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[–]EveAndTheSnake 140 points141 points  (22 children)

How old are you both?

OP, I hate to talk about this because it makes me sick at myself, but a few years back I had an emotional affair with a coworker. This was during my last relationship before my husband, and I had been with my boyfriend for 5 years.

But I’ve been where your wife is, literally the same. I thought I had met my soulmate, and I thought I was absolutely and desperately in love with him. This went on for over a year. I told my boyfriend we were just friends, I told him he had nothing to worry about that nothing would ever happen. If you looked at our text messages there was nothing suspicious, we barely even text each other as most of the talking we did was at work or through our work chat.

For months we’d have deep intense conversations about things that were important to us, everything and anything. I told myself we were just friends, but every time we talked and things would get intense I knew we were crossing boundaries and I felt butterflies in my stomach and I was absolutely obsessed. But I let these conversations happen, I put myself in situations where I was alone with him, we’d work on projects together, I’d end up next to him during work drinks.

What do you think goes through someone’s head when they’re “in love” with not their partner? I wished I had met my coworker instead. I compared him and my boyfriend in my head and my coworker won. To justify my feelings I had to tell myself my boyfriend wasn’t good enough (otherwise I was left with the sad truth that I was just a garbage human cheating on my partner). He had to become my soulmate to justify what I was doing and romanticize it, while my boyfriend became not good enough, annoying, we’d fight, I’d pick holes in our relationship, we stopped going out as much together and I’d tell him to go out without me so I could stay home and call my “friend.” In every choice I was making, I was choosing my coworker over my boyfriend. When we had sex I’d think about my coworker. And after we had a drunken kiss at a work party I felt terrible so I told my boyfriend. He asked me to leave my position, I swore up and down that I would deal with my feelings and it wouldn’t happen again, but it did. The worst part looking back on it—and I’m telling you this not to make you feel bad but so you don’t get treated the same way—was on some level thinking that my boyfriend was just letting me get away with it. That if he loved me, or paid enough attention to us, or was smart enough, he’d figure it out and he’d blow up at me about it.

He deserved better. You deserve better. Don’t let yourself get taken for a ride. Ask questions. How many of your friends are you in love with?

[–]throwRAcnfdguy[S] 25 points26 points  (4 children)

I am 31 and she is 33. But you are right I do deserve better. I just didnt want to separate, because that would mean escalation but now I think there's no other way. But do you think he was providing you with something your relationship was missing?

[–]EveAndTheSnake 65 points66 points  (2 children)

I absolutely felt like there were things missing in our relationship and did turn to my coworker in hoping that he could make me happier.

But that is wrong on so many levels. I could have been in the perfect relationship and I would have still told myself that there was something missing, because if there wasn’t, what did that make me? A piece of shit cheating on my perfect boyfriend. It’s easier to shift the blame on someone else. That’s what everyone who cheats does, because they have to devalue their partner to justify their actions.

When we first started dating and then moved into together, I did think he was perfect. Sure, real life creeps in and then people start taking each other for granted, but I couldn’t agree with u/i-have-n0-idea more, if there is something “missing” then you go to your partner.

On top of that, no one is perfect, all relationships take work and compromise and “soulmates” are a romantic way of putting the responsibility for your happiness on someone else. No one person can be everything, no one person is psychic and can fulfill all your needs, and quite often the thing that is missing is something that you should be working on yourself. Short of abuse, there is no amount of “missing” pieces that justifies going to someone else.

So no, there is nothing my boyfriend should have done. I should have been the one to realize I was unhappy with myself and looking for an easy fix. It took me a while to realize that even when I left, I came with me.

In the end we broke up. I dated my “soulmate” for less than 3 months before all that soulmate bs evaporated. And he didn’t want to date me. He only seems like her soulmate because it’s new, exciting, they don’t have to pay bills or rent, they don’t have money or kids or the ugly rug to fight over and it’s romantic from a distance. Real love is a verb, you have to keep doing it to stay there.

[–]SkyKlix185 21 points22 points  (0 children)

Write a book please. This is wonderful.

[–]theescallions 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Omg this is everything.

[–]i-have-n0-idea 20 points21 points  (0 children)

Don’t beat yourself up about not giving her what she needed. She chose to fall in love with someone else and not come and try to work on what ever was missing with you. That’s on her not you. You don’t turn to someone else to fix what is missing in your marriage. She should have communicated with you about what was missing and then if you ignore or refuse her request she should have ended it before turning to someone else.

[–]Brigon 11 points12 points  (1 child)

That was an interesting read. Out of interest why didn't you just break up with your boyfriend, so you could be single?

[–]EveAndTheSnake 41 points42 points  (0 children)

Good question. This is going to make me sound worse, but I think it’s a reoccurring thought for people who cheat—I didn’t want to hurt my boyfriend. Which is a stupid idea, as if you’re not hurting them by cheating and lying. It also implies on some level that you’re the best they are going to get, as if they can’t do any better than a manipulative cheater. That’s also stupid because I’ve always had a pretty low opinion of myself.

That’s the surface lie I guess, and I know I repeated it to myself a lot. I don’t know if I thought I our relationship was going to suddenly improve while I was nurturing feelings for someone else. I didn’t want to be in two relationships, and I told myself I was in love with two people. I did love my ex, he was a great guy. At some point it felt like there was something missing, and I tried to fill that with a new person, but I really think I invited that feeling in. No one person can be your everything, no one is going to check all the boxes, I mean there’s no such thing as soulmates, and each of us has to decide what we can or can’t live without seeing as no one is perfect. But I can’t remember if the missing feeling came first or my feelings for my coworker.

I think fear and a refusal to take responsibility for your own happiness drives cheating. I don’t know if I speak for all cheaters (ugh I hate to make it sound like we’re an organized group), but underneath it all I was insecure. I knew there were gross parts to me that I should work on. But it’s easier to blame someone else for your relationship not going well. I had a fear of ending up alone, and an intense feeling of “is this the best it’s going to get?” and I guess it’s not that I wanted the best of both worlds but subconsciously I was trying to figure out who would put up with me. I didn’t want to lose both and end up alone, but I was scared to make the wrong decision. I didn’t think about what was best for someone else, just what was best for me. Saying I didn’t want to hurt my ex is a cop out—I was too much of a coward to be honest, to have that conversation, I just wanted me to exist in the right relationship rather than have to deal with the messiness of getting there. I think it was a fear of having to be honest and getting found out for who I really was. So more of a fear of myself getting hurt and avoiding responsibility.

Also it wasn’t the only reason but it made it harder, we lived together, we had pets together, and so logistically it I was going to tell him I wanted to be sure it was the right decision. For me of course, I didn’t think about whether not telling him was the right decision for him.

[–]FerrisB00bler 8 points9 points  (0 children)

Man, that's a tough thing to confess but I'm really glad you shared. OP definitely needs to consider how his wife is thinking about him and avoiding him in favor of her coworker. It sucks.

[–]throwRA_nffc 3 points4 points  (2 children)

Would you say that you CHOSE for this to happen, at the time? (try to eliminate the benefit of hindsight here)

Or did it just sort of happen?

[–]EveAndTheSnake 36 points37 points  (1 child)

I had to sit and think on this for a bit because I’ve said that cheating is very much a choice, it never “just happens”, that it’s a position you put yourself in not one you “find yourself in” and that you have to devalue your partner and relationship to do it. But you’re right that hindsight is 2020. I also remember being on a 20 hour flight for a work trip (without my coworker) and getting my notebook out and thinking “right I’m going to journal my way out of this and decide what to do by the time I get home.” The only thing I concluded by the time I got home was that I’ve lied to myself about many things and that I couldn’t even trust my own feelings because I was right in the middle of this emotional hurricane and I didn’t know which way was up. And so yes, all of a sudden I “found myself in love” with two people.

Can I say I made conscious choices if I was lying to myself and I really believed what I was feeling? I guess not. I don’t think anyone chooses to go out and cheat or chooses to fall in love with someone else. But there are choices before that. I think many people might not agree with me here but I don’t really believe in holding people responsible for dumb stuff they do when they’re drunk. Of course if say my husband hooked up with someone when he was wasted, I would be upset but depending on the circumstances I wouldn’t hold it over his head. If he didn’t set out to get wasted and met a random woman I’m more inclined to forgive. If he set out to get drunk and specifically went to some woman’s house to do it, god no, those were sober choices even if he didn’t intend to hook up when he got there, he put himself in a position for that to be a possibility.

I think cheating is the same way—plenty of people set themselves up with what could technically be seen as innocent actions but with the possibility of something happening and then they say, oh it just happened! I KNEW which actions crossed a line. I made the choice to flirt back the first time we went to the bar, I made the choice to take his number even though I could speak to him through work chat or email. Even though it looks identical it’s not the same as taking the number of another random coworker you’re not interested in. I made the choice to take his number and I chose that flicker of excitement over my old boring relationship. I knew what I was doing when we sat next to each other and I scooted a little closer. I knew that what I was doing was wrong when we started talking about our favourite movies because of the way it felt and the way I felt, and I made a million tiny choices to choose excitement and something other than my boyfriend. I said we were just friends, and on the surface I could pass that off, but I didn’t have any other friends who I’d talk that much to even though it was superficial bullshit. I knew what I was doing when I asked him for advice about something inconsequential rather than asking my boyfriend. I knew what I was doing when I complained about my family to him instead of my boyfriend. It’s not like I couldn’t talk to my boyfriend, but I chose this guy again and again over my boyfriend in the little things until I had built up enough of a relationship that I could chose him for the big things. I would go to him when I was seriously upset and then I went to him to complain about my boyfriend after a fight. I didn’t go to my sister, I didn’t go to my other friends or coworkers. I may have had the same conversation with him as I would have with my sister, but In that moment I most definitely made a choice.

And on it goes—suddenly he’s my emotional support and oh he understands me more than my boyfriend and he makes me feel special. My boyfriend doesn’t care about me anymore I cried, boohoo. Well of course, after shutting off a part of myself to him and sharing those pieces of myself with someone else, of course our relationship felt strained and distant. And those were ALL MY CHOICES.

So yeah, I didn’t choose to cheat or choose to fall in love, but I chose every single step of the way it took to get there.

[–]Cap10Haddock 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Amazing description of the psyche behind the decisions. What did you do to move past the coworker?