Affair With Coworker is Over, Now Feeling Guilt

Reader’s Question

About a year ago, I began an affair with a coworker. My wife and I were having problems, and she was there for me emotionally. I misled her about seperating from my wife and potentially divorcing her (I feel that divorce is not an option, and my church looks disapprovingly on it as well). Through our quick (in most cases) sexual encounters, I was very happy, and she was as well. She told me she was falling in love with me, and I told her I was as well. Eventually, after about 8 months, I told her I needed to give my marriage one more chance. She agreed, stating that if WE had any chance, I could have no regrets or second guesses about my marriage. During the course of trying to patch things up with my wife, she became pregnant, which I withheld from my coworker.

My coworker and I have remained friends and I recently told her that my wife was pregnant. She got angry and refuses to speak to me, saying that I cheated on her with my wife. I do not want to lose her friendship, and feel an obligation to my wife and family (two kids age 9 and 5, and the aforementioned pregnancy). I feel depressed; I have stopped working to get my masters degree, and my wife does little to emotionally support that. I have told her I am depressed, and her attitude is that I should suck it up and do my job.

My question is how do I get over the emotional attachment to my coworker and work on my marriage? I can’t stop thinking about the coworker. I know we cannot have the sexual relationship we once shared (nor do I want to), but I miss her. I know all of my problems are of my own making but I can’t find a way to move forward. I am not suicidal, I have no desire to “end it all” but I need to find a way to get back to being a good husband and father. The only way I see that happening is if I can let go of my relationship with the coworker, but I am finding myself thinking of her often (especially when my wife is away at work).

I feel:

  1. Guilt over lying to my wife: she still does not know about the affair, but doesn’t trust my relationship with this coworker.
  2. Guilt over lying to the coworker: she was there for me emotionally, but I was dishonest with her and used her for sex and emotional support.
  3. Guilt over not being a good father: I am setting a VERY poor example to my son about how to treat women.
  4. Sadness and depression: I am not the bread winner in my family.
  5. Sadness and depression about committing adultery.
  6. Abandoned by the coworker — although I UNDERSTAND her desire not to speak with me.

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Psychologist’s Reply

One of the best things you can do at this time is do what’s best for the coworker — not yourself. You’ve been extremely selfish in this situation and have placed the coworker, your wife, your family, and your personal situation in jeopardy for your own emotional support and sexual satisfaction. Your coworker his taking the correct approach by detaching from you as you are toxic to her. You need to let her do this for her own protection. Don’t contact her, don’t fantasize, and don’t create additional lies or fantasies. You’ll notice that you’re still fantasizing about her — but especially when your wife is away at work. Clearly, you’re still dangerous to her — and to yourself. You’ll notice that you describe her detachment as being “abandoned” by her — as though she is doing something wrong — not you. In your attitude, you are still making her a victim of your lies and behavior.

From your perspective, I would recommend counseling to address your behavior and your reaction to this situation. You have an opportunity to use this situation as a growing, maturing and learning experience. You can return to being a good husband and father. You’ll need to recognize that your selfish behavior nearly ruined several lives. On the positive side, all will likely recover as the situation stopped at this point. However, you need to understand your motivations and attitudes that created this situation to improve your position as a role model for your son.

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