating. Needless to say I broke it off with him ASAP, but I’m not sure if I should tell my boss. On the one hand, it’s going to look very bad (compounded by me being gay, and I don’t know that I’d be comfortable outing him) if I confess now, but on the other hand, if she finds out later the fall-out might be even worse.

I feel like I’m not thinking clearly because I’m still very pissed at him but still not over him, and I don’t know what to do. Help me, please?

Oh noooo. What an awful situation — and not one of your making at all.

So much of this hinges on whether she knows her husband dates men. Given her homophobic comments, I’m guessing she doesn’t know he’s gay or bisexual and this isn’t a situation where he has her blessing to date men on the side. Which means that he probably didn’t go home from that work party and announce, “Guess what, funny coincidence…”

And if those assumptions are correct — she doesn’t know he’s interested in men and she doesn’t know he sees other people — then I’d guess that the chances of her hearing about this from him are pretty low. That’s a huge assumption, obviously, and it doesn’t mean it won’t come out in the future, especially if he decides to come out to her at some point and wants to come clean about everything.

On the other hand, if you tell her now, you’re not only outing her husband, but there’s the risk she’ll have a spectacularly bad reaction.

Or not! Who knows, maybe she’d be remarkably mature about it, thank you for telling her, and go on working well with you for years to come. Maybe she’d be logical enough to see that you didn’t do anything wrong here, and there’s nothing for her to hold against you.

But a lot of people don’t respond that way.

There’s no good answer here! It’s a really horrible situation. You’re left having to weigh the risk of her having a bad reaction now (which could be fairly high) against the risk of her finding out later (which might be fairly low).

If she does find out later, I don’t think you’ll have made things significantly worse by not speaking up now (especially since you did break things off once you knew). If it’s going to be a crapshow if she finds out, that’s likely the case whether it’s now or later. So that might point you toward saying nothing, figuring their marriage is none of your business, and trying to wipe it from your mind … which has the additional benefit of not outing someone who may not be out.

I think my advice would be basically the same if you were a woman who had inadvertently dated her boss’s husband, although in that situation I’d be more inclined to think about you seeking protection from your company (by telling someone what happened and your fears of repercussions). I’m less inclined to suggest that here because you don’t have the same federal protections (and in some states could even be fired for being gay) and it sounds like you might be in a fairly homophobic area.

I hate to say it, but the best thing you can do here is to find a way to stop working for her. Is your company large enough that changing jobs internally is a possibility? If so, that’s where I’d focus — that would give you some protection and peace of mind that none of the other options do.

{ 671 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A request: People don’t become homophobic because they suspect their spouse of being gay. People are homophobic because of bigotry. Please stop with comments implying the boss is a homophobe because of the husband’s sexuality.

  2. Myrin*

    I don’t have anything to add to Alison’s advice but I wanted to say, OP, how very awful, I’m so sorry! I think most of us understand the feeling of being pissed at someone yet still having feelings for them and I hope you’ll be very good to yourself in the coming weeks.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Same – what a garbage situation. I wonder if she is homophobic because she has suspicions about her husband. Who knows?

      Anyway, I think that Alison’s advice is solid and I wish you well. You obviously didn’t do anything to create this and so I hope you do put yourself in a situation where there is no blowback for you. Best of luck and please come back to update when you have one!

      1. 1.0*

        I mean, I think you’re really underestimating how many people are casually homophobic from day to day.

        I’m also not crazy about this idea her husband cheating somehow MADE her homophobic. most homophobes are just homophobes, we gay people aren’t the ones responsible for making people bigots

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Oh my gosh – no – I would never think that or intend to imply that at all. My point was that on some level she might suspect and that’s why she’s having that inappropriate reaction. Of course it’s her issue and nobody else’s fault. I apologize for any offense – it was not my intention.

          As for the underestimating the number of homophobic people out there – perhaps you are right.

          Regardless, OP deserves better than this junk show and I hope he protects himself.

          1. Just Elle*

            I think whether this woman is
            a) casually homophobic
            b) lashing out with homophobic language because she’s feeling betrayed by her husband
            …both point to it being a spectacularly bad idea for the LW to tell her. Because all evidence points to her not being someone who will react in a calm, mature, professional manner.

            Also, LW, just wanted to add to the chorus of “woof, this totally sucks and isn’t your fault.”

            1. Iva*

              I think people are casually bigoted as a rule. It’s just some bigotries in some places are more allowed.

              If this LW is in an area where the homophobia is so casual, I’d bet there are a lot of other casual bigotries…

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this.

          The LW said they’re in a “conservative area” so my guess is that a certain level of homophobia is the default setting, and is also why her husband married her despite being interested in men–because that’s what people are expected to do around there (and maybe he hadn’t realized this about himself at the time).

          I also live in a fairly conservative area and I cannot tell you how many default-setting homophobes I’ve known who were the last to see the obvious signs that a friend or relative was gay, and I’m pretty sure it’s because they:

          A) Assume everyone is straight unless they’re really loud about otherwise,
          B) Sorta think that all gay people are flaming television stereotypes,
          C) Don’t have any practice picking up cues because any gay acquaintances they have are either in deep denial themselves or are passing to they aren’t ostracized,

          . . . and nearly all of them would be adamant that they’re not homophobic because of course nobody wants to think they’re a hater and, if everyone you know holds a certain view, you tend to believe that it’s neutral, even if it’s not.

          1. Luna Lovegood*

            I don’t mean to nitpick something that wasn’t even your main point, but he might also have married her because he’s bisexual and actually wanted to be married to his wife (even if he’s now seeing other people). A lot of people have a tendency to assume that a man who is married to a woman and dating men is secretly gay, but he could be attracted to people of different genders (and his wife might be well aware of it, though I think that’s unlikely in this case). I find myself falling into these assumptions even as a bisexual woman, so I like to point out that there is an alternative possibility.

            1. Just Elle*

              This is a good point.

              I feel like regardless of whatever ‘reasons’ he ended up with the desire to cheat, we should all be able agree that people who act on their desires to form false relationships instead of getting a divorce are jerky jerks. The worst kind of jerky jerks, because they actively and at great length take advantage of (at least) 2 other people. I mean, he had absolutely 0 societal pressure to lie to LW about his marital status, that was 100% self serving.
              Good reasons aren’t the same thing as valid excuses.

              1. JessaB*

                This, I don’t care whether hubby is gay, bi, or something else, if you are in an exclusive relationship (whether formalised in law or religion or both or not,) you do not go date and have sex with other people outside that relationship without either A: having permission or B: ending the first relationship. That’s just … how the world is supposed to work.

                On the other hand, it’s not the OP who is in the wrong. It’s never ever the fault of the extra person when they weren’t even told their boo was married. Yet it seems that the knee jerk reaction of the wronged partner is to usually go after the outsider. This sucks.

                I agree with Alison and most of the commentariat that it’s probably a bad idea to bring it up, simply because the odds of it going badly, even if the boss wants to try and be civil and professional about it, are high. People want to act well and often don’t and in this case add in homo/bi-phobia potential and it just … stinks.

              2. Allya*

                I agree that the behaviour isn’t ok, but I do have empathy for someone who is not straight and trying to get by in a context where there’s a lot of pressure to pretend that they are.

                I’m not saying he’s not a jerk but “the worst kind of” jerk seems a little excessive. People make bad choices when their identity and personhood are under constant attack (which is the case whether he’s gay or bi).

                I never cheated but I did date someone I wasn’t in love with because I felt pressured to deny my sexuality and it was just a really awful time in my life. I can’t really emphasise enough how your perception of the world gets skewed. In theory, the right thing to do would be to break up with the person so that you can both be happier in more authentic relationships, but in practice it just feels absolutely imperative to preserve the relationship at all costs. Because it’s not just a relationship, it’s a symbol of your ability to belong and perform the role that’s expected of you – this is how I felt even though I had a supportive community of queer people around me (it was only my family who were pressuring me). I can only imagine what it would be like to be in that situation without that community.

                I was openly bi and everyone thought I was happy even though I was destroying myself trying to be someone I wasn’t. I started dating him because I liked him (and I was trying not to be in love with someone else), but when I started to question the relationship, I felt like there was no way out. If I couldn’t make it work with him then maybe I’d never be able to make it work with any guy, and my family couldn’t accept me being in a relationship with someone who wasn’t a guy, so what was I supposed to do? Also, if I broke up with him would my parents realise that I was still in love with my ex girlfriend?

                Actually it occurs to me that maybe the reason I now id as queer/lesbian rather than bi is that there just aren’t really stories about how this particular dynamic can play out for bi people – if you have the ability to be attracted to a gender then surely you could never be self destructively using a relationship with someone from that gender to escape your real sexuality, right?

                Anyway, I was a teenager and this guy is an adult so obviously his options look different to the ones I had, but I just don’t want to assume his actions are coming from a place of being coldly manipulative when it could just as well be desperation. It doesn’t change what the LW should do – ending that relationship is obviously the wisest option. I just think maybe no one in the story has to be a monster.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              Yes, this is also possible, although it doesn’t rule out him being gay.

              And none of that changes the seeming fact that he’s cheating.

                1. ABK*

                  Generally, gay people identify as being interested in one sex, while bisexual people identify as being interested in both. They are different identities, even though their activities may at time align. This is becoming an old school dichotomy, but if we are using the dichotomy, respect the difference!

              1. Iva*

                He isn’t certainly gay either and a loooot of posters here are assuming he’s in the closet.

                We simply don’t know either way.

                1. whingedrinking*

                  Not assuming.
                  We were keeping it quiet because I’m not out and he told me he isn’t either.

                2. Iva*

                  That doesn’t make him gay. That doesn’t mean he’s in the closet wrt to his wife.

                  He may or may not have *gulp* lied to the LW about his status. You know, like he lied about being married.d

                3. Avasarala*

                  He might identify as something else but “dude dating dudes” is kinda the main thing behind being gay/bi…

            3. Iva*

              There’s also homo- and heteroflexible people who aren’t fully bi, but like to experiment.

              We have no idea how he self-identifies, what he desires, or even what he does as a general rule.

              I think assuming husband is int he closet is just an assumption.

              I also know people who are not hetero who have made homophobic comments. Sometimes it’s self-hate, sometimes it’s b/c it’s what is expected in the moment.

              It’s vicious living in a society (a world) that represses people on this point. It can lead to masochistic, self-hating behavior.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                In this particular situation, I think the phrase “in the closet” is more of a shorthand for “his wife doesn’t know he’s out there banging dudes”.

                I also don’t think it’s an unreasonable leap to think that this man is bi or gay and feels unable to come out because they live in a conservative area. I’ve always lived in liberal areas, so I have no idea what it’s like to not be able to be open about my sexuality. And even where I live, I still have no legal protections re: employment/housing/etc.

              2. Iva*


                I don’t disagree. I just think people are getting hung up – really hung up – on facts not in evidence. Also on points that don’t matter.

                We also likely won’t know b/c we can’t trust what he told LW. He did, after all, fail to disclose he was married. So I don’t think LW can really know what the situation for the husband really, truly is. Nor can we.

            4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              but he might also have married her because he’s bisexual and actually wanted to be married to his wife (even if he’s now seeing other people).

              That was my immediate assumption. I mean, I’m not a fan of this guy, but I’m seeing several people in these comments jumping straight to “he only used her as a cover/he never loved her to begin with” and the evidence for that is just… not there.

              And I think it goes without saying that I think OP should not be outing this guy (because he’ll out himself in the process, but also, as much as I dislike what the guy did, this is just not done).

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      OK, I lied on “nothing to add.”

      I wouldn’t tell her unless you can find a way to not work for her. The best and most rational of people are going to have a lot of trouble looking in an unbiased and professional way every day at the person who revealed to her that her marriage isn’t what she thought it was (and not only that her husband was having one or more affairs, but that he’s an MSM, something she seems to think is wrong, on top of that). There’s a pretty decent chance she’ll blame you, but even if she doesn’t, I don’t think she’s going to be able to look at you without pain for a good long time, and separating that out from her evaluation of you as a worker is going to be damn hard to do.

      1. KayDeeAye (Kathleen_A)*

        Yeah, we all know that in a situation like this, the one at fault is the cheating spouse, not the person who accidentally helped that person cheat. Unfortunately, the cheated-on spouse often – and I do mean often – doesn’t see it that way.

        So, OP, I think Alison’s advice is right on. Which sucks, but whatcha gonna do?

        1. RaeaSunshine*

          This. Once, and only once, I found myself as the ‘other woman’ and because I was young and naïve I was 100% convinced that the only course of action was to tell the wife (via social media DM because I was scared). I thought that since that was *clearly* the right thing to do morally, and *clearly* I was not at fault as I didn’t even know he was in a relationship let alone MARRIED… that even if it wasn’t well received it would be appreciated. Ya know, girl power; women looking out for other women, that whole thing. NOPE. She sent me the nastiest message back about how I must have seduced him, and how she hope when I’m older that the same thing happens to me and some ‘spring chicken’ taken all everything I hold dear in this world… blah blah blah. I was willing to let that roll off my shoulders, since it’s understandable to have an emotional reaction and project in a situation like that. But then the crazy lady reached out to my employer and sent the owner a message on LinkedIn about how unprofessional I am, and a tart. Luckily the owner and I worked closely together, so he knew better than to take it seriously and I had enough rapport with him to be transparent about the situation once he told me about the message.

          Never heard from her again, but I assume she is under the assumption she got me fired. Ya know, since I’m such a tart. NEVER AGAIN.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          I have never seen or heard of the cheated-upon spouse not being angry at the affair partner, even when that partner was unknowing, or unwilling. I’ve seen people end friendships despite the potential affair target saying ‘no way, that’s awful, stop now!’ There’s so much anger, some inevitably spills over on the affair partner.

          Don’t tell, OP, because it will only hurt you. It’s not your fault, but it seems to be how we’re socialized. Even if you move bosses, she’s higher in the company ladder and will still have leverage to use against you.

          Internet hugs if you want them, this situation sucks a lot.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            This. I don’t even think it’s how we’re socialized, I think it’s much deeper than that. Psychologically, we tend to really want to make things work with a partner in whom we’ve invested time and emotion and shared property. Consequently, it’s easier and even second nature just to transfer all the rage over infidelity onto the affair partner. Not saying it’s the correct thing to do, but I think it is a hardwired response that a person really has to work at overcoming. Don’t tell the wife. It will not go well.

            1. Takes two to tango*

              If the affair partner knew the guy was married, it’s 110% legit for the wife to blame the affair partner. And the affair partner should be legally on the hook for alimony, loss of consortium, etc. every bit as much as the husband.

              1. KayDeeAye (Kathleen_A)*

                No. I can’t agree with you there. Certainly someone who has an affair with a person they know is married shares some of the guilt. But the larger share of the guilt (both socially and legally) belongs to the one who promised to love, honor and cherish the person they just cheated on.

                But be that as it may, none of that matters here because the OP didn’t know the guy was married.

              2. Librarian1*

                The affair partner can’t be legally on the hook for anything because they did not make any legal commitments to the spouse of the person who was cheating.

          2. AnonForThis*

            I must be the exception, then. I wasn’t angry with my husband’s affair partner – not at first, not later, not ever. I wasn’t even all that angry with him, tbh – just hurt and confused and betrayed. I don’t think I gave the affair partner a passing thought after the first disclosure and never had the slightest desire to make contact with her or impede her life in any way.

        3. The Rules are Made Up*

          This is true. I think the crux of AdAgencyChick’s post is that even if rationally the boss knows that it’s her husband’s fault and not the OP, it would be hard for even the most mature and rational person to go to work every day and have to manage the person who their spouse cheated on them with. Even if she divorces her husband immediately there really is no going back after your boss knows you as the person her husband cheated on her with. There’s really no saving that working relationship if he tells her.

      2. Daphne Tyson*

        This! Ad Agency Chick I agree completely. I wouldn’t say anything – there’s a real possibility she could shoot the messenger, unfortunately and its a common reaction. She could see you as the homewrecker, not her cheating husband. Her marriage is her business, and don’t tell her because you are mad at her husband for not being honest – that will not serve you. I think as Alison said, if there is another part of the company you could transfer to, that would be a good solution. If it is too awkward or emotionally fraught for you you may have to leave. I am so sorry, and I echo another comment posted here – please take care of yourself and know that none of this reflects on you. good luck.

        1. It's mce*

          Agreed. She could be in denial that he’s gay or bi if she finds out. You did the right thing by breaking it off. Also, if he comes in to visit, keep your distance.

      3. Marissa*

        Yes! On top of all your other worries, I think “shoot the messenger” has a high likelihood of happening here if OP is the one to break this news to boss about her husband.

        OP, I think you did right by your boss by ending it once you found out your boyfriend was her husband. It’s such an awful situation to be in, but it is not your doing. I don’t think you have any obligation to out yourself because of her husband’s actions.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Hard agree. Ugh, I feel so much compassion for OP—what a shitstorm not of his making.

  3. Tired DC Temp*

    I’d go further and say you need to leave the company ASAP. She’s going to be a radioactive reference if she ever finds out and the more distance you can put between yourself and her in a new position would be even more protection than an internal transfer.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Can’t upvote this enough. Pure speculation, but her homophobic comments could be due to insecurities about her husband being 100% straight. Or could come from such a sheltered life that she doesn’t think of gay people as real people. As in, “I would KNOW if I met a gay person. I’m not STUPID,” like it’s a quiz.
      You know in your heart that if this relationship implodes whether because she can’t deal with him being bi or because she had no idea , it’s going to suck in everything around it. You will be collateral damage.
      I’m sorry that this jerk played you. I’m sorry that you are the one who has to leave his life. I’m sorry that this couple gets to keep everything and you lose out.

      1. Ted Mosby*

        This woman has a cheating husband who carried on full blown emotional and sexual affairs and might have no attraction to him. This man is gay or bi and married to someone homophobic, living with her hate every day and very likely harboring a lot of internalized homophobia.

        I’m sorry for OP, it sucks to be manipulated and lied to, but strong disagree that leaving this dude’s life is sad, or that this couple has anything to be jealous of.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, both Boss and Husband are being shitty, but I kind of feel a little bad for both of them.

          OP is an innocent victim in this, though, and I feel much worse for him!

    2. Celeste*

      +1000 . Show yourself the door. It will help you emotionally because you will never have to go to another event that he’s at.

      You have my sympathy.

    3. 1.0*

      oh, OP, I’m so sorry – this is an awful situation to be in.

      I’d also lean towards leaving the company, honestly — I’m very risk averse when it comes to LGBTQ stuff, and while it’s not likely everything will come to light, if it does, being far, FAR away as quickly as possible is probably safer than anywhere your current boss could conceivably take things out on you

    4. Diahann Carroll*

      I don’t know – if the company pays well and has excellent benefits, I wouldn’t go anywhere if I was the OP. If the boss’s husband decides to come clean (which I highly doubt he ever will) and then tries to implicate OP in his deceitful fuckery, OP can hit him with the Mariah Carey “I don’t know her,” and keep it moving. What proof does the husband have to corroborate his claims? (OP, if he has proof, you may have to go with the Shaggy “It wasn’t me.” Then run.)

      1. ACDC*

        I’m with you, especially since OP described this as his dream job at his dream company. I wouldn’t give that up so easily.

          1. pally*

            Maybe anonymously help the manager to find a new job? Like maybe send the manager’s contact information to a number of recruiting companies-in response to their job ads (those that match her skills and background)?

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I hope the company is large enough that an internal transfer is possible. It really saddens me to think that OP would have to leave his dream company because his manager’s husband is an awful human being and there’s a chance that his manager might be too.

          1. Mid*

            I’m not sure the husband is an awful person. It’s really really tough to be gay in a homophobic area. It doesn’t excuse cheating, but it does add another layer of complication to things. It’s less black and white.

            1. Zillah*

              This. I’d go even further, tbh, and say that cheating doesn’t necessarily make you an awful human being even without these specific circumstances. Some cheaters absolutely are, but I also think there’s room for people to have made hurtful mistakes without it being a definitive reflection on their character as a whole.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                Thank you, Zillah. I’ve never cheated on a partner, but I am always a little disturbed by extreme condemnation of everyone who cheats on a partner as an irredeemable monster. It tends to go hand in hand with really nasty slut-shaming and to enable/justify abuse by jealous and paranoid partners.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  My concern was mainly with what he did to OP.

                  As someone who hasn’t been in a monogamous/exclusive marriage in 10 years and in a monogamous relationship in 4, my pet peeve is keeping partners/dates in the dark and withholding the information from them that is critical for them to know in order to decide whether they want to stay in any kind of a relationship with this person.

                  It tends to go hand in hand with really nasty slut-shaming and to enable/justify abuse by jealous and paranoid partners.

                  Thanks, I love you too.

              2. Starbuck*

                Being willing to lie to multiple people while being very intimate with them is absolutely a character flaw. It’s hard to think of a worse betrayal of trust. I personally can’t think of any circumstances where that would be excusable.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              He threw OP under the bus and now OP is considering having to leave what he describes as his dream job because of him.

              It’s tough for OP too. He’s in the same area. And this guy made it even tougher.

            3. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

              I’m sorry, but the husband lied to both the OP and his wife (and still lying to her!). So, no: the husband is an awful person (doesn’t mean his wife isn’t though, her homophobic comments are the evidence of that).

        2. Jules the 3rd*


          But OP can’t ever tell his boss that he knows anything about her husband other than what she says.

      2. Tired DC Temp*

        Except the boss will likely: A) fire him, B) blacklist him in the local industry at least and C) serve as a massive career black hole for him to navigate the next several years, regardless of the level of proof the husband has. That’s a massive risk to take for any career, dream or not. If OP had said he was in a supportive area with employment laws that protect LGBT people my advice would be different, but there’s nothing but downside to waiting for the bomb to possibly explode.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yeah, this. The risk might be low, but the consequences have the potential to be really severe.

        2. Iva*

          My fear is that if it goes off, it goes off in a career-ending way if he’s at the company.

          If he’s elsewhere and has built his life up, he can whether a scandal and survive. Where he’s at now? I don’t think that’s likely.

          TBH, I have seen plenty of cases where the unwitting mistress, sexual assault victim, or other innocent party was spectacularly and finally punished by being driven out (or worse) and the person with agency and/or guilt was still plugging along.

          Society does not have a good track record of treating innocent victims as they should.

        3. Anon Here*

          And it could explode any day. Boss could discover evidence, such as old text messages on her husband’s phone. Best to run far, far away.

          1. Zillah*

            This would be my fear, too. People often aren’t great at destroying all evidence that they’ve done something, and it’s impossible to know whether the husband is one of them.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Yeah, I’m thinking of that governor of Alabama who synced his sexts with his mistress to his wife’s iPad.

      3. the final pam*

        there’s a very real chance that if it comes out the husband was cheating with the employee, the husband could take advantage of the boss’ homophobia to frame the employee as a predator who just wouldn’t leave him alone. homophobes love to believe that about lgbtq folks. honestly as a gay dude in the deep south i don’t see a situation where the boss could ever find out and not have most of the negative reaction fall squarely on OP’s shoulders, even though OP i want to be absolutely clear this is NOT your fault in any way, and nor will any reaction she has

        1. the final pam*

          (sorry to bombard you, tired dc temp and i replied at the same time – wasn’t trying to dogpile)

      4. Bagpuss*

        I would also work on developing good relationships with other managers and team leaders in the company, so in a worst case scenario if the boss does find out and does retaliate against OP, he has other options in terms of providing a reference.
        (It may also be worth looking onto the company’s policies – even in a homophobic area, if it is a large company it may have anti-discrimination polies and may also have specifc policisies about who may give references. )

      5. the rainbow connection*

        I mean, “what proof does the husband have”, in a world full of text messages, e-mails, facebook… that husband probably has a lot of proof, even if the relationship didn’t involve sending photographs. This wasn’t an anonymous hookup. They were dating.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I don’t know, I guess I was thinking about this through my lens – I don’t have social media and I don’t keep old text messages from people I used to date. If I no longer deal with you for whatever reason, all of that mess gets deleted. But I’ll concede that I’m more than likely an outlier.

          1. RaeaSunshine*

            Even outside of social media and text message history, they may have met on a dating or hook-up app. Most have their own chat services/platforms as well.

          2. Zillah*

            I hear you re: old texts/contact info – but I think it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s harder to hide things like call logs and credit card bills, and there will often be stray emails even if you try to delete them all (e.g., an email about tickets to an event with the OP’s name on it, a “check this out” email, etc, etc). It’s really hard to truly get rid of everything.

            And even if he did, I don’t think most people respond to their spouse admitting to cheating on them with “show me proof, I don’t believe you.” The husband has no incentive to lie to his homophobic wife about cheating on her with her closeted gay employee. Why wouldn’t she believe him over the OP even if he denied it?

          3. The Original K.*

            I’m with you – I’m not on FB and I don’t keep old texts (I have it set so that it doesn’t keep texts for longer than a year), and texts from men I no longer deal with get immediately deleted, like, within five minutes of us deciding not to deal with each other. I also don’t follow people on social media until I’m “official” with them, I unfollow them and block them after a breakup, and my own IG is private. I believe very firmly that cutting off contact with a person is the only way to get past a breakup. I think I only have one ex even saved in my phone, period. (It feels really good to be able to say “who is this?” if an ex reaches out again after some time has passed.)

            If I met someone on a dating app and we don’t work out, I un-match with them on that app, which removes them and deletes any messages we have between us.

      6. Working Mom*

        I haven’t gotten through all the comments yet – but I’m curious about the boss’ spouse’s reaction to OP breaking things off. Was he shocked and surprised? Upset? Expected it? Took it well?

        I ask because if when the OP ended the relationship, the other guy was totally expecting it – once they met at the holiday party – and they parted on good terms. Would it be completely inappropriate to connect and agree to leave it be and move on? That would give OP the peace of mind that it’s not going to be brought up to his boss – and gives him time to determine his next move in the company.

        I just hate to see OP have to leave a dream job because *someone else* was unfaithful to *their* spouse. OP did nothing wrong, we all know that. I don’t know if this is a terrible idea or not, but it just keeps popping up in my head.

        1. Smithy*

          I have to agree with this….

          In many ways I think the worst thing for the OP is that this probably feels like living under a time bomb. Even if most “evidence” was text messages and exchange of sexy photos without a full face – the OP could change their cell number (so if the texts where ever found it could just be another man named XYZ and not identified easily through a quick call) and just pray that his boss’ husband has a password protected phone/hard drive for photos. But I think it’s that “prayer” which could easily lead to a lot of insecurity and anxiety.

          Some folks could set this and forget it – for others the anxiety would be gnawing. But the LW can change their cellphone number as one method of protecting their identity if the texts are ever found.

        2. valentine*

          Would it be completely inappropriate to connect and agree to leave it be and move on?
          The spouse’s word means nothing and, when caught, he can reveal his affair to shock and awe his wife and make OP the bad guy.

          1. Working Mom*

            That’s true. The spouse isn’t exactly trustworthy in this situation. Ugh, just such a crappy situation.

          2. Ted Mosby*

            He could, but to what end? His wife catches him w the next bf, or the one I’m after that… why would he start confessing other relationships? How does “yea I’m w tom now, but I ALSO dated james from your work!!” help his own case?

            It seems far far more likely that husband would deny, say it was a one time encounter, Etc then start confessing past transgressions.

        3. Tink*

          I was wondering if the husband knew OP was his wife’s employee all the time they were going out? If so what does that say about him?

      7. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, since LW broke it off, if she catches her hubby it’ll be with another man, so it won’t occur to her to go looking for his former lovers.

      8. L*

        Op also says he’s used to it which leads me to think he might not be able to find a job with 0% homophobia. I think it can be hard for people in more liberal areas to grasp because their perfectly reasonable response to bigotry in the work place is to leave ASAP. But in lots of areas you just don’t have better options.

    5. blackcat*

      This is a really, really terrible situation. If you’re in a state with protections for LGBT individuals and you have good HR, then I’d report it to HR. Otherwise… exist strategy.
      This is gonna blow up eventually, and you don’t want to be there when it does…

    6. Marny*

      Yeah, I couldn’t fathom staying employed in the same building as this drama bomb waiting to explode. It truly sucks, but yikes.

      1. Veronica*

        Yes… the guy might come clean to his wife one day, but if he doesn’t and she finds out some other way…

        BTW, if there are any pictures of the two of you, destroy them and scrub them from the internet right now. Unfriend/unfollow him on all social media. Make it like you never knew him.

    7. Hills to Die on*

      Definitely not a bad idea. It sucks but it might suck less than the alternative if this blows up.

    8. OhNo*

      I think this is the safest course of action. Realistically, even if it never blows up, do you want to be worried about this for the rest of your professional life?

      Be honest – you’re probably going to be walking on eggshells around her forever after this, just because something might come to light someday. That’s a lot of stress to carry around your workplace, knowing that you have to deal with this situation every single day.

      It sucks so much that you might have to leave your dream job at your dream company just because of someone else’s bad behavior. But I really do think that working toward getting out of there is the safest course of action. It doesn’t have to be immediate, but the sooner you can start working on it, the safer you’re likely to be.

    9. I AM a Lawyer*

      It’s his dream job, though. While I don’t disagree with you, I can see why he wouldn’t want to do that.

      1. Iva*

        Yes, but if his dream job implodes, he’s out a dream job and also out of a career or a region.

        Option 1: Risk losing dream job, but stay in industry or area.
        Option 2: Risk losing all. The trigger for loss (wife finds out) may or may not happen. If it does, all is lost.s

        There is no option 3. Personally, I’d go for Option 1. But I also don’t believe there is one, and only one dream job, true love, or perfect day. I believe there are far more options and paths to happiness than we are able to see.

      2. Sacred Ground*

        I would think an actual “dream job” would be one where he could be out at work. Maybe OP ought to dream bigger.

        1. coldfingers*

          Sacred Ground – your comment fails to recognize that this isn’t always an option in large swaths of the country, and there are real reasons people can’t/don’t want to relocate.

    10. Quill*

      Honestly I’m pretty sure she’d be a bad reference if she figures out OP’s orientation, full stop, but if she figures out about the cheating it’s only going to be orders of magnitude worse.

      OP: I know you say you’ve heard it all and leaving wouldn’t change the amount of casual homophobia, but you are currently sitting directly on top of a time bomb, which is only not going off because the cheating husband hasn’t slipped up yet. Don’t sit on it until he does decide to cut the wrong wire: get out of this exact job situation as quickly and efficiently as you can.

    11. Ted Mosby*

      I don’t see a need to leave if this is a dream job. This blowing up is contingent on so many things. Husband has to keep cheating with men. Husband has to get caught. Husband doesn’t somehow convince wife when he’s caught that it was a one time thing and he’s never felt this way before (Feels like a likely path in a conservative area). Husband decides that for some reason the best outcome for him in this situation will include listing past affairs to his wife. Husband hates OP or just gives so few fucks that he decides to specific that btw, when I said I dated a guy named John for six weeks, it was your John, from work, whom you manage. This all has to blow up before OP has had the opportunity to make other strong relationships at the company that could be used as references in the future.

      Leave if you want to leave, but this all feels pretty unlikely to me. Yea, there’s a low chance that consequences could be pretty awful, but if you leave there’s a 100% chance you just lost that dream job.

    12. Ted Mosby*

      I disagree that leaving is the only option. Op is only in real danger if:
      Husband gets caught cheating (which is very unlikely to happen unless he keeps cheating). When husband is caught cheating, instead of denying it, saying it was only one time, saying it was only one person, etc. husband chooses to confess to having had multiple relationships. Husband decides to name names while confessing to these multiple relationships. While husband is confessing, he either hates OP or is indifferent enough to OPs that he decides to name OPs specifically and ID him to his wife. I just don’t see any real motivation. It’s not like his wife is going to forgive him if he says “yea, but I also slept with that guy you work with!!” All this would have to blow up before OP had any opportunity to form other close relationships across the company for it to really be a career killer. Sure if it does all happen it could be really bad, but it seems highly highly unlikely to me.

      Aside from this, as long as OP has scrubbed social media, there aren’t pics on the husbands phone, and they’re not actively texting (old texts are going to be buried after a few weeks) it seems really unlikely that the affair would ever come up. It’s possible, and OP should weigh the risks, but he should weigh them keeping in mind their likelihood. The husband has tons of incentives to not out himself as having cheated, or having cheated with multiple partners.

  4. voyager1*

    Maybe they have a open relationship. I mean that is best case scenario.

    Honestly I wouldn’t say anything. There is a good chance she might never find out. Besides how would she unless her husband outed himself.

    I think what you are stumbling on is the slurs. Yeah that is bad, but they are separate from the issue of her husband being with someone else.

    1. Czhorat*

      IF they had an open relationship the husband would probably have said something.

      This sounds like a closeted married man cheating on his wife. I honestly feel bad for everyone involved in the situation.

      1. Shramps*

        I’m having a hard time feeling bad for the closeted married man.

        If you’re cheating on your spouse, you should do some due diligence on who you’re dating. I’m surprised the topic of work never came up for the couple.

        1. Czhorat*

          A mile in their shoes and all that.

          Who knows why he’s made the choice he has? If he lives in a conservative area or even has a very traditional family he might have gotten married out of perceived obligation, and pretending to be straight for the same societal/cultural/family reasons. The affair might be his one outlet for what he sees as his true self.

          Is it ethical? Of course not. Are there reasons that brought him there? Almost certainly.

          In a better world might he have behaved better? Probably. If he feels forced to live in the closet we can at least feel bad for him because of that.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            I don’t know what it’s like to be in the closet but I can only imagine it’s incredibly difficult and I get the impression that people in that position feel like they don’t have any other good option. He isn’t perfect but he does have my empathy.

          2. Just Elle*

            You always have a choice. You can choose to remain single instead of dragging a woman’s entire life, trust, emotional investment into it. You can choose to leave the marriage instead of trapping other men in your web of lies, at great risk to their career and happiness and ability to trust others.

            I mean, (assuming this is America) its not like being gay is illegal, he theoretically is not in danger of death by public stoning. So I have a hard time seeing any argument where conning a woman into a one-sided marriage out of a sense of ‘obligation’ to ‘cultural norms’ is the lesser evil.

            There are almost always good reasons to behave badly, but good people choose to do what’s right despite it. This kind of enablist thinking is really, really scary. Its how most of history’s great atrocities were allowed to happen- millions of people going along with their perceived lack of ability to push back.

            No, I have no idea what it feels like to be a closeted gay. Yes, I get that the situation sucks and have empathy for him. But I still think he’s exhibited spectacularly crappy behavior and doesn’t deserve to just be… let off the hook… because he had a hard life.

            1. Just Elle*

              Also, any empathy he would have had from me went out the window when he established a false relationship with LW.
              I mean, he had absolutely zero societal pressure to lie to LW about his marital status, that was 100% self serving.

              1. R.D.*

                This is my issue. Closeted gay or bi and cheating on his wife is one thing, but he could have disclosed his marriage to the LW and didn’t.

              2. Parenthetically*

                Yep. Adultery is absolutely not okay, in my worldview/ethical system, but if he had been honest with OP about his marital status from the get-go, it would have at least given OP the option to weigh up his own opinions on it. As it stands, he gets no pity from me because he took that option — of behaving with full knowledge in line with his own values — from OP.

            2. Anon for this*

              I just want to chime in here. While certainly the right thing would that we would live in a world where people act with compassion and understanding but we dont. In many areas of the deep south and midwest even the suggestion that someone is gay can result in social ostracization. We don’t know the Boss’ Husband situation. Certainly, we would hope that he could live a full authentic life. Certainly the ethical choice would be to choose to remain single, but if you are dealing with the bible belt there is enormous social pressures to get married and pop out the required 2.5 kids.

              Yes – this is America (presumably) but to imply that there is no consequences because he won’t be publicly executed isn’t taking into consideration that coming out or even the hint of homosexuality could result in ostracization from his entire family and community, which can be almost as damaging.

              I do agree that he should not involve a wife or other men in his struggles but I think that there needs to be a greater understanding of those in conservative areas of our country. It doesn’t make it right but it can make our response less harsh.

              1. Just Elle*

                I get that there are real, serious consequences for being out in certain areas of the country and I don’t mean to minimize it. I get that the choice to act with integrity is a really, really hard one. I get that millions of people in history have chosen the easy path out and I can’t even promise I’d do differently. I do feel terrible for people who have to make this choice.

                But I just honestly do not believe that “ostracized from a bigoted family because they suspect the reason you’re single is homosexuality” is at all on the same level of damage as “spending a lifetime actively lying to and tricking another human who you promised to love and care for, while cheating on them with other humans who you are also actively lying to and tricking and putting at great personal risk.”

                If anything, I could go for ‘choosing to live in a loveless marriage’ as something to feel a little sorry for, since presumably the woman is ok enough with their relationship enough to commit to it. But you don’t get to have your cake and eat it to. You either live in the loveless marriage because you’re so terrified of the consequences, or you risk engaging in secret relationships that might be found out. You don’t get to do both and then say ‘societal pressure made me do it’.

                1. Le Sigh*

                  I feel like you are kind of minimizing those consequences, and the experiences other commenters have laid out. Others have pointed out repeatedly that “ostracized from a bigoted family because they suspect the reason you’re single is homosexuality” is not the only or biggest risk or consequence to coming out or to being outed.

                  But also, fear of losing one’s entire family/friend/community structure (for any number of reasons) is something that has left a lot people feeling isolated, depressed and even suicidal. And you have acknowledged you don’t have experience as a closed LGBTQ+ person–so I actually dunno that it’s fair for you to decide how bad that really is.

                  That doesn’t make the husband’s choices okay or the lessen pain he might one day cause his wife. It doesn’t make him a stand up person. But really, people are asking you to see a bigger picture here, of how this could happen, how a person could wind up like this. How we’ve created a society that can drive people to actions they wouldn’t otherwise take, even if they’re still responsible for those choices. And how even when a person isn’t doing the right thing, if you want to consider yourself a good person, you do need to think about these things, these very real consequences, before you act.

                2. Iva*

                  @ Le Sigh, that still doesn’t explain lying to a gay man who would presumably face the same consequences.

                  Risk of being out to wife are clear. What was the risk of being honest with the LW?

                  There is no excuse for lying to LW about his marital status. If anything, that was even more of a risk of those negative consequences than being honest. Had he been honest, LW might have been able to help him stay on the DL.

                3. The Bean*

                  Lots of people don’t realize they’re queer until their fairly old. Check out r/latebloominglesbians if you don’t believe me.

                  Hopefully this guy will one day leave his wife, but ending a marriage in a homophobic area, especially if there are kids involved would make a lot of people hesitate. Doesn’t make it ok but even today compulsive heterosexuality is a hell of a drug.

                4. Le Sigh*

                  @Iva — at no point did I say the husband should have lied to LW about his marital status or that it was okay. It’s crappy behavior and the LW is right to feel pissed for the situation the husband put him in.

                  My comment though isn’t about the LW or at the LW — it’s for the multiple comments minimizing the risks the husband might face if outed. Outing this husband isn’t the same thing as exposing a straight person cheating on their spouse and to gloss over those risks or pretend they’re the same is insensitive at best and dangerous at worst. I am capable of feeling empathy people living in a society that drives them into the closet–and even understanding how someone might make terrible choices as a result–while still agreeing that the husband’s actions were bad. And *still* maintaining that outing him against his will comes with far higher consequences than if he were straight, and to pretend otherwise is ridiculous.

                5. Anonymous Poster*

                  There are serious consequences anywhere. This isn’t only an issue that affects people in conservative silos. This is something that many LGBT people face, throughout their lives, anywhere, and we don’t have an easy path out. Please stop issuing advice on how people should navigate this when you don’t understand it.

                  (And again, I do think using a partner as a beard is wrong. I’m not defending that.)

                6. Sacred Ground*

                  “Risk of being out to wife are clear. What was the risk of being honest with the LW?”

                  To be honest with LW would risk not getting laid. The same risk every cheater avoids by concealing their marital status from the people they date.

                  Or maybe he is just so used to lying to everyone else in his life that he just didn’t think it mattered? Maybe since every gay relationship he’s ever had before this has been so far down on the downlow that he honestly doesn’t get that honesty within that relationship is necessary or even possible? Maybe he assumes that everyone that’s closeted does the same, keeping their gay life completely separate from their pretend life, so didn’t think it was even relevant?

                  I don’t know. I seem to be reaching for a reason that makes sense besides him just being a jerk. I’ll stick with my first assumption: that he wanted to get with the LW and knew that revealing his marital status would prevent that. Same old, same old, just like every other cheating jerk of any orientation or gender.

                7. Zillah*

                  @Sacred Ground –

                  Or maybe he is just so used to lying to everyone else in his life that he just didn’t think it mattered?

                  I feel like you’re talking about being closeted here, and it’s incredibly hurtful to accuse LGBTQIA+ people of dishonesty because they’re not out.

                8. PVR*

                  These conservative areas tend to be also be conservatively Christian. These people have been raised from a young age to believe that homosexuality is sin. If they are gay they will spend all eternity in hell. The anti LGBTQ culture is strong in these areas and pervades many aspects of life. These cultures often encourage marrying young, staying “pure” and sexuality in general is something to be denied until you are married. I don’t think you are giving enough credit to the way that can warp a person’s thinking to the point they may be in deep denial that they are gay. They may think marrying someone will “cure” them (these are places where conversion therapy thrives), they literally may not have enough life experience to know that they are in fact gay. So they are not necessarily making an active, rational choice to marry someone and weighing out all the consequences of involving a partner they will never be fully attracted to. In can take years and years to uncover the truth of who they are and by then, they have often been married for years and years and truly do love their spouse in some way, and there can be kids involved, in these situations it almost never as simple of a situation and decision as you are making it out to be. Many marriages end in a messy way even without the complication of one partner discovering they are gay, and people often act badly when long term relationships fall apart. It is unrealistic to expect that people won’t act that way, even if they should. I think we can extend empathy to people while simultaneously acknowledging they are behaving badly.

                9. yala*

                  Sorry, this is just…a lot of yikes. A lot of minimizing of a terrible, traumatizing thing. As just “societal pressure.”

                  There’s no excuse for lying to LW but the whole “either live forever in a loveless marriage or implode your whole life and lose your family and social circle, and if you can’t handle doing one of those two things, then you are a Horrible Person” attitude is…a bit much.

              2. Just Elle*

                So, taking a step back here, I really don’t mean to minimize the consequences of being gay in America and I’m sorry that I did that. To be honest, I didn’t realize that being murdered for your sexual orientation was still such a present fear in America (I have never left a very blue state, and admit to not spending time seaking out specific statistics on risks in other areas).

                I shouldn’t have implied that this guy was categorically “bad” for his actions. I had a knee jerk reaction to people coming into this thread about someone who was deeply wronged in a way that compromises his financial security and his own privacy about his sexual orientation… and making irrelevant comments about how they feel bad for the husband. It struck me as so deeply… Unfair to the LW.

                That said, I can now see why people in the husband’s situation would feel overwhelming pressure to make a choice like the one he did. I still don’t think it excuses him, I don’t think people should just run around doing whatever immoral thing they want because it’s “understandable” for “reasons,” but I can see how you could both be empathetic and still not let people off the hook for his actions. I didn’t mean to imply that those two things were one and the same.

                1. Anonymous Poster*

                  To be honest, I didn’t realize that being murdered for your sexual orientation was still such a present fear in America (I have never left a very blue state, and admit to not spending time seaking out specific statistics on risks in other areas).

                  Please start by researching stats in your own state, because you’re probably not in a magic safe haven. Also, like, if you’ve managed to overlook risks for physical violence, there might be one or other two things you’re missing.

                  I still don’t think it excuses him, I don’t think people should just run around doing whatever immoral thing they want because it’s “understandable” for “reasons,”

                  We’re all on the same page there lol.

                2. Blue Anne*

                  Well, now you know, and I hope that you’ll take it as a notification that you need to increase your knowledge in this area. People still experience terrible discrimination in very blue states, too, and it’s difficult for them to overcome that when the “progressive” people around them have happily checked “defeat homophobia” off of their mental lists of concerns.

                3. Blue Anne*

                  But, wait. Even if you didn’t realize that queer people are still concerned about being killed in this country… why did you think it would be okay for him to face non-lethal homophobia?

                4. Just Elle*

                  Blue Anne- I didn’t, and don’t think homophobia of any level is something anyone deserves, including this guy. But the argument was that this guy’s actions were justified (or at least understandable) because he was scared for his safety, hence immense pressure to marry a woman. I said the moral bar for making what he did to the wife excusable is fear for one’s life.

                5. Blue Anne*

                  It still seems like you think that this guy facing homophobia is an unfortunate but acceptable result of his actions, as long as the homophobia doesn’t take the form of lethal violence.

                  I certainly hope I’m wrong. But the way you’re presenting yourself here, personally I would not feel that you were a safe person to have in my social circle, and I hope that you’ll spend some time reflecting on why you’re coming across that way.

                6. Czhorat*

                  I said – and stand by this – that I feel bad for *EVERYONE INVOLVED*

                  Someone can be wrong in their actions and still deserving of a measure of empathy.

                7. Le Sigh*

                  @JustElle I see that you’re at least taking some of what people are saying in here. At the same time, what you’ve termed a learning opportunity (further down thread)? That comes at the expense of the mental and emotional labor of a lot of people on this thread–not to mention their time–many of whom are literally advocating for and defending their own humanity to you. They’re literally spending scads of time laying out their own experiences and asking you to believe them, all so you might understand what you’re saying and asking. It’s great that you’re hearing some of what they say, but please keep in mind what’s a learning experience to you is real life to others. It’s exhausting, particularly when you find yourself having to do it to multiple people, over and over in life.

                8. Zillah*

                  (I have never left a very blue state, and admit to not spending time seaking out specific statistics on risks in other areas).

                  Some areas are certainly more dangerous than others, but nowhere is safe. Hate crimes exist in the bluest of states and the bluest of cities, and laws still often discriminate against us – most blue states still allow the gay panic defense, and all states that have outlawed it have only done so in the last five years. And even if people don’t face lethal violence, LGBTQIA+ people still have higher rates of mental illness, suicide, homelessness, and unemployment.

                  I don’t know where you live, but I know that it is not a place where queer people are as safe as you are.

            3. JB (not in Houston)*

              Assuming this is America, there are still plenty of dangers in being gay, including being fired from jobs, discriminated against in business and housing, and, yeah, sometimes even a risk of being killed just for being gay. What’s considered “right” and what “good people” choose to do it determined primarily by the standard of what a straight, white, Christian male standard. I don’t think he should cheat on his wife, if that’s what he’s doing. But having sympathy for him, which is what commenters you’re responding to are saying, is not the same as “letting him off the hook” and it’s not doing so because he had “hard” life.” It’s recognizing that non-straight people in America face tremendous obstacles in their lives that straight people simply don’t even have to see, much less deal with, and sometimes that drives them to make choices that straight people might not make and would never have to make. Surely you can at least have sympathy for his situation without thinking that’s “letting him off the hook.”

            4. Agnodike*

              Yeah, no, I don’t think that lying about your relationship status out of fear of living your life without love and accepted deserves to be framed in the same way as being a Vichy collaborator. Not refraining from cheating on your partner is wrong. Not telling your affair partner that they are, in fact, an affair partner is wrong. But plenty of good people do things that are wrong because they’re scared about some really fundamental stuff, and we can be sympathetic to their fear even when we make the judgement that they handled it poorly.

              I do know what it’s like to be “a closeted gay” (pro tip for heterosexuals: don’t use the phrase “a gay”!) and one thing that comes with it, for a lot of people, is a crushing, ever-present fear that you will die alone, unloved, and unseen. That’s why many people choose to deceive either themselves or someone else about their ability to be in a heterosexual relationship (your framing that the wife is being “conned” here is particularly cruel) and are either unfulfilled or unfaithful as time goes on. I don’t think it’s an ethical or laudable course of action, but I think it’s a really understandable one. Having a choice (as this person undoubtedly does) and being able to see that choice aren’t always the same thing, and when your judgment is clouded by the all-consuming terror that one of your basic human needs will never be met, sometimes you make wrong and hurtful choices.

              Labelling people “good” and “bad” people is a framing that I don’t think belongs in adult conversation in the year 2019.

              1. R.D.*

                I really appreciate this perspective. Recognizing the extremely difficult circumstances and having empathy for someone who has challenges and risks I cannot even imagine is not the same as letting them off the hook.

                At the same time it’s also totally justifiable that the LW would be extremely angry with his boss’s husband for the way that the LW has been deceived.

                As an outside party I’m not condemning the man for his difficult choices, but I think we can also validate how the LW must feel.

                1. Le Sigh*

                  I also think LW is completely justified in their feelings and I don’t think anyone was arguing otherwise–those two things can exist alongside one another. But a lot of people are overlooking the very serious realities the husband facing as a closeted man in a hostile world. This situation isn’t a straight forward case of “husband is a lying, cheating person and he can just suffer the consequences” and I think Agnodike’s post is a really important reminder of that.

                  It’s also a good reminder that just because we like to think of ourselves as good people, it doesn’t mean we aren’t infallible or that we also wouldn’t make some bad choices in bad situations.

                2. R.D.*

                  @ Le Sigh

                  I completely agree. I mostly just wanted to amplify this post and your other posts that draw attention and empathy to the husband while tempering, but not actually disavowing my previous post that I think he could have disclosed his marriage to the letter writer.

                  I know as a straight woman, I cannot fully understand how hard this must be for all parties.

                3. Agnodike*

                  Of course! I would be furious if someone put me in this position, no matter how sympathetic I was to their reasons for doing so. I agree with you 100% that the letter-writer is absolutely justified in being hurt and angry at this abuse of their trust. The comment I replied to dealt entirely with the moral worth of the husband, not with the letter-writer’s feelings or reactions, which is why those were not addressed in my reply.

              2. Veronica*

                “your framing that the wife is being “conned” here is particularly cruel”

                Would you be ok if your spouse had married you to hide their true self, and was not really attracted or interested in you? Would you be ok that this prevents you from being with someone who is right for you and would fully love you?

                I wouldn’t. I don’t think this framing is cruel. I think it’s real.
                I would be very, very upset and devastated if that was done to me!

                1. Nephron*

                  1. We don’t know if the husband is bi, somewhere on the spectrum, or 100% homosexual.

                  2. We don’t know where this marriage started. A more conservative part of the country tends towards younger marriages as well. This marriage could have started when they were quite young and the husband might not have know about his own sexuality, at the time he might have just been lauded for his ability to resist temptation and wait until marriage. You are also assuming forethought when there are plenty of young people that do not consider the long term very well.

                  The husband in this situation is not without blame, but I think the majority of blame goes to a society that we know pressures people to hide who they are out of fear, that threatens their jobs, homes, and custody of children. The boss is being harmed by the same culture that is harming the husband and threatening the LW.

                2. whingedrinking*

                  No one is saying the spouse in this situation doesn’t have a right to be devastated. It is devastating. There’s no world in which people are saying this is a great and fantastic thing to do.
                  The criticism comes from suggesting that this choice is being made in a vacuum. In some cases, being gay or perceived as gay can be a matter of literal life and death. Bullying, harassment, assault, suicide and murder are still a part of the landscape for LGBTQ individuals. Gay people don’t stay in the closet because it’s fun. We stay in there because it’s *safe*, and even then it’s not always enough.

                3. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  I don’t think it’s quite that nefarious, to be honest. The way your comment is phrased makes this husband out to be a mustache twirling villain who purposefully married someone to cover his tracks. But I have a relative who was in a similar situation, and I’ve learned through talking with him that in a lot of cases, people who are raised gay or bi in a homophobic environment spend a lot of their energy convincing themselves that they can be okay with hiding, with accepting less than what their straight friends and family members get to have. It’s not “Mwah-ha-ha, I can fool everyone!” It’s “I don’t want to be alone forever, and if the closest I can get is pretending, that’s better than nothing at all.” My relative had a deep respect and affection for the person he nearly married. He wasn’t trying to con her into covering for him, he was trying to convince himself that what he felt for her was enough.

                  And you know what? If you were to find out that your spouse had a different sexual orientation than what they had previously told you, you would be totally justified in feeling angry and upset. Just like the OP is totally justified in his feelings about being involved in a relationship with a married person without his knowledge. But that doesn’t make the husband here 100% evil and terrible. He’s made some awful choices and he’s hurt people with them. But he’s more than likely hurting too, and acknowledging that doesn’t take away from feeling sympathy for OP or for the ex-boyfriend’s wife.

                4. R.D.*

                  @Librarian of SHIELD


                  I have a relative who was at one point married to a gay man. They married young and both came from conservative families. He wanted a normal life and family. He didn’t go into the marriage with the intention of marrying her to “hide his true self”. It hadn’t occurred to him he was being deceptive.

                  When they married he didn’t know he was gay. She figured it out before he did and he fought to try to save his marriage. This was in the 60’s, so times have changed, but not nearly as much as we like to think.

                  I dated someone in the early 2000’s who only came out to himself and his family in the last 5-10 years, when he was in his 30s. I don’t live in a red state.

                5. Agnodike*

                  I would also be very upset if someone made a cold calculation to deceive me and live a lie for their own gain with clear-eyed self-knowledge. However, that’s both the most unkind reading of the situation and the rarest one in my experience. Most people on LGB spectrum who marry straight spouses aren’t maintaining a deliberately deceptive cover. Most of them grow up in environments where they have little or no exposure to healthy queer relationships, so they either reject their feelings toward people of the same gender (because they’ve been raised to believe that gay people are bad people and they don’t want to be gay people) or they believe that everyone has these feelings and just doesn’t act on them (because they want to be normal and so they normalize their experiences). They marry people of the opposite sex because it’s normal and it’s what you do, and they think that their feelings of warm friendship and little more toward their spouses are just how marriage is supposed to be. Then, later in life, when they know themselves and the world a little better, they realize that, in fact, most of their friends are sexually attracted to their spouses and don’t fantasize about people of the same sex. So then they have to come to terms with what that means not just for their own identity but for what their life looks like. Sometimes that’s really hopeful – for the first time, they can start to contemplate what it would be like to have a satisfying sexual relationship, for one thing! – and sometimes it’s deeply terrifying, as they contemplate the possibility of blowing up their lives. I’m not saying that’s everybody’s story, but that’s the most common story among the people I’ve actually known in real life.

                  What’s cruel is the assumption of malice and cold-hearted deception, instead of the more charitable reading: ignorance, confusion, fear. Especially since the latter seems to be much more common than the former, there’s no reason to jump to that conclusion. And I think it’s worth mentioning that one version of events plays very neatly into stereotypes of gay men’s sexuality as calculating and predatory, which I don’t think is a coincidence.

              3. Avasarala*

                Best comment.

                “Labelling people “good” and “bad” people is a framing that I don’t think belongs in adult conversation in the year 2019.”
                So true and I wish everyone could hear this.

            5. Jessica Fletcher*

              If you’ve never been queer in America, any opinion you have on it or our lives is invalid and you should listen, not speak. That’s just how it is.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


                “Oh, you could suffer enormous social and familial rejection, lose your home & your job, face violence and discrimination, that’s all.” Come the hell on.

                No, what the husband did was seriously not okay. You don’t have to downplay all the horrific experiences that people face, including people on this board, in your pursuit to argue that the husband is the Worst Person Ever.

              2. JustMyOpinion*

                Oh come on–so anyone who is not a minority cannot comment or have valid opinions on discrimination? Men should not be able to have any opinion or comment on abortion?

                Saying that you have to be it or do it to understand it is quite frankly a poor commentary on how you view others.

                1. Quake Johnson*

                  “Men should not be able to have any opinion or comment on abortion?”

                  I mean…no? What women do with their bodies is literally none of men’s business.

                2. Jessica Fletcher*

                  No, you don’t get to have an opinion on the lives or experiences of marginalized communities if you’re not a member of those communities. That’s life!

                  Maybe it feels uncomfortable to be told to stay in your lane, but actively working to remove your prejudices is not supposed to be comfortable.

                  You can easily learn lots about this kind of stuff, since you’re already on the internet. Google is free! I already have a job that is not educating strangers on the internet.

                  For the record, it’s not ok for anyone to intrude on another person’s bodily autonomy. Not because of their sex or gender. Because government shouldn’t intrude on a person’s body, the same way the government can’t force me to donate a kidney, even if another person will absolutely die if I don’t donate that kidney. A person’s autonomy is paramount. It’s pretty wild that some people think it’s ok to carve out that right if it’s a pregnant person (of any gender.)

                3. Blue Anne*

                  Correct! Anyone who is not a minority cannot have valid opinions on discrimination against that minority.

                4. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  Straight people don’t get to decide how bad things are for the LGBTQ+ community, because we’ve never been on the receiving end of the homophobic treatment they’re subjected to. No one makes their choices in a vacuum. There are always reasons and past experiences informing those choices. And those of us who have never experienced that backstory don’t get to decide it doesn’t matter.

                5. Jules the 3rd*

                  Sounds pretty awesome to me! I try to step aside in issues of race and simply amplify the opinions of PoC, because I haven’t been there, haven’t lived it, and I know I can’t give as good information on the issue as PoC can.

                  It would be great if men realized they don’t know what it’s like to be pregnant and therefore shouldn’t try to control women who are. Absotively great if people realized the limits of their knowledge and that those limits should drive deference to people with more knowledge, yep.

                  Imagine there’s no mansplaining, I wonder if you can….
                  Imagine there’s no Dunning-Kruger, what a great game plan.

                6. KinderTeacher*

                  The only men who should be commenting on or expressing relevant opinions about abortion are men with uteruses, as it actually relates to their bodily autonomy. Male doctors performing abortions are also welcome to chime in with actual medical facts about abortion.

                7. Curmudgeon in California*

                  > Men should not be able to have any opinion or comment on abortion?

                  No, men should not comment on abortion, except to say “Ask the woman”. Not their body, not their risk of death to carry to term, not their morning sickness, destroyed careers, gestational diabetes that stays, etc. (Anyone can have opinions, but polite folk stay quiet about stuff that doesn’t affect them.)

                  IMO, people without uterii should not pass laws about abortion, except maybe if they are ob-gyns.

                  It would be like me, a pagan, telling a Christian what observances are appropriate for the winter holidays. Not. My. Business.

                8. Zillah*

                  Men should not be able to have any opinion or comment on abortion?

                  Not unless they have uteruses.

                  Here’s an idea – mandatory vasectomies until one actively wants to have kids. It’s not that big a deal, and while sure, it might not be fully reversible, it’s worth it to stop unwanted pregnancies.

                  (I do not actually believe in dictating what happens to people’s bodies, but I wanted to make the point.)

                9. Ninajulia*

                  Re: abortion red herring. You got it exactly! Even women are not allowed to comment on the abortions of any women other than their own. Of course we can all have opinions – that’s the entire point of journals, therapists, and prayer.

                10. yala*

                  “Men should not be able to have any opinion or comment on abortion?‘

                  Er…why should they?

                  Cis men can’t get pregnant. They really should have no say on what women collectively or individually can or should do with their bodies, especially given the absolute body horror that pregnancy is.

                  A couple in a healthy relationship can talk about options and opinions, but the non-pregnant partner should never pressure the pregnant one one way or another.

                  I think how we view others is that when someone says something this thoughtlessly ignorant with such conviction, maybe they really should just sit down and LISTEN to people with actual experience. What good is an opinion based in ignorance?

            6. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

              As some one who WAS married to a closeted person who was not honest about their sexuality/gender identity out of fear of the very real social (and legal) consequences of being out – no. You are wrong. My life was not dragged down or ruined, I was not lied to about the care my ex had for me, or how much they loved me, and I was not tricked into anything. It was no different from any other breakup – my life took a different direction than I thought it was going, and everyone got on with their lives much happier (eventually) for it. Closeted individuals are not evil or unethical for protecting themselves, and it’s pretty gross of you to characterize them as such.

              1. Iva*

                Yours wasn’t. One of my BFFs is a gay man who did some things very similar to what this man did. It decimated his ex-wife’s life. She has since forgiven him, but he will always have that guilt.

                I’m glad you came out of it ok, but that’s far from universal.

                You may not think the lying was unethical, but I know plenty of people with that lived experience who do, including some people who did the lying.

                1. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

                  I’m not speaking to the cheating – but simply being closeted and acting in self-preservation. I will not fault someone for doing what they need to to survive in the world as it exists. We can wish that our society was such that people didn’t have to lie about who they are in order to remain safe, but we do live in that world. The collateral damage of my and your friend’s relationship is the fault of society placing people in the position to have to lie (often to literally not be murdered) – not the fault of the individuals who did the lying.

            7. Anonymous Poster*

              its not like being gay is illegal

              Right, but we’re at risk for legally losing our housing, losing our jobs, and being denied medical care.

              I completely agree that using someone that way is unacceptable and so is misleading the OP. But please don’t minimize homophobia. It’s actually pretty dangerous to some of us.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*


                I live in a blue state, in a liberal area, but I have gay friends who aren’t that kind of safe. There are still some places *in the US* that I have to avoid or be very careful what I say about my home life.

                In most of the US it is actually dangerous for me and my wife to live “out”. Sure, our marriage is “legal”, but we can still be made miserable by discrimination in housing, employment and healthcare. The last can be fatal, BTW.

            8. Blue Anne*

              You know, it’s also entirely possible that he’s a bisexual guy who really loves his wife and is just cheating for the normal reasons someone might chest, not weaving some kind of huge web of lies around her life by using her as cover for his homosexuality.

              This comment really rubs me the wrong way.

              1. Iva*

                Sigh.We don’t know one way or the other. We have zero idea what’s going on inside the marriage. Everything here is fan fiction. Admittedly, I’m guilty of that as well.

                1. Blue Anne*

                  Okay? What’s your point? Yes, we have zero idea what’s going on in the marriage. So it bothers me when people are managing to 1. imagine the big treacherous homosexual stereotype and 2. further erase bisexuality, at the very same time.

              2. Agnodike*

                That’s what bothers me as well. It’s not good to cheat on your spouse, and it’s not good to have sex with someone without giving them all the relevant information they need to practice informed consent. In fact, it’s very bad! But there’s “I did something really bad because I was terrified and confused” and “I did something really bad because I am a caricature out of a 1950s newsreel about The Gay Menace,” and the explanation you pick for someone’s behaviour says a lot about what you think about people on the LGB spectrum.

            9. Louise*

              If you have no idea what it feels like to be “a closeted gay,” then you, by definition, do not “get that the situation sucks.”

            10. Gazebo Slayer*

              JFC, can we NOT compare being a closeted married man in a homophobic area who cheats on his wife to “history’s great atrocities”? That kind of “all crimes are equal” thinking is really, really scary, and also offensive as hell.

      2. Audrey Puffins*

        Not necessarily, it looks like the husband knows that the LW isn’t out, so it could be a situation where the husband might be willing to admit indiscretions of his own but he won’t do it if doing so will out someone who isn’t already there.

        This is just a crappy situation all round, I’m so sorry, LW. :(

        1. Just Elle*

          I’m genuinely asking: I was surprised LW and Alison put so much emphasis on not outing the husband?

          Like, if you’d be ok with outing a man for cheating with a woman, why wouldn’t you be ok with outing them for cheating with a man? To me, both situations are of equal yuck factor, and the cheater loses his right to privacy when he knowingly tricks someone into a relationship under the guise of being single.

          I can kind of see where outing someone as gay has even worse social ramifications than outing them as a cheater, but honestly that just leaves me with disgust over America’s priorities, and I’d rather work to address that than worry about preserving this guy’s dignity.

          1. the rainbow connection*

            Like, if you’d be ok with outing a man for cheating with a woman, why wouldn’t you be ok with outing them for cheating with a man?

            One of those is something you do. The other one of those is something you are.

            I can kind of see where outing someone as gay has even worse social ramifications than outing them as a cheater, but honestly that just leaves me with disgust over America’s priorities, and I’d rather work to address that than worry about preserving this guy’s dignity.

            I mean this with all kindness, but we can’t decide to act as if we already live in a better world. Plus, those two things aren’t exclusive, and also, you’re only in a position to do one of those. You can’t help or hurt this guy. You can do things to create a better world for people like this guy who will come later. But the fact that you intend to make the world better, doesn’t really do anything to go back in time and have better choices for people living now.

            Outing someone as a cheater, what’s the worst that can happen? Divorce. Outing someone as gay, what’s the worst that can happen? A LOT WORSE. We’re comparing burning yourself with matches to being too close to dynamite.

            Did this guy do bad things? Yes. Is that any reason to blow up his life? Nope.

            1. Just Elle*

              Thanks, these are all good points.

              It still makes me really really mad that being a cheater is worse than being gay in some people’s eyes. And I still feel like the onus is on the cheater, especially if he knows consequences are greater for him, to not cheat in the first place. I think cheaters deserve to have their life blown up – they don’t deserve to continue inflicting harm on the wife and the men/women they con into relationships because its more convenient for them. But I can see why it would feel overly harsh to knowingly set off a chain of events that led to dynamite when “only” matches were deserved.

              I don’t think LW owes the husband protection, and that’s why I was frustrated Alison seemed to advise protecting him. But I understand why LW might choose to extend that kindness to the man. And I definitely don’t think its the LW’s responsibility to out himself and risk his job just to give the boss a heads up.

              1. the rainbow connection*

                It’s not necessarily owing protection, in a sense of protection from his wife or from consequences. There’s long been a discussion in the community about when it’s okay to out someone, and the agreed standard is generally “when they’re a politician who is harming the community” (this is usually called the Barney Frank Rule or similar). This really doesn’t approach the standard at all for when it’s okay to out, especially since outing the husband will also out the OP, because having that knowledge alone is suspicious.

              2. Hiring Mgr*

                I think it’s more about the LW protecting himself also. He can’t out the husband without outing himself.

              3. BBA*

                I mean, I would not out someone, even if that person were a big ‘ol jerk. It’s not so much ‘protection’ as it is ‘not personally starting a chain of potentially devastating events with unforeseeable consequences.’

                If it really bugs you to contemplate ‘protecting’ someone who has cheated on their partner… You could consider not outting someone as something you do for yourself. By not being the one to out them, you don’t have to live with any guilt/regret you might carry with you for a long time, maybe forever, if you did out them and things got terribly out of hand from there.

                1. voyager1*

                  I think I am really disturbed with the idea that “Husband cheated on his wife” vs “Husband cheated on his wife with another woman” vs “Husband cheated on wife with a man” EACH appear to have different expectations of accountability expected.

                  As a man who is heterosexual and straight and been cheated on (long time ago) that just really unnerves me. The husband is a cheater who just happens to like men as intimate partners. You can dress it up as he is in the closet or is bi or whatever. The point is unless the wife and husband are in a open relationship, pointing out he is gay is no different then point out race or class or national origin or religion to minimize what he did.

                2. Le Sigh*

                  @voyager1* if, after reading this thread, that’s your takeaway from this whole situation, you’re not trying very hard. This isn’t “dressing it up as bi or gay” (ugh), and dismissing it as such is willfully blind. People are simple asking others–especially those of us who don’t have to walk around facing these risks on a daily basis–to realize the world we live in and that every situation isn’t exactly the same.

                  Question — if a straight married woman was cheating on a straight married man who was known to abuse and even threaten his wife with violence, would you out her as a cheater to him? Knowing she might be attacked or killed over it? Could you maybe realize that she made bad choices, perhaps even made bad choices because of her bad situation, and not approve of said choices, or even feel hurt and upset at those choices, while realizing the risks of exposing that to her husband were too great?

              4. Librarian of SHIELD*

                The advice to not out the boss’s husband also serves the purpose of protecting the OP. He has mentioned that his boss is homophobic to at least some degree. In order to expose her husband’s affair, he would have to come out to his boss, and she hasn’t proven herself to be a safe person to come out to. Punishing his ex-boyfriend isn’t worth putting his livelihood at risk.

              5. Blueberry*

                “It still makes me really really mad that being a cheater is worse than being gay in some people’s eyes. ”

                I… am choosing to think you phrased what you meant to say badly here, because, well, being a cheater is worse than being gay, because 1) there’s nothing wrong with being gay while there are ethical issues with cheating on one’s relationships and 2) being gay is what someone is while cheating is something someone chooses to do.

                What did you intend to say instead? Because I really want to believe you didn’t intend to say what you actually did up there.

                1. Arts Akimbo*

                  I hope what she meant to say was just a mis-ordered clause, and that it was meant as “It still makes me really really mad that being gay is worse than being a cheater in some people’s eyes.” I.e., it makes her mad that some people out there think there’s something wrong with being gay.

                  I hope.

                2. Just Elle*

                  Oh god, no, it was just terrible grammar. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being gay.
                  And, separately, it makes me mad that so few people would be angry about cheaters, but would be angry about someone being gay.

              6. Zillah*

                Do you believe that death is sometimes an appropriate punishment for adultery? What about losing your entire support system, or your family?

                Because that’s potentially what we’re talking about here.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*


              Outing a guy as a cheater to his spouse just messes up his relationship. Outing someone as gay, even if “just” to his spouse, could get him fired or killed.

          2. Jay*

            Because outing someone as gay can put their life at risk, both literally and metaphorically. It’s a different thing than revealing an affair that doesn’t change public perceptions of their sexuality.

            I live in fairly blue area (although we’re surrounded by a lot of red) and we’ve seen four or five serious assaults on queer folk in the last couple of years. That’s not something that generally happens to adulterers.

              1. Le Sigh*

                Okay….you can’t seriously claiming these are apples to apples.

                You realize the argument you’re making? Yes, sometimes straight people murder one another over an affair–not because of their sexuality or identity. The husband is maybe at risk for the affair, but his safety is mostly at risk for existing as non-straight person. People in the LGBTQ+ community face assault and violence over *existing* while walking down a sidewalk.

                You realize those aren’t the same things, right? Come on.

              2. Jules the 3rd*

                But not usually murders from random people at the bar down the street. LGBTQx people face the possibility of Joe Schmoe, their co-worker who is not involved with the boss’s marriage in any way, mentioning this to his drinking buddies and then they decide to go hunting.

                The level of violence and risk between the two are not the same.

          3. Le Sigh*

            I don’t feel like Alison’s advice was about protecting the husband or his dignity. Not outing the husband is about self-preservation and acknowledging the real risks OP could face — not just socially. OP isn’t out, and if they tell people in the company about what happened, even just HR for protection, they’ve now outed themselves and could easily be fired. Federal protections aren’t so good here, and it sounds like OP lives in an area where it’s unlikely there are local employment protections.

            If OP were a woman accidentally dating a married man, it still might not be worth telling — but at least going to HR provides greater protections. Not so here.

          4. sunny-dee*

            And, honestly, the guy is a cheater. There is no reason to believe the LW is the only other person he’s sleeping with — which means that the boss is being exposed to STDs and other issues completely without her knowledge. That is grossly unfair to her, as a person.

            I get that the OP needs to (and should!) cover his own life and career, but I think he should tell the boss when he can. She deserves to know the truth to protect her own life and health. (And I would say exactly the same thing for a hetero affair.)

            1. the rainbow connection*

              And how is the OP supposed to say this? “Hey, Boss, I just want you to know that your husband might be cheating on you, so make sure to get STD testing/use condoms”?

            2. Just Elle*

              I think the LW is totally within his ethical rights to decide never, ever to share this with anyone. He doesn’t ‘owe’ the boss a heads up – the one who ‘owes’ the boss safety from STDs is the husband (and yes, he’s being totally gross and terrible by violating that trust).

              But, if he does decide he is willing to risk (ok, actively pour kerosene over and light on fire) his job in order to tell her, I’m not sure the increased risk to the cheater deserves factoring into the decision.

              1. Le Sigh*

                I appreciate that you have strong feelings on cheaters. But I feel like some commenters, because they have such strong feelings on cheaters, are glossing over or not really absorbing the very real risks to the husband in being forcibly outed in communities like the one in which OP lives.

                Not sure where you or others live, but in a lot of communities in the U.S., you might not get stoned as an official punishment, but many LGBTQ+ people are still being assaulted and even murdered throughout the country. The less extreme end is being completely ostracized by family and friends, losing housing, or losing your job. This often isn’t just a matter of public embarrassment or family shame. I have no experience being closeted or what that can do to a person, nor do I face those kinds of risks — so I want to stress that even if you don’t feel sympathy for cheaters, realize we have a country and many communities where these dangers are real. The stakes are a lot higher here and yeah, ethically, that needs to be given real consideration.

                1. Iva*


                  I also am pro-outing, but would not out an abused woman with a husband who might murder her for cheating.

                  There is nuance, even in a pro-reveal position.

                2. PVR*

                  But Iva—how could you be certain the woman is or is not being abused? You most likely wouldn’t know. You often have no idea who is being abused at home.

              2. sunny-dee*

                He’s not just being “gross and terrible by violating her trust.” He is literally putting her life and health at risk and, if they were to have children, the life and health of their children.

                I didn’t say the OP should just drop the bomb at their next one-on-one or something. I think the situation is potentially explosive enough to warrant looking for a new job. But maybe he could tip off a friend and have that friend tell her, send an anonymous note, something.

                1. Jay*

                  This is true of everyone who cheats. STDs are not unique to men having sex with men. Last survey I saw showed that MSM were more likely to take appropriate precautions than men having sex with women (admittedly, that was a while ago). This smacks of concern trolling.

                2. Anon today*

                  +1 to Jay’s comment

                  People who are so concerned about STDs in this context would find better results for their efforts if they focused them on promoting regular testing for everyone – even people who are in committed relationships. The truth is, even with a trusted partner, it is impossible to be 100% sure that they are NOT cheating (this is why it is callec trust), and many STDs have additional means of transmission.

                  The notion that the possibility of STDs becomes this big issue when the affair is a same-sex one does ring as homophobic – I say this as someone who actually got a (luckily treatable and not very serious) STD from her ex after he cheated on me with another woman.

                3. Crooked Bird*

                  I don’t see where sunny-dee said that their concern about STDs was due to there being a same-sex situation involved. As a matter of fact, this is a comment I’ve often heard from people lately simply about cheating, period. It seems to be a way of pushing back on the idea that the damage caused by cheating is “all in your head.”

            3. Zillah*

              (And I would say exactly the same thing for a hetero affair.)

              But that’s the thing – you shouldn’t say exactly the same thing for a hetero affair, because there is no situation analogous to closeted affairs for straight people.

          5. LegallyRed*


            I consider myself an LGBTQ ally and in general I think people shouldn’t be outing others without their consent, but cheating is one situation (possibly the only one!) where I think it’s okay. That’s not to say that I would advise the LW to do so — I wouldn’t, for all the other reasons that Alison mentioned. And I don’t think he has a moral obligation to do so. But if he wanted accept the potential blowback, I think he would be morally justified in telling his boss that her husband had cheated, even if doing so would also have the effect of outing the husband.

            1. the rainbow connection*

              I consider myself an LGBTQ ally and in general I think people shouldn’t be outing others without their consent, but cheating is one situation (possibly the only one!) where I think it’s okay

              Why? Honestly, why? Cheating is a violation between two people who made a promise of monogamy. The stakes are so, so, so low and so, so, personal. Why is cheating the one that matters the most?

              Also, “outing” is always without consent.

              1. Iva*

                Cheating isn’t low stakes. People die from HPV related cancer and other issues.

                In this case, I’d still advise not to out there person, but let’s not pretend that extra-marital sex is without risk. In this case, it’s a risk being imposed on a spouse without consent.

                That’s not LW’s fault as he didn’t know and there is great risk to him from revealing the info.

                We also have zero idea if wife knows husband likes men, if husband is gay, if he’s cheating. Zero.

                1. the rainbow connection*

                  Please understand that I find “but STDs!!!!” unsympathetic and also kinda homophobic. Not all gay men are evil disease carriers. This kind of thinking is what’s behind the blood donation ban.

                  It’s also trying to shift the goalposts on who are the people in danger in this situation, and also moving the goalposts on what the actual problem here is. Framing this as the person in danger is the boss and that’s who needs to be protected is… no.

                  The problem for the OP is that he was in a relationship with the boss’s husband, while both are in the closet. The problem is that the husband did not tell the OP that he was married. Shifting this to “the real problem is Ethics In Condom Journalism” is not helpful to anyone at all.

            2. Blue Anne*

              LegallyRed, I’m a little irritated by this comment section in general so I hope that when I write out this comment it’s clear that I’m generally irritated, but not specifically at you.

              I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to consider yourself an LGBT ally. That is something that members of the LGBT community should say whether you are or not. (I could believe myself an ally of the black community, but if I’m engaging in casual racism, am I really an ally? I don’t think a black person would say that I’m their ally.)

              In this case, you’re using the allyship you’ve claimed for yourself to condone homophobia. You’re saying that because this person cheated, it’s okay for them to face homophobia. Remember that this could include violence. Although condoning “just” social stigma isn’t great on its own.

              I’m not racist, BUT…
              I consider myself an LGBTQ ally, BUT…

              1. LegallyRed*

                I don’t think believing that, in certain instances, one moral principle outweighs another is the equivalent of condoning an entire category of behavior, nor should it be characterized as such. I mean, I could just as easily say that you are condoning adultery because, in your worldview, it is more important to protect the husband’s privacy regarding his sexual orientation than it is to protect his wife’s sexual health. But I think it would be a gross mischaracterization to say that is the equivalent of condoning adultery.

                The reality is that it sounds like most of us (and by us, I mean the people having this particular discussion) tend to agree that adultery is wrong and also that outing someone is wrong. The disagreement comes in how to balance those two considerations when they come into conflict. I respect that you weigh them differently. I just don’t reach the same outcome that you do.

                And I think your wrong about my reasons for mentioning my ally status. It’s not to justify anything, but instead to provide context for where I’m coming from. If a Pat Robertson type tells me that they think the wife deserves to be told, I’m not going to put much weight in that opinion because he and I clearly have different values and are coming at this issue from vastly different places. (Conversely, if someone said “I’ve been the wife in this situation and I would not support outing the husband to her,” I would sit up and listen more closely to that person.)

                I also think it’s kind … presumptuous? to say that I’m not an ally because of one opinion I hold that you happen to disagree with. There is not a monolithic position on this issue within the LGBTQ community; in fact, there are people who identify as LGBTQ participating in this thread who have expressed the same position that I have. As with any community, you are going to see a variety of ways in which people express and apply their commonly shared values. That’s ok.

                Additional disclosure for context (which I don’t think I should have to bring up on a work-related message board, but maybe this will help you understand better where I’m coming from): I contracted an STI due to my former husband’s cheating (with an opposite sex partner). I wish that someone with knowledge of the situation had told me, but I understand why someone in the LW’s position needs to consider his own self-preservation first.

                1. Le Sigh*

                  “(Conversely, if someone said “I’ve been the wife in this situation and I would not support outing the husband to her,” I would sit up and listen more closely to that person.)”

                  @Detective Right-All-The-Time basically said this higher up in this thread.

          6. Batgirl*

            I think OP would need to leave the company before being that honest. I’m really in favour of exposing affairs but this would not only put OPs career at risk it also puts his boss in a pretty horrible situation if she has to knowingly work with someone her husband cheated with. I would try to get out, then tell her.

          7. Sebastian*

            There’s no such thing as outing someone as a cheater. Exposing his cheating without revealing that he’s bi wouldn’t be outing him.

            Outing someone non-consensually is unethical, and it doesn’t stop being unethical just because they’ve behaved badly.

            1. Koala dreams*

              The ex-boyfriend choose to out himself as bi when he went to the party at the company where both his wife and his boyfriend worked, and that was the thing that unravelled the betrayal to the letter writer, but it’s pretty weird to focus on that detail in light of all the other awful things. Also, there’s nothing that says that it was non-consensual on the part of the ex-boyfriend. If anything, the risk of non-consensual outing is more on the line that the ex-boyfriend now have a position of power and can out the letter writer. Which is sad. :(

              1. the rainbow connection*

                The ex-boyfriend choose to out himself as bi when he went to the party at the company where both his wife and his boyfriend worked

                That’s not what outing is.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              Plus, if the OP told the wife, he would not only be outing her husband, non-consensually, but himself to a known homophobe!

              He should just stay quiet, and hope that her hubby also has the same level of self preservation.

          8. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Just Elle, you have said that you have no idea what it is like to live as a closeted queer person. Given that context, I think you should step back and listen a bit, rather than proclaiming your opinions on how being gay in America isn’t that bad actually. A lot of us here on the board have a much better idea than you do about what the costs of being closeted vs coming out are.

            Outing people against their will has a long and terrible history. People have lost families, homes, and livelihoods because someone else decided that a moral principle was more important than someone’s privacy. It is not an acceptable thing to do, full stop.

            1. Just Elle*

              I get that we disagree on how morally reprehensible cheating is.
              But separately, I was genuinely asking why revealing that someone is cheating is somehow different if it also outs them, and I listened to the responses and can now see why it would be the case.
              I still don’t know I’m convinced the LW ‘owes’ the husband, but I get why he would want to factor it into his decision.

              To be clear, I also never meant to imply “being gay in America isn’t that bad,” and that’s definitely not something I believe. I was just saying, imo, no consequence other than certain death (and even then its debatable) makes it “morally excusable” to marry someone you don’t love and then cheating on them.

              1. R.D.*

                I don’t think you can assume that this man doesn’t love his wife. It seems like you are assuming he married her as some of cover, but I don’t think that’s how it normally works.

                People are complex and it’s not a black and white issue here.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Agreed. I wonder if a few people are getting confused because LW identified himself as gay and so they’re now assuming that means the man he was in a relationship with must also be gay? (That’s not how gay works.) We don’t know what LW’s boss’ husband’s deal is and that’s a few too many steps removed for all the certainties that are going around here.

                  I’ve dated a lot of guys who are into guys but were also into me for some reason. Bi erasure is a problem because it’s “easy” to clock who’s gay and who’s straight based on who’s holding hands with who at the company picnic but it’s a lot harder to immediately identify the bi folx based on current relationship status (unless we’re actively poly and then that’s a whole other thing).

              2. Nephron*

                Bisexuality is a thing, as is pansexual. We don’t know how the marriage started, we don’t know when or why the cheating started.

                We know this is in a conservative area, that the boss/wife is sending signals of being a bigot against the LGBT+ community. We know that decent odds there are no laws protecting LGBT+ and there is high likelihood of laws that harm LGBT+ people. If outed as LGBT+ the husband faces ostracism by friends and family, he faces a higher risk of assault and battery. He can be fired, or evicted based on LGBT status, and he might lose any custody of children in the marriage based on his LGBT status and financial fall out.

                Do I think the husband is handling this situation very well? No. I might not even want to be on acquaintance level with him. But the legal reality is very different than if they were in New York or California and different then if the husband was cheating with women in the current location.

              3. Gazebo Slayer*

                “No consequence other than certain death (and even then it’s debatable)”

                So you literally value marital fidelity over people’s LIVES?

                This is how we get honor killings.

              4. Jules the 3rd*

                record scratch…. I was sympathetic to your questioning until you hit ‘no consequence other than certain death (and even then its debatable) makes it “morally excusable” to marry someone you don’t love and then cheating on them.’

                That’s… pretty extreme, there.

                Also: No one is claiming the husband is ‘morally excused’. People are saying that maybe the right consequences for his moral failure (like, as people have said, divorce) are not the consequences that go along with being outed (which may include divorce, but can also include physical beatings and death).

              5. Beth*

                It’s not that LW ‘owes’ the husband privacy. There are a lot of factors involved, really.
                1. To out the husband, LW has to out himself. Is that worth it, in this environment?
                2. If the husband is outed, there’s a real chance that he could be in serious danger because of that. Is that a reasonable consequence of cheating? It’s certainly not a standard one; for most people, the worst-case scenario is that your marriage breaks up. Is it really just to sentence someone else to an unusually severe punishment for the ‘crime’ they committed, a punishment that would be unthinkable for the same transgression if bigotry weren’t in play? Even if you think it is, is it something any single individual should feel justified in bringing on another individual? At least in a courtroom you get a jury…
                3. If LW outs the husband and the husband suffers homophobia as a result, LW will likely feel responsible to a degree for that. (I’m not saying LW WOULD be responsible–the people enacting the homophobia are the ones responsible for their actions–but it’s a very normal human thing to feel responsible for the fallout of our actions, even in cases where it was unpredictable or out of our control.) Does LW deserve to carry that with him?
                4. Outing closeted people is pretty taboo in a lot of LGBT+ circles. To some extent, we do agree to ‘owe’ each other that; it’s a mutual protection mechanism, it’s a way we keep our communities safe (even if person A did something ‘bad enough’ to ‘deserve’ to be outed, odds are good that it would bring suspicion on B and C who A has been known to hang out with regularly, and do B and C deserve that?), it’s a cultural thing. (I don’t know if this is true to the same extent in all LGBT+ groups, but it’s been true in the ones I’ve been involved in; we assume that closeted people are closeted for a reason.) LW might well experience pushback from his community if he were to go that route, which could be painful.

                This is just some potential reasons that come to mind for me. I’m sure other people would have others. Note that none of them are about whether cheating is acceptable or morally excusable! Most of them aren’t about the husband and what he deserves at all. It’s about bigotry being a threat that’s already kind of constantly looming over us; you can’t even begin to contribute to a discussion on this stuff without accounting for that.

              6. yala*

                “I get that we disagree on how morally reprehensible cheating is.”

                I think that’s rather beside the point most people are trying to explain to you here.

          9. Beth*

            Outing someone as a cheater will likely have ramifications for their marriage and possibly for their reputation in their community.

            Outing someone as gay, especially in homophobic areas, can be actively life-destroying. On the severe end, people get assaulted and sometimes killed over this shit. ”’Less severe”’ consequences can include loss of livelihood, loss of housing, ostracization from family, exclusion from social support networks like churches and shelters, etc. It’s not like this everywhere these days, thank goodness, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone either. And it sounds like OP lives in a fairly homophobic area.

            You can view them as the same ‘yuck factor’ and decry the fact that others treat them differently all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that the potential consequences are radically different. It’s not about being ok with cheating when it’s gay; it’s about what you’re willing to take responsibility for inflicting on another person. You can’t turn off societal homophobia just because you personally think it shouldn’t matter.

          10. Blue Anne*

            Ugh. Look, you may be disgusted by Americans treating gay people as worse than cheaters, but when you’re saying things like “I can kind of see where outing someone as gay has even worse social ramifications”, you’re vastly under stating the situation and it’s kind of insulting.

            Is cheating on someone worse than being gay? Yes.

            If someone is outed as a cheater in Homophobic Small Town, USA, is it likely to lead to them being the target of physical violence, harassment, and completely legal discrimination in their job and housing? No.

            Is being outed as gay likely to lead to those things? Totally possible.

            If someone cheats on their spouse, do they therefore deserve to be flagged as a potential target of violence, treated as a sexual predator, face homophobic harassment, maybe lose their job, maybe lose their housing, maybe lose their medical care provider?…

            1. Blue Anne*

              Okay, yes, this is why it bothers me so much. Just Elle, you’re basically saying that it’s okay for someone who is a cheater to also face homophobia as a result. Which is, frankly, homophobic.

              1. Just Elle*

                Well, no. I asked, “why does consideration of this cheater’s privacy factor in where other, straight, cheaters do not get the same benefit?” And the response was, well, because being a homosexual has real and present danger, and its generally agreed upon in the gay community that the right to privacy trumps the moral justification that usually allows people to expose cheaters. And I said, eh, personally, I’d still give more consideration to LW’s rights than the cheater’s, but I now understand why he might factor this into his logic and I respect his choice.”
                …or at least, that’s what I meant to say. I was genuinely asking and working through my thoughts, because this is a learning opportunity for me. I’m sorry if it didn’t come off that way.

                I also, separately, in another thread, said that we shouldn’t just let people off the hook for acting immorally because they have a good reason. But I never suggested outing him as some kind of retribution or anything. I can both think this guy acted like a grade-A jerk and LW should get priority consideration on how this situation plays out, and understand the need to protect grade-A jerks from homophobia.

            2. Koala dreams*

              If somebody cheated on their boyfriend with another woman, why would the betrayed party worry about the cheater’s reputation? I can see the point that the strategy of mutual assured destruction would make it in the best interest of both people to keep quiet, but I can’t see the point that should care about the cheater who took advantage of the mutual assured destruction scenario to cheat and make you their un-willing participant.

              1. Blue Anne*

                So you think that because this person cheater on his wife, it’s okay for him to be subjected to homophobia, possibly including violence?

                1. voyager1*

                  Sounds like he is already getting the homophobia to be honest, if his wife uses slurs around him.

                  As for the violence, I mean I guess that could happen. The wife could fly into a jealous rage and attack him.

                  She could even shame him on social media or to their mutual friends. But if he is gay and they get divorced it will probably all come out in the divorce proceedings etc.

                  I am just curious though since we are all fan fictioning the heck out of this. If your SO was cheating on you, would you want someone to tell you? Would you prefer that they keep that to themself?

                  I went through a cheating ordeal back when I was in my early 20s. I had been with that person for almost two years. I found out she was cheating and had cheated for almost a year of the time we had been together. A mutual acquaintance told me, and I am glad they did. It hurt a lot at the time but spared me much suffering.

                  While worrying about the fear of violence or shame the husband will feel for his actions is wonderfully woke and all. I can guarantee that if the wife does not know what is going on, she will feel a lot of pain when her husband’s actions become known to her.

                  I can’t speak for every poster on here, but I don’t feel anything for what will happen to him when his affair becomes known to his wife. I would not wish violence or harm to him, physical violence is inexcusable form of justice. But if his wife leaves him and he gets the reputation of a cheater (gay, bi or whatever) well he is accountable for his own actions.

                2. yala*

                  This really isn’t about “being woke and all.”

                  Casual homophobia not directed at you is hurtful, but nowhere near the same as being a TARGET for homophobia. He hears his wife say slurs. Being outed in a conservative area could cost him *everything*

                  Never mind that it would almost certainly hurt LW too.

                  Cheating is horrible and hurtful and no one is trying to say it isn’t. But it’s that whole “two wrongs don’t make a right” thing—cheating is harmful. Outing someone is harmful.

                  Just…just don’t out people.

              2. Blueberry*

                This is a distinction without a difference, since the MAD alone makes it bad advice to counsel the LW to out his cheating boyfriend, but: this issue goes far beyond “reputation”. It’s not “people might dislike the cheater,” it’s that “because the cheating relationship was same sex, outing the cheater means outing him as involved in same-sex relationships, which puts him at risk for all the ramifications of homophobia from ostracism to death.” Outing someone as queer, even if one found out because the person was being terribly unethical (such as lying to multiple people, including oneself, to pursue cheating), is far too dangerous and cruel.

                Anyway, the LW has to take care of himself and outing his cheating ex will hurt the LW. That alone makes it bad advice.

      3. SomebodyElse*

        I feel bad for everyone but the husband…

        Yes, this is no fault of the OP, but they will be the one who takes the blame. I really don’t think there’s a graceful way out of this situation and it will come out at some point.

        If the boss finds out, the OP will be the person who ruined the marriage in the eyes of the boss. The best of us could not help but to stop seeing “Bob the employee” and forever only see “Bob the guy who helped ruin my marriage” even if we would know intellectually that Bob didn’t knowingly do anything wrong. We just aren’t wired that way. I call myself the queen of compartmentalization and I wouldn’t be able to have a normal working relationship in the same shoes. I certainly can’t fault someone else for it.

        1. Batgirl*

          “We just arent wired that way”. Absolutely. People are always trying to rules-lawyer what the reaction to an affair should be and levels of blame… No. OP is totally innocent but his boss is going to feel the way she feels no matter what conscious thoughts she tries to have. Its not a reaction he wants to provoke.

        1. JB*

          Actually, I don’t feel bad for the homophobic wife at all. Her husband shouldn’t cheat on her, but it also sounds like none of the queer people in this situation feel like they are able to be out, which is a horrible feeling. Homophobic Wife is part of that problem and part of that hostile environment. If she were a better person, her husband might feel comfortable coming clean to her, but since she’s garbage, he might worry about what coming out to her and splitting up could do to him socially, financially, etc.

          Homophobes deserve all the awful that hits them.

          1. Just Elle*

            Wait, no. You don’t get to label other human beings “garbage” and you don’t get to decide whether or not they deserve to have their trust violated.

            This is particularly ironic contrasted with the above (completely spot on) chorus of people who said that no one deserves to be the victim of homophobia no matter what they’ve done.

            1. JB*

              No one deserves to be the victim of homophobia. Agreed.

              BUT, it is bad to be homophobic, and homophobic people are bad people. The wife is a bad person. She doesn’t deserve to have her trust violated – because no one *deserves* to be cheated on; I wouldn’t wish that on someone out of spite – but I think her being homophobic is morally worse than her closeted, gay husband cheating on her. I think her being homophobic makes it much harder for him to do the right thing and come clean to her. (Of course the *most* right thing would be to… not have cheated on her… but that train has left the station.)

              And the husband also put OP in a really terrible position, which isn’t a good look on him. OP gets the shortest end of the stick here, and they’ve done nothing to deserve it.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                “it is bad to be homophobic, and homophobic people are bad people. The wife is a bad person.”

                This is childishly reductive. Dismissing her as being undeserving of compassion or consideration might make you feel better but that’s a dangerous path to take. These aren’t monsters, they’re people behaving monstrously: they don’t go away just because you deny them humanity.

                Feeling empathy for someone’s situation doesn’t mean you can’t condemn the poor decisions they made in that situation. We’re capable of more nuance than that.

                1. JB*

                  The husband shouldn’t have cheated on his wife. But his wife is still a bad person ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It is bad to be homophobic, homophobes are bad people. Racism is bad, racists are bad people… anti-semitism is bad, anti-semites are bad people… bigotry is bad! And bigots are bad! Idk when people decided it was gauche to just say this, but listen: some people are straight-up bad people.

                  The husband made a mistake by cheating on her, and should probably divorce her, as people have suggested elsewhere in this thread – he doesn’t need to come out of the closet to remove himself from the situation. He really forked it up here, for everyone involved.

                  The homophobic wife deserves consideration because she has power over OP’s situation. But I don’t think anyone should care about her feelings beyond that. Idk about y’all but I’m not here to extend my sympathies to bigots!

          2. Starbuck*

            Nope, pushing back hard on the idea that wife deserves to be cheated on because she’s homophobic. Absolutely not. This guy isn’t in a great situation, and certainly doesn’t deserve to be a victim of bigotry because he’s a cheater, but he made a bad choice that made things worse. Not wife’s fault.

    2. Anonymeece*

      Ugh, I feel awful for everyone in this situation. And I actually agree that I’m leaning toward “don’t say anything, the chances are low”. But if they were dating for 6 weeks, there’s still a possibility that she could find out without the husband outing himself – someone could have seen them together, a new employee could say, “Oh, that’s your husband? How does he know [OP]? I saw them at the restaurant together.”

      Sorry, OP, I’m not trying to freak you out – I still think the possibility is very low – but it’s still not zero and I think it’s smart to have an exit strategy in place just in case.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Doubtful they were seen. Dating is different in a conservative, homophobic town when you’re closeted. It’s less “dinner and movie,” more “grab some takeaway and watch Netflix on my couch.”

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I disagree only with your first sentence. The BEST case scenario is that the boyfriend has an identical gay twin.

  5. Diahann Carroll*


    OP, don’t say a damn thing. If you want to move internally, you should investigate that option if it’s available to you (though I’m pissed on your behalf that you would even have to consider this since you didn’t do a damn thing wrong here).

    Please update us on what you decide to do.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I usually lean toward getting things out into the open, but on this one I’m a “take this secret to your grave” vote.

      1. Quill*

        Turn the secret into a bug, put it in a box, put that box inside another box, and then smash it with a hammer.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Ha! This is the only thing in this article that has made me grin. Thank you. Maybe I need to watch Emperor’s New Groove tonight to cheer myself up.

    2. MistOrMister*

      Yeah, I lean very heavily towards not saying anything either. If OP didn’t work for this woman, that would be different. But this set up just has the potential to go horribly for OP which really stinks. Bad enough to find out that someone you really liked was lying and in a relationship (been there, done that!!!). But for them to be your boss’s spouse…EGAD!!!

      It does seem really unfair for OP to have to consider a move. And the fact that, as Alison says, things would likely go differently if OP was a woman as far as protection from retaliation is just so very unfair as well.

    3. Sara without an H*

      +10. OP, this is very much too bad, and not at all your fault. My guess is your boss doesn’t actually know this about her husband, but perhaps suspects something is not right. Human nature being what it is, if she finds out, she’ll most likely take it out on you, rather than on her weaselly, lying, no-good husband.

      Say nothing to your boss, or anybody else for that matter. I don’t think you need to make any sudden moves, but if your firm is big enough to support internal transfers, you should definitely start looking at what’s available. It also wouldn’t hurt to start looking for other opportunities in your area.

    4. Flash Bristow*

      Poor you, OP, absolutely huge sympathies. I know what it’s like to feel strongly… Very strongly… for someone who wasn’t honest about things (I found another girl’s pills in his bed) so I feel so bad for you. Well done in breaking it off.

      But what I came to say / ask is: if enquiring about an internal transfer, what should OP say when told “but you’re so good at your role, we thought you loved it! Why would you want to move, especially right before the [quiet / busy (as appropriate)] festive season?”

      Sure they can give the standard blurb about seeking new challenges etc., but I’d be wondering what to say that didn’t make me look weak or indecisive or whatever.

  6. SometimesALurker*

    “Given her homophobic comments, I’m guessing she doesn’t know he’s gay or bisexual and this isn’t a situation where he has her blessing to date men on the side.” True, but more importantly, I think we can guess he doesn’t have her blessing given the fact he didn’t tell OP he was married in over a month of dating. People who are ethically non-monogamous mention to new partners the fact that they’re married, and it’s not like a “month two” conversation. The fact that he cheated and lied isn’t the meat of the letter, but it doesn’t take sleuthing to figure out whether he has his wife’s blessing.

    I’m sorry this happened to you, OP.

    1. Sole*

      I go so far as to say that her homophobic comments may be on her mind because she’s caught other men flirting with him. A man like this is likely the plane other men’s aggressiveness not own up to his own desire

      I have emptied it has been a situation, but it’s really up to him to exit or be honest. Lying to the wife is one thing you get and homophobia and the desire to preserve the marriage. However, he also lied to the letter writer. He didn’t have to lie to the LW for any reason other than prioritizing his desire over LW’s fully informed consent. It’s not as if there are plenty of gay men out there who knowingly date married men. One only needs to spend five minutes on a date porn site to see that there is a whole fetish about this.

    2. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I’m on dating apps and people mention ethical non-monogamy in profiles. Hell, there are some married men on the apps who are just cheaters and they say THAT up front (and of course, some who don’t say anything and just cheat). If this guy had permission to date/have sex outside the marriage, he would have said so.

    3. MissGirl*

      He also has an added hurdle here to be believed by the boss. If he was a woman, the boss would have to believe her husband had an affair. But with him being a man, she has to believe her husband had an affair and is gay. I’m usually on the side of transparency but I don’t know that she’d believe you because denial would be so strong.

      Or she believes you and forgives him but you become the target of her anger because you “seduced” her husband. How often do we see people more angry at the affair partner and not their spouse because it’s easier?

      Even if she does believe you and holds her husband accountable and not you, you’re still in a hugely awkward position.

      There is no good decision and I’m sorry you’re in it. I feel for you and the wife. For me integrity usually demands honesty, but I don’t think that you’re the one who carries that burden. If you feel guilty, remember it’s the husband who has hurt both of you.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        Agree so much. She’d probably react badly to just you knowing her husband is gay, let alone being one who had a relationship with him.

    4. MistOrMister*

      Excellent point! I’ve been approached by a few poly-men and they are always quite clear that they’re married. And granted, that’s just not my cup of tea, I still very much appreciate them being up front. It is not at all fair to someone to not tell them you’re married/seriously dating/whatever. Usually people seem to do that when they have reason to believe you wouldn’t “date” them if you knew. Always burns me up. Why should the other party get to decide for me whether or not I need to know information that is very often a dealbreaker? It’s just pure selfishness, if you ask me.

      But, yeah, it seems incredibly unlikely that they do in fact have an open marriage. Or, maybe they do but the boss thinks her husband is only dating women. That would add an interesting wrinkle.

    5. The Bean*

      Plus it sounds like OP dumped him or ghosted him after the party. If he were in an open relationship you think he would have sent a “let me explain” message.

  7. Katherine*

    Honestly, the first thing I thought was that the woman makes homophobic comments *because* she knows, but is in denial, that her husband is gay. I don’t think it changes the calculus here, but I bet she knows at least some of it- maybe not the seeing other men but that he’s gay, or had relationships with men in the past.

    1. Ted Mosby*

      I was also wondering if she might know. In many areas of the country small, frequent homophobic comments are so common, so I wouldn’t make any assumptions based on that, but when I lived down south I defiantly saw a lot of people who were married but there was an unstated understanding that same sex hanky panky was happening on the side, well all pretend it’s not happening, don’t let me see it, this is less sinful then living a full on gay life (just the occasional gay slip!).

      Idk, I guess I just can’t imagine hiding anything that well in 2019.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      But I’ve also seen closeted people make homophobic remarks out of fear as well. I’ve seen loved ones of LGBTQ that they do know make these remarks. There’s really no way of knowing what’s going on and has her in that cycle of hate.

    3. SaffyTaffy*

      That’s what I thought, too. I’ve seen that happen with people’s parents, with partners, unrequited crushes. Even a girl I was close friends with in college, one day she sent me this email about how I was trying to make her gay and I think everybody wants to be gay and she doesn’t want to be friends anymore. And of course 3 years later she came out and is married to a woman now. Denial and frustration are terrible, they make people mean.

    4. Sparrow*

      In denial or aware but bitter about it, I’d guess. Either way, there’s a good chance it would get ugly for OP if she learns about their relationship, regardless of when/how she finds out, so I definitely don’t think OP should say anything as long as he’s trying to maintain a close professional relationship with her. I think Alison and other commenters are right – I’d start looking for a new job, just in case, either elsewhere in the org or in another organization entirely. Ugh, this really sucks for OP. I’m rooting for him :(

  8. Liz T*

    Agreed that, unfortunately, it will likely only hurt you to tell her the truth. Even if she were to 100% believe it was 100% her husband’s fault and 0% yours (which is really unlikely even though it’s 100% true), her inclination towards homophobia and the emotionality of the situation means she’s almost certain to punish you for this, one way or another.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      Quietly move on. Don’t make a fuss, don’t out the husband to your boss or to other Gay men, don’t worry too much about the relationship with the new boss, just move along as soon as you can do so without damaging your career. If that means an internal transfer, so be it. If that means moving elsewhere, that’s fine. Just keep it simple and move along quietly, and if you can – it’s not essential – find a situation where you can be out.

    2. Kyrielle*

      This. In a *best case* scenario, she would be incredibly uncomfortable around you (for good reason, but not your fault) and that…isn’t going to work well.

      I’d keep this one utterly quiet, and if it comes up later, navigate it then. It’s likely that it won’t come up, but if it does, I’d probably say that you had no idea and as soon as you realized, you broke it off with him. (She’s then likely to ask why you didn’t tell her then, and honestly, I’d go with, “It felt like a badly-written drama – I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t live through it. I didn’t think you would either!”)

      If you can switch bosses and/or companies without offending her or otherwise messing up your life, maybe do that to be safe – if she does find out later you’ll be somewhat insulated then – but only if you want to.

  9. Amber Rose*

    Don’t say anything. I wouldn’t call the chance of a bad reaction a mere chance, it’s an almost certainty. Even if she does know (which is unlikely based on the evidence), there’s no reasonable person that’s gonna be totally cool with a subordinate dating their spouse. Also if the dude lied to YOU, he’s probably lying to her, don’t you think?

    On the flip side, you broke up with the guy, so she will never catch you two together. If she does find out, either because he comes clean or she walks in on him, your name doesn’t have to be involved in this.

    It might be, but the odds are way lower. So I wouldn’t say anything. Cheater’s gonna cheat, that’s not on you. You were lied to also. You get to choose to protect yourself, your future, your safety and your feelings as a first priority right now. That is 100% OK.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Right. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T TELL. Find another job and get the hell out before she finds out some other way or catches him cheating.

      1. Ama*

        Yup. In my experience, serial cheaters will say pretty much anything to distract from their responsibility for the situation. My biggest worry for the OP is that if/when the husband gets caught, he will try to deflect some of his wife’s anger with “I’m suprised [OP] didn’t tell you — we dated for six weeks.”

        It really, really sucks for the OP but I think the best thing is to try to get as far away from this situation as he can before it blows up and he become collateral damage.

  10. Ted Mosby*

    Not going to address the homophobia (I’m bi, I don’t think it’s ok, just a totally separate can of worms), but I do think that your boss could be otherwise mature and lovely and still not be able to work with you for a long time if you tell her this, or understand it’s not your fault but still have a lot of anger towards you when she finds out. I think it would be nearly impossible not to feel that way. From there, it will be her needs vs yours. You’re new, she’s your boss, the story won’t be under either of your control once it gets out. I see so so little upside to telling her all this. Throw in the homophobic comments and there’s one more reason it could all go badly.

    I’m so sorry that this happened to you OP.

    1. pope suburban*

      Yes, I think it’s easier for most people to put all the blame and bad feelings on the stranger rather than the loved one who wronged them, at least at first. In a situation like this, with so many other variables re being out, the boss having more clout, and the general ethics of outing another person (It’s a terrible thing to do to someone without their consent), I feel like the likelihood of LW bearing the brunt of some pretty serious anger is even higher. He broke it off, he didn’t do anything wrong, and all he can really do is move past it. I feel terrible for him that he was put in this position.

      1. Ted Mosby*

        Yes! And, even if she’s not mentally blaming him and knows in her brain he did nothing wrong, she might still emotionally blame him, and feel that anger. Or she might just feel SO SO AWKWARD. Or she might not believe he didn’t know and blame them both. There’s so many scenarios here that don’t mean she’s a jerk but also don’t end in her being able to assess OP and assign him work in a fair way.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      This. I think, trying to put myself in her shoes (which is already difficult), my absolute best response that I could muster would be along the lines of “Thank you for your honesty. I think the best thing for us on a work level would be to not continue in a supervisory relationship; would you be willing to work with me and HR on a way to transition one of us – and to be fair, that would probably be you – to a position where neither of us has to worry about the impression of repercussions?” And if I managed a response like that, I’d still be calling maintenance afterward to remove my fingernails from where they were embedded in the underside of my desktop or the arms of my chair or something.

    3. GooseTracks*

      Yes! There is no universe in which LW tells the truth and it ends well for him. He will be the messenger who blows up this woman’s marriage! Anyone would have trouble supervising that person afterwards, even without the bigotry issues (which are significant, as well). LW did the right thing by staying quiet and ending the relationship; now he should focus on protecting himself in the workplace.

    4. Quill*

      Yeah, seen friend groups & aquaintances where a cheating scenario meant two people could not be comfortable in the same place as each other. (Mostly in college, where you would find out about this drama because the shouting match between cheater and cheated upon would occur outside your door at 11 pm…)

      Even if you don’t blame the other person, just the cheater, things can get weird on a personal level.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I think in this situation even a very decent mature boss who recognizes logically that OP did nothing wrong would very likely feel unlogical feelings that would make working together uncomfortable. It’s just a sucky situation for everyone.

  11. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.*

    Yeah, I’m on Team Mouth Shut here. You could be outing someone who is not yet out. You could be breaking up a marriage and devastating someone in denial, which would be bad enough if your livelihood didn’t depend on it.

    Do your best to find a new position and/or generally get the hell out of dodge. You were also lied to, don’t forget that. You had no idea, and you broke it off right away. She will not reward you for telling the truth here. Run, run, run.

    1. Close Bracket*

      You could be breaking up a marriage

      No. The cheating spouse broke up the marriage, not the unknowing affair partner.

      1. Filosofickle*

        My interpretation: Earl Grey means that telling her about the affair might set events in motion that break up the marriage. Not that the LW is responsible for breaking it up.

      2. Batgirl*

        Yeah the marriage is currently toast and if OP could tell her without unfair risk to himself I’d say go for it. Marriages only recover from affairs when it is known that there is an affair to recover from.

    2. Ted Mosby*

      Honestly if you’re married and cheating I think you loose the right to be in the closet. I say this as someone who has been maliciously outted to family and coworkers, which was devastating. I don’t think this guy has any right to keep hidden from his wife that he sleeps w men.

      I still wouldn’t tell her though.

      1. Lehigh*

        Yeah, no one has a right to lie to his spouse about who he is sleeping with. Full stop.

        But I agree that the OP would probably be harmed, has done nothing wrong, and should therefore probably not say anything.

  12. ConsultingIsFun*

    As a fellow gay man (who is, fortunately for me/unfortunately for you, in a much more liberal/cosmopolitan area), you’re going to have to put your head down and just ignore the situation. It sucks, and the husband is AWFUL, but I don’t think you would feel very good about outing someone.

    Honestly, my only solution is to much somewhere less awful but I realize that is not feasible for most people. But if you can…I have been 100000000x happier since I have moved from a suburb to a huge city.

    1. triplehiccup*

      As a gay woman, I also urge you to take whatever steps you can towards limiting the amount of homophobia in your life. I didn’t realize how much it was getting to me at previous jobs until I left for a supportive and affirming workplace. The time and effort it takes will be worth it.

      1. A nonny mouse*

        Agree. I am so sorry for the discomfort – Perhaps that’s too mild a word – you have experienced.

      2. starsaphire*

        Team This (out bi woman in CA here).

        I know so, so many people who moved out here and just… came alive. And won’t go back, except to visit. My friend who was terrified to hold hands with her girlfriend in public. My friend who went to his first Pride parade and cried because he’d literally never seen men kiss in public before.

        I am so, so sorry you are going through this, and that some jerk lied to you and put you in this awful position.

      3. Pippa K*

        Yeah. This: “she’s made some homophobic comments … It’s not a big deal for me personally because I’ve dealt with this kind of comments at every job I’ve ever had and honestly, she’s not as bad as many of the people I’ve dealt with”
        just made me feel so sad for the OP. I wish no one had to get used to this.

      4. Quill*

        Team This, definitely, but also find your community where you are, because chances are… other people who are local and have to be a little bit on the quiet side already know about this guy.

    2. The Bean*

      Yup. I don’t want to tell LW what to do with his life, but changing jobs somewhere liberal would solve the ticking time bomb problem and would also be for his mental health and dating prospects.

    3. Rachael with an A*

      I completely agree — move if possible. I am a partnered lez and had to stay in the closet at my last two jobs in a very conservative part of Texas. It was difficult to keep a secret and took a huge toll on me mentally. I moved to NYC last year and am sooooo much happier!!! Nobody has been weird about me being gay AT ALL and it’s so cool, it’s mindblowing.

      I will also add that I am the product of a heterosexual extramarital affair that was never disclosed. I only found out as an adult, and I disclosed the past affair to my father’s wife and two adult children about five years ago. Understandably perhaps, they totally freaked out and not only blamed my mom (who, like LW, was unaware my father was married), but also sent me some really nasty letters saying that I had “ruined” their family and implying that I was only disclosing because they’re rich and I want their money. Of course I’ve never contacted them since, but my point is to echo others above — no matter how benign your intentions, these disclosures tend to blow back on you, the discloser, not the cheater. Just my experience.

  13. AnotherAlison*

    All I can say for the OP is that I agree with the Alison’s advice.

    Now, for the boss’s husband, I have to think the wife (boss) doesn’t know and this is the universe giving him a kick in the pants to tell her or It will do it for him.

  14. Sole*

    As someone who would always want to know if an ongoing partner Was breaking the terms of our agreement in anway to jeopardize my emotional health, physical health, etc. I can say with absolute certainty that I would advise any friends in this situation and not to Disclose

    I suspect there will be plenty of argument today about Ethics of disclosure versus keeping silent in typical cheating situations. I don’t think his arguments apply here as the situation you are you and is very far from typical.

    Chances of this coming out well if you disclose are slim IMHO. You may still be out at some point in the future. However, I would take that risk.

    I also have to wonder if the homophobic comments are the result of some past experience where she found a man flirting w her husband and didn’t realize it was welcomed

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Yes! Below I advised the LW to not mention it because he needs to take care of himself.

      I am also one who generally thinks informing the cheated on spouse is best. I would want to know the truth if it were happening to me especially if the knowledge has gotten out into my social circle or community.

      But in this case no good comes of it for the LW to be the one to inform her and out himself. He needs to protect himself.

    2. Batgirl*

      I agree with you that the situation is atypical. Not only is OP innocent, was proactive about ending it, and ultimately never signed up to having any responsibility for boss’s personal life (a friend would be a different kettle of fish); they are also very vulnerable because of their identity and boss’ politics.

      There’s also the two month aspect. I know as someone who’s been betrayed that I could work with someone who went on one date, found out and warned me; but two months is a lot for any human being to wrap their head around.

      Even a safe bet would struggle to treat OP fairly and she’s not a safe bet.

  15. Spidey Cents*

    I am so sorry that people have set such a low bar on decent behavior. I believe because of her comments that deep down your boss has suspicions about her husband’s inclinations and it hasn’t come to a head…yet. I would stay silent, start looking ASAP and put distance between all of them and you, quickly!

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      You’d be surprised. I know people who date for that long and don’t even know the other person’s last name.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      We don’t know for sure that he didn’t. What’s the husband going to say if it comes up, “Oh, my wife works there, too”? I mean, you would think he (the husband) would be panicked at the idea of the work party if they (husband and OP) had discussed it and he know the OP might be there, but I think there is a lot not right going on in that guy’s thought process. My dad is/was a narc cheater and the things he *thought* he could get away with were pretty unbelievable.

      1. Washi*

        Exactly! This guy could have known where OP works and just have been hoping for the best in terms of getting away with it.. (If it’s a big company, he may have figured the odds of OP being closely connected to his wife were low.)

    3. Not an Exhibit at the Petting Zoo*

      Most likely he was banking on the LW not wanting to out himself at work, since they both said that they weren’t out.

    4. Crackles*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. How do you make a great connection with someone and in the course of 6 weeks never talk about what you do for work? Just seems odd.

      1. Amber Rose*

        What I do is different from where I do it. I don’t usually tell people the name of my company because that seems like irrelevant info.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          This too. Now that I think about it, I usually don’t mention company name(s) when people ask me what I do either – I just give them a job title.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        It makes sense to me. I’ve had friends for years and don’t know where they work, and have maybe a vague sense of what they do for a living. It just doesn’t come up!

        1. AMT*

          I just mentally tried to list the jobs my friends have. “Something to do with TV production…something related to IT…semi-retired…is he still in grad school?…HR or something…posts a lot on Facebook about being a DJ but I’m not sure it’s his full-time thing…”

          1. whingedrinking*

            Or even when you can name it, you might not know all the specifics. I can go “lawyer, librarian, physical therapist” and not be able to cite branches, firms and practices.

        2. The Original K.*

          Yeah, I’m thinking about my book club. I don’t know where a few of them work and I know some of them don’t know where I work. One person got a new job not long ago and announced it when we were at our meeting so I know where she works now, but I didn’t know where she worked before that. We all know what we do, but not necessarily where (except the SAHMs in the club; we know where they work!).

          Also, as has been pointed out, even if OP did share where he worked, it’s not like the husband was going to say “Oh word? My wife works there! Maybe you know her.”

        3. Quill*

          “What do you even *do* anyway” is something that even family members will keep asking if you’re in a sufficiently technical field.

      3. the rainbow connection*

        If you’re dealing with closet issues and anonymity because getting outed could lose you your job, your housing, your support, and if you don’t know for sure that the person you’re dating might not end up being someone who is gonna use what you tell them and hurt you with it in a variety of ways (including people who think it’s fun to “sting” the gays and reveal them to their families)… um. This is very very normal to not say where you work. If you break up badly and they don’t know where you work, it’s an extra layer they’d have to dig through to get you fired over it.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      You’re assuming the bf wasn’t a sh!tbag liar. He’s cheating on his wife with potential long term boyfriend(s), he probably knows how to lie pretty well by now.

    6. blackcat*

      Um. LW is a gay man, dating a dude who said he wasn’t out but presented as single…. “Where does your wife work?” would be very low on the list of getting to know you questions.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I think you’re reading it the wrong way ’round. It’s about whether the husband/BF asked where OP worked, not if OP asked where husband/BF’s wife works.

        1. fposte*

          Right, “What do you do?” is pretty much first-date small talk. To be fair, it’s pretty common for people to answer in terms of their position and/or their field without naming their employer (“I’m in software development/I’m an office manager in manufacturing”) if the employer doesn’t have a high-profile name. Even there, though, cheating hubster would likely be being deliberately avoidant rather than simply clueless.

    7. Close Bracket*

      I’m not sure where you are going with this. The ex was hiding both his relationships from the people he was in them with. He may have known that he might see OP there and counted on 1) OP not caring 2) OP not saying anything 3) Not running into OP or being able to dodge OP 4) something else.

    8. voyager1*

      The LW was dating. The husband was just using him. There is no way of knowing how much the husband lied to the LW. Whatever the husband told LW has to be considered as BS.

      Sorry if that is mean.

    9. AvonLady Barksdale*

      While it’s possible, my first guess would be that they HAVE talked about it. And the husband said nothing. Maybe he assumed a different department. Maybe he assumed it would never matter. Maybe he was so into the OP and so happy that he hoped it just wouldn’t be an issue. Maybe he’s a giant jackass who WANTED this to happen. No matter what, I’m not surprised that the guy never said, “Oh, my wife works there too.”

    10. Quill*

      It could be a very large corporation, though.

      OP: “Oh, I just got hired at MegaTeapotConglomerate and moved here!”
      Cheater: “Nice, I work at LLamas Inc.”
      Cheater’s internal monologue:

      Later, at the chocolate teapot division party: “Oh, shit.”

      1. Quill*

        Wow, realized this cut off “Nah, if he worked with my wife he would have mentioned being in the CHOCOLATE Teapots division.”

    11. WTT*

      Putting aside how it’s very possible that they did talk about work, but in broad enough terms that the name of the specific company didn’t come up, the motivations behind this question seem unkind to me. We already know that the husband is a liar who looped the LW into an affair without his consent; questioning the validity/depth of their relationship this way just seems like rubbing it in or implying that the LW should have somehow known that the guy was scummy.

  16. AnonEMoose*

    I’m so sorry, OP, this is so unfair to you. None of this is your fault, but now you’re stuck in a really uncomfortable situation. I wouldn’t say anything, OP; I don’t think you’re obliged to and the possible negative consequences for you are really nasty.

  17. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    I genuinely don’t think that any good can come of telling her. The “other person” in a cheating relationship already takes the brunt of the cheated-upon spouse’s ire, and adding her homophobia into the mix all but guarantees that this will end very, very badly for you when she finds out about it.

    Out of curiosity, did he know at the time where you worked? It doesn’t excuse anything he did, of course, but that event sounds like it could have been as much of a shock for him as it is for you.

    I would be very quiet about this, and work in moving on from this job, or at the very least from this manager, as quickly as possible. This is gonna be hanging over your head for as long as she is the gatekeeper of your livelihood. It absolutely blows that this happened at what is otherwise your dream job, but I don’t think you’re going to be able to thrive with this Sword of Damocles in play.

    1. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.*

      Yeah, I was wondering about that, too – did he know where you worked? Did he realize what was going on? If he didn’t know and was shocked, panicked and horrified, then that’s one thing. If he knew and was turned on by the whole thing? That’s cruel, twisted (and dare I say it, sociopathic).

      1. Close Bracket*

        Or he knew and was hoping OP wouldn’t care when he found out or at least wouldn’t make a scene or maybe was hoping he could avoid OP for the night. Who knows. Cheaters don’t think the way the rest of us do. They are deep in entitlement and denial.

        1. The Bean*

          Or on some subconscious level he wants to get caught and blow everything up. I feel like a lot of cheaters are people who can’t bring themselves to end it directly.

  18. The Original K.*

    Oh NO. I’m so sorry, this is such an awful situation.

    Definitely do not tell your boss. I frankly see no upside to doing so. You’d out her husband, you’d out yourself (which, to be clear, I am only concerned about for your safety, since you say you’re in a conservative area; I presume if you felt comfortable being out at work, you would be), and you’d damage your relationship with your boss. If she’s made homophobic comments, I don’t think she’d see clearly enough to see that you had no ill intent here – I think you’d unfairly shoulder more of the blame than you should.

    1. J*

      Yeah, I have ZERO concern for consequences of ‘outing’ the husband. He created this problem, he can live with the consequences. The only person who gets any sympathy here is OP.

      1. The Original K.*

        I disagree. People are still killed and beaten for being gay. It’s possible that it’s not actually, literally, physically safe for people to be out where this is taking place. Even typing that, an image popped into my head of the lesbian couple beaten bloody in London earlier this year. They were on public transportation, a group of young men started giving them a hard time, and things got violent. In OP’s situation, if I outed the husband and physical harm came to him, I wouldn’t be OK having that on my conscience.

        1. WTT*


          Being a bad husband doesn’t mean you deserve to be burdened by systematic oppression, particularly when that oppression can and does involve the literal threat of violence for many people.

      2. Blue Anne*

        Wow. It must be lovely to be so secure in the world that you’re happy to condone violence and discrimination against others.

  19. Roja*

    What a headline for the ages.

    OP, I’m SO sorry. But honestly, considering what you’ve told us about where you are, it doesn’t seem safe to out yourself. I’m guessing your boss’s husband doesn’t want to out himself either, so I think the risk of her finding out that way is relatively low. I’m not as optimistic as Alison, and I gotta say that I think the odds of you telling your boss and her staying totally cool with this and it not affecting your job at all are basically zero. Since it sounds like you don’t want to leave the job, it seems like a middle ground would be to stay, keep this under your hat, and get a good amount in savings just in case her husband ever comes clean–although even if he does, you only dated him for 6 weeks and he’s likely dated/will date others also. He may not even mention you, especially if he really does like you and doesn’t want to torpedo your life. If you’re a risk-averse person like I am though, and can’t bear the uncertainty, then a new job is probably going to be the way to go out of sheer necessity.

    Good luck.

  20. Bree*

    Absolutely agree with Alison’s advice – don’t say anything, find a way to stop working for her ASAP (getting away from her homophobia would be a bonus).

    (Also agree with comments pointing out there’s no way they have an agreement for him to see other people – if that were the case, he would have mentioned it up front. He was absolutely lying to you both.)

    Adding only that you should absolutely not speak to the guy again, to avoid giving any kind of impression that you’re conspiring to keep his secret. You found out, you broke it off, you have no further contact = your name is clean. So sorry you’re going through this!

    1. Sole*

      Absolutely no further contact.

      If the husband tries to contact him in the future he needs to send something in writing that you can screenshot and telling the husband to lay off. He should also mention in that correspondence That he would’ve never dated the husband had he known he was married and cheating

    2. Sally*

      I was thinking it actually might be a good idea for OP to tell the ex-boyfriend that he is NOT going to tell his wife about the relationship. Otherwise, I could imagine a scenario where the ex worries that the OP will tell, and so he preemtively tells his wife. That would suck!

  21. J*

    OP needs to leave.
    The worst possible outcome is that the boss never says anything but OP lives in a perpetual state of anxiety.
    A lot of the comments are speculating about whether the boss will find out and how she might react. I’d submit that this is not the worst thing that could happen. Imagine if OP spends the next ten years working at this job, and every day he shows up and wonders if this is the day she finds out. Or if he goes to work dinners and holiday parties where the husband is in attendance and they have to politely ignore the elephant in the room. That anxiety and uncertainty would kill me. It’s like the proverbial sword of Damocles.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yeah I kind of agree. Ending it is not the same as deleting it from history. There’s still plenty of ways for her to find out it happened. I’ve known people discover affairs which have been over for twenty years.

  22. Fed Dude*

    OP I’m so sorry you got stuck in this situation. You did nothing wrong to start with because you had no way of knowing the dude was using you as a side piece. I’m with others in saying it’s best to say nothing to her and to try to find another position ASAP. If she finds out that you and her husband dated, she’ll accuse you of turning him or that you went after him to try to hurt her and that’s just not going end well.

    I wish you the best of luck

  23. Ted Mosby*

    Interesting to see how many people think homophobic comments are a sign she must know. Homophobia is alive and well in America friends. Plenty of people make homophobic comments all day long. I guess it could be a very, VERY small potential sign but given OP is in such a conservative area it’s prob just the nature of the beast. OP says he’s had this at all of his jobs.

    I don’t mean this as a criticism of other commenters, but from an LGBT+ person who has spent time living in the south east, it’s an FYI: blatant homophobia and homophobic comments are a daily thing.

    1. Czhorat*

      I live in the suburbs of New York; homophobia is alive and well here too. Perhaps not as blatantly as it once was, but it’s far from eradicated.

      Let’s hope the next generation does better.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yep, I agree. When I lived on the edge of the South, I heard pretty constant homophobia at work.

    3. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I hit a woman with “I hope you’re not saying that because you think I agree with you” when she called a cashier the f-word and said some other homophobic stuff I won’t even paraphrase here, and looked at me like “Am I right?” And this was in a major liberal city. I have no trouble believing that the OP’s boss is just straight-up homophobic, with nothing behind it other than ignorance.

    4. the rainbow connection*

      +100000. People don’t suddenly start making homophobic comments out of suspicion. They make them all the time!

      1. the rainbow connection*

        To expand on this, I think this might be coming from the idea that if someone’s homophobic, it must be for a reason. In this case, the boss is homophobic because her husband is gay and cheating on her. It’s the same impulse that says “oh, someone is homophobic! Must be closeted”. But both aren’t true! Straight people can be homophobic! Just numbers-wise, most homophobes are gonna be straight (because we’re a minority).

        There’s no Just World. People don’t hate us because we’ve hurt them specifically. People don’t hate us because they’re scared they are us. People are just… homophobes.

        1. 1.0*


          I hate it, honestly. “hey, homos, have you considered homophobia is actually your fault?” is so common for even “allies” to say

          1. Blueberry*

            “I hate it, honestly. “hey, homos, have you considered homophobia is actually your fault?” is so common for even “allies” to say” So true. And so bleeping awful. My heart sank with every example I read in this very discussion.

        2. Ted Mosby*

          Yea, I think this comes especially from allies who want to find a reason why because they don’t understand the hatred, or allies and even LGBT+ folks who really revel in those few examples like Larry Craig, because they make homophobic people look so stupid. It makes it so easy to undermine people if you can say “yea look at all those other bigots, they were all hiding something eh ;) ”

          Sadly its just very, very untrue. Tons of people hate us!

      2. Quill*

        Bigotry isn’t in response to feeling threatened by a minority, it’s in response to wanting to be in the most privileged in-group and trying to enforce that by knocking others down. It’s essentially the bullying most likely to be rewarded by society, tacitly supported, or just “gotten away with.”

        If the manager had been saying something casually racist, and OP was white passing, nobody would be reaching for “oh, she’s only like that because she suspects her husband of cheating on her with someone who isn’t white!”

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Regrettably, that actually does sound like something people might say. Maybe not people from AAM, but I can definitely see someone saying this without a trace of irony.

          1. Quill*

            It’s less likely to come up overall, but I guess there is no depth of malice+stupidity that I can rule out.

    5. Maeve*

      I live in an area that is considered to be very LGBTQ-friendly. I hear homophobic and transphobic comments at work all the time.

  24. Shramps*

    Do not disclose and try to quit- I know that’s probably too simple to be easy. This is so awful. Do not contact that guy until there’s lots of distance between you and this job.

  25. Person from the Resume*

    Do not come clean now. The person who created this situation, the guilty party, the person doing to lying (definitely to you and very likely to his wife) and cheating (highly probable) is the man you dated. This is a situation of his own making. It seems likely that your boss has no idea of your involvement with her husband.

    I’m not even sure that you need to get out of this job. You did the right thing, right away (for your boss and yourself since you were being lied to too). It just seems chances are slim that this will come to light with you mentioned by name. If your ex-bf ever comes clean to his wife, hopefully he will not mention you by name as one of the men he cheated with while married to her. Telling her about you specifically would be bad and cruel (outing you and giving her unnecessary specifics).

    I just suggest you deal with your own emotions about being lied to by someone you really liked and as much as possible keep the focus on him lying to you. Try as best you can to forget about that it has anything to do with your boss. Do what you were already doing and keep your personal life outside of work. Don’t cross those streams.

    I’m sorry this happened to you. I hope it has no impact on your career.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I think the bigger problem, rather than being outed in the future, is the negative feelings. I can’t imagine being in this situation and being able to move forward working with my boss as though nothing happened, and maybe facing the husband at future events with a blank face.

      Stuff like this poisons the well, so to speak. :(

      1. fposte*

        I was also thinking that if the boss and her husband split and any conversation about that spills into the office, it’s going to be really hard to keep quiet. I still think that’s the wisest course, though.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Mm. I’m not sure I’d bank on “hopefully he will not drag OP under the bus with himself.” It might be a low-likelihood risk, but risk management is also about the severity of the possible impact. Plus, I think the daily stress of wondering when/if the situation is going to come to a boil is likely to mean the OP does not perform in this job as well as they otherwise might.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’m on Team Shut Up and See What Happens.

      Cheating Hubby will have to just deal with his mess. He is a cheating cheater and deserves zero closure, explanation, or further contact.

      If Boss hears that LW was one of CH’s side pieces before LW knew, and LW cut everything off cleanly, then any drama can be answered with “I’m so sorry. I was mortified. I do not knowingly date cheating cheaters. It was done as soon as the two of you walked into the room together.” (“And as much as it’s tempting, if you dump him I will not sip tea and talk smack about the Cheating Cheater because that will simply not end well.”)

      LW can decide whether to stay in this new position and/or sort out a graceful exit plan. The long term issue to me would be whether Boss will continue to be painfully homophobic, or if that can be gracefully shut down just on simple principle or by coming out when things are calm and secure.

      It’s CH’s fault. LW can stick to the high road, if he wants to stay put, at least for awhile.

  26. Mop Head*

    If you are an “at will” employee, please do not say anything. The boss will get you fired so fast your head will still be spinning a month later.

  27. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    Didn’t this happen on The Office? Oscar was dating conservative Angela’s boyfriend/husband The Senator, who was just using Angela as a beard for his political career?

    1. It's Me, Margaret*

      LOL. If the boss in OP’s situation ends up having a baby that looks suspiciously more like some third male coworker than the husband, the OP can rest easy that everyone is benefiting from the situation.

    2. Pineapple Incident*

      The difference there being that Oscar and the Senator started the affair knowing their common connection and fallout potential. OP’s situation sounds scandalous in a similar way, but he took a totally different path here in managing it.

  28. pearanoia*

    Is there any chance you could approach HR about her homophobic comments? I know it’s a conservative area, but even though YOU’RE used to it, there is a huge chance that other people in your company are closeted and impacted by her homophobia. It could be worth addressing, as long as you’re at the company.

      1. pearanoia*

        Because if the OP is going to try and leave a company where their supervisor has been openly homophobic, he can take it as an opportunity to make it better for the next queer person to work there. I’m a queer person from the midwest. Small changes like that, especially when you’re already leaving? They add up and make things better for someone else down the line.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          What do you expect HR to do about a complaint they’re not legally required to address? HR curbs illegal activity because their job is to protect the company from legal liability (often this means protecting the workers from illegal activity because the workers are part of the company) but if there’s no legal backing for the complaint, they don’t tend to do much about it because there’s no legal risk involved.

          (This is assuming LW is in one of the states without any protections for gay workers—which is more than half the states holy shit why is it so many?!)

    1. Blue Anne*

      If they’re in an area where a manager is this comfortable being openly homophobic and OP feels they need to just accept it, it’s extremely likely that OP has zero legal protections based on sexuality. So what would going to HR achieve exactly, other than outing himself at work?

      Remember that HR is there to protect the company, not the worker.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        “Remember that HR is there to protect the company, not the worker.”

        SO so so so many times this.

        1. pearanoia*

          If OP is already leaving, why should he not tell the company about this? It has a chance to change the culture after he leaves, and make it safer for someone else down the line.

          1. Blue Anne*


            First, we don’t know that OP is leaving. People have suggested that he leaves, but we don’t know if he will, and if so how long that will take.

            Second, I seriously doubt that this one employee telling HR about this situation would change anything at all, especially in a place where his manager can comfortably make homophobic comments.

            Third and most importantly, outing himself to Karen in HR is still outing himself, which he isn’t comfortable with. And once Karen knows, there’s the possibility that the information will spread.

    2. That'll happen*

      Also, if OP is in one of the 26 states that lacks employment protection for sexual orientation, there is nothing illegal about the discrimination and OP has just put a target on his back.

  29. learnedthehardway*

    Whatever you do, don’t tell the wife. Not unless you have photographic evidence, and perhaps not even then. She’s HIGHLY likely to not believe you, and to think you’re simply trying to cause trouble in her marriage.

    The advice to step away and find another job is very good. Until then, I would keep extremely quiet.

  30. Data Analyst*

    I agree that leaving (hopefully internally since you like the company, but possibly leaving the whole place behind) is good — NOT because you did anything wrong! Please don’t heap any extra shame on yourself. But I think it will do real mental health damage to work with someone and continue to carry this secret. If she gets unusually short with you one day, or treats you in any way that feels different or off, you will be forced to wonder “shit, does she know?!” and all the anxiety and bad feelings will come back up even if you’ve previously moved past them. I don’t think it’s worth it.

  31. CAinUK*

    OP says this is his dream job at his dream company!

    Look, I realize that the easiest, non-confrontational thing to do would be for OP to leave the job and say nothing as everyone is suggesting. I agree with saying nothing–but it doens’t sit well with me that the OP has to give up his financial security and career path at a company he likes over something he had no fault in!

    I think the caveat to Alison’s advice is: explore the legal protections you DO have in the state you live. Perhaps consult an employment lawyer or ACLU in your area (they typically do a free consult). If there are some protections, even internally at your company if not enshrined in law, then I say stay at the job, flag the issue with HR in anticipation of retaliation, and try to move forward (and still say nothing).

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      This is where I’m at. I wouldn’t let some lying cheater run me out of my dream job and company – eff that and eff him!

    2. Pineapple Incident*

      Seconded – it sounds like leaving this job would be a ‘hurts more than helps’ option here for OP’s career. The only place where I differ is if HR either doesn’t exist or is substandard in terms of confidentiality – I wouldn’t tell them unless your company’s handbook or HR policies list pretty ironclad statements about protection from retaliation, because OP’s basically going to be outed otherwise.

      Good luck OP – this bag of cats is not your making, and I hope you can continue to distance yourself from what your ex did emotionally. Fixing this is not your responsibility.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I disagree, sadly. That’s a bit like saying you can’t have a dream house if you ever have to clean it. Some things are so pervasive that the best you can hope for is that the cleaning is just dust instead of sewage.

        1. The Original K.*

          I love your “dust instead of sewage” analogy. I’m Black and have worked in jobs I loved, and ALL of them came with micro-aggressions because that’s just … life. Micro-aggressions are dust, and I frankly expect to deal with those; I literally do not think it is possible for me to get through a day without hearing a micro-aggression. The n-word is sewage, and that I would not tolerate.

          OP says he’s dealt with homophobia at every job he’s had – that in fact, this place is BETTER than other jobs. It sounds like that’s just part of the cost of doing business where he is (sadly).

    3. Temperance*

      The ACLU in America doesn’t do “free consults”, nor do they represent individual plaintiffs unless the case has a chance to be impact litigation.

      1. CAinUK*

        I was refering to an employment lawyer doing a free consult (to see whether or not there is a case). I agree the ACLU won’t represent in this case but can still advise on rights, I believe…Either way, the spirit of my comment adn advice was obvious–OP should get some advice on his rights first and foremost.

        1. KW*

          The ACLU generally will do a consult (even if by phone) and can often also point people in the direction of lawyers who can help them, even if they can’t.

          Source: ACLU Volunteer

      2. pancakes*

        Temperance, I spent a summer in law school working at a state civil liberties union and answering calls during the weekly hours the public phone lines were open was one of my duties. I wouldn’t call it a free consultation, but possibly some of our callers did. That said, if the LW wanted to challenge his boss’s homophobic remarks, it would make more sense to consult with an employment discrimination lawyer.

  32. noahwynn*

    Terrible situation for everyone involved, unfortunately. I agree 100% with Alison, nothing good can come of telling her. It really isn’t fair to out someone else, even if he was stepping outside of the marriage. No good answer that will make everything ok or everyone happy here. Sorry OP, hugs!

  33. Auburn*

    Since this is a horror show I’ll just say “GET OUT!”

    The longer you stay the more entangled you’ll get. I’m sorry. Whole situation really sucks.

  34. Chili*

    This is one of those situations where it’s not your fault and you shouldn’t have to leave, but for your own peace of mind and well-being, I would recommend peacing out of there before anything potentially happens. Even if you both kept working there and your boss never found out, you’d be going in most days worried that she might.

  35. Laura H.*

    Disclaimer: I’m straight, and not at all experienced when it comes to intimate relationships.

    That being said, I’m hoping OP gave the husband some sort of explanation/ expressed that finding out husband was married, AND to OP’s boss- the thing that necessitated the breakup (the homophobic comments from boss factor in as well, but it furthers the need for the break up, and isn’t on its own the main cause.) was not fun and definitely not acceptable.

    In my relationship stupidity, if OP just dropped boss’ husband without that explanation, I would consider finding some way to get that across safely. But if it can’t be done safely, shushed is definitely the way to go.

    People are sometimes dense/ terrible situation readers that cannot see why unless it’s pointed out/ spelled explicitly for them. And while yes, the pieces are easyish to put together, I think I’d want to give my former SO some form of closure (if the relationship was safe and solid up until that point), because I don’t want them scouring over every detail looking for little mess ups that the big one just doomed, when it was solely the big issue of “this puts my livelihood and life in jeopardy.”

    But your safety comes first. Good luck OP.

    1. Close Bracket*

      I think I’d want to give my former SO some form of closure (if the relationship was safe and solid up until that point), because I don’t want them scouring over every detail looking for little mess ups that the big one just doomed,

      Since you say you are not experienced in intimate relationships, let me tell you this: Closure is something one gives oneself. You cannot give it to your former SOs. They have to find it for themselves. You cannot prevent them from scouring every detail, and you also cannot prevent them from arguing over any reason you give them — including their marriage that they lied to you about.

    2. Amber Rose*

      An a-hole who lies to people and cheats on their spouse doesn’t deserve closure, even if it were possible to give it.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agree. It’s not like the husband is going to wonder what he’d done that was a deal-breaker to OP. He knows he’s married, he knows he hadn’t told OP that when they started dating, and he sure as heck knows that OP found out when they all ran into each other at the party. He can give himself his own closure if that’s what he wants.

    3. Washi*

      Assuming the boss’s husband saw the OP at the party, I’m pretty sure he knows why he got dumped. It’s not the OP’s responsibility to give him closure.

    4. Diahann Carroll*

      This isn’t a former significant other though – this was a guy OP dated for six weeks. You don’t owe anyone, gay or straight, any further conversation once you end things with them when you were just in the early dating stage. If they had been together for years and then this info came to light, I could maybe see your point, but even then, “You’re a damn cheater and a liar” should be clue enough as to why OP ended it.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        You don’t get closure from other people, you have to give it to yourself. Other people can help, if they’re willing, but closure is also a concept that gets weaponized by exactly the kind of people that shouldn’t be kept as close as they want to be. I’m incredibly distrustful of cries for closure (especially if he was such a Nice Guy™).

    5. Ego Chamber*

      “Disclaimer: I’m straight, and not at all experienced when it comes to intimate relationships.”

      Cool. Stop right there. (Oh nooo you kept going.)

      “if OP just dropped boss’ husband without that explanation,”

      OP says they broke up with him, which generally means they ended the relationship with word, not by ghosting.

      “I don’t want them scouring over every detail looking for little mess ups”

      Married dude was introduced to his boyfriend by his wife at an office party. I’m pretty sure he’s not sitting up at home crying and trying to figure out if it was that one time when he took off his shoes and they smelled really bad that made OP decide to end it. Married guys don’t wonder why their boy/girlfriends leave them after finding out they’re married (sometimes they’ll try to explain why it’s “not a big deal” but they never don’t know that’s why).

      “when it was solely the big issue of ‘this puts my livelihood and life in jeopardy.'”

      Wait, what? I’m not sure whether the cheating/lying would have been an issue to OP if his employment circumstances were different but it’s weird that you’re dismissing that part entirely. I get that this is a workplace advice column but recommending OP tell the cheating husband that they only broke up because OP works for CH’s wife is… bizarre and maybe missing some context.

    6. Avasarala*

      Wait, you read all that letter and your concern is “does the husband know why OP broke up with him? What about the husband’s feelings?”

      Someone who cheats on his wife with a closeted man is not gonna be confused why the relationship ended. And also has forfeited any right to closure (which no one has).

      I think you need to study human relationships a bit more.

  36. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Protect yourself first. I can see the fantasy of telling her and her reacting towards only her husband so he’s punished rolling around in your mind. But really, people are way too unpredictable. Even if you knew her better, she’s still a wounded person when you bring that kind of news to her and again, it means the reactions will be unpredictable.

    I would keep the secret and try to remove yourself from her authority at the earliest convenience. It may mean sticking it out for awhile and seeking an internal transfer or whatever, you may even luck out and she moves on before you get a chance to. But protect yourself first. Don’t accidentally take an emotional/personal/possibly financial bullet.

  37. Scarlet*

    Oh dear.

    OP, this is an awful situation and I concur with Alison’s advice. I would get out as soon as possible. Plus I can’t imagine the stress that she might someday find out. Best to move on and leave this drama behind.

  38. Jennifer*

    Yeah, I’d keep my mouth shut and start job hunting outside the company. A lateral move within the company is good for now, but even if you don’t report directly to her in the future, if she’s more senior than you she’d still have some power to make your life difficult.

    I disagree a bit with Alison here because I think it’s very possible she knows about her husband’s extramarital activities and that’s why she makes inappropriate comments.

    1. Jennifer*

      Bigotry is everywhere, just based on my experiences with racism. Sometimes people in supposedly “progressive” cities are the worst because they do it with a smile or are just plain two-faced.

  39. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Oh OP this is such a terrible situation.

    I have some additional questions though. What did he say about the whole thing? Presumably he saw you at the event and knows why you ended things with him. Did you two talk about it at all? I’d guess he’s also sweating bullets (though he deserves to be). I think knowing where he’s at with the whole thing might help inform your decisions, though like most everyone else I’m leaning towards NOT telling.

    You also said this is a new boss. How new? And what happened to your previous boss? As others said, you need to be concerned about future references if this is revealed at some point. If you had a good relationship with your previous boss, could you find out if they have any openings you’d be eligible for to get out of there?

  40. Jennifer*

    I do worry about this woman’s health and safety as well. If the husband is continuing to cheat he is potentially exposing her to STIs and other issues. I just think the OP has to put himself first at this point.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yep. The wife deserves to know that her husband is cheating on her — but OP is absolutely, 100% not the person to do that.

    2. Quill*

      Additionally, OP: get yourself checked. You can no longer trust this guy’s disclosure on whether or not he has anything that could have been spread, because you are now certain that he’s lied to two sexual partners. (You and your boss.)

  41. Anonymous DA*

    So I absolutely agree that you should not disclose now, but I would play devils advocate and say that anonymously down the line (well after you are gone) said boss should be somehow given a heads up about this behavior (i.e. your husband might be seeing other people)– if for no other reason than presumably she thinks she is in a monogamous relationship and there are absolutely potential health implications for her if her husband is cheating (regardless of who that partner is).

    I recognize that this is totally impractical, not a weight OP should have to carry, and probably the plot of a terrible (but thinks it’s clever) romantic comedy. I just feel like if I were in a similar situation to the boss I would want someone to tell me or at least put me on the trail of the infidelity.

    The whole situation is terrible. You did the right thing OP and I am sorry that you were treated so poorly by this person and put into this position. I hope things work out for you and you are able to move forward from this quickly.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      This is why I think it’s stupid that so many doctors don’t even offer routine STI checks to their married patients.

  42. Semprini!*

    I lean towards not telling your boss.

    I think it is far more likely that any negative reaction by the boss would be “OMG, you dated my husband!!!” rather than “Why on earth didn’t you just tell me that you dated my husband?”

    I also think it’s far more likely, in the context described, that any understanding reaction by the boss would be “I totally understand why you’d keep it secret from me that you dated my husband” rather than “I have no problem with you dating my husband, but I can’t abide by secrecy!”

    Also, by disclosing, you’d make it harder for your boss to treat you neutrally and professionally. Even if she could get to the point intellectually of realizing it’s not your fault, she’d likely have a huge wave of negative emotion about the fact that her husband was cheating on her, and she’d have to get past that huge wave of negative emotion to be neutral and professional with you.

    I just don’t see it being helpful to disclose at this point.

    1. Jennifer*

      I would want to know too, for health reasons especially. An anonymous message some time in the future may be a good idea.

  43. Turtlewings*

    The only powerful argument I see for telling her is that if her husband is sleeping with other people and she doesn’t know it, there’s no telling what STDs she might end up with… But on the other hand, I am strongly against outing other people, even if those people are jerks. There are so many reasons not to tell her, and only one feeble reason in favor — and her health is not LW’s responsibility. Nah, keep mum.

    1. voyager1*

      I made this suggestion once on here a long time ago and I got dog piled for it. But I agree, STDs are a good reason to tell someone their partner is cheating.

  44. WantonSeedStitch*

    Oh boy. This is awful. OP, I am so sorry you’re in this situation! You haven’t done anything unethical, and yet you’re in a position where you’re torn between saying something that’s true and risking backlash, or staying safe but keeping it hidden. I think you need to consider your own safety and well-being first and foremost, and that you’d be putting that at huge risk by telling your boss about it. I know it sucks to hide things, but on the plus side, it’s not like you’re hiding something bad that you did. Your boss’s relationship with her husband is their business. You didn’t know about it in advance, and didn’t insert yourself into it voluntarily, so it’s not your responsibility to try to manage it by spilling the beans here. You aren’t shirking some duty if you keep your mouth shut. I think Alison’s right that trying to find a new job wouldn’t be a bad idea.

  45. Brian*

    I have been in a *somewhat* similar situation once, in the conservative deep south, where I (gay man) learned about a closeted coworker who had significant power over me, and the situation wherein I found out was incredibly awkward and potentially professionally damaging for both of us. I was able to keep his secret, but the constant fear that someone would find out, that he would retaliate if someone in his personal life figured it out and he suspected me as a result, the overall stress of the situation… god, i get nauseated just thinking about it. I stayed at the company for two more years and it was the most stressful, unpleasant two years of my entire career. My advice to OP is to understand that the long-term stress of this situation will continue to compound, and if there is ANY way he can move out from under his boss, or even find a similar job at a different company, to jump at the opportunity. There were so may times where the guy I knew about would be in a visibly bad mood, or snap at me, and I would retreat to my office having a small panic attack that Today Was The Day It All Goes Down. It’s not worth the nightmares and the stress headaches and the constantly looking over your shoulder. Ugh. So sorry this is happening.

  46. Peter the Bubblehead*

    Something is going to come out eventually.
    If boss’ husband is willing to sleep with other men while still married to her, at some point she’s going to go to her doctor, find out she has some sexually-transmitted disease she knows she could not have contracted any other way than if her husband is cheating, and the whole sordid tale will emerge …someday.
    You’ll be better off being far away from ground zero on the day it happens.

    1. noahwynn*

      I’ve slept with plenty of men and never ended up with an STD, just saying. I agree though, it will all come out eventually, things like this always seem to.

      1. Jennifer*

        Married people who cheat on their partners typically aren’t known for the responsibility or discretion, though. Not exactly the same situation.

      2. the rainbow connection*

        I wouldn’t necessarily say they always come out. We hear about the times they do. We don’t hear about the times they don’t. We don’t know the denominator.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          That’s just confirmation bias and not necessarily true. You only know about the ones who aren’t because it blows up and come out. All the ones who do play it safe and meticulous you’d never hear about it.

          1. Jennifer*

            I wouldn’t risk it either way. Even those who are “meticulous” about protection can’t 100% guarantee they aren’t bringing home an STI to their spouse.

            Are we really telling people here that people whose spouses are cheating on them aren’t at risk of contracting an STI?

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Wouldn’t OP have noticed if his partner of six weeks was practicing unsafe sex? My assumption is that everything was fine in that capacity.

          1. Batgirl*

            OP could have some insight but ultimately has no idea what he’s like with other partners aside from the fact that they’re hidden.

      3. Georgetown Nurse*

        It is a real, medical truth that The husband is engaging in high risk sex that his partner doesn’t know about. In an open marriage she would probably be on prep, because there could be some defeat sting consequences otherwise. But if he isn’t out and it isn’t an open marriage, than the wife/boss is being subjected to some serious risk that she did not accept.

    2. Quill*

      It kind of depends on the disease, though.

      According to the CDC, the most common STI (genital herpes/warts) probably affects about half the adult population, some without any notable symptoms, and can go undetected for years. (It’s also not 100% necessary to actually have sexual contact to transmit it – other warts, from the other strains of the herpes vivus, don’t need direct contact with the infected skin, as attested by the number of people who pick up plantars’ warts from gym locker rooms.)

      My current concern is for the OP, who cannot trust anything his former partner may have told him about his STI status anymore, and should get himself tested for the works as soon as possible. Ultimately he can’t protect his boss without putting himself in danger here.

      1. Quill*

        Would edit, but am adding: this is 100% not to say that the boss is not at risk, but that her husband’s medical record will not necessarily reveal the truth to her if an STI is discovered.

  47. AnonNurse*

    I am SO sorry you’re going through this OP. Obviously this is not of your doing but that makes it no less difficult.

    I actually think you should tell her but I will admit I come from a healthcare point of view (and to some extent, a spouse point of view). Right now she (presumably) thinks she’s in a monogamous relationship but in fact, she is not. That means she’s probably not being tested for STIs and is probably not using protection. I guess I just feel like you telling her is also a safety issue.

    I can’t imagine being in your shoes and I’m so sorry you’re in this situation. Whatever you decide, I hope it works out.

  48. QCI*

    This is some netflix level problems. What ever the outcome is, write it down and sell that story. Good luck with whatever route you take.

  49. iglwif*

    Oh nooooooooo. I have nothing to add to Alison’s advice, OP, I just wanted to add another holy crap, this is a terrible situation that is 100% not your fault.

  50. Ruby Jackson*

    If you found out your boss’ husband was cheating on her with someone else, would you feel compelled to tell her? Probably not. So, the fact he was cheating on her with you shouldn’t make a difference. Don’t tell and move on. Sorry for your heartache.

    1. Batgirl*

      That’s essentially the crux isn’t it? OP has truly nothing to confess and while it suuuucks that her consent and access to choices continue to get shredded via deception – it’s not the OP’s personal responsibility. The only thing I would add to your scenario would be ‘what would you do if you saw him cheating at a gay event/venue’ because the possibility of outing himself is half the risk.

  51. ampersand*

    Oof. You have all of my sympathy!

    I think you have almost nothing to gain from telling her…I’m trying to come up with ANY benefit to you and I can’t. Given that it seems your boss is homophobic, you telling her would likely not go well. I second Alison’s advice to look for another job. If it were me, I’d be in a near-constant state of worry that she was going to find out, somehow, and it would negatively impact my job/wellbeing/livelihood. So if that’s the situation you find yourself in, I’d say definitely change jobs.

  52. AKchic*

    If this were a different situation, I would recommend telling her. But this isn’t a different situation. The situation you are in right now means you need to think of yourself first, foremost, and only.

    You need a job. You have otherwise liked this job. You didn’t know this man was married to your homophobic boss, who, other than the homophobia, you seemed to like. Outing him (or outing anyone) is a bad idea for multiple reasons. It outs you, it risks your job, it risks your reputation (she can, might, and probably will paint you as someone who preys on spouses; or as someone who makes up “ridiculous stories”; whichever will benefit her the most).

    It seems like a good part of the reason why you want to tell your boss is because you’re mad at him for the deception. Was he aware that you worked for his wife? You knew the relationship had to be discrete, but did you really know why, or were you avoiding the reason? Not that it really matters in the end, but it might help you figure out whether or not he was actively dodging that truth or if you were also trying not to dig into it, either.
    I am truly sorry that you are going through this. I am sorry that any of this happened in the first place. It’s not fair to you. I hope you’re able to find someone who you’re able to be with that isn’t cheating on their partner. You deserve so much better.

  53. Buttons*

    What is your motivation for telling her? That is the number one question you need to ask yourself. Is it to hurt him? Is it to feel better because he was cheating and lied to you? Those are about you, not her well being. Do not tell her.
    What you do is pretend this never happened. Block his number from your phone, change his name in your phone. Delete everything. The only reason I would suggest looking for a new job is that if she discovers the affair she could take it out on you and out you.
    Good luck.

    1. Arctic*

      I see it as the opposite. Telling her would probably be in her best interests. But it would hurt him (LW). So, he shouldn’t do so.

  54. CanCan*

    I think you should keep quiet.
    First, by making homophobic comments, she’s forfeited the right to any information that requires outing anyone (either you or her husband).
    Second, nothing hinges on this information. It’s not like she would have to reassign some work, or do anything else, – other than possibly view you with hostility, and have a fight with the husband. By telling her, you would only be interfering in her family life, which is her business.
    Third, chances are she will never find out. If she has a bad reaction then, would she have a better reaction now? Somehow I doubt it. If, say, she finds out in 3 years that her husband has been having affairs (and yours isn’t even the latest one), is she going to be more angry at you for not telling her three years ago than she would be now (when this affair may be his first one, or so he may tell her)?

    But you may want to move away from her at least, so that you aren’t living in fear of what may happen if she finds out – as Brian above has suggested.

  55. Tuckerman*

    I think this is the right answer but I hate it because of the possible unknown repercussions (e.g., an STI) for the boss.

  56. This queer is not here for your nonsense*

    I’m disgusted by how many respondents here have tried to guess*why* the boss is homophobic, said the OP should tell the boss, or otherwise said something that’s clear they don’t realize that being LGBTQ is NOT SAFE in much of the U.S. None of this is helpful, in fact a lot of it is harmful. The supreme court again heard cases this year that might invalidate LGBTQ worker protections- and there’s not many to invalidate as is. People are killed for being LGBTQ still- as well as beat up, ostracized, sexually assaulted, and more. Outing themselves or the ex could have grave consequences, even in supposedly liberal cities. I’ve been harassed for being with my partner more times in cities than in the country, btw. Spending all this time making guesses on why the boss is homophobic is not a useful thing to do, and a lot of the posts show your own homophobia pretty clearly….. so please stop.

    OP- I’m really sorry you’re in this position. It’s horrible. And it’s horrible that you have to deal with causal homophobia too. I hope that you’re taking good care of yourself, and that someday you’ll be in a place where it feels ok and safe to come out, if that’s what you want. That guy is no good, you deserve someone who will treat you well, respect your boundaries, and not lie to you about his marriage status or anything else. I hope you find that guy, or guys if you’re poly, and that you are blissfully happy soon. In the meantime, even if your boss never finds out, you know and that may make it hard on you to work with her as it’s just hanging over you. I know this is your dream job, but as this could turn into a nightmare I’d like to encourage you to consider other options, where you won’t go to work tensing your entire body just in case something horrible is said or your boss finds out. You deserve better for you, too.

    1. in the file room*

      Yes. We already know the boss is homophobic – telling her will out OP, which exposes him to any range of danger from further agressive comments to actual violence (and we have no way of knowing she wouldn’t out him more broadly, creating further risk!). He should not tell her.

      1. valentine*

        He should not tell her.
        Exactly. Not in any way, ever. No anonymous notes! Let’s bury the trope of expecting women to leash their men and hoping to get cheaters in trouble with their wives. Even if she weren’t homophobic or they weren’t in a conservative area, OP could not assume he’d be safe to disclose. For me, the vindictive wife who sent a process server into the delivery room (a job only slightly better than being a sheriff throwing people’s stuff on the sidewalk to evict them on Christmas Eve) and rendered her husband and that OP destitute has set the bar.

    2. Blue Anne*

      Yes. This is so disturbing to see on AAM, which usually has a pretty progressive commentariat, and I think most of the people condoning outing the guy would say that they actually are progressive and affirming. I’m really shocked.

      I’m in a city with a thriving queer community, LGBT center, multiple LGBT health centers… and I’ve still been shouted at on the street for giving my girlfriend a kiss and had colleagues tell me that although of course THEY weren’t judging me, GOD certainly will judge me and I will face consequences. My partner has faced much worse, including medical providers terminating care because he’s trans.

      It’s so discouraging when people who would say they’re not homophobic 1, act like this doesn’t happen any more and 2, show that they are homophobic.

      1. Avasarala*

        It’s nominally progressive but there’s also a thirst for drama and speculation and passing judgment on others’ lives (this is why we read advice columns), and sometimes people forget their values and the implications of their words in their rush to dig and speculate. We see it with ableism (“maybe they have x condition”), sexism (“maybe they’re male and sexist”), racism/xenophobia (white people rushing to weigh in)… Ally is definitely a verb not a noun.

        I’m sorry you all had to deal with this crap today.

    3. Jennifer*

      It’s possible to let this woman know her husband is cheating on her without outing the OP. She is at risk too here and that concerns me as well.

      1. valentine*

        that concerns me as well.
        OP is not obliged to allay your concerns and, not only can the spouse can out him at any time, but OP be the number-one suspect in any disclosure to the boss.

        1. Jennifer*

          I never said the OP was “obliged to allay my concerns.” I’m merely stating that IF the OP really wants his boss to be made aware of her husband’s activities there are ways of letting her know anonymously.

          1. Blueberry*

            How? I’m not even snarking here. I have no idea how OP would tell her anonymously, or how OP could be safe from Cheating Husband deciding OP is the leak and outing him in a Mutually Assured Destruction move. If you have suggestions on how to do that I would sincerely like to know.

            In just about any other situation I’d say the cheated-upon spouse needs to know, but in this one I think OP is just at too much risk for it to be good advice in this case.

  57. Analytical Tree Hugger*

    Sorry about this situation, OP. Know that none of this is your fault. And also know that it sucks that this situation happened.

    As someone who has dated closeted guys (while closeted myself) I strongly encourage you to seek out support (e.g. a gay men’s support group; counseling). In my case, at least, there was a lot of junk that needed to be processed and dealt with before I could move on. And your closing sentence makes me think that may help provide you with some closure as well.

    Good luck and good energy to you.

  58. Jessica Fletcher*

    As a fellow queer person who’s also not out at work, I think you should NOT tell her. You’d be outing someone who it seems like almost definitely isn’t out and may not consider himself gay. You’d probably ruin his marriage, which might be bad for him in ways you can’t know right now. I think you’d suffer yourself, both from your boss retaliating, and from outing yourself to a known homophobic jerk. So there’s no benefit to anyone from you telling her.

    If it were me, I might reach out to tell the husband I’m not going to out him. I think that’s a reassurance we owe people in our community, to not endanger them and not disempower them that way. I would do it over the phone, not in writing and not leaving a voicemail.

    1. Lkr209*

      Wow, your response really leans into victim-blaming. OP does not owe anything to the husband, who intentionally put him into an extremely precarious situation: not only did he potentially endanger OP’s job, with a homophobic boss no less, but he also led him into an intimate situation that he absolutely did not consent to (because he didn’t provide the truth of the situation). The OP did not and would not ruin his marriage – the husband did and has 100% of the blame. The OP had no idea he was married! The OP needs to figure out how to handle this moving forward in the way that is healthiest to HIM, and the husband lost any consideration from that process as the cheating, lying spouse. He does and should not bear the consideration of this man just for the purpose of “owing” the queer community. The husband endangered and disempowered himself, gay/bi or not, when he chose to lie to his wife and OP.

      1. Jessica*

        I didn’t get any victim blaming from that post. It’s not victim blaming, it’s reality. It’s not safe to be LGBTQ+ in many parts of the country.

        >He does and should not bear the consideration of this man just for the purpose of “owing” the queer community. The husband endangered and disempowered himself, gay/bi or not, when he chose to lie to his wife and OP.

        This is really messed up. So because he is a liar and cheater, he deserves to have his safety compromised? Really? I get it being cheated on sucks but it doesn’t suck so bad that I would want the other person to be harmed or out in danger.

        1. Avasarala*

          If the husband was concerned that OP was going to out him, he could have chosen not to lie to his wife and to OP and embark on a relationship while he was married. He didn’t come to OP and say “I’m married but I want to explore this with you, is that OK?” He chose to compromise his own safety, and not only that, but OP’s safety as well (and his wife’s). If anything the husband should call OP and say he’s not going to out him–OP is the victim in all this and doesn’t deserve to have his safety compromised.

          1. yala*

            Sure, but that’s probably not going to happen, so it might (might) be a good idea for LW to do that just to definitively end things. If the husband stays worried about What He Might Tell Her, he may out both of them himself and paint LW in a predatory light.

            Look, y’all do realize that a lot of these “what LGBTQ folks owe to each other” rules is as much to keep folks like LW safe as it is to keep folks like Cheating Husband safe, right? Moreso, really.

            1. Lkr209*

              To clarify, I absolutely did not mean endangered himself in the way of assault or harassment. I meant he endangered his marriage and relationships. I would never advocate anyone being physical harmed or harassed for cheating.

              1. yala*

                Ok, but the thing is, you can’t control how other people will react, and in a conservative area with homophobia as a standard, it very well could turn into physical harm or harassment.

                And again, it’s all besides the point. It’s not really about “what Cheating Husband deserves” (tho I think no one except a politician pushing homophobic legislation deserves to be outed), and more about “these rules exist to keep everyone in the community safe, especially in a hostile area.”

  59. Jess*

    OP, that really sucks. It may be helpful to recognize that this is *no longer* your dream job at your dream company. Whatever actions you do or don’t take, the boss’s husband ended that by his actions, placing you in a no-win situation and rotten power dynamic with your boss.

    Now, the unfortunate choice is that you can either become an accomplice to that dynamic/situation by staying in the job, or you can put up a healthy boundary by getting out of it in a way that minimizes further harm (that is, get a new job — whether outside her reporting structure or outside the company).

    Once your livelihood is detached from any disclosures, you can figure out what if any sharing with your (then-former) boss makes sense.

    Also, I’ll echo those who are advising an STD test… and if positive for anything, that does change the equation with your boss.

  60. Arctic*

    Honestly, even under the best set of circumstances telling isn’t the best option. Say your boss is exceptionally mature and realizes it wasn’t your fault (and nothing about her making homophobic comments suggest she is exceptionally mature) it will still be awkward and it will be in the back of her mind. Say they are in an open relationship. I’d bet she still wouldn’t want it to cross into her work life. And you’d have information about her she wouldn’t necessarily want known. Which makes a bad dynamic.
    This dude put you in a horrible spot. But really all you can do is not say anything.

  61. Anise*

    I would lean towards don’t say anything. You went into this relationship in good faith, and as soon as you found out that that wasn’t the case, you broke things off immediately. You did exactly what you should have, and whatever happens in the marriage is 100% their problem and 100% is not your business and never should have been in the first place.

    My only lingering concern would be that the wife may be exposed to STDs because her husband is sleeping with other people, but there are anonymous e-mail systems to let people know that they may have been exposed.

    I’d still be working on an exit strategy, though.

  62. animaniactoo*

    1) Out nothing and nobody.
    2) Find a way to casually make clear your own views on people cheating, especially when their partners do not knowing they are dating someone who is married or otherwise committed. This will be your only chance to get in front of this at all while never knowing if it will ever come out. And that really is your underlying issue, correct? Not just that he was your boss’ husband, but that he was married and had not let you know he was married? And that’s something you can put out there without outing her husband specifically.
    3) Yeah, try to get away from this situation entirely as fast as you can.

    1. Observer*

      I pretty much agree with you. Husband is a jerk. Full stop. But boss (homophobic or not) is not likely to react well to any revelations.

  63. OrigCassandra*

    If you stay, OP, I’d suggest making a plan for how you’ll handle work-related events where boss’s spouse may show up. This is another tightrope, I’m afraid, but avoiding as many of these as possible seems best. Perhaps doing behind-the-scenes event work might also protect you from encounters with boss’s spouse.

  64. Red*

    Having dated and broken up with coworkers has been hard enough – I can’t imagine the emotional stress of losing a partner you were very excited about in such a convoluted and stressful way! Everyone else has great advice but I just want to say, OP, that I hope you’re finding support through therapy and loved ones and maybe spending too much time roaming the well-lit aisles of Target.

  65. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

    This is 100% not your fault. I’m sorry this happened to you. It is highly unlikely your boss will react well and eventually your ex might toss you under the bus when she finds out that he is cheating on her. Find a way to move on to better things because the sooner you move on, the sooner you can get away from the stress and the constant reminders of the situation.

    10 years ago, I dated someone at my company who kept messaging me through the company IM for dates even after I broke things off. A suspicious friend did some Google-fu and found out the ex was married (cough… online property tax records). I felt guilty, I felt dirty, I felt betrayed. But I’m glad I didn’t reach out to tell his wife. I didn’t need her to absolve my guilt. It wasn’t my fault that her husband was a jerk. Over time, I changed jobs and locations within my company, moving on to better things. I was lucky. 10 years later, it’s a heck of a story to tell people. Especially over drinks when I can add some well placed curse words.

  66. Koala dreams*

    I’m so sorry for what you’re going through! Your ex-boyfriend was an ass-hole, and was taking advantage of your vulnerability.

    I think Alison did a good job of explaining the different outcomes and risks, but I’d like to add one thing. When considering what to do, remember also to consider you’r own feelings and the emotional toll it will take on you, whether or not it’s staying or looking for a new job. It sounds very difficult to have to work with the woman who your ex-boyfriend used to cheat on you with behind your back. For a while, maybe a very long while, you’ll be reminded of the betrayal every time you see your boss. Only you know if you can handle that.

    Take care!

  67. RaeaSunshine*

    Honestly, if it was me (disclaimer: I have virtually no point of relation on this aside from, I have been in relationships, and have had bosses) I think I’d keep my mouth shut. Solely because this could end badly in so many different ways.

    I am so, so sorry this is happening to you!!! I hope her husband is freaking out about this.

  68. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    Another possibility is that the husband is bi, and his wife knows it, but thinks he’s actually being monogamous with her–a lot of bisexuals are, stereotypes notwithstanding.

    If so, the risk of the OP saying anything to his boss, or her finding out some other way, is almost all on him: he’d have outed himself to someone who might be angry at him, but who already knows her husband is either gay or bi. That could easily be spun as “I had to fire OP after he tried to seduce my husband.” She could even claim that “of course Jim wasn’t interested, but how could I have such a person working for me?”

    (I am very glad to be living in a time and place where it feels safe to be out, but that means the risk feels low enough that I often ignore it, the way I ignore the risk of jaywalking or eating raw fish, not that I believe the risk is zero.)

    1. D'Arcy*

      Are you saying that a lot of bisexuals are monogamous, or a lot of bisexuals are *fake* monogamous? Because those are pretty much opposite statements, and your statement is ambiguous enough to be interpreted either way.

  69. Allypopx*

    Please please please don’t out yourself or the husband given the area you’re in. What he did is extremely unethical and it’s not okay you got hurt by it, but that sounds extremely dangerous for everyone involved.

    If this is really your dream job (caveat that those don’t exist, but if you were really happy before this) I’d stay for as long as you can handle, preferably at least a year. Factors to consider are your psychological well being, your work record, your career progression, and your internal relationships. Weigh this all, make the best choices for you, be safe. I’m so sorry.

    1. Observer*

      I honestly don’t think that the OP has any obligation to worry about the safety of his ex. He was perfectly ok with putting the OP at risk, and the OP has zero obligation to worry about the fallout.

      I do think that the OP is better off not saying anything, but because that places the least burden on him.

  70. Just Visiting*

    holy shit, what an incredible crapshow–and absolutely *none* of it your making, OP. i’m so sorry you’re in this situation–i think alison’s advice is on point and i hope you’re able to find a new position where you’re not working with your boss very, very soon. sending love and peace your way <3

    1. the rainbow connection*

      …is there a reason you think homophobia somehow ended during the worst part of AIDS?

      1. Blue Anne*

        This post is really bringing out the straight “allies” who think we’ve won the battle against homophobia and everything is just peachy now, isn’t it?


        1. the rainbow connection*

          Yeah. I’m finding the insistence that cheating is the Absolute Worst Thing In The World to be a little weird. The scale of the problem here is so completely different.

          It’s like a bunch of people looked at this situation and thought “who in this situation could I see myself as? Well, I’m straight, so it must be the homophobic woman whose husband is cheating on her. She must be the victim, since she’s the most like me”. But that’s not what’s going on here.

          1. Observer*

            Actually, the real problem IS the cheating. Because even if this had been a “conventional” situation with with no homophobia and all heterosexual actors, the OP would still be up a creek and the ex is still jerk central. And the odds would still be that the boss would react very badly to the OP, putting their job at risk.

            Of course, the boss’ attitude does make the situation worse for the OP. But the real issue here is that a person cheated on their spouse, dragged an unwilling person into his cheating and placed that innocent person in a risky situation.

            And the wife IS a victim here. Homophobic or not, she has a right not to be cheated on. If Hubby can’t deal with that level of closeting he does have the option of divorce. He doesn’t have to tell her that he’s getting divorced because he’s gay. (Iow, he doesn’t have to out himself.)

            1. Avasarala*

              Yeah the cause of the problem is the cheating, but major major major concerns here are that two of the other actors are into dudes in a culture where this isn’t safe and they can’t be out. We can’t gloss over that in giving advice to OP, we have to take the whole situation into account.

              1. Observer*

                I get that. But the reality is that the OP has no obligation to worry about that in the context of the Ex.

                There are two issues:

                1. What obligation does the OP owe anyone else.
                I. the Ex. I say NONE. Even though the fallout would probably be worse for him because of the particular situation, that’s his issue not the OP’s. He knew what he was doing and chose to act this – and that’s on him.
                II Boss – not much. Certainly no obligation to do anything that puts his job at risk, directly or indirectly.

                2. What the OP should do.
                Given the current situation, I would say that he’s best off not saying anything but trying to see if he can get moved to a different boss. Because if this does come out some way, it’s likely to harm him. And I think that the OP is fully in the clear to do what is best for him without reference to either boss or ex.

          2. The Original K.*

            I’m a straight woman and I keep thinking, why should OP prioritize the wife’s feelings over his own safety and livelihood? I can’t see how confessing to his boss brings anything but bad outcomes for everyone, but especially for him. He’d be outing himself to a woman he knows not to be accepting of gay people and he’d be outing himself as the “other man.” Do folks really think she’s going to be like “Cool, thanks for letting me know. Now, about those TPS reports …” and save all the drama for her husband? I don’t. It’s going to be very, very messy for the OP, possibly at the expense of his job, and possibly at the expense of his safety. I keep thinking of the step in recovery where you make amends, and I think (and I welcome correction if I’m wrong) even that step says that you should not do that if making amends to someone will do more harm than good.

            If OP feels burdened by his guilt, a therapist or a journal might help, but I see no benefit to anyone to him telling.

            1. Observer*

              This, I agree with.

              The OP has no obligation AT ALL to the ex. But he also doesn’t have much of an obligation to the wife, either. And he CERTAINLY has no obligation to do anything that could put his livelihood at risk. So, I don’t think that he any obligation to speak out, and it’s probably a good idea that he keeps quiet.

  71. Lkr209*

    Wait, what? I thought sexual orientation was now a protected class in the U.S. across the nation. So there are literally still states where you can be fired for your sexual orientation and have no legal recourse? Geez. I just wish all the red states would just secede from the rest of the U.S. so all the bigots and anti-P.P peeps can live in prejudiced harmony together, and noone would literally have to fear for their livelihood for being outed.

    1. fposte*

      There is no explicit law stating that sexual orientation is protected; however, the EEOC states that it interprets Title VII as covering sexual orientation and has pursued cases (and won) on that basis.

    2. the rainbow connection*

      There are a lot of gay people who live in red states. And there’s a lot of homophobes in blue states.

    3. Blue Anne*

      No, sexual orientation is not a protected class across the nation.

      Also, you can’t legislate hate. Legal protection would give this guy recourse if he was fired for being gay. It would not prevent people from beating him for being gay, suspecting him of pedophilia for being gay, finding nonsense reasons to reject his lease application for being gay…

    4. 1.0*

      I live in a blue state with state-level protection and was still forced out of a job because of homophobia. that’s not really how homophobia and other bigotries worj.

    5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      No. Most of the country is shades of purple: people voted for Clinton, and for Trump, in every part of the country. “Let the red states secede” means “let the bigots go their own way, and do what they want to nonwhites and LGBTQ people while we sit here and feel smug.” That would further reward racist vote suppression tactics, among other things.

      Also, not only are their states where it’s legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation, “at will” employment can be stretched to “I fired him because he dissed the Red Sox.” If someone complains that the firing was really because they’re gay, and they get a homophobic judge, he’ll rule for the employer because he thinks they should be allowed to fire people for being gay, and the law “doesn’t really” say otherwise.

    6. Nephron*

      Louisiana: the governor tried to make it illegal to discriminate in state employment and state contracts. Our lovely AG argued in court that he needed to be able to fire LGBT+ people because pronouns and bathrooms are hard. He won the case and the appeal. It is explicitly legal in LA to fire or evict someone for being LGBT+. A group that is protected from firing in LA? Smokers. Remember folks, you can fire someone for who they sleep with, but we must protect our employees that smoke.

      The supreme court is currently considering a case of whether it is legal to fire a transgender individual for not conforming to workplace dress code due to transitioning while employed. Our dear GOP president is defending the employer with state department briefs.


      1. yala*

        Added bonus–our AG’s own brother is gay and has openly spoken out against AG’s actions. Dude is knowingly pushing legislation that would harm his own family.

    7. Dasein9*

      It is legal in more states than not to fire someone for being gay.
      It is legal in more states than not to deny someone housing for being gay.
      It is legal in 42 states for someone to bolster a justification for murdering a gay person by claiming they interpreted that person’s existence as a personal threat. (The “gay panic defense.”)

    8. Avasarala*

      It’s not just “red states” and “blue states”. People who are homophobic, racist, sexist, or act/think that way some times are everywhere, and they are our bosses, our parents, our friends, ourselves.

    9. Librarian of SHIELD*

      The “let the bigots start their own country far away from the rest of us” argument can feel tempting, but please remember that LGBTQ+ kids are regularly born to homophobic/transphobic/bigoted parents. Sending all the homophobes away doesn’t make all gay and bi and trans people safe, because those homophobes can still end up giving birth to and raising LGBTQ+ kids who spend their formative years either hating who they are or hiding who they are, even from themselves. This problem is bigger and more complicated than that.

    10. yala*

      Firstly, you do realize there are spots of blue in the red and spots of red in the blue, right? Try not to throw those of us living in “red states” under the bus, please.

      Secondly, even in the handful of states where it is illegal…”at will employment” is a thing in a lot of states. So long as they don’t SAY they fired you for being gay…they can do it.

  72. JBone*

    The boss’s husband had to know the OP was working for his wife right? If they were dating 6 weeks, I would assume the topic of where they work would come up. And then the guy would figure out the OP is working for his wife. So I assume he knew he’d see OP at this work party. Unless the OP never told the guy where he worked, then the boss’s husband is a HUGE jerk for putting the OP in this position. The boss is also a huge jerk for being a homophobe. I agree that I think it’s best to look for another job if possible.

      1. Anon Here*

        Yeah . . .

        If OP comments here, I hope he fills us in on that part of the story. If the husband knew and didn’t say anything, it would be more of a vote to leave ASAP because in that case, the guy can’t be trusted and who knows what will happen next.

  73. Quill*

    OP, whatever obligation you might feel in a different situation (that you’d accidentally dated an aquaintance’s significant other, for example,) do not tell your boss. Not just because of the homophobic comments, but because she’s your *boss* and the chances of retaliation when you mix unpleasant personal news and bigotry are very, very large.

    *Hugs if wanted.*

      1. Quill*

        See every instance of “it’s more likely that a woman who currently lives in a fairly homophobic environment is only homophobic because her husband is cheating on her than that she grew up with and/or choses to continue to engage with homophobic values.”

        (Essentially rerouting the blame for her homobphobia, a COMPLETELY separate issue to the cheating except in how it complicates OP’s safety, to her queer husband.)

        1. Blue Anne*

          And, a lot of “don’t worry about outing this guy” – um, homophobia is still a real and dangerous thing, and someone being a cheater doesn’t make it okay to open them up for discrimination and assault.

          1. Blue Anne*

            It’s like… oh, I’m an ally, but if one of those gays is a bad person, I’m totally okay with people beating him for being gay. Uhhh….

          2. Observer*

            Sorry – he’s a cheater AND he opened someone else up to significant potential harm. That means that his victim really doesn’t need to worry about his safety.

            1. The Original K.*

              Which victim? The OP? Because the OP is at just as much risk as the husband is, if he’s outed.

              1. Observer*

                I get that, which is why I don’t think he should say anything.

                What I am saying is that there is WAY too much concern for the ex. And I don’t see why.

          3. 1.0*

            I don’t want to say it’s just/only homophobia at play, since people are quick to leap to cis hetero women with “””loose””” morals also being dirty and diseased, but the heavy concentration on all the STIs this woman’s husband MUST be bringing home is more than a little sus too

            1. Peter the Bubblehead*

              Comments regarding potential diseases is more related to the fact cheaters are commonly less concerned about where and how they stick their body parts than whether the person involved is hetero or not. A hetero cheater is just as likely – if not more so – to pass a disease onto his regular partner as a homosexual cheater.

              I don’t see these comments as being homophobic as I see them as being anti-cheater.

        2. Amber Rose*

          OK, I saw. I think there are a couple of pretty awful examples of it, but I think at least some of what’s being tagged as homophobia is just ignorance. Which still SUCKS, but is at least not malicious.

          I think the majority of the comments are focusing more on OP’s safety.

          I’m sorry, I know that’s not really much consolation. :(

        3. Floral Wraith*

          Also, all the comments about STDs and cheating closeted gay/bi men is problematic, as someone who has many friends working in sexual health prevention/treatment.

      2. Blueberry*

        Down below “Anon For This” put in a bit in support of homophobia being a deeply felt religious value which deserves to be upheld just like LGBTQ people are. Admittedly that was after Blue Anne’s cogent comment here was posted but it’s a good example of what people are feeling free to bring to this discussion.

    1. Sylvan*

      It’s sad but not surprising to see from self-described allies. Can’t even see the problems OP is facing.

  74. Bravo, good sir!*

    I think this could work in OP’s favor. Even if OP isn’t into the whole sleeping with a married man kink, this could still be ok. Clearly the wife is a bad person with the homophobia and all that. It really comes down to how much OP likes the sex/relationship. If it’s good enough to sacrifice this job for just keep at it until it comes out.

    1. Crooked Bird*

      Read the post. OP says he “of course” broke off the relationship as soon as he found out he was enabling cheating. And props to him. The spouse being a homophobe in no way justifies cheating on her, any more than it would justify abusing her if that happened to feel good to the husband too.

      1. D'Arcy*

        And there’s a long history of gay men taking ruthless advantage of women by using them as “beards”. That doesn’t justify homophobia, but I feel that the idea that it’s “okay” for a gay man in a straight marriage to cheat on his spouse *because* he’s actually gay is deeply and horrifyingly misogynistic.

        1. Princesa Zelda*

          1) Absolutely nobody here is saying that it’s okay to cheat on your wife.
          2) Having a beard =/= “taking ruthless advantage of women.” For one thing, couples are often each others’ beard, or the party who is a beard knows it at least. For another, “has a monogamous marriage to someone you’re not sexually attracted to” is hardly the worst sin in the world.
          3) Even if he’s “taking ruthless advantage” of her, it still isn’t OP’s fault or responsibility to deal with. OP has to take care of himself, and that starts with not telling his boss that her husband cheated on her with him.

          1. Crooked Bird*

            1) Except this “bravo, good sir!” individual, who, without quite saying it outright, misses it on quite a technicality. (If enabling cheating is a legitimate & fun kink, and cheating is super bad and wrong, what an odd world *that* is.)

          2. Starbuck*

            Yes actually, there was at least one comment above saying the wife deserved it for being a bigot.

            But heartilty agreed that OP has nothing to gain from telling her about it; he should absolutely protect himself.

        2. Alexandra Lynch*

          And one thing that I have seen in a similarly difficult area of sexual expression (kink, specifically male submission) is that men know YOUNG that they want this, and some of them deal with it by trying to fence it off by choosing a partner who they know would never ever be okay with this. Of course, you can only repress this sort of thing so long; they get into their early forties and all of a sudden the denied drive rises up with a great roar and totally eats their heads, and they’re in a place where they have three alternatives, and none of them put their life back the way it was. (Divorce and seek the sort of relationship you want; open your marriage and take that desire to a secondary partner; get it from your wife.) And I always believe them when they say they can know quite well their wife won’t be okay with it. They picked her that way. (Doesn’t mean I help them cheat.)

    2. Airy*

      That doesn’t transform cheating on her into honourable behaviour that OP should support, and no amount or quality of sex is going to pay his bills or repair the professional damage if this blows up in their faces.

    3. Avasarala*

      I think it is spectacularly unhelpful to OP, who at least for now has to work with this person, to dilute everyone to “bad” or “good” and conclude therefore you can treat them however you want, or ugh guess I gotta be a decent person.

  75. somebody blonde*

    If you’re going to stay in this job, keep your mouth shut. If she ever finds out and asks you why you said nothing, there are a couple tacks you can take:

    1) I felt very conflicted, but I couldn’t think of a way to tell you without outing myself at work
    2) I didn’t feel it was my place to interfere in my boss’s marriage
    3) I assumed he’d deny everything and it would wreck our working relationship.

    If she’s reasonable, one of those should make her realize how untenable this is for you if it ever comes to that. I think Allison’s advice is probably better, but in case you can’t move yet or don’t want to, I think you’re safe.

    1. Nonke John*

      I think your 2 is likely to work best: “Claire, you’re my manager. We have a good working relationship, and I consider your home life none of my business. The moment I found out that Zack wasn’t single, let alone was married to you, I broke it off with him. And then it seemed best to remove myself from your personal life entirely and let you and him handle things.”

      You’re right that 1 and 3 are good things for the OP to think through. But using 1 on the boss seems to me to concede, implicitly, that it’s natural for him to be expected to go out of his way to hide his sexuality at work; and 2 makes him out to be the kind who makes dour assumptions about people. (somebody blonde, I know that’s not the way you’re thinking; I’m just speaking of how these things might come off in conversation with the boss.)

  76. !*

    Yeah, I think it’s really up to the husband of your boss to come clean about (a number of) things. You did nothing wrong, there is no upside to coming clean if you want to keep your sexual orientation to yourself (which is also not wrong, and completely up to you). You were just an unknowing participant and when you found out, you did the right thing to break it off.

  77. Fox in a Box*

    I recall a letter a bit ago where the OP and her boss had one-night stands with a pair of roomates and didn’t realize it until they walked in on each other in the kitchen the next morning. I did not think there could be a more awkward relationship moment.

    I was wrong.

  78. Nonke John*

    I’m sorry, OP. Usually, you can help distract yourself from someone you’re trying to get over by throwing yourself into your job, but I doubt that’s helping much in this case.

    I agree with those who say you should keep quiet and look for the exit, but there’s one small but significant thing that I don’t think I’ve seen anyone mention yet: you may want to arm yourself with a script to use in case your boss finds out and confronts you before you’re able to remove yourself from her reporting line. After all, you can dread something for weeks and still be caught off guard when it actually happens; you won’t want to weaken your position by babbling and seeming defensive. And a quiet, measured tone can go some way toward convincing her that you haven’t been smirking about her behind her back the whole time, which she may not be able to help suspecting even if she’s too reasonable to think that you’re a perv who tried to recruit her unsuspecting husband into your self-destructive lifestyle.

  79. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

    Why does this remind me of that terrible Netflix show Insatiable? It’s like it’s straight from the script!

    Honestly, I’m pro not saying anything. You don’t owe it to anyone, and I doubt her husband will say anything. I do recommend starting a job hunt and finding something else if that is at all possible!

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Insatiable? I was under the impression that it was about high school drama + beauty pageants (and murder, and promotion of eating disorders). Either the advertising was pretty misleading or it’s suffered from Riverdale Syndrome.

      1. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

        It is, but the show takes place in the Bible Belt and there is a subplot about two suburban husbands who come out as gay and start an affair with each other.

        Don’t judge me – I once randomly binged it while in bed with the flu and felt even more delirious afterwards.

  80. Duvie*

    But you are making such a leap here. You don’t know that the husband doesn’t love his wife. You don’t know what drives his cheating, or even that his wife is unaware of it. Life is very complicated. The husband may love her with all his heart, and still be driven by needs of which we are unaware. The wife may already know; she may suspect but not want to know; they may have a DADT agreement. Three separate lives could get blown to splinters because we assume that our morality is the “right” one. To quote Tolkien, “Advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill.” For myself, when there’s no way I can possibly have all the facts, I choose to keep quiet. To assume I have the moral authority to alter the course of someone else’s life seems arrogant to me.

  81. Elizabeth West*

    Literally no queer people are messing up your life. Stop it.

    A straight partner can also lie to you and cheat on you and do all the things you said.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Dad rat it, that was supposed to be a reply to Veronica above who said queer people getting married and not revealing their true selves were messing up straight people’s lives. Grrrr

    2. Veronica*

      But they could, if they deceive me into thinking they’re hetero when they’re gay. That would really mess up my life, especially if being married to him prevented me from being with the right person. :( It is potentially devastating and trying to say it’s not is erasing the concerns of women who want to be with the right man.

      If you haven’t already seen it, the TV show Grace and Frankie explores all this. It was worse for them, they stayed married to gay men till their 70’s and didn’t know.

      Yes, being LGBTQ is hazardous and stressful and all who are dealing with it deserve sympathy and support. They still need to make an effort not to mess up the lives of other people.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I saw a few episodes of Grace and Frankie (before I got bored with it and stopped watching). How on earth was it “worse” for them? They had each had good, long marriages, that ended peacefully, and they then continued to remain friends with their exes and each other. They had children with these men, whom they had good relationships with. To paraphrase Mark Manson, just because a marriage does not end with one of the two spouses being in the grave, does not mean that it failed or that one or both parties have let each other down somehow.


        1. Quill*

          It sounds like everyone got pretty much they wanted out of the marriage though: children, mutual commitment, companionship… and a peaceful and uncomplicated end to it when it no longer worked out!

          That’s not a tragedy in my book. That’s a minor complication that changed their plans late in life.

          1. Veronica*

            Please watch the show. See how it feels to realize your husband of 40 years never wanted to be in bed with you. See what the marriages were like. Just because there was no physical violence doesn’t mean it was ok!

            1. Sylvan*

              Nobody here is saying it’s okay. Please move on from the Netflix show feelings and consider what actual, real live LGBT people are saying.

            2. Blueberry*

              What show can we ask you to watch to convince you to believe what LGBTQ people are saying about our lives?

            3. blackcat*

              Um. It’s a comedy that features sub plots about yam-based lube where a woman gives birth so fast she has a kid in her pants.
              It’s not exactly reality.

            4. yala*

              Wait, I’m sorry, are you telling us to watch a FICTIONAL show about couples that amicably divorced in their 70s after decades of companionship to prove how terrible it is for Deceitful Gays to Deceit, as opposed to listening to actual people talk about actual lived experiences?

              Maybe it’s my ace-ness talking, but…I don’t get what the big deal with “he was never sexually attracted to me” is. Maybe you should “see how it feels” from real people?

        2. Veronica*

          See this is what I mean, you completely miss it. It was bad because for 40 years – almost all of their adult lives – they were married to the wrong men. To men who didn’t really want to be with them. And staying married to these men prevented them from finding and being with the right partners.

          You must have stopped watching before it showed Grace and the love of her life, Phil… they almost had an affair 20 years before but Grace couldn’t cheat… Phil almost left his wife, and then she was diagnosed with dementia so he stayed to take care of her.

          After Grace was divorced, she and Phil reconnected but he was still married. They had a brief affair anyway, then Grace ended it because she felt bad for Phil’s wife.
          Then about 1-1/2 years later Phil died.

          I could have been Grace, if I was born a few decades earlier. This is why sham marriages are not ok!

          1. Avasarala*

            Seriously can’t believe you’re basing your knowledge of LGBT+ people in closeted relationships on a Netflix show instead of on what actual people are saying…

          2. yala*

            “And staying married to these men prevented them from finding and being with the right partners.”

            Wow, this is…this is a really, REALLY simplistic view of human nature, relationships, the laws of probability…everything, basically.

            Firstly, you do realize fiction is a deliberately crafted narrative, right?

            Though I do find it interesting…why isn’t Phil just as bad for not being in love with HIS wife? Why is it only bad that Grace’s husband wasn’t physically attracted to her?

      2. pancakes*

        No one can “erase” your concerns. Other people simply do not have the ability to climb inside your mind and do that.

      3. Blue Anne*

        I can’t believe you’re seriously using Grace & Frankie to back up an argument that gay men could ruin your life.

          1. JB*

            Have you ever had a meaningful conversation with a queer person? Outside of the comments section on this website?

      4. Pree*

        You are centering your own potential hurt in a way that is causing active harm to people reading this post, right now, and it is not okay.

      5. Princesa Zelda*

        I’m sorry, are you advising outing a two men, one of them the OP who is absolutely the victim here, because of a TV show and your hypothetical hurt feelings about something that hasn’t happened to you?

      6. Sylvan*

        Could you consider framing homophobia as a burden and not LGBT people? That would be great. Reading about how our existence is dangerous and we mess up others’ lives was a shitty experience.

        Not that I think using an SO to pretend to be straight is okay. I don’t and that should go without saying.

      7. yala*

        “But they could, if they deceive me into thinking they’re hetero when they’re gay. That would really mess up my life, especially if being married to him prevented me from being with the right person.”

        Ah, yes, those Deceitful Gays.

        How would that be any different than just being married to the Wrong Person who happened to be straight?

        Except of course, that your framing implies a deliberate and malicious attempt to be deceitful, rather than any of the more likely options.

        Just…wow. Gross and wow.

  82. Funbud*

    Wow. This letter could have been a chapter of my life (well, chapter & verse!). I’ve had some similar misadventures as a gay man, including attending the funeral of a coworker’s mother, only to discover her father was a man I’d had an affair with! That was fun. Best of luck to the OP, it’s not a happy story.

  83. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP, please get tested for HIV and other STIs immediately. This guy didn’t let you know he was married to your boss and is presumably cheating on her. He could have been seeing other men while you two were dating – and having unprotected sex with them as well.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Note that if he did infect the OP with something, that would the only scenario where the boss needs to know anything. Even then, the OP could go through the health department without outing himself.

  84. Cathy Gale*

    I haven’t read through the comments. I just wanted to say, I’m so sorry that you got this raw deal, and I hope that you’re able to get out of that situation as soon as you can.

  85. Tiger Snake*

    My brain went to probably the most complex option; an anonymous letter – either through the workplace internal mail or just a letter directed to the boss at the work place (so that you know it isn’t intercepted by the husband).
    If you have a letter – then not only do you avoid her knowing it was you, but you can skirt by the genders altogether.

    Simply state that you have been seriously dating the husband for six weeks, he had never mentioned being married, that you had immediately broken it off after you saw them together at the office party. You wanted her to know, but didn’t want to tarnish your work relationship. You can even attach screenshots and encourage her to not take the letter at its word, but to do her own investigation.

    1. Quill*

      Screenshots would probably establish that it was, say, grindr, not tindr, and the anonymous letter isn’t highly reliable even with them. Plus, “working relationship” will narrow her suspect pool to people she’s worked with and possibly cause her to start a witch hunt among them. Absolutely don’t do this.

  86. 867-5309*

    While I understanding being angry, disappointed, etc. at the spouse, I would not recommend outing this person. I imagine he is dealing with his own challenges and outing someone is a very.big.deal. Also, this isn’t a close friend to whom you have such an obligation. Certainly your job at this place could be at risk, but it sounds like that would be the case either way with your boss.

    Tough spot, OP. Let us know what you decide.

  87. learnedthehardway*

    I had to come back to this, after I’d reflected a bit. OP, this is a horrendous situation, and it’s not your doing at all.

    One thing to think about, which may influence your decision about whether and/or when to leave the company: does ANYONE in your circle of friends / acquaintances KNOW you were seeing this man? Did you tell family members? Did you mention his name to anyone? Consider whether you have to worry not only about your boss finding out on her own, but whether gossip or even accidental disclosures could affect you. And – as lonely as this will be – DO NOT disclose the situation to anyone in your circle of friends / family, not unless and until you are out of the company. You can’t control information you have shared with others.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      ETA – also, are there any pictures or texts that your boss’s husband might have on his phone? If so, I would ask him to delete them immediately. That’s the only reason I would contact him at this point, though – to protect yourself.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Oooh, good point. I have to think if he’s cheating he’s also hiding this on another phone. But still, it’s definitely way more awkward for you should she find anything.

        I really hope for OPs sake this guy isn’t some crazy person and understands the terrible situation he’s put you in.

  88. Alex*

    How awful. OP, you can’t really win anything here by telling your boss. That would a) out you to a homophobe who has power over you and b) probably put you in the path of her own anger about being cheated on, should such a thing be a surprise to her.

    Should this come out later, it’s not like the boss could legit say “well this would all have been totally fine between you and me if you’d told me right away, but you didn’t, so now I’m angry at you!” She’ll probably be angry at you either way, should she find out.

    And I don’t think, even barring any negative effects on your life, that you have any moral obligation to tell her. Her and her husband’s relationship is their own private business. You didn’t do anything wrong–and once you found out what was what, you extracted yourself from it ASAP. If it comes back to you, “I didn’t feel it was my business after I ended the relationship” is a 100% truthful, valid response. Sure, it might make your boss angry, but I’m not sure there’s any magical way for your (homophobic, cheated-on) boss to both know about this and to be OK with it. Your only hope really is to keep it to yourself and hope for the best. The good news is that it is likely your ex also doesn’t want her to find out, so it’s likely he will also be discreet for his own sake.

  89. Anon for this*

    While I agree that making rude comments is never okay, one can be against homosexuality without being scared of it (definition of homophobia) or bigoted. It’s often a religious belief – a belief that should be as defended and protected as LGBTQ rights are. I’m disappointed that this site continues to promote the idea that this federally protected belief is bigotry, rather than an equally valid belief to be protected with the same fervency. It’s a bit hypocritical.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No. There is no equivalence between people’s right to exist and love freely and someone else’s desire to curtail or restrict that right.

      This site will indeed continue to speak out against bigotry, whether it’s cloaked in religious observance or not. If that disappoints you, I am going to be a never-ending disappointment to you.

    2. Blue Anne*

      If you are “against” my identity, please don’t be polite about it. I would rather know who thinks myself and my loved ones are going to the bad place, thanks.

    3. Blueberry*

      It makes it that much gloriously wrong that you’ve made this statement on Transgender Day of Rememberance, when we remember and mourn the trans people who have been murdered by people with ‘deeply held convictions’ .

      Your right to think whatever you want to has never been under attack. LGBTQ people’s abilities to live our lives have been and continue to be under attack from people trying to whiten the decay-filled sepulchers of their hateful bigotry with the claim that it’s ‘religious conviction’. One of the many reasons I’m a fan of Alison’s is that she’s never going to support you and the rest in that.

    4. Burned Out Supervisor*

      Religious beliefs end at the believer in question. LGBTQ folx are not to blame for people’s bigoted religious beliefs. If a person holds these types of beliefs, that’s on them, but they should be practicing what Christ taught us about loving others as we love ourselves and keep their opinions about others’ lives to themselves. It’s really not that difficult.

    5. noahwynn*

      “Religious freedom” is the exact same line that many racists used in an attempt to stop civil rights and desegregation.

    6. animaniactoo*

      Your ability to be against it and disapprove of it ends at your choice to (not) pursue a homosexual relationship if you were to find yourself attracted to a person of the same gender.

      You need nobody to defend that right. Nobody. You just have to carry it out for yourself. The same applies to any other thing that you believe is wrong based on your religious beliefs.

      Attempting to inflict it on other people – who are simply living as their own beliefs allow them to – through words or laws is indeed bigotry. Pure, simple, and indisputable.

    7. Lady Phoenix*

      Nope. Religious beliefs do not supersede human rights. The right for a LGBTQ+ person to work and live peacefully and happily is more important than some ahole’s belief that LGBTQ+ should be harassed, assaulted, oppressed, and murdered.

    8. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Would you rather we called it “closed-minded, stupid, destructive anti-gay bigotry” so you don’t have the worry that we think you’re afraid of our very existence?

      You have the right to think that god hates the same people you do. You don’t have the right to make me pretend that those beliefs are worthy of respect.

    9. yala*

      Saying this as a practicing (if not great at dogma) Catholic:

      No. If you are “against homosexuality” then congratulations–you’re bigoted. Just because your bigotry is rooted in a religious belief doesn’t mean that it’s not bigotry.

      My mom’s ultra-conservative church doesn’t allow interracial marriages. It doesn’t matter that it’s a religious belief based on whatever weird read of the Bible they have–it’s still racist.

      I have faced criticism, sometimes (rarely), for my religion, but I have never, in this country, been persecuted for it. My mother and her church aren’t persecuted for their homophobia and racism. (She may THINK she is because at least one of her kids no longer speaks to her, but that’s a result of her actions.)

      You don’t get to hurt people and claim it’s part of your religion and that those rights should be defended. And homophobia (or, I’m sorry, “being against homosexuality” because we’re playing silly buggers with Literal Definitions I guess) is always harmful.

      Like…I’m trying to figure out a way one could be “against homosexuality” that wouldn’t be harmful. Even if you’re not actively spouting slurs, or campaigning against marriage, medical, housing, and/or employment equality, adoptions by lgbtq parents, just the attitude itself is harmful. It’s like being “against blondes.”

  90. Blueberry*

    I haven’t gotten through all the comments yet (and I hope this has already been brought up), but how does the LW explain requesting a transfer / looking for a new job when they have been so happy at their current job? To HR, to other managers they’re talking to about the transfer, to other companies in interviews? Has anyone done any brainstorming on useful language the LW could use in these situations?

    1. Princesa Zelda*

      It’d be context dependent, but if they’ve been there a reasonable amount of time, then a simply “I feel like it’s time to move on!”

      1. MissDisplaced*

        “I really enjoy doing X, and switching to department Y would allow me to do more of that.”

        “I’d like to pursue the opportunity in department X because it offers a chance to learn Y and Z.”

    2. nnn*

      Also, sometimes logistical factors can come across as perfectly sound reasons for a change or a transfer. Many employers wouldn’t look askance if an employee requests an internal transfer for better hours or a better commute or something practical like that.

  91. Theelephantintheroom*

    What a horrible situation! And what a creep for sneaking around on his wife. Good for you for breaking it off when you found out—no matter how pissed you are, I’m sure that has been painful to deal with on top of all of this.

    If you like your job and are unable or unwilling to leave, I would recommend not telling her. I don’t agree with your ex’s behavior, but if he’s sneaking around with men behind his wife’s back, he’s probably dealing with some internalized homophobia and needs to work through it. As pissed as you are, I would suggest reaching out and maybe encouraging him to come clean about his attraction to men (without outing you), IF YOU WANT TO. You’re not obligated to be his counselor, but there are still some areas where being LGBTQ+ is unnecessarily difficult, and it sounds like you’re living in one of those areas. So as wrong as his actions were, I still feel bad for him. (But again, he was VERY WRONG. Playing with two people’s emotions and trust is never OK.)

    Sorry if this isn’t much help. I would also encourage you to perhaps find a therapist, because going through a breakup you don’t feel like you can talk about with people is rough. Having someone you can trust to sort through all the emotions you’re feeling right now might be helpful to you.

  92. Burned Out Supervisor*

    Yeah, I would totally just keep my mouth shut on this one. You really have nothing to gain and everything to lose by telling her. She will not understand that you broke it off as soon as you discovered the deception (even though that is the 100% correct thing to do). The only thing she’ll see is either that her husband has been lying to her for their whole marriage and it’s easier to take it out on you than on him, OR, she’ll 1000% not believe you and take whatever actions she deems appropriate in her homophobic perspective. I would just keep my head down and hope to gain enough professional good will at your company that you become unimpeachable in every way or that you can transfer out of the department.

    Good luck!

  93. Not a Nice Day For an Outing*

    Just going to reiterate that outing someone else is never ok, regardless of circumstances (except, I suppose, in the case of an emergency health situation). It’s a line in the sand that you should never cross, and making exceptions for someone just makes that line blurrier and makes it easier for others to excuse outing others. If this is a conservative area where the wife/boss is openly homophobic, you know who else is probably homophobic? Her relatives, in-laws, her husband’s friends, co-workers, gym buddies, etc. This isn’t a simple “exposing a cheater” situation. This is a situation where someone may find their parents and siblings disowning them, their friends ending their friendships or worse, or their wife’s relatives or own relatives threatening them with violence (in my own extended family I know when a female cousin’s husband was found to be cheating with a woman, my male relatives drove over and put the fear of God into him…now imagine how worse the situation might have been if my male cousins were homophobic and the husband had been cheating with a man). Imagine every homophobic man this person knows, which may be most of them, suddenly thinking about all the times they’ve hugged, or been in the same locker room, etc. Now google “Gay Panic Defense” if you’re not already familiar with this. Just…don’t out people.

    1. Anon Here*

      I agree.

      To be fair, this situation is dangerous for boss-wife and her husband. For Husband because of Wife’s homophobia and the fact that she’ll probably be angry when/if she finds out about the cheating. And for Wife because Husband might be putting her at risk for diseases depending and their habits as a couple and his when he’s with other people. It could get bad fast. Best for LW to stay far away.

    2. D. Lee*

      I disagree that “outing someone else is never OK”. I took a job at a publishing house in Asia. I had grown up in the Philippines and Hong Kong, and was happy to be back in the region. After one year the senior editor left to go back to the US (a great person and we got along fine), and his replacement was someone from the UK. At the time I was 29, and more or less totally out. My personal life was never discussed at work anyway, and everyone was respectful. The first month or two was OK, but then he would say sexually inappropriate things to me at work as well as berate me, including calling me dumb. He would tell me about how he would slip out to the gay sauna from work sometimes. (I had made the mistake of trying to befriend him, and I stopped hanging out with him as soon as that kind of talk started. Not a prude, but it felt weird to have conversations like that with a closeted co-worker.) He would show up after lunch to work smelling like alcohol. Did I mention that he had a wife and two kids back in the UK? What was worse was that he would constantly pretend he was straight at work, how great it was to be a father, etc., and talk about gay people in the third person. (And yes, he was gay, not bi; I got the sense his kids didn’t know; not sure about his wife). It was obvious [and sad] he was bitter and jealous that I was a young, out gay man, dating and having fun, while he was probably miserable at my age. He would come to work extra early, before anyone got there, to look at porn and gay dating sites (note that this was before everyone had a good internet connection in their houses). Oh, and he was 52 and “secretly” living with a 25 year old local man. There were other things he would do, like openly take sides in local politics, including writing a big smiley face on the office whiteboard after his preferred candidate won (keep in mind he wasn’t a citizen of that country and couldn’t vote), pissing off several people in the office. He was an annoying, disgusting person. He talked and carried himself much like Hannibal Lechter, so you can only imagine. In fact, he even bore a slight resemblance. I would have quit, but it was more financially beneficial to wait it out until the end of the year when my contract expired and receive severance that was part of my deal. I had had enough of his abuse and so yes, damn right I outed him. To our boss, to my coworkers, to my friends, to anyone who would listen. I took my last month there off–I got a doctor to write a note so I got paid leave. It isn’t like he was hurting. He was a successful lawyer who had graduated from one of the world’s best law schools, and later had a career as an international, best-selling novelist, one of which had been made into a film. He was having a retirement condo built in Malaysia or something. He had a mansion back home. In fact, he was way, way, overqualified for that position. And I mean WAY overqualified. (My father had warned me about this when he visited and came to the office.) The job was in one of the safest places in the world, with probably the world’s lowest crime rate, and everyone lives in high-security buildings, plus it is a pretty tolerant place, so it wasn’t like he would be bashed or anything. I wasn’t really concerned about my personal safety either. He left a few months after I quit, saying he had developed stomach cancer, although any Google searches point to him being alive and well. Years later he is still very much alive, so must have been a miraculous recovery. The publishing company I worked for was very happy to give me references and documents I needed, even years later, so it isn’t like I burned bridges with them.

  94. cacwgrl*

    Pardon my ignorance – and I mean that very sincerely! – but… there are states in which you can be fired for being gay? What are they, purely for my own education? I’m fully aware of my privilege when I say that’s never a situation I ever had to consider or have come across in my career.

    1. rulesfor*

      Last I checked, it was something like 17 states that still have no laws against that type of discrimination. The HRC website usually has a pretty solid breakdown. There are other states with laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity, too, or ones which only have protections for public employees.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      It’s not so much that you can be fired for being gay. It’s more like it’s not explicitly stated by law that you cannot be fired for being gay. And this varies by state, where there may be a case where anyone can be fired at any time for anything at all (at will, right to work). And it’s still being debated by each state and a is complicated legal landscape.

      This “complicated legal landscape” involves conflicting court rulings, differing interpretations of civil rights laws by federal agencies, a patchwork of state laws and carve outs for religiously affiliated organizations.

    3. LGC*

      As noted, it’s more like there are states where you can’t NOT be fired for your sexuality or gender presentation. Being LGBTQ+ isn’t federally protected, but some states do have laws against discrimination at work. Others (I think largely in the Midwest and South) don’t, so it’s technically legal.

    4. cacwgrl*

      Wow, thank you all for the education. Every state I worked with when I was in industry is dark purple and I didn’t realize how many others don’t offer similar protections. :(

  95. MissDisplaced*

    Oh no! I take it he didn’t know where you worked? I guess I can see it may not have come up, if was purely bad luck and coincidence.

    Given you broke it off immediately, I’d say your best bet is to keep mum about this fantastically unfortunate dating fiasco. SHOULD it ever come out, you can hold your head high and know you didn’t pursue a relationship once you found out—and that you were innocent in thinking you were dating someone who was free. And whatever you do, please do not engage with this person in the future. At all! Seriously.

    I do think it a good idea to shift departments if you can arrange to, just to put some distance between you and her. Ugh! I’m so sorry you got mixed up in whatever their deal is.

  96. Betsy S*

    Getting out seems like the only option to me.

    All of the odds-figuring aside – how do you develop a good , comfortable working relationship with your boss when you are sitting on this sort of secret? I cannot imagine being able to stay there. Maybe you have much thicker skin.

    I do agree there doesn’t seem to be a huge risk of immediate discovery which would give you time to job-hunt (and if it is at all humanly possible, consider trying to move to a place that is more gay-friendly. Even in the Deep South, some towns are better than others.

    wishing you the best

  97. LGC*

    …I’m not sure whether this is coincidence or Alison decided to do a Savage Love crossover this week.

    But yeah – I don’t know if there are ANY good options here. One thing that might be a saving g

    1. LGC*

      …saving grace is if LW is in a culturally conservative area of a state with progressive laws (let’s say he works in New York) – in that case he might have some more rights. (On the other hand, I think most businesses would shut down the boss’s comments in that case anyway.)

      Other than that, in a perfect world your boss would be fired for creating a hostile work environment. (And she’d get alimony from her cheating husband – just because she’s a jerk doesn’t mean she’s not being wronged here.) Obviously, we’re not there so I’m going to also suggest you start looking elsewhere. And have a good cover story for why you’re really leaving.

  98. Luna*

    I wouldn’t say anything to your boss. You have no right to out her husband to her, if she doesn’t know.
    Secondly, I am glad to read that you immediately broke up with the guy upon realizing that he’s married. Cannot say he’s such a great guy, after all, if he knowingly kept that from you — which he obviously did, considering you didn’t seem to know he was in a relationship with someone else? Regardless of it being your boss.

    Say nothing. The relationship is over. If it ever comes out, well, I can’t say you should shrug it off. But if she finds out, and that he was cheating on her with you, you can bluntly point out you knew nothing of their relation, and it was immediately over once you learned he wasn’t as single as you believed him to be. And if she tries anything regarding your sexual orientation, you can easily turn this into a discrimiation case. Pretty sure even conservatice areas have a law against discrimination based on orientation.

    1. Observer*

      You have no right to out her husband to her, if she doesn’t know.

      Why? I mean, I DO think that the OP should say nothing. But the ex has no right to any expectation that the OP do anything other than what’s in HIS (The OP’s best interest.)

      Pretty sure even conservatice areas have a law against discrimination based on orientation.
      Nope. As others have pointed out, at this point that’s just not the case. There are some cases before the Supreme Court that may change that, depending on what decision gets handed down, but right now in a LOT of jurisdictions it’s totally legal to fire someone for this.

      1. cheeky*

        It’s a gross violation of person to out them. It’s absolutely inappropriate and can get people fired, attacked, or even killed.

  99. cheeky*

    I would not say one word of this, ever. If it comes up, and you are treated poorly by your boss, that’s retaliation. I suspect it will not come up.

    As an aside, I’m really sorry that you have been repeatedly exposed to homophobic comments and actions in your professional life and that, it seems, it’s something that’s been normalized and that you just work around. You deserve better, and I hope that one day, you will have a job that does not expose you to this.

  100. Jcarnall*

    What an awful, dreadful, no-good, horrible, situation.

    I’d say, on the one hand:

    The situation you describe, LW, is just about the only situation I can think of where you do have a right to out a closety gay man to his wife.

    He cheated on her. (Almost certainly. Yes, they could have a secretly-open marriage, but I’m thinking that if so, recently-ex-boyfriend would have at least been open with LW that he was married.)

    She has a right to know he’s cheating on her, and with whom, and LW has a right not to lie about who he’s been having an affair with.

    That said, just because LW has a right to tell her, doesn’t mean he has an obligation to do so or that it would be the right thing to do.

    You have a good professional relationship with Boss. You no longer have any kind of relationship with her husband. The professional thing to do is: You don’t need to know what’s going on in your Boss’s marriage, and you don’t need to know what her husband is doing with himself or others, and you should make very, very solid barriers (block on all social media and phone numbers and emails) to ensure no further relationship exists between you and her husband. Ideally, you;’d be able to prove that.

    Also: at some point it seems likely Boss is going to discover her soon-to-be-ex husband is gay and is cheating on her. You really, really do not want to have any personal contact or conversation with Boss or anyone else at work about this.

  101. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Sorry if this has already been said, but I’m behind on my AAM posts, and don’t have time to filter through he comments :-)

    I wouldn’t say anything to the boss, but I wonder if going to HR would be beneficial. Not to lodge a formal complaint, but to give them a heads up of the situation if she finds out and tries to retaliate on OP. If this is OP’s dream job why should he have to leave it? And this of course totally depends on how well HR handles situations, since we all know that lots of them suck at dealing with problems.

  102. Sockit2me*

    There IS a good answer here. You do not out somebody, no matter how big a jerk they were to you or somebody else. You have no reason to think he’s out – in fact, he told you he is not out. 100% not okay to out him, full stop.

  103. allathian*

    What a terrible situation, I’m so sorry.
    Kudos to the OP for breaking up as soon as you found out your ex was married.
    In this situation, I think you definitely need to take steps to protect yourself. So don’t say anything at work.

    Much as I despise cheaters in general, in this case my advice would be the same even if the relationship had been heterosexual. Few people who have been cheated on can stay neutral with the third party, and in a work setting, if you’ve been involved in a relationship, even unknowingly, with the spouse of your boss, it’s often best to look for another job. Easier said than done, I know, but still worth the attempt, if only to protect your mental health.

    This thread has really been an eye-opener for me. I feel very lucky to live in Scandinavia, where at-will employment is unheard of, discrimination against people who identify as LGBT+ is illegal, unisex bathrooms are available almost everywhere including some progressive schools, employers who provide benefits for legally married couples must provide the same benefits for same-sex couples as they do for heterosexual ones, and the official national curriculum on sex education also includes the requirement to teach kids about more than just heterosexuality.

    However, I’m under no illusions that the legal protections we have are enough. There’s still a lot of work to be done. Even though it’s illegal, trans people still face discrimination in the workplace, especially if they don’t present the gender that they identify as. Suicide rates for LGBT+ teens are frighteningly high and some parents still disown their children for being LGBT+. Although a legal requirement, some schools and teachers in more conservative areas don’t teach the new national curriculum on sex education (in some areas, to be frank, you’re lucky to get any sex education at school at all). Some people reject and are offended by same-sex marriage. LGBT+ people are still exposed to jeers and slurs, and in the worst case, subject to violence, by random strangers. Although there have been proposals to change the law, to start gender realignment, you must agree to sterilization.

    I’m a straight, white, middle-aged cis woman, so I really have no idea what it’s like to live a life where you’re forced to hide a major part of your identity just to protect yourself from random violence. But I’m happy to be educated.

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