Luckily (or unluckily) for me, Dan, your pledge to "swear off answering letters from people trapped in sexless relationships/marriages" doesn't apply, because that's not the case. In fact, quite the opposite.
I'm a straight female in my mid-twenties and I've been in a happy, longterm relationship for ten years. In my teens I found a guy I loved, and we've been together ever since. We have a great life together. Although I'm in the "monogamish campm" (and altogether more liberal than my boyfriend in other ways), he's firmly monogamy camp. Still, we have a happy, suitably sex-filled relationship that works. I find other men attractive but I haven't felt the need or desire to have sex with anyone else because I've always been happy and content with what I have in our relationship. And although I’ve always been prepared to deal with the natural sexual attraction I will feel towards other men—and how I must remain monogamous for my partner—I recently found I'm not prepared for dealing with feelings beyond sexual attraction.
Maybe you can see where this is going ...
Through work I met a guy. An amazing man in his early thirties who is long-term happily married. Instantly we clicked (for lack of a better description) and became fast friends. We have the same life views, same interests, similar life dreams, etc. We are both pretty blown away by the connection we felt almost immediately; it felt different to other relationships we have experienced with other people, friends or otherwise. Stupidly or perhaps inevitably, we wound up admitting we had developed feelings for each other beyond that went beyond friendship. We are both "soft" people: we care a lot about other people and the world in general, about the sense of right and wrong, and about the people we love. So after admitting to each other how we felt, we also discussed how heartbroken we were. Heartbroken because to avoid hurting the people we love we would have to hurt each other—we would have to ignore our feelings and never explore a relationship that could be great.
Then the inevitable happened: we were sat chatting at work and then we were kissing. The sexual tension between us had been building for a long time. We've kissed a couple of times since, always feeling terribly guilty between these make-out sessions, and trying to return to being the "good" friends we know we should be, rather than the cheating, deceptive, hurtful people we have become—and hate. We've never had sex. But we are both cheats. We do not have permission to do what we've done and we both agree that it is very wrong.
Do you have any advice for us? We both knew that as soon as we admitted our feelings to one another there would be no 'good, happy endings' or solutions, but do you have any advice to make it less excruciating? If polyamory was an option in our relationships we might be able to make that work. But not even monogamishness is an option for either of our partners.
Do you have any tips on how to be better "good friends" rather than "bad" cheaters? Or tips on how to deal with feeling sexually frustrated because we just want to jump on each other so badly? Should we not even attempt to be friends? Are we just tempting fate when we already have good, happy lives and good, loving partners? I know I'm young, and have only been in one serious relationship, but I like to think I'm pretty mature and generally make good life decisions, but could this mean part of me growing up and realizing things about myself?
Do we chalk this up to life experience? Do we try and find different jobs far away and cut each other out and try and forget? (Heartbreaking but probably the safest option.) Or do we try and continue to be "good" friends and stick to our new rules? Or would we just kidding ourselves? Or do we have crazy hot amazing (or not, who knows) sex and then deal with the terrifying consequences? Or is this just something we are going to have to struggle through individually and become stronger people because of it?
I wish this hadn’t happened. I wish we could've met and just been friends, without thinking about each other constantly in "other ways" and without wanting to fuck each other's brains out all the time. Neither of us were seeking this, neither of us wanted this, neither of us ever expected anything like this to happen. But now it has happened and we don't know how to deal with it.
Sorry for the novel. It was therapeutic to "spill."
So Over Feeling Terrible
This probably won't be helpful, it's probably not what you need to hear right now, and it's certainly not what either of your partners would want me to tell you. But it's Friday night and I need to get home and all honesty it was the first thing that came to mind when I read your letter. It's something I've told other people—it's something I say on my podcast so often my listeners probably chant it along with me—but I happen to believe it, SOFT, so here it is...
If you're with someone for thirty or forty years—if you're with someone until death does you part—and they only cheated on you once or twice in all that time... then they were good at monogamy, not bad at it.
That little gem is for people who've discovered they've been cheated on—just once or with just one person—in the context of a committed longterm relationship that involved a monogamous commitment. I'm basically telling the "wronged party" to take the long view, to give their partner some credit for decades of perfectly executed monogamy, and not to let one assignation/affair/happy ending destroy a relationship or, if death done already parted 'em, their memories of it. Most people agree we shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good and I'm just applying that standard to monogamous commitments.
So as far as I'm concerned, SOFT you could go ahead and fuck that guy from work—you could even have an affair with him—and if still think of yourself as good at monogamy. Or goodish at it. I can't guarantee that your partner or your work friend's wife will feel the same way if you two turn out to be bad at cheating, i.e. if you're careless and get caught.
But without a doubt the safest course of action—the ethical course, the respectful course, the perfect at monogamy course—is for you and your friend from work to get the hell away from each other and stay the hell away from each other. Then you don't have to worry about getting caught or catching a worse case of feelings than you already have.
A few questions to ask yourself before you decide what to do: Do you wanna fuck this guy because he's wonderful and fuckable or do you wanna fuck this guy because on you want out of the relationship you're in and having an affair is the quickest way out? If this guy goes away—if your coworkers exiles himself to some other firm—what are the odds some other guy is going to come along? You've been with your partner for 10 years, and that's lovely, but is he the guy you wanna be with for the next fifty?