Love is everywhere if you look for it, and Christmas is the time to make a magical leap to love. That’s the premise of the delightful holiday film from 2003, Love Actually, brought to life by a stellar British cast who fall in or out of love at Christmas.
There’s a dark side to this premise, which illustrates how office affairs start and can be prevented. Let’s explore the affair start up phase and how to protect your marriage from the threat of an office romance.
Office Affair Start Up:
Imagine a small London office, where a young secretary named Mia (Heike Makatsch) makes a play for her married boss named Harry (Alan Rickman). When Harry walks up to Mia’s work station, she starts her seduction by swiveling her chair toward him to give him a glimpse up her short skirt and spread legs. Harry notices, but is too guarded to go there.
As Harry gives Mia the assignment of planning their office Christmas party, he asks if she’ll bring her boyfriend.
“I’ll just be hanging around the mistletoe, hoping to be kissed,” Mia says, staring seductively at Harry long enough for her invitation to register.
Later Mia tells Harry about the venue she chose for their office party: “It’s an art gallery, full of dark corners, for doing… dark deeds.”
Their sexual tension mounts.
When Harry leaves the office to go Christmas shopping, Mia asks him to buy her a gift. “I don’t want something I need. I want something I want – something pretty.”
Harry grins, like he enjoys being manipulated by her provocative charms. You see why he’s vulnerable in the next scene as Harry goes Christmas shopping with his dutiful wife, Karen (Emma Thompson). She greets him with a chaste peck on the cheek. She dresses in mommy casual, totally devoid of sex appeal. We get a sense the romance is long gone or never was, when Karen almost catches her husband, Harry, buying a gold necklace for Mia:
Karen: Loitering around the jewelry section, I see!
Harry: No. I was just looking around.
Karen: Don’t worry, my expectations are not that high after 13 years of Mr. “Oh-but-you-always-LOVE-scarves”
My advice to Karen and all dutiful spouses: Low Expectations are not sexy. Lack of romantic fun makes partners restless for the excitement you deserve in a happy relationship.
The night of the Christmas Party, Karen wears a frumpy wife outfit, while Mia dresses like a red-hot satan capped off with sexy red horns in her headband. When Mia asks Harry to dance, their romantic chemistry is palpable. His wife notices and mentions it to him after the party.
Karen: Mia’s very pretty.
Harry: [nonchalantly but unconvincingly] Is she?
Karen: You know she is, darling. Be careful there.
As Karen gets ready for bed after the party, she even wears matronly underwear with zero sex appeal. Harry doesn’t bother to look at her as they get into bed. We can see why he’s lost sexual interest, even though Karen’s a caring mother and competent spouse.
Next we get a glimpse of Mia getting undressed, wearing sexy red lingerie and the gold necklace from Harry.
After the party, Karen can’t fall asleep, her eyes are now open to the real threat Mia poses in her marriage.
My advice to Karen and any spouse who’s stopped being playful, provocative and passionate with your partner:
Don’t be surprised that your lack of romantic sizzle douses sparks of attraction. Even if you’re a fabulous parent or provider, when you allow soulmates to become roommates, you’ve entered the danger zone in your marriage.
In a heartbreaking scene on Christmas Eve, Karen thinks she’s opening Harry’s gift of a gold necklace which she’d found in his pocket. When Karen opens a music cd instead of a gold necklace, she retreats to her bedroom with British reserve to have a private cry without upsetting Harry and their two children.
Karen waits till after the holiday to confront her husband about the necklace:
Karen: Tell me, if you were in my position, what would you do?
Harry: What position is that?
Karen: Imagine your husband bought a gold necklace, and come Christmas gave it to somebody else…
Harry: Oh, Karen…
Karen: Would you wait around to find out if it’s just a necklace, or if it’s sex and a necklace, or if, worst of all, it’s a necklace and love? Would you stay, knowing life would always be a little bit worse? Or would you cut and run?
Harry: Oh, God. I am so in the wrong. The classic fool!
Karen: [voice breaking] Yes, but you’ve also made a fool out of me, and you’ve made the life I lead foolish, too!
Why is this elegant confrontation so poignant?
It shows how each spouse can justify distractions that steal power from a marriage. At least Harry admits he was a classic fool to fall for a young woman who makes him feel sexy again. Karen still doesn’t see how making a top priority of motherhood and sacrificing passionate intimacy with Harry suffocates the romantic chemistry which is needed to keep marriages fresh and exciting.
Preventing an office affair:
What can couples do to protect your marriage from sexual temptations at the office?
Do the opposite of Harry and Karen. Make time each day to focus on each other and keep romance alive. Schedule a date night at least once a week when there’s no talk of kids or careers, duties or deadlines. Do something fun that you each enjoy on date night. Wear something sexy and exciting. Be playful and build sexual tension by suggesting what might happen at the end of your date, if you’re lucky. When you create a new habit of dating your mate, you create a foundation of fun that every couple wants and no one wants to throw away through an office affair.