DEAR NATALIE: I am a married man with children. My wife and I have been married for many years, but our relationship had rough patches and we fought a lot. However, through counseling, we were able to work through it. I have never cheated on my wife, even when things were rocky between us. We have a good sex life, we get along much better now and we are best friends. Our lives are not perfect, but in general, things are good. But I have a problem. I have become increasingly attracted to a single female co-worker of mine. It is more than just a physical attraction. My co-worker is not more attractive than my wife, but she has other qualities. I am developing strong feelings for her. We are friends. I have tried everything I know how to bury my feelings. I mostly avoid her at work, but nothing seems to help. I think telling my co-worker about my feelings would be a mistake because it would make things uncomfortable at work and probably hurt my career or hers. Also, I don’t want to hurt my wife. I don’t know what to do. — DROWNING
DEAR DROWNING: Before you decide to make any rash decisions, look at this situation as rationally as possible. You need to question where your feelings for this woman originate. It seems like you enjoy a challenge within your relationships. Your marriage was rocky, but you fought for your relationship and wanted things to work out. You didn’t stray and stayed the course. You clearly want your wife and love her. But now that the stress of wanting your relationship to work are somewhat behind you because the relationship is in a better place you are bored and perhaps in need of a new challenge.
Enter the female co-worker.
Maybe it started as an innocent crush on a pretty colleague. Then you started building your desire and you projecting ideals onto her. She is just a person. She only has as much power over you as you give her. Then you start thinking to yourself that if you could do it all over again, you could have a better relationship with this woman than you ever had with your wife. Desire increases. Chasing after the unknown, chasing after someone you can’t have, chasing after your own regrets — all of these things will only lead to frustration and a “drowning” feeling, as you put it.
Do you really want to risk everything you have worked so hard for, everything you have built over the years, everything you struggled to keep together, for a woman you don’t really know and who may not even feel the same way?
Let’s say you tell your wife about these feelings. How would she react? She would be devastated, hurt, angry, frustrated, and she may even leave you. Then, if you approach your co-worker and tell her that you left your wife for her, she may be scared or upset, particularly if she doesn’t reciprocate your feelings. You could be viewed as someone who is sexually harassing a colleague.
Learn to live with your feelings for this woman at work. Stop giving her so much power. It is perfectly natural to find other women attractive, but when you get stuck in your head the way, you are only going to stress yourself out. We always want what we can’t have. Redirect your energies to your wife. Find new ways to have fun together. Remember why you married her in the first place.
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Don’t spend too much time with one person at a networking event. Work the room. It is OK to end a conversation by saying, “I don’t want to hold you up and I know we both want to mingle, but I really enjoyed our conversation.” Then ask for a business card and follow up at a later date.
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci
DEAR NATALIE: My husband seems to think it is OK to run red lights. There have been five instances in the last week where he gunned it through red lights as they changed from yellow. He goes through periods like this where his driving is very aggressive. He coaches a girls' sport in the summer and his driving after games is terrible. If there is a loss, he takes it out in his driving and on other drivers. When I protest, he tells me to shut up. I am at the end of my rope and don’t even want to go anywhere with him. I can say something, but it is going to make it worse. I just want some pointers so I don't end up divorced over this. -- PASSIVE PASSENGER
DEAR PASSIVE PASSENGER: This doesn’t sound like a driving problem, this sounds like a anger management issue that he is channeling through his driving. Look, we all have our moments. We yell at a driver in front of us when we are really frustrated about work. We gun through a light because we are running late and feeling entitled. We take our aggression, anxiety and frustration out on the road and the people on it because it is safe. Everyone is in their cars. We can yell and never see someone again. We feel empowered in our anger in these moments. And where does it get us? Heart rate goes up, feelings intensify, and we rarely get where we are going any faster.
I would have this conversation with your husband again but not in the car. Do not do this when you are both in the vehicle and he is more likely to verbally accost you. Being told to shut up is disrespectful and unnecessary. I would wait until he is in a calmer head space and bring this up, focusing on how his yelling made you feel.
You could say something like this: “I want to talk about how your driving is impacting me and everyone around us. Telling me to ‘shut up’ the other day was hurtful and has been weighing on me. I love you, and I’m worried that you are angry about something other than driving. Can we talk about what is really bothering you?”
If he refuses to discuss it, tell him you aren’t going to be in the car while he’s driving until he opens up, and he isn’t going to be driving with your kids, either. It sounds harsh, but he is putting other people in danger, not just himself. Stick to your principles and wait. He may come around. If he does decide to tell you what is going on, just listen. Do not interject. Allow him to express himself, then work towards a solution together. You are on the same team, not adversaries and he needs to know that when he is hurting, you both are.
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)