When I was younger and traveled more for business, I got hit on by just about every man I traveled with. This is not uncommon among women I know.
Of course, most times it’s not that bad. The guy usually looks a little silly, and the next day the girl usually feels a little more powerful in the client meeting because her counterpart showed such pathetic judgment the night before.
Please do not write to me about how this situation is sex harassment and can get very bad and whatever. I know. But let’s be real, men hit on their travel partners all the time and it’s mostly just a fumbling bunch of absurdities like, “I’ve never asked anyone this before….” Or “I’m so attracted to you I can’t help myself…” Lines the men think are original but actually are standard fare for dark corners of hotel lobbies.
Last week, I was in New York City to talk to editors about my book (coming out in May, hooray). Each day, I looked really good for the meetings, and I had a swanky hotel room and an expense account to boot.
Now I can see why affairs happen so often on business trips. If you are single, a business trip is just an extension of your single life, and if you don’t sleep with random guys in real life, it’s unappealing to do it on a business trip.
But if you’re married with children, a business trip is like an escape to Disney Land. There are no kids to feed and bathe. There’s no husband for annoying talks about checkbook balances and the next day’s school lunch. There is only freedom and fun. And what does anyone want to do with freedom and fun except have sex?
I wish I could tell you that I’m too busy with my great career and big ideas to think about a little one-night stand. But really, I was consumed with the idea.
A lot of people send emails to me to ask about issues related to marriage. Mostly because people who have a career and young kids don’t really have time for the marriage. And they think that because I have career advice I have marriage advice. And I do, sort of: It’s very hard to do kids, career and marriage. And be on guard that often the easiest thing to let go is the marriage.
I know what you’ll tell me: The best thing to do to save the marriage is date night. But the thing about date night is that the best time to do it is on a business trip. When there are only inappropriate dates.
Instead of acting on my fantasies and destroying my marriage, I did what all good journalists do: buried myself in data gathering.
This cheating issue is widespread: Sixty percent of men and forty percent of women have an affair during marriage. And these are not long-term events. Ten percent don’t even last twenty-four hours. This screams business trip to me, but maybe because I was just on one.
The Des Moines Register reported, in an article that I can’t link to, that thirty-two percent of people feel like they are married to their co-workers, and in fact, people do better work when they have this sort of relationship with a co-worker. So it’s not that big a leap to cross the great divide and suggest a rendez-vous while you’re in a grand hotel.
Oprah’s in-house therapist has addressed this situation — where you feel very close to someone you work with all the time. And, in a shocking turn of events, she recommends that you don’t act on it. (For you pragmatists, the increase in workplace performance you get from feeling very close to a co-worker dissolves when you start swapping spit.)
Of course people ignore this advice in droves, and forty percent of workers actually have an on-going relationship with someone at work. (Considering that? Here are some tips to do it without killing your career.)
Based on my experience and my research, I am declaring that it’s normal to think about having a one-night stand with a co-worker, and it’s normal for your mind to travel to fantasy land on a business trip. I used to think it wasn’t. But it is. I think if we all admit this, we can all get good at having the feelings and not considering the option of acting on them – which would not only help save marriages but also help stop sex harassment at work.