Art by Andrew Condell
All the time, deep down, I wanted to be with her and my mind was going crazy thinking about her, but somehow I resisted the temptation. She and I mostly work from home, but every so often we’re both in the office together, and I feel the spark again and my feelings reignite. Now I look back with regret that I did not take her up on offers. I finally spoke to her and told her I had feelings for her. She backed off, telling me she is happy where her life is right now. She also sounded angry when she rejected me.
I kind of knew in my heart that she would turn me down as time had passed by. Now I feel embarrassed as I feel our friendship is over. Even though I look back at the opportunities I passed up, at the time I was happy with my decision. Why, all this time later, do I regret it? — Missed an Opportunity for an Affair
I’m not going to give you a hard time for having feelings for someone other than your wife. The feelings sound superficial enough – you mention nothing about Maria at all except that you find her attractive — and you didn’t act on your feelings despite what you perceived as countless invitations over the period of many, many months. So, I guess, kudos for that?
What I will give you slack over is regretting not having an affair and for sharing your feelings with Maria. I mean, no shit, Maria sounded angry that you finally confessed your feelings. For one thing, you may have been wrong about what you thought were advancements on her part. I admit, it sounds a little shady that she invited you to her place when her husband and kids were out of town, but perhaps you misperceived the invitation? Maybe it was merely a friendly invitation? Maybe she wanted to discuss work in a more comfortable environment than the office, especially considering neither of you works in the office regularly and both of you consider your respective homes places of work. Imagine how she might feel if, for well over a year, you misconstrued friendly professionalism as flirting and sexual advances and then told her as much! Pretty angry.
But maybe you’re right and Maria was hitting on you over and over and over for many, many months despite your both being married and despite your being colleagues and despite your constantly rejecting her. Finally, she decides she’s done trying and she puts thoughts of an affair with you out of her mind. It’s THEN — when she decides to give up after a very long, concerted effort to seduce you — that you finally admit that, well actually, you liked her all along?! How do you think she’d feel? Probably pretty angry — and not just at you. She’s probably pissed at herself and for good reason — all that time spent pursuing a married man and threatening her own marriage as well as her career. What a stupid thing to do.
And, now, finally: your own regret. Regret for what? For not breaking the vows you made to your wife? For not risking your job, your family, your whole life, really, for some sex? Come on, you know you made the right decision. And you only finally confessed your feelings to Maria when you knew it was unlikely she’d be responsive since so much time had passed. I suspect you only admitted your feelings to her when you did to extend the spark of excitement — to tug on the status quo of your day-to-day life that, if you’re like most people, can feel mundane and monotonous.
You didn’t really want an affair – not a physical affair anyway – but just the continued idea that you could have one because that’s exciting and fun. Instead, you were shut down — the invitation to pursue something elicit yanked back, kicking you out of a multi-month daydream that you were special to someone other than your wife — a daydream where the dull demands of day-to-day married life cease to exist and the thrill of something forbidden fueled you through each boring day. That’s your regret. And, oh yeah — a ruined “friendship” with Maria.
Focus on what you get to keep instead for rejecting an opportunity to pursue an affair: your wife, your family, your job, and, hopefully, some self-respect. I promise, losing any of those would not have been worth the momentary — the very temporary — thrill of an affair. If you crave excitement — if you need to shake up your life a bit and remind yourself you’re still alive, and if you need to threaten what you hold safe and dear in order to do that: go sky diving. At least then you have a parachute to break your fall.