I have been with my husband for 17 years. We have a teenage son and a great relationship. For the last five months I have been talking to a coworker (he's also married) who works in a different state. At first it was harmless flirting, then calls and texts, then petting during work-related visits to each other's branches. I just got back from a trip to his office. This time things went further than we expected, and it shocked us both. We started to have sex, but about two minutes in, the reality hit us and we stopped, swearing it would never happen again. I don't understand what is going on. I adore my husband and don't want to leave him. But I cannot get past being so desired by someone that it defies all we know is right. I am not speaking to this man anymore on a personal level - strictly business - but how do I make sure this doesn't happen again? Is something missing from my marriage? Why am I not feeling more remorse? Please help.
- R.H., 37, Dallas
Related: How to Have a Better Relationship
I always welcome an excuse to trot out one of my all-time favorite quotes, by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal: "The heart has its reason which reason knows nothing of." This sums up your situation - you are holding two mutually exclusive truths inside: that you adore both your husband and being desired by someone else. It's completely normal and signals that, well, you're human.
Related: Get Celebrity Hair Tips
When you get married, you imagine - or at least hope - that you're never going to desire or enjoy being desired by anyone else. This state of mind is pretty handy, since it makes it easy to promise to be faithful until death do us part. But you're only getting married; you're not entering the nunnery. You still have a pulse. It makes sense that this would happen.
The trick is keeping it in your pants, so to speak. It's not unlike forcing yourself to pass up the fries when you're dieting. It's neither fun nor easy, but it must be done, or you risk creating havoc in your life and hurting people you love.
Related: Easy Ways to Feel Closer to Your Partner
Is something missing in your marriage? Probably not, though something may be missing from your life in general. Often the urge to mess around, with the attendant feelings of heart-pounding passion and plain old badness, is fueled by restlessness or the simple love of the thrill. What's going on in your world? How's the job? When was the last time you learned a new hobby or took a trip? Finding a new way to challenge yourself - horseback riding, rock-climbing, even an acting class - might make life interesting again. At the very least, a new pursuit will keep you busy and take your mind off your coworker.
Something else to bear in mind: You have a teenager, which means that within the next few years, you're going to have an empty nest. You're also facing 40. While these aren't the earth-shattering, black-balloon occasions our culture makes them out to be, they're still transitions. And the best way to avoid thinking about a life transition? You guessed it: Distract yourself with an affair.
Related: The 18 Most Annoying Male Habits Explained
Refusing to speak to your coworker on a personal level is an excellent move. I'd also avoid more visits to his branch if you can help it. Finally, don't beat yourself up for failing to feel more remorse. Instead, feel proud for stopping this thing when you did. It might have been a little messy, but life is messy. You did the right thing.
Related: Buy These 8 Pieces, Get 51 Days of New Outfits
Karen Karbo is an award-winning writer and author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman. She's also a mom, a writing teacher, and a horse owner. Check out more advice from Karen.
Need smart advice?
Maybe your best friend is suddenly acting strangely. Or your parents or in-laws are making you nuts. Or your sister always takes your mom's side in an argument, instead of yours. Whatever's bugging or perplexing you - about your friends, brother, sister, parents, in-laws, husband, you name it - REDBOOK's Karen Karbo has the smart advice you need. Email your questions, rants, and worries to her at email@example.com and please include your initials, age, city and state. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.
More from REDBOOK:
Could You Go a Week Without Yelling?
Have the Hottest Sex of Your Life…with Your Husband
- 6 Shocking Reasons Why Men Stray
- Get a Flat Tummy in 2 Minutes
- Get More on Love, Family & Fashion - Subscribe to REDBOOK & Save Up to 84%!
Connect with REDBOOK:
- Become our Fan on Facebook
- Sign Up for REDBOOK's Free Weekly Newsletter
- Follow Us on Twitter
- Enter to Win FREE Daily Prizes
Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.