How to Back Away From an Emotional Affair With a Co-Worker

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Working relationships can become incredibly close. In many cases, people spend more waking hours with coworkers than they do with their families. However, when married people are involved, there is a danger of emotional attachments going beyond the point of friendship. Even if a relationship never goes to a physical point, there can be a risk that all of your emotional time and effort goes not to your mate but to this other person. This can be confusing for you emotionally and detrimental to your marriage or relationship. This is why emotional affairs, if you want a happy, healthy, lasting marriage, should be avoided. If you have found yourself in this situation, here are some ways to disentangle yourself:

Draw Lines
You need to sit down and figure out what lines you need to have to establish a little more distance. This can mean anything from not eating lunches with this person (which may not be possible if you are partners or on a travel team together) to avoiding conversations about your marriage or family. The exact lines you draw should depend on both your work situation as well as your comfort level. Everyone has their own set of things that are most intimate to them. This may be level of conversation, or being alone with someone, or it may be something unique to you. Take some time to figure out what kinds of things define your public/private line, and draw things there.

Bring Your Spouse Back Into Your Circle
Another important part of this is to re-establish emotional closeness with your spouse, if you have one. If you are single and your emotional affair partner is the married one, then schedule a lot of close friend time to ensure that your intimacy bank remains full while you are separating yourself from your work attachment. This will make you feel less lonely, and redirect your energies toward something better. If you don't have anyone you feel you can confide in in place of this person, consider beginning to see a therapist or join a support group. This will be especially helpful if your affair began as a way to share a difficult time in your life such as the death of a parent.

Consider Asking for Reassignment
If these strategies are not working, then you may want to try and find reassignment in a different department or with a different partner. Often, your HR representative or your supervisor can be a great ally in helping you to find a more comfortable work environment, especially when it means preventing a potential work fraternization conflict. If none of the strategies work, you may want to begin looking for a more comfortable work environment somewhere else, especially if it means saving your marriage.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "How to Back Away From an Emotional Affair With a Co-Worker," in, January 25, 2016, (accessed August 11, 2022).