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Feature Article


Extramarital Affairs in the Workplace

Nina Chen, Ph.D., CFLE, Human Development Specialist, Jackson County and West Central Region HES, University of Missouri Extension

Having an extramarital affair not only can hurt a marriage, but also the children and family. The percentage of those having an affair with a co-worker has increased. Dr. Shirley Glass, a marriage and family therapist, found in her practice over the last two decades that 46 percent of unfaithful wives and 62 percent of unfaithful husbands had affairs with someone at work.

An extramarital affair may happen when there is frequent interaction with coworkers through interest or pressure over a project, and there is also a physical attraction. If they start to share more of themselves when alone with the person they work with, emotional intimacy may develop and lead to an affair. When people have an affair, they no longer spend time working on their marriage. Extramarital affairs can eventually destroy a marriage, even a good marriage. The following are some tips for preventing affairs in the workplace.

  • Keep open communication with your spouse. Make a commitment to honesty and have ongoing open communication about things that impact your relationship. Make sure to have couple time and dates regularly. Time with your spouse alone everyday can be a time for reconnecting and recharging your emotional batteries and intimacy.
  • Keep commitment to your marriage. Commitment is the foundation that holds your marital relationship together. With a commitment to each other, a couple’s dedication, trust, and loyalty can grow. Studies show that couples who commit to one another think less often about being with someone else. Keeping your marriage strong needs investment and commitment. It is like taking care of your own lawn. You need to water and trim your lawn to make it healthy and don’t linger by the fence because it is greener on the other side.
  • Keep your marriage in mind and a high priority. Control your thoughts and keep your thoughts on a professional level. Your thoughts may not become an action; however, thinking about intimacy with your coworker or physical attraction may increase chances of acting on those thoughts when there is an opportunity.
  • Establish clear boundaries for work. If your coworkers know more about your personal information than your spouse and when there’s more companionship and intellectual sharing and understanding at work than in the marriage, that’s a warning sign.
  • Avoid being alone with coworkers of the opposite sex. Being alone with each other may create a chance of having an affair. This does not mean that if you are alone with coworkers of the opposite sex, your will have an affair with a coworker. However, the more you do activities together alone, the more likely it is that you may form an intimacy bond which could lead to an affair.
  • Keep conversation with coworkers of the opposite sex on work related topics. When the conversation moves to a more personal level, you need to stop and make a quick exit. The more you open up to each other emotionally, the more vulnerable you are to develop an emotional intimacy and withdraw emotionally from your spouse. Emotional intimacy is similar to physical intimacy. Emotional intimacy with a coworker can be dangerous and cause more harm to your marriage than a one night stand.



Glass, S. (2003) Not just friends: Protect your relationship from infidelity and heal the trauma of betrayal. New York: The Free Press.

Emotional infidelity. (2002, February). Smart Marriage E-Newsletter.



Last Updated 05/12/2009


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