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This question leaves a lot unanswered, I assume for a reason. I don't know that reason, and I'm curious, but this site is called "Interpersonal Skills", and prying into a stranger's marriage or love life isn't really evidence of good interpersonal skills. (Or is it?)

This answer reads between the OP's lines a lot.

If I as an OP leave out details, maybe it's not for brevity's sake. I did answer the question, but I tried to stick to what was said by the OP. In the answer linked to above, someone else's dirty laundry is not only being aired but being woven as it is being hung out.

Among others:

you have feelings that you are not willing to acknowledge
being a married man is one of these personal issues
there are very few people who are going to believe that a man texted a woman asking if she's having sex with another man for a benign reason
this immediate apology... rings entirely false
do the honorable thing and leave your wife before you go looking for this attention

I asked a similar question once before, and liked The moderator's answer. But the linked-to answer was upvoted 9 times so far, and no down votes or comments.

How much reading between the lines is OK and how much is too much?

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  • Why didn't you downvote or comment? – apaul Sep 26 '17 at 22:21
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    Until I know the community and its culture, I don't feel comfortable doing so. – anongoodnurse Sep 26 '17 at 23:35
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    We're still developing a community and culture and you seem to have been a pretty valuable part of that process so far. Don't hold back when you see things like this. – apaul Sep 26 '17 at 23:37
  • @anongoodnurse I would welcome any comment by you, there are certainly ways that I could have cleaned up my answer. One problem with my long-winded nature is that even after 10 edits I can have places in my answers where I've approached with the wrong tactic, come across entirely wrong or, as is perhaps the case here, assumed too much. But this is a good question for meta I think - I really wasn't sure how far I could or should go, so i just gave it a shot and hoped for the best. I felt like going in a little heavy here, where he's anonymous, MIGHT keep him from regretting something IRL. – JackArbiter Sep 27 '17 at 2:59
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    This is a very good question and I'm looking forward to the ensuing discussion, having been on the receiving end of such "reading between the lines" myself. It's tricky, because the speculation may be spot on, or it may completely invalidate the answer. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Sep 27 '17 at 6:27
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Honestly I don't particularly like that answer or some of its "reading between the lines", but I'm not sure if going in the opposite direction and requiring a strict interpretation of questions would be a good end result for the community.

In this specific case my first thought about the question was:

A closed mouth gathers no foot.

My second thought was:

How are we gonna get out of here?
I know we'll dig our way out!
No, no dig up stupid.

From The Simpsons

The user seemed to have dug themselves into a hole and they just kept digging...

I can sort of understand why someone would interpret the question the way the linked answer did, and I think they took it much further than needed, but still there are going to be times when questions need a frame challenge. Even though the answer took it too far, the answer does shed some light on the worst interpretations of the asker's actions.

How much is too much?

I doubt we'll be able to form a hard rule on this. It's more of a "I know when I see it" situation.

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    I love The Simpsons. When Bart starts digging a hole, Marge wonders why. Homer's response: "He's probably digging for drugs." What a wonderful line. The answer I referenced is kind of like that. – anongoodnurse Sep 27 '17 at 14:49
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(For readers: This is my answer that is being discussed. Sorry for the novella below.)

(EDIT): And I want to make this very clear, I did NOT say "you have feelings that you are not willing to acknowledge." I said "Your problem SEEMS to be that you have feelings that you are not willing to acknowledge." Part of the problem is that it may seem that way to the coworker. A full breakdown of the quotes is below.

I admit the answer goes very far, and I have no issue discussing it here. I also intend to edit at least one line out of it as a result of it having been brought up here. I admit, in the question itself, that I was going out on a ledge in my first answer on IPS and that I was definitely reading into things. If it is decided that it goes too far I'll be happy to edit it thoroughly, and if it gets deleted I won't complain.

The reason that the final version of what I wrote (I changed it several times) goes as far as it does is that this guy was texting a coworker, talking about approaching that coworker at work, and talking about recruiting a "mutual friend" (who was likely a coworker) to act as a go-between, all while discussing said person's sex life in his attempts to apologize about having invaded her privacy. Anongoodnurse had a great answer, but none of the answers seemed to stress the danger of this situation, both to the OP's professional life and home life - and this is not to mention the situation that the coworker was being put in. The degree to which the guy was willing to put himself at risk seemed so great that it made me think that I should suggest that he reflect on his motives.

After I read this question the first time, I had to read it again to see if the user was dropping hints on purpose (veiling them in case this ever came out as his question, or to keep from being vilified) or just didn't realize that he was coming off that way. I still don't know for sure. I figured that if the OP truly didn't have a romantic interest in the person that he could have said that directly. The only thing he directly states that could be interpreted to mean he isn't romantically interested in this person is:

My choice of phrasing things has thus taken on a much darker meaning, suggesting that I might be looking for similar attention. This was not my intent.

i.e. he was not intending to text her that he was wanting to disappear with her for relations.

However, I am not the OP and I could easily make an assumption about him based off of my own experiences, and I was not about to sit there and straight up accuse him of anything, though I have suggested that he should investigate his motives for a variety of reasons. My concern was that he has admittedly only recently met this person, and that SHE would HAVE to make an assumption about him (based off of limited knowledge) since he was forcing his communication on her.

Therefore my answer is divided into A) and B): either A) he has feelings that he needs to face, or B) he has come off as having these feelings (to me and a commenter and 9 people who upvoted my answer, and possibly to her). My answer went into depth, analyzing each apology (at least how each one was presented to us) along with the rest of it. And again, I keep stressing that even if A) isn't the case, it's B) possible to interpret it that way.

Had I left the answer at B) there would be no problem. It is A) that is going out on a limb. But if A) happens to be the case IRL... well, as the commenter I quoted wrote:

What I'm suggesting is that OP investigates his motivations, in that feeling lonely and in strong need of emotional support easily leads to (secret) jealousy, insecurity, difficulty to accept boundaries, romantic projections. This is just natural and not necessarily bad; but all kinds of awkward situations might result if these issues are not acknowledged but disowned.

Interpersonal skills involves more than one person and dealing with the feelings of more than one person, and in every case one of those people is the person asking the question. If we can't suggest to the OP that they engage in some self-reflection to increase their interpersonal skills, then we can't give full answers. The clues to a lack of self-reflection will... probably be subtle, so I think that sometimes we will have to read between the lines.

As for the anongoodnurse's quotes from my question, I'll address them one at a time, though obviously this meta discussion goes beyond just these few quotes. A FEW of the quotes were pulled out of context mid-line and seem like they're saying something they aren't (though I guess I can't really complain about reading between the lines :D) but I understand that anon is making a point without posting my whole answer. Still I want to be clear, so I've made it clear where I'm discussing the partial quotes and showing the full ones by putting >>> after the partials:

you have feelings that you are not willing to acknowledge>>>

Your problem SEEMS to be that you have feelings that you are not willing to acknowledge

Note that part of the point I'm trying to get across is that what he has done SEEMS this way.

being a married man is one of these personal issues>>>

Unwritten subtext here is that being a married man is one of these personal issues. If that isn't it, then you'd at least have a partner who could help resolve your "foremost" issue...

This is me toeing the line, I admit, and I haven't qualified this very well. He doesn't say directly that his marriage is at issue, but he does seem to imply this with those facts being back to back in the same line: "I am a married man dealing with some personal issues." This being the first line, it colors the rest of his post. I wasn't trying to shoehorn this, I still read it like that right now, even though it is totally possible that the OP did not remotely think this would be interpreted this way.

there are very few people who are going to believe that a man texted a woman asking if she's having sex with another man for a benign reason

I stick by this, but I could tone it down if necessary.

this immediate apology... rings entirely false>>>

From an outside opinion (at least this outsider's opinion) this rings entirely false.

It does ring false to me, and possibly it did to her. Or, as another answerer wrote:

My immediate apology included the phrase "I only wished to let you know I am okay with whatever".

This, however, should have pissed her off a lot more than your silly joke, because giving her your approval before she asks what you think implies that she actually needs your approval to do things. She's not eight years old and you're not her father, so it's quite rude.

I happen to agree with that poster. I don't think the OP is intentionally rude, or that he honestly thinks she needs his approval. I am worried that the coworker wouldn't think these things either; she might think he's trying to put a spin on the situation with this terrible apology in order to hide something worse. That's how it looks to me. Is it how it looks to her? He should go forward as if it might look that way to her, and maybe not approach her at work asking about the situation.

do the honorable thing and leave your wife before you go looking for this attention>>>

My choice of phrasing things has thus taken on a much darker meaning, suggesting that I might be looking for similar attention. This was not my intent.

No, you'd do the honorable thing and leave your wife before you go looking for this attention.

I'm not just pounding point A) here, I'm also trying to get B) across: as I wrote above, all he has said in this apology is that he was not intending to text her that he was wanting to disappear with her for relations. She could still think he's being jealous or invasive. However, I added this line in an edit, immediately considered deleting it in yet another edit, and now that I'm reading it again I intend to delete it since it's a stupid line that does not get its point across. As it is, I'll leave it up for a minute so that it doesn't look like I'm going behind myself and cleaning up my stupid line that was called out.

Sorry again for being so longwinded.

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  • Sorry if your comments have been deleted, but I just checked and there were none below that question. Why didn't you ask the OP for clarification? – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Sep 27 '17 at 9:01
  • I didn't comment, I was quoting two comments that have since been deleted. The OP had accepted an answer, I did what I thought was best in light of the fact that I felt he was putting his job at risk. – JackArbiter Sep 27 '17 at 12:39
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    Comparing answers to comments is not advisable; comments can be removed. The point of my question, though, is not why you made all these assumptions, but should you have? Why do you feel that the OP needs to be protected from himself? Did he ask for that advice? Is that your job? He asked a question. You answered something unasked. That's my point. – anongoodnurse Sep 27 '17 at 14:35
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    @anongoodnurse The comments I quoted were valid examples of someone else who felt that the OP was coming off a certain way, which is central to one of the points I was making. If you feel that answers shouldn't be able to make reference to comments you are welcome to suggest that on meta, but it isn't material to this question. The original question needed a frame challenge, a well-defined tactic on SE. I explain why I feel the OP needed to be protected, both in the answer and here. I have already said that I understand why you asked this question here AND that I feel it's a valid question. – JackArbiter Sep 27 '17 at 15:40

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