Because we work together, I have never instigated anything even though he never wears a ring or mentions his wife. I am now leaving my job and would want to move things further, but I’m not sure if I should or how to initiate a date? Should I give him my number and then leave the ball in his court? Any advice would be very much appreciated. — Whose Court Is it Anyway?
Before we address the married co-worker, let’s back up to the part where you say you and your husband have an “unspoken agreement about sleeping with other people.” I’m so curious about how an agreement like this comes about if it is unspoken. Is it written down, like a contract that you two have signed? And, if so, is it weird to you that you have an agreement about such an intimate, arguably hot-button, topic that you haven’t even orally (no pun intended) discussed? If this agreement isn’t in writing, in addition to not being spoken, are you sure it actually exists at all? If an agreement is made in a forest and no one speaks it or writes it, does anyone hear it?
Wait, I’m not ready to move on to your co-worker yet. I’m still processing this idea of an unspoken agreement to sleep with people outside your marriage. I’m not a prude, and while I don’t practice open extramarital relations myself, I appreciate that they work for some couples. I’ve just never heard of couples practicing an open marriage without verbally acknowledging such an agreement, and I worry that what you consider simply “unspoken,” is, in fact, non-existent.
But maybe I’m getting hung up on semantics and you and your husband are eyes and hearts wide open on this issue and all’s well on that front. In which case, great, but I would still absolutely suggest having regular conversations about your agreement and lifestyle, checking in with each other, and making sure you’re each still on-board and happy with the agreement to bone other people.
Now: onto your co-worker. You were right to hold off on approaching him while you two worked together. Now that you are leaving your job, you should consider him as you would consider any potential sex-partner. What are your own rules when seeking someone outside your marriage to sleep with? Do you look for people you know well? Strangers? Acquaintances? Men who know your husband? Men who don’t know your husband? Do you sleep with only single men? Men you know for certain are emotionally and physically available, whether that means they’re single or also in open relationships (and how do you confirm that their relationships are, in fact, open, especially when it’s a topic you seem to not even discuss within your own open relationship?).
Obviously, we all have our own sets of ethics, morals, and boundaries, and you have to decide what yours are if you haven’t already. If married men are off-limits to you because of your own personal code of ethics, then the answer to your question is easy: You don’t initiate something with this man. If married men are fair game, but there are conditions, you have to decide what these conditions are.
If you can’t be sure if your soon-to-be former co-worker falls into any category of conditions, you again have to rely on your own code of ethics. Would it be “initiating” something by directly asking whether he falls into any of the categories? If, by your own code of ethics, you are ok with potentially opening a pandora’s box by pursuing a married man whose marriage you know nothing about, then what’s holding you back? Whom do you truly need permission from? Not me, I would assume. Your husband? Society at large?
Again, I would direct you to look at your own history and how you’ve conducted your extramarital affairs thus far. If what you’ve been doing in terms of seeking out partners has worked, I’d stick with that. If something hasn’t felt right, I’d stop doing that. And if the idea of pursuing a married man gives you pause, I’d sit with that feeling for a bit and consider what it is that is making you hesitate. Are you worried about rejection? About potentially hurting the other woman? Getting tangled in a love triangle?
Ultimately, it’s your own code of ethics that will guide you to the right answer to your question. All I can do as an advice columnist is suggest that if there’s some hesitation on your part in pursuing a married man, especially considering your agreement with your husband remains unspoken, maybe the root of your hesitation has more to do with all the things left unsaid and undefined than with the other man and the status of his relationship.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.