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September 24, 2011 9:08 PM   Subscribe

What is the best course of action after ending an affair with someone at work?

After being drawn into an affair with an older, married man who said all the right things and did all the right things to make a young vulnerable woman feel special, the affair has ended and the guy has turned into a jerk. Ignoring, flaunting his flirting with other women, laughing when I'm in obvious emotional distress, ignoring anything I say to him via email/messaging regarding his behavior as being upsetting to me. He is a user and I was left used and hurt.

I'm moving on the best that I can but right now he is now targeting another coworker I do not know very well (I am friends with her on a popular social media website and can see him blatantly doing the same stuff to her he did to me and this is a girl who is also very vulnerable and has a history of some pretty shady, abusive guys). Besides feeling very used again and hurting every time I see these things, I wonder what I should be doing, if anything, about this in terms of telling her about him?

I don't know if she even knows that he is married with children. He does not have an open marriage. His wife knows nothing about his extracurricular activities. She has an account on another popular social media site, so I have a way of contacting her, but I don't know what the right thing to do in this case is either.

What is the right thing to do in this case? I have plenty of "proof" in terms of his wrong doings. But I don't want to do anything simply out of revenge or because I was hurt and used. But at the same time I feel so much injustice and rage when I see him moving in on another young coworker, with no regard or respect to the fact that we girls and women aren't his playthings that he gets to toy around with.

Please help guide me. Let it go? Warn coworker (which might anger him and I'm a little frightened what he might do, but at the same time, he's in the wrong here)? Warn his wife? I know I would have liked some warning about him and I probably would have thought longer and harder about what I was doing.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Stay out of it, and move on with your own life, would be my vote.
posted by jayder at 9:12 PM on September 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

Is the co-worker a friend? If so, let her know that the guy is a user, and that you know it's true for sure (no need to get into details here). If you don't really know her, stay out of it. Definitely do not contact his wife. That's just opening a new tin.
posted by Gilbert at 9:17 PM on September 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

It can only go badly. I vote for walking away and moving on with your life.
posted by kbanas at 9:25 PM on September 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

What's wrong with a little revenge? Go ahead and tell her. A little drama never killed anyone. Well. Actually it's probably killed a lot of people but still, it's unlikely to get you killed in this instance right?

A lot of people in AskMe seem obsessed with avoiding drama, but really, it's not that bad.

In terms of ethics, I think telling her is absolutely the correct thing to do. Not telling her because you want to avoid drama and/or awkwardness simply means valuing your own convenience over helping someone out. It's actually immoral because you'd be making your own life better at the expense of someone else's.

Except, in this case you're not even making your own life better, because you'd feel better if you cockblock this guy anyway.

So, I say do it. A little drama won't kill you.
posted by delmoi at 9:30 PM on September 24, 2011 [20 favorites]

Why exactly is he the only wrongdoer, while the women are helpless objects whom things are passively done to? This is totally unexplained, and I don't see why we should take this on faith. Face it: you knew he was married, but you got involved with him anyway. You both did wrong, but you're trying to recast it as an attack against you that might be repeated against the coworker. By labeling yourself and her as "vulnerable," you're trying to exonerate yourself and create an excuse to save her, but you are both capable adults who can make your own choices. The only exception would be if he's actually concealing the fact that he's married and you wanted to discreetly inform her of that fact, but you've given no indication this is the case.

I also have no idea what delmoi is talking about. Drama at work never hurt anybody? Huh? Drama at work is almost never appropriate.
posted by John Cohen at 9:42 PM on September 24, 2011 [44 favorites]

Do you have anything to lose by having the history of your affair known at the office? That's the only reason I can think of to not say anything. Sounds like he has more to lose; but if you can't afford to lose that job, think carefully.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:42 PM on September 24, 2011

To me, thwarting someone from bopping around remorselessly hurting other people is in absolutely no way "revenge," even if you also happen to despise that person and wish them ill, or feel hurt by them. Revenge is doing something out of spite in order to hurt another person. So be honest with yourself. What are you honestly after here, even if your feelings are mixed - hurting this guy, or maybe stopping someone else from being hurt?

In your shoes, I would absolutely tell anyone about everything that he did, and I'd probably also tell the wife too assuming I didn't know about her before I was involved with the guy.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:48 PM on September 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

Warn the new femme du jour, but discreetly and not-too-specifically. Were it me, I'd probably go with "watch your back, has a history, and at the risk of gossiping, that's all I want to say."

Certainly leave all thoughts of her history out of it. It's bad enough to be told that you're likely being played,without also realizing that your acquaintances think of you as a poor judge of character. (Not saying that this is what you think, but imagine yourself in her shoes?)
posted by desuetude at 9:53 PM on September 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'd vote for don't touch it. You're making a lot of assumptions and associations between yourself and this woman, and it might be hard to actually assess if you're reading it right. You're assuming that she will respond the same way to his advances (not ask about, or ignore the wife factor), and that she will feel the same pain you are feeling if she is hurt, and that she would want to know, they way you say you now wish you did. But you don't have proof of this, even if you know that she is 'vulnerable' and 'has a history of dealing with shady, abusive guys'.

I'd go for the don't gossip, but keep an eye out, and if there is any move/action on her part - looking stressed or sad, or weeping in the bathroom, etc., something tangible - then you can acknowledge what you are seeing: that she doesn't seem happy, etc. And you can state that if it's because of the interaction with the guy, then she can do way, way better than some married dude at work.

You're not 'avoiding' telling her because you are trying to skip the drama. You're not telling her anything (yet) because you need to not assume that you and your piece of information are the only thing standing between her and a whole hell of a lot of misery. You can assume that she doesn't know and would care about the wife, but she might not. It may be painful for you to watch, but right now, I think your obligation is wait, and watch, and allow her to make her own decisions and her own mistakes. Quite frankly, someone at your work may have done the same for you.

If she chooses to share her experience with you, or if she seems upset - then perhaps you can say something. But right now, all you're seeing is some guy getting flirty - but you haven't really seen her response yet. You're just imagining the worst case scenario (what happened to you, and what you chose to do). I think you have to let other people proceed along their own path, in their own time, and let their reality, rather than your fears/baggage, shape your response to them.

And as for him - well, sometimes people don't get their come-uppance in the time frame we'd like. But your path, I think, is to reflect on your role, and his role, in what happened and hopefully what you've learned, and apply it to your life as you move forward. It's to focus on yourself, not her, or him.
posted by anitanita at 9:56 PM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

After being drawn into an affair with an older, married man who said all the right things and did all the right things to make a young vulnerable woman feel special, the affair has ended and the guy has turned into a jerk.

You need to reclaim your agency. Punishing this guy will not do that. Contacting some girl you don't know -- especially, yuck, anonymously -- will not do that. Owning your choices, taking responsibility for your actions, will.

You weren't drawn into anything -- you made choices. The guy was *always* a jerk, but you chose him, because you got from him something you wanted. Find out what that was. Figure out how else you can get it.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 10:07 PM on September 24, 2011 [22 favorites]

the affair has ended You're having a lot of trouble letting go. Stop emailing and instant messaging him, and learn to ignore his new flirtation. You're potentially jeopardizing your job, and continuing to try to engage his attention is making you feel worse, not better. You may have been naive, but you should recognize your own role, not to feel guilty, but to learn from it.

When you were the focus of his attention, would you have listened to a co-worker's warning?
posted by theora55 at 10:08 PM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's another route you could take. If the situation has created a hostile environment at work, bring it up to whomever in your company has the job of making it a happy environment. If the guy is targeting women at work to have affairs with, that could tear the company apart.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:43 PM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

i agree with John Cohen and pH Indicating Socks about you needing to take responsibility for your participation in the affair. sure the guy is a jerk, but you knew he was married with children, so what does that make you? not the innocent you've cast yourself as in order to justify wanting to expose him and save other "innocents."

that said, if you know the other girl well, i'd mention something to her casually about his being married with children and then leave it at that. i can't imagine having a co-worker and not, at some point either by that co-worker or another—hear mention of partner and family. she will then have the relevant information she needs—just as you did. as an adult, she then can make her own decisions—just as you did.
posted by violetk at 10:54 PM on September 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't let the idea of warning her get in the way of you grieving. You are the hurt one and you should give yourself a break. Unsubscribe from her feed. Stay friends, you don't have to watch her post.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:44 PM on September 24, 2011

The best course of action is to pretend it never happened.
posted by fshgrl at 11:55 PM on September 24, 2011

Nth-ing the whole "takes two to tango/you knew his marriage situation." One thing that seems to be a general truth: Most people are jerks. Guys are people. Guys can be jerks. This guy is a jerk.

To try and rip his family apart, make your work life more stressful than it already is, seems like a bad idea. If you want, tip off your coworker anonymously, so she can't pester you for information. Leave a vague note or something and let it go.
posted by irishcoffee at 12:57 AM on September 25, 2011

it's a tough call, I can see why people are saying stay out of it, but I can also understand the feeling that you want to warn the new person he's directing his attentions to. In your shoes I don't know if I would be able to live with myself if I didn't say something to her. I did date a total cheating liar ages ago - there were a few people who tried to warn me, I didn't pay attention, and got nastily hurt. Later, I did appreciate what they had tried to do for me, but at the time is was unwelcome information. ok I'm rambling here, but it's because I don't have a clear answer for you - my gut says, tell her. my expreience says - she may not listen, may even resent it, but at least you will give her a bit of armor, a bit of doubt, which may help her in the long run.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:01 AM on September 25, 2011

Ann Landers, in her first advice column, said to a woman who wrote in about some tacky guy "Time wounds all heels." And that's a fact. As noted above, it might not be in your time-frame but the wheel does turn.

But John Cohen nailed it, hit it out of the park, first pitch. This clown wasn't in that affair alone. I'm not saying that he isn't a shitbird, for cutting off contact in what you see as a rude fashion, and perhaps is a rude fashion, though I'd bet he'd tell us otherwise. Quite frankly, he's a shitbird for stepping outside his wedding ring. But same as he stepped outside his ring, you stepped in it -- do you think that his wife would say that you're a pure as the driven snow here? I'd bet she would not.

Drop it. Walk away. Look in your mirror, say to yourself: "Self, don't have affairs with guys from work, don't have affairs with married men."

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:45 AM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Look .. this is happening at work. Not in high school, not at college. Do you need this job? You probably do. So, do not warn the next "other woman". Do not contact this guy's wife. You made a big mistake and you're paying for it. Take a deep breath and try to let some of your anger and misery go. You're human and you needed something and thought he could give it to you.

Please don't make things worse for yourself by escalating. You do not want all your colleages at work to know about this. It is not your responsibility to warn the other woman or the man's wife. Stay out of their business and concentrate on yourself. Just focus on doing a great job. Hold your head up high, ignore the creep and move forward.
posted by Kangaroo at 2:12 AM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

You've learned some painful lessons, and your first priority now is to take care of yourself. So do not speak to him. Do not contact him in any way. If possible, change jobs. If you can't change jobs, be careful. Anything you do can have negative repercussions, and if he has a more powerful position at work than you do, you can get hurt professionally as well as emotionally. It may not be fair, but it's true. This is why so many people here have advised you to do nothing.

That said, this older man took advantage of your youth and trusting nature. It would be kind if you could find a way to help this man's next victim. I faced a somewhat similar situation many years ago, when I was in my early twenties. The boss had an affair with his secretary, his wife found out, there was a lot of drama, and the secretary found another job. The new secretary was another young, buxom blonde, and we started to see another flirtation begin. One of my friends and I invited this new woman out to lunch where we told her about the boss's history. We told her that it was her decision what to do with this information, that it was none of our business, that we had decided to take a risk because we didn't want to see her get hurt, and that we would never speak of this again. Years later, just before I left for another job, the woman made a point of stopping by and thanking me for that long ago lunch.

Your situation is different because you are not just a bystander, and you are still hurting. Can you talk with this new woman without breaking down into tears? Probably not. And this is not a situation where you can use social media. There are some conversations that must be done face-to-face. If you can find a way to make sure she knows he is married, that would be a good thing to do, and that's probably all you should do. But you would be taking a risk, so think carefully before taking this step.

As for telling his wife, that is complicated and messy. As long as you are working in the same place, or even in the same industry, you probably shouldn't do anything. It puts you at too much risk.
posted by islandeady at 4:27 AM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nthing do not contact the wife. I think it would be just of you to warn the co-worker that he is in a non-open marriage, with kids. You need to decide if you want her to have knowledge of how he treated you, as that may get twisted in office gossip. His marriage is a fact.
posted by natasha_k at 7:03 AM on September 25, 2011

He's a jerk and will be found out eventually and end up living an increasingly sad and shallow existence as he loses his looks, charm and family. Leave him to his karma and move on stronger is my vote.
posted by the noob at 7:11 AM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I couldn't disagree more with the people who stress the "It takes two to tango" angle. There is nothing in the post to indicate that the poster knew he was married when the affair started AND that she had been informed that the marriage was here to stay. Someone in their early twenties is still very close to their childhood and absolutely unprepared for a number of the things adulthood brings with it - such as taking full responsibility for your actions and decisions in all situations you are involved in.

For example, if I were to meet somebody now who tells me any variant of "my wife doesn't understand me", my reaction would be very different to when I was 18 - roughly 25. Now, I would be a hairbreadth away from telling the guy to move on. Then, I would have instantly bonded over the unreasonableness of people who have authority over you (I would have been thinking of my parents, and any half-wit could have presented the wife in a similar light to my very gullible self), over the legitimate human quest for freedom and happiness, over empathy for a feelow abusee, even, over the sheer conspiratorialness of it etc. Now I can shake my head as much as I want about my former and oh-so-naive self, the reality is that unless you are very well informed, and maybe prematurely cinical, at that age you will be easily seduced where attraction makes you half-willing, because you are working with engagement and interaction patterns which are still redolent of childhood/adolescence and its very different social hierarchies.

This said, people who emphasize your own involvement in how things developed have a point: whilst you are still, in some ways, in the twilightzone between very young adulthood and responsible adulthood, you will not always remain there. Life and bad luck have thrown a situation in your way from which you will learn a lot. Things you might take away from this: 1. words don't necessarily equate action (did he tell you he has never felt this way before? that he has been considering/is considering leaving his wife? that you are the only one for him? etc.) 2. to amp up number one a bit - people lie and playact to get what they want , 3. peolpe's intentions - or their character - cannot be inferred from their manner, especially not if the stakes are high (so, he might be acting all loving, caring, gentle, relaxed, whatnot, short-term, without it meaning that he IS feeling loving and caring of you long term, or that he is a particularly gentle, relaxed etc individuall in general), 4. people can fake a lot of things short term, such as interests, character traits, any number of things really, again, when they deem the price worth it, and sometimes just for kicks, 5. the only way to know someone, what kind of fibre they are made of, is by interacting with them over a fairly long stretch of time 6. if you willingly and without thought accept that others will be treated badly for your convenience, there is the risk that something similar will happen to you.

The list could go on, and you will have different details to add. Still, what is important is that you are on the one hand grieving your lost love, and on the other facing one of the steeper learning curves of your life as a young adult. This also means that a lot of your energy is, or should be, concentrating on you and the lessons you are learning - a lot of your world will be reshuffled and rearranged. If you stay caught in this vortex - by contacting the wife/the new flame, by trying to extract revenge etc, you are, in effect, avoiding dealing with that part of the affair which is of direct relevance to you and your life and the quality of your future self. Now, I think it is unfair of people to repproach you for the part you played in this affair. Next time it won't be.

Other things to consider: like islandeady and others have said, the new girl will, in all likelihood, not pay any attention to what you are saying. Imagine you go to her with your info, she takes it up with the guy, and he proceeds to describe you as the psycho ex who can't get over him. Who is she going to listen to? A snivelling girl who is clearly cut up about having been left, or this charming, more mature (I am assuming he is older than you two) man who promises her the sun and the moon and treats her like a princess.

As for revenge in general - thoughts of revenge can be sweet, but the reality of it requires you to be like a rock. Imagine the wife finding out - she quite probably won't come to you all grateful. To her, you are the first, or one of many, people who broke up, or endangered her marriage. At best, you will be a silly girl to her, but distasteful to think about, at worst, she will name-call and make sure she extracts HER revenge - on husband and you. Same with people at work - it's very likely that people sort of know what he is up to and ignoring it. If you make a fuss about it, there is every chance you'll be psycho girl who fooled around with married colleague and is acting like a headcase when what was to be expected happened. So yes, if you want revenge, you have to have nerves of steel, and have your pain and hurt completely subsummed into your anger. You have to be a goddess of wrath, because only that kind of energy and single-mindedness and unconcern for your own interest and safety and health can help you deal with the many, many tough things which would come your way. Plus, in the long tun, it is really not that helpful.

Finally, here's a link to a post that might help you, now and in the future: Being a co-pilot in your relationships. If you poke around that website, you might make several strides towards growing into your adulthood, and not ending up playing the role of the eternal victim - which is a genuine danger when you have such steep (and complicated) disappointment.
posted by miorita at 7:36 AM on September 25, 2011 [11 favorites]

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Get yourself a different job, get settled and established to a degree that his professional influence doesn't have any bearing on your working life any more, and then torch the motherfucker.

I agree with the people who say that you need to own your part in the involvement--you're never going to do this again, right? Right--but he sounds like a first class asshole. You wish *you* had been warned about him? How do you think his wife is going to feel when she learns that there have been multiple indiscretions, that people knew he was straying, but nobody told her? Right. Survivinginfidelity.com should give you some insight about that.

If it were me, some ways down the road, I'd write a letter or send anonymous email to her, or contact in some way that will allow you deflect the inevitable anger that will be directed *your* way. Don't give any personally identifying details, so that there's plausible deniability when he lashes out in your direction. If you let enough time pass (again, served cold...) there'll be a trail of broken hearts behind him and you can say, "Jeez, must have been another one of your conquests! Karma's a bitch!"

Hang in there. Time passes, you'll heal, he'll still be a fucknut and you'll still have the power to ruin him. Revenge is sweet!
posted by Sublimity at 7:47 AM on September 25, 2011

So you know the new other woman distantly on a social media site? That opens up an interesting possibility:

Hi, saw you having lunch with J the other day. Has he introduced you to the wife and kids yet? Lovely family, and he is fanatically devoted to them. Really a great guy who will always do the right thing in the end, have fun working with him!

Not advising this but just pointing it out as a possibility.
posted by localroger at 8:03 AM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't go making a big production of "we need to talk" or anything, but I would take an opportunity to get trapped in an elevator together or otherwise get a moment. Low-bitterness, "hey, your thing is your thing, but I just want to tell you, Guy is a known player, and rumor has it you're his next toy. Have fun, but don't fall in love. He's not ever going to leave his wife. See ya."

If she doesn't know he's married, now she does. She also may not be that thrilled to be thought of as his play thing.
posted by ctmf at 8:07 AM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't tell from your question whether this guy is up the career ladder from you, or how far, but I'm going to guess he is your superior. You may be the first person at the office that he's cheated on his wife with, but it sounds like he is at least on his way to becoming a serial offender. It makes me so mad to read about situations like this. (Again, if I am guessing right.) The guy is picking on people who are not his own size, power-wise, and he's going to be creating a toxic situation in the workplace, if he hasn't already. Strike that last bit-- he has created a toxic situation, with regard to one employee at least.

Warning the next person? I'm pretty sure that when new in workplace I've had more than one person say, "You want to stay away from Joe Blow." If I happened into a one-on-one in a conversation with someone who might be affected, I'd probably say something like, "Watch out for Joe, that's all I'm saying." Otherwise, it is infuriating to me that people like that are allowed to flourish in workplaces but I am not going to die on that hill because understand, these things always hurt the younger employee more. But if this is a workplace where people turn a blind eye to this behavior I would start looking somewhere else for a job.
posted by BibiRose at 8:51 AM on September 25, 2011

Look .. this is happening at work. Not in high school, not at college. Do you need this job? You probably do. ... Please don't make things worse for yourself by escalating. You do not want all your colleagues at work to know about this. It is not your responsibility to warn the other woman or the man's wife. Stay out of their business and concentrate on yourself. Just focus on doing a great job. Hold your head up high, ignore the creep and move forward.

QFT! I can't go into what happened to me when I lashed out at my guy on the job via email at a subsequent dream job with a dream organization he was not part of, except to say I, uh, didn't work there long, and I'll never go to a meetup where the MeFite who works there (but in another city) will likely be.

Please, for your mental health and your professional well-being, stay out of it. Go to employee assistance if it is available. Start looking for another job. Work out 'til you drop. Take professional development courses. Join a professional group or women's advocacy group. Do anything but stay stuck in this!!!!

Believe me when I say nothing good can happen!!!
posted by jgirl at 9:06 AM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

If it were me, some ways down the road, I'd write a letter or send anonymous email to her

If you do this, and I think it's not a good idea, for the love of God, don't do it during work hours, on the work computer.

I can still remember just after pushing that send button, in my beautiful new private office at this wonderful prominent organization, and thinking I had just ruined my career and my reputation, and that he wouldn't care.
posted by jgirl at 9:25 AM on September 25, 2011

Agree with the others. Why do you think this other woman isn't capable of making her own decisions?

Potential hurt feelings is no reason to intervene. I would guess that more often than not, a "he's just going to use you and lose you" warning would be seen as a challenge to overcome, to someone who is receptive to sweet-talkings from a married co-worker.
posted by gjc at 9:49 AM on September 25, 2011

"Bob's such a skeeze, isn't he? His wife must be a saint." Leave out "skeeze" if he's your superior.

You don't know that his wife is oblivious. You don't know that your coworker is going down the same path you did. Saying something casual about him being married and/or being a dirty old man is fine, but letting it slip that you have personal experience with him is unwise. I sympathize with you, this lesson sucks, been there (less dramatic situation, luckily). But he's not a violent felon, just an asshole. Saying something casual to your coworker is fine. Getting more involved than that is unnecessary.
posted by orangejenny at 5:39 PM on October 3, 2011

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