Please Advise: I think my boyfriend's having an office affair.

Lots of late nights, long hours, and one suspicious Gchat conversation are starting to add up.

Each week, the inbox of our venerable advice columnist, Miss Information, is flooded with queries. And although she makes a valiant effort, she can't answer them all. To deal with the surplus, we've decided to turn to you. So, don your spectacles and help this woman out give her advice in the comments below.

Dear Nerve,

My boyfriend and I have been dating for about two years now, well into that "no longer exciting because it's new" phase. We love each other, and the relationship has no real problems, but lately I'm worrying that he's pulling away from me. He tends to keep late hours at his job, and he works with a small group of people, so they're very tight-knit, and occasionally go out after work.

Recently, though, the hours have been later and later, and the "I'm going to a bar with the coworkers" excuse for not seeing me has been getting invoked more frequently. A couple of days ago, I woke up, and he'd passed out with his laptop in front of him, so I pulled it over to waste some time before he woke up. The tab that was open was a conversation with a coworker over Gchat — she was confessing that she'd developed very strong feelings for him, and that she just wanted to "air things out." This is fine — I can't stop people from getting crushes, or whatever. But then I read down to his response: "Me too," and then something about "I just don't know what to do." I didn't check the date of the conversation, but the late hours, the frequency of after-work hangouts, and now this office crush: it's all starting to add up, but I don't want to make it an issue without any real cause.

Is this all circumstantial evidence? Should I be worried? Or am I just being paranoid? I trust him a lot, but is there a line I should draw? Should I confront him about it or not?

 Dictated But Not Read

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Commentarium (41 Comments)

Jun 06 12 - 1:26am


Jun 06 12 - 12:44pm

I miss savage love. Will it ever return!

Jun 06 12 - 2:30pm

It was dropped from Nerve but can be read elsewhere on the net

Jun 06 12 - 4:32pm

do you know why it was dropped?

Jun 06 12 - 5:26pm

Dan Savage has a new show on MTV! :D I think its on thursday nights at 1am.

Jun 07 12 - 3:24pm

Seriously. DTMFA.

Jun 06 12 - 1:29am

Uh yes... this is a problem. While it is natural for people to have crushes, it seems to me that it is wildly inappropriate to confess having romantic feelings for someone while in a serious relationship. Also, something that really stands out in your letter is that it would seem that you aren't able to communicate with your boyfriend. You seem to have been feeling as though he has been withdrawing from your relationship for awhile yet from what you wrote it seems that you haven't felt like you have the space to discuss your feelings with him.

Jun 06 12 - 4:19am

Jealousy will only make it worse! talking about it will make it worse because you have already judged him. Both of you go on a long romantic vacation ASAP! turn phones off and don’t bring laptops and don’t go to internet cafe’s instead bring passion and love with you, keep touching each other with affection and date one another like it was your first time.. again.. ;) get that spark back.

Take care.

Jun 07 12 - 4:57pm

This does not sound like a good idea....ignore the problem, don't say anything about it, but convince him to take a long romantic vacation with someone he seemingly won't even come home to??? Here's a better idea, try to get pregnant so he'll marry you...

Jun 06 12 - 5:33am

Strangers can't really give you advice until you've confronted him with your concerns. Lay it all out on the table and let him explain himself. I can see one of two likely scenarios: he's already having a workplace affair (in which case you need to decide whether the relationship is worth salvaging), or else he is just spending too much time socializing with his co-workers and boundaries are starting to blur (ditt0). If he avoids the issue or refuses to discuss it, you have your answer: DTMFA. But I don't know what we can tell you until the conversation happens

Jun 06 12 - 11:36am

Yep, what JCB says.

Tell him your pre-existing concerns, then about what you found on his laptop.

Jun 06 12 - 6:25am

Communicate with him! Tell him that you saw the conversation - the circumstances you found it in are very understandable. Find out from him what's really going on - then think it all over and act as you deem fit.

Jun 06 12 - 7:41am

I would imagine that he left the laptop open on purpose and wanted you to discover the conversation. I had an ex "confess" to me that way as well. He sounds like a complete coward who doesn't have the balls to tell you to your face that he wants to break up. He is just going to treat you like shit until YOU do the dirty work of ending things.

Jun 06 12 - 8:11am
nstioos 1633),

The late nights probably aren't an active affair yet, but rather one that is percolating; he is staying late to spend more time with her, and that is likely to lead to only one destination unless you intervene.

Jun 06 12 - 8:27am

Yes there is a problem. People in really strong relationships should be able to tell each other these things. If this woman were no threat he would have said, "hey, I don't want you to be worried about us or anything, but just so you know, I have a thing for what's-her-face.We're still solid though." And then he would kiss you and remind you that he would be an idiot to screw up the relationship. Instead he let you wonder what the hell he's doing drinking with other women in the midnight hours.

If it were me, I would try to tell him this just as you have told us all in the letter. Be sure to emphasize that you didn't mean to snoop into his personal life, and that he had left this conversation in plain view. And tell him that while you know that the relationship has gotten comfortable, that is how relationships are. Long term relationships have comfortable phases.

Finally I would tell him that it was lame to let you find out this way. To act suspicious, and then leave clues of his feelings for this other woman is just unfair to the relationship that you both share. I would tell him that his is undermining the relationship, and it is hurtful and sad.

You seem pretty optimistic still, so I'm guessing that you feel there are salvageable parts of your relationship. You don't have to dump him if you don't want to. He still isn't being open with you though. I know that wold make me feel hurt. It's time to insist he opens up.

Jun 06 12 - 9:41am

I agree with a lot of this, except for one thing: I would not feel secure in a relationship if my partner confessed to a crush on someone, nor would I feel it appropriate to confess a crush to my boyfriend. It would be interesting to hear others' opinions on this, personally I see this as a boundary that shouldn't be crossed.

Jun 06 12 - 11:41am

I'm with you, oklund. I assume people develop crushes -- I know I do -- but I keep it to myself. It's cruel and destabilizing to tell a partner.

Jun 06 12 - 1:47pm

I agree that I do not want to hear about my partner's crushes. I get them, I assume he gets them. I deal with it and they pass without drama and without me having to "reveal" them. I'm going to assume that he does too. If he told me about a crush, I would probably think that it was more than that and get pretty upset that he couldn't nip it in the bud or get some perspective on the situation.

Jun 06 12 - 10:07am

The writing is on the wall, he's looking elsewhere. If it were me, I would try to be adult about it. Try to be bigger than the situation and let him know that you know, let him know that if breaking up is what he wants, that it's alright and that's what you'll do. Relationships end, it's better to accept this and give yourself a highroad out. It's time for you to start thinking maybe you're attracted to someone else, maybe it would feel good to be in the arms of someone able to choose again.

Jun 06 12 - 1:09pm

I'm going to go ahead and assert that situations like this would never arise in a good relationship. He should be holding your hand all the way through this - beginning with an explanation as to the late nights, and reassurance that they're not forever. And a damn good reason as to why they are taking place in the first place (*work-related* reason).
The chat window scenario is a screaming red flag - and a huge part of it is that it seems you can't ask him about it, or about any of what's going on.
Mark my words. A loving, devoted boyfriend does not put his partner in this situation. And if misunderstandings arise, the partner has no problem addressing them with the boyfriend, and a solution is found. Anything less than that is a red flag and should be treated with a very serious conversation, starting and ending with figuring out where your boyfriend's priorities lie.

Jun 06 12 - 1:50pm

This is a huge red flag. First of all, you need to bring up what you saw and start asking for some honest answers. Second, he might try and gaslight you, saying that you "snooped". Don't fall for it! A) You didn't snoop, he left his computer open and you happened to see the convo, and B) He's been acting like a sneaky SOB for awhile now, so you have every right to suspect something is up.

Honestly, I'd probably dump him regardless of the outcome of the conversation. But then again, I have a lot of pride that would have been sorely wounded. And I'd never be able to trust him around this co-worker ever again, so unless he was going to quit his job and find another, the relationship would be doomed.

Jun 06 12 - 1:52pm

You need to grow a spine. You saw your boyfriend say he has feelings for another women and so you turn to an online stranger to figure out if there's anything going on? You know exactly what's going on. He's developed and admitted (to her) feelings for another woman. "Circumstantial evidence"? Are you kidding? Do you think his face accidentally slapped all of those keys as he passed out?

I know that these usually make it to the site well after they're submitted, so I can only hope you've already dealt with this, at least on the level of sharing what you saw and your concerns about the relationship. You know what you saw; the question is how much you're willing to fight for the relationship.

Jun 06 12 - 3:44pm
not good

i've been there, i was on the other side. falling for a coworker, while on a relationship with many issues.
if he's at the stage of confessing his feelings to the other person, it has already gotten really far, my dear.
that means they must have gotten very close already. ask him and know that if he is not willing to change jobs, he is not willing to save your relationship.

Jun 06 12 - 5:26pm

It's one thing to go out for drinks with co-workers every now and then. If it's happening frequently and late into the night, though, it means he's enjoying their company more than yours. That in itself is enough to question where this relationship is headed.

Jun 16 12 - 8:59am

this, exactly. unless he's working on an important business project of some sort (which he clearly isn't), why should you repeatedly be second to your boyfriend's friends?

Jun 06 12 - 8:43pm

After personally having an office affair. Yes, you need to be worried.

Jun 06 12 - 9:57pm

I don't know if this is any different than what the majority here is saying, but in my own experience I spent more YEARS than I care to remember trying to justify my ex's online chats and flirty texts, and even full-blown email faux-relationships as "just (yet) another bump in the road that we needed to discuss because I understood there were grey areas and everyone has a crush, yada yada" rather than facing the fact that he needed to hit the road and not let the door slam him in the ass. If a guy is participating in most of those actions it most likely means he doesn't have the respect for you that is deserved. It's not hard to be honest and have integrity if you're not a coward. Yes, we all get crushes, yes, we all get the opportunity to take things farther, but if you truly love someone you know where you want your head to rest at end of the night.

Jun 07 12 - 12:48am

Yes, there's absolutely a problem here. It's not the "me too" your boyfriend wrote in response to the co-worker's declaration that she'd developed feelings for her; it's the "I just don't know what to do about it" part.

He knows what to do about it. The options are (a) have an open conversation with you about the fact that things aren't good in your relationship right now, and try to discuss what they are and how you can work on them together or (b) mull things over privately, decide the problems aren't fixable, and break up with you to pursue dating the co-worker.

What he did, instead, is neither. He told the co-worker he had feelings for her and then sounded her out in a passive way for "what to do about it."

Just have it out with him. You don't necessarily even need to bring up what you saw, but even without that Gchat conversation it's apparent you guys have problems and haven't been addressing them. If he's not willing to talk to you about them, have him hit the door.

Jun 07 12 - 11:35am

You need some tough love and some real talk (and this might be long over by now but, who cares--keep it in mind with the next guy)-

Pick your shit up off the ground and remember that you have worth. If he "doesn't know what to do" then that alone is the answer to your question (but you already knew that, so own it). This is already too far gone for you to salvage so gtfo and start rebuilding yourself so that you don't have to ever wonder if someone's really invested in you.

Very few things are "work things"-- they're "coworkers and their significant others-things." If you're not there, the only reason should be because you declined. He's been building his case with this girl since before your spidey senses went off.

Jun 08 12 - 9:25pm

It's over baby. Stay home from work, pack all of his stuff and put it in the hallway, on the porch, sidewalk, whatever. Write a big note that says: " Me you know what to do!" Never talk to him again. A valuable lesson for him. Much satisfaction for you.

Jun 08 12 - 11:39pm

Yes, that does sound satisfying, but it's not how grownups end relationships. You don't make the person you loved, or used to, homeless without at least a conversation or two beforehand.

Jun 12 12 - 4:43am

Not grown up? Really? This guy is a joke and she's in utter denial. Kicking him to the curb is exactly what she needs to do. If a man is such a child he can't even figure out "what to do" and has to sneak around and lie and cheat (and yes, even at its minimum it's an emotional betrayel) and SHE'S supposed to grant him some slack and baby him and talk things out? No. Get rid of him. He made his choice.

Jun 12 12 - 10:15pm

Breaking up with him, yes, she should probably do that. Throwing his stuff out and acting like a drama queen, no. The world doesn't need more people who take their cues on how to act from movies and reality TV. Nobody said she should "baby him and talk things out", but throwing his stuff on the fucking SIDEWALK is teenage bullshit, and frankly it's worse than "emotional cheating" (since there's no proof that he actually fucked this woman).

It amazes me how excited people get when they feel like they have the opportunity to do something shitty to someone, and get away with it scot-free. If you can't treat someone with respect and civility, even during an ugly breakup, then you don't deserve any respect yourself.

Jun 13 12 - 10:37pm
Admiral Obvious

Since when is a confession merely circumstantial evidence? You know that he has strayed in his heart, if not elsewhere on his body. All you need to decide is what you're willing to put up with. But even before the emotional infidelity (calling it what it is will empower you in the long run), there was the problem of his becoming distant. Even that was something that you shouldn't have put up with. I would recommend cutting this guy out of your life as quickly and cleanly as possible. He hasn't been treating you well before this huge problem came up, and the odds are not good that he will treat you well afterward.

Jun 13 12 - 10:40pm

You can assume from the conversation you saw that there is a mutual office attraction happening.
You cannot assume that anyone has acted on that attraction beyond hanging out and talking about it ... yet.

I'd start a conversation with the boyfriend, but I would not go into accusation mode.

In any long term relationship feelings for other people will come up eventually.
How you deal with this when it happens is one of the great tests relationships go thru.

Jun 16 12 - 2:26am
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Jun 16 12 - 2:32am

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Jun 16 12 - 9:53pm

So, I'm going to give you very different perspective than everyone else. I'm not saying it's right for you and your relationship, but something to think about: I've been with my girlfriend for seven years, and I have had some major crushes on other people during that time, and some of those involved wild flirtation on both sides. By my own "reasonable" standards, I've never physically or emotionally cheated on her. I've never let how much I enjoyed spending time with anyone (crushes included) affect how much time I spend with her, how much I love her or how well I treated her. (If anything, getting attention from someone else occasionally gives me a boots of sexy-feelings that for everyone cool after the honeymoon period and overall helps our relationship.)

The problem, to me, isn't that your boyfriend has a flirtatious relationship or even that he's spending a lot of time with his coworkers. The problem, regardless of the reason, you're not happy with how he's treating you or the way that you relate to each other. My advice is to worry less about the symptom than the cause, and start having more conversations about your feelings and his. Don't mention the girl.

Jun 18 12 - 6:02am

are you sure if you are not it can be a huge mistake

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