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Ask Dr. Norman Brown Your Own Question
Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1200
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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I'm in a very difficult situation. It's really hard to even

Customer Question

I'm in a very difficult situation. It's really hard for me to even type this as its embarrassing. The story in a nut shell is i am in love with my boss. He is in love with me. We are both married with small children. Neither one of us want our situations to change bc of our kids. I am newly married and before i met my husband my boss and i had a physical relationship. His wife was involved and knew everything that was going on so all was good and no one was cheating. Once i met my now husband, we stopped. But feelings were already developed and now im in a very hard situation. So now all we do is talk about our feelings, flirt, and talk about how it would be if we were together. When i try to pull back and get some distance he just lays on the compliments and flirts and knows just what to say to pull me back in. I don't want to quit my job nor can i without taking a huge paycut as he is paying me generously. I can't afford to leave. I find myself physically hurting bc i so badly want to be with this person i can't have. We both feel like we are each other's soul mate which makes it that much harder. Its easier for him bc he's a man and is less emotional and can compartmentalize. I wear my feelings on my sleeve. We fight all the time bc of jealousy and out of frustration. I want to make our working relationship work but i don't know how to fall out of love with this man. I feel like that's the only way I'll be able to continue working there. Is literally effecting me in every aspect from physically to emotionally. Would love any kind of professional opinion on the subject other than I'm completely stupid and nuts.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 1 year ago.

It may be possible to fall out of love with your boss, but only if you can change your existing passionate feelings into passionately NEGATIVE feelings--and that's not a good bet at all. But it's more likely that you'll need to take the pay cut, because he's using the money to keep you in his possession. One way to fall out of love is to explore your legal avenues to suing him for sexual harassment, since that's what he's doing, and perhaps his wife doesn't like it. How long did the prior physical relationship go on with his wife involved? Is it possible that THEY were using you to keep their marriage from breaking apart by giving him a way to have his stable marriage and "sow his wild oats" at the same time? Does his wife know he's still using you to keep himself excited?

You're actually NOT stupid or nuts at all. Love & sex are emotional powers that rationality can't squash at all.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
You have no idea how much your response means to me. Thank you. I actually tried to see a local therapist about this but he spent the entire hour wanting me to give him graphic details about our sexual encounters and i left feeling so creeped out that i just cried and cried. His advise was to push him for an affair. I couldn't believe my ears.
To answer your questions, the physical relationship lasted for about 6 months. The thought of them using me to excite their marriage has crossed my mind but i really feel like it was his way of being able to be with me without the guilt of cheating. I feel like he presented it to his wife in a way that made her believe it was just an exciting thing to do. Once she could tell we were developing feelings, she wanted him to stop. She has absolutely no idea that he still has feelings for me or how he talks to me at work. I'm sure she would be unhappy about it.
When i tell him i feel like he's just using me to get an ego boost or to get his emotional needs met he tells me I'm wrong. Here says since he's not promising me any future or having an affair then he's not using me. However then he tells me im his when I'm here at the office. That he is so happy to get to see me everyday. That no one has ever loved him like i do. He even tears up. I don't doubt he has feelings for me. He tells me he does. But can't act on them. So i dont know what I'm supposed to do with that. Then I'll come into work one day and he's all over me and flirting but then the next day is distant and nothing but professional. Its so confusing. When i ask what he wants from me he says he just wants us to come to work and enjoy each other while we're here. He says if this is the only way he can have me then that's what he'll take bc he couldn't stand not seeing me at all. Then i look like the pathetic puppy dog eating it all up until he acts cold again. I just want for once the ball to me in my court. I convince myself every night that I'm done with this but then as soon as i see him all of that goes out the window. Im too nice and i let people, especially men, walk all over me. Yesterday he insulted me and i snapped back so he got mad at me. He expects me to come apologize but i refuse. He says he was kidding but i know better. Now hes not talking to me and making things awkward and he knows its killing me. He knows exactly how to push my buttons. How can i get some control on this? How do i begin to stick up for myself without crossing a line that could get me fired? How do i get some peace for myself so i can stop thinking about him non stop? Why do you think he treats me this way if he loves me but sees how its destroying me? Thank you for saying I'm not nuts or stupid. I really feel that way or like im about to lose my sanity.
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 1 year ago.
You really are not nuts or stupid. But you are in an impossible situation, where his financial power over you makes for a classical sexual harassment situation--and it could also damage the morale of the rest of the office environment, since I can't imagine that others around can't feel what's going on. Your emotional ups and downs are totally normal. You're caught in a Love Trap, since you've had a 3-stage experience as follows:
1.You had 6 months of new love's "Paradise" made even more exciting because it was a "forbidden love" that flourished not In Spite of Adverse Conditions, but BECAUSE OF THEM.
2. Then Your courtship and his wife made him pull back: "Paradise Lost" but probably temporarily replaced for you by the flourishing of your new love.
3. But after your honeymoon simmered down, he started the flirting: "Paradise Regained." Now you can "lose Paradise" again when you have a quarrel, but you know you'll get "Paradise Regained" sooner or later, because it's already happened enough times that it's included in your expectations. [Is your marriage an awkward shuffling around to hide your rising and plummeting feelings now?]
The situation you're in today is comparable to the "courtly love" scenarios in the Middle Ages in Europe--except that your scene is not the troubador-knight loving the young wife of the sovereign at the court, where they can discretely flirt with each other and be secretly in (endorphin & pleasure-center) heaven, but any overt sexual actions would lead to death for both the knight and the lady (as in the courtly romances of Tristan & Iseult and Lancelot & Guinivere). Yours is the office sovereign himself toying as much as he wants with the helplessly in-love maiden (who happens to be married at home), but not crossing the line into overt sexual actions, lest his queen should find out: but nobody at court (office) would dare tell on him, for fear of being fired.
But now think about where YOUR POWER lies: You have YOUR HUSBAND, HIS WIFE, and the legal system all on your side if you're willing to take action to STOP his seductive games. Flirting can feel great, when it activates romantic and sexual neurochemistry in both people, and nobody is getting hurt by it. But you're getting hurt, your husband (and your marriage) are getting hurt; and his wife (and marriage) are getting hurt; and there's a legal case for sexual harassment in the workplace IF YOU don't want to be seduced.
Do you think your husband would accept the situation as is if he knew what your boss is doing to you and your marriage? Have you considered consulting a local attorney about your legal options? (You can also ask a legal question to JustAnswer, including your state and a few details about your office conditions.) It's possible that your worries about taking a big pay cut might be alleviated by asking for a large sum as severance pay, instead of floating a sexual harassment action that would potentially destroy his business if it went public. (Delicate game of course, because you also don't want it to damage your own employability unless you live in a large metro area.)
I'm not arguing that you SHOULD do any of the 3 alliance-actions I've listed, because you need to consider each one carefully before acting. You don't want to be accused of blackmail--but you're being blackmailed NOW by being paid more than your job is worth so you can be used to get your boss high on sexual & romantic fantasy. Isn't there a romantic-disappointment-effect on your new marriage as a result? Is it your first marriage? Do you want to have children and love the man you've got?
By the way, the "soul-mate" feeling/idealization is a natural effect on the brain when people are newly in love--and when a boss is already disappointed in his own marriage, he can easily imagine that soul-matedness is right next-door on the other side of the office. Soulmatedness is a brain-state of not quite distinguishing between what the other person thinks&feels and what you think&feel, found on brainscans of new lovers in a research article published in 2000 and written about in "Splendors & Miseries of the Brain" by Semir Zeki of University College London. But the "Splendor" of feeling like "soulmates" (Plato's idealization of couplehood) turns into the "Miseries" as partners discover INCREASINGLY as their relationship gets more intimate and broader that they're NOT a perfect match, and they NEVER WILL BE. That DISAPPOINTMENT might be what your boss is trying to dodge by fantasylovership with you, or this might not be the first time he's done that.
Feelings always have more power than thoughts, and in fact feelings help us select which thoughts to focus on and which actions are most vital to carry out. So You won't find any widespread recognition that the soulmate hope is very widespread, and it's a REAL condition INSIDE of our minds and hearts: but it's also the source of our eventual disillusionment with marriage when we find out that we CAN'T make the other person become the perfect fit for ourselves. And that "Intimate Friction" caused by our inherent imperfection as love-mates is what pushes us to grow past our fantasy-goals and adjust to the imperfection of ourselves, our partner, and even the rest of the world around us.
PS. That therapist was both voyeuristic and unethical, to counsel destructive actions towards marriages. Obviously therapy is not an exact (or always ethically unambiguous) science. Feel free to discuss my suggestions carefully, and safely with me--we could go off-site & private if it would be safer for you. Since you may not want to risk any of the others finding out that you're seeking expert advice. I can offer additional services for a low fee, and accepting it would allow us to exchange email, skype and/or phone contacts