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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Relationship
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology helping with relationships
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My partner and I have a very stable loving relationship with

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My partner and I have a very stable loving relationship with one another, and trust each other completely. Lately I have been struggling to deal with an issue in her workplace which may be coming across as a lack of trust in her and I need some advice as to how to deal with it;

My partner has been struggling to find a job she enjoys for a number of years, but has just recently found one and finally feels she has a place and a purpose. A couple of weeks ago she returned from work looking very anxious and when I asked her what was wrong she told me the following;

In the 5 months that she has been working there, from about 1 month in to her new role her immediate boss has been paying her an unwanted amount of attention and this culminated in an event at lunch where his level of attention towards her was being noted by colleagues.

The unwanted attention includes, leaning over her desk and getting very close in to her personal space until such times as he notices she is uncomfortable, returning from his period of annual leave and telling her that he has been thinking about her, whilst outside the office he has been insisting upon walking immediately next to her and in social situations has basically glued himself to her by following her, sitting next to her, and constantly trying to monopolize her attention. She suspects that his feeling are possibly genuine (if misguided) rather than cheap, which if true makes the situation of even more concern. Poor behavior is much easier to deal with than genuine feelings.

To put things in to perspective my partner and I are in our thirties, and her boss is in his late twenties. We have a very stable relationship and he apparently is, and has always been aware of this. He is single. Their work situation is such that she is the only person he is in charge of at work and their area of their office is essentially separate from everybody else, so basically they work alone together almost all of the time. A requirement of her job is that from time to time she travel with him.

In keeping out of the situation and leaving my partner to deal with it, she is reluctant to actually say anything to him as given her recent work history she is particularly concerned with creating further tension between them and bringing about a situation where she may feel she needs to leave. For all of my partners wonderful qualities she has a tendency to bury her head in the sand when faced with problems rather than deal with them, and just hope that they go away.

My issue is not with my partner, I genuinely trust her and feel sorry for the predicament that she is in. My issue is that it is driving me insane on a daily basis thinking that whilst I am at work she is stuck in an office with this guy and having to deal with this, and because of the circumstances it is very difficult for her to confront the situation in any way. My attempting to deal with this would certainly result in me becoming the bad guy which I do not want.

Furthermore the thought of her travelling with this guy is for me terrifying, or indeed being in any situation other than work. I'm dealing as best I can with her being around him all day at work but that is proving hard enough in itself without any further testing situations.

To get to the point of my question; there are work drinks arranged in a couple of weeks, and prospective travel on the cards. My thoughts are that she should politely decline being in an alcohol fueled situation with her boss, and that short of a confrontation with him she probably shouldn't be considering traveling with him. Am I right or am I completely missing something here?

I don't want to argue with her and I don't want to tell her what to do, but this situation is not going to go away by itself and the though of her being treated this way (by somebody who evidently has no regard for our relationship) is driving me to the point that I want it dealt with, and it is quite frankly beginning to consume and affect my mood and ability to get on with my own work.

Thanks in advance......

Hi! I'll be glad to be of help with this issue.

I can imagine how frustrating and distressing this situation must be for you. You are clearly a loving caring man and she is equally loving and caring. And so this situation is so charged with threats to your relationship that it is indeed very dangerous.

And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. The question is not whether you trust your partner or not. We agree that you trust her and she trusts you. However, we also agree that if you were working every day "essentially alone" with an attractive woman in her late 20s and would be going out drinking and subsequently you'd be traveling with her that it is not a question of trust any longer. What is it?

It is a question of predators getting their prey. We are all susceptible to the flattery, the impulsiveness, the bad moods that can make us do things that would hurt our partners. Everyone is susceptible. Clergymen and clergywomen are susceptible. Everyone. And you know that in your heart. And I imagine if she would be willing to be honest and were thinking about the above scenario where you would be in that situation with a woman who flashed her cleavage at you every week, your partner would also agree.

I want to bring up a troubling aspect of how your partner is approaching this: "She suspects that his feeling are possibly genuine (if misguided) rather than cheap, which if true makes the situation of even more concern. Poor behavior is much easier to deal with than genuine feelings."

And you've bought into this dangerous opening. He might have the most genuine feelings of affection and desire to have her as his own partner. How does that make this not poor behavior as much as if he just wants to seduce her? In the reverse situation: your hypothetical supervisor might want to move in with you and have a genuine relationship; does that make her behavior not bad behavior given that you're in a relationship already and have made visible signs you are not welcoming her advances?

In the US and I believe from what I've heard it's true in Australia as well, his behavior toward your partner is sexual harassment and she even has witnesses. This is a terrible situation you're in. She needs the job, but she is causing you great pain by allowing a man to be intimate with her in inappropriate ways without filing a complaint. And she's asking to travel with him and to go drinking with him. It is indeed a violation of monogamous relationships. This is WHY the sexual harassment laws are as stringent as they are! Because it is recognized that this is a problem, not just your lack of trust, but a real workplace problem.

I hope you two will read my answer together, because she sounds like a wonderful person: he after all, is trying to get her away from you. I believe that relationships trump jobs. And so if speaking to the HR department or the ultimate boss about her need to be transferred to a different supervisor or else she will have to file a sexual harassment claim with the authorities is what I would recommend. But I can't speak for you or her. You two need to decide how you feel about this threat that is occurring throughout the world in the workplace. A real threat that has engendered very strict laws making it illegal to do what he is doing.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

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Dr. Mark and other Relationship Specialists are ready to help you
Hi! I'm very glad that I was able to help you with this and thank you for your positive rating. If I can help you in the future in any way, please don't hesitate to let me know.

All the best,
Dr. Mark