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I had an extramarital affair for several years. It ended recently — abruptly and unpleasantly — and I blocked all digital and telephonic communication with my ex to ensure that I don’t weaken and get involved again. The affair was fulfilling sexually and emotionally, but it was also taboo: We are both otherwise happily married and socialize together as couples. Now, I am apprehensive about future encounters. Recently, we all juggled our calendars to attend a small, upcoming dinner party at a third couple’s home. How should I handle this? I don’t want to reach out and ask for a truce; my emotions are still too raw — with hurt and anger not far from the surface. I don’t know how to justify canceling the dinner to my spouse, but I’m afraid I may lose it if I go.
It is not my place to judge you, but it’s not my job to drive your getaway car, either. (I would see this differently if you had an open marriage.) I get the awkwardness of the upcoming dinner. Still, after years of lying to your spouse about this affair — by omission or commission — you would seem to be well equipped to extricate yourself from dinner on your own.
I agree with you about cutting off contact with your ex — less to spare you discomfort or temptation than to avoid continued disrespect of your spouse, who is apparently unaware of your yearslong betrayal. Practically, you and your ex have formed a mutual-destruction alliance: Neither of you can unmask the other without unmasking yourself. There is a kind of safety in that.
But I urge you to reckon with the deeper issues here: You have broken faith with your spouse. For years, you have misled your partner about your sexual and emotional fidelity. (Indeed, you still seem profoundly involved with your ex.) If monogamy does not suit you, tell your spouse. This dinner is a mere footnote compared with your dishonesty in your marriage. I suggest working with a therapist to decide if — and how — you can repair the damage.
Your Best Advocate at Work? She’s Sitting at Your Desk.
I am thinking of leaving my job as an executive assistant after 12 years. Originally, I had my own office, but I was moved to a cubicle — temporarily, I was told — about 10 years ago. Now, I sit in a suite with two offices that have been empty for years. When I asked the human resources director if I could move into one of them, she asked why I needed it. I told her I have confidential files that would be safer in a locked office. She offered me a file cabinet that locked instead, and said she wants to save the offices for future employees who may need them. This shows a clear lack of respect for me and my position. Your thoughts?
I know it can be hard to speak up for ourselves. But when the H.R. director asked why you needed an office, why did you give her that malarkey about confidential files instead of being straight with her? You were promised an office years ago, and empty offices seem to abound.
I don’t know if your company is consolidating space, on a hiring spree or concerned about the precedent of giving private offices to executive assistants. When we want something from our employers, though, we have to make the case for it. You didn’t. (And your employer solved the problem you raised with the files.) I suggest trying again — but more candidly this time.
The Going Rate for Hospitality
My wife’s sister came to stay with us for her annual weeklong visit. We look forward to it! She stays in our guest room, and we provide most meals. When we incur small expenses on her behalf, we are happy to cover them. After she left, we found $80 on the night stand in her bedroom. We assume it was to compensate us for the extra costs of her visit. We appreciate her intent, but how can we let her know the cash was unwanted without embarrassing her, or seeming ungrateful?
I can imagine how finding cash on the night stand could make you feel like a chambermaid in your own home. You or your wife can certainly tell her sister that payment isn’t necessary: “We love your visits! A simple ‘thank you’ is plenty.”
Still, it can be even more gracious to meet people where they are. If your sister-in-law wants to reimburse you by covering the cost of her meals and local transportation, why not let her? No need to control what makes other people feel comfortable.
Answer Me!!! (S’il Vous Plaît)
I am hosting an anniversary party in two weeks, and I am deeply annoyed at having to drag RSVPs out of my friends. I am sending cheerful texts and follow-up emails, but I find it galling. How do I reframe this so I enjoy the party when it comes?
It would be terrifically convenient if other people prioritized the things we care about. But they don’t. They don’t mean to be rude; they’re just distracted by the onslaught of their own priorities. Stop typing and call them! In 20 minutes, you can probably knock off most of the stragglers.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.
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