Why do office affairs happen?

And What to Do about Them?

Office romances are commonplace these days. Television shows such as Boston Legal and Grey’s Anatomy remind us about the temptations and excitement of love at the workplace. However, office affairs in real life are not so easily contained or resolved. Here is a guide to help professional women understand why these affairs happen and what to do about them if they do occur.

Why Office Affairs Happen

Professional women often spend more hours at work than they do at home. Work becomes a “second family” of people who are familiar with your personality, past and problems. In turn, women get to observe men over time during stressful events such as deadlines and disappointments.

For example, a woman can assess a man’s recovery skills in taking risks, negotiating and being optimistic and resilient—all desirable qualities in a partner. Work can seem to provide a “road test” of what a man might be like as a partner, and this sense can provide a woman with an ability to trust the man.

Finally, working on an important or difficult project together breeds intimate feelings, fueled by the excitement of accomplishment and teamwork. Co-workers become seduced by the work intensity and experience a new closeness to a colleague. Shared uncertainty, risk and danger often make people bind to each other. For example, survivors of airplane crashes or robberies develop a special bond.

The danger, of course, is that some of these attachments blossom into affairs. Some of these affairs fizzle, others develop into love and others cause great disillusionment and work and personal problems. One common scenario is that once a man steps out of the office and away from work-related issues he can suddenly no longer seem like the same man to the woman. This shocking difference occurs because many people have learned to separate their work self from their private self. One of my clients discovered, for example, that her aggressive and savvy attorney became an indecisive man in relationships. This man funneled his need for control and power into the courtroom because he was unable to be as effective with women. He had a father who criticized him throughout his childhood and a mother whose pessimism about life made the man afraid of life and love.

What to do about Affairs?

  1. The best medicine is prevention. Remind yourself that work highs are seducers that rely on their power and contagion.
  2. As soon as the work day or task is over, limit your time with this man, if possible. Try to resume normal office behavior.
  3. Don’t be tempted into agreeing to after-hour drinks or dinners to “talk” about the project. Don’t do lunches together or friendly strolls in the park to talk about how you can’t and won’t pursue your feelings. Real endings end quickly.
  4. Do not discuss your personal life with him.
  5. Don’t fool yourself into having him over for dinner to convince yourself and your partner that this man is “only a colleague.” These invitations usually turn into failed attempts at your gaining control over your feelings.
  6. If you have given in to the force from your togetherness, then back off and break it off as soon as possible. Pull back, get your mind clear and call a halt to any further private times together.
  7. Use the experience as a time to reflect on yourself and your relationship with your partner. Often, affairs are the messes that cowards create to signal the partner that there is trouble or to destroy the relationship by taking it to a point of no return. Work responsibly on your relationship and seek counseling.
  8. Finally, women grapple with whether to tell their partner about the affair. At best, only about a third to a quarter of relationships survives an affair when a woman cheats and then tells her man. Some women, for example, choose not to tell. Instead, they keep the experience private and use it as an unvoiced motivator to work on the relationship with their partner. Each woman must come to her own assessment about the strength of the relationship and the sensitivity of her man. Don’t confess if the purpose of exposing your secret is to hurt your partner and blow up your relationship.

This article also appears on www.w2wlink.com

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Author's Bio: 

LeslieBeth Wish is a Psychologist, Clinical Social Worker and author who is nationally recognized for her contributions to women, love, relationships, family, career, workplace, and organizations.

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