A work crush and a lonely marriage

Lots of work stuff going on this week ...

Hi Meredith,

By way of introduction, I'll say that I'm in my mid-30s and married for over a decade. Recently I've found myself having very strong feelings for a work colleague who is also married. We have similar interests and have worked together over the past few years.

In the meantime, my marriage has been somewhat rocky for years. We got married right after college -- in retrospect, probably way too soon. While we are friends, the romantic spark has gone out. My spouse is a loner, hates to go out or spend money, and can be controlling and unsociable. I like to travel and go out with friends, and mostly pursue those activities occasionally and separately (with his begrudging understanding). I'm married ... and lonely. We do not have an emotionally or intellectually satisfying relationship, and he has no interest in counseling. We argue a lot. I have started to see an individual therapist.

Back to the situation at hand: I recognize that my feelings for my coworker are probably just symptoms of my marital dissatisfaction, and I have not acted on them. I feel guilty, but the feelings are also very pleasurable. They remind me that I can actually feel something after all. If my radar isn't off, I think that my coworker is having similar feelings. Let me be clear: I'm not interested in breaking up either of our marriages. If our circumstances were different … well, advice wouldn't be required.

But I need to be able to continue to work with this colleague. Do you have suggestions for mentally moving on while maintaining a friendship and professional partnership? Additionally, any suggestions for making sure that the distraction of my coworker is not the catalyst for deciding to leave my marriage?

– Workaholic, Boston

I'm glad that this coworker reminded you that you're fun to be around and that you can click with someone, Workaholic. But obviously, it ends there. Let him be the catalyst for you making big decisions about your marriage. Let him be the catalyst for you telling your husband that you're lonely and that you need help.

Ask your husband to join you in therapy for your benefit. Sometimes therapy-phobic partners are more willing to see a professional when it's somebody else's counselor. He'd be a special guest at your therapy session. The idea should be less intimidating than couples counseling.

As for maintaining boundaries with the work guy, well, it's sort of about mind over matter and just doing the right thing. What do you do when you're trying to stop yourself from indulging in other temptations? You set rules, develop good habits, and find distractions. You remind yourself that it would also be pretty lonely to pursue another woman's husband. You control your own fantasy narrative so that it doesn't involve him.

This work crush has made you realize that you require more from your relationship. You'll need all your energy to figure out whether you make this marriage work, so please, focus on what's happening at home.

Readers? If her husband won't go to therapy, what next? When you're lonely, how do you stop yourself from having destructive fantasies? Does it matter if the work crush is reciprocated? Help.

– Meredith