Q: My girlfriend and I have been together for three years. She's 30 and I'm 29 and we have a 15-month-old together. We have had our problems but seemed to work through them eventually. I left her for another girl a week after we got together, but went back to her after it didn't work out. Throughout our relationship I've tried cheating on her two more times. She's known about both, and we seem to have gotten past that.
Lately I've gotten to know a female co-worker of mine pretty well. I like her a lot -- the way I feel around her is different than how I feel around my girlfriend, in a good way. I just don't know if she has the same feelings that I have for her. She is in a relationship, as well, currently living with her boyfriend. I know they were on the verge of breaking up two months ago, but stuff happens. I am not willing to cheat on my girlfriend and I'm not willing to just leave my girlfriend and our kid for her. But I have to say if we were both single, I would definitely like to see if there were anything between us.
I do want to take it slow with her and get to know her, but I want to get my feelings for her off of my chest. I can't stop thinking about her and want to talk to her more outside of work so we can develop a friendly relationship. I know how you feel about co-workers dating, but neither of us is in a position of power; we're both on the low end of the totem pole at a bar/restaurant.
A: I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that you have never actually been in a truly monogamous, long-term relationship. I won't rail on you for this. Sexual monogamy is a rare practice among all of Earth's species, and has come under polite scrutiny in the past decade -- undoubtedly more so since the 2010 publication of "Sex at Dawn." The bestseller challenges the idea of sexual monogamy by blasting holes through just about every human evolutionary theory posited in the past century. From an evolutionary standpoint, monogamy in mating is nonsensical and really only exists within the human species.
I won't downplay the psychological benefits of monogamy. Several studies have concluded that quality of life is better when we're emotionally bonded with another for extended periods. They also conclude that this emotional bond and sexual non-monogamy are not mutually exclusive -- that is, you can be emotionally monogamous with one person but you don't have to bang only that person for the rest of your life. Open relationships are becoming less rare as people accept this idea.
So I'm giving you a pass for wanting to act on your sexual urges, but you're not going to get away with continuing to do this to your girlfriend and mother of your child. You both deserve emotional and sexual fulfillment in your lives, but what she doesn't deserve is being lied to or cheated on. If you don't have it in you to be sexually monogamous -- and don't kid yourself: You've cheated three times and you will do it again -- then stop pretending you can be, torturing your girlfriend in the process. You're not protecting her feelings by staying with her. You're preventing her from experiencing a happy, fulfilling relationship with someone she can trust to be honest, at the very least.
Don't be a dick. Come clean with your girlfriend about your inability to remain faithful (though I'm sure she is already very aware of that). Once that's done, go nuts telling your co-worker how much you like her. It'll sound a lot more sincere from a guy without a girlfriend, whether or not she chooses to do anything about it.
Saving the most important for last: Be a great dad to your kid. Being a parent belongs significantly higher on your priority list than getting the girl.