“I’m not sure I could live with myself if her career were to become collateral to my mistakes”

A couple kisses during sunset at Parque da Cidade or City Park in Niteroi, Brazil July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes – RC1EFB06C9D0
A couple kisses during sunset at Parque da Cidade or City Park in Niteroi, Brazil July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes – RC1EFB06C9D0
Image: REUTERS/Sergio Moraes
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This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Bala started meeting people via Craigslist in 2014 and has been documenting their stories ever since. Each story is written as it was told to her. Bala says that by listening to their stories, she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. By sharing them, she hopes to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed, at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism.

The deluge of sexual harassment allegations this year have cast a light on the bad work behavior of celebrities from Hollywood to the morning news. But there’s a more quotidian form of office affairs, cheating, adultery, and unfair retaliation that most of us would recognize. “What were they thinking?” we often ask. Here, one man explains that in his case, he really wasn’t.

Carl, 40

She’s 26 and my direct subordinate at work. I wasn’t the one who hired her; she got transferred to my department. I won’t bother detailing the clichè: I am stressed out and I haven’t had sex with my wife in months. She is young, hot, and impressionable. We flirted for months, and then kissed one night after a work function.

If I’m totally honest, this would have happened sooner or later, irrespective of the girl. I’ve been looking for an opportunity for months. I don’t blame my wife, and I don’t really blame myself, either. My wife is my equal at home. She shares the burden of kids, bills, and other stressors. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but here goes: I see her as my partner, and that makes it difficult to see her sexually.

I know few people would agree, but I don’t see this affair as a betrayal. Besides the physical, the girl and I share nothing. I don’t like her—I find her sexy. There’s a big difference. I need certain things to feel happy in life, and sex is one of those things. My wife and I have tried to make it happen, but it’s just difficult, plain and simple. So I get it elsewhere, where it’s easy and convenient. It changes nothing—not my love for my wife, nor my commitment to our family.  

The problem is that I think the girl is catching feelings. I’ve tried cooling things off a few times and each time I do, she becomes a little…volatile. I don’t know how to explain it: she hasn’t done anything alarming yet, but I can tell that she’s someone who would potentially escalate the situation if things between us didn’t end well. So I’m kind of stuck in this holding pattern even though ideally, I’d like to end things with her.

We’re very discreet at work—nothing but business during work hours. If she needs to get a hold of me, she only texts on the work phone. I am the only one at work who has access to phone records, so we’re safe there. But there’s a busybody colleague of ours whom she’s friends with and I’ve caught her looking at me with this stupid knowing grin on her face. Maybe I’m just becoming paranoid—I don’t know. It’s starting to feel like more trouble than it’s worth.

My wife and I are pillars of the community, so to speak. If this got out, we would be totally humiliated. She would divorce me—100%. I can’t risk it. Lately, I’ve been having some deeply unethical thoughts about firing the girl in order to remove her from the equation. I am her direct manager, so I could do it and make it seem as if word were coming down from my boss. But then I run the risk of her outing me as retaliation if she even suspects that I have a hand in it. Plus, I’m not sure I could live with myself if someone’s career were to become collateral to my mistakes. But I’d rather that than my marriage becoming collateral to my mistakes. I don’t know what I’m going to do.