Having an Affair

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“Never make your happiness on someone else’s unhappiness” is a saying I heard many years ago in my French-Canadian culture, and it has stuck with me all these years.  Affairs can give happiness for some and cause pain and suffering for others.  Affairs come in many forms and each is unique because every coupling or polyamorous relationship is unique.  Some affairs are only sexual, and some encompass a romantic element.  Just look at the national news about a Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) who resigned her seat in Congress, after it was revealed that she was having an affair with a member of her campaign staff.  It is a violation of the ethics rules; so, now her career, which started so promisingly, is now over, at least in the United States Congress.  Sadly, a very big price to pay.  Hill, of course, is one of many, but people have affairs for many reasons.  Look at Debra Winger’s character in “Terms of Endearment.”  She discovered her husband was having an affair, and when she met someone who was nice to her, she embraced having an affair with him.

Affairs at Work

People who work together share of lot of their time together, and whatever the trigger is, they sometimes become sexually, if not romantically, involved.  For example, at a university, if one is a French instructor and the other is the Provost, then there is a problem.  If people embark on an affair and risk the possibility of self-destruction in their career and community, and family life, that is for them to handle.  Keep in mind that if one is having an affair at work with a subordinate, even allegedly with the subordinate’s permission, it not on a level playing field.  Even if the subordinate initiated the affair, the supervisor is making a serious error in judgment.  Of course, not everyone gets caught, as the phrase goes, but the risks are very high.  Let’s assume a supervisor in an organization is having an affair with a subordinate employee in a critical role and that this subordinate’s work performance is substandard, which is causing serious bottom-line problems for the organization.  Normally, a supervisor would counsel the subordinate, maybe provide more training, document the situation, and if there is no improvement, this subordinate’s employment would be terminated.  Now add to this scenario that this subordinate is having an affair with the supervisor.  The supervisor is in the middle of a serious dilemma and sadly so is the organization.

Affairs with a Person in a Marriage

Historically opposite-sex married couples have been at the top of the relationship heap in society.  The one-man, one-woman mantra is what many of us heard all the time — whether in religious, law-making or social situations.  In the past, I never referred to marriages between one man and one woman as a “heterosexual” marriage, but as an “opposite-sex” marriage because not all are comprised of heterosexual persons.  But now, with new laws and societal expansion, I can change that to simply a “married couple.”  Now, let us look at an affair with a married person.  If you are having an affair with a married individual, you are literally and legally speaking on the outside because the other person is in a legally protected marriage and may have children too.  If you are married and having an affair with a person outside your marriage, you are on the outside too, even though you may have the anchor in a traditional home life.  Have your affair and do as you wish, but be realistic that if it is revealed, you might be out of a stable home life, a job or of luck.  Each marriage is unique and each non-married/non-partnered person is unique; so, it is very difficult to generalize, but it is probably prudent to think with more than your heart or libido when considering an affair.  In Congress one day and out the next.