Confused by Cheating Coworker

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Dear Hoopers,
I have coworker, let’s call her Margaret. Margaret and I work alongside each other all day, for the most part. We work well together and there is a good vibe between the two of us. However, recently I’ve really enjoyed her presence. I kind of look forward to seeing her and spending time with her. I probably should have mentioned that she is very married. That’s not a problem, because it was never meant to be anything more than a tiny crush.

Recently though, another coworker, let’s call him James, has been spending a ton of time with her. At first, they would include me for lunch and other outings, but recently have excluded me and gone off on their own. Which isn’t that big of a deal, except for one night. One night, I get a handful of phone calls from a number I don’t recognize. I finally answer and it was Margaret’s husband. He was worried because it was after 9 pm and she wasn’t home yet. He wondered if I had any idea where she might be. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that Margaret and James were together doing god knows what. Although, I can’t assume what it was. And I know it’s not my place because it’s definitely not my business, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

This is the stupid and idiotic part of my logic, but I’m jealous of James. I wish I was in his place. I wish that were me instead of him. I can’t help it, especially since her husband is the one who should be the jealous one not me. I’m sure he doesn’t even know. Anyway, it’s embarrassing for me to admit the way I feel, but I need some advice. Because the thought of being at work with all this going on is driving me crazy. I can’t let it go and would rather not work there anymore than to be around it. Separation might be my only solution.
-Confused by Cheating Coworker

Dear Confused,
Margaret may be charming, but don’t fall for the sugar, honey. James may seem to be the lucky one, but I guarantee after this all shakes out, which it will, you will be happy that it wasn’t you. It’s not that she chose him over you. This isn’t a dating game. This isn’t a game. She is married.

Be thankful you are not James. Seriously. Even if you were the one getting attention, or extra loving from Margaret, it would come to an awkward end at some point. And that end would leave you with a corrupted relationship with Margaret, a suspicious husband on your ass and the terrible feeling that you messed up a marriage. Maybe that turns you on, but it’s not long lasting and comes with mega complications. Don’t be a homewrecker.

Even if you were the one getting attention, or extra loving from Margaret, it would come to an awkward end at some point.


Keep your distance and get a distraction. Tired of James and Margaret taking up head space? Then change it. You can do this! Find a hobby over lunch, or meet up with other friends outside the office.

Put the effort you’ve put into fantasizing over their whereabouts into something that’s fulfilling, like spending time with friends or going out on some dates. Don’t let them drive you out of your job. When this all comes crashing down the only awkwardness will be between Margaret and James, and an office that can probably guess that something’s been up. Avoid the drama.

Dear Confused,
What a confusing and tricky situation. There is the fact that your coworker is probably cheating and that her husband is calling you to find out. Then there is your desire to be the person that she is cheating with. Quite a love quadrangle. Given all of these hot feelings for Margaret, my guess is that she must be quite charming. She likely has an energy and an openness to others that generates these feelings of attraction.

Let’s start with you. You’re right that this situation probably isn’t healthy for you. There are quite a few conflicted feelings in your coworking relationship with Margaret. While it is possible that you could find a way to work through all of those feelings to create a healthy working relationship, it does seem risky to your career and your heart. I’m not sure how easy it would be to create some distance from her at work, but if possible it would likely be best for you.

Regardless of what may or may not be going on with her and James, this is an unfair place for you to be put in.

-Dr. Ryan

Secondly, how do you deal with the growing suspicion you have about her and James? I think it is well within your rights to distance yourself from the situation and from the panicked call from her husband. I don’t think that you are compelled to be the person to speculate about what’s going on or to inform her husband about these concerns.

On the other hand if you do feel pulled to do something, I think the best direction would be towards Margaret. Let her know what you have noticed about her and James as well as the phone call you received from her husband. Regardless of what may or may not be going on with her and James, this is an unfair place for you to be put in. If something is going on, the responsibility is on her to be honest with her husband.
-Dr. Ryan