Doing the hard work to rescue and reinvent your relationship after infidelity is daunting. But what if your spouse still works with their former affair partner?
Let’s face it, workplace flirting is nothing new or unusual. However, workplace flirting can evolve into cheating. And just because the betrayal is eventually disclosed and the infidelity ends, it doesn’t mean that your partner can just leave their job and sever all contact with the affair partner.
So…what does that mean for your marriage and how do you go forward?
Infidelity in the Digital Age
Before digging further into post-affair specifics, it’s crucial to define terms like infidelity, cheating, and affairs. While there are clearly societal “norms,” it is entirely up to each couple to decide what constitutes cheating. For example, certain sex acts are allowed while others are forgiven. Most typically though, couples remain strict on a no-sex-with-anyone-but-me policy.
In the age of smartphones and social media, the rules may need revisiting. Today, infidelity can occur while a couple sits together on the couch. That mini-computer we all carry is also a gateway to an endless menu of flirtations (or more) — including those with co-workers. It’s widely suggested that couples set digital boundaries before any kind of issue arises.
What to Do When Your Spouse Works with Their Former Affair Partner
In general, post-cheating advice requires the partner who had the affair to cut off all contact with the other person — immediately and permanently. This is a major step towards healing and eventually, reconciliation. When your spouse still works with their former affair partner, however, things get trickier.
Some general guidelines for such a situation may include the following:
1. Commit to being an unbreakable team
Find unity in teaming up to solve this issue and to deal with the co-worker in question. There is no room for hidden or vacillating agendas between you and your spouse/partner. You must remain attentive to each other and be exceedingly team-oriented.
2. Create a plan for being in touch during the day
This is no time to ignore your texts or calls. Transparency is essential and communication has never been more important.
3. Maintain public contact boundaries
Let the former affair partner and other co-workers who know - in no uncertain terms - that you and your spouse have both moved on together. This can be done in various subtle and overt ways. Your spouse can place a photo (or 3) of you in their workspace and refuse to ever be alone with the affair partner. Also, since the affair partner is likely watching social media platforms, you and your spouse can use that space to reaffirm your connection and commitment. Interact there or share an account. Speak positively about your relationship. In addition, ask your partner to make a point of spending time with others at work who support your reconciliation.
4. Visit the workplace
Send a strong message to all involved that your bond will endure and deepen. Make your presence felt. Prepare for such visits well, keeping your focus on your spouse, not the affair partner. Work with a counselor individually if necessary to ensure you are strong enough to deal with pressures of entering that space confidently and productively.
5. Insist on a strategy for reporting any interaction with the other person
If your unfaithful partner must interact with their former affair partner professionally, you need a protocol. No exchange can go unreported and/or undiscussed from now on. No exceptions.
6. Talk about work-related dinners, meetings, parties, and trips
Depending on the type of job the unfaithful partner has, it could involve a wide array of social events. These cannot be left to chance. Prioritize events and make plans to keep your relationship safe. Talk about events you’ll attend together and those that will require another plan. If it’s realistic, perhaps a trusted work manager can be recruited to help you navigate this minefield.
7. Change jobs
Obviously, this is not always possible. But, infidelity is a drastic situation that often requires drastic action.
Seek counseling to discuss this option/demand. Losing the job may be a sacrifice you both need to make for the survival of your relationship and long-term peace of mind.
Post-affair Consequences Frequently Require Couples Counseling
As stated above, there is plenty of room for unique perspectives about the nature of infidelity. But, no matter how you define it, cheating with a co-worker presents some incredibly unique problems to address.
It’s not dramatic or an overstatement to call them make-or-break concerns. With all the emotions swirling around the disclosure of a betrayal, it is absolutely crucial to seek outside help. Couples cannot and should not be expected to juggle all the nuance of such circumstances on their own.
Meeting regularly with an unbiased and experienced guide is a powerful and sometimes necessary step toward finding answers to the myriad questions that seem to pop up by the dozens when you’re hurting.