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.
Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SpaceySteph November 12, 2015, 9:35 am
Hahh I had the same thoughts as Wendy re: unspoken agreement. I am not in an open relationship or poly but I really cannot figure out how you can know your husband agrees with an open relationship if you haven’t ever talked about it? Maybe the unspoken agreement is that you cheat on him and he loves you/hates himself/lacks a spine enough that doesn’t call you out on it.
Anyways, I still think its wrong to go after married people that you know are married unless you also know they are in an open relationship (maybe the kind with an actual agreement). There could be lots of reasons he doesn’t wear a ring– maybe he got fat? Maybe he developed an allergy to the metal? Maybe he just doesn’t like wearing jewelry? There could likewise be lots of reasons he doesn’t talk about his wife– like he’s a professional who doesn’t talk about his personal life in the workplace?
I don’t know, it seems like you insinuate a lot of things from glances and nods and have come up with a few more unspoken agreements that only exist in your head.
Ginger November 12, 2015, 12:38 pm
I used to work with someone like this. She would tell me all about her boning her neighbour and when I asked how her husband felt about it. Same story: open relationship. She’s sleeps with other people and doesn’t tell him. He does not and thinks their monogamous. I never did figure it out
Taylor November 16, 2015, 3:16 pm
If he thinks they are monogamous, then isn’t she just cheating?
K November 12, 2015, 9:38 am
Agreed that it’s wrong to go after a married man. Find someone else.
gigi November 12, 2015, 9:40 am
Ugh…. Whose court is it anyway? Its NOT YOUR COURT! Sorry I have strong feeling about this & kudos to Wendy for being very open-minded, but there are plenty of single guys in the world you can go after, why do you need to pursue the married ones? It’s just so wrong. The chance that it wouldn’t be a secret for long, & the potential of hurting someone you do not even know. Are there kids involved? If the wife gets angry & starts drama, chances are good your husband will know about it eventually, then what happens to your strange unspoken agreement? Just so many levels of wrong.
dinoceros November 12, 2015, 9:50 am
I was also curious. If it’s an unspoken agreement, how do you know what’s been agreed upon and that you’re both on the same page? I’m fine with open marriages if they work for people, but I think the main way to keep it from blowing up in your face is to iron on the details of what’s OK and what’s not.
If you’re just interested in sex, then it seems easy enough to just find someone who isn’t married or who you know is in an open marriage. Like why does it have to be this guy? Surely you can find other attractive people. Aside from the ethical stuff of approaching a married man, if he is not on the same page, you might become the subject of gossip if he tells people that you went after him. When you’re talking careers and possible need for references or networks, that might not be a good thing.
SasLinna November 12, 2015, 10:25 am
You make a great point that, even though she doesn’t work there anymore, it could still hurt her professionally to approach this guy. That’s reason enough not to try it.
PumpkinSpice November 12, 2015, 9:54 am
To me, there are huge Red flags flying through out this letter. You and your husband actively cheat on each other. And as long as neither of you get caught, it is OK? That is how i read this. And now you want to go sleep with a married soon to be ex Co worker. Did you think that you pursing this guy can destroy his family? I know a lot of people who don’t talk about their spouses in the work place because to them, work is work, and home life stays private. I don’t know how things really are with your relationship , but I recommend that you forget this guy and find someone single to sleep with. There are just to many things in this letter that bother me. Also, is this a case of “my husband cheated on me, so now I will cheat on him”? Maybe I am too close minded for this arraignment you have. But leave the married guy out of it.
LisforLeslie November 12, 2015, 10:13 am
Regardless of the tacit agreement you and your husband have, I’d be wary of getting any married or attached spouses involved. Sure, there may be an attraction and sure you may have an unspoken agreement that you get what you need as you need it but that doesn’t mean that he has the same arrangement with his wife. Sure, you followed the old adage “Don’t sh*t where you eat.” but you seem fine with tossing your sh*t into someone else’s yard. Respect someone else’s marriage more than your own.
Diablo November 12, 2015, 10:15 am
So, LW, to recap: You have this completely unspoken agreement with your husband that you can bone anyone you want, and you are attracted to a married co-worker, who although flirty, has never actually shown you that he reciprocates those feelings in a way that would lead to him actually dishonoring his marriage to do the deed with you. Wendy, are you 100% sure this isn’t Amy Schumer writing in? Is she doing field research for Trainwreck 2? Personally, i think it is fine for anyone to make a pass at a married person, even another married person. It’s a perfectly good test of the vows. The LW is free and clear thanks to the extremely unspoken agreement, and the married guy simply has to say no if he doesn’t want to. If he sexes her, the marriage was probably a sham anyway, and best ended sooner for the sake of his wife. So i think this is a perfectly good situation. I wouldnt just give him your number, though. That could mean anything, just like this non-committal flirting in the office. I mean, I have my married co-worker’s number, and often send her flirty texts outside of work hours, like “What time was that MEETING anyway?” or “Did you bring the THUMBDRIVE with the POWERPOINT?” that are basically dripping with innuendo. I think you should send a sexy photo with a text like “I’m all yours, studcakes.” It’s time for at least one actual spoken agreement here. Be sure to update, we can’t wait.
bcamber November 12, 2015, 10:15 am
No, you should not pursue married men.
While remaining faithful is the responsibility of the person that is married, being a knowing accessory to adultery also makes you a shitty human being. I gues you are fine with being a shitty human being.
jlyfsh November 12, 2015, 10:21 am
I would not pursue this person. Just because you and your husband do things a certain way (or you assume he is also doing things your way), doesn’t mean other couples do. There must be better avenues to finding people interested in sleeping with you than a previous coworker.
Also not wearing a ring and not mentioning his wife at work don’t tell you anything about his marriage. I can tell it’s made you assume a lot, but you shouldn’t.
Monkeysmommy November 12, 2015, 10:21 am
I am not going to get hung up on your alleged agreement; what you do to destroy your marriage is your business. However, I will tell you that I know a couple very well that had a similar “agreement”; guess who is now getting a divorce? Did i mention he was banging a colleague when things blew up?
Anywho, here is my two cents: keep your fucking legs together and leave this man alone. He is married- meaning it’s NOT YOUR COURT to play on. It’s not. You could potentially destroy his marriage. Does he have kids? Would they understand if Daddy had to move out because he was shaggy that lady from the office? Probably not. And going back to your comments about how others at the office remarked on the flirting- that is NOT a good thing. Someone was probably gently trying to tell you that you were coming off as the office slut. As for not wearing a ring- also means nothing. My own husband doesn’t wear one 99% of the time because he hates the clunky feel of his ring on his finger. Same with his watch- both are abandoned shortly after putting them on. Doesn’t mean he loves me any less. And it sure as he’ll isn’t an invite for the women at the office to jump on his nuts. Flirting can also be misconstrued. Maybe what he thinks is friendly, you think is flirty.
If you feel you have an understanding with your husband, find an unattached man to carry it out with, there would be no shortage of men who would be willing!!
Monkeysmommy November 12, 2015, 10:23 am
I hate autocorrect! A few of my words were changed, but I think the point is made.
Bostonpupgal November 12, 2015, 11:35 am
I agree with this 100%. Coworkers or superiors commenting on how much you flirt with someone else in the office is NOT a good thing. It makes you look extremely unprofessional and like a loose cannon that could cause issues.
To answer your question, no, you should absolutely not go after your married coworker. What you should do is stop fucking other men period until you have an ACTUAL conversation with your husband about the state of your relationship, your desire to go outside of it for sex, and what, if any, boundaries should be placed on that. What you’re doing now could very well ruin your own marriage, and going after your coworker could ruin his life and both your careers. I’d suggest some therapy for you as well to discuss why you’re settling for a marriage where your needs aren’t being met, and why you’re willing to devastate not just your husband but an entire other family you don’t even know and who did nothing wrong. You sound heartless, selfish, and like you have no morals. There is a right way to have an open marriage, and this is not it. What you’re doing is lying, cheating, and going after unavailable men.
Bluejay November 12, 2015, 1:55 pm
Love this answer!
SasLinna November 12, 2015, 10:22 am
Could you start working towards a truly open relationship where everyone is clearly consenting to what’s happening and no one is being betrayed by their partner? I’ve heard “Opening up” by Tristan Taormino is a good book that deals with this issue. Find an explicit agreement with your husband – even if it’s “don’t ask don’t tell” you still need to talk about having that agreement and its terms – and be open with other potential partners. Who knows, maybe the guy from work is in an open marriage. If not, it’s a clear no-go in my opinion because you’d be helping him to betray his wife.
PumpkinSpice November 12, 2015, 10:27 am
LFL I loved your comment. A nice way to some it up. That is basically what I wanted to say, but you has the right words. ?
chief10 November 12, 2015, 11:19 am
Unspoken agreement haha that is truly laughable. Agree with what everyone else has said on the topic. Leave the married guy alone. I’m sorry officer I have unspoken agreement with the dealership that I can take this Ferrari for a spin whenever I like.
Skyblossom November 12, 2015, 11:36 am
Another one to say an unspoken agreement means no agreement. How could you possibly have come to an agreement if you haven’t talked about it? How happy is your marriage if you can’t talk to your husband about this? You sound like you are glossing over the problems in your marriage and not working on them and putting your focus outside your marriage. You can’t have a happy marriage when your focus is outside the marriage. Is it time to look at your marriage and decide whether you are in the right marriage or the wrong marriage?
RedRoverRedRover November 12, 2015, 2:28 pm
“How happy is your marriage if you can’t talk to your husband about this?”
Exactly. Why wouldn’t you WANT to talk to your husband about this? If I wanted an open marriage, but also wanted to make sure I kept my marriage, I would sure as hell want to talk to him about it and make sure everything’s clear. Otherwise you’re risking the marriage, because you have no idea if the two of you are working with different assumptions and understandings of your “agreement”.
mjmaim November 12, 2015, 11:39 am
I find it curious that the LW has workplace ethics enough to not sleep with a coworker, but not morals enough to know that sleeping with a married man is wrong. What kind of emotional detachment do you have that the temporary enjoyment of sex trumps the sanctity of his marriage, family and everyone else’s feelings?
Skyblossom November 12, 2015, 12:18 pm
She didn’t want to harm herself by getting involved with someone at work but she has no concern over harming him.
Essie November 12, 2015, 1:02 pm
Yeah, I loved that comment about people at work making comments about their flirting. Gee, what a proud career moment for you. Having the whole office thinking you and your married coworker are boning. Ugh.
When you go affair-shopping at your next workplace, keep it out of the office. Your coworkers are amused by the show, I’m sure, but they probably don’t have a shred of respect for you, personally or professionally.
RedBlue November 12, 2015, 2:20 pm
I had to rewrite this several times before I could get it polite enough to make public but basically you seem to have a trait that is expressing itself more and more today. It is that sociopathic one of what I call “I do whatever I want and to hell with how it affects others” syndrome. This is the only way I can read your letter.
In your own words you are saying that you are cheating on your husband and you really don’t care how he feels nor do you seem to care if he finds out and you know that he doesn’t have the stones to toss your assistance out on the streets. You don’t respect him enough to bring this issue out in the open.
You also don’t have any respect for the other guy and how it might affect him and his family as long as you feel good. Yes it does take two to tango but when one of the parties in the dance is a predator, the odds are against the prey (yes it is a mixed metaphor).
I strongly suggest you get psychological health.
findingtheearth November 12, 2015, 3:13 pm
I am going to be honest. I work with someone I find very attractive. He is married. I respect his marriage and make sure our interactions are polite and I keep my feelings out of it. I know nothing about if he would cheat or not, because his marriage is none of my business. Also, I agree with preposted sentiment: if people are commenting on your flirting, it’s not a good thing.
Susan November 12, 2015, 3:42 pm
What a dog.
Dear Wendy November 12, 2015, 4:25 pm
From the LW:
SpaceySteph November 12, 2015, 5:01 pm
Enh… I think that open marriages are rare enough that it’s unlikely he is. Seems like it’d be a lot easier to just find a dude you know is available and has no interface with your career, past or present.
And yes, an unspoken agreement is literally the opposite of an agreement that you, uh, spoke about.
jlyfsh November 12, 2015, 11:54 pm
I agree with spaceysteph I think it’s safest to assume he’s not in an open marriage. And to stay away from your professional life when looking for future partners.
rieux November 13, 2015, 7:42 am
This is a good clarification. And I can imagine you having a very frank conversation with him, like, “I feel a vibe between us, and I would like to act on it, but only because I’m free to do what I like in my marriage, and I just wanted to see if you were in the same situation. If you’re monogamously married or not interested please forget I said anything.” Pretty similar to the way you’d ask a single coworker out — except for one thing. The problem is that, of people who claim to be in open marriages, some are actually in one, like you, but many are just liars, because habitual cheating either turns people into liars or arises from being a liar. Even if you had a frank conversation with him and he said he was in an open relationship, could you really believe him? Soooo many people say that. How often is it really true? Soooo many people, not just sociopaths and jerks, lie to the faces of not only their sex partners but their LIFE partners in order to get what they want, and sleeping with a married person is one of the easiest ways to risk being lied to.
On the other hand I don’t think it’s that worrisome that people could see you flirting, as long as it didn’t get in the way of doing your work. I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t been the subject of rumors like that, true or untrue. People become attracted to each other sometimes. And people at work are still people. Hard to get away from that!
SasLinna November 13, 2015, 8:02 am
Yeah, this is a problem with a “don’t ask don’t tell” arrangement in particular. Otherwise she could just ask to meet his wife.
SpaceySteph November 16, 2015, 9:29 am
Agree with most of what was said above, but I don’t think asking to meet his wife is a good test. It depends on the couple’s rules for opening their relationship. There’s really no way to figure out if “we agreed we wouldn’t introduce our spouse to our other partners” is true or a lie covering an affair.
Honestly, I think there’s no way to completely rule out lying unless you happen to know both halves of the couple socially first.
SasLinna November 13, 2015, 8:00 am
If you know him well enough to talk about such things you could let him know that you’re in an open relationship. It’s a pretty clear hint so if he doesn’t react to it by saying “me too!” you pretty much know he’s monogamous. If you don’t really know him well it’s going to come across as TMI though.
SasLinna November 13, 2015, 8:06 am
To clarify, what I mean is telling him you’re in an open marriage without asking him out (of course it would still be pretty heavily implied that you’re into him, especially if you’ve flirted with him before, but it might allow you to save face).
You are still risking your professional reputation though. He might tell other people. Personally I would refrain from doing this.
Skyblossom November 13, 2015, 8:35 am
If they did have an affair and it ended in an ugly way it could certainly hurt her professionally. If she doesn’t want anyone in her profession to know about her marital arrangement she needs to not get involved with anyone in her profession.
Monkeysmommy November 14, 2015, 8:23 pm
Way to listen to almost nothing that’s been said, OP!! How much clearer can we all be? Stay the fuck away from the guy.
Jimmyjam November 14, 2015, 7:48 pm
Amazing, you be better off putting a shotgun in his mouth and blowing his head off and then pointing it at your own head and taking it off.
It will save you stress, hardship and him money.
WTF are you thinking, I swear you are clowning us.
Jimmyjam November 14, 2015, 7:54 pm
Sorry if that comes across as tough love, I only post after a few drinks. Trust me it this needed.