My fiancé and I have been together for 4 years. I seriously do love her -I see her as the mother of my children and want to spend the rest of my life with her. The thing is, I’m worried about my ability to stay faithful to her. There’s this woman at work that I’m really attracted to, and I know she’s into me, too. We flirt like crazy but it’s been pretty harmless until this point. We have a company retreat coming up, and I’m worried about where things could go if I have too much to drink. I’m not a cheater—I feel guilty for even thinking about it, but I don’t know if I can help it if I’m in a compromising situation. I’m also wondering if this means I shouldn’t be getting married. What should I do?

Firstly, I want to acknowledge that you are like almost every other human being on this planet in a monogamous relationship. Temptation is a natural part of being in a relationship, so don’t beat yourself up for feeling it. Everyone likes being desired, and doing something “forbidden” can be very alluring. Particularly as a man in our society that celebrates masculinity, being desired by an attractive woman is highly masculinizing. However, the fact that you are committed enough to foresee your colleague as a potential avenue to being unfaithful (and are concerned about it) is a testament to how much you value and respect your relationship, your partner, and fidelity. I see two parts to your question: 1) not trusting yourself to stay faithful and 2) wondering if your interest in your colleague means you should not be getting married. Let me speak to both of those topics:

I like to take a cost-benefit approach to most difficult decisions in life. Ultimately, you want to ask yourself what is going to serve you best. Now, when it comes to decisions that might serve your desire but hurt your partner/relationship, the question to ask yourself is does the cost of the guilt I will experience if I cheat on my partner outweigh the pleasure I will experience by feeding my desire to hook up with my coworker? Now, if you didn’t value fidelity in a relationship (or your partner’s feelings), we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. What makes cheating worth it for some people is when it does not weigh on their conscience. However, because you’ve brought this up as something that’s causing you conflict, my guess is that you have strong values around fidelity, and don’t want to cheat. So, is it worth it to you? Take some time to think about it and potential benefits and consequences. There’s no universal “right” answer–the answer is for you to decide based on the information you have available to you at this time, so take some time to explore your thoughts and feelings around the issue. Some people find free-writing (but not somewhere your partner will find it) to be a nice space for deliberation. Think about where you see things going with your colleague. Think about after you’ve hooked up. What will it be like? How would it change the office dynamic? Your dynamic? Can you see yourself leaving your fiancé for this person? Without viewing her as a sexual object, how do you view her? Finally, how many times have you felt attracted to a woman previous to being with your fiancé, thinking it could go somewhere, and had it end up fizzling out? Sex is not difficult to come by, whether you’re in a relationship or not. So, is it worth it?

Now, onto your second question: Does this desire mean you shouldn’t be getting married? No, not necessarily. Crushes and physical attractions are normal and healthy parts of the human experience. If there are other factors of your relationship that make you question your desire to marry your partner, that’s a different story, but don’t believe popular wisdom that “If you’re attracted to someone else it means there’s something wrong with your relationship.” Sometimes we’re tempted to sleep in instead of go to work, or have a second (or third) bowl of ice cream, but knowing the consequences (e.g. being reprimanded, stomach ache, etc.) leads us to go against instinct and make a wiser choice. And, it doesn’t mean that, rationally, we want to leave our jobs or replace every meal with dessert. Our emotional and rational thoughts do not always align, and there is certainly a place for both of them in the decision-making process. However, in cases where listening solely to the emotional mind leave you feeling regretful in the future, it’s important to consider the possible consequences. Yes, you can “help it.” Chances are, this likely will not be the only time you will be tempted to cheat on your partner, but the sheer fact that you can foresee potentially sticky situations allows you to plan to not put yourself in them. So, what to do? Well, how can you put yourself in the best position possible so that you won’t be tempted to cheat at the retreat? Better yet, do you have to go? Can you plan to chat with your fiancé on the phone each evening before bed? Can you plan to only have 1-2 drinks a night (it’s probably better for professional reputation too!)? Can you talk to the object of your desire and let her know that you are committed to your fiance and, tempted as you are to get physical with her, you do not intend to do so and ask that she respect that? Going back to the cost-benefit approach, you only have to do what serves you best TODAY. So, you don’t have to decide “I’m never going to cheat on my partner.” Rather you just have to make the decision, “I’m going to remain faithful to my partner TODAY.” You are always aiming for what serves you at that moment in time, and that might change in the future. So, be kind and understanding with yourself as you consider what serves you best right now, and how you can facilitate that.

Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their romantic relationships, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.

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