Workplace Mistakes and Greenerish Grasses

by A Married Dude

A year ago, while just finishing school, I got very drunk at a work event and hooked up with a co-worker who is definitively senior to me. He had very aggressively hit on me before at work events, but I had rebuffed his advances. On this occasion, however, after he bought me many, many shots of Van Gogh (ugh), and while in a bit of a sexually experimental phase, I let him put his hand up my skirt and then left with him. Huge mistake. Especially as he has a lovely long-term girlfriend, whom I have met quite a few times, and deserves none of this.

I spent the first few months at my new job feeling guilty and utterly paranoid about who knew and what it meant for my future. This guy and I are now collegial at the office. We have never discussed the events, and they have never been repeated.

He and his girlfriend are now engaged. I feel like she deserves to know (especially as I feel like it’s basically a guarantee this is not a one-off, right?), but also that it is not my place to tell her. I’m confused about my moral obligations and how to make the kind choice, especially because my judgement may be skewed by the potential professional repercussions. Any words of guidance?

Your principal obligation, in this setting, is to yourself. You don’t say how serious your co-worker (who actually sounds less co- than managerial in his work relations to you) was with his girlfriend at the time of your One Night Of Passion, and maybe you don’t know, but if you think work was tense right afterwards, imagine it after you break the news to the newly minted fiancee.

Do you think she won’t tell him? (What good would the information do, in that case?) That she won’t tell him who told her? (Pinky-swear all you like; she’ll tell.) That after he finds out, your detente at work won’t change? (’Cause men are chill like that.)

I am in general an advocate for more disclosure in this area — secrecy around sex generally benefits men at the expense of women — but you are not her close friend, and you are his co-worker. As tempting as it obviously is to get back at him, and as disappointing as keeping quiet may feel, in this circumstance, self-preservation suggests leaving them to whatever sort of marriage works for them, and continuing to keep your job manageable.

This is sort of an abstract question, but if you’re from a family with a lot of divorce (dad divorced three times, mom once, stepmother three times), and you’ve never really seen up close what goes into a good marriage, what should you do if you want to learn more about what it’s like? In high school I had friends whose parents seemed to have something really good going on, but it’s been years since I’ve seen them. And now friends with seemingly nice marriages are getting divorced, etc. (I’m 30ish.) I guess I’m looking for, like … a mentor marriage? Although now I’m envisioning breathily whispering “what’s your secret” to strangers, which is also kind of horrible / false. I don’t know. What’s your secret?

I don’t have much of a secret, maybe just this: one of the smartest people about relationships I’ve ever known once told me “No one is ever surprised about what ends it when it ends.” When people talk about what drove them to a break-up or a divorce, and you ask “Well, did you know he was like that?” they’ll usually say “Oh yeah, he was always like that.”

Taking that advice, as I was getting serious about one of my girlfriends, I asked one of her friends what her worst features were. (Not so directly, but that was the question.) My girlfriend’s friend proceeded to list her faults while I listened attentively, and then, when she realized what she was doing, she started some horrified backpedaling, trying to make my girlfriend sound like a profile instead.

The high-gloss description was useless, but when I heard all my girlfriend’s faults (and her friend had nailed them perfectly), I thought “Those are her faults? I can live with that.” (Which I did, and do; we’ve been happily married a decade and a half now and have two kids.)

So I guess I’d say this: enjoy the fireworks of early attraction, but make sure you don’t confuse them with what makes relationships last. Let yourself know the worst about your partner, and ask if that’s something you can live with. Make it as easy as you can for him or her to do the same. Know that even happy marriages include unhappy times. And take heart in the fact that even asking this question may be more than your parents ever did.

What do I do about my boyfriend’s fear of marriage? We are in our late 20s, have been together almost four years. We have a house, dog, and cat. We are incredibly happy, and rarely disagree. We genuinely enjoy each others company.

The first time marriage came up was about three years ago. I became a (crazily) enthusiastic bride-to-be and well, he freaked out and we nearly broke up. My bad. Fast forward three years and we started talking marriage again (this time I kept all the crazy contained inside). Shock and awe, a few days after looking at rings and talking color pallettes, he freaked out again saying things like “although we are great together now, I just don’t know if 50 years from now we will still be great together” and “I just don’t know if I can marry you because your parents are divorced and I don’t like broken homes.”

I was (rightfully) insanely pissed that these things were just coming to light four years into the relationship. We had a long, long conversation about it and it basically boiled down to him being afraid to make a commitment because I am his first serious girlfriend and he has no point of reference for what a “healthy relationship” looks like. He said that he feels like a relationship that could lead to marriage shouldn’t be so much work. I on the other hand, who have been in several long term relationships, feel that this is the easiest and most enjoyable relationship I have ever been in. I asked for specifics about what made the relationship hard on him, and his only point of contention was that I don’t enjoy doing the dishes (really, that’s it).

We decided to stay together and ever since then he has jumped right back into the “I want to be with you forever” schtick. So, now I just don’t know what to do with him. I love him and want to marry him. I want to keep the life we have built together. But how do I get him to man up, be a big boy, stop playing house like 12-year-olds and make a real commitment?!

Read your note as if a friend of yours had written it to you. What would you hear in it?

You’d hear that your friend wants to pressure her guy, in his first long-term relationship, into marriage. You’d hear that said boyfriend doesn’t want to marry your friend (and he doesn’t, or he’d ask). You’d hear that some combination of inarticulateness and discomfort has him offering obviously false reasons for same. (I mean, the dishes? As a deflecting factor for marriage?)

But can you imagine that your friend is asking for her boyfriend’s reasons, not to understand him better, but so she can talk him out of them? So she can replace his desires with hers? And can you imagine that her boyfriend may regard this not as a mutual exploration but a browbeating?

Notice, too, that in order to keep her desire to pressure him from seeming too obvious, your friend falls back on the old trope of ‘commitment-phobia’ (ladies, please), as if the commitment in question wasn’t to someone, and as if that someone wasn’t her. Re-read your note with whatever degree of distance you can manage, and then give yourself the advice you’d give your friend.

I (a guy) have been in a relationship with my girlfriend for almost three years. When we moved in, things began to falter — I don’t know exactly why, but something was just off. In March, I began talking to another woman who I have had a casual, long-distance friendship. It went from one direct message to almost constant communication via text, phone, gchat and email. A week later I was booking a flight to her city to see her and figure out if this intense quick connection would translate in person.

I told her that I was considering leaving my girlfriend and she was under the impression I actually was much further along in that decision process. I told my girlfriend I had a “business trip.” This was obviously cheating.

Upon returning home I decided I couldn’t leave my girlfriend with good conscience unless I tried to repair what was off about our relationship. However, I also deeply care about the woman I had an affair with. If I was single I would relentlessly pursue a relationship with her.

In the past my girlfriend has made statements that she doesn’t not want me to cheat (of course), but not to tell her if I do. I feel like my hands are tied — I cannot confess and try to repair my relationship without going against this request, but I don’t feel right keeping what I’ve done from her. The other woman told me she thinks the best option is for me to just leave them both alone and be single.

Do you think that my having this affair means my relationship is fundamentally broken and I should leave? Should I confess to my girlfriend before I know for sure whether I want to stay?

Wait, what? You lied to your girlfriend and booked a flight across the country to fuck someone else after a bit of hot txting? Then you let your new Special Friend think she already had a role you were actually just auditioning her for? You arranged all this in a week? And now, without making up your mind about whether your girlfriend is even worth the bother, you’re thinking of telling her anyway, just to see how she takes it? Even when said girlfriend predicted just this scenario, and specifically asked not to be told??

Dude. Take the hint you’re giving yourself and break up with your GF, but don’t tell her you cheated. It sounds like things were off enough between you you can just tell her it’s over; the additional blow of your recent lying and infidelity aren’t needed and won’t help. (Nota Bene: Don’t try this if the two women are part of the same social circle; then just get it over with.)

Your newly minted former mistress and recent ex-friend is right: Time to go solo. Call this your rumspringa. But please, spare your GF the news about your “business trip.” It wasn’t about her.

And, for anyone who might see themselves in this scenario, especially in the role of New Love Interest, it bears repeating: if he cheats on the way in, he’ll cheat on the way out.

It’s pretty obvious advice, but it astonishes me how many women I know who heard him say “I never knew what love could be til I met you” (substitute sweet nothings to taste) and thought to themselves “He’ll cheat on his significant other with me, because I’m so wonderful!” instead of just thinking “He’ll cheat.”

Yet these same women later seem gobsmacked that a guy who would break a promise to someone else in order to sleep with them will then break a promise to them in order to sleep with someone else. Who could have predicted such a thing!? To which the proper answer is: “Everyone but you.”

Now I’m not saying no one should ever have sex with a guy in a relationship — girlfriends aren’t wives for a reason, and I could never feature that ‘blame the vixen’ bullshit. Just don’t assume that a relationship that starts with him breaking a vow elsewhere will exempt you from that behavior later. It might, of course — it’s happened on occasion — but there’s not a bookie in Vegas who would offer even odds on that outcome.

Previously: Baggage, “Bed Death,” and Suspected Infidelity Triangles.

A Married Dude is one of several rotating Married Dudes who don’t claim to know everything about marriage. Do you have a question for A Married Dude?

Photo by ARENA Creative, via Shutterstock