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Advice from Dr. Stanwix: Innocent Affair

Advice from Dr. Stanwix: Innocent Affair
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Dear Dr. Stanwix,

I am a fifty-two year old wife and mother with a slightly guilty conscience. I have been having an affair with one of my single co-workers for the last three years. It started out innocent enough at a company party when we had a bit too much to drink. However, it has continued on and, no matter what we do to put out the flames, they still keep smoldering. I am left wondering whether this is something I will carry on until my retirement or if it is something that I should retire myself.

Our clandestine relationship hasn’t really grown over the years. It just continues to be the same thing it has always been, a refuge from the doldrums of married life. I love my husband and my children, but I look forward to this escape as a means of breaking some of the more monotonous elements of my life.

In many ways I am having my cake and eating it, too. I can maintain my relationship with my husband and children and I get fringe benefits on the side. With everything going so wonderfully, I sometimes wonder why I even feel guilty. I am not doing any harm to my lover, for he is not interested in a commitment. And, as long as my husband or children don’t find out, I am not harming them either.

Despite this neat little rationale for continuing on with my affair, I can’t help feeling guilty. Is this a byproduct of our puritanical society, or should I truly cut things off? I am so close to this situation that I can’t tell what is right from wrong. Please let me know your thoughts.


Innocent Affair

Dear Innocent Affair,

In my humble estimation, you are correct that it is our puritanical society that makes seemingly innocent affairs, a source of guilt. I would argue that monogamy is not necessarily in our biological make-up. However, it has proven effective for our society, and, in that society, we have responsibilities and obligations to others.

The fact that you’re keeping this a secret from your husband and children is evidence enough that you don’t find this affair to be as innocent as you may think it is. Regardless if it feels good for you, you did commit to your husband, and, with children in the mix, you have a responsibility that overrides your somewhat selfish desires to continue on with this relationship.

You might want to consider how you would feel if your husband were also having an affair. Would you be hurt? Would you want a divorce? If what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, your husband should have the right to do the same.

You should also ask yourself how you would feel if your husband and/or children saw you with your lover. How would they react? Could something like this destroy your relationship with them? Would your husband want a divorce? These are important questions to think about when we engage in extra-marital affairs. If the consequences outweigh the benefits, then I suggest that you stop your affair. In order to do so, you should think about a few things.

You should ask yourself what, besides the novelty of having sex with someone different, exactly draws you to this co-worker? Is it a relationship merely of convenience or is there something in him that draws you to him. Does he have or do things that your husband does not?

If you find that he fulfills a need that your husband doesn’t, then see if you can get your husband to fulfill that need. If it is more of an age or esthetic thing, I ask that you keep in mind that none of us are going to be young and beautiful forever. If you’re into your colleague for these reasons, keep in mind that he too will become older. He may also start looking for someone younger, once you are past your prime. He might even find a partner that he wants to commit to. What will happen to your affair once that happens?

Depending on your husband, you might also consider coming clean to him. If you admit this now, then you can perhaps put out those flames of your affair for good. However, I ask that you think about the consequences of confessing your affair. If you think it would ruin your marriage, then perhaps it’s best to simply stop seeing your colleague and focus on your marriage.

Marriages have their ups and downs. There will always be temptations. However, if we focus on making our marriage the best it can be and keep the lines of communication open, we can get through the downs and the temptations and maintain a healthy relationship.

Best of luck,

Dr. Michael Stanwix




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