my new coworker is the woman my husband had an affair with

A reader writes:

I’ve been with my husband for 25 years. For the last six years we have worked for the same company, in the same division and even on the same floor. It’s actually worked out really well, except for one thing.

Five years ago, he came home with a hickey on his neck. I soon found out that he was having a year-long affair with a woman from one of the other offices. It was a really ugly time after that. He told me he wasn’t sure he loved me and he wasn’t as attracted to me. It took him six months to say “I love you” again.

It was horrible, but we eventually worked through it. The last four years have actually been some of the best years of our marriage. We stopped taking each other for granted, etc., etc.

But I just found out that this “other woman” is moving to our office, on the same floor I work on. While we’ve never met before, she knew I was married to the man she was involved with. I’m very involved in the office community, so our paths are going to cross and we may even have to work together.

I know I’m displacing my anger, which should be directed at my husband, who treated me horribly when it came out. I know this woman she didn’t have any duty to me or even know me. I know I’m being unreasonable. But I am really angry that she is invading my “home” again (albeit my work home). What do I do when our physical paths cross?

It’s not unreasonable to find this upsetting. After all the work you did to put your husband’s affair behind you, suddenly being confronted with a daily reminder of it must be terrible. No one wants to have to see the person their spouse cheated with on a regular basis (or ever, really), and the work context makes it even more complicated, because you’ll need to interact in a reasonably pleasant way, so you can’t just avoid her entirely.

As for how to handle it when your paths cross, the best thing to do — and the only real option, frankly — is to resolve to be scrupulously professional. You might be tempted to freeze her out or be pointedly chilly, but as satisfying as those responses might feel, they risk reflecting badly on you to anyone else who notices. But no one can fault you for being meticulously professional, and there can be real power in that approach. Being the one in an awkward situation to say “this is how we will handle this” signals you’re in control and not thrown off your game.

That doesn’t mean you need to make friendly overtures, just that you talk to her when your work requires it, and you interact with her in a way that wouldn’t give an observer pause. Think of a colleague whose company you wouldn’t voluntarily seek, but who you’ve been stuck working with; that’s more or less the vibe you’re going for here. You’re not freezing anyone out, just keeping things strictly business.

It might help to remember that you’re doing that for you, not for her or for your husband. You’re doing it because your professional reputation matters to you, and you’re not going to compromise it because of someone else’s actions.

But you’re also allowed to decide that this sucks and you don’t want to hang around for it. I can imagine you might not want this to be the reason you leave your job if you otherwise would have stayed, but you don’t have to tough it out if you don’t want to. If you’d rather move on to a job where you don’t have this reminder staring you in the face every day, you can. (And it sounds like you’ve been there at least six years, so who knows, there could be professional benefits to moving on anyway.)

I’m Allergic to My Boss’s Perfume!

I have an extreme sensitivity to artificial scents — air fresheners, perfume, scented laundry products, candles, deodorants, some shampoos, etc. — and can get severe migraines from them. My doctor has prescribed migraine medication and told me to try to avoid the triggers.

At work I have my own office space, and although a lot of people come through my office on their way to my boss’s (adjoining) office, I can usually mitigate any strongly scented products with an air purifier I keep at my desk, or, in intense cases, open windows. I have mentioned my sensitivity to my co-workers, but my boss seems to have forgotten because lately she’s been wearing perfume more often. She clearly enjoys smelling nice and I don’t want to take that away from her, but she recently switched scents and her new perfume is strongly affecting me. When she wears it, it sort of just hangs in the air of the entire office (including mine). I can’t escape it, and I am getting severe headaches. It’s terrible to say, but when she wears this perfume, her presence is physically painful to me. While she is in the same room as me, I try to get through it without breathing through my nose, and the whole time I’m wondering when she will stop talking to me and leave. I am not able to truly listen to her because I am overwhelmed by her perfume.

I really like my boss and do not want to offend her, and it’s a really personal thing to have to ask someone. How do I politely ask her to please stop wearing perfume or using scented products?

Oh my goodness, let her know! If she’s a decent person — and I’m betting she is, since you said you really like her — she’d be horrified to know that she’s been causing you physical discomfort and you haven’t said anything.

The key to addressing it is to be direct and matter-of-fact. Emphasize that it’s about your allergies, not her scent preferences. Being matter-of-fact helps because people will take their cues from you; if your tone conveys “of course this a reasonable request,” people are more likely to respond in kind. And it is a reasonable request!

For example, you could say, “The perfume you’ve been wearing is lovely, but it seems to be triggering my allergies and giving me bad headaches. I’m so sorry to ask, but could I request that you not wear it to work since our offices are so near each other?”

Also, workplaces are increasingly aware of fragrance sensitivity, and more and more offices are banning scented products altogether, particularly when they have scent-sensitive employees. If you ever find that working it out with colleagues one-on-one isn’t cutting it, don’t be shy about approaching your HR department about more formal accommodations, like moving you to a different space or instituting a scent-free policy office-wide.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 359 comments… read them below }

  1. Sleepytime Tea*

    OP could always do what my mom did when she met the woman her (now-ex) husband had an affair with at my brother’s wedding – introduce herself warmly and then give her a hug.

    Mom insists she was trying to be nice and make her comfortable. I found it hilarious and am quite confident it only made things even more awkward. But hey, she took control of that situation and set the (weird) tone.

    1. The Bean*

      Yeah I took the tactic of being nice to the girl I knew by ex boyfriend had cheated on me with when I had to work closely with her professionally. I don’t think she could tell if I knew or not and it drove her crazy. Granted it was only for a few weeks so I was able to keep up the act. I don’t think I could do it indefinitely.

      (She also had had a boyfriend when this all started and jerked around him, my ex and a third guy for about six months until settling on my ex. Like, would dump her bf on Thursday, hook up with third dude on Friday, and be back together with her be on Saturday and they’d all be hanging out at some social event on Saturday with her bad none the wiser. Some people are just bad and get a thrill from breaking up other people’s relationships)

    2. juliebulie*

      I like it. Considering that they were both treated like crap by the same man, they do have a sort of bond.

      1. texan in exile*

        One of my best friends and I became that way after a man Done Us Both Wrong. He even used the same lines on both of us. He couldn’t even be original. I guess he thought we would never compare notes.

        We did.

        1. Rainy*

          Yeah, I have two good female friends I got to know because of warning them that something hinky was going on with their male partners and women who’d previously made determined attempts to break my first husband and I up. Sometimes being irritated at the same person leads to Unbreakable Sisterhood. :P

          I should be clear: of course ultimately it is your partner who is responsible if they choose to cheat, but if someone has a well-established pattern of trying to break other people up and you see them paint a target and take aim, it’s irresponsible not to at least make an effort to give the affected parties a heads-up.

        2. Quill*

          Not a man, but I got on like a house on fire with the girl who inherited my terrible, lying, stealing first college roommate.

          We figured it out on a trip together and the rest of our class spent the rest of that night going 0.0

            1. Quill*

              many people tried to flee the room when the second roommate loudly announced “That bitch gave me this scar!” and rolled up her shorts to show it off.

          1. Chrysanthemum's The Word*

            My best friend for over 20 years inherited my bad college roomate. She moved in when I moved out of our dorm room and into the one next door. We shouldn’t have been friends but it was just meant to be!

            My bad roomate is also how I met my husband years later so while she’s not someone I want in my life on the regular she has managed to intersect with my life at the right times.

        3. Ra94*

          One of my closest friends and I bonded over our horrid interactions with the same abusive creep in our friend group- it took a lot of power out of his ‘no, no, only YOU can save me and make me better’ manipulations to learn he’d used them on both of us!

      2. Lucette Kensack*

        I don’t know that the husband treated the other woman like crap (he dated her, then ended the relationship when he recommitted to his wife), but I do love this move!

          1. juliebulie*

            Yeah, I feel like that’s bad enough? And then he dumped her (presumably) to stay with his wife. Which… well it’s hard to say that was a bad thing to do since he’s already doing a bad thing. But it would suck from the girlfriend’s perspective. He may have led her to believe that he was planning to leave his wife. (I would like to think that she’d have been to smart to believe that one, but real life suggests that it takes more than intelligence to be skeptical when someone’s saying what you want to hear.)

            1. tangerineRose*

              Unless she didn’t know he was married, I’m having a hard time feeling sympathy for the girlfriend/accomplice in cheating.

      3. GDUB*

        It’s like on the TV show Cheaters when the cheated-on and the cheated-with start bonding over what an asshole their common man is, leaving the jerky man standing there like an idiot.

        Not that I watch Cheaters.

        1. Greenie Gus*

          All the happy go-lucky suggestions are great for a laugh (give the woman a hug and all that), but the reality is, what a horrendous situation to be in. OP, if you want to stay at your job and you can’t move locations or to another floor, then you need to tell your boss and see what they suggest. They can be mindful of this situation when there are upcoming group projects or meetings. As for the woman, don’t even give her any time of day. I wouldn’t even bother acknowledging her whatsoever.

      4. RC Rascal*

        My college roommate’s dad was on his third wife. He cheated on wife #1 (roomie’s Mom), with wife #2. When things went sour with #2, her Mom and #2 ended up becoming good friends.

    3. mf*

      Bonus points for the OP if she tells everyone how glad she is to be working with the former mistress. “Guys, have you met Karen? I’m super excited she’s joined our division. Did you know she cheated with my husband? If it weren’t for her, he and I wouldn’t have the built the strong happy marriage we have today!”

      1. AngstyAdmin*

        I’mm not sure that is in the spirit of interacting “in a way that wouldn’t give an observer pause,” as Alison says in her answer.

          1. Amy the Rev*

            Yeah I seem to remember a Grey’s Anatomy storyline where a resident filed a sexual harassment claim when the spouse of the person she’d been having an affair with started treating her badly at work because of it.

        1. Jen in Oregon*

          Agreed. The first two sentences are fine. the last two are off the rails. I also think that professional warmth/friendliness (NOT friendship, because….c’mon.) would probably be the most disconcerting thing one could offer this woman. Coldness let’s her know exactly where your head is at, and she can adjust accordingly, while professional friendliness will keep her on her back foot because she’ll know that she can’t really trust it (because she knows she doesn’t deserve it) and she won’t be able to get her bearings easily. Under no circumstances would I ever go to lunch with, or have ANY kind of discussion with her about past events. I’d avoid any personal discussion at all, ever. You don’t owe her a chance to address the affair, whether it’s to apologize or justify her actions or anything in between.

          Now, for your own self: if you can find your way mentally to be in a zen place where you can recognize her as a painful catalyst that led to the betterment of your marriage, you might be able to get to a head space for yourself where you don’t have to fake this. That is where I’d want to be if I were in your situation, but of course ymmv, and it probably won’t be instantaneous but rather a place to work towards. And who knows? Maybe meeting this woman will take some mystery out of that chapter of your life.

          And, no matter how uncomfortable this is for you, your husband is possibly/probably in absolute knots over this. If you were involved in any kind of therapy during this ordeal initially, and it helped you, you might want to consider a session or two if you think it would help. I wish you well no matter what you decided to do. I hope you find this situation much easier on you than you are anticipating.

        1. Deadspin is dead*

          Right, Murphy. Sometimes I’m astounded by the commenters here who don’t understand when someone is being absurd.

          1. Jen in Oregon*

            To be fair, many of us have experienced people at work doing and saying very absurd things, which can skew the absurd-o-meter settings and the ability to separate hyperbolic sarcasm from actual advice. :-)

            1. tangerineRose*

              We also read this blog, which has had a whole lot of very surprising things that people have written in.

          2. nonethefewer*

            we live in a world where bosses will pee in the sink, companies will set up fake layoffs, and coworkers will demand that others call her boyfriend “master”.

            Poe’s Law is the law of the land here.

      2. Blueberry*

        ahahahah that’s a great mental image. Obviously IRL one would have to stop after the second sentence, but imagining saying the whole thing would be pretty fun for a few moments.

      3. Gaia*

        First, no. Second, she didn’t cheat with OPs husband. OPs husband cheated with her. New co-worker had zero agreement with the OP. The husband is the one that betrayed the OP, not the new co-worker.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I think there’s a general societal expectation that people don’t help cheaters cheat. Or at least that the spouse should be separated before dating them.

          1. Falling Diphthong*


            And, you can’t argue that you entered into the affair for emotional reasons that had nothing to do with considering the long-term impacts on anyone else but jinkies, HOW could the cheated-on spouse now be lashing out at you (usually by naming you in the divorce suit) for emotional reasons, without considering the long-term impacts on you?

    4. annakarina1*

      It reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds eventually becoming friends and being cool with each other years after the affair.

      1. Aquawoman*

        Carrie Fisher’s description of that is hilarious–her parents were good friends with Liz and her husband, and when the husband died, Carrie says her dad “was immediately by her side, and then worked his way around to her front.”

    5. Liane*

      Another Way to Go! for your mom.
      Except for the hug, this is classic Miss Manners. She actually wrote, when advising a bride’s mother who was very unhappy her ex’s other-woman-turned-second-wife would be at their daughter’s wedding, something along the lines of, “If you are are rude to the lady, she will feel smug, comfortable. If you treat her with impeccable politeness, she will feel uncomfortable. Which do you want?”

      1. Lora*

        Hahahahaha I was thinking, “It’s so nice to finally meet you, I’ve heard SO MUCH about you!”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I did this once, accidentally. It was my second year in the US and my conversational English was kind of still shaky. I had already commented on this blog before about a guy I used to work for back then, who wanted to date me, but eventually settled on another married woman from our group because I kept saying no. We were friends though (closer than I’ve been with any of my other coworkers since, at least while they and I worked together… lesson learned). One evening we were out and he asked if I wanted to stop by a bowling alley and say hi to his wife, who was there for her league night with her (male) bowling partner. The whole 15-minute drive down, he told me about the other guy’s absurd bowling skills and of all the rings he’d gotten for his many perfect 300 games. We finally get to the place, I shake the guy’s hand and see one of the rings. I decided to compliment him on it and that was when I messed up. I guess I meant to say that I’d heard of that and the other rings. But what came out of my mouth was “I know everything about you.” Which would not be something I’d still remember 20 years later, if my boss/friend hadn’t gotten a chewing-out later that evening from his wife, and gave me a stern talking-to the next morning. “WHAT did you tell her about (bowling partner)?” the wife wanted to know as soon as they both got home. I have no idea what there was to tell. I’m guessing there was quite a bit! Apparently I’d scared the crap out of both the boss’s wife, and her bowling partner! There’s no one I can ask about it now, so I can only keep guessing. I promise I honestly only wanted to tell him “you’re a good bowler”.

            1. Disco Janet*

              But not for someone who DESERVED a zinger. The woman’s crime is apparently marrying someone who used to have a crush on someone else? This story was an uncomfortable read.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I have heard it said that a person can call any phone number and say, “I know what you did, I am going to tell someone” and it’s almost certain the recipient of the call WILL freak out. It sounds like the wife and bowling partner fit this description well.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I mean, I would say “No, you don’t.” Or “Wrong number.” But there’s a reason this is a tried and true means of police interrogation. Or of following someone to where they hid the loot.

    6. Detective Amy Santiago*

      At the rehearsal dinner for my brother’s wedding, I overheard my new SIL’s grandma introduce her step grandma as “this is my ex-husband’s wife”. They sat together and were super friendly. I asked my mom about it later and found out that step-grandma was the babysitter and grandpa left grandma for her.

      Basically, I’m 100% into the power move thing, though I can respect why that is probably not an option for OP.

    7. Wintermute*

      do you get bonus points if you whisper in their ear “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.”?

    8. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

      My great- great grandfather, according to family stories, was not a particularly pleasant person and had a years-long affair with another woman. After he died, the other woman and my g-g grandmother moved in together and lived together the rest of their lives. Apparently they liked each other better than they liked him. And this was back in 1870-something!

    9. Arts Akimbo*

      I accidentally did something similar. My first-ever boyfriend had broken up with me in order to date someone else. He was very honest about wanting to pursue this other person and giving me a heads-up so it wouldn’t come as a shock seeing them together. (Maybe he already was pursuing her, but whatever, it didn’t really matter as he had been emotionally distant for some time and it was clear the relationship had run its course.)

      So I, not wanting to be a jerk, was nice to them whenever I saw them together or individually. It was a gut-punch, as she was this devastating beauty completely my physical opposite in many ways (I’m a blond, she had raven-black hair, I’m very smiley, she had the sexiest RBF ever, etc.) — the type of overall look I always felt very threatened by (and turned on by, as Baby Me didn’t really understand that Bi was a thing).

      Well, a few years later, this guy and I were chatting socially and we were talking about the people in college we’d had sex with. (Real mature, I know!) It turns out that the lovely woman he had dated after dumping me felt SO GUILTY that she could never bring herself to have sex with him!! I swear, I did not mean for that to happen, and I would have wished them both incredibly well and nothing but good things!!

      But really, she and I both dodged a bullet with that guy, so maybe the Awesome Power of Niceness actually carried her to safety, LOLOL!!

      1. Crooked Bird*

        I love this story. All hail the Awesome Power of Niceness… and super-nice beautiful women with RBF!

  2. sunny-dee*

    This may be a tangent, but while the husband has the blame for the damage to the relationship, we all have a responsibility not to be total douchebags to each other — and that includes not sleeping with people we know are married. It’s okay not to like this woman.

      1. Czhorat*

        It’s easy to be professional with people who we like.

        Being professional with those we have reason to dislike is the challenge.

          1. The One with the Unpopular Opinions*

            I don’t think I could help myself. I’d want to defend my territory.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I know opinions differ on this, but to me, if you have to defend your “territory” in this context, it’s already lost or damaged beyond repair.

              1. Bidoof*

                I’m with you. Inflammatory, but this kind of thing always makes me picture a raccoon hissing at someone opening the dumpster they’re living in.

                1. valentine*

                  The best response is no response. Don’t even kill her with kindness. Treat her like any other colleague. Should she be bold enough to bring it up, maybe with a “I don’t know if you know who I am?”, you say, “You’re Job Title Name, my new colleague,” and repeat, but only twice, if she won’t let it lie.

                  The loose thread here is the husband, who needs to be a vault and not part of a game of telephone and never tell the ex how OP feels and, if he hasn’t done so already, that OP knows who he cheated with.

                  OP, it’s important to find ways to detach so that you can live peacefully and work well with this person.

                2. valentine*

                  And, OP, since you know you’re displacing anger, that’s something to tackle. Has it resurfaced, or continued unabated? Do you foresee a future a without it? What do you need to get there?

              2. Milli*

                Also I’m not sure how “Defend you territory” would happen at work. Unless your husband is there you don’t really have anything to defend.

            2. PollyQ*

              Two problems with that. First, there’s no reason to think the ex has any current interest in OP’s husband at all. Four years is a good amount of time to pass, and the odds that she’s thinking well of her ex-BF who cheated on his wife with her, but ultimately dumped her to back to the wife seem pretty low. And unless it’s a unusually cozy office, there’s no reason that ex will have any reason to interact with H at all.

              But second, and more importantly, a partner isn’t a thing to be protected from theft. Even if we assume the absolute worst of the ex-GF — that she made a hard-court press to seduce him, fully knowing he was married — husband was still a free individual who made the choice to cheat. There’s no amount of “territory defense” that can fix that problem.

              1. TardyTardis*

                Although the residual anger needs to be dealt with, one way or another (I recall in ROSE MADDER how the heroine rented a batting cage and sent some leather into low earth orbit. I recall ‘tenderizing’ some meat with great vigor using the Tony Perkins Stabby McStabby method over some problem or other, and how very satisfying it was).

          2. Shocked Pikachu*

            Just so I am sure I understand the term correctly – “freezing out”. Is it like “un-managing” except between coworkers , when your end goal is to basically push the person out ? Or is it more of acting “icy” as wanting to make the person not to interact with you specifically ?

              1. Aphrodite*

                On the old Ehell site, they called that the Cut Direct. It’s acting as if the person is not even there, not acknowledging them in any way. It is serious because it involves other people in your behavior and makes for a very uncomfortable setting for everyone. There is also the Cut Indirect, which is being icily polite but that also can make other around uncomfortable even if to a smaller degree.

                I go with Alison’s response. Those fantasies that come into your head may be fun to think about but should never be acted upon, at least if you want to keep your professional and personal reputations high.

                1. MarsJenkar*

                  That term’s been around for a while; I wanna say Judith Martin (Miss Manners) used that term 20-odd years ago.

                2. PollyQ*

                  It’s a very old term — goes back Regency England, according to a couple sites I just googled.

                3. MsSolo*

                  Yeah, the Cut Direct is not just about not talking to the person, but making sure everyone you come in contact with knows you’re not talking to the person, and subtly encouraging them not to talk to the person either. That kind of “Can you ask Karen to pass the sugar, please” dynamic.

                4. Coffee*

                  An example of the Cut Direct would be someone holding out their hand for a handshake and the other person just leaving them hanging.

              2. bluephone*

                That’s my interpretation, having experienced it firsthand with a former coworker (my crime was definitely helping her husband two-time her; my crime was literally just having the audacity to exist, on her team, and “shoving it in her face” by being in the office and doing my job and you know, generally being a person in the world). So unless OP wants to torpedo her own professional reputation, she needs to rise above freezing this person out, no matter how difficult it will be.

                1. bluephone*

                  ugh, my crime was NOT helping my coworker’s husband two-time her!! I literally did nothing wrong except to exist and that was apparently reason enough for her to straight up ignore me even when I addressed her directly. Brain fail today.

                2. Veronica*

                  Yes, people like that are out there. I encountered several when I was young. I had never done anything to them, but they hated me and tried to punish me anyway.

            1. starsaphire*

              See, I interpret “freezing out” as being coldly polite. But that may be unprofessional as well — it’s hard to have good judgment when your emotions are involved.

              1. Avasarala*

                Yeah, imagine being anyone else at the office and I can see how coldly polite is unprofessional.
                Other Woman: I just finished the Big Work Project and it was a success!
                Officemate 1: Yay! :D
                Officemate 2: Congrats! :)
                Officemate 3 (OP): Good for you. :|

            2. Bidoof*

              IME, the latter. Either ignoring them entirely and refusing to speak to them or being cold and abrupt to the extent that they won’t want to deal with you at all. Only interacting with them when you have to, and then as minimally and icily as possible. It could be like managing out in a social setting, since in those instances the person is likely to leave the social group, which is less likely to happen at a job.

              As others have noted, it’s something that would absolutely be noticeable to others and is generally only going to make *you* look bad. It’ll make people wonder why you’re making things so weird. That’s where Alison’s absolute professionalism advice comes in, it keeps things pretty neutral in dealing with someone who makes you uncomfortable without making you also look like a jerk to everyone else.

          3. sunny-dee*

            Mainly (since she said the woman didn’t know her or have any “duty” toward her), I just wanted to reiterate — she’s under no obligation to justify or excuse or overlook that woman’s actions. How that translates into dealing with her in a professional capacity is a whole ‘nother thing — and she needs to find some way to deal with her professionally. But she doesn’t need to add to that struggle by telling herself it’s wrong to blame the Other Woman for being the Other Woman.

            1. Veronica*

              Yes, absolutely. If this woman knew he was married, she’s responsible for her part in this. OP, don’t ever forget that. You don’t have to overlook it in any way.

          4. Perpal*

            Yeah, not sure what freeze out means. Just be polite but not engage on the social level that she does other office mates? Sure. Try to make work as difficult as possible for the other woman, perhaps by accidentally losing and misplacing things, refusing to do any work with her as much as she can get away with, and looking as pissed off as possible with any interactions that do happen? Maybe starting some gossip and try to rally others to do the same? Noooooo…

        1. Caliente*

          Well I do think that as Alison said, once you resolve that you will just behave professionally its do-able. Just think of the person as “work function”.
          This actually works for me as I have one person whom I am a direct report for, but who is really…ick. So I speak to her about work topics only. And she hates when I chat it up with others but I DGAF, I just can’t. I have literally walked away when she has walked up to join in and I’ve already trained her to stop asking me personal questions since I always just followup with a work question with no transition.
          It helps to take any emotion out of it – when I was like OMG I can’t stand her it was actually difficult. Now she makes requests, I fulfill them and that’s that.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            Yay, that’s kind of a-hole. I’ve been the one not included–and it’s harsh, especially when I did not a thing wrong. If you want to chat it up, chat politely with everyone. No one states you have to be buds but it’s beyond rude to be chatty with X and snub Y like you’re doing. Because this person is your boss, not quite so bad as long as you snub the other bosses but still pretty jerky unless you have a serious history with them.

          2. Veronica*

            Yes, I’ve been treated that way and it really hurts. I may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I’m a good person who is trying to be nice, and I don’t deserve to be treated like a monster.
            Maybe one day you’ll be treated like that and see how it feels.
            It’s best to treat everyone well unless there’s a huge, glaring, reason not to – like they physically or verbally threaten or abuse you, or they’re extremely disrespectful, or they’re very rude to you.
            I think walking away when they walk up can be excused only if they’ve been abusive towards you. Even if they’re rude or disrespectful in other ways, doing this is extreme and makes you look rude and unfriendly.
            I know someone socially who was very rude to me. He has a stuck-up critical attitude towards many of us. He’s always around (has nothing else going on), and after I politely stood up to his attitude about my not having a degree, he refused to dance with me.
            I handled this by ignoring him. I didn’t try to get his approval, I just worked around him. It was easier than it sounds – I don’t *want* the approval of guys like that – … and a few years later he seems more friendly toward me, but I’m not interested.
            No drama, didn’t make our mutual friends uncomfortable. And I’ve seen him have problems with others because of his attitude. Ha.

          3. mananana*

            I do hope you’ll reconsider what you’re doing to your coworker. Not only is it unkind, but it is likely damaging your reputation.

          4. Milli*

            Well this isn’t a great way to be. Hope you change your approach to this co-worker and maybe reconsider your attitude. A person is “…ick” so you are obviously unfriendly to them? That’s not a good look if you are their direct report. I think you’re going over the line.

            1. Veronica*

              Chiming in here, don’t be surprised if you’re the first to go in layoffs. Your manager probably doesn’t want reports who treat her like a social leper. It’s probably hurting her feelings.

    1. Elbe*

      Agreed. Having an affair with a person you know is married is a jerk thing to do. Having an affair with a coworker whose wife is another coworker is even worse.

      Both this woman and the LW’s husband knew that this would likely affect the LW’s work life as well as her personal life.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah she’s awful but we don’t shun people as a collective society anymore, so therefore we have to navigate the waters ourselves when we are put into a situation where we must work with one of these people we have every right to hate.

      Not everyone agrees with you and therefore by being outwardly rude or icy towards the woman, may still damage the OP’s reputation. And in the end, the OP is the one who really matters and that’s why they’re looking for assistance in dealing with this icky nasty situation they find themselves in.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        You are right that we usually as a collective society don’t shun people, but we can certainly do so as individuals.

        I have banished a former friend from my house because he beat up his wife (also my friend). My spouse is welcome to socialize with him, but I don’t want to hear one single word about it, and former friend is not allowed at our house for any reason whatsoever. I’m shunning him. Sometimes shunning is completely appropriate.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Yes, but that is in your personal life. The workplace demands professional interactions and getting the work done.

        2. tangerineRose*

          Shunning someone because the person has a history of violence seems like the right thing to do, and it might make sense at work, too. I mean, who wants to work with a wife-beater?

      2. mcr-red*

        I don’t know. I’ve reached the point in my life where IDGAF anymore with people who treat me badly. And I think, you could easily argue that by having an affair with OP’s husband, OP’s coworker treated her badly.

        We have to work with people we might hate. But that doesn’t mean we have to have any more interaction with them than necessary. If being “icy” means OP speaks to coworker only when she has to for work, then do what she needs to do.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          But her husband isn’t being treated coldly. She forgave him. So why is new co worker worse than cheating hubby?

          1. Anna*

            The wife has forgiven the husband after they did a lot of work on the relationship (presumably with him apologising). The wife was willing to give the husband an opportunity to do better and to work on their relationship because she still loved the husband and wanted to mend their relationship.
            The wife has no history with the other woman, no existing/previous relationship to mend, so no work on this was done, and the other woman has not been forgiven.
            It’s not about who is worse, it’s about what happened afterwards.

          2. Ethical non-monogamy perspective*

            We all have a responsibility to behave ethically. If the Other Woman was lied to, that’s one thing. If she knew that OP’s husband was married and monogamous, she knew that she was doing something that was wrong and that would almost inevitable hurt another human being deeply. Why would someone want to be party to that? How is that ethical behaviour?

            Of course, we can never know what the Other Woman actually knew or didn’t know, was told or was lied to about. But that’s not the point. I can tell you right now that I would never, ever, want to be party to someone cheating on their partner, and while I think less blame lies with the Other Woman and much more with the husband, there’s an ethical responsibility there.

            Monogamy is far more common than other relationship styles, so it’s a safe assumption to make that if someone is married, they’re monogamous. Personally I’m not in a sexually monogamous relationship; my partner and I are free to sleep with (but not to have romantic relationships with) other people. As such, I am well aware of the degree to which this is still very uncommon. If I began a FWB relationship with someone, I’d fully expect them to want confirmation from my partner that he’s ok with what I’m doing, because my FWB wouldn’t want to “help me cheat” and thereby hurt someone.

            Is all this really so hard for people to understand?

            Anyway, none of this means the OP should be anything but coolly pleasant and a consummate professional to the Other Woman while at work. That’s what grownups (should try to) do- don’t put on an act, but don’t be cold or unkind. Leave your personal business at the door and be an adult, and a professional.

    3. CatMom*

      I agree. I feel like recently we’ve decided that the “other woman/man/person” is somehow totally blameless if they know that the person they’re seeing is already in a monogamous relationship and….I don’t think that’s true! I don’t think OP is misplacing her anger at all. I think if you willingly sleep with someone whom you know is cheating on their partner by seeing you, you’re doing something morally wrong.

      That said, as Allison advises, OP owes it to herself to not let on the feelings she has about this person. OP definitely needs to come first here and being the consummate professional is the way to do that for herself in the long run.

      1. Salamander*

        This. There are some lines that you don’t cross. I have very, very dim and snarky opinions about people who cheat and people who cheat with them. But those are feelings I would not share at work.

        OP would do best to focus on self-care, which is going to be her caring for and protecting her own career. I’m honestly not sure how I would want to proceed in this situation. Part of me would not be driven out, and would remain where I was. But another part of me would decide that it could be worth it for my mental health to take another job. Maybe OP just needs to be good to herself and see where it goes.

      2. Ms. Ann Thropy*

        Agreed. The other woman is not off the hook just because she wasn’t married to someone.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Unless he lied to her and she didn’t know he was married. I know, doesn’t always happen, and it’s impossible to prove….but that sliver of a doubt is another reason to be 100% professional to the woman he cheated with.

            1. valentine*

              “We’re legally separated, just roommates for the rent/kids/I’m afraid of her.” It could be anything. We don’t know and it doesn’t matter. All three parties have chosen to continue with the same employer, knowing the current situation was possible. There’s no upside to tanking your job to avenge yourself (passive-)aggressively, especially when you haven’t sought reconciliation with this woman.

              1. Avasarala*

                “We’re legally separated, just roommates for the rent/kids/I’m afraid of her.”
                Best case scenario, this sounds like someone not ready to commit to another relationship. Let that drama resolve, there are other people you can date.
                Worst case scenario, that is a common lie for people who are still married.

      3. Jennifer*

        Agreed. It seems many times here the other man/woman is lauded as a saint or pitied as someone who just didn’t know any better when they knowingly made a horrible, horrible choice that hurt multiple people. I’m grateful to see that isn’t happening again on this thread.

        1. Veronica*

          Some people get involved with married people because they’re so messed up emotionally, they think they need it or have to… they can be pitied, but they’re still responsible for their choices and actions.

      4. Chili*

        There are a lot a details at play with the “other person” that the party who was cheated on doesn’t usually have reliable access to, so it’s best to focus energy on the party they know. LW knows her husband was aware he was married and chose to do what he did. LW does not actually know what the affair partner knew or was told.

        Many cheaters are lying to both their spouses and their affair partners. While I think most people know better than to believe the “we’re so unhappy, we’re basically divorced and just roommates” spiel, it still seems to still be working quite well for a number of cheaters.

        So I don’t think the “other person” is now considered blameless, just that we don’t always know how much to blame that other person and there is always a party we know deserves a hefty portion of blame (the cheater).

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            She knew they were married. Not if they were separating/had an open marriage/were divorcing, etc.

        1. Chili*

          I want to make clear that I don’t believe LW should feel compelled to forgive the affair partner or anything like that. I would feel deeply uncomfortable in this situation and would have a hard time being 100% professional. I just wanted to clarify what most people are trying to get at when they say something like their “anger is misplaced.”

      5. Bidoof*

        Totally agreed. The OP’s feelings here are valid! She shouldn’t try to talk herself out of them by trying to convince herself that this woman has no obligation to her. Not everyone has to like everyone, and there’s a tendency for people to insist that folks (especially women) aren’t allowed to dislike someone unless that person has wronged them severely. You should treat people respectfully, but you sure as heck don’t have to like them or police your own thoughts on some big scale of objective fairness. People can hurt you without meaning to hurt you. You can be hurt without it being unfair to those people.

        She has to handle it professionally (or by leaving the job, which is also totally valid) but I hate to see her minimizing her very legitimate feelings in her letter here.

        1. valentine*

          She shouldn’t try to talk herself out of them by trying to convince herself that this woman has no obligation to her.
          She should if it serves her, if it reduces her anger and allows her to see Colleague, not Other Woman.

          or by leaving the job, which is also totally valid
          I doubt this is on the table, unless the husband also leaves.

          1. Bidoof*

            No, she shouldn’t, because it won’t serve her, because it won’t reduce her anger. That’s not how it works, that’s not how any of this works.

            It sounds cute and nice to read inspirational posters at people and tell them to let go of feelings that do not serve them and etc, but fighting yourself and trying to insist to yourself that your already-existing feelings aren’t even valid on a base level and need to be strangled out by sheer force of will is gonna do the exact opposite of that. This isn’t Bidoof Personal Opinion walking around here, this is What Any Therapist Will Tell You stuff. Letting go and invalidating yourself are not the same thing.

            1. Crooked Bird*

              100% true. Ask anybody who’s genuinely tried to forgive a genuinely bad offense. You can’t forgive if you feel you’re “not allowed” to be truly angry.

            2. TardyTardis*

              Yes, it’s like people being forced into forgiving someone before they’re ready (mainly so the other person doesn’t feel so guilty, most of the time). All it does it make them madder.

      6. Clisby*

        It’s not that the “other person” is blameless – it’s that, at least in this case, OP’s husband is about 1000 times more to blame. The OP has found a way to come to terms with his betrayal, which sounds to me like she has some superpower; if she can do that, I think she can find a way to be professional at work with the other woman. If she can’t, I guess it’s time to start job-searching.

    4. Not Me*

      It’s ok to not like this woman because of the choices she made and the way they impacted her marriage. It’s not ok to dislike her because of the decisions the husband made. That’s a big distinction people seem to have missed when it comes to “blaming” the other woman/man.

      1. Arts Akimbo*


        No one said she was blameless. The distinction the LW and others are drawing is that the husband also deserves blame (which a lot of people overlook, preferring to displace all their anger onto the party they don’t have to look at every day and are trying to rebuild a life with).

        Now that she also has to look this woman in the face every day, she’s looking for a productive solution for interacting with her in the workplace while not imploding a little inside every time. (Fake it ’till you make it, LW, that’s my advice! Treat her like you would anyone else, and the work world will sing sagas of your awesome professionalism! And she, in turn, will likely feel incredibly guilty in the face of your grace and awesomeness.)

    5. jamberoo*

      Thank you. I read “I know this woman she didn’t have any duty to me or even know me.” and was flabbergasted.

    6. NW Mossy*

      Sure, but sometimes, we have to work with people who we would downvote into oblivion if we could. Leaning into the dislike and spending more time dwelling on it makes it that much harder to take Alison’s advice. We feel what we feel, but there are diminishing margin returns to maintaining a high-intensity hate-on, no matter how justified.

      1. valentine*

        there are diminishing margin returns to maintaining a high-intensity hate-on, no matter how justified.
        This is the bottom line.

        OP behaving unprofessionally would involve and punish other colleagues, who would worry OP or the other two will blame them for taking sides. It would be exhausting.

    7. bilbo baggins*

      I also dislike this attitude that the responsibility lies only on the spouse. If you sleep with someone that you know is married, you also share blame. You’re not off the hook just because you’re not the married person and “he/she is the one who made the commitment, not me” that whole attitude is BS.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        Why? We have no idea what cheating husband told this woman. She is not responsible for his marriage. He is. Should people sleep with partnered people? It’s not wise but the married one is the one who is breaking vows.

        1. Tachy IT Lady*

          She stated that the women was aware of their marital status. It’s more than unwise to be involved with someone who is monogamous… it’s highly unethical. It displays a lack of integrity in both parties.

    8. Sansa*

      Agreed! I also agree with Alison’s advice about how to handle this really really shitty situation in an office setting

  3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I would find a therapist if you don’t have one already to work through this new situation. Affairs leave these deep scars and even 4 years later, after patching up your marriage, you’re having a normal emotional reaction to it. Therapy can really give you more tools and exercises to make this work if you don’t want to uproot your career.

    I would also wonder if you need to leave the organization all together or if there are any transfers you could request since you’ve been there six years, it sounds like a reasonable step as well instead of instantly looking outside the company you enjoy working for.

    1. J*

      As a married woman of 10 years, I agree 100% with this. My husband almost cheated on me and had a bit of what you’d call an “emotional affair” with someone, and even years later I would not be able to look her in the face without “honewrecker” among some expletitives screaming in my brain. Marriage and individual counseling helped a lot, but I still know for anabsolute fact I’d never be able to work with her and I’d be looking for an out.

  4. AnonANon*

    I have kind of been in this situation. I never had to work with “her” but I would see her occasionally. I am now divorced but whenever I would see “her” I would be super nice and kill with kindness. I think being kind is more scary than freezing someone out because they wonder when you are going to go bizerk on them :)

    Good luck. I 100% understand your trepidation and anxiety around this.

    1. Sansa*

      I feel that! I still see the woman my father had an affair with, as she’s in the grad program (I’m undergrad) at my university. I am just,,,, really polite to her. The opposite of love (she was my good friend) isn’t hate, it’s indifference. I may not be indifferent to her yet, but I’m working on it

  5. it's me*

    Eh, I understand it’s there as a social nicety, but I don’t think it’s necessary to say the perfume is lovely. It’s giving you excruciating headaches and distracting you, it’s not lovely. Heh.

      1. it's me*

        Haha! “Dear Ask a Manager, my new coworker is the woman my husband had an affair with—and her perfume is KILLING me!”

    1. Sparrow*

      I would be explicit about the fact that it’s causing migraines, since “bad headache” can mean a wide variety of things. I know there are some folks out there who don’t think migraines are a big deal, but assuming the boss isn’t one of them, it will make clearer just how much of a problem this is for the OP.

      I also don’t think I’d make it about this particular perfume, since there’s clearly a larger medical issue here and it sounds like switching to a different scent doesn’t solve the problem; it just alleviates it. But OP is in a position to blame this on her doctor/the medical situation and avoid making this feel like a personal criticism of the boss. If the boss is reasonable, I’d probably start by having that conversation and see if she’s willing to lay off the scents of her own accord.

      1. it's me*

        That’s a good point, the boss might just switch back to the other scent if it’s not made clear (again, apparently) that this is an across-the-board problem.

      2. C B*

        +1. I recently had to have my boss intervene with another senior manager who was DOUSING her office in a strongly scented room spray. My cube is ~50 feet away and the smell caused me to cough uncontrollably, eyes watering, and immediate swelling of my sinuses, accompanied by a bad headache. My cube neighbor (her direct report) and I had asked her several times to stop doing it.

        I matter-of-factly framed the issue as a medical one, essentially telling my boss that he NEEDED to shut it down. The culprit was passive-aggressive to me for the rest of the week, but she got over it.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Yuck! I always wonder why anybody would douse a room in perfume. Does she have a very weak sense of smell or something?

          1. Veronica*

            I think some people really love certain products and revel in them. I used to work with a woman who would go in the bathroom and use half a bottle of the freshener that had been left there.
            That same freshener made me and my other colleague sick. I ended up throwing it out and bringing in some citrus freshener.
            Now my employer has banned all types of fresheners, even better.
            I wonder if the chemicals in some of these products have a pleasant physical effect on some people, which would lead to overuse.

    2. MD*

      I agree. Skip the lovely part because it is decidedly not lovely. I had to ask to have a diffuser removed from the office because the scent filled the whole suite. I said something along the lines of, “I hate to have to ask, but can we please remove it? It is giving me migraines.” The office manager was completely understanding and moved it to a locked closet until the owner removed it the next day.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Hm, there are plenty of scents that give me bad reactions from allergies and such but they really are lovely.

      I’d huff certain trees all day long personally but they give me horrific allergies, so I don’t. So since because it gives you an awful reaction doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the actual smell involved.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A tiny clean kitten or puppy… oh so sweet and cuddly down to the distinctive “baby odor”. Unfortunately I can’t snuggle kittens without serious allergy attack. Puppies, it depends on the breed.
        It’s much easier to avoid kittens & puppies than my co-worker’s cologne.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      It does help, though, because it’s drawing an explicit distinction in the OP’s message to the boss. The message is “I am only highlighting a physical problem and not casting shade on your preferences or choices.” That can help the request go a lot more smoothly.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I think it just makes clear that the OP isn’t saying “it smells so gross that it makes me feel ill.” It could certainly be left off, but I see why Alison started with that.

        1. Avasarala*

          Who are “most people”? I don’t see what’s conflicting about “your x is lovely but I can’t enjoy it due to my allergies/migraine/biological problem. Could you not do that near me?”

          Anyone who concludes “oh they love it, I’ll do it more” or “why does she hate my perfume” needs to take a listening comprehension test.

    5. Feline*

      It can be hard to bring up the perfume thing. I suffered in silence a long time before finally speaking to the offender in my office — and it was truly offensive and stomach-turning that I could smell her arrival every day. She was nice and cut back on the perfume she must have previously bathed in. She was promoted shortly afterward and coworkers who have run into her in the elevator report she’s back to reeking of strong perfume. Be polite, but don’t be surprised if the boss forgets or feels there’s no issue when the irresistible lure of purfume calls.

      1. mark132*

        I’ve never understood the crazy amount of scent some people wear. On rare occasions, I’ve started coughing, not from an allergy just the sheer concentration in the air was overwhelming.

        1. Sleve McDichael*

          Part of the problem is that some people don’t realise they’ve gone nose-blind to the smell and so they keep adding more perfume until they can smell it. If your house and clothes slowly take on the smell of your perfume it can become harder and harder to smell it on yourself. I rarely wear scents but when I do I limit it to one spray. I can’t smell it anymore within seconds but my SO always comments, as do other people sometimes. Also, in my experience, cologne wearers can be just as bad as perfume wearers!

  6. Jennifer*

    I don’t think your anger is displaced. I think your husband deserved the bulk of it, but this woman knowingly entered into a relationship with a married man. I think it’s perfectly normal to feel some anger toward her.

    I think Alison’s advice is perfect. You don’t have to pretend to be best friends. Just be coolly professional. Only deal with her when you have to because of work. Don’t gossip about her at work, but maybe use a friend or therapist as a sounding board after work until you get used to the situation.

    I’d also suggest some kind of physical activity after work, kickboxing, running, walking, biking, anything that works up a sweat, to release some of that frustration. Best wishes!

    1. cncx*

      Exactly re anger. A one night stand is one thing, a long term affair- this woman knew what she was doing. I was in a similar position, and my anger at the “other woman” stemmed from her knowingly staying in a situation with my ex-husband even after she knew the truth (which wasn’t what he was telling her). That’s on her, not the husband. That said, i agree, Alison’s advice is perfect.

    2. Isabel Kunkle*

      I was going to say: I actually *don’t* think the other person necessarily is to blame/obligated not to act here, and I *still* think that someone in the OP’s situation is certainly entitled to dislike them. If I sleep with Bob, knowing he’s theoretically in a monogamous relationship with Alice, I might not feel bad about it, but I also am not going to expect Alice to be friendly to me.

      Even if I haven’t been a jerk to her, I also haven’t been a friend, and she’s under no obligation to interact with me as such. There’s a lot of grey area in society for being civil and even pleasant in a “hi, nice weather today” fashion with people we dislike–family reunions would be impossible otherwise–and I think that’s where this woman falls.

    3. Consultant Catie*

      I agree. I think the OP has to do what’s the best for OP, and that includes protecting their career and work reputation, their mental health, and their physical health. The best way to protect their career is to act like the other woman is just another colleague. Then take the anger, frustration, and built-up feelings that I’m sure will collect during the day and let them out with a therapist, at the gym, etc. Overall, the short-term satisfaction of being mean to the other woman will never be more helpful than the long-term satisfaction of preserving your reputation and career.

  7. Mediamaven*

    You are one hundred percent not being unreasonable. I’m concerned about the guilt and responsibility the LW is putting on herself with this one.

    1. TardyTardis*

      But weren’t we all told that Hillary was evil for not liking her husband’s bimbi? I know, I know, this will probably be deleted Because Politics, but that one always irked me.

  8. SusanIvanova*

    The boss with the perfume might not realize the scent is stronger or different. I’m in a choir where strong scents are banned because we have to stand so close together, and one of our altos – an absolutely sweet retired professor – was mortified to discover that she was the cause of a noticeable smell, but also very thankful that we figured it out so she could fix it. The hand lotion she’d been using for years had changed so that the smell lingered far longer and stronger than it used to.

    1. it's me*

      People also get desensitized to their scents and can use more than they used to because it doesn’t register as strongly with them anymore (not really the case here it seems, but still).

    2. Artemesia*

      hand lotions can be lethal — I actually use one as perfume as it is a scent that doesn’t bother me as most do and is fairly subtle — but it still is enough to function as perfume and if I had a friend who was bothered by it, I would certainly not use it around them.

      1. Shocked Pikachu*

        Hand sanitizers too. They can be brutal. I have this cute sanitizer holder for my bag to use when I am out and about, need to clean my hands and there is no access to soap and water. I have few sanitizers from the same store, some I can handle fine but some … holy flip. Sweet cinnamon pumpkin. Sounds innocent, right ? Never again.

        1. Electric sheep*

          Sweet cinnamon pumpkin also sounds like a good exclamation, ha ha. “Would you believe she said that? Sweet cinnamon pumpkin, I almost fell off my chair.”

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I discovered recently that even a scent that didn’t seem strong to me could be a migraine trigger for my partner.

      I tried some hair product after my hairdresser said that it had almost no scent, and would probably be safe; I couldn’t smell it at all.

      That “mild” scent was a migraine trigger, so I washed it off.

      I sympathize with the LW here: My partner was hesitant to say anything, even though we’ve been together a long time *and* she knows I’m trying to avoid scents that might hurt her. LW, from what you say here your boss will want to know, even if some other people haven’t taken your concerns seriously.

      1. Temperance*

        The weird / hard thing about being scent-sensitive with migraines is that things that have a strong scent to people with migraines can have no impact on others. It’s really weird.

    4. Sally*

      I, too, am in a chorus with the same rules about scent. There is a member of my section whose perfume/soap/whatever makes my nose run, my eyes itch, my head hurt. It’s very uncomfortable, and we’ve had announcements every week about not wearing scent to rehearsal, but she’s not getting it. I’m going to ask the section leader to talk with her because I don’t really know her (I’m back after taking 3 seasons off, and she must have joined during that time). This is why making general announcements (at work or in other groupings) may not work. The culprit may not catch on that it’s about them.

      1. PollyQ*

        It’s tough because so many “ordinary” body/hair products have fairly strong scents, even if they’re not advertised as scented. Your fellow chorister may be deliberately abstaining from perfume and think that’s good enough.

      2. JustaTech*

        Yeah, we’re having that at work, where *someone* who wears a lab coat also wears some kind of scent that bothers someone else who wears a lab coat and currently all our lab coats are crammed together in a closet, so the person who is sensitive to scent is stuck wearing a coat (their own coat) that smells like perfume that gives them a headache.

        The thing is that there aren’t that many of us, and the person with the scent sensitivity could just, you know, ask around for people to not wear perfume rather than these weird passive-aggressive emails from their boss.

        1. VictorianCowgirl*

          I’ve been in this rodeo a long time. If after emails asking to refrain from wearing scent were sent someone still continues to wear it, I guarantee that actual scent-sensitive individual will be on the scent-wearer’s shit list if they ask them personally.

          People are INSANE about their perfumes.

    5. Scent Sufferer*

      I am one of the people strongly affected by scents. Everything I use is fragrance free. Unfortunately I work in a close cube environment with low walls, and whenever I have complained about the scented lotions my neighbors use, they double down on using it. How dare I tell them what they can and can’t use. I have been moved away to different rows several times because my coworkers refuse to stop using the offending scents even though I have told them it is causing me physical pain. It’s like they don’t believe me. It really sucks.

  9. Autumnheart*

    Uffda, LW1. Apart from the other excellent advice, I guess I’d say, maybe take comfort in knowing that TOW is going to have to face moving into an office where people are going to know the story, and have to be professionally appropriate around someone who has every right to not be her biggest fan, to say the least. It’s going to be just as uncomfortable for TOW as it will be for LW.

    1. Salamander*

      This is really something to also consider. I’m betting that a lot of people actually know about the affair without the LW telling them. People always know more than you give them credit for, and the rumor mill never stops.

    2. Koala dreams*

      Yes, I feel sorry for the other woman. Not only are she working with her ex-boyfriend, she also has to work with her ex-boyfriend’s wife! I hope the LW can find some comfort in that she has it better than the other woman, and treat her with kindness (whatever feelings are in her heart, nobody at work needs to know).

      1. Temperance*

        Okay expanding on my comment, I wouldn’t say that LW should find “comfort in that she has it better than the other woman”, because, objectively, you don’t know that. This woman threw a wrench into LW’s life and nearly ended her marriage.

        I don’t think LW needs to be kind, nor should she. Polite and professional is more than side chick deserves, but it’s best for LW.

      2. PollyQ*

        Eh, I don’t feel that sorry for her. Unless OP’s H was a flagrant & effective liar, she knew what she was doing. And she doesn’t “have to” work with OP. She could find a job elsewhere.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, I don’t feel sorry for the other woman either. She had an affair with someone she knew was married.

          1. Irinam*

            And it ended a few years ago. If op chose to stay with him they all need to move on. So you’re for everyone treating her like garbagestill?

      3. Treecat*

        LOL, this is ludicrous. You know the expression “Play stupid games; win stupid prizes”?

        Sleeping with people who are married but not to you is playing a stupid game. You win a stupid prize, you shouldn’t be shocked, and neither should anyone else.

        1. mcr-red*

          YES. Thank you. When you knowingly make a decision, you don’t get to be shocked and upset about the easily forseeable consequences.

          1. Tachy IT Lady*

            I know… it’s disheartening to see people relate with the other woman. The whole mentality of “I do not have any obligation to anyone ” is profoundly selfish and speaks a lack of integrity.

  10. Princesa Zelda*

    OP2, I strongly encourage you to tell your boss! A lot of people don’t realize that different scents can cause a greater or lesser reaction. It’s likely your boss doesn’t realize that her new scent is causing you discomfort and would prefer to not be doing that!

  11. Reality Check*

    OP 1, I agree with Allison’s advice, but I disagree with your notion that TOW “owed you nothing,” and that your anger is misplaced. Would you say the same if I loved your car and decided to steal it? Do we not owe our fellow humans some basic courtesy? That being said, being cool and professional will likely make HER feel uncomfortable, if she has a shred of conscience at all.

    1. Not Me*

      No no no no. Don’t compare relationships to property.

      The only people responsible for the relationship are the people in it. It’s fine to dislike the other woman for her choices or to not agree with her choices, it’s not ok to blame her for the husband’s choices and actions.

      1. Yorick*

        It’s not ok to blame the other woman entirely, but she knew that was LW’s husband and knew that having a relationship with him would hurt LW. She’s also to blame.

        1. Reality Check*

          Is a husband not more valuable than a car? This woman knew what she was doing. Darn straight I’d blame her. Both of them.

          1. Jamie*

            In my experience, no, but I have better luck with cars than marriages.

            The analogy doesn’t work anyway because people are not property.

          2. Lora*

            “Is a husband not more valuable than a car?”

            Mine wasn’t. I couldn’t have traded him in on a Ford Pinto.

          3. VelociraptorAttack*

            Whether my husband is more valuable than my car or not, he is definitely more sentient and able to make his own choices. If my car gets to that point, we might have bigger problems.

          4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            People aren’t objects that can be stolen. They, rightly or wrongly, choose the relationships they join.

      2. ElizabethJane*

        Yes, and TOW inserted herself into the relationship. I agree that she is not solely to blame but if she entered into the affair with full knowledge of the husband’s marriage then she is equally culpable.

        If I blame someone for having an affair with my significant other let’s be perfectly clear – I’m not blaming my SO’s actions on them. I’m blaming them for their reciprocation of those actions. As in, if my husband kisses a woman and she kisses him back I’m not mad at her for the “he kissed her” part. I’m mad at her for the “kissed him back”.

        1. Not Me*

          She’s not responsible for the relationship though. Her choices did not impact that marriage, the husbands did.

          Reality Check is essentially saying the other woman stole OPs husband. Which is not the case. People are not property, they cannot be stolen from a relationship (kidnapping and human trafficking and all that aside, of course). The people in the relationship are the ones with a duty to it.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I think there’s a bit of “if not that woman, than it would be someone else” to consider, too. When your spouse is on that track, I don’t think he has been lured away by some temptress. I don’t think she’s blameless, and I wouldn’t want to be around her, but I also couldn’t stay with the man (for many of my own family history reasons).

            1. Avasarala*

              Ok… then OP would be mad at that woman instead… I don’t think her husband was “on a track” where he would have cheated with just anybody. And that isn’t helpful for OP. Especially because the other woman knew exactly what she was doing.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            People are not property, they cannot be stolen from a relationship (kidnapping and human trafficking and all that aside, of course). The people in the relationship are the ones with a duty to it.

            Second this. The term “stealing”, when applied to an adult who has agency and is responsible for their own choices, is one of my pet peeves.

            For all we know, in this situation, the car may have made initiated it. Rolled up to a passerby on the street, unlocked its door, and invited the passerby to get in and drive off. Except cars don’t do that, people do.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Sure, but why did she get in and drive it off? I’m blaming the husband more, but the other woman isn’t blameless here.

          3. ElizabethJane*

            I guess I read Reality Check’s statement a little differently.

            “If I decide to steal your car” didn’t come across as a direct translation to “steal your man” but more of “If I decide to take your car/knowingly do something that will wreck your relationship/otherwise be complicit in doing something that every reasonable human being will find horrible”.

            It’s for sure not the smoothest analogy but the gist is “At some point no matter how much you want something basic human decency should kick in”

            1. Not Me*

              I get that, I understood what Reality Check was trying to say, I still disagree with it. The other woman didn’t take the husband, the husband made a choice.

            2. tangerineRose*

              “At some point no matter how much you want something basic human decency should kick in” This!

            1. Not Me*

              Nope. That’s still stealing property, and it’s still not an accurate comparison.

              If you truly need an analogy in order to discuss this situation (which I don’t understand) it would be something like: a friend offered me cookies while I was on a diet, I ate the cookies and now I blame my friend for my 1 pound weight gain. The friend isn’t on a diet, nor is she responsible for my eating habits or weight, it’s not her responsibility for me to stick to my diet. It’s *my* diet.

              The husband is responsible for his marriage, he did not have to cheat on his wife simply because the other woman was willing to be in a relationship with him. It’s his marriage.

              1. Avasarala*

                This is nothing like that.

                We don’t even need a metaphor here.
                The husband chose to cheat on his wife.
                The other woman knew he was married to OP. She made a choice to be in a relationship with a married man, with OP’s husband. She could have chosen to cut it off or say no or tell OP and she didn’t.
                She made choices that affect OP negatively. OP is allowed to be mad and feel betrayed by that choice.

              2. mcr-red*

                I wasn’t meaning husband was the bank, I was meaning he was the bank robber, and she was the accomplice. She didn’t do the bulk of the crime, but she still did something wrong.

              3. Tachy IT Lady*

                I think you are too focused on semantics. No one owns their spouse. I would feel the same way about the other woman if OP and her SO were merely partners who were monogamous. When you knowingly get involved with someone who is lying to their partner (and possibly exposing them to health concerns), that makes you a selfish human being with poor character. Simple as that.

      3. knead me seymour*

        For the LW’s purposes, I don’t think there’s much value in determining who was more to blame in the affair. These are separate relationships–clearly the LW appreciates that their husband acted badly, but that doesn’t mean the LW isn’t also justified in being angry at the coworker, particularly now that she’s transferring to the same office.

    2. Salamander*

      I agree with you. There are some lines that just shouldn’t be crossed out of basic decency to other humans.

      I mean, I feel pretty sorry for this woman if she has no other dating options, but you still don’t do that. It’s not cool, no matter how hard up you are for some companionship.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        Also basic decency to yourself.
        Unless she revels in sowing pain, TOW has probably realized that being the other woman is a form of self violence that in some ways never stops giving. She will likely pay the price for a long time.

    3. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      This analogy really does not work. A car has no agency and no ability to make any choices regarding being stolen. As Reality Check said above, people are not property.

        1. Reality Check*

          SIGH. Many commenters above have completely missed the point. Except Salamander. Hopefully OP understands what I’m getting at.

          1. VelociraptorAttack*

            I think people get your point, they’re just telling you the analogy of a car and a husband really does not work at all.

            1. Reality Check*

              I compared a spouse to a piece of property very deliberately, but it’s gone right past some people. The key to understanding what I was getting at was my question, “Is a husband not more valuable than a car?”

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Right? It still says he’s a piece of property, it just puts a higher price on him. Like, he’s a Bentley instead of a Camry. But he’s still not – he’s still a person and not a piece of property that you can buy and sell (or steal).

                1. Reality Check*

                  I Wrote This in the Bathroom – that is the closest anyone has come to understanding my “car” analogy. Presumably one would be mad if their (insert inanimate object here) was stolen; and because spouses are much more valuable than property/inanimate objects, it makes what TOW has done that much worse. (yes, she took deliberate actions knowing that her actions could have caused, in part, the breakup of a marriage) The reason I chose a property analogy was to HIGHLIGHT the spouse’s value! But it was interpreted exactly the opposite of how I intended it. Anyway, OP’s anger is not misplaced. TOW shares in the blame.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      Beyond the past history, I question the woman’s current judgement on taking this transfer. I mean, there are transfers I wouldn’t take just because I have a mild dislike for some of the potential coworkers, never mind this weird situation. I realize she may not have had other good options or a choice with the employer, but still.

      1. Veronica*

        OP, is she the type who likes to play dramatic games? If so, she might have taken this transfer as an opportunity to create drama with you. If so, be prepared to ignore anything she does to create drama, and protect yourself from any backstabbing she might do.

  12. HeronByTheLake*

    Awesome to hear of your marriage relationship restored to better than ever. You and your husband have won the best prize in this situation. If I may, I’d like to offer 2 more thoughts: one is that it could be a continued strengthening to your marriage if you and your husband have open and honest discussion about these new set of circumstances. Your unified stance on this could be helpful. And second, the definition of “forgive” is to cease to feel resentment against and to give up resentment or claim for requital. So in your explanation I’m hearing the possibility to also forgive this woman. I agree with Alison: professional approach with no hint of unkindness. Wish you the best. I have a sense your strength in this will continue to grow.

    1. Anon for this*

      OP, do not feel obligated to forgive this woman. My spouse had an affair at our place of work 8 years ago. It took a long time to work through it (spouse said some of the same things yours did). The affair partner lost their job and now works a couple of hours from here. I no longer think about them (except in situations like reading this blog today), but I’ve never forgiven them, and frankly I wouldn’t p*** on them if they were on fire.

      Why did I forgive my spouse? Because they were actually sorry, eventually, understood the pain they had caused, and worked hard to make amends. None of which is true about the affair partner.

      1. Sleve McDichael*

        That’s a great approach. Forgive those who seek your forgiveness, and for those who don’t just don’t let them harm you further by taking up brain space.

  13. Batgirl*

    OP, the psychologist who helped me recover from the trauma of an affair said it was his standard advice to tell people to get new jobs in these situations. He said it was very important the victim never had any contact with the perpetrators (I cut ties with both my husband and his affair partner). Even casual contact had devastating effects on the mental health of people who tried to tough it out.

    The only exception he made were for affairees who were actively trying to make amends (like a remorseful spouse or an other person who was a very remorseful relative and… I still couldn’t). Its not reasonable or possible to expect amends from this person as she is practically a stranger. In your case it’s also going to wake up a lot of resentment in your marriage too, since you’ve chosen to recover.
    I have friends who’ve recovered and know the price you’ve paid to get thus far. I’d walk, personally.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      But the spouse needs to leave the job, too, right? It sounds like he’s still there. That would be an amazing amount of trust if the OP could leave the company and leave the two of them behind working closely.

        1. Mama Bear*

          Same. If the OP’s husband isn’t currently aware of the new work situation, OP should tell him. His (and her) actions continue to hurt OP and if the OP’s marriage now really better than ever, her husband should be strong and supportive and reassuring. I would want that reassurance from my spouse if I were in that spot.

    2. Courageous cat*

      I still think it’s strange though how they will say this about the other person (who… wasn’t in the relationship) and call them “perpetrators”, but not about the partner who DID make the commitment and WAS in the relationship. I dunno, seems off balance to me. They don’t share the blame 50/50 here.

      1. Avasarala*

        I read it as including the partner in the relationship. Either way I think people are waaaay too invested in the question of “how much blame does each person get” and not enough in “what should OP do”.

  14. High Score!*

    Remember the “other woman” wasn’t the person who stood at the altar beside you and made promises, commitments and vows. I understand she’s a reminder, but remember that’s all she is. Your marriage is only determined by the actions of you and your husband. If your marriage is better than ever, try to think of her as someone who did you a favor. Not for her, but for you. The forgiven often don’t care, forgiveness is for the benefit of the wronged.

    1. bossy*

      This is bullshit. The woman had an affair with OP’s husband knowing full well he was married and that this would hurt the OP. She is an immature, selfish jerk. OP does not need to twist herself into mental knots to forgive the jerk.* She needs to figure out how to maintain her professionalism at work or move on. IMO she should be looking for another job.

      *Forgiveness may come in time, but not because the other woman is blameless. God, I hate this idea. Don’t rationalize sleeping with other people’s spouses like this.

      1. Jamie*

        Everyone who thinks like this isn’t rationalizing sleeping with other people’s spouses. If this were me I wouldn’t like the other woman nor want to see her because she was a reminder, but there would be nothing to forgive as she’d be irrelevant to me.

        My husband would be the one who betrayed me, and he could have done that with anyone and I’d feel the same about whomever it was. Disgust and dismissal.

        The argument isn’t about being pro-cheating at all, at least for me, just that for some people the blame is completely with their partner as that’s the person who broke promises…not the stranger.

      2. Bidoof*

        Agreed. If nothing else, even if you have no specific negative feelings towards that person, having to see them regularly is likely to remind you of what your partner did. Even if all your anger is channeled at only your spouse and their vows and etc, it’s still ok for seeing the other person to be painful for you.

        I really, really dislike the notion that anyone’s feelings are required to be a certain way because xyz logic and facts. That’s not how feelings work. That could (and should, in this instance) dictate your behavior, but how you feel inside is not something to fight like this. That’s only going to tangle you up worse.

      3. Courageous cat*

        But maybe we should rephrase it as people’s spouses shouldn’t be sleeping with someon else…? I hate this language that promotes an idea of the ~woman seductress~ who steals the husband away from a good woman.

        Your point is valid, but let’s keep in mind that he was the person in the relationship.

        1. bleh*

          Some women and men *are* into playing games with people who are already partnered. They have methods that are sneaky and manipulative. It doesn’t mean the spouse was not 100% at fault; it acknowledges that sometimes there was an aspect of purposeful seduction. We don’t know in this case, but those people exist. Pretending women are always the seductress is bad -and misogynist- but pretending that cheating partners never have bad intentions is shortsighted.

      4. Yorick*

        This women KNEW the OP. Not well, I think, but still! It wasn’t even like OP was some hypothetical spouse that she could just not think about while she had her affair.

        The other person is definitely partially to blame for an affair. It is not always the case that the cheating partner is just roaming around looking for any willing participant. They entered into a relationship together, both knowing they would hurt the spouse.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Forgiveness is personal and can only be given when the person is ready to and wants to.

      I don’t forgive a lot of people and it’s been fine. It is for the person who’s been wronged in the end, I agree with that. But sometimes when you’re wronged, all you need to move on is to remember that person is snake and to remove yourself from their presence.

    3. Batgirl*

      Logicking people’s feelings isn’t cool. The OP doesn’t need to write a reasoned out dissertation before she’s allowed to feel hurt and traumatised. When she sees this woman, she’s a reminder of one of the worst experiences of her life. There is no ‘Just’ about that.
      If you had a song that triggered a terrible memory I wouldn’t throw the word just at you.

  15. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Is there a chance that Husband and/or Other Woman may have arranged her move specifically to try to push LW out of the office?

  16. Petty White, Petty Crocker, Petty Ford*

    Agree 100% with Alison’s advice… and I assume it extends to the husband, too, who will undoubtedly be seeing and maybe even interacting with this woman more now.

    And maybe I’m the only petty chick to think this- but if LW’s gotta change jobs because the situation is so uncomfortable, hubby’s gotta change jobs, too. The marriage has recovered as a result, but why put him back in temptation’s way? And why should he get to stay at his job with LW perhaps having (very justified) anxiety while LW has to start over.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      No you’re not the only one – first question I had when I read the letter was, Is OP’s husband still working on the same floor? Are the three of them going to share the workspace now? I agree, either both he and OP stay and act like the woman is one of the 10000 coworkers and the affair never happened, or they both leave. OP leaving the job and the husband and TOW both staying sounds like an anxiety-inducing situation, indeed.

      1. valentine*

        OP leaving the job and the husband and TOW both staying sounds like an anxiety-inducing situation, indeed.
        This would mean OP doesn’t trust the husband and, even if it’s just with this person, obliging him to leave his job won’t necessarily stop him doing whatever he wants with that person. Policing a spouse is gross and unsustainable.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Well, he cheated before with her. Throwing them together without the LW around at all sounds like asking for trouble.

          1. Melane*

            If that’s the case, then the work of 4 years didn’t do work and they haven’t moved on. If they are in the best years of marriage, new co-worker should be a non-issue to husband. Then the problem is bigger than this letter and perhaps they should know.

        2. Avasarala*

          Oh come on this isn’t policing a spouse. “Don’t see the person you cheated on me with” is a very sensible boundary.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Yup, I had the same question in another comment. If anyone is getting a new job, it’s the husband first, then the OP. Perhaps they both leave, but no way I’m not going to be there to see how the situation evolves. Obviously, I enjoy making myself sick with anxiety.

      1. the_scientist*

        I have an anxiety stomachache on behalf of OP just reading this letter……so I can’t even imagine having to live it. I would feel like I was constantly walking on eggshells, and that I had to monitor every interaction my husband had with this woman. I really think the OP’s husband needs to find a new job.

    3. Half-Caf Latte*

      Yeah. I feel like the advice for remorseful partners is always that they leave the job to get away from the affair partner, and I would not be down for leaving my job and leaving spouse and AP behind.

    4. CupcakeCounter*

      yup, yup, yup
      I came here to say this exactly
      OP can’t leave the job because that would leave hubby and the mistress in the same office without the constant reminder that “Oh yeah…I have a wife”.

    5. Luna*

      Absolutely agree on the changing jobs thing.
      And it isn’t just a case of putting the husband back into temptation… if he kept working there with this woman, I have a feeling OP might be having (potentially unfounded) paranoid thoughts of what he MIGHT be doing, which would be toxic to the relationship.

  17. coffee cup*

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to not want to see this woman or to have unpleasant feelings about her. Yes, I agree that it’s the responsibility of the person in a relationship not to cheat, but that doesn’t mean you have to be totally cool with the person they cheated with. You’re human! Yes, you definitely can’t let it show at work, but I hope you can find a way to deal with it outside work. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot AND it sounds like your partner is lucky to have you.

    1. YoungTen*

      Yeah, its kind of the difference between a family member wronging you and a stranger wronging you. You’ll probably work harder to patch things up with the family member more than the stranger.

    2. Shan*

      Yes, I feel like I’m seeing a lot of comments from people who have maybe not actually experienced it. Blame is not an all or nothing situation, and while yes, the spouse committed the worse “crime,” you have a whole history colouring your response to them that you don’t have for the person they cheated with. I can (and do!) have unpleasant feelings towards both my ex and his affair partner. But my feelings toward my ex are more complicated, because I also loved him and shared a life with him and shared ice cream with him and held him while he cried his eyes out when his dad was sick. My feelings toward her are much more straightforward.

      OP, I agree you need to be professional and all that, but don’t blame yourself if you’re not able to be all lollipops and rainbows about this woman.

  18. e271828*

    LW1, in a work context, you know something about how poor this woman’s judgement is. Treat her with scrupulous, professional courtesy and if your paths do cross and you are required to work with her, you can be on guard for under-performing or dubious decisions about work matters.

    This might be a good time for you and your husband to go to some couples’ counseling sessions together. I imagine he may be uncomfortable about her appearance in your office also.

    1. Adjuncts Anonymous*

      The judgement and possible ethics problems with the other woman is a great point that no one else had made. You’re right; someone who cheats in one area is more likely to cheat in others.

      1. Melane*

        I think both you and e271828 have leapt to some wild conclusions here. This says absolutely nothing about new co-worker’s work ethic. And not only because I’m sure we can all throw a stone and hit a high-functioning employee with an explosive personal life, but because it sounds like when the affair happened they were physically far enough removed that it didn’t impact anyone’s work.

        And if what you’re both saying is to be true, shouldn’t OP be looking into her husband’s work first? Cheating on the wife that works right beside would be even worse ‘judgement’, no?

        1. Isabel Kunkle*

          This. I’m not getting into Ye Great Recurring Moral Debate About Cheating, because philosophies differ, whatever, but I will note that I know people who’ve stepped out on their SOs or been the third party and who are basically as trustworthy as anyone else in other areas of life. Like, I wouldn’t recommend them to a friend looking for a monogamous relationship, but I’d trust them to pick me up at the airport, turn in their TPS reports on time, watch my theoretical kid/pet and not steal my stuff, etc.

          Humans are good at compartmentalizing, especially where it concerns ethics, doubly especially where it concerns sex. (The one cross-situation thing I’ve found is that people who step out rather than having the “I’m not into you any more”/”monogamy really isn’t working for me” conversation tend to value external peacefulness above actually dealing with issues. But otherwise, it’s like saying that someone who gets a speeding or parking ticket is going to be a bad employee.)

  19. The Bimmer Guy*

    LW1: Oof. You have to wonder if you were ever an evil dictator in a past life or something, to have to endure that kind of situational cruelty (and *actual* cruelty, regarding your cheating husband). I’m so sorry!

  20. Ginger*

    A year long affair….yikes. I sincerely hope OP’s husband is well and firmly “over” it. Having an ex so close again is going to be difficult for all parties.

  21. Molly*

    Just for context that may be helpful in framing how you view her in your mind, she made no promises whatsoever to you in regards to monogamy. There are many couples, married and not, who are consentually non-monogamous, or who are separated but still married in cases where there is no expectation of monogamy. Who knows how your husband presented his relationship to her, or if he presented it to her at all before she became emotionally invested.

    Truly one person is to blame for breaking their promise of monogamy, and she is not that person.

    My married boo is very up front with his wife about his relationship with me, posting pics on instagram she has liked an all. Everyone’s situation is different and your coworker may have had a different impression.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      That is a good point. I’ve heard of people telling their affair partners things like “we are separated”, “we are basically divorced”, “she’d be okay with it”, “she’s probably doing it too”, “we are in an open marriage” when none of those things are the case. I imagine a very low percentage of men would walk up to a woman and open with “My wife of 20 years is very much in love with me, wanna help me cheat on her?” and get what they ask for. There’s almost always some storytelling involved.

      Truly one person is to blame for breaking their promise of monogamy, and she is not that person.

      1. Luna*

        Maybe it’s me, but if the words ‘probably’ or ‘basically’ are uttered to justify or explain that the affair is okay, I would be hightailing it the other direction.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        No, it’s not. which is why a reasonable answer to any of those “my wife won’t mind” statements is “cool, I’d like to meet her.” Or, if you already know the person’s spouse, to get in touch and talk to them about it.

        That’s very standard advice in polyamorous circles, and I think it would also work as an answer to statements like “we’re basically divorced” or “we’re still living together because we’re co-parenting.” (“She’s probably doing it too” feels a bit different, because for me that would be a hard no–they’re more or less admitting that they *don’t* have the spouse’s consent, and there would be fireworks if/when the spouse found out.)

    2. Close Bracket*

      As someone who got involved with a married guy who didn’t tell me he was married, it is also surprisingly difficult to break things off. Everyone thinks they would dump the guy the nanosecond they learned. I certainly turn down guys who tell me before we get involved that they are married. I was shocked (at myself) to learn that it wasn’t easy to walk away from someone after we were involved. (I did walk away, in case anyone thinks I continued once I knew I was an affair partner rather than a date, I really want to make that clear.)

    3. biobotb*

      Why does it matter that other people are polyamorous? The OP is not, so the way other people structure their relationships has no bearing on how she structures hers, or how hurt she may feel when other people mistreat her.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Because some people claim their relationship is polyamorous when it isn’t, to make the person they’re pursuing feel like everything is above board and they’re not helping anyone cheat or cross boundaries that aren’t agreed to by everyone involved.

        So while TOW knew he was married – he may have presented her with a picture that made it seem like she wouldn’t be helping him cheat on his wife. So, she may be blameless not in the sense that she made no promises, but because she was lied to about what she was getting into.

        1. biobotb*

          And someone entering into a relationship with a person who claims to be polyamorous is not absolved of culpability in an affair if they choose to take that statement at face value without trying to verify it, especially when the supposed polyamorous spouse also is also part of the same community. She’s still not blameless, even if he claimed to be polyamorous.

          1. Molly*

            Interesting. I have no interest in meeting my partner’s partners. That is their business. My responsibility is to get tested and share my results with my partners per our agreements. Polyamory looks different for everyone.

            I think we also need to note that this person may not have even told the woman he was married.

            1. SimplyTheBest*

              Except that OP straight up said “she knew I was married to the man she was involved with.”

              1. Melane*

                Yes, but that doesn’t clarify what else the co-worker ‘knew’. She could know ‘my lover Bob is married’ and then have been told some of the things above. Neither we nor OP know, and from what OP says the two women are strangers to each other besides this, so co-worker would know only what Bob has to say.

    4. Batgirl*

      I know you mean well…. but if you had the primary relationship in your life threatened, was facing down an expensive divorce, was terrified because you no longer knew the person in your bed or what ELSE they were capable of…you wouldn’t be thinking: “Welp, maybe the other person at least is innocent! Maybe they don’t know and didn’t bother to check!”
      It’s a type of negligence and thoughtlessness which happens sometimes for sure, and it is understandable for the other party to not care. But for the affected person, while it weighs far below the deliberate betrayal…. it doesn’t erase any of the harm done.

      1. Super Anon for This*

        I actually don’t know what I would be thinking in this awful hypothetical situation I’ve never been in. To my own surprise, the one and only time I found myself in a situation of a similar nature, but 10000x less damaging, I somehow found myself mad at the guy for what he’d done to both me and the other woman; and thinking “how can I show the other woman that I’m not mad?”

        My point is, we don’t know how we’d react when something big happens to us, and the fact of the matter is, TOW might really and truly have not known. Another fact of the matter, thinking that there is a possibility that TOW may not have known, would help OP work with TOW without wanting to claw at her face every minute of them working together; as well as without wanting to die inside every minute she spends around TOW. I don’t see how a little benefit of the doubt would hurt here. I mean I’d rather forget that TOW exists if I were OP, but that is not an option.

        PS. I have also had my husband tell me to my face that he no longer loved me. That, I have not forgiven. Nor am I any longer married to that person. So OP is already a bigger person than I am.

        1. Batgirl*

          There’s definitely something to be said for not over egging the level of blame in the hopes of keeping cooler. I definitely do get the benefit of your strategy…but I think it would only get her through one or maybe two interactions at best.
          The best way to stay cool though is to just not be anywhere near her and not try to convince yourself that you can handle it.
          I have unfortunately known a lot of betrayed spouses and the ‘that person is a trigger’ is a pretty universal reaction. Most of those
          people are firmly in the camp known as ‘but that person didnt diectly betray anyone’ and it doesn’t matter. They are still a trigger. The ones who’ve toughed it out……simply broke down harder.
          I completely agree with you about OP’s grace, strength and largesse. Like you, I just pulled the pin and walked into the sunset. Im in awe of those who recover.
          I’m probably letting the memory of some much stronger betrayed spouses affect me now, who held the status quo up to the point of permanent health damage …..but sometimes strength is a weakness.

  22. the_scientist*

    Um, OP1, I know this isn’t what you asked…….but……I don’t think your husband should be staying at this job. This is too much, having to work so closely with his former affair partner. I think if he truly values his marriage, he’ll find a new job.

      1. valentine*

        DH needs to find a new job.
        I think this would cause resentment because of the loss of whatever OP enjoys about sharing an employer with her spouse.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      That and that he works in the *same division* and on the *same floor* to which TOW is transferring. I hate to say it but … well you all are smart enough to infer…

  23. animaniactoo*

    LW1, this is an aside, of a kind, but it’s not really.

    From a professional standpoint, you have to do as Alison says – be reserved, civil, and not obviously hating on her. From a personal standpoint that’s going to affect your professional standpoint and vice versa: You need to talk about this with your husband. Not as a “geez, look at this situation I have to deal with because of you!” thing. But as a “Okay, we’re doing great, but this piece of fallout just landed in our lives. I’d like to talk together about how we will handle it because both of us will see her in the office and may end up interacting with her for work reasons. Obviously some of it will depend on how she reacts to us, but there’s a lot of potential for misunderstandings and backsliding if we’re not starting out on the same page about our boundaries and planned approach to this.”

    I’d bet big that a lot of your apprehension is tied up in how your husband is going to feel and react to seeing her and the opportunity to easily casually talk to her again. But if you’re reinforcing your home team with your husband and leaning into that bond to tackle this together, you will likely come out reassured enough to be able to tone down your own emotional response.

    If that’s a conversation best had with a therapist, or your own therapist before approaching him about this, then lean into that also.

  24. anon4this*

    “He told me he wasn’t sure he loved me and he wasn’t as attracted to me. It took him six months to say “I love you” again.”
    Ugh, please tell me he says you’re beautiful everyday or something now. Because this is a cruel unfair thing to say to an aging woman, and would make me question everything. Even if he thought it (I’m sure they all do), he should never have said that.
    Also…you forgave your husband for his misdeeds. Why hold onto the residual anger for a stranger? Who knows what he was telling her about you. Your anger is because of his actions, not a stranger looking for love in all the wrong places.
    I’d be professional and forgive her, like Alison said.

    1. Courageous cat*

      Yeah, seriously. I’m kind of surprised at all this vitriol directed at the other woman, and none at the husband, here. Not only did he wrong you but then he iced you out afterward? And now everything is good?

      I know this is not a personal problems blog, but like… I’d spend a lot more time examining *that* dynamic if I were OP, than giving even another single thought to the other woman at work.

      1. Avasarala*

        Because the question is not “how do I patch things up with my husband” (which OP says she has worked hard on and gone to therapy for) but “what do I do about the other woman coming into our work lives.”

        We are focused on the question that the letter-writer is asking: how do I treat this woman at work?
        Can you imagine if every letter about work, we started digging into their personal relationships they didn’t ask about?

        1. Courageous cat*

          I dunno why I keep getting these responses but I’m not exactly starting the parent threads here/provoking a discussion that didn’t already exist, I’m just adding thoughts to something someone else said.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Also to be fair she did give an awful lot of personal relationship context which isn’t really necessary for the crux of the question, so it’s not completely out of left field that people would start discussing it.

  25. YoungTen*

    Follow Alison’s advice here and be very professional. Nothing bad will happen by doing that. Does she know she’ll be working with you though? I’m guessing that most people in her position would not want to stick around if they can help it. So this may not be indefinite. But being professional won’t give her anything to use against you like freezing her out would do. Stay strong!

  26. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    I cannot imagine, from the other woman’s point of view, why you would *want* to work in the same office with someone whose husband you had an affair with. Yikes.

      1. valentine*

        She shouldn’t derail her career over it and I hope we’d all advise her not to disclose the affair to avoid the transfer, like the woman who wants her boss to prevent her traveling with her emotional affair ex.

        1. Batgirl*

          It wouldn’t be in her interest to do any of those things.
          Therefore OP must look to a self made solution. Not fair, but infinitely more reliable.

    1. Melane*

      Best move for her career/finances/geography? There have been all sorts of weird situations/sacrifices people on here land in for the sake of professional goals.

  27. StephThePM*

    I’m having a slightly different reaction on this than the rest of the commentariat. I laud you, OP – you sound excessively graceful and professional. I’m sorry you went through this situation, and pleased that you’re happy and strong today – you’ve come a long way! Also, I don’t think you’re being unreasonable – and in my view, you don’t need to bear this, uncomfortably, in silence. You didn’t create the Awkward. She and your husband, the person he used to be, did.

    Of course, I agree on professional scrupulosity (new word for me!) but honestly, I’d engage my own boss to let her know the situation to protect myself and my own career. Give the broad strokes, stress where you are with things (strong, survived, etc.). I’d assure her that I have every intention of managing the situation professionally and with fantastic levels of courtesy, but I’d ask for her support in helping you navigate a personally tough situation. I’d suggest thinking through some reasonable strategies that could work in supporting your work and proposing them to your boss – maybe co-worker Martha takes X projects and deals with TOW. Maybe you only deal with her through email. Keep in mind, you are a VALUED PERSON. This is YOUR space. Your Career. I would spell out that I would actively work to mitigate and minimize the time that you need to deal with this person, but you will deal with her like a coworker, but as professional as you are…you are uncomfortable. Then, I’d be detailed in keeping the boss updated on any interactions and project statuses, etc. I say this because – an awful lot could be blamed on this situation by TOW and I’d rather be in front of it than explaining it on the back end, re-actively, when something that went awry could be explained by your perceived lack of professionalism vs some other legit reason. 4-5 years ago isn’t that long of a time ago, and who knows what TOW is up to. Is this a horrible, lengthy (!) lapse in judgement that she’s mortified and eternally remorseful for? Is she forgetting the havoc she wrecked on your marriage? Also, who the hell does this, on purpose??

    To me, this falls in the category of Fallout One Suffers When Having An Affair with An Inappropriate Person, and people at work knowing that you did what shouldn’t be done is one of them. I would spend capital on this, in my context, with my boss, so I’m offering this as a possible consideration. Who knows if it’s good or bad advice, but I know that my boss would want to know, and would be supportive of me proactively handling an unbearably uncomfortable person situation.

    Then, based on the reaction to all of this…you can decide about leaving or job searching. To me, I’d want that burden on someone else but so be it. Keep your head high, and it’ll sort out.

    PS – If you were my coworker and told me you didn’t want to discuss this but you needed my help in dealing with someone, I’d be there for you and would support whatever you needed, no questions asked. Do you have a person like that in your life?

    1. Important Moi*

      I really like this answer.

      “You didn’t create the Awkward. She and your husband, the person he used to be, did. ”

      Louder for the people in the back. You sound like Captain Awkward.

    2. NW Mossy*

      Alison revived a letter last week (it’s in the Inc. article from 10/28/19 – “Can I refuse to be alone with a coworker I had an emotional affair with?”) that gets to why this advice is really challenging to implement.

      Even when a manager is understanding and sympathetic, it’s still a lot to ask of a boss to realign an employee’s work responsibilities or change their performance expectations of that employee to accommodate a personal desire not to work with a specific person. It can also have a serious negative impact on the person doing the asking, and in ways they may not expect.

      Take, for example, a situation where a new project has come up and it would make total sense for the OP and the other woman to both be part of it. What should the OP’s boss do now? Keep OP out of the project, even though it would otherwise be a good thing for her career? Try to influence the other woman’s boss to pull her from it? Create some kind of segregation strategy to keep them both on the project but not having to interact, like forcing one to always dial into project meetings rather than attending in person?

      It’s super-messy, and in trying to do the right thing, the boss can inadvertently damage someone’s career. I get the spirit of it, but the fairest answers for both the OP and the other woman will come if their bosses are calling the shots based on normal business criteria, not personal history.

      1. Im*

        Everything can’t be done to guarantee nothing bad ever happens. Just because a potentially bad result ma occur that doesn’t prevent other people from handling a situation in a different manner.

        The boss can choose not to accommodate a personal desire not to work with a specific person. As far as the potential of a serious negative impact on the person doing the asking, and in ways they may not expect, so what? LW may be fine with that, but you don’t for certainty anymore than I do that she isn’t.

    3. Ellie*

      I agree with you, I think their boss needs to be looped in on this. If I was about to lose one (possibly two) good employees over a new hire, I’d want to know about it, and I’d want the option of choosing who I get to keep. I don’t see any way for this to end well with the three of them working together.

      1. Melane*

        Could backfire if the OP or husband don’t end up topping bosses’ list. To me, transfers aren’t the same as new hires and presumably this one come with reason the specific department wants her work (and a reason she would want to work there with them, assuming she knows that’s the department). I could also see it being a very tricky thing for boss to justify doing anything to any of the three people’s positions over what is at this point a past private matter.

    4. Melane*

      Depends heavily on the boss/org, because many bosses are not going to want to rearrange their work requirements for a non-accommodations work problem and will tell you and her to “be adult about it” or something similar, and then those who would be sympathetic, might not be allowed to. Could turn into making you out to be the problem, especially if there’s a regime change.

    5. Some clever pun*

      Yeah, I’m surprised this option didn’t come up upthread. If I were their boss I’d really like to know about this situation so I could put a stop to the transfer before she moved over. Surely she can’t be that irreplaceable that I couldn’t find someone else to fill the role.

  28. Camellia*

    Just a word about forgiveness. It took a lot of work with a therapist for me to understand that ‘forgiving’ does NOT mean forgetting, excusing, accepting, or being okay with whatever-it-was and whoever-did-it. And that ‘forgiving’ is a CONSCIOUS CHOICE that I make, NOT an EMOTION that I will or should feel. That it is a thing that I do for myself, and only for myself, and is (usually) a process that happens over time. And that it is actually SMART not to forget, excuse, accept, or be okay with whatever-it-was and whoever-did-it, because those are the tools that allow you to prevent it from happening again.

  29. RUKiddingMe*

    OP you and your husband work in the same division and in the same floor? Now this woman is moving over?

    I don’t like this…on a couple accounts. What kind of favors can you call in that would keep her from moving over?

    Kidding…sort of.

  30. Fiddlesticks*

    I understand and agree with Alison’s advice that you cannot show a hateful and disdainful attitude toward this woman at work. However: in my personal opinion, you are not being “unreasonable” or “displacing your anger” by being upset by this woman and her presence in your workplace. There is no reason that your anger should be solely reserved for your husband. She knew your husband was married, and she chose to have an affair with a married man. In my mind, that makes her just as much at fault as him. Yes, she wasn’t the one betraying vows, but I guess my non-religious old-fashioned moral sense, wherever it comes from, doesn’t distinguish much between those two things. I would feel the same way if it was a single man and a married woman; they’re both a-holes.

    I hope you can find a way to make peace with this situation within yourself. Personally, I’d find a new job…and tell my husband it’s time for him to find a new one too, if he really has changed and now values his marriage again.

    1. Luna*

      I agree with your point entirely. If both participating parties are aware that one (or both) are in what is considered in many aspects (ethically, legally, morally, emotionally, physically, etc) to be an exclusive relationship, then they are both pretty bad, in my opinion.
      …unless it’s an open relationship, and the spouse is added into the knowledge circle, and everyone has made it clear that they honestly are okay with this.

      If the non-married person honestly isn’t aware that their partner is actually already married, then they do have my sympathy because they are being taken advantage and made a fool of. That’s when your anger should always be placed solely on the married person.

      1. Sansa*

        I 100% agree! If the “other” person in the scenario knew that the person they were schtupping was in a relationship, both parties are equally at fault. Both are the homewreckers in the scenario.

        My married dad had an affair with my ex best friend. I’ve been doing some,,,,,,, g-ddamn therapy/thinking as to how I’m processing everything

        1. Veronica*

          I’m so sorry that happened to you! I hope you can get away from whatever toxicity and drama led to that.

  31. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Look at the situation this way. The other woman has no moral high road. She is coming to work in an office with the wife of her married lover who dumped her. She doesn’t know what people know about her past. She may be terrified that her reputation as a home-wrecker has preceded her and that is going to be her label and a source of gossip. If people have knowledge about her affair with a married man, they may choose not to engage with her beyond a professional level. (I personally don’t foresee many couples inviting her into their social circle.) She has much more to lose than the LW. Keep it professional with her and don’t become the source of entertainment for the office.

  32. Luna*

    Be professional and generally polite.
    This isn’t even a question.
    Or do you really think anyone here was going to tell you that you should start a catfight with her at work, screaming at her for having harmed you previously?

    I’m glad that you know that the bigger issue and anger should be at your husband. But there is nothing wrong with also being angry at her, especially since she *knew* the guy was married. But that doesn’t change that, in a professional setting, you should be professional and polite to her.
    That doesn’t mean you have to be buddy-buddy with her outside of work.

  33. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    As a migraine sufferer myself, I can relate to #2. It doesn’t matter if I like the scent or not, I will usually get an instant migraine if I’m around someone who is wearing too much perfume/cologne/hand lotion/etc. And not all scents bother me, nor do I know which ones will make it worse/not affect me at all. Please talk to your boss – I’m sure she will be understanding.

  34. Sansa*

    I wrote back in April about the possibility of having to work with the woman (a former friend) my father had an affair with. I found Alison’s advice spot-on then, as it is now!

    The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference (and vice versa). The extremely understandable temptation to pull some kind of power move can, I think, be accomplished by being professionally distant.

    I wish you all the best. I hope that you’re able to do therapy/talk with loving people you trust.

  35. workerbee2*

    All of the debate over how much blame to assign to the “other woman” is giving her too much power, I think. I think the LW would be better served by viewing the OW as a symptom of the problems in her marriage, or a catalyst of the problems in her marriage, rather than her actually being the problem. If husband hadn’t cheated with her, it would have just been someone else. It’s not like this particular woman was just so irresistible to him, because if she was he would likely have left his wife instead of working on his marriage. LW, you’ve spent the last four years dealing with the underlying problems in your marriage, so try for the sake of your mental health to view her with as much equanimity as you can muster.

  36. Anon for this b/c reasons*

    This is a more complex issue than simply, “how do I cope now the TOW works on my floor,” because of the presence of the husband in the same physical space.

    I want to know what the husband’s thoughts are on this. Is he even aware TOW’s transferring in? What does he think of the presence of this daily reminder of the Stupidest Thing He’s Ever Done? His baggage is going to be just as big as LW1’s, if not bigger, because he was an active party to the affair. His dynamics are going to matter in this situation as well.

    No way he will be totally hakuna matata over this. Even if he’s completely mended his ways and is now fully devoted to his wife, it’s still going to cost him spoons to cope with seeing TOW every day, and also knowing his wife has to see her every day as well.

    I confess some curiosity on the part of TOW. What’s going through her head? She knowingly and willingly transferred TO THE SAME FLOOR as her former lover and his wife?! That… was not a wise move.

    There is more playing out here than we’ve been given in the letter.

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