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Job Insecurity

by Stephen Lautens


December 14, 2001

There's a new book out there that's got everyone talking around the water cooler at work - or not talking to each other for reasons that will become clear.

The book is called Emotional Infidelity - How To Avoid It And 10 Other Secrets To A Great Marriage. Its author, M. Gary Neuman, is a licensed mental health counsellor and an Orthodox rabbi.

Mr. Neuman says you may be cheating on your spouse without even knowing it. According to him you are being unfaithful if you send funny e-mails to co-workers of the opposite sex. It is also cheating on your spouse if you go out to lunch alone with members of the opposite sex, or see them after work for drinks, no matter how harmless. It's even unfaithful if, and I quote: "you ride in a car sharing pleasant, personal conversation alone with a member of the opposite sex on the way to meetings or other work-related events."

You see, Mr. Neuman considers it unfaithful every time you invest time or emotional energy in people of the opposite sex for whatever reason. If you're doing any of these things, according to him, you're being emotionally unfaithful to your spouse.

That's why he suggests that to keep your marriage afloat you have to avoid friendships with members of the opposite sex. You have to save all your emotional energy for when you get home.

I'm not sure what kind of work environment Mr. Neuman spends his time in. It sounds like every day at the office for him is like an episode of Temptation Island, with hot but emotionally needy hardbodied hussies and he-men waiting by the photocopier to sap you of your emotional fidelity.

And of course, sending funny e-mails to your differently-gendered co-workers is the thin edge of the wedge. Next you'll be trading risqué knock-knock jokes and suggestive invoice requisitions.

I suppose other ways to avoid inflaming your co-workers would be to wear a burka, or let your personal hygiene really slide. Instead of giving officemates birthday cards, you could e-mail them a particularly fascinating cost-benefit analysis spreadsheet.

As a marriage counsellor Mr. Neuman's job is to see couples who are already in trouble. But I'm not sure cheating husbands and unfaithful wives are really people the rest of us should be drawing life lessons from. Maybe instead we should be copying the people who don't need to see a marriage counsellor, rather than concentrating on not doing the other things that make some shaky relationships crash and burn.

If sharing a pleasant, personal conversation with a co-worker or any gender ­ male, female or otherwise ­ is going to rock your marital boat, I have news for you. It's time to man the lifeboats. Your marriage probably isn't going to make it anyway.

Mr. Neuman seems to see life as a prison, and everyone in it is serving a life sentence with only your cellmate to keep you company. You can't be trusted to talk to the other prisoners or the guards.

Emotional energy may not be infinite, but it doesn't have to be rationed out either. I suspect the most caring people at work are also the most caring at home too.

My father used to say: "Save your best for home," and he was right. But the way to do that isn't to cut off the rest of the world from caring or ordinary human contact.

That would make the world a pretty poor place.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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