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An affair creates conflict between values and behaviors

Am I addicted to dangerous relationships?

For a few years, I’ve had a crush on a colleague in a leadership position. In fact, she was my manager for some time. She’s married, with a house full of small kids. All the fantasies I’ve had about her have not gotten in the way of us building a very close professional and personal (platonic) relationship. That is until recently.

All it took was one drunk interaction, where we both realized our attraction for one another, and we fell deep into a physically intimate rabbit hole. This new paradigm in our relationship has not been officially “consummated” yet, but we both know we can’t resist much longer. Neither one of us is new to affairs, and, while our sense of guilt and her love for her husband and family is definitely a rationalizing factor, the risks and sexual tension are pushing us very close to the edge. What should I do?

It sounds like you are asking for permission for something you already plan to do. The flame was first ignited long ago and has been waiting for some kindling. Enter alcohol, with that “one drunk interaction” which gave you a gust of wind to fan the flames.

One of my favorite relationship therapists, Ester Perel, explains, “Infidelity has a tenacity that marriage can only envy… it is something universally forbidden yet universally practiced.” Workplace affairs are quite common, usually because there is already a large divide in one or both person’s marriage, leaving space for a new person to enter — especially given you’re sharing 40 hours a week away from the demands of domestic chores and children, which leads to the idealizing of the office romance and the denigration of the marriage.

Whether you are technically addicted to dangerous relationships is not something I can answer, but it does sound like you have a proclivity toward transgressive situations. So does she. How refreshing — shall we say — that you’ve been frank with each other about your past affairs. If you each frequently seek romantic or sexual scenarios in which there is mystery, novelty or a need to be secretive, then this affair will be wither out soon enough.

You seek activities that boost your adrenaline and dopamine levels, giving you that rush you crave. It’s natural to want excitement in one form or the other, but you need to accept the risks and consequences.

For starters, this could jeopardize your employment. Things can quickly turn from nice to nasty, spiraling into a he-said-she-said battle with you most likely on the losing end, given she’s your professional superior. Let’s not forget there are children and a husband involved. Do you want to be the “home wrecker” in this scenario?

Before taking the plunge, ask yourself: Are you being used as a temporary outlet for her to avoid an unhappy marriage? What happens if you get what you want, assuming you even know what you want? You like risk and building tension, but once the relationship progresses will you still feel that charge towards her? And what if she does leave her husband for you? Will that make you feel trapped and even more guilty than you do now?

Ultimately, affairs can be about the longing for novelty, freedom, sexual intensity, a reclaiming of one’s self or a way to bring back vitality to a stagnant relationship. You are not a “bad person” because you’re with someone who is married, but I do believe you are caught in conflict between your values and your behaviors.

We live in an era where we feel entitled to pursue our every desire, and affairs are about desire more than anything else. You want to be desired and feel a thrill. My advice: End this relationship and get yourself a motorcycle.

Dr. Rachel Allyn is a licensed psychologist in private practice. Learn more about her unique style of therapy at DrRachelAllyn.com. Send questions to Rachel@DrRachelAllyn.com.