How to interact with the person my wife had an emotional affair with?
August 17, 2012 5:20 PM   Subscribe

My wife has been having an emotional affair with another man, a married co-worker. Help me get what I want out of my first social interaction with him since the news broke.

My wife and I have reconciled things in such a way that they are allowed to remain friends. Everyone is basically comfortable with this reconciliation, including the co-worker's wife. I don't need help with that part. As far as my wife and I are concerned, we're satisfied with where we're at and ready to move forward from this to focus on what's going wrong in our marriage.

I do need help managing my interaction with this man: we'll be seeing him on Sunday, and it will be the first time that I've seen him since I've learned about the situation between he and my wife. I expect to have to see him every few months or so for the forseeable future (he, my wife and I share a hobby, and will see each other at hobby events from time to time). I want to take control of my interaction with him in a way that expresses the following sentiments:

I'm not angry with you, exactly, but have no interest in being friends or even friendly with you. I would prefer not to talk to you at all, ever, but I will insofar as you are a human being who is in the same room with me from time to time, whose existence I have to acknowledge. I especially don't want to talk with you about what went on between you and my wife-I neither want to forgive you nor not forgive you. My wife is the person involved here who matters to me and I've already forgiven her. I'm being ok with my wife continuing to be your friend as a favor to her.

Here are the two things I especially don't want: 1) Having to listen to some kind of apology or explanation or discussion from him, and then having to either validate it or not validate it. I am interested in cutting this off at the head if it happens or starts to happen, in a non-angry, non-confrontational, but firm way. But I am having a hard time imagining what that looks like. 2) Pretending that nothing happened and treating him in a friendly way, like I would have before the news broke. My wife and are moving forward from this, but he and I are not. I never liked him very much in the first place, anyway. I am not a doormat.

How can I get what I want out of this crucial first interaction with him, and set things up to continue to get what I want going forward? My wife will be a partner in this with me. If getting what I want is impossible or inadvisable, how should I modify what I want, and how should I act to get that? Thanks for your help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think a good place to ask this question would be
posted by Ironmouth at 5:23 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

1) "I'm not interested in talking about why it happened with you; it happened and I want to move on"
posted by zippy at 5:27 PM on August 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

Is it possible that you could just not have to interact with him? It's not unreasonable for you not want to have anything to do with the guy. Maybe find a new hobby, or a new group of people to assemble with whom to practice it. You might be OK with your wife still seeing this guy socially, but that doesn't mean that you have to.
posted by waldo at 5:34 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

You are an adult, so doubtless you have the ability and enough social experience to be civil without being friendly? Yes?

I think what you might really be getting at with this question is impossible to answer answer because continuing to socialize with him is not going to be easy or pleasant. Frankly, I'm not sure why you are putting yourself through it.

I agree with others that you should switch hobby groups.
posted by jbenben at 5:37 PM on August 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

Try practicing this for cutting off that apology/explanation you don't want to have: purse your lips, shake your head, and interrupt, saying clearly "not interested. Not angry, but not interested. Ok?". Nod head with eyebrows raised, then either walk away or change the subject, whichever seems more comfortable.

Try to keep it short, unambiguous, and don't go off script, or I think you're likely to get angry, flustered, or start engaging in the validation or discussion that you're trying to avoid.

I'm not speaking from experience, so use grains of salt as needed.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:39 PM on August 17, 2012 [13 favorites]

I don't think you should talk to him at all. You'll probably kick yourself in hindsight when you think of all the stuff you wish you had said. I also think that if your wife won't consider changing to another hobby group, you should seriously question how committed she is to putting this behind her.

I'm so sorry this happened.
posted by Coatlicue at 5:40 PM on August 17, 2012 [24 favorites]

Greet him, shake his hand and excuse yourself. When in doubt, go with cold politeness.
posted by gjc at 5:43 PM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you want to have a discussion with him about not having a discussion with him. Unless you're prepared to stop speaking to him completely after telling him what you want, you can only have one or the other. You can't stop him from responding to anything you say. You can only avoid bringing the topic up with him.

Therefore, the best way to achieve your goal of having very little to do with him would be to treat him with the minimal politeness necessary to maintain peace in your hobby community and to cut him off whenever he attempts to discuss anything deeper with you. You don't need to have a conversation about this at all. In fact, having that discussion wold be counterproductive and create more drama than you want. He knows what he did and should understand why you're always going to keep him at arm's length. Manage your boundaries with him and you'll be fine.

Also, you sound really angry at him. It doesn't sound like you want to confront him beyond what you've already done, so I agree with the others that you should find another hobby group.
posted by rhythm and booze at 5:45 PM on August 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

I have had to do this very thing and to be honest, it wasn't that hard (completely surprisingly! I was a total anxiety case prior to the meeting.)

In a nutshell, you need to cultivate your ability to deeply ignore/tune out this guy. As others have noted above, cold politeness is the way to go. If he greets you, you say, "Hello, Person. Please excuse me as I need to use the restroom / see someone I need to talk to / whatever." Then you take an internal moment to completely rid your mind of any sort of awareness of this person's existence.

If he tries to say something to you like, "Hey man, I'm really sorry..." you immediately cut him off and say, "I'm really not interested in this conversation. Please excuse me." Then walk away.

Rinse. Repeat.

I don't think you should be the one to find a different hobby group or whatever - but you will need to stick to your script. It will be hard not to find yourself hyperconscious of his physical presence but it WILL get easier as time passes. Or, you know, it won't - and then you'll have to do something different. But you can't know that now so just take it one step at a time.

You do say that your wife is a partner to you in your goal so you might want to practice a script / behaviors with her. What happens if he approaches / tries to talk to her? What will she say? How will you react if you see her respond to him in some way (I don't mean flirtatiously, rather, what if she falters, as we often do, in how friendly she is to him, etc. Will that set you off? How will the two of you keep connected / communicate about potential individual interactions throughout the event? Etc.)

Good luck - I feel for you.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 6:02 PM on August 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

Uh, I am having a hard time understanding why anyone NEEDS to socialize with him to start with. I suppose it depends on the hobby and the hobby group. And I won't secondguess your decision to be ok with your wife continuing to be friendly with, but I do find it somewhat odd.

You might want to rethink your attitude toward him, however in that if I were in your shoes I would want to be friendly enough with this person to be able to detect if things were heading in a wrong direction with the spouse again. However since it sounds like you didn't like him to start with even before anything happened, I think simple avoidance would be your best strategy.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:19 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

The better answer is to find another hobby group. Being around this other person introduces and maintains tension. No hobby is worth that.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:49 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like hapax_legomenon's "I'm really not interested in this conversation. Please excuse me." I have not been in your shoes, but I imagine you are in the position of power in this interaction and you just need to own it.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 6:50 PM on August 17, 2012

I think you should pick a cultural icon as your role model. What would Cary Grant/Bono/Samuel L Jackson do? And pace yourself accordingly. You don't need to be his pal, but you don't need to challenge him to a duel either. How cool do you want to be? He's been a cad, she was an idiot and you, of the impeccable manners and brilliant poise, manage to rise above all the mess and act in a way that astounds all who observe. Be polite, be cool and don't engage.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:00 PM on August 17, 2012 [14 favorites]

I do not understand why you have to socialize with him or anyone else. I do not know what your hobby is, but I find it very hard to imagine that socializing with this other couple is the only way to practice this hobby. If so, you should find a new hobby.

However, if you must socialize with him and he does offer an apology, I think that you must accept it. I do not say that this would be an easy thing to do; it would surely be a very hard thing to do. It is my belief that we must forgive everyone, more especially when we do not want to.

Finally, I think it is a mistake to allow your wife to maintain any social relationship with this man. You say that you grant it to her as a favor. While we must forgive and you have forgiven your wife, she is in no position to ask this favor of you.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:15 PM on August 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

A few observations; take from them what you can, if anything:

- I think the people saying new hobby and/or new group are dead on. Life's just too short to deal with this type of bullshit.

- You need to understand who sits where in the pecking order currently. Are you better-connected to the rest of the group than him? If not, you'll have a hard time keeping conversations going with others while shutting him out. I've spent more time then I would like shunning sketchy druggies/creepers/etc. and it is a lot easier when they're outsiders or closer to it than I am.

- You need to decide whether you are ignoring him as an equal or as someone with superior $thing (where $thing is confidence, connections to others in the group, etc.) If the former, expect some pushback. If the latter, you need to be absolutely clear and need to figure out whether you're an ice the handshake vs. crush his hand type.

I wish this wasn't all so primitive, but the bottom line is that if you want to get the upper hand and set things up to your liking you need to figure out what you have at your disposal.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:32 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is a bit nuts. I'm not sure why you're doing your wife 'favours'.

You're saying that everyone is fine with this 'reconciliation' but it's quite obvious that you're not, else you wouldn't be asking the internet this question. From what I see, you're under no obligation to acknowledge his existence beyond a wave or a nod, if that.

Life's short. Figure out what you want, ask for it and don't compromise.
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 7:38 PM on August 17, 2012 [15 favorites]

Seconding Mariner. End of her having any contact whatsoever with him and get a new hobby, or get a new wife. "Favors"? For her not-quite-cheating on you???

Personally, my conversation would consist of something along the lines of "I want you dead. I would bring that to fruition if it wouldn't make my wife unhappy. You will vanish, forever, after today. Do we understand each other?"

But hey, your call.
posted by pla at 8:04 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Fuck off".
posted by unSane at 8:17 PM on August 17, 2012 [15 favorites]

Why are you pretending you're ok with your wife continuing a friendship with him? You're not.

The way to do what you're asking, unfortunately, is not to have the conversation you suggest. It is to be perfectly civil -- nothing more, nothing less.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:36 PM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

"I'm being ok with my wife continuing to be your friend as a favor to her."

Bad idea. As I see it you should get your wife to agree to stay away from this guy. And you and her should organize your activities, or even employments, to cut this guy 100% out of your lives for the sake of your family's future.

And get family counseling.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 10:20 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If it were me, the most this person would get out of me is an impersonal nod of acknowledgment and any further interactions would be civil but distant. If he approaches you, do not hesitate to say, "My wife and I are moving forward from this, but [you] and I are not." Then just walk away. Do not forget, he is the jackass in this situation, not you. No one is judging or blaming you. This bullshit is all on him (& your wife, but it sounds like the two of you are working through it, so I won't focus on her). Make no mistake, you are under no obligation to make this person or your wife comfortable. You are entitled to your hurt, anger, disdain, or whatever other emotions you are feeling. It's up to your wife and this guy to perform emotional acrobatics to make you comfortable and at ease. That doesn't mean you should be aggressive or invest in your anger, but you don't need to take care of anyone but yourself. As for innocent bystanders, unless you are keeping things super secret, everyone else will figure it out quickly enough and chances are you will have the vast majority, if not everyone, in your corner.

It would be amazing if you could treat him as a non-entity and his presence would have no effect on you at all, but that is unrealistic. Short of absenting yourself from situations that would include you both, the reality of him and his betrayal, regardless of your prior (or lack thereof) relationship, is inescapable. That doesn't mean you can't handle it with dignity and emerge feeling like the better person. Nothing cuts to the bone more than realizing how insignificant you are or how much you have failed as a person. Erect the emotional equivalent of the Berlin Wall and you will accomplish two things: protecting yourself and freezing him out. The rest of it, work out with your wife in therapy. Best of luck.
posted by katemcd at 10:40 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If getting what I want is impossible or inadvisable, how should I modify what I want, and how should I act to get that?

That's a really difficult question. Personally, I don't think anyone here can answer the first part (Is what you want possible?) because it's going to be fact-specific depending on the personalities of all involved parties, the nature of your wife's working relationship with this man, the dynamics of that workplace, and those same two factors with regard to the hobby relationship and dynamics. (If I understand, the hobby is separate from and in addition to the work relationship.) You haven't given much of this information in your post.

Nevertheless, I am reminded of my family. I joke that the advantage to growing up in an Irish family was that we always had multiple Christmases because there was always somebody who wasn't speaking to somebody else. Toward the end of his life, my dad had enough of the discord and just wanted everybody to exhibit the kind of bare-bones civility that, I think, you are talking about in your post: Show up to the rare mandatory events like weddings and funerals and Christmas, say hello, and from there you could sit at different tables or stay in separate rooms if necessary.

It seemed like a simple enough request and not taxing on adults who, ultimately, hadn't really done horrible things to each other anyway. Unfortunately I rarely saw it work. Now, I don't claim that because my family couldn't make this bare-bones civility work in their circumstance, that necessarily means you can't pull it off in yours. But in my experience, it is a more difficult and unlikely idea than it might seem.

I don't want to talk you out of your idea. For one thing, you don't seem overly interested in talking about that aspect ("I don't need help with that part.") and that's fair. For another, I don't have nearly enough facts about the people and circumstances involved. But it's unclear from your question whether you and your wife have spent time with the interim step of thinking about those facts and honestly asking each other, "Is this a realistic idea?"

In my experience, it wasn't. Ultimately we had strong-willed, emotional people who didn't want to be in social situations with each other, and that's hard to override. My answer to your compound question (quoted above) is that there's a military saying that people don't rise to the occasion but rather fall back on their training. I would suggest that is the circumstance facing you now, and it is less reasonable or likely to expect yourself to rise to some heretofore unseen level of behavior ("What should I do?") and more useful to focus on whatever have been your typical personality traits ("What will I do, and/or what will I be feeling?").

I hope you find something helpful to you in this thread. I'm sorry for what you have felt, and I wish you luck in repairing your marriage.
posted by cribcage at 10:49 PM on August 17, 2012 [6 favorites]

Here are the two things I especially don't want: 1) Having to listen to some kind of apology or explanation or discussion from him, and then having to either validate it or not validate it. I am interested in cutting this off at the head if it happens or starts to happen, in a non-angry, non-confrontational, but firm way. But I am having a hard time imagining what that looks like.

If he starts apologizing, maybe you could just interrupt him with "okay." Not "it's okay," just "okay."

"Okay" accepts that the statement has been stated while not necessarily implying belief or acceptance of its content. It will also stop the conversation, while being ambiguous, so your real meaning will probably come through in your tone of voice.

It can also be an interjection of "okay, that's enough!" When I googled "people saying the word okay," the top result was "when people keep saying the word ok, the conversation is over."

It can even imply condescension ("then the invisible unicorn sprinkled me with this pollen!" "ooookay, little joey. time to stop talking and put on your seatbelt") or disbelief (from wikipedia: "I really saw a UFO last night!" "Okay..."). As an adjective, it generally means something is mediocre ("that jacket is okay").

Fundamentally, the "okay" could be you acknowledging that you heard his statement, had nothing to say about it, neither accepted it nor rejected it, but noticed him saying it, and now it's time to move the conversation along.

Him: "Hey Bob, I just wanted you to know how very sorry I am, I really feel--"
You: "Okay."

And from there it will depend on your tone of voice, gestures, and follow-up:
- You could say it with distaste, or slightly pained, so that your tone of voice communicates: okay, I really didn't want to have to hear that, but you insisted, and now, okay, go away.
- You could say it with disgust, so that "okay" sounds like: ookay, yes of course, Mr. Sad Excuse for A Human Being would have some sort of thing to say, you're sorry? ok, suuure. (It sounds like you're not feeling quite as angry towards him as that.)
- You could say it with distance and disinterest: what was that you were saying? something about sorry? uh huh, sure whatever, okay.
- You could say it with condescension: okay son, was that all you wanted? you've said your piece, now move along
- You could say it with finality and impatience: fine, you delivered whatever that was, and now it's over. Okay. Done. Go away.

You could then nod or slightly shake your head, walk off, or offer additional explanation along the lines of what you said above ("my wife is the person involved here who matters to me and I've already forgiven her").
posted by salvia at 11:19 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

What I meant in that last part was that I'd shoot for about 80% neutral, "yes, I heard you," and 20% tinged with your emotions and the way you are finding yourself wanting to relate to him.
posted by salvia at 11:21 PM on August 17, 2012

Someone upthread said to reach your hand out to shake his.

Are you kidding me?

The (perhaps apocryphal but it works for me) custom of reaching out with your right hand was to show that you didn't have a knife in it. This guy stabbed you, and not upfront, but in the back.

So did your wife, but it seems you're wanting to stay in it, probably a good idea, or maybe a good idea. You'll find out, as it unfolds. If you trust her, stay, if not, wave her goodbye. If you don't know, holding pattern.

Regardless stay or go or hold, for your good and for hers, forgive her, and please, for your good and for hers, let her know.

If you don't know how to forgive her, learn. If you think you can't, you're lying to yourself. You might cry like a kid; I know I would. This stuff hurts.

My take: You're doing her no "favor" by letting her stay in this friendship, not if she's wanting your marriage to work, not if she places importance upon the family you've built and are trying to rebuild.

My take: You owe this guy no handshake. You do owe it to yourself to forgive him, but I don't think that means you've got to go and play patty-cakes with him, it's something that can be done in the silences of your own heart.

Truly sorry you're in this -- it's a hard spot you're in.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:47 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

End of her having any contact whatsoever with him and get a new hobby, or get a new wife. "Favors"? For her not-quite-cheating on you???

Seriously, this. You said you're not a "door-mat", but it seems otherwise to me. Frankly it seems as though your wife and he have managed to pull off quite a coup, getting you and his wife to just roll over on this. It's the perfect set up for them to continue on their relationship right in front of their unwitting spouses.
posted by zarah at 12:15 AM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

You owe this person nothing, not even civility. The best thing is to find a way to pursue your hobby in which your paths don't need to cross. With the comfort of not being in your position, I would actually talk to him, I'd tell him to stay away from you at all times and to do the same with your wife except where strictly required by work. The bigger question is are you really over this? Is your wife?
posted by epo at 2:24 AM on August 18, 2012

If he greets you, I'd keep it to a bare 'Hello." NOT any variation of "Hello. Excuse me, but I need to go do x"; just the single blunt word, spoken in a flat tone. And I certainly wouldn't shake this guy's hand for any reason --- if he extends his hand to you? Ignore it. If he tries to explain or excuse himself or apologize (not likely!), then just give him a cold stare and turn away. Keep all required interactions to a minimum, with single-word responses where ever possible.

Basically, not quite the "cut direct", where you don't even acknowledge the other person's existance; just an absolute bare minimum of words spent on him (no pleases or excuse mes or other politenesses), as cold and with as close to no emotion whatsoever as you can manage.
posted by easily confused at 3:39 AM on August 18, 2012

It's way too much togetherness. She works with the guy then does hobby stuff with the guy? This is why I don't socialize with my coworkers; nothing good comes from it. Find a new hobby, if you have to interact be polite but cool.
posted by fixedgear at 4:55 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd drop this guy and set a firm boundary with your wife -- probably to the point of not seeing him either. I may have a bit of a bitter view as my last relationship ended because of emotional cheating (that turned into real cheating). I'm glad that you and your wife were able to work things out, but I would not say word one to him and encourage you to remove him from your lives.

In my shoes, I wouldn't be comfortable with their relationship at all -- I'm fine with men and women being friends, but once a line like this has been crossed, it's a choice that someone has to make. If your wife wants you, she has to choose you. By keeping Mr. X in the mix, you're really only asking for trouble. I wish there was another way, but I did the EXACT same thing. I thought my ex and I had worked it out, and I was okay with them just being friends. We agreed that she should set boundaries with him and tell him that they can only be friends. She then went to tell him and cheated on me that same night, and it ended very badly.

This probably isn't the answer that you're looking for, but I'd tread carefully and keep having a conversation with your wife to make sure she knows that this guy doesn't have a place in either of your lives for your relationship to continue. Relationships should not be a contest between two people, and if she can't make the choice, you should make the choice for her by leaving.
posted by neveroddoreven at 5:01 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another way of acknowledging an apology without accepting it is to say "thank you". Feel free to interrupt, to say it coldly and add something like "but I don't want to discuss it."

A chilly "thank you" politely acknowledges the apology without having to say "that's ok" when it clearly wasn't or "I forgive you" when you clearly haven't and don't intend to.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:03 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

"That's between me and my wife. Have a good day."
posted by space_cookie at 7:22 AM on August 18, 2012

"Right" is another one-word, stop-him-in-the-middle-of-his-BS-apology, answer. It's like "okay" described above but more clipped. Maybe add a shrug. Then walk away.
posted by Pomo at 7:58 AM on August 18, 2012

"We're not discussing that here. Or, y'know, ever."
posted by the latin mouse at 8:10 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Regarding the shaking of hands, I may have been raised in a different manner than most but even if you will fight a man to the death afterwards (something you very much want to do), you shake his hand if it is extended.

I wish to also add to my previous post on forgiveness. That you forgive this man does not mean that you must became best friends or even social acquaintances. Forgiveness would be perfectly in accord with never having any contact with this person again and in fact, I would recommend such avoidance if it would be a stumbling block to your ability to forgive. This man was a toxic presence in your relationship and while we must forgive even the toxic, we do not need to bring them into our lives. It is a matter of your internal disposition.

I think this is in keeping with the general recommendations that you find a new hobby or hobby group. And, I do not recommend that your wife continue to socialize with this man. In fact, I think it would be a perfectly reasonable demand that she find another place to work as a condition of your marriage's continuance.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:37 AM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Stand your ground. Go to this hobby thing, he might not even show up. Remain stoic and let him talk if he does show up. If it's something you don't want to hear, excuse yourself from the conversation, not the room. He is the one who should move hobby locations, not you. He should feel uncomfortable, not you.
posted by bravowhiskey at 8:52 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

"In fact, I think it would be a perfectly reasonable demand that she find another place to work as a condition of your marriage's continuance."

No, this is not reasonable.
posted by Raichle at 9:13 AM on August 18, 2012

Tricky. I think this depends a great deal on how you, as individuals and as a couple, think and feel about fidelity. A lot of people in this thread are projecting (naturally) their own feelings about fidelity, but this runs a pretty wide spectrum. I suggest you do the following:
  1. Skip this interaction. You're still hot-headed and nobody makes good decisions when they're hot-headed. You'll say things you regret and not-say things you wish you had. You're not being a doormat to skip an interaction; you're making space for yourself to sit and think and process like an adult.
  2. Consider at some length (as you're cooled down, over some number of weeks; sounds like you have another month or two before you need to decide again) a question that I think is at the heart of dealing with affairs, that I can't read from your initial question: would you have been ok with your wife and this man having the connection they had if it not been in secret?
  3. If so -- if it was truly only the secret-keeping that hurt you -- then try to continue with this group but keep a cool distance by repeatedly cutting-off conversation Salvor Hardin suggests. You can learn to trust your wife again as she provides evidence of not keeping secrets.
  4. If not, end your connection to this group, as Waldo suggests. Your wife socializing with this man will continue to rub salt in a wound for you, especially if done in front of you.
If you do leave the group, a subsequent question is whether you expect your wife to do the same and cut off contact with the man entirely. Again, the amount this sort of thing is acceptable varies a lot by person. Some people will never accept being told by a partner who to be friends with, or not be friends with. Others consider this part of the bargain of being a couple or being married. In any case, it's secondary to what you do with your own time.

This topic does not sound at all "finished" or "reconciled" in the tone of your question though. It sounds like you are still digesting a lot of what happened, and will be for a while.
posted by ead at 10:22 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

"In fact, I think it would be a perfectly reasonable demand that she find another place to work as a condition of your marriage's continuance."

No, this is not reasonable.

Actually, It is quite reasonable. Listen the fact is, OP, you don't have to continue with your wife. Its perfectly reasonable for you to ask that your wife stop associating with the man she was having an affair with on any level. Otherwise, how is she supposed to rebuild trust with you when there will be many, many opportunities to break that trust every single day? Without that trust, there is no relationship.

I suggest reading Not Just Friends
posted by Ironmouth at 11:49 AM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

"In fact, I think it would be a perfectly reasonable demand that she find another place to work as a condition of your marriage's continuance."

No, this is not reasonable.

This isn't even the question being asked. The question being asked is how to manage the interaction with the man that may occur tomorrow. Let's show some respect for the guy's decisions about what he has already decided he wants to do, and focus on the question where he is still seeking input.
posted by salvia at 12:49 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Everyone is basically comfortable with this reconciliation, including the co-worker's wife. I don't need help with that part. As far as my wife and I are concerned, we're satisfied with where we're at and ready to move forward from this to focus on what's going wrong in our marriage.

Good for you for for having all parties participate in this reconciliation, concentrating on your relationship with your wife, and for reaching personal decisions about how you two can best move forward. Honestly, I think that you have already done the work you need to do in your head and you're going to be fine.

It'll be easier after the first time. You don't need to stride away briskly if he gets near you, just ignore him. Avoid eye contact the way a bartender does when she/he isn't ready to take your drink order yet. If he initiates any conversation, just excuse yourself very neutrally in a sort of businesslike tone, maybe give an impersonal nod, and go talk to someone else. Like he's the UPS guy or something.

Maybe think of it this way -- most of us have an acquaintance or two who we hope to god will spare us the rehashing of some variety of inappropriate personal details, right? As you said, you don't have a relationship with this guy, so really, anything he wants to say is TMI, whether it's apologies about his relationship with your wife, his boyhood dream of being a pilot, or how bad the mosquitoes are this year. "So, I just...," he starts. "Hm. You'll have to excuse me, thanks."

There are a lot of insistent replies in this thread about whether you are being appropriate respected which are nevertheless disrespecting your decisions in this matter. Sorry to see that. But it is a good reminder that you and your wife will should agree to a very neutral party line to say in response to anyone in this hobby group who asks about the situation or just notices some tension (don't know if others know or not.) Keep it drama-free, and the drama-seekers will get bored and buzz off.
posted by desuetude at 2:53 PM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding salvia like whoa.

OP, my best advice would be to remember that the best defense is a good offense. Ignore/barely acknowledge that stupid apology and then keep on being awesome. Make merry and have good cheer with your friends, not letting this jerk face yuck up your yum.
posted by spunweb at 8:00 PM on August 18, 2012

This advice is not exactly like the others or what you were going there, but I'll put it out there. Very rarely do these interactions go as planned. Normally what happens is that a person who is a loathesome monster, in your mind, seems less scary and evil in person. You may end up shaking this person's hand and having a friendly conversation with him, and that's fine. It's unlikely that the topic of what happened will come up. You can practice the conversation 100x in your head and it's unlikely to go how you envision it.

Sometimes the strongest move is to honestly just put it behind you. No clipped conversations, no cold shoulder, just shoot the shit with him like you would with any stranger. If you're so angry that you can't do that, I'd recommend being as polite as you can muster... because there will hopefully be a time a few months from now when you're no longer angry, and you will regret the angry words that came out of your mouth (or at least not want to act that way anymore). I say hopefully because it means you will be at peace with the situation. Honestly, being kind and loving these situations, even if on the outset looks like it would be a pride-hurting stance, is something that feels very strong. Treat the guy like a human.

Remember that the emotional issues to be resolved are between you and your wife, not between you and this person.
posted by kellybird at 8:11 PM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Does the other guy know that you know? If so, chances are he probably won't want to talk to you. He's probably nervous about seeing you and your wife in person, shitting bricks and hoping you won't break his nose for doing what he did. So it's likely, he may want to limit interaction with you, in which case half your work is done.

Also, I nth those who have said it's bullshit that your wife has asked you to let her stay friends with him as a favour. Yeah, she's an adult and you can't really demand that she not talk to someone, but if anyone is on unsteady ground and needs to be doing favours here, seems to me its her and she should be offering to cut off contact with this douchebag for the sake of your marriage and your emotional wellbeing.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:28 AM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

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