Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared in 2003.
Hi Carolyn: I have been having an affair with my older, married boss for six months (he’s 44 and I’m 28). We are in love. We obviously haven’t told anyone in the office, but he says he thinks people are catching on to us and that we shouldn’t be so chatty together at work anymore. That’s fine, except now I have the opportunity to pursue a promotion within the company. He has also asked me NOT to apply for the position because it would involve our working at the same level and our relationship would look even more suspicious to the rest of the office. I am qualified for this promotion and really want the recognition.
Don’t you just hate it when your immorality gets in the way of your career?
End the affair regardless; be horrified at his request; apply for the promotion; be realistic and dust off your resume; and look at thyself in the mirror. You have more than one opportunity here to rise.
Dear Carolyn: I have recently started seeing a wonderful young woman who has a serious ex-boyfriend as a best friend (they dated for two years and lived together for a year). While I do believe the romance is over between them, I cannot help being jealous when they go out together. Especially when she gets to experience new things with him. My head is swimming in emotions, and I am having difficulty discerning what emotions and behaviors are appropriate. Am I wrong to demand she sever the relationship entirely? Am I wrong to demand she limit her time with him? I do believe the amount of time she spends with him will diminish as our relationship progresses. What do I do in the meantime?
Keep swimming. It is a vale of tears and all.
I hope it will make you feel better to know that you’re normal, because that’s all I’ve got. Facts are facts: At the moment, he is closer to your girlfriend than you are – and may stay that way. Your jealousy makes perfect sense.
Acting on it, in any way whatsoever, doesn’t. It’s not appropriate to demand she sever the relationship entirely; it’s not appropriate to demand she limit her time with him; it’s not appropriate to demand she stop chain smoking, gambling her car payment and wearing a clown suit to church, if that’s how she chooses to live. It’s her life to run – deftly, badly, nobly, amorally, kindly, cruelly – and that includes whom she sees. What you get to choose is your response, whether it be to break up, stay put, express how you feel, or adjust your perspective on clown suits. So far, you’ve chosen trust and optimism and not acting on your ultimatumish impulses. Nicely done. Now take that maturity one better and include her in the next choice you make: Admit you’re finding it hard to see her with her ex, admit you’re at a loss, acknowledge it’s her choice to make, and then ask what she’d do in your place. Become closer to her, in your way, and allow her also to know you.
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