Why you should and shouldn’t get involved with a work colleague and my ultimate tell-all tip.
Let’s face it, the thought of workplace romances can be thrilling. Secret spontaneous moments of misadventures. A man in uniform or suit. Heart-racing romance anywhere, anytime.
I read a survey recently that queried Americans married in the new millennium. It stated that 22 percent of couples met at work. As I was almost one of these statistics, I wanted to share some of the pleasures and pitfalls of connecting with colleagues on a number of levels.
I remember the excitement of waking up each morning with butterflies in my stomach and selecting cute outfits to impress my co-worker. For the first time in my life, I loved my job! We would giggle like teenagers while getting coffee in the kitchen. Lunch hour became more exciting and adventurous as we worked in anticipation of the next email or next encounter.
There is a saying, ‘Never mix business with pleasure.’ Pffft, who wrote that? Having a little crush at work doesn’t hurt anyone, right? I am privy to free lunches and smooches all day! The benefits of having a ‘friend with benefits’ are enormous. Unless of course that friend happens to be your boss.
My old allies, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, alerted me to the disastrous results of having a relationship with a colleague. It turned out they were right. Their advice for how to have a relationship at work was pretty accurate; don’t have one.
But it can be difficult to explain this to my heart. I do, after all, spend more time at the office than at home. It’s easy to embrace co-workers as friends, especially when we gather every Tuesday night for happy hour. Honestly, where else can I meet other people and hook up with them?
There was a time when I was blissfully unaware of the possibilities alive in the workplace, namely because my co-workers were usually married or bald. I hated my younger demographic because they couldn’t get things done. That was until he arrived. He was a very tall, blue-eyed 28-year-old. At first, I was hesitant and thought I was going to deal with another kid ‘playing office.’ But he was different; polite, patient and positive. He reminded me of the character “Jim” from The Office. I was his Pam. We played silly jokes at work.
Up until his arrival, my closet consisted of long shirts and suits that made me look older; I wore my hair the same way every day. In a way, I avoided any romance because I had convinced myself that I had received a spell to never be successful in the love department, especially on the work front. But this time, it was unique. I could tell it was love. I reinvented myself with a new look and started wearing makeup every day. I looked forward to the opportunity to leave chocolate pastries on his desk every morning while he would send me YouTube videos of his favorite music.
Here is what I learned:
If you’re going to have a relationship at the workplace, you must have a strong sense of self-confidence to combat any gossip and potential misunderstandings. When we first started hanging out at the office, we made it clear to each other that we would keep our little romance in the closet. Naturally, this was impossible as we worked in the same department and we went out for lunch together almost every day. We quickly discovered that people were not stupid, and they figured out what was happening sooner or later.
I liked the idea of working with my boyfriend, in a way. Part of me was insecure and didn’t want him to meet and go out with another woman, so the fact that we were in the same building helped alleviate my anxiety. In hindsight, this was probably not the best reason to build an office relationship.
Our relationship lasted for about three and a half years. I thought he was the one. But when he got a big promotion at work and I didn’t, we started having conflicts. I worked so hard for a promotion, and it didn’t seem fair that he should be rewarded with a promotion he didn’t want as much as I did. I started to resent him. After a while, the distance between us grew, and we eventually stopped talking at home.
The thing about office relationships is that they are often unpredictable and sometimes spring out of unlikely circumstances. Whether you fall into a relationship by chance or choice, make sure your heart and head are ready for a raw and raging roller coaster ride.
Sometimes the journey twists and turns in new and unexpected ways. Love flows fast, and it feels like you are traveling on a one-way track to triumph. Other times, the ride falters and slows; eventually, your love cart might even derail altogether! If this sounds familiar, I offer this piece of advice to you. Don’t put pressure on yourself or your partner to know the destination. Life is short. ‘Enjoy the ride.’