I have been married for about Eight (8) Months now and I must say marriage is sweet. I am totally at peace with myself and with my husband. The challenge I have, however, is with my boss. See, when I Joined my current company, we were both single and so things started between us. To him, I was a national service girl he was playing with. Then I got employed after my service and he kind of fell in love with me, because he found out I was not disposable. That was when he told me he was in a serious relationship and it was practically impossible to break up with the girl. As painful as it was, I picked myself up and moved on. It was difficult initially, and it took us a year to finally break up. We actually broke up just before he married. So yes, we were in an illicit relationship. I was not perching hoping to be made the Mrs Right; I had no illusions. The reasons for him dating his woman was more than he could have a say in. I stayed because I had come to love him, and he also genuinely loved me. Going through that break up felt like a knife through my throat, but I had to do it. Luckily I got transferred to another office so it helped me heal. After I got married, (three years after our relationship ended) I was transferred back to my old office, where he is now the head, and so I report directly to him. I have not known peace since then. I am handling it well at my end, but it is affecting his marriage. I feel it. His wife is my friend on Facebook so I see her posts and I can tell all is not well. He clearly tells me coming back is hurting his family. But he does not care, he wants us to go underground. The antics are just too much and I feel he needs to be talked to. I don't want to tell my husband, because his next line of action will be to ask me to quit the job. I don't want to tell his wife, because I will have to explain how I dated him for a year when I got to find out he was in a relationship. I basically don't want to blow this up. Can you help me?
You are in a situation that may not be peculiar to you and I hope you and the many others caught up in this will find a bit of clarity through my reply. It is not a simple matter as it stands, but let's see if we can find a way through the labyrinth.
First things first. Confront the issue and have a direct matter-of-fact conversation with him. Do not play gentle with it. I agree that telling his wife may not help at this stage. It can backfire on two levels. 1. He may not care and you would have missed that opportunity to move him into changing. 2. His wife may react violently (though not physically) which will push him out and unto you. So have a frank chat with him, with your emotions parked outside. Let him understand he needs to snap out of it. You are happily married and it will stay there. You will not give him the chance even if one of you was single.
Secondly, let him appreciate that you cannot betray your husband. You both betrayed his woman when he conveniently hid her, and when you looked the other way and continued dating him when you found out about her. Let him understand it will not happen again. Whatever happened was before you two got married. Let him understand it is now a different game, and you respect the sanctity of marriage for you to get unto that turf again.
Thirdly, let him understand that you will not discuss your marriage or his marriage with him again. And do well to avoid all conversations about your spouses, your homes and your individual marriages. When it comes up, stop it or walk out. Do not be nice about it. Even if he is dying, stay out of it. It is in these soft vulnerable moments that old feelings are kindled.
You can direct him to seek proper help, when he comes raving about his marriage, and end it there. Do not be his pillow, and do not make him your pillow. Basically, you don't want to know. Remember, this is a guy who would have married you, if leaving his girl was that easy, that is if he indeed meant that. You treat this like a pussy cat and you will soon be looking at a full blown Leopard.
If he has access to your marital home, stop him. Limiting him in the initial stages may not work. Total embargo, yes. If you have access to his home, stop it. Until such a time where you know he is over you and he can handle your presence without emotions. You need to take drastic steps to keep him at arms length. It will hurt your partners even more, when they get to find out that the people they opened their arms to, were always in the dark plotting evil against them. Do not find yourself in a place you really can't explain yourself.
Reduce the time you spend together at work, when it has nothing to do with work. No lunch together, and if you do, change where you sit so there are no personal whispers and body touches. As much as possible, avoid being alone with him. if you have to, it must be absolutely necessary, and the business of the moment should occupy your conversation. When it comes to extra-work activities like colleagues' events, avoid going with him, whether it is the two of you alone in one car, or you are sitting next to each other in an organised transportation.
No after work chats. Not for anything, unless it is work related. If he sends a Hi, wait for him to continue or let the Hi stay where it is. You can't be fired for not replying to a Hi after work. If he calls you, answer politely and tell him you are in the middle of something if he is not going straight to the point, which should be work related. If he calls you once or twice and you don't answer, if it matters, he should send you a text. If the call is right after work up till about 7pm, you may want to hazard it and answer, but if it is not work related, excuse yourself. Let us not deceive ourselves, if a call is work related, you will know, if it is not, you will know. You need to be firm and ruthless and amputate it, before your past messes up your future.
You can also negotiate with him (because he is your boss), that because of the peculiar situation you find yourselves in, he may only reach you after work, on work related issues, through the email. I appreciate that this may be hard, especially when your work is at stake. If you play helpless, you may make certain compromises which may hurt you later. Be tough; if you never try to be tough you may never know what it may yield you. If you want to help him and yourself, press it hard otherwise this will not go until it starts taking its toll on you and your marriage
If you fear he will pick on you, affecting your performance appraisals and career progression, you may have to hint that, if he does not put an end to this, you will treat it as an HR issue and escalate it to the relevant authorities. In this scenario, you should be willing to open up to someone you both trust. It could be his boss, a colleague of his you can trust with such an information, or an HR officer. But it has to be someone who will protect the confidentiality of this. It also has to be an informal complaint, to start with. If you make it a formal complaint, you must be willing to get your spouse or his spouse involved (if needed) if any disciplinary action proceeds from it. But if it does not stop with an informal complaint, then a formal complaint becomes the next option.
At the informal level, a chat between him and your choice of a mediator may work, or a transfer may follow for one of you, if it is handled at HR. Because this is not a straight out sexual harassment, but a relationship struggling to stay buried, you may want to handle with it tact. Besides, both of you are married and you may want to protect the marriages you find yourselves in. If you do not act with speed and all the seriousness it deserves, no one will excuse you for messing up, because you were being nice.
As a married person, the interest and the safety of your spouse should be paramount, and if that means you must hurt people to achieve that, do. He was not the one you exchanged your vows with. If he loves you like he claims, he could have proved it by letting go of his other girl, no matter the cost. If he claimed it was impossible to let her go, tell him it is impossible to open up your legs to him again, no matter how familiar he is with the place.
Finally, start working towards a long term strategy like looking for a new job in your field so you move on.
I wish to you all the best.
Send your nagging questions to email@example.com for PG's attention. Please note that all letters are edited for confidentiality and consistency sake. The essentials are, however, maintained.