When we hear the word outsourcing, we usually think about business practices. If a business doesn’t have the specialists it needs to do a particular job, it may outsource it to another business that does. Outsourcing can bring new ideas and efficiency to a business or even help a business expand. However, trying to outsource in your personal relationships is not a wise idea. As boundaries between work and personal life have become more and more blurred, many people are trying to fill a void in their relationships.
Couples who have repeated, unresolved conflict, become more resentful of their partners. When they don’t feel fulfilled, they may seek out a friend or companion (often in the workplace) to avoid feeling lonely, angry, unloved, or unappreciated. This leads to even more distance between partners. Over time, what seems like an innocent way to soothe feelings of worthlessness or loneliness can turn into a highly erotic emotional affair.
Keep in mind, it’s not only the marriage getting damaged. It includes the person being used or “outsourced” for intimacy. This third-party person enables the tryst by listening and empathizing instead of directing them to a therapist or back to their partner. Although their intention may be benevolent, the consequences are dire.
Trying to outsource your romantic needs happens subtly at first. Below are some warning signs to keep in mind. If you see yourself in one or more of these, it’s time to redirect and focus on your marriage.
- You don’t feel as close to your spouse and begin confiding in your friend more.
- You begin enjoying time with your friend more than your partner.
- You have more difficulty talking opening and honestly with your spouse.
- You begin feeling better understood by your friend than your spouse.
- When something significant happens to you, the first person you want to share it with is your friend.
If you’re the person being “outsourced,” it’s important to understand what’s happening. You’re being used, even if doesn’t feel that way; your friend is using you to make themselves feel better. You don’t have to risk your job or halt your personal life to make someone else feel better. In fact, your continued relationship is enabling the situation to continue. Here are some healthier behaviors to engage in:
- Set firm boundaries with your friend. Don’t answer calls or texts late at night or first thing in the morning.
- Encourage your colleague to talk to their spouse as well as a counselor.
- Understand every relationship has struggles. If your friend is feeling unloved, lonely, or unhappy in their marriage, they need to take responsibility for their unhappiness and create a relationship they want to be in. Becoming their emotional surrogate is not in your best interest.
- Create a life that doesn’t include your friend. Leave work at work, spend time with other friends, and keep your personal life personal.