Essays & Confessions

How Having A Work Husband Ruined My Marriage

By Tuesday, May 04, 2021

$106,400 + tax

 …and counting. That’s the price my less-than-one-year affair from 2019-2020 cost me and is still costing me.

I know it’s uncommon to “give it all away” at the beginning of a story, but if you think the money I lost is the climax to this confession, you’re sadly mistaken. It may be a hook but it’s far from the worst part. And to be honest, a year later, I’m still paying for it.

Back in 2019, I worked at a highly recognizable media company for years. At the time, I was the director of my department. At this particular company, we have a ton of events and “happy hours” and to be honest, I can honestly say that I can see how functioning alcoholism can develop in the entertainment and fashion industries, but that’s not the point of this story.

What is, however, is the fact that I developed somewhat of a “work husband” by year three at my job. He worked in another department but still within the same umbrella of work and we’d often collaborate on certain projects. Now, to be clear, at the time I was 29, married for two years, and never once had an affair, let alone a work affair or anything remotely close to a work husband. It’s not uncommon for hookups to take place in my line of work and especially at my job, considering we have so many posh industry parties from New York to LA, make pretty good money as young adults and again, we’re always in a lax and fun atmosphere.

Anyway, I met this guy *Calvin who was recently hired in the music department. I’d see him in passing in the hallways since we had an open-floorplan at my former gig. While he and I both had actual private offices, we found ourselves more on the floor either speaking with fellow coworkers, having lunch in one of the many common areas at the job. etc. So it didn’t take long before “flirty eyes” became “Hi’s” and “Hi’s” became full-blown conversations.

I found out Calvin was single. Clearly, I was not. I’d been married since 27 and my marriage was great! Out of respect for my household, I refuse to give this false narrative that I had some disastrous relationship and was desperately seeking attention elsewhere. Nope. I’m just human, somewhat young and enjoyed the feeling of flirting with a new friend.

It didn’t take long before our lunch dates went from coincidental to intentional. Before when Cal and I met for lunch, it was just a run-in. Now, we were actually planning them. We had a Microsoft Teams chat and would sometimes DM one another a casual “Going to lunch?” or “Let me know when you plan on taking your break,” so that we could sync our time away. I also found myself putting a little more effort into my appearance before we met. Meaning, while I didn’t fully dress to impress Cal, at minimum, I would make sure my makeup was to par minutes before we’d meet.

It started off so casual. I’ll admit, for the most part, I knew what I was doing — I was flirting with my co-worker and flirting with the idea of it being something more. But I had zero intentions of having sex. I always grew up wanting to be the girl who takes more risks but not at the expense of feeling like a piece of sh*t after. The reality is, I feel guilty about every single thing and I can’t do anything casual without overthinking it to death. But for some reason, flirting with Calvin and having a work husband didn’t feel bad; so long as we kept it at that level and that level only.

“I’ll admit, for the most part, I knew what I was doing — I was flirting with my co-worker and flirting with the idea of it being something more. But I had zero intentions of having sex.”

Not to call out my peer group, but I’ve had both guy and girl friends who’ve had affairs and not thought twice about it. Sh*t would only hit the fan if or when they got caught, but as far as their conscience went, it was pretty clear. They didn’t feel any less in love with their partner when they did the deed and they simply viewed sex (and giving into sexual urges) as natural. At my job, I’ve seen both men and women coworkers do the walk of shame everywhere from the bathroom stall at an event venue or holiday party to actual hotel rooms on shared floors. This is mainly because our company would often rent out blocks of rooms for us to stay in for our out-of-town events. This also made elevator rides to the lobby pretty awkward.

So when it came down to me and my work colleague flirting, I guess you can say I didn’t feel guilty because I knew how bad it could be, and I’d convinced myself that I would never let it go there. I actually applauded myself for knowing how to “teeter the line” but not cross it. I didn’t feel like Cal replaced my husband’s love. I didn’t even feel like he filled a void in my marriage or love life. It was none of those cliché movie things.

However, I did feel he added a bit of spice to my overall life that I liked. It felt scandalous and safe. I could flirt with him and have lunch and still go back home to my husband, guilt-free. I didn’t even think about Calvin outside of work hour; he didn’t “spill” his way into my marriage at all. It was two separate entities — my life with my husband at home and my life with Cal at work. And I enjoyed that.

Until I didn’t. In the fall of 2019, my company held the biggest event of the year. This took place in LA (I live in New York). This event is riddled with pre-parties and after-parties and we’re allowed to invite one guest, so I invited a friend who already lived in LA.

“I didn’t even think about Calvin outside of work hour; he didn’t “spill” his way into my marriage at all. It was two separate entities — my life with my husband at home and my life with Cal at work. And I enjoyed that.”

I felt amazing. Not only had I received a promotion a month prior to the event, I felt like I really had life figured out. Young, successful, great husband, awesome hair and makeup for the night and backstage passes and VIP access to shows and events, to show my best friend in LA how much I’m killing it at my job. Calvin was also there, of course, and it was fun and flirty vibes as always.

Around 3 am the night of the big LA event, we all went back to our hotel rooms and you guessed it, he was booked at my hotel under the same block of rooms the company expensed. He was just a floor below me. I offered my friend to stay at my hotel since I had a huge suite and she pretty much went straight to sleep considering all the open bars we hit up that night. Calvin and I texted one another throughout the night and I let him know when I got in safely. He asked if I wanted to come to his room and I’ll admit, I did. Again, whether you choose to believe it or not, at this point, I still didn’t think anything would happen. I thought I had total mind and body control over myself and just wanted a flirtatious nightcap to put me to sleep and make my “play-it-safe” lifestyle feel that much more glamorous and semi-scandalous.

Well, it was a little more than that. I take full responsibility since nothing was forced or coerced. To be honest, I came in for the kiss first. A part of me decided that a “kiss” is still nothing to phone home about but just enough to make me feel like I’m a badass in the group chat. When we kissed, I felt everything *but* guilty. It felt good and PG-13 enough. I even said, “No, I should go,” in true bad rom-com fashion. He complied and eased off of me but I came back in again. It felt fun, it felt innocent and I couldn’t wait to tell my friend that I “actually did that!” 

But then kissing turned into making out which turned into full-blown sex. What sucks is that the instant we hooked up, guilt riddled my mind and emotions so bad, I couldn’t enjoy myself. I could’ve stopped at any time but by then, I felt I already f*cked up and crossed the line and may as well try to finish.

But I couldn’t. I hated myself in the moment and I felt like a piece of crap after. What was supposed to be a fun brunch by the poolside on the rooftop with my girlfriend in the morning turned into me crying, confessing what I’d done, asking what I should do and having zero room to even stomach a fruit cocktail. What made matters worse is that the 5 1/2 hour flight back home to New York was hell. I felt bad because I had no plans to tell my husband. I tried to file it as a one-off but I knew that going back to bed with with my partner would feel awful. Plus I had to fake enthusiasm for my post-work event recap for him, which I always told him after my trips.

“But then kissing turned into making out which turned into full-blown sex. What sucks is that the instant we hooked up, guilt riddled my mind and emotions so bad, I couldn’t enjoy myself. I could’ve stopped at any time but by then, I felt I already f*cked up and crossed the line and may as well try to finish.”

So what happened after? Well, nothing at first. From the moment I left Calvin’s hotel room, I texted and called to say I felt like the lowest of human beings. And while he did try to extend some level of sympathy, he simply couldn’t. He wasn’t entirely emotionally unavailable and he did respond to my texts and calls. He just failed to care as much as I did about the situation. I realized this wasn’t his fault; I was married. He wasn’t. And again, casual sex is so regular in this industry and at this age, right? (insert sarcasm).

Without a formal announcement, we both knew to scale back from one another when we got back to the New York offices. For me, it was the guilt. For him, I think the thrill was gone. We still smiled and said ‘Hey’ in passing but our lunch dates were done for.

I didn’t tell my husband for months. I thought it was okay. I even convinced myself that my affair with my work husband made me appreciate my husband and marriage more. I lied to myself to pacify my guilt. When I watched Sex And The City 2, I saw a scene where Miranda told Carrie that after the pain of Steve’s confession of cheating with a coworker (once), that she often wishes she never found out because all that pain wasn’t worth it for one slip up. In my own delusion, I took that as a sign to not tell my husband.

However, months later and the guilt still lived in me. In February 2020, I decided to tell my husband everything. It was hurtful for him. A part of me even hoped he would tell me that he cheated too. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that out loud but yes, I hoped that if my husband cheated or had a slip anytime during our relationship or marriage and confessed to it, it would even the playing field. That we could forgive one another and chalk it up to our “last hoorah” as 20-somethings since we both turned 30 that year.

But no. He had no admission of guilt. And as toxic as that sounds, I think that made me feel worse. So in what I thought was a noble act and dramatic gesture of loyalty, I quit my job that month. At the time, my salary was $104,000 / year and I was the only one with benefits (my husband has an equally sustainable job but no benefits). Well, COVID happened soon after and it was hell finding work for a while. This means I lost my well-paying job due to my rash mistake and even rasher actions, thereafter.

“A part of me even hoped he would tell me that he cheated too. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that out loud but yes, I hoped that if my husband cheated or had a slip anytime during our relationship or marriage and confessed to it, it would even the playing field.”

My husband and I also signed up for couples counseling, which is about $400 a month and we attended for about six months ($2,400). We decided to quit in order to save money but also, because we felt we could work on the rest ourselves, considering we were both now at home.

It’s been over a year since my confession and since I’ve worked at my old job or spoke to my ex-work husband. I still torture myself with guilt and I also have horrible anxiety. My husband was hurt from the experience and I can tell he has taken steps to forgive and forget, but every time I feel he is acting any less than his kind self towards me, I convince myself that he hates me. I know this is all in my head. And pre-affair, I seriously would’ve chalked up any indifferent attitude of his to him simply having a bad day. However, I am constantly on the edge and feeling at fault. To be honest, I’m punishing myself worse than anyone else could ever punish me.

As for where we stand now? Well, I’ve been working remotely for the past year. For months I lived off of unemployment. Luckily, in New York, unemployment was about $504 a week, and at the time, I received the additional $600 a week from emergency surplus, which meant about $1104 a week for about three months until I found work again. While still less than my previous salary, it was enough for my husband and me to live off, combined with his salary, considering we have no kids and decent money management.

However, the constant fear of what it will look and feel like when we do go back to the offices constantly hovers over me. While I no longer work at my old job, I still feel like I’m earning back my husband’s trust and I’m far from being able to forgive myself. So I’m pretty paranoid about what the awkwardness in our home will be like when I go back to a workspace. I don’t know. Maybe we’ll consider resuming counseling again when the time comes. After all, it’s not healthy to only trust one another when we can monitor each other.

So for any of you wondering or playing with the idea of having an affair at work, please reconsider and dead the idea. I read somewhere on TFD one girl’s account of dating her coworker. They were both single and neither were in the wrong; they were actually dating openly. But she still had her doubts and “don’ts” about it.

Life isn’t like the movies. No, you won’t get hoisted onto a copy machine, have amazing sex, spill the gossip over cosmos to your girlfriends and go home guilt-free to your partner. There are emotions involved and at risk. There are consequences and there is a price to pay, and it’s more than money.

When I said that my affair with my work-husband cost me $106,400 and tax, I meant it’s been taxing on my mental and emotional health to deal with. My advice – don’t bother.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned above

Image via Unsplash

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