Gerald, sales director of an electronic company, and Cindy, his interior decorator wife, consulted with me for a last-ditch attempt to save their marriage. Cindy had recently found out that Gerald had been having a long-term affair with one of his area sales managers. The couple had two children. Gerald had promised Cindy that the affair was over and that he loved her and his kids and wanted desperately to work at salvaging their marriage.
In an interview alone with Gerald, he told me that Cindy was far more attractive, with a better figure than his ex-lover. The latter, however, had been completely uninhibited when it came to love-making, whereas Cindy would only undress in the dark. Cindy was also disinterested in his work while his ex-lover supported and encouraged his work. The latter also accompanied him on out-of-town business trips where their love-making was frequent and passionate. The illicit nature of their relationship made their intimacy more urgent and special.
Some months prior to meeting with Gerald and Cindy, I had first consulted with Lisa. She was a single, ambitious, sales manager who was having an affair with her boss. He had promised to leave his wife for her, but did not do so; through guilt and from fear of losing daily contact with his children.
Lisa was angry with her lover for not fulfilling his promise to leave his family, to marry her and to have children together. She could not make sense of a situation where he had declared his love for her and the fact that he no longer loved his wife. Lisa told also what a great team they made in the work-place.
It was almost a year later, seeing Gerald and Cindy for marital counselling, and Lisa for individual psychotherapy, that I joined the dots and realised that Lisa was the ‘third party’ in the marriage of Gerald and Cindy. Gerald and Cindy were still romantically involved with each other.
In the first year and a half of the affair, Gerald and Lisa had created a sales force that was responsible for producing record figures. The magic and power of their affair was felt by the team and in some way filled them with enthusiasm, group cohesiveness and vastly improved bottom line.
The tide of fortune however started to decline. There was a significant drop in productivity.
Gerald was depressed. Lisa was stressed, depressed and very angry. The sales team were frequently absent from work with complaints of cold and flu viruses
Let’s go back to the beginning of this story to answer some of the questions most frequently asked about THE OFFICE AFFAIR.
Gerald and Lisa had worked together for seven years prior to the start of their affair. How then did these work colleagues become lovers?
- Gerald had been Lisa’s mentor at work. He had taught her all that he knew about sales. Being a fast learner, he had promoted Lisa from his personal assistant to sales representative to sales manager.
- They had also begun sharing and confiding personal aspects of their home lives with each other. By doing so, they drew emotionally closer.
- On their first out-of-town trip, they had closed a lucrative deal. This they celebrated by drinking too much wine which led to passionate love-making. It was on the following day that they declared their love for each other.
Besides sensing the magic that Gerald and Lisa generated at work, did top management and the sales team know about the affair? And if so, what was the Company’s attitude to romantic relationships at work?
- Gerald and Lisa’s colleagues felt the power and chemistry that existed between this couple. However, due to the sense of motivation, vastly improving the performance and the rewards of bonuses and other incentives, no one questioned the relationship between this couple. No one, also wanted to know details thereof.
- The Company’s policy was to prohibit staff who were involved romantically from working together.
- With more time, it became clear to Lisa that Gerald was not going to leave his marriage. She then ended her relationship with Gerald.
- With a sharp decline in the sales team’s work performance, high absenteeism and poor figures that the other directors, as well as some members of the sales team had begun to question the nature of the relationship between Gerald and Lisa. Top management placed pressure on Lisa to resign.
- Lisa resigned and started her own business.
- Office affairs are common.
- Colleagues who work closely together, frequently share personal confidences and develop emotionally intimate relationships.
- Add the aspect of an unsatisfactory, boring or abusive relationship at home, the climate is right for an affair.
- Include out-of-town business trips and after work drinks with clients where spouses and partners are excluded. Opportunities for the couple to express their sexual feelings for each other are enhanced.
- The office affair is extremely powerful and can sometimes serve as a catalyst to propel a partner out of an unsatisfactory, boring or abusive relationship at home.
- Some office affairs are acknowledged by the couple before they express their sexual feelings by love-making. Some of these couples put brakes on the affair and work at salvaging their relationships at home. Some reveal the existence of the potential or reality of an affair at work whilst others do not tell their spouses or partners about their feelings.
- Work performance tends to improve with the affair at its height, although stress levels are extremely high. Couples also often experience weight and appetite loss and sleep disturbance. Feelings of guilt about long-term relationship are often expressed. In addition, the couple feel a kind of agony when they are separated from each other even for short periods of time. Mood swings are common.
- Men often express conflict between losing their families and losing their lover. Whatever decision they make they feel that they will lose an important part of their lives.
Clearly, The Office Affair brings with it the paradoxes of agony and ecstasy, of peak performance and ill-health. So think carefully before embarking on this hazardous journey.