I’m married but have fallen for my coworker

What dating/relationship problem do you have?

I'm a 40-something male who's semi-happily married to my wife, but recently developed romantic feelings for a coworker and feel conflicted about my current situation. My wife and I have been married seven years. Up until two years ago, we had what I considered a solid marriage. However, over the last two years our conflicts have become more frequent and significant, causing a rift in our marriage. It's made me question whether our marriage will even last.

While wrestling with my marriage issues, I developed a friendship with a female coworker. We work in the same company, but in different departments. She joined our company over a year ago. She's single and 10 years younger. My coworker and I discovered an unexpected bond over a previously unknown common interest that led to us chatting more at work, followed by being each other's lunch companions for a while. My coworker has always known that I'm married, although I never talked to her about the issues in my marriage until very recently.

As we spent more time together, our lunches started feeling more like dates, and then ... my company recently had a party where after the outing, my coworker and I ended up being the only ones to go out for drinks. We ended up spending over four hours at the bar chatting, flirting, and really opening up about relationships. It was then that I told her about the issues I was having in my marriage, along with how I was starting to develop romantic feelings for her. My confession caught her a bit by surprise and she very politely told me that while she's flattered, she doesn't want to be caught in the middle of my marriage issues or to be a contributing factor. She told me she's more than willing to be a good friend, but that it'd be very risky to proceed with anything more. I can't say I was surprised by her reaction and response.

While we've maintained good social banter in the office since this happened, we haven't spent any time together outside the office nor had lunch together since. It's been hard for me because I feel I've been doing most of the outreach to her. While she's been responding, I can also tell she's refraining to an extent. It's been a challenge for me, too, in that I can't seem to stop thinking about her both in the office as well as outside of work. I find myself being with my wife, and even when we're having good moments, part of my mind is on my coworker. I thought I had a grasp on how to proceed, but I don't. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

– Distracted

I don't believe in the seven-year itch, but it does seem relevant to this conversation. Marriages can feel difficult after this many years. Routines can become ... routine. Sometimes there are distractions in the form of cute coworkers.

The emotional distance between you and your wife made it that much easier for you to fall for someone else. But it ends there. You addressed it with the coworker in question and her response was very clear. She's not interested in what you can offer. That's that.

Now it's time to work on your marriage, something you haven't really talking about doing at all. You mention good moments with your wife, but what causes them? How can they be duplicated? You don’t tell us whether your wife is happy in this relationship. Do you know? Have you asked?

If you're not already in therapy, talk to her about the possibility of counseling. She knows you've been fighting more. She should want to figure out why.

Treat the other relationship like a breakup – because it is. You're pretending something might happen with this coworker, but it won't. She doesn't want to pursue this. When you find yourself thinking about her, remember that what she gave you was a rejection. Be sad. Grieve it. Take a long walk if you need to. Then force yourself to focus on next steps at home.

– Meredith

Readers? How do you get over a crush when you're trying to work on a marriage?