I sometimes hear from people who admit to an inappropriate relationship that has not yet become physical. This can be very confusing because it can feel like you are cheating when, technically, you are not (at least physically.) Many people in this situation admit to having very deep feelings that can certainly seem 100% real. Some even believe that they are “in love” with the other person, but they can wonder if this is even possible when the relationship is not a physical one.
Someone might confess, “I know that this is going to sound stupid, but I feel like I’m cheating on my husband when I’m actually not, at least technically. Still, I am pretty sure that I am in love with a coworker. I’ve been working with this person for five years, but our relationship changed about a year ago when we got partnered together at work. We had to navigate a very stressful situation and we came to lean on one another. We spend a lot of time together and have had some very interesting and intimate conversations. I feel strongly that this person knows me much better than my own husband. More and more, I no longer talk about this man around my husband because I just feel that it is not right to do so. My boss has been talking about separating us and giving us new partners and it was then that I realized that I’m in love with this guy because the thought of not seeing him every day is almost more than I can bear. My best friend says that this is an emotional affair, but I’m not sure if it is because I don’t know if he feels the same way. I know that I am very important to him and I know that he does not want to end our work partnership, but I’m not sure if the romantic feelings are there on his end. When I told my friend that I was in love with this person, she said that this was ridiculous since we’ve never even held hands, much less kissed or had sex. She said he’s only an emotional crutch and that I need to end this before it ruins four lives. I know that the other man would never leave his wife. He is too invested in his children. But I do love him. Weirdly, I still believe that I also love my husband. Is my friend right? Can it not be love if it’s just emotional and not physical?”
I don’t doubt that it can feel like very intimate love. And honestly, I don’t think that it really matters how you define it. I don’t think it matters one bit whether you call it love or something else. I think what truly matters is how you proceed right now. Because at this time, you aren’t yet at the point of no return. Yes, you know deep down in your heart that this relationship is wrong and has become too close for comfort. But as of now, this hasn’t crossed that threshold of being a full blown, physical affair where you’re having sex with someone else. Take it from me when I say that this is an extremely difficult thing to recover from.
I know that it will be painful, but I don’t think it would be a bad idea to allow the work transfer to happen. I am not sure what good would come out of continuing to work with someone with whom you believe that you are in love. At worst, you will cross the line and physically cheat. At best, you will get into this deeper and deeper so that it will only hurt more when it ends. If you still love your husband and are committed to your marriage, then the best thing that you can do is to end the other relationship. Yes, you think that you love the other man, but there is another man who you also love – the man to whom you made a commitment and to whom you are married.
Since you seem certain that the other man won’t leave his wife and that you love your husband, there is really no upside to continuing with this work relationship. I know that you will miss the emotional support and connection, but you are better off seeking that from your spouse anyway. It might be a little easier if you tried to envision your spouse in the situation that you are now in. If your husband was working with someone with whom he thought he was in love, would you want for him to continue on or to end it, to come back to you, and to invest in your marriage? I think that if you honestly answer those questions, your path might be a little more clear. I applaud you for seeing the danger in this situation. Many people don’t actually stop to evaluate until the affair has become physical and the damage has already been done. You have the power to stop this before it could irretrievably damage your marriage.