Attracted to Co-Worker
Q: I have been married for 30 years and am pretty sure we're going to get a divorce. I have feelings for a man I work with. I spoke with him about my divorce and he advises if I am not happy, to not stay married. He isn't married, but may be dating someone. The problem is he is five years younger than me. He is not handsome but has a great personality. I'm about 25 pounds overweight. Sometimes I think he flirts with me but maybe he's being nice and I just want it to be flirting. Is a relationship like this possible? Should I pursue it or stop now? -- Gail, 50
Dr. Susan: You've got it all wrong, Gail. The problem is NOT that this man is five years younger than you. No way. Five years age difference isn't necessarily a big deal at all. The problem is, in fact, that you're looking for trouble in all the right places. And you'll find it, too. I wonder what's going on in your marriage that you're "pretty sure" it's going to end? But it hasn't ended yet and you're already seeking someone new, which is usually a dumb move. Rebound affairs are bad news. And surely you realize that the last person on earth you should be asking for marriage advice from is a guy at work who you're attracted to! "If you're not happy, don't stay married." What a simple-minded answer to a complicated situation. If everyone got divorced the same week they were unhappy, or even the same year, there wouldn't be many married couples left in the world. Happiness comes and goes, and then comes back again. It takes effort and caring and commitment to keep a relationship happy most of the time.
Your immediate question, though, is how to tell if he's flirting. And my answer is: it doesn't matter. So long as you're married, whatever he says to you should be taken lightly and not as a serious come-on. Men will often flirt with a married woman for fun, but when she's free, their interest turns out to be in a momentary fling only. And you don't even know if this fellow is dating someone. Talk about jumping the gun. What you need to do is get your home life settled one way or the other before lining up your next relationship.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.