The Humanist Dilemma: Is My Married Coworker/Best Friend Interested in Me?

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Vibes From Married Coworker: One of my female colleagues and I have become quite close during the last few months. We enjoy each other’s company and often agree that we are each other’s closest friends. Although we don’t share a romantic relationship, I like her more than just a friend, but I have never openly expressed this to her.

I have met her husband a few times earlier, but realized in the last few months that she is now avoiding me even saying hello to her husband. There have been a few occasions when her husband came to our workplace and she said, “I don’t want you to talk to him.” On one other occasion, I was supposed to visit her home but canceled at the last moment, and her reaction was, “Oh God! I totally forgot that he was going to be at home that time. It’s good you cancelled.”

While I have do have romantic feelings for her (although never expressed), I am not too sure what her feelings are for me. However, I am puzzled by her new behavior of trying to avoid any contact (even a brief “hi”) between me and her husband.

Can you tell me what’s happening here?

—What It Is Ain’t Exactly Clear

Dear Clear,

I can’t tell what your colleague is up to—and perhaps she can’t either—but what is clear is that you are flirting with a married woman who wants to hide you from her husband, which indicates she feels guilty about your relationship. People don’t typically forbid their BFFs from casually greeting their spouse or visiting their home when hubby is there. I also can’t tell if you are male or female, but the advice is the same: beware of getting romantically involved with a married person. I’m not saying that from any right/wrong, moral, or ethical perspective, but as an outsider who can see the world of hurt coming your way.

The fact that your colleague suddenly doesn’t want you to intersect with her husband reveals she’s up to something with you that she doesn’t want him to find out about. I know that “the heart wants what it wants,” and that everyone, regardless of their personal guidelines and commitments, can be tempted to stray. I also know that some people find happily-ever-after with a person who was married to someone else when they met.

But I also know that pursuing a relationship with a married person will result in pain—very likely for the spouse, possibly for the “other person” (that would be you), and even for the one with the cheating heart. It’s pretty clear from her sneaky behavior that she is not in an open marriage where she and her husband give each other permission to play the field. Additionally, many married people will carry on affairs with absolutely no intention of leaving their spouses—leaving you at their beck-and-call and eventual disposal.

As if that weren’t enough to give you a chill, you are particularly vulnerable here because you are work colleagues. Should you have an affair that becomes common knowledge at the office, it would very likely jeopardize your jobs. Should her husband find out, both of you could be targets for recrimination or even violence (and he knows where you work). Should she pursue an affair and then drop you, you may find it impossible to bear seeing her at work every day.

And what’s the possible upside? You could have an enjoyable relationship with her. But will you constantly wonder if she’s on the lookout for another extracurricular activity? Yes, that can happen in any relationship, but often a person who isn’t inclined to take one commitment seriously will do the same with the next.

Whether you choose to heed it or not, my advice is to steer clear. Revert to a strictly professional relationship until such time as she makes a clean break from her husband and communicates what she wants with you. And don’t be waiting around for that to happen. Figure out what you want in a relationship and pursue it with someone who is free to reciprocate.