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effects  :: emotional
It gets complicated for the obvious reasons. What matters is how they relate to one another and to the rest of the work force.

When Your Ex is a Co-Worker

When Your Ex is a Co-Worker

What Happens When You Marry -- and Divorce -- Someone at Work


     It’s like he didn’t know there was the potential for huge problems when he asked Sara to marry him. “It wasn’t like we were blind to the fact that this could be a disaster,” said Patrick Cuneo, an editorial writer for a daily newspaper, Erie Times-News, in northwestern Pennsylvania. “We talked about it many times. But my guess is that one or both of us wasn’t ready to be married. And how do you know that until you were in the middle of it?”   

Cuneo says that he and his bride-to-be were aware that getting married and working for the same company had the potential for some major league headaches if the marriage went south. Which it did. “We were married for about a year when she started seeing someone who also worked at the paper,” said the 52 year old. “But no matter who is at fault, whatever the circumstances surrounding the break-up, the outcome creates a bad situation for everyone, including other coworkers who also happen to be your friends.”    

Divorces between employees at the same company are more common than many realized, even in light of the fact that more and more corporations are instituting rules against dating and marriage between coworkers, according to David Rasner, veteran matrimonial lawyer and co-chair of the Family Law Group of Philadelphia-based law firm Fox Rothschild. “I have had many clients in this situation,” said the 61-year old. “It gets complicated for the obvious reasons. What matters is how they relate to one another and to the rest of the work force. What is the chain of command? Do they work on the same floor? Do they see each other a lot?”   

“But it gets much more complicated when one of the spouses is a family member. For instance, if the wife is also the daughter of the owner and marries someone who works at the company.” Which is precisely what Cuneo did. “By far it was the biggest complication. I was married to one of the daughters of one of the operators of the paper who was a board member at the time,” recalled Cuneo.

Being 30 at the time, Cuneo still remembers how difficult it was to face his father-in-law about the divorce. And he was worried about losing his job. “I had to talk to her whole family. It had to be done. So I told her father, our marriage has failed and I still want to work here. This might drive a big wedge in things ” he said. “But surprisingly, he was really wonderful about the whole situation. He was a very nice man, and said all I want for you is to get healthy and survive out of this. He was worried for me as an individual. It was a great support mechanism.”   

Cuneo didn’t lose his job and is still working at the newspaper 20 years later. But in the interim, it wasn’t easy. “It was volatile, especially when the break up was happening. I would get angry calls, outbursts from her. And I was just feeling lousy about all of it. Of course, I was angry and she was angry. There were no physical confrontations, just a lot of awkwardness and volatile telephone calls. And of course, there was the division of friendships, because you both have the same friends and most of them work there. But I learned a valuable thing. When a friend says he wants to remain neutral, he can’t. And won’t. It was so awkward. For months and years to come.”

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