Best friend having affair?
Q: I have a friend who is 42, married for 18 years. Her husband is wonderful man who respects her, treats her like a queen, and is always home for her. But lately she has had a strange relationship with him. She says she loves him but isn't in "in love" with him. She "needs space."
The change started when she began working for her current boss in a small repair shop. Lately, she has become close friends with him, meets him to watch sunsets, has dinner with him, and they go to art shows. I'm worried about her. She says they are just "good" friends and nothing has or will happen between them because she respects him, but she sneaks out of the house to meet him to go places, and they call each other all the time after hours and on the weekends. She says he's lonely and she feels sorry for him after he ended a four-year-relationship with his girlfriend. She did comment to me that she was sexually attracted to him. Should I be worried? Is her boss a manipulator? What does he want from her? Should I say something and try to prevent the unthinkable?
-- Worried Best Friend
Dr. Susan: Dear Worried: You have every reason to be, since your friend has already embarked on an affair. She may be lying to you about "nothing" having happened, just as she is lying to her husband about her whereabouts. At the very least, she is carrying on a passionate emotional affair with her boss. It may be too late for you to stop her at this point -- not that friends have ever had a very good track record at keeping each other from tumbling into foolish affairs.
More misery has been caused by both women and men thinking that they have to be "in love" with their long-time mates -- that just plain loving them and sharing gratifying lives isn't enough. Certainly, the hormonal gush that accompanies sneaking around with someone new is much more physically exciting than remaining loyal to a tried-and-true partner. It's the sneaking and lying that provide the jolt. But when her betrayal is discovered -- and it almost always is -- she may deeply regret the not-so-fun jolt she's caused her kind and trusting husband. I suspect she's deluding herself about her intentions in order to keep enjoying these shenanigans. So she feels sorry for her boss because he's lonely. Poor baby! And thus she owes him the breakup of her marriage? The throwing away of her entire value system (assuming she was reasonably ethical before this)?
You ask what the guy has in mind. It's obvious, don't you think? But really, why would he care that she's married if she so clearly doesn't value her marriage? If this were my friend, I couldn't resist telling her to please get my book Loving in Flow, and especially to read two parts: about the insanity and shortsightedness of affairs, and about how to bring novelty and a fresh sense of flow back into a marriage that's been left unattended to for too long.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.