Question: What do you do when your spouse works with their affair partner?
It’s bad enough to discover that your spouse has been unfaithful, and even worse to realize they work with their affair partner, making ongoing contact inevitable. When your spouse works with their affair partner, and you both desire to heal your marriage, it becomes confusing to navigate and adds fuel to the fires no doubt burning between you, because step #1 to healing a marriage after an affair is no contact with the affair partner. So what do you do?
On a side note this goes both ways, both the unfaithful and the betrayed need to have no contact with the affair partner in order to heal the marriage. This includes all forms of interacting; seeing each other, texting, phoning, stalking the affair partners Facebook page, and even getting information about them through a 3rd party. In addition, the unfaithful partner needs to consciously choose to stop fantasizing about this person. Even ongoing “dreaming” of them is a form of contact. While we don’t have control over the thoughts that come into our heads, and if you’ve had an affair, and had a strong attraction or connection to that person, you will have thoughts about them, but you can consciously choose not to dwell on those thoughts, but instead focus on what you are going to do to heal your marriage and love your spouse that you’ve hurt.
Many of the couples whom we have the privilege of working with, the unfaithful spouse felt they were “in love” with their affair partner/s. But those feelings are not about the person, like you think. They are about the effort you are putting into the affair relationship, as well as about the reflection of yourself that you see in their admiring eyes. When you put that same effort into your marriage, things will begin to change, and you will begin to have those feelings for your spouse again. Feelings follow effort.
It is also important for the betrayed spouse to end contact with the 3rd party. You are not going to be moving forward well in your marriage if either of you are allowing the 3rd party space in your marriage, by continuing to engage them, and thus think about them. Some betrayed spouses insist that the 3rd party is the only place to get reliable information about the affair. I understand … but that’s telling isn’t it? Because if your spouse is doing the right things, you will be able to get the truth from them directly, and getting it from them will work towards healing your marriage. It also might be noted that the affair partner could also be lying to you. After all, they are an enemy of your marriage, and if they desire to be with your spouse, feeding you information that will upset and harm you is in their best interest. It’s just not smart to consider your enemy a good source for reliable truth. I do understand that there may be exceptions to this rule. If you are stalking your spouse’s affair partner on FaceBook, stop it!
So what do you do when your spouse works with their affair partner?
HONESTLY CONSIDER THE OPTION OF CHANGING THAT WORK SITUATION
Honestly explore the option of leaving that company or position and finding other work, or if there is a possibility that the affair partner could be offered a position elsewhere in the company, or a settlement to leave. Most couples we work with who are healing their marriage after an affair initially consider this option an impossibility. Eighty-five percent of the people who seek our help are in America, and the largest percentage of the rest are also in prospering first world countries. I always wonder, why these individuals feel that their personal talents and ability are limited to only one place in the entire country, the only job for them is with the affair partner?? Really? America is a free country with many, many opportunities. I do understand that some people do highly specialized work, and those who have seniority and benefits (golden handcuffs) that are hard to give up. Don’t rule this out before exhausting your possibilities. If you can see yourself as a person with options it greatly helps.
STOP FIGHTING EACH OTHER & UNITE AGAINST YOUR COMMON ENEMY
If you wish to heal your marriage when your spouse works with their affair partner, it is essential that you stop treating each other as adversaries with opposing views. Instead begin to see yourselves as allies with a common goal. Become a WE, you and me against the world. Don’t say, I want this and he wants that. Instead start saying “we”. We both want to heal our marriage. We both want to make our marriage safe, and rebuild the trust that once was. We both want to find an answer together. Etc.
One of the most powerful things an unfaithful spouse can do, if he or she is really serious about healing their marriage after an affair, is to say to their spouse, “Honey, I need you to know that you are much more important to me than my job.” He or she may add something like, “I am scared. I don’t know where else I’m going to get a job, and I’m afraid of the financial repercussions for our family of me leaving my position, but I want to get away from the other woman/ other man, as much as you want me to. If you want me to quit, my job, I will because you are more important to me than my job.” And really mean it!
The message is powerful. Many times that is all that is needed. The betrayed partner may not want the unfaithful to quit their job. (After all that is going to affect them financially as well.) But for the betrayed, to know their spouse would quit their job, if they wanted them to, goes a long way towards healing. This gesture can make all the difference.
Others have taken these radical measures and quit working with the affair partner. These couples greatly expedite their healing. Generally, they also find new employment in due time that puts them in a better financial position than before. Call it what you will, but God tends to take good care of those who are willing to do the right thing, especially when right thing requires radical measures.
IT’S IMPORTANT TO SEE THAT YOU DO HAVE CHOICES
If you both agree it is best to stay in this employment situation, it goes a long way in making it manageable when your spouse works with their affair partner, when it is seen as a choice. There may be no easy options, but you do have other options. It’s important that it is not something the unfaithful is forcing on the betrayed. You may not change your work situation, but changing your mindset around it, will make all the difference. People are unhappy when their ability to choose has been taken from them.
There are other things that can be done to manage the situation when your spouse works with their affair partner. Here are some options:
CREATE GOOD ACCOUNTABILITY FOR THE UNFAITHFUL PARTNER
Make yourself accountable to a superior. Couples who have taken this route find it highly effective. Most couples dealing with a workplace affair do not consider letting an a manager, boss or board member know for fear of losing respect or being fired. However more often than not, the opposite takes place. It sets an example of humility, integrity and authenticity. That superior may be able to move the affair partner to a separate building or floor, or position, or change work teams etc. to minimize the chances of contact.
Joe was the CEO of a large company. When he came to us he was sure he had to keep the fact that he’d had an affair with someone in the company a secret or he would lose his position, as well as the respect of subordinates. Joe and Mary worked hard to heal their marriage, and would have considered themselves healed, when Joe had a 2nd affair in his company. Mary decided to leave Joe, but then Joe did something amazing. In the face of losing everything, he confessed to his board, and made himself accountable. He told them that he wanted to create a culture of integrity (with no affairs) as well as a culture of truthfulness in the organization, a culture where someone who makes a mistake (even severe mistakes) if they are sincerely remorseful can be supported in overcoming the failure and living better on the other side.
By making himself accountable to the board, he won (rather than lost) their respect, the culture of the company was greatly improved, and when Mary saw the changes she decided to give Joe another chance. Their marriage (and his company) are doing great today. It’s surprising what hypocrites we can be in North America. We profess high values, but we don’t live by them. When someone tells the truth, we punish them for being truthful, which works against the very ideals we profess to be of such importance. It would be better to realize that human beings fall sometimes, and foster an environment where we can be real, and by so doing help each other to live up to those standards we believe in.
HAVE A BRAIN STORMING SESSION TO DISCUSS THINGS THAT MAY MAKE THE BETRAYED PARTNER FEEL SAFE
Here are some ideas:
- Have the unfaithful put a picture of their husband/wife up in their workplace, also a family picture.
- The unfaithful spouse can call their husband/wife often throughout the day to reassure the betrayed of their love for them, and to create reassurance about their whereabouts.
- Have the betrayed partner come up to the workplace for lunches and other appropriate visits, so they have a presence there.
- Ensure there are not situations where the unfaithful and the former affair partner are alone together, especially not behind a closed door!
- If the unfaithful partner is a man, you can look for events like the company Christmas party and make a point of not only having your wife there, but looking at her in such a way that the whole room knows you are completely taken by your wife and there is no other woman for you. If the unfaithful partner is a woman, there are similar strategies that can be used, considering the gender differences, and what is important to the husband.
- Discuss appropriate boundaries with the opposite sex that you both can agree on. You may need a mediator to help you navigate this conversation, because it can easily become hurtful or volatile, but with good help, you can bridge those initial gaps. It’s easy to find ourselves stuck in black and white thinking that seems insurmountable when emotions are running high.
Be sure any contact with the former affair partner is reported to your spouse immediately and deal with it together.
Your goal is not only to create safety and trust for your spouse that you’ve betrayed, but you are also working towards restoring their dignity.
When your spouse works with their affair partner, the goal is to become a team, working together to make the betrayed partner feel safe and loved.