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'I'm Married, But My Attraction To A Coworker Is Overpowering'

Your issues with your dad and your disappointment in your marriage, as well as your feelings of life passing you by, are all making you primed for this attraction to blossom into a full-blown obsession.
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Business people crossing paths on staircase
Business people crossing paths on staircase

Reader Obsessed writes:

My morning started after my husband headed out the door and I Googled "how to stop obsessing over a married man" and stumbled onto your blog. I read the letter and response form the woman who was married with a child and obsessing over a man she'd met only three times but with whom she'd had extensive media contact with.
My problem is a bit different. I am obsessed with a man who I work with regularly, who is responsible for overseeing our department's education and clinical coordination (hospital setting). I've been married nine years and have two beautiful sons. Our marriage has been rocky off and on because of my husband's depression, which had deepened over the last nine months to the point where I'd rather be at work than at home. So there's your first clue! I hadn't felt valued at home for some time when my new coworker was hired. Cue my need to romanticize my life at times and it was a recipe for disaster (which I have avoided...barely...so far).

So, new coworker joins us. There is an immediate physical attraction between us. He has intense eyes and more confidence than any man should have. He, very obviously, has used his charms to get women into bed with him, and he is a married man with three adult and one teenaged child.

Very early on I had a hard time just standing close to him. I felt an electrical charge if he touched me (almost innocently, but much more boldly than anyone else would presume to.) I tried "Listen, this is difficult for me, I've never had a deep attraction to anyone other than my husband since we got together and I have no intention of cheating on him." I tried your HASTA suggestion, but I'm pretty sure it made the attraction between us stronger. I told him things at home were rough because my husband was depressed and not working, but that I loved him and could never jeopardize my marriage and I didn't do it while batting my eyes, or leaning in. I've acted crazy around him. I've shown him pictures of my kids and my garden and talked about mundane, married life BS. He knows that I have high blood pressure and that he makes it worse when he stands too close.

I've cheated emotionally at this point. A lot. Having a physical affair could cost him his job and possibly mine. We both know this and yet, even after discussing it and him laying it on the table and saying that anything physical could never happen for quite a few reasons, we both still seem to end up alone together and then the flirting and innuendo flares up again. He puts his arms around me. I let him. It feels so good to be that close to him, to feel wanted by someone that I find so damn attractive. Not only is he attractive, tall, dark and handsome with a thick accent, but he is extremely intelligent and sees and appreciates my intelligence and value at work. Yes, this is compounded by the fact that my father was never in my life, but was highly intelligent and not the nicest guy. Go figure....

This relationship that he and I have kept going has reminded me that I am a sexy, desirable woman that men find attractive. It has reminded me that I like to feel pretty and feminine. I feel like I'm going through a mid life crisis of sorts. I tried speaking to a therapist and it didn't do much. I just wanted to go back to work and flirt and interact with him.

How can this bring me so much satisfaction and make me feel awful all at the same time? It has opened my eyes to why some people have affairs who you wouldn't otherwise expect it from.

I know having sex with him would be a stupid move. It would ruin my marriage, my career and my relationship with my entire circle of friends and family. Yet, I can't stop obsessing over the way I feel when he touches me or tells me how we shouldn't work together because it's just too difficult. It feels so damn good. How do I stop this? I need to be able to shut these feelings off and continue to work with this man. I know you can turn off the flirting, but how can you turn off an attraction this strong? I've considered looking for a different job just to see if it would help, but I love my job and my coworkers and I don't want to allow this situation to have that much power over me.

Dear O,

I think you hit the nail on the head multiple times in this post with your insights about yourself and why you're so susceptible to the charms of this guy. Your issues with your dad and your disappointment in your marriage, as well as your feelings of life passing you by, are all making you primed for this attraction to blossom into a full-blown obsession. I think you need to ask yourself whether you really want to be married. It seems that your marriage has been unhappy for a while and I am not sure why you stay. Do you love your husband at all? Are you only staying for the kids?

You have not avoided cheating so far. You are cheating, via this emotional affair, far more than you would if you had only, let's say, had a one-night stand with this guy. You are also cheating when your husband is down and out, due to his depression, which is something else to explore, because it indicates deep anger and resentment toward him.

Don't buy into the idea that you are stuck. You may be using that stuck feeling as a way to just keep the affair going and not have to do anything life-altering. If you cannot change your feelings about this guy, you still have many options: change your job and go into couples counseling to work on your marriage, change your job and ignore your dissatisfying marriage, change your job and try a new individual therapist, tell your husband you want an open marriage, tell your husband about the emotional affair, or tell your husband you want a divorce. In the last case, you get to have sex with this guy. If that is what you want more than anything, then that's the only real option. I am not going to judge any decision you make, but I can assure you that you will feel more fulfilled living a life that is in line with whatever your values are.

I suggest that you see a counselor to help you decide which of these paths to take. You probably need to explore the connections between the marriage you saw between your parents and the life you have subconsciously chosen for yourself: you as martyr to your husband's depression, and, if you leave him for this guy, you will then be the martyr to this guy, who comes with no end of drama, including the fact that he is married and flirting with so many other women. You are attracted to men who have issues, either depression or narcissism, and it is likely you saw this enabling pattern in your early life.

Best of luck and keep me updated. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, There Is Always A Way Forward.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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