Office friendships that easily blur the line of distinction are fast becoming a norm among employees who work in close proximity with each other. As this boundary slowly crumbles, the lines that protect marriages become weak and vulnerable. Recent statistics have established the workplace as the top spot married couples get involved in extra-marital affairs.
Office romance that used to occur between a superior and subordinate is now being replaced by peer relationships where both parties are on equal terms. This is now a new trend which wasn’t the case decades ago. According to infidelity expert Dr. Shirley Glass, “The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they’ve crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. Eighty-two percent of the unfaithful partners I’ve treated have had an affair with someone who was, at first, ‘just a friend.”
The workplace has now become a danger zone for the unwitting committed.
The coffee cup syndrome
Researchers have identified this kind of affair as the “cup of coffee” syndrome. This occurs when married individuals who start off with happy marriages eventually develop attachments that develop into deep friendships at work. They come to depend on this relationship and eventually have emotional work friendships and crumbling marriages.
Initially, these individuals believe that it’s wrong to have an affair. The affair partners are happy in their marriages and have no plans of leaving their partners. The gradual slide into infidelity, however, makes the partners oblivious to their own behavior ultimately affecting their marriages. Sex is often the last sign that the marriage vows have been betrayed.
Long and frequent travels together as well as group interaction between the men and women provides more opportunities for infidelity. Once segregated and restricted, this situation allows free interaction between men and women. Despite the most innocent of intentions, they get to know each other as they share interests and connect over coffee and shared lunches with unanticipated and dangerous consequences. Under stressful condition, they become attracted to each other.
There is wisdom in the saying, ‘do not mix business with pleasure.’ When you have crossed the line and cheated with a coworker, it is best to stop and assess your situation and do the following:
Break it off. – An Office romance can get very complicated. Avoid painful consequences of breaking it off early on. Moreover, the Human Resource Department may find out about your affair and penalize you both. You could both lose your jobs.
Nevertheless be considerate of your lover’s feelings. Do not break it off at the office and don’t do it over lunch. Make your reasons clear for ending the affair and don’t waver. Your partner may try to win you back and it is best that this should not be obvious in the workplace. Most of all, keep your feelings to yourself. It can be difficult to work with someone you just broke up. Do not allow any lover’s quarrel to spill over into the workplace. Focus on treating your former lover with respect that deserves a colleague.
Don’t tell the wife. – You need to know what is driving you to confess. Is it to unburden your guilt? Or do you want to rebuild and strengthen the relationship. When you’ve cheated on your spouse, it is highly likely that you are up to your eyeballs in guilt and want to confess to unburden yourself. Telling to unburden yourself from guilt is selfish because you are transferring the burden on to somebody who now has to undergo the process of grieving and rebuilding. Should you decide to tell, be ready for the aftermath of such revelations. Understand that this will take time and a lot of confrontations that can take its toll on your relationship.
Avoid any occasion where you will get to socialize with the co-worker. – This is the definitive measure to make so you can end the affair. This will also mark the difference between an unaware and an angry spouse. End all forms of contact and avoid that person completely. Seek a transfer to a different department or office. If that is impossible, restrict your communications to professional matters. The less you see of each other, the easier it is to forget the affair before the spouse gets to know about it.