Nobody starts their marriage intending to have an affair. Yet 50% of all married couples in the United States experience an affair during their lifetime.
But here's the shocker... 85% of those affairs begin at work.
As entrepreneurs, we have an opportunity to build businesses that fight against the pain, disruption, and damage an affair can bring to our companies. To lead with integrity and develop procedures which honor and protect the sacred relationships of our people.
But first, let's get the glossary straight. Two words come to mind on the topic. Two words with different definitions.
- Infidelity: The action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse.
- Adultery: Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.
In most cases, a workplace affair begins with infidelity that leads to adultery. Psychologists have credited the foundations of these risky involvements to "emotional affairs": inappropriate gestures, thoughts, text messages, and conversations that drive platonic friendship into romantic love. A relationship which ultimately breaches what is acceptable for someone within a marriage.
Today, I'm going to share a few simple boundaries you can put in place to protect yourself, your marriage, and your business from the dangers of a workplace affair.
1. Don't Underestimate The F-Word
I've seen far too many women say, "Well... he's just got a flirtatious personality." B.S. I don't buy that. Any married man who flirts with another woman is a man who doesn't love his wife.
Workplace flirtationships are workplace affairs.
As a married entrepreneur, it's important to establish yourself as someone who doesn't flirt back or flirt with other people. We live in a culture in which most people are too immature to live up to the morality that should control their physical body language and playful gestures. They believe it's reasonable, appropriate, and okay if it's "just flirting." But it's not.
Flirtation is the first bullet shot at the heart of your marriage.
Great leaders know where poor behaviors lead to. Don't take the bait regardless of how attractive or intriguing the gesture might be. There is a cost to protect your marriage and deflecting sexual signals and remaining true to your boundaries is one way you can pay your marriage's tuition.
2. Get A Divorce
If you're married and involved in a relationship titled "work wife" or "work husband" you're crossing the line. These relationships typically imply a special public bond between two people that almost always lead to inappropriate intimacy.
Clinical psychologist Willard F. Harley Jr. says, "If you work with someone daily, watching each other’s backs, helping each other with the problems of life, and on top of that give that person a special title... I wouldn’t say a romantic relationship is inevitable, but it sure is highly probable."
This type of titling isn't uncommon either. Recent studies show workplace coupling is becoming increasingly popular. It’s good news for single workers looking for love — but more treacherous for those in committed relationships. A study by career information site Vault.com found that 28 percent of those surveyed said they had an office “husband” or “wife,” while a survey of 640 male and female white-collar workers from information firm Captivate Network found that 65 percent of employees have or have had a “work spouse.”
Remember, men and women never crumble in a day. And once your "work spouse" has fulfilled your needs enough, you start looking forward to being with them the next day, then you can’t stop thinking of them — one thing leads to another, and next thing you know you’re having sex with your "work spouse" behind the back of your real spouse.
Ultimately, you're playing with fire. You're using a sacred title that opens the door for someone to playfully perform emotional and relational duties only strictly to be carried out by your real spouse. A spouse who has paid an incredible price for that title and likely doesn't appreciate the diminishing or sharing of their title with another person.
3. Bring A Third Party
I don't know about you, but I value my wife. I value the thousands of hours we've invested in each other. And because of that, I am not naive to the many threats looking to plant seeds of destruction in our marriage.
Last year, my wife and I made an agreement to never intentionally be left alone with another person of the opposite sex. That means if I have a work meeting with a woman, I bring someone with me. If I'm working from home on a day we have a female babysitter; I work from a coffee shop.
Note: I understand this may be difficult for some people due to uncontrolled work related duties. My main point is to drive awareness and increased intention not to be left alone with the opposite sex.
Let's not pretend that marriage is always flowers and rainbows. Many couples walk through difficult seasons of frustration, disconnect, and unsatisfaction.
A private work meeting with someone who knows you well, understands your troubles, appreciates you properly, and can offer you a sympathetic, conflict-free refuge from your annoying spouse, can quickly turn to emotional temptation. Now, let's add drinks at a hotel on a business trip into the picture, and you might begin to see how millions of businessmen and women give in to an impulse that leads to the destruction of their marriage.
Look, adding business practices for removing risky relationships is incredibly inconvenient. But it will never outweigh the thousands of hours of crying, lost sleep, and mental distress caused by a marriage destroyed by an inappropriate relationship that started over a private cup of coffee.
4. Drop It Like It's Hot.
If you've already crossed the line, stop. Not tomorrow, not after you discuss it with them, not after one last fling. Stop now. Stop completely. I understand your marriage may be in a difficult space. Your mind might be fighting to do the right thing. But statistics have proven time and time again that people regret affairs.
Instead, take a moment to remember the vows you made to one another. Be willing to reclaim a lost love. The right thing is almost always the hard thing. But often, your solution is simply paying more attention to what you have than what you're missing.
Remember, protecting your marriage is an ongoing commitment. It's keeping our hearts and our eyes on the one we vowed to love. People make mistakes, and I'm not going to tell you how to navigate back to reconciliation with your spouse, but the time to take the first step is now.
Leading a business that protects your marriage is no easy task. But it's a task that will pay more profit to the bottom line of your life than your company ever can.
Have you struggled with any of these areas? Or maybe you've seen these occur at work before. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
The Problem Behind The Problem
In my experience, people who cheat lack satisfaction and purpose. As a reaction, an affair becomes a mirage in the search for more significance. If you feel lost or lack clarity on what you're meant to do, my wife and I wrote these two books to help. They are short, interactive, and cheap. You can learn more by clicking the image below.