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How to Handle Opposite Sex Coworker Interactions

Buck posted 5/26/2020 19:20 PM

So this is the first post I've started here at SI. I should say, I am a MH. I was a BH before I became a WH. My wife had an A with a coworker. I hope this post is okay. Mods feel free to delete if not.

I'm an engineer and there are very few women in my field. I have worked at the same company for almost 27 years. About 3 years ago, we hired a woman into our department. I am not her direct supervisor. She is 33 and I am 50. She is from another country, but has lived in the US since she was an exchange student in high school. She is married and has 2 boys, the youngest she had about 2 years ago.

I have worked with her closely every day. We work on the same projects but handle different aspects. She needs information from me and I need information from her to do my job. We speak in person or on the phone numerous times each day. There are also emails, texts, and IMs depending upon the message. I would like to think I've learned boundaries. I am not one of those guys that ever really had opposite sex friends either.

I have developed a friendship with her. We have similar hobbies\interests and a similar sense of humor. I honestly think she sees me as a father figure. I have a daughter that's 27, and I have absolutely no romantic interest in a woman 17 years my junior. I have met her husband and spoken to him on the phone several times over the years. They have invited my wife and I to a few events over the years, but we've never met them in person because of schedule conflicts. She has a solid marriage, they seem happy in fact. I have super solid boundaries now. I have never commented on her appearance, we don't discuss any negative aspect of our relationships, there's absolutely nothing close to flirting going on either.

My company has been working remotely during the pandemic. She occasionally texts me after work hours, usually with some sort of question or wanting some sort of advice. This has increased lately because we're working remotely. She texted me something I thought my wife might find interesting at 8:51pm a few days ago and I showed my wife my phone. I truly thought nothing of it. My wife however wasn't too happy about it. She scrolled through about a year and a half, since I've had the phone, of texts and found nothing out of line. Nothing has been deleted either. Honestly, I value the coworker friendship more than I would any sexual relationship. It is far easier to find a woman to have sex with versus having a good platonic friendship. I would not risk that friendship for anything sexual. I would not insert myself into her marriage either. I've been there, no way in hell would I put another guy in that position. I have enough shit on my conscience, I sure as hell don't want to add anything else.

I guess the question is how can I make my wife understand I only have good intentions here? I've told her everything in this post and more and I'm not sure how to navigate this issue.

Zugzwang posted 5/26/2020 21:29 PM

You want the wife you betrayed to understand you value the friendship of another woman? Just let that sink in.

forgettableDad posted 5/27/2020 01:07 AM

Honestly, I value the coworker friendship more than I would any sexual relationship.
The real question is whether you value her friendship more than you value your marriage?

I was never much for female friends. I don't think men and women can be friends without some sexual attraction. And I've not been proven wrong so far.

Obvious advice?
Stop talking to your female coworker out of work hours - not to mention that as a senior you should know better than to do work outside of work hours, that's just bad example.

In the end. Your wife and your marriage should be more important. And if your wife is hurt by this interaction, well, you have your answer.

I'm going to be a bit mean here. And I'm sorry in advance but this entire post sounds like you're putting up a shield of bullshit because you like the attention.

MrCleanSlate posted 5/27/2020 06:46 AM


Your wife's spidey sense went up on the most recent text (you didn't share the content of it so no way for any of us to offer any thoughts on the message itself). That should be enough for you to have a talk with your wife as to why. Clearly you thought something of it too since you showed your wife.

I can tell you that my BW doesn't ignore her spidey senses anymore.

After my A and we were starting down the path of R I ended up 'firing' one of my biggest clients because she was a woman about my age and I interacted with her by phone, email, or in person almost daily and she was one of those who liked to chat on as well. I just didn't want the perception of anything to trigger my BW even though she never expressed any reservations to me. Cost me 25% of my income in the short term, but it was more important to remove a potential 'distraction' or trigger to my BW.

You may be above board, but perhaps the coworker is dipping her toes into the water a bit.

I guess the question is how can I make my wife understand I only have good intentions here?

You don't. You shared the text, you asked your wife what she thinks, she expressed concern. Now you need to accept that and make the needed change for the sake of your M.

If it were me I would say "Honey, you're right. I'm gonna stop all texts and after hours calls. Email and keep it work only. What else do you think I should do?"

Zugzwang posted 5/27/2020 10:27 AM

Just to point out....marriages being just fine and happily married...have nothing to do with choosing to become emotionally attached or invested with someone else. I was happily married. I wasn't happy with myself. I enjoyed having other female friends to just to talk to, till it became something more than "just friends". There is no such thing as "Just friends' with opposite sex co-workers that have happy marriages...if your wife isn't friends with the woman. If you are better friends with a woman than your wife is, then back off.

Buck posted 5/27/2020 12:26 PM

I seriously appreciate the input guys. It good to get other people's perspectives.

The after hours texting has only really been a recent thing since the covid situation. I think it's happened 3 times over the time I've known her. My wife and I are recent empty nesters. We downsized our home recently and moved close to downtown in a first rung, walkable neighbor. We bought a neat old craftsman house built in 1940. We've only been here since January and it's been super cool living in a neighborhood versus a sub division. My coworker is an amateur realtor and is into that whole scene. Her best friend is a realtor. Coworker helped us pick out which areas we were interested in and helped some with it. My wife is aware of this; I've been completely up front with everything. Most of our non work communication is about kids, our grandchild, restaurants, and the house thing. Coworker sometimes asks me for input on DIY home stuff, most recently she had a plumbing issue. The text the other night was a real estate listing for a swanky highrise condo downtown that was located on a park with an awesome view of the notable feature of our city's skyline. She joked and said that was how she and her H were going to do the empty nest thing. I showed my wife the listing pics, that's it.

I thought about this fdad, I get the opposite sex friends view you have. I've felt the same way. The only female friends I used have included benefits. I would like to think that therapy, books, and not wanting to feel like a POS anymore has changed me. I do like the attention, but not in a sexual way. I guess it's nice having a woman feel comfortable enough to interact with you without the sexual tension aspect. She doesn't see me as some asshole trying to get into her pants, she sees me as a decent, good guy with some modicum of character and respect. It feels good to be trusted in that way. It's also nice to work with someone you have some rapport with.

My wife's spidey senses did go off. She asked why I would be the person she would think to send that to, especially at that time of night. I didn't have an answer. I do see that this friendship does need to have drastically different boundaries compared to a my male buddies. The shit thing is I'm slowly realizing how infidelity has impacted our lives in so many ways. Stuff like this is never going away and that makes me sad.

Zugzwang posted 5/27/2020 15:01 PM

My emotional affair started out the same exact way. I wasn't the least bit interested in her in a sexual way. I enjoyed having someone respect me. She was 10 years younger than me. Just that she was a good employee and funny. The sexual didn't start till 6 months after she worked for me. When the flirting and teasing started going on while I was training her all day every day to be a shift manager. ^ months after she started working with me.

Buck posted 5/27/2020 18:23 PM

That's eye opening to hear zug. Maybe I am kidding myself. This really has been helpful, the more I think about it, the risk isn't worth the reward. I am going to back off of the friendship a bit, especially the after hours stuff.

I really do appreciate the discussion.

Justsomelady posted 5/27/2020 18:49 PM

Itís sad but probably for the best even if you both have good intentions. I text some with a former boss, and literally always and forever see him as a father. But I also was taken in like a daughter by him and his wife and babysat his kids at my first real job. So now years later I actually text his wife and daughters more than him... that said, I would never text him after hours, feels weird to take up his time when heís sitting watching Netflix w his wife. Anyway, I think we can be friends w them but it has to be a sort of distant friendship and/or somehow a friend of the family and the right dynamics and all. And boundaries like the above have said.

Zugzwang posted 5/28/2020 10:18 AM

the risk isn't worth the reward.

The fact that you said there is a reward should be the issue. risk vrs reward. You get a reward. That is emotional.

MrCleanSlate posted 6/3/2020 07:28 AM


So how did you handle things?

Buck posted 6/4/2020 11:04 AM

I do think friendships are rewarding and they can enrich your life. It's enjoyable interacting with folks. The reward from this friendship is not worth the potential pitfall of an affair developing, or if it hurts, or even bothers, my wife.

I have dialed it back. It's only been a few days but I don't respond to after hours texts or calls. I've tried to dial it back at work too. I do have to work with her, but I'm trying to keep it much more work focused. I'm trying to keep it distant like justsomelady said. These are tricky waters to navigate. I don't want to hurt my wife and I want to maintain a good working relationship with this person that's completely above board.

This has made me question so stuff about myself too. I really thought I was 'bulletproof' when it came to cheating again. I now wonder if I did like the attention from a younger attractive woman. Did I do the mind fuck thing where I used trivial justifications like I wasn't the one initiating the after hours stuff, but I damn sure responded, to cover my ass mentally? I would like to think I've changed and learned from my experiences, but now I'm wondering. I do appreciate the help here. It's good talking to others that have experienced similar circumstances.

ClassicOak posted 6/5/2020 04:23 AM

WS Only

[This message edited by SI Staff at 5:44 AM, June 5th (Friday)]

MrCleanSlate posted 6/5/2020 08:33 AM


You know, I wish I had reached out for help like this back before I started my A....

Exploring topics like this and seeing others feedback is part of the reason I am here years later, trying to keep that moral compass aligned.

JBWD posted 6/5/2020 14:32 PM

It feels good to be trusted in that way.

That sounds dangerously like a comparison to me.

Have you addressed your correction with your wife? Does she agree, and is she confident that's enough? Are you confident that's enough?

Buck posted 6/12/2020 12:02 PM

JB, I was no idea what you meant by comparison until I read about it in another thread. If you meant was I comparing this friendship, or my coworker, to my marriage or wife then no, I was not doing that at all.

I meant it's nice to not be seen as an asshole or some dude that's willing to cheat. It's good to see someone think you have some shred of integrity. Someone they can have a simple conversation with or share some trivial tidbit with and not have to do the verbal dance to fend off innuendo or other crap.

I will also admit the EA concept is pretty new to me and I'm far from knowledgeable about that topic.

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