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‘We rushed into marriage, are stuck in a rut and now I'm considering cheating’

Ask Roe: A co-worker wants a one-night stand with me but I’m not so sure if I will do it

‘We got married because I got pregnant in the early stage of our relationship, like a shotgun wedding.’ Photograph: iStock

Dear Roe,

I’m married for six years. We’re working on different shifts. When I come home, he’s sleeping and when I’m about to sleep, it’s his turn to get up and go to work. Only on weekends we can really sleep together, but with our kid (co-sleeping).

We got married because I got pregnant in the early stage of our relationship, like a shotgun wedding. We've been happy for those six years, but I know we're not growing. Lately, most of our conversation is through messenger. We don't argue because I always stoop down for him.

I have a co-worker who is very attractive, but married. We're super close. He always teases me, and I feel young again. And I know he likes me. Now, he's asking me to have one-night stand with him. Because he's not satisfied with his wife. That's what he said. I'm so attracted to him, and I'm not so sure if I will do it, since he just wants to have sex and not a relationship. Please help.

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You perhaps rushed into a relationship that you are convinced has no chance of growth or evolution, where you constantly put your feelings aside to make life easier on your husband, but find your overall happiness diminished. And you now want to solve this by rushing into a one-night stand that definitely has no chance of growth or evolution, that would require you putting your desire to pursue something beyond sex aside to make this man’s life easier, but your overall sense of happiness in your marriage, work, and emotional state will likely be diminished.

Is it your partner who is resistant to growth – or is it you?

I don’t mean to be flippant. Your current relationship dynamic sounds hard, unfulfilling and lacking in the intimacy, communication, and growth that healthy relationships require; that most individuals require in order to feel understood and appreciated.

Being attracted to someone else while in a relationship is natural. It happens, and doesn't mean that you're a bad person, or that your relationship is doomed

It makes sense that you feel attracted to someone who you not only get to spend time with, who understands your work, who you get to joke and be playful with – but who makes you feel desirable. That’s missing from your relationship right now. There’s no quality time, real intimacy, no sense of the relationship being fun, exciting or forward-thinking.

In long-term relationships, that’s where a lot of desirability lies. It lies in appreciating and enjoying each other through day-to-day life, which you’re not getting to do due to your schedules; but also transcending day-to-day life by surprising each other, challenging each other, growing – both as individuals and as a couple.

Being attracted to someone else while in a relationship is natural. It happens, and doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person, or that your relationship is doomed. But if you are now seriously considering cheating, you need to decide what you want to do with this attraction; what lessons you want to learn, if any.

Do you want to have a one-night stand that will literally solve none of your problems and probably create more? Do you want to take this attraction as a cue that feeling appreciated and desired is understandably very important to you, and try bringing these qualities to your marriage? Or do you want to take this attraction as a cue that your marriage was never and will never be right, and leave, giving yourself the opportunity to pursue something more fulfilling than either your marriage or a one-night-stand with a married man?

Those are all real options, including the first one. People cheat all the time. Some of those people obviously enjoy themselves for at least some of the process. I would personally advise against it, but if you’re determined, no one is going to stop you.

But there is something you could try before deciding on any course of action, something that you haven’t indicated that you’ve tried at all, something that removes no options from the table but will make all of them much clearer: talk to your husband.

You say you want and value growth: this is how you get it. By being honest, by being vulnerable, by having the uncomfortable conversations, by learning to express your needs to the people that matter, by showing up and listening to what they need in return.

Talk to your husband. Tell him that your relationship dynamic and schedule and communication style is making you feel unappreciated, unloved, unheard. Tell him that you need your life to be full of promise and possibility and growth, and that you need to know if that is possible with him. Ask him if he’s happy. Ask him if he wants the same things as you do. Ask each other if you want to stay together, and if you are both willing to show up and put in the necessary work.

You say you want to grow. Growth doesn't happen overnight. It happens in small but important movements. Choose the right direction. Start moving.

This conversation will be difficult. It will be worth it. No matter what answers you get, you will be clearer on what you want, what your husband wants, what is possible. Maybe he has been deeply unhappy too, and wants to make a change. Maybe this will involve one or both of you looking for a different job or workplace, so you can spend quality time together again. Maybe it involves setting an end-date for co-sleeping with your child so you can at least envision having private, intimate time together. Maybe it involves having a deep, hard look at what both of you want from life and making some big changes to get there.

Or maybe it won’t. Maybe your husband will be unresponsive, and resistant to change. That’s also important information to have, and will help clarify what to do next.

Either way, just by starting conversation, you will be growing. You will be trying something different, and scary, and important. You will be changing an unhealthy dynamic of never clearly expressing your needs and desires. And you will be letting your husband, the married man, and – most importantly – yourself know the truth: other people can get stuck and stay stuck all they want. But you, you refuse to get stuck. You want to grow. And you will. Other people can grow beside you or not at all, but you will not shrink your desires down to their level just because it’s comfortable – for them, or for you.

You say you want to grow. Growth doesn’t happen overnight. It happens in small but important movements. Choose the right direction. Start moving.

Roe McDermottOpens in new window ]

If you have a problem or query you would like her to answer, you can submit it anonymously at irishtimes.com/dearroe