Annie's Mailbox: My husband spends a lot of time with female co-worker

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Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married 22 years and have two children. "Myles" works for a large company known for its long workweeks. He and a woman, "Lara," co-manage the organization.

Myles always has liked Lara and respects their working relationship. I never suspected a thing until they went on a business trip to Europe last fall. Although there were other co-workers present, the only pictures Myles had were of Lara. Worse, she apparently "borrowed" his camera and took a photo of a friend's half-naked breasts. She sent me an e-mail apologizing, claiming she'd had too much to drink.

Myles has increased the time he spends with Lara and decreased his time with me. He ignored my request to attend our daughter's soccer game in order to have drinks with Lara. He took her out for her birthday at "our" special restaurant. When we took a family vacation, he bought gifts for her.

I accused him of having an emotional affair, and he denied it. He says Lara is just a good friend. Well, I am increasingly uncomfortable with this friendship. Myles insists that because he tells me about their time together, it is safe for me to accept this special relationship. He claims Lara always speaks highly of me and if she thought she was hurting our marriage, she would be devastated. What can I do?

- Worried and Unsure

Dear Worried: Myles is playing a dangerous game. Even if he is not cheating, it wouldn't take much to step over that line. It is disingenuous for Lara to claim she wouldn't want to hurt your marriage because that is exactly what she is doing - with your husband's enthusiastic assistance. His "honesty" is a manipulative way of getting your permission to continue while he denies his true feelings. You both need to sit down with a counselor and get professional guidance before it's too late.

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