a love triangle of lies and other romance dilemmas for Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day, and we’ve got four letters covering all aspects of romance at work.

1. A love triangle of lies

We have coworkers Ash, Taylor, and Jamie (and then me, who Ash has come to for advice, but I don’t work with any of these people, all of whom have been given unisex names here for anonymity’s sake). About six months ago, Ash asked out Taylor. Taylor declined, saying they do not date coworkers and they were pretty adamant about it. Now it turns out that Taylor is dating Jamie, very much a coworker, and actively lying to Ash so that Ash will not find out (Taylor sounds like a combination of dumb and mean).

Other people who work with Ash have essentially “outed” Taylor and Jamie as a couple and have told Ash about all the times Taylor was lying to keep their relationship with Jamie a secret.

Ash’s main issue is that Taylor continually going out of their way to lie to Ash is both patronizing and making Ash feel worse about the original rejection. Ash isn’t sure how to handle. I told Ash that the only appropriate thing to do in this instance is continue to play dumb and pretend they do not know about Taylor and Jamie (who, from what Ash has told me, are quite serious). Would you handle this any differently other than just playing dumb and keeping conversations with Taylor related to work only?

I think your best bet is staying out of it; ultimately it’s not yours to worry about or intervene in. But if you want to give Ash advice, you might suggest just saying to Taylor, “Hey, I know that you’re dating Jamie and I’m not sure if you felt like you needed to hide it from me, but please don’t feel you need to — I’m happy for both of you.”

2. I have a crush on a coworker, but I’m married

I was stuck in a dead-end job for about five years and I have finally found an amazing place to work. The environment is perfect, the people are great, and I actually love what I’m doing. The problem? I’ve developed a massive crush on a coworker. The even bigger problem? I’m married.

This coworker and I hit it off instantly. It started out with casual chatting by the coffee maker and morphed quickly into a full-fledged friendship. We hang out outside of work (alone and in groups) and we text each other constantly outside of work. Although we haven’t spoken exclusively about it, he’s let on that he feels the same way.

My marriage is in a rocky place but despite that, I know this can’t continue. Even if my husband and I do split up, I’m not going to start dating my coworker. I love this job too much to jeopardize it. I need to end whatever this is without ruining our work relationship. Help!

Yeah, you need to extract yourself, ASAP. Cut out the hanging out and the texting, cold turkey. Seriously. It’s not innocent, you’re well aware of that, and it’s potentially jeopardizing your job, your professional reputation, and your marriage.

It would be nice if you could continue to be friends with this guy without any of those risks, but at least right now, that doesn’t sound possible. So tell him that you’ve realized that you’ve let things get out of hand, that you’re going to return to a work-only relationship until you’re able to get your head back where you need it to be, and then do that.

Meanwhile, take Carolyn Hax’s (always) excellent advice here and here as well.

3. I’m newly engaged and totally distracted at work

I just got engaged to be married a few days ago, and my fiancé is marvelous, and I’m walking around in a fog of gratitude and bliss. And distraction. My work is suffering; I get about five minutes of actual work done before I’m sighing over a wedding dress or googling how much XYZ Venue rents for. That doesn’t fly! I work from a home office, so there isn’t a ton of oversight, and my responsibilities are increasing because my boss is wrapped up in a giant project.

I’m already blocking all the websites I tend to spend too many hours on (erm, including yours) and have been adding wedding blogs to the blocked-site list. What else can I do to stay focused in a time of very distracting happiness?

Blocking sites is good. So is thinking about any coworkers you’ve had in the past who have allowed their personal lives to distract them past the point of what’s reasonable, and how much respect you probably lost for them — you don’t want to be that coworker, presumably.

Treat wedding planning like any other activity that you actively enjoy but would never let yourself seriously indulge in at work — like reading novels or watching trashy TV or knitting or rock climbing. You can love something and look forward to doing it, but still understand that your professional obligations and integrity mean that you do it on evenings and weekends, not when someone is paying you to work. Just because this particular activity can be done at your computer doesn’t make it any different. If it helps, picture my scowling face staring down at you.

And congratulations!

4. Not quite what St. Valentine had in mind

I asked on Facebook whether people had any interesting Valentine’s Day stories. This one certainly qualifies. And for people who wish they were in a relationship, take solace in knowing that you’re not with this guy!

I once worked for an executive suites firm. One of our clients was a commercial real estate sales guy. He made seven figures a year personally, and was basically a “frat/bro” sort of guy. One of the things we had to do for him was print emails out and overnight them to him (yeah, I know.) He got a LOT of pornographic pictures, and part of the job was printing those for him, but only the “good” ones – higher quality, no “fat chicks” or “old chicks.” I wondered how on earth he got away with this, but they did a LOT of billable work for us, and if we were low on hours for another client, they were dependable for extra projects to hit our goals.

Anyway, the February I worked there (and I didn’t even last a year) I had to make arrangements for his date. I assumed, naturally, this was his wife. Sort of. I had to make dinner arrangements at two very nice restaurants in our large city that were a mile or so away from each other. The first dinner was an hour ahead of the other (and the wife came first.) Then, he arranged a “work call” after about 50 minutes or so with a friend of his. That got him out of the first dinner and to the second restaurant where his mistress/girlfriend would be waiting.

Their meal was about an hour or so, at which point he would call his wife, apologize profusely about the big deal he was “closing” and arrange for a car to take her home (which I had already done, but he looked like king of the world getting her home that quickly.)

And I had to make a reservation at a very nice hotel downtown, where he would spend part of the evening before going home. Typically he worked really long days, so coming home late in the evening was not out of the ordinary for him.

His wife was on a ton of committees, involved at their kids private (naturally) school, and from what I understand, completely clueless about this double-life he had going on. When I left, I really wanted to figure out some way to send her a “your husband is running around on you” message, but did not. 

But that, hands-down, is my weirdest work Valentine’s story ever.

{ 212 comments… read them below }

    1. UKAnon

      Thanks for the wonderful image! And good luck with the wedding :-)

      Just a quick thought: do you have any holiday that you could book for a short period in the near future? It might help to concentrate if you know that you’ll have a few days free to start planning things coming up, and then afterwards to feel like you’ve started to get a handle on it all.

    2. Melissa

      I agree with UKAnon’s suggestion. Another piece of advice is maybe to set aside a scheduled time each week – like maybe 2 hours on Sunday, if you need that much – to do the fun wedding planning things like looking at dresses and pictures of cakes (as opposed to the not-fun wedding planning things, like calling vendors and negotiating contracts). That way you have a time to look forward to, and that might help you concentrate at work so that you can immerse yourself in bliss during that weekend time.

      And oh, don’t worry…eventually, once you’re more used to it, you’ll settle down a bit and be less distracted. In fact, after a couple of months you might be planning a day a week during which you don’t think about or talk about the wedding at all, just to get away from it. LOL.

      Congrats!

      1. OP3

        Thank you! That’s quite helpful. It has been hard to set aside time for the fun stuff–or for finagling the not-fun stuff, which certainly adds to it bleeding into everything else.

        1. sittingduck

          I’ve been super distracted at work lately too, between getting engaged, planning the wedding/honeymoon and buying a house on a tight time budget I’ve been all over the place. One thing I recently started which has helped is keeping a list of things I think of that I want to research later, ideas are constantly poping into my head and I write it down, so I know I won’t forget it later, and then get back to work.

    3. Lisa

      I am also super distracted at work, I did nothing for awhile. I recently stumbled upon this great plugin – https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/stayfocusd/laankejkbhbdhmipfmgcngdelahlfoji?hl=en

      It lets you allow certain websites – like a whitelist. Then you press the Nuclear button, and choose only allow sites listed on the allow list. Unlike other plugins – you can’t add sites to the allow list during the Nuclear period. You can’t even remove the plugin for the allotted hours you chose to be blocked for. It really works, and since you can’t surf anything, but allowed sites – it keeps you focused. I found myself blocked out of work related sites that I needed, so it took awhile to make a good list of allowed sites, but being truly blocked from everything else helps to get focused on work only.

      1. OP3

        Aha! I haven’t used the nuclear button. I use the blacklist, but I’ll have to try the whitelist. With a lot of preplanning about what needs to go on there…

        Thank you!

    4. M-C

      OP3, have you mentioned to your boss that you’re so, so happy :-)? Might make them more forgiving of your recent absent-mindedness. and more likely to allow you this time to pull yourself together.
      Apart from the good advice on filtering sites and setting ‘fun’ time aside, I’d like to slip you a bit of warning though. Just because you’re not in your boss’ sight doesn’t mean they don’t know what you’re doing. Of course anyone could tell with just common sense that you’re not producing as much as usual. But in addition it’s very likely that your computer is keeping track of what you’re looking at when. Even your personal computer at home. Don’t you use a VPN to ensure company network security? And remote work ensures that the employer takes a routine very close look at what you’re accessing. Make sure those bridal blog breaks are happening outside normal working hours..

  1. periwinkle

    #1: So apparently Taylor thinks Ash is pining away, lovelorn and bereft, because Taylor declined a date with Ash six months ago. And various co-workers are feeding into Taylor’s bit of self-glorification. Good grief. This is the time when you remind Ash of his/her good fortune to dodge such a drama-laden bullet. Ash’s response to the “helpful” co-workers should be along the lines of, “huh, anyway, did you see that memo about XYZ?”

    This is assuming Ash is not actually pining away, lovelorn and bereft.

    1. MK

      Actually, even if Ash is pining away, lovelorn and bereft, it would be a good idea to fake indifference.

      On the other hand, I think Ash is being too dramatic all on their own. Some things to consider: a) Taylor’s adamant declaration about not dating coworkers probably meant they were adamant about not wanting to date Ash, but prefered to give a more neutral non-offensive reason. People do this because they feel it’s more kind. b) Alternatively, Taylor maybe really did believe in not dating coworkers, but changed their mind because what they feel for Jamie is pretty serious. This also happens when one’s deeply held beliefs meet real life. c) Maybe Taylor is not being patronizing or dumb or mean, maybe they are just embarassed. After all, what can they say? “I am dating Jamie. When I told you I do not date cowokers, I was just trying to spare you feelings”? Or “I am dating Jamie. You were not enough to change my mind about dating cowokers, but Jamie was”?

      1. Kristin (Germany)

        Indeed. I had a set of unbreakable rules for dating: 1) no co-workers, 2) no smokers, 3) no married men, and 4) no drug users. Other things might be able to be worked out depending on the relationship, but I figured on those being my dealbreakers. Naturally, I ended up marrying a man I met when we worked together (19 years ago this April, assuming I let him live that long, which cannot be guaranteed if he keeps neglecting to replace the toilet paper when he’s the one to use up a roll), and he smokes. But for most people, any one of those traits would have kept me from considering the possibility of a romantic connection, and if a co-worker had asked me out, I would have kindly turned him down based on my policy of not dating co-workers. It’s just that he was just that special, you know?

        Honestly, OP1, I would agree that your best bet is just to stay completely out of it, and advise Ash, if you even feel that you need to say anything to Ash at all, that the high road is the best way to travel and staying professional and not feeding any drama can only help them both personally and professionally. Ash doesn’t own Taylor and wasn’t owed the right of first refusal on any of Taylor’s future relationships.

      2. Short and Stout

        I just got the sense some of the long-lasting drama came from Ash-Taylor being a straight kind of relationship and Taylor-Jamie being a same-sex relationship.

        1. INTP

          That’s a possibility, but if Taylor is okay with everyone (except Ash) knowing about the same-sex relationship, why not just use “I’m gay” as a rejection instead of “I don’t date coworkers?” That’s pretty much the epitome of a rejection that I wouldn’t take personally.

          Though it’s also a possibility that Taylor and Jamie are trying to stay under everyone’s radar, but some people have found out and are telling Ash that Taylor is specifically lying to Ash just to create some drama.

          1. Formerly Bee

            Could be bisexual, and it’s often not safe to come out at work. We’re not a protected class everywhere.

          1. JB

            Yeah, I’m guessing there’s a good chance that Taylor is just trying to avoid hurting Ash’s feelings or to avoid work place drama. Ash doesn’t need to take it as patronizing because it probably wasn’t said that way, and even if it was, why not just assume that it was meant to avoid hurt feelings and let it go? I mean, I wouldn’t like it someone thought I couldn’t handle being told the truth, but most of my coworkers, even closer ones, wouldn’t know how I take romantic rejection because they’ve never seen me deal with it, since it’s never happened to me around any of them. Most coworkers aren’t going to know how most other coworkers take that kind of thing, and they have to see each other all the time, so some people will just go with a white lie because they think they are avoiding future office tension.

            But if Taylor causes some of that tension in how he handled it, Ash and the other coworkers are just adding to it. If people were treating this maturely, then the OP wouldn’t know how Ash feels about it and coworkers wouldn’t be talking to Ash about it. Nobody in this story is coming across in the most mature light. But sometimes immaturity is what romantic feelings in the office creates . . . which kind of illustrates why Taylor may have done this in the first place.

      3. INTP

        I agree (though it seems like the people who work with Taylor and Ash are also purposely feeding the drama by telling Ash about all of the times Taylor lied to them – what is the point of that?).

        I’m usually a fan of blunt and honest rejections (if someone has feelings for you, I think white lies are cruel, but that’s jmo), but in the workplace people are concerned about protecting themselves from overreactions or future awkwardness. If you ask out a coworker, getting a white lie in your rejection is absolutely something you have no right to be upset over. Nor do you really have a right to know if they decide to date a different coworker, though it’s weird if they engage in an elaborate deception to keep you specifically from finding out about the relationship when all the other coworkers know. (I can’t tell from the post if Taylor and Jamie are trying to keep the relationship under the radar but a few drama-llamas happen to know about it or if they’re open about it with everyone except Ash.)

        1. Stephanie

          I agree, white lies are cruel, especially if this is someone you’ll see regularly. I think they just make the person doing the rejection feel better (because the recipient just sees the end result: no relationship with this person).

          Rando dude on the street I’m unlikely to see again? Yup, I totally have a boyfriend. But I think it was cruel of this person to say “I don’t date coworkers” when the truth was “I’m just not interested in you.”

          1. Student

            I use white lies because, on some occasions, honesty (and trying to not be unkind with that honesty – trying not to gratuitously insult people) has resulted in threats to rape me, or actual physical violence. That killed it for all those non-crazy guys. I don’t feel like jeopardizing my physical safety so some guy I don’t particularly like can refine his flirting technique

            I don’t think anyone has a “right” to know why I’m rejecting them, either. I don’t owe guys who ask me out feedback! I don’t owe them a chance to improve their flirtation techniques, or iterate their pick-up lines, or modify their personality/looks, or boost their self-esteem. They don’t get an appeal. This isn’t a trial. This is a decision about my personal life that I am entitled to make in whatever arbitrary way I like. My decision doesn’t have to be rational. It doesn’t have to be good. It could even be cruel, superficial, and downright offensive. My decision does need to be respected, no matter what, because it is my decision about my personal life and, frankly, about my body.

        2. sstabeler

          It depends on if Taylor and Jamie are concealing the relationship from everybody, or just from Ash. ( oh, and by concealing, I mean actively claiming they aren’t in a relationship- if they just don’t admit it unless asked, that’s never a problem.) If they are concealing it just from Ash, that’s pretty unreasonable, especially when, by my read, Ash has moved on from the rejection. ( Ash is feeling hurt that Taylor and Jamie feel the need to lie about the relationship is my read on it- NOT that Ash feels Taylor should have agreed to go out with them)

          of course, if it’s just people trying to create drama, then that’s different.

          In short: I get the impression that Ash doesn’t care about havuing been rejected by Taylor, she cares that they thought she alone needed the relationship concealed fro her.

      4. I'm a Little Teapot

        Excellent points. Honestly, it’s none of Ash’s business why Taylor doesn’t want to date Ash. Taylor has a right to say no to Ash for ANY reason Taylor pleases. No one is morally obligated to date anyone else.

        1. AMT

          Yes, I definitely don’t share the LW’s opinion it was “dumb and mean” of Taylor to start dating Jamie after rejecting Ash. Maybe the white lie was necessitated by Ash’s persistence. Maybe Taylor truly didn’t want to date coworkers, but changed his/her mind after meeting Jamie. Maybe Taylor misguidedly thought that keeping it a secret would spare Ash’s feelings. Whatever happened, this smacks of Ash feeling too jealous to think clearly. You can’t call dibs on a coworker.

  2. A Non

    #2 – The most useful advice for me was “don’t feed a crush.” Easier said than done, but for me it was pretty true. I’ve also had good results from rationalizing crushes – my coworker had X, Y, and Z qualities that I admired and felt I was lacking at the time. I wasn’t really interested in a relationship with them, I wanted to be them. Or so I told myself.

    I also wasn’t dealing with a rocky marriage at the same time. That part’s harder, and I wish you all the best.

    1. Accountant

      +1 on “don’t feed a crush”… it drives me crazy when people say they “can’t get over” someone they have a crush on. No, what you can’t get over is your fantasy of that person, not the actual person. Once you realize and accept that, it’s easier to move on. I’ve been married for nearly a decade, and I’ve had several crushes on people during that time, including during rocky patches. This is such a trite saying, but the whole “when the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, its time to start watering your own lawn” thing has also really helped me.

      You can feel a certain way but still act appropriately. And in this case, “appropriately” means backing WAY WAY off. Intense crush feelings will fade. Damage to a marriage or your work reputation take a lot longer to go away, if they ever do.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I agree on concept of not being able to get over a crush! I’ve always figured that one of the most fundamental requirements in someone I’d want to be with was “someone who’s really into me,” so the absence of that works pretty much the same as absence of chemistry/absence of smarts/absence of sense of humor would (in other words, as a spark-killer for me). People who are into us are appealing.

        1. Stephanie

          Yeah, I’ve definitely had crushes where I was thinking “He’ll come around and see how wonderful I am!” (which never really happened). I think I was just trying to apply logical to an emotional situation (like if I were trying to learn a piece of music and kept practicing, it would come to me). But then meeting someone who’s actually into you in an uncomplicated way is just so refreshing.

      2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

        My twist on that advice is, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence because it’s fertilised with bullsh*t”, which can also be really helpful in situations like this.

        1. Ann without an e

          Oh I agree, whole heatedly. So here’s the thing about Mr.Crush. he knows your married right? I’m sure he has some indication it is ‘rocky’, if you guys are such good friends. He is commiserating with you, telling you all the things that are wrong in his relationship and you guys keep getting closer and closer and closer…….he is fertilizing. Or worse that really green grass is AstroTurf.

          That glow on the horizon that looks like the dawn approaching, is a forest fire: Run.

          I know things are bad between you and your husband, I’ve been there. Try reading the Five Love Languages and His needs Her Needs, its incredibly helpful. I also went to marriage counseling on my own, it really helped too. If you want to save your marriage, you have to stop letting this guy distract you. I’m not sure if Alison can facilitate this, but if you need to talk to a woman that has been where you are she has my expressed written permission to give you my email address.

      3. abby

        Yes, this.

        (Just celebrated 25 years of marriage, am very happy, and am soooo grateful I did not give into any of my multiple crushes during that time).

      4. neverjaunty

        Trite, maybe, but true.

        OP #2, you do want the crush to go away, right? It won’t go away as long as you keep reinforcing it. Stop texting, chatting, and hanging out, and it will fade on its own.

        If you don’t want the crush to go away, you need to admit that to yourself and figure out why.

  3. Kerry

    If it helps, picture my scowling face staring down at you.

    Well that’s a terrifyingly effective method I’m going to start using!

  4. 6EQUJ5

    #1: I’ve seen at least a couple of variations on this in the past. My best guess is that the OP isn’t quite conveying the gravity of the situation. I’m going to guess that Taylor brushed Ash off with “I don’t date coworkers”. Except that she does. She might not have known this 6 months ago. Ash is probably either in denial or contained self-righteous fury over Taylor being such a big liar. Maybe both. And probably trapped in the throes of unrequited puppy love. Sorry if I seem callous. Nobody here is really a hero or a villain; they’re just people.

    No easy fix. In a perfect world – say, the Society Islands in the 1600s – Taylor and Jamie would drag Ash into a threesome or two. Which probably isn’t gonna happen in *our* world.

    If Taylor wants to be nice, she could try take some time and effort to try to tell Ash the truth. The key here is probably for Taylor to level with Ash: “I know I told you I didn’t date coworkers. The truth is that I didn’t know if I did or not. But I just don’t feel the spark with you that I feel for Jamie”.

    Taylor isn’t really under any obligation to do this, of course, and it’s not going to cure Ash of the puppy love. But it might help make Ash not hate Taylor.

    The kindest thing I can think of would be for management to transfer Ash to another location far away.

    Without going into the lengthy details, having seen something like this acted out before, I’d warn that there is the potential for either Ash or Taylor to suffer damage to their reputations. Justified or not, people are watching this soap opera transpire, and they’re going to assign people to roles. Jamie is just some schmoe that got dragged into it all.

    The irony here is that this exactly the kind of situation that leads to people swearing they’ll never date a coworker.

    Sorry it’s late and I can’t deal with the gender-neutral grammar.

    1. fposte

      I think she conveyed very effectively the fact that there really isn’t any gravity to the situation.

      Person who turned you down six months ago is dating somebody else, and for some reason people won’t shut up about it. That’s not grave. That’s basic daily-life folly.

      Taylor gets to date whoever for whatever reason and tell Ash whatever; who Taylor dates isn’t Ash’s business, and Ash needs to stop feeding the impression that it is by using Alison’s words with Taylor and then shutting down people who want to talk to her about this. This is classic drama-farming, and it’s time to salt the earth. (And if Ash won’t stop talking about it with the OP, the OP should also redirect. This is not a current event and people need to let it go.)

      1. Mochafrap512

        And if op does keep talking about it, then it makes her look desperate. Desperation makes people RUN!

        1. claire

          it sounds like the OP only knows one person in this situation, Ash, and that the issue isn’t finding the true reason Taylor didn’t want to date Ash, rather the issue is she doesn’t want to be lied to anymore. There are so many reasons someone might not want to date someone else. I don’t date coworkers is an easy one to fall back on for so many people. Though I don’t think I have had to use it before.

      2. neverjaunty

        This is classic drama-farming, and it’s time to salt the earth.

        Words cannot convey how much I adore this sentence.

  5. 6EQUJ5

    #2: *sigh* I don’t want to make the OP feel badly, but: this kind of thing happens so often that you’d think there would be a single standard set of directions for negotiating the situation with minimal damage to all participants.

    I’m not familiar with Carolyn Hax but I’ll assume she covers the basics.

    The only thing I would say to OP is that you know this is going to end badly, right? It’s possible but unlikely that you and this guy will live happily ever after. There’s a strong chance that you’re fooling yourself thinking this guy is some kind of soulmate, when in fact he’s really just a person who was at the right time and place to “assist” you in breaking up your marriage. None of you is evil: but at least two of you aren’t thinking correctly because you’ve got all kinds of top-quality endorphins running through your bloodstream, making you effectively high on drugs.

    You have a choice to make: you can stay married, or you can get a divorce. Either way, you’ll probably be okay and back to normal in 3 to 5 years.

    I’m going to ask you a favor, though: are there any kids involved? If so, please stay married. Quit your job if you have to.

    1. Myrin

      I strongly disagree with the often-used blanket statement advice of “staying together/married for the sake of the kids”. Kids realise when their parents’ relationship isn’t what it used to be. I don’t want to say that it’s always better for parents to split up and maintain a good relationship with their kids than stay together and be miserable, but I remember this Captain Awkward thread from a while back where the very vast majority of people who have gone through such a situation (from either sides, i.e. being a parent or a kid) were very much in favour of breaking up/getting divorced. My own experience as the child of parents who divorced confirms that as well – there were some problems resulting in the break-up that wouldn’t have been there otherwise (for example, my mum, sister, and I had to move from a big-ish house into a rather small flat), but I’d known for years that my parents didn’t really have a lot in common and neither was truly happy (I’ve also had a not-so-good relationship with my father for basically all my life, another point which made me actually quite content with the whole splitting up situation). So I really, really wouldn’t advise “staying together for the kids”.

      1. Melissa

        Yeah, and I am the child of parents who probably should’ve split up but didn’t – partially “for the kids” (and other reasons, like religion). But it was very clear that they WANTED to, even to us as young kids. We used to fantasize about how peaceful life would be if they lived apart.

        Life with two happy separated parents is probably less chaotic than life with two unhappy married parents.

        1. Moo

          We are twins (minus the religion)!

          Divorce is not evil. It is a tool to regain peace into a situation that is permanently awry and can’t be fixed. Staying married is a slow burn of torture to ALL parties.

      2. neverjaunty

        I agree with you 100%, but I get the impression that what 6EQUJ5 was trying to convey was, the stakes are much higher when children are involved, and having a fling/making a bad decision based on a crush has much more serious consequences than when the only other person involved is an adult.

        1. Cordelia Naismith

          Yes, this. I think OP #2 has to decide if her marriage is strong enough to be worth saving — independently of her crush on her co-worker. If the co-worker vanished off the face of the earth, would the OP still want to be married to her husband? If so, then getting divorced for the sake of a fling would be a very, very bad idea, ESPECIALLY if there are kids involved. I mean, it would still be a bad idea without kids, but if the OP has kids, then her decisions aren’t just affecting her life and her husband’s; it will have a dramatic impact on the kids’ lives, too.

          If not, then is the marriage even worth saving? It’s up to the OP to decide that, I guess. I agree that if she and her husband are truly unhappy together and not just going through a rough patch, then staying together for the sake of the kids is not going to work out well. OP will be unhappy, her husband will be unhappy, and the kids will also be unhappy. It’s just a ball of misery waiting to happen.

          In both cases (whether the OP wants to get a divorce or not), she needs to shut down the workplace flirtation. That kind of thing will not reflect well on either party professionally.

          1. Goldie

            ” If the co-worker vanished off the face of the earth, would the OP still want to be married to her husband?”

            That is an excellent question for the OP to ask herself. When I was trying to decide whether to stay or leave, first thing I did was to make sure I had no workplace crushes, or other crushes, on anybody. I didn’t want my hormones to cloud my judgement when I was about to make the most important decision in my, my husband’s, and our children’s lives.

      3. Goldie

        Second that! My ex-husband grew up in a dysfuctional marriage, and what he got out of that experience was that you have to stay in your marriage, no matter how bad it is, for as long as it takes for one of you to die. Mind you, he didn’t believe you have to work on your marriage or try to make things better in your marriage – you should just stick it out. Early in our marriage, we went to visit the in-laws once and my FIL was on one of his drinking binges the whole time we were there. He’d go out, come back home falling drunk, yell at my MIL because she wouldn’t give him money to go buy more booze, then take the money anyway and leave again…. and she would turn to her three adult sons and her DIL (me) and tell us, “Ugh, I have had it with him. I wish he’d die already so I can finally have some rest!” and then continue living with him. Just like that. I decided I’d never stay in my marriage if it turns that bad, because this wasn’t the example I wanted to set for my own sons. So after 18 years, after we’ve tried everything and talked about it, and both agreed that our marriage was beyond repair, I left. That was five years ago and I truly believe we’re all better off because of it. Including the children. He’s happy with his new life and his new girlfriend, I’m happy in my new life, we have a good relationship with each other and each have a great relationship with our children. Everyone’s happy. No one wishes death on anyone so they could finally be free. That’s really not necessary!

      4. Amy

        I agree. My parents stayed together for the sake of me and my brother, and I am not at all grateful for it. The feelings of “it’s nice that they put me before themselves” is completely outweighed by “they never actually asked me what I wanted” and the decade of drama that followed. They both have an attitude of “well we suffered for years for your benefit, and you don’t even care”, when really they martyred themselves for no reason. I look back on my teenage years and remember tension, anger, guilt, embarrassment and hurt. I’m a commitment-phobe to the point where I don’t want to get married, have children or even share a house with a partner. All of which have had a far more negative effect on my life than a short period of hurt when I was 12 would have.

        They split up when I was 20, and moved into separate houses and everything has been fine since. The most galling thing of all is that they could have done this exact thing 10 years ago and saved us all a lot of drama.

    2. Sandrine (France)

      Just one note on the kids: sometimes, staying married isn’t worth it. I was that kind of kid and my parents had a bad marriage… I’m 31 now and they only divorced when I was 23. It was horrible as long as I can remember :/

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        I started realizing that my parents and I would all be better off if they divorced when I was 10 or 11.

        They finally separated and started divorce proceedings when I was 33.

        1. Sandrine (France)

          Mom often tells me a story about something I did when I might have bene 7 or 8… I told her “him or me” and threatened to escape.

          To this day there are things I will never forget. So yeah.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          Me too! Around 8 or 9. I used to check out those “how to survive your parents’ divorce” books from the library long before they ever divorced and would read them as escapist fantasy.

          And to be clear, keeping your kids around a bad marriage isn’t bad just because it makes for an unpleasant home to live in (although it often does). It also teaches them terrible lessons (about conflict resolution, about what healthy relationships look like, and more) that take a long time and a lot of work to un-learn as adults, if they un-learn them at all. It can wire their brains in terrible ways.

          1. fposte

            It’s also bad for their immune system, apparently–they get sick more often in a conflict-ridden household.

        3. INTP

          One of the best things that my parents ever did for me was to divorce when I was 2 years old. I wasn’t old enough to take it personally like my friends whose parents divorced when they were older kids or teens. They married other people and by the time I was in kindergarten, I had two nuclear families and grew up with parents in stable relationships, just not to each other. I now tell friends with babies or small children who are unhappy with their marriages but feeling conflicted because of the kids that if they don’t think they can make their marriage into a happily-ever-after scenario, the second-best thing they can do for their kids is to divorce ASAP while they are as young as possible. It’s better than making kids endure an unhappy family or divorcing while they’re at a more sensitive and analytical age.

    3. Mochafrap512

      The kids aren’t going to be happy if the parents aren’t happy. Sometimes divorce is the answer. I’ve seen this done very nicely because the parents still had a great friendship and made everything easy and a smooth transition. The former couples I’m thinking of also are on great terms with the new spouses. This is key.

    4. Former Diet Coke Addict

      God, don’t stay married just for the kids. Kids are amazingly perceptive and they’ll figure it out if their parents hate each other or treat each other with contempt, and they’ll be miserable, too. Kids are amazingly flexible, too, and they can adjust and recover from a divorce faster than a childhood in an angry home.

    5. MK

      I think staying married when there are children is the right thing to do, if by that you mean “I have children and it’s better for them to be in a united family, so I am going to make every possible effort to make my marriage a stable, harmonious relationship where both me and my spouse are generally happy and at least content”. Not if it’s “Because there are children, I won’t get a divorce despite the fact that my marriage is a war zone and the children get to watch the hostilities”.

      1. The Maple Teacup

        +1 to MK. With kids there’s an extra reason to bring the marriage back into a healthy place. Also, I think that’s the intention the original commenter was coming from.

        1. some1

          Sure, but it could be moot anyway. If the LW’s spouse finds they might choose to leave. There are tons of divorcees who wanted to stay together “for the kids” and other reasons, but you can’t make a spouse stay married to you if they don’t want to.

    6. Three Thousand

      Please don’t stay married to someone you don’t want to be married to for the sake of your kids. I had to beg my mother to divorce my father when I was a child because she thought she should try to keep the marriage together for my sake. My asking was what finally pushed her to go through with it.

      Also, if you’re a woman, don’t quit your job because you think it’ll save your marriage. If your husband thinks it will, let him quit his job.

      1. hayling

        Yeah my parents stayed married way too long, and they told me later that part of the reason they didn’t divorce earlier was because they thought it would be too hard on me. Trust me, divorce would have been easier.

      2. some1

        And tbh, if the LW and the coworker want to continue this, it’s going to happen whether or not they work together.

      3. ZSD

        I think they were suggesting that she quit her job to get away from the crush, not to somehow seem more feminine to the husband.

    7. M-C

      To get back to the real #2 question, since the OP didn’t mention children :-).. Let me reiterate 6EQUJ5’s thing: “you know this is going to end badly, right?”. Because it will. Without mentioning heartbreak, one way or the other, you’re jeopardizing your new wonderful job. You’re the new person there, no matter what way the drama falls out you’ll be held responsible for causing it. Don’t do this to yourself, please! As you know, good jobs are hard to find.

      Let me also mention that often bad jobs and bad relationships go together – we put up with one because we’re feeling trapped in the other. And it’s very difficult to get into a really good relationship when you’ve been feeling bad a long while about such large areas of your life, you’re just not well-balanced enough to make really good judgements about who might be good for you. Give yourself a chance by letting the good things about the new job penetrate thoroughly, allowing the insights from that to extend to ditching the bad marriage if you think that’s what it is, or to repair a good one. Be forgiving to yourself for feeling an intense crush as a symptom of realizing you may need to go on with your life in that domain too. Just try not to make the crush too personal for now :-), and especially don’t allow it to bleed into work.

      And who knows, if the crush is still there and still mutual in another year or so, go for it, you never know :-). But by then you’ll be more secure, better established in the job, feel clearer about the marriage, he might be free as well, all that..

  6. Student

    #1 Please just tell your friend “Ash” that “Taylor” told a very typical white lie to reject Ash in an effort to spare Ash’s feelings. It’s a very typical move to make up a white lie when you reject someone. The reason that people do this is because some people won’t just take no for an answer – they try to badger and bargain. That can be scary, especially if Ash is bigger than Taylor, or more powerful at work, or even just more aggressive. So you have to pick a reason, and it has to be a reason that the rejected person cannot negotiate or easily change. It probably won’t be the true reason, though.

    1. Myrin

      That’s not the only reason people do this, though – as MK pointed out above, many people also answer in such a way because they feel it’s more kind than a straightforward “I’m just not into you, specifically” when they actually mean exactly that.

      1. fposte

        And sometimes it’s the truth at the time. You thought you didn’t date co-workers and it turns out there’s a co-worker you can’t resist.

    2. INTP

      I actually discovered that men were less likely to try to badger and bargain and not leave me alone when I stopped giving socially acceptable white lie rejections and started just saying “I’m not interested in you” or “I don’t find you attractive.” Don’t get me wrong, they don’t all react to that well – sometimes they overreact and tell you that you’re not attractive either or accuse you of being prejudiced against them for some trait that was not remotely relevant to your choice – but they say their piece and accept the rejection instead of continuing to badger. If you say “I don’t date coworkers” or some other excuse involving external circumstances, then they’ll just start arguing with your premise as though you have to date them if they win a debate about whether it’s valid to not date coworkers.

      (To be clear, I am not blaming Taylor or anyone else for using white lie rejections – it’s what is considered “polite” in our society and it is unbelievably hard to push yourself to break the boundaries of social acceptability when you’re already in an uncomfortable situation. I’ve just found that blunt rejections result in a lot less badgering and intimidation, even though many women are taught or subconsciously believe that being nice to a man will protect them from being bothered or aggressed on as much.)

      1. Stephanie

        +1

        “I don’t date coworkers” should be more than enough, but to this infatuated person, it can just sound like a challenge. “Oh, well if I just transfer to the accounting department, we can totally date! Simple!”

    3. Stephanie

      Yeah, I get your point. I think this makes sense for one-off interactions (like street harassment) where you’ll never see this person again, but that’s a bad strategy for the workplace, especially if it’s not actually true (i.e., she does date coworkers, just not that particular one).

      I do see that there could have been a situation where she actually didn’t date coworkers, but this person was just magical enough that she broke her rule.

  7. MR

    Just to be blunt here, OP #2s marriage is basically over. It was over before the OP met the coworker, but s/he didn’t realize it until then. Counseling may help, but it’s likely only going to delay the inevitable. I’d recommend listening to some Dan Savage podcasts for more detailed and realistic advice in this situation.

    Oh, and can we get a picture of Alison scowling down on OP #3? That would be awesome!

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Er, I don’t agree. Many of us who are long term married have moved through rocky spaces. A rocky place doesn’t mean the marriage is over, even being distracted by another party doesn’t mean a marriage is over. I think marriage is over not when things are rocky but when you don’t want to put any investment or focus into fixing/building it. It’s over when you’d rather leave than stay.

      OP, marriage is hard and emotional romantic flings are easy. He’s charming and you’re charming in no small part due to not having to argue over money or who left the dishes in the sink. And the rush of new love is so exhilarating.

      The amount of energy that you’re putting into this other person is energy you aren’t putting toward your spouse. This didn’t cause the initial problems in your marriage but it’s a roadblock to anything getting better. If you think about that and truly understand same, and still don’t want to cut the new guy out, then your marriage probably is over. If you’re not ready to declare your marriage over: focus, focus, focus . Way less fun, but focus. Then more fun when the focus starts to pay off. Then even more fun, and then, one day, good marriage. (or, other scenario, over but knowing you gave everything you had to make it work.)

        1. Cautionary tail

          So true. My spouse and I have had several periods of one of us sleeping on the couch for a week and not talking to each other, and yet cumulatively those added up to about a month. Today we are celebrating our 30th Valentines day and our marriage is both wonderful and an excercise in compromise. I say I compromise all the time while spouse says that they are the one compromising all the time. That’s each of us giving 100%.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Perfect.

            Any time you invite another life into yours you must make concessions.
            So you get this fish tank and add a few fish. Not a big deal.
            Months roll by and you are going about your life. One day you come home so flipping tired you fall into the nearest chair. Then you realize. The fish are hungry. You have drag your tired, achy body across the room and toss in fish food. There are no free rides for having the privilege of another being go through life with you.

            It’s work. Because it’s always your turn to do the extra, to add support, to think of creative solutions, and on and on.
            The only relationship that comes close to our partners, in longevity and close proximity, is our parents. We get, on average 20 years with them, then we move out on our own. Spouses/SOs/partners– this is an even longer relationship. Very rarely do I meet couples that never had to sort through anything difficult. Not arguing against divorce, here, that is not where I am going. I am saying that marriage is a lot of work, even healthy, enduring marriages.

            1. Windchime

              “Marriage is a lot of work”…..yeah, this makes me really glad I’m not married. I already have a full-time job; I hate having to come home and work on the relationship. Home should be for rest and respite and recharging, not having to work to get along with someone.

              Just my opinion. But people probably shouldn’t be taking relationship advice from me.

              1. amy

                That’s the key though – you should be getting more out than what you put in. Lots of work for great rewards. When it’s all work and no reward that’s usually a signal to end it (there will be periods of more work and periods of more rewards. It’s about the balance and the energy you have left to give)

      1. Totes Anon

        OP, marriage is hard and emotional romantic flings are easy. He’s charming and you’re charming in no small part due to not having to argue over money or who left the dishes in the sink. And the rush of new love is so exhilarating.

        I have a huge crush on a coworker and I am pretty sure he does back (both of us married). He’s very similar to my spouse and I think this quote sums it up perfectly why I like him. I have come to the realization that he does things that if we were dating would probably irritate the hell out of me though. It’s nice to see it nicely summed up for me.

      2. catsAreCool

        “The amount of energy that you’re putting into this other person is energy you aren’t putting toward your spouse.” This!

    2. Blue_eyes

      I agree that Dan Savage is great for relationship advice. But I’m surprised that as a Dan Savage listener you think that OP2’s marriage is “basically over.” Dan Savage talks all the time about how it’s totally normal to be attracted to people other than your spouse and he also believes that cheating shouldn’t necessarily be a “relationship extinction level event” (that OP2 has cheated…yet).

      I agree with Alison’s advice to cut back your relationship with this person until the crush passes.

      1. MR

        This is what I get for posting at 4 am.

        What I meant to say was that the relationship is over unless the OP starts talking with her husband. Something is missing there that she needs to figure out. If nothing changes with that, then maybe the coworker isn’t the source of some type of an affair, but someone will at some point.

        Figure out what is wrong in the marriage. It’s the only way to fix it. Good luck!

        1. Blue_eyes

          Ah, I see what you were going for. You’re totally right. Something is not going well in OP’s marriage, and figuring that out with her husband is what really needs to happen.

      2. Jane Elliot

        Dan Savage is great for sex advice. Horrible for relationship advice.

        Pretty much everyone on the internet is horrible for relationship advice.

    3. Artemesia

      Probably is. I know my first marriage was going nowhere when I developed a crush on a co-worker. Never did anything about the crush but it brought to a head my feelings about the marriage and so led to the divorce — an action which still remains one of the few things in my long life that I know was exactly the right thing to do. Got out before the kids arrived and that was our ‘next step.’ And have been more or less ecstatically married for over 40 years now to someone else and have wonderful now adult kids with him. I might or might not have been able to make a relationship with the guy I had a crush on but I refused to go there and am glad I didn’t.

  8. Mochafrap512

    OP #2: I do want to point out that you are currently engaging in an emotional affair. These are sometimes more hurtful and damaging that physical ones (not always, but sometimes). Please take Alison’s advice and make a clean break with the co-worker. Then you need to look at your marriage and make the tough decision. If you stay, couples counseling should be taken used.

    1. MK

      I agree. People tend to think that as long as they haven’t had sex with another person, it’s all innocent, but it’s not that simple.

  9. Lori C

    Letter 2 – tell the crush no more hanging out alone or in groups, no more texting and it is strictly business from now on. Block his number if you have to. Don’t be fooled if you think no one at your office can see what is going on between you two. They do see what is going on and they probably talk about it behind your back. I guarantee this will blow up in your face at work if you don’t stop. Next, work on your marriage. Talk, get marriage counseling. If husband won’t go, you go yourself. Remember, many marriages go though terrible rocky patches and come out the other end stronger.

    1. Foxtrot

      Am I the only one who second guesses these situations after watching House of Cards? Maybe the wife is well aware of what is happening and doesn’t care…

      1. beckythetechie

        Making your contractors overnight you porn is still worthy of several Ews all on it own. The double dinner, lies to cheat thing is equally gross much of the time, but really, paying professionals to handle your porn habits is so beyond the pale.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            That part bothered me more than the porn, but less than the cheating. And I don’t think we can assume the wife is OK with it if it requires this level of plotting.

            1. Mochafrap512

              Maybe, but (not wantng to generalize) but men sometimes think they’re being sneaky, but they aren’t. I think that has something to do with women being more analytical and men being more straight forward-minded.

            2. Melissa

              It could be that he doesn’t know she knows, but she does know and either doesn’t care or is willing to tolerate it for other reasons.

      2. some1

        I agree that that it’s possible the wife knows and doesn’t care, or is willing to tolerate it as long as she doesn’t get confronted with any evidence which would force her to acknowledge it. Or for all we know she has somebody on the side, too.

      3. Short and Stout

        Nah, this isn’t a House of Cards situation. The wife would have asked what kind of cheap Valentine’s gift Zoe got him.

        1. Stephanie

          I got excited when Netflix screwed up and released it early. But they caught their mistake before I could fire up Netflix. :(

      4. Stephanie

        I thought that for a second as well, but the level of D-Day-esque duplicity leads me to believe he’s trying to hide this. If he’s in an open marriage, would he need to fake a business call? Seems like he could just say “Ok, I’m going to go meet Penelope for dinner. Bye!”

        Now it could be some Carmela Soprano situation where she guesses it’s happening, but just likes the lifestyle too much and looks the other way.

      5. AllisonMary

        It’s of course possible that the wife is aware and doesn’t care – though even if that’s the case, I sort of doubt (sadly) that the awareness is within the same healthy “power couple” context as on House of Cards (love those two!!).

        Personally, I’ve been in a very healthy, very happy polyamorous relationship for almost three years now, and I just get so dumbfounded when I read stories like #4 (which appear to be instances of non-consensual non-monogamy). I just can’t wrap my head around that way of doing things.

  10. nep

    #3 — Isn’t it just part of being an adult — being able to focus and get to work when one is on the clock?
    #4 —

    1. Apollo Warbucks

      #3 Yes it is but people aren’t robots and sometimes, even with the best of intentions distraction form personal lives creep into the work place. The OP recognises the potential problem and wants to do the right thing.

    2. Former Diet Coke Addict

      It’s very easy to know what is the right thing to do, and difficult to know HOW to do that right thing. Which is where Alison comes in–because it’s one thing to say “I have this workplace dilemma” and another thing to say “I have this workplace dilemma, and I’m going to take steps A, B, and C to try fixing it.”

      1. nep

        Yes — I get that about the huge value of the advice found on AAM. I’d simply say ‘dilemma’ a bit of a strong word for this case.

  11. Chloe Silverado

    OP #2 – As someone with co-workers in a similar predicament – this really needs to stop. There’s a lot of potential for others in your office to notice (if they haven’t already) and lose respect for one or both of you. In my co-workers’ case, we did all notice their flirtations, and many people’s opinions of them lessened dramatically. Some people felt the flirtation was office-inappropriate, some people were upset that one of them was married – either way, it didn’t reflect well on either of them. On top of that, the spouse in their scenario eventually found out, leading to a bunch of unnecessary drama that effected my co-workers in and out of the office. One of them has a leadership role, and right or wrong it has especially effected the way that people view that individual’s authority and credibility. Don’t be those people, OP! End it now and do your best to maintain your credibility at this job that you love.

    Also, if you do take AAM’s advice and end it now, it’s important for you to stand firm that your relationship is now professional only – the unmarried party in my office is having a tough time with things changing, and the married individual isn’t doing a great job of setting consistent boundaries so the drama continues. It will be key to make a decision and stick to it.

    1. Helen

      At my last job, a single woman and a married man very clearly had a mutual crush. She would practically twirl her hair whenever he was talking to her. It made everyone who was nearby want to hurl, and I especially lost respect for the man. And I don’t even think they consummated anything–but their behavior was still inappropriate and gross.

          1. Melissa

            I’ve read in numerous places that long, healthy, shiny hair conveyed health, and youth – and thus fertility. So if evolutionary psychology is to believed, it could actually be an evolutionary peacocking instinct meant to convey the health/youth of the twirler. (Or it could just be a nervous habit that many women share because hair is an easily accessible fidget-thing. Flirting tends to provoke feelings that are close to nervousness. So there’s that.)

            1. neverjaunty

              Which doesn’t explain why men don’t hair-twirl, or why “long, shiny, healthy hair” would be a sign of youth among groups of humans who don’t naturally have straight hair. More likely it’s just that it’s an acceptable fidget for for women in our society.

              I mean, little kids fidget by picking their noses. Adults don’t do that because we’re taught it’s rude and gross, not because our genes make us do it.

      1. Windchime

        We had this recently at my current job. The single woman would stand in the married guy’s cube and they would giggle and whisper together. For literally HOURS on end. If it was an affair, it was horribly indiscreet. If it wasn’t an affair, it was just really bad judgement and very distracting to those of us who were trying to work but had to listen to the constant giggling.

    2. No name this time

      Ok, this might sound harsh, but it isn’t directed at anyone personally, it’s just a response to this post because it’s the post that led me to think about it. The vast majority of people passing judgement on their coworkers’ romantic entanglements need to MYOB. I had a coworker that was embroiled in a huge scandal because he spent too much time with a married coworker-he’s known her for 15+ years and is friendly with her husband as well, but he snubbed another coworker’s romantic overture, so his friendship suddenly became news. His reputation never recovered because how dare he…even though he didn’t do anything. Because he’s unwillingly caught up in the gossip mill, getting other departments to cooperate with ours is much more difficult, and it’s kind of a pain for the rest of us. No one will admit that their problem with him is personal and has nothing to do with his/our work. It’s a sign of bad judgement to openly flaunt an affair, but if a person finds themselves thinking less of a coworker because of pure speculation on some googly eyes and giggling, generally speaking they need to leave high school and get back to work. There’s all kinds of reasons why someone might say it rightfully impacts their opinion of a person that they’re flirting, but address anything that’s impacting your work as a work concern and accept that the rest of it is none of your business. Again, not a statement on Chloe personally-it’s a valid point that people do notice these things and we don’t work in a vacuum, but the people who notice and comment ARE part of the problem, and they should learn to keep their opinions about people’s personal lives out of the office as much as the ones their judging should stop giving them something to talk about. Both are a problem in these scenarios, and both need to worry more about their own part in it.

      1. Mochafrap512

        Affairs aren’t just physical. Emotional affairs are just as bad and sometimes hurt even worse.

        1. anon7393

          You know, this is a line of thought that people keep coming back to, and it really concerns me. The situation is the original post is not kosher and the question-asker knows it, but this thread is discussing a work friendship between two people, with the poster being close enough to the situation to judge there’s nothing hinky going on.

          Tossing out the “emotional affair” buzzword every time someone talks about an opposite-gender non-romantic friendship (involving at least one married person)? That leads to damaging places, like people having no emotional support whatsoever outside of their marriage.

          1. MK

            The OP said:

            “I’ve developed a massive crush on a coworker. The even bigger problem? I’m married.” and “…we text each other constantly outside of work” and “…we haven’t spoken exclusively about it, he’s let on that he feels the same way”.

            That is not an opposite-gender non-romantic friendship involving at least one married person; that’s the beggining of an affair. Friends usually don’t text eachother constantly or describe their feelings as a crush or their spouse as a problem or speculate whether the other person feels the same way.

            1. Cordelia Naismith

              I think anon7393 was commenting on No Name This Time’s story when they said “opposite gender non-romantic friendship,” not necessarily the OP’s situation. At least, that’s how I read it.

      2. MK

        I realise what you are saying, but I think people are just being practical about it: gossiping is part of human nature and it’s not going to change, so it makes sense to advise people to regulate their own behavior.

  12. Another Job Seeker

    OP #4, that is a ridiculous situation. I’m glad you were able to find another job. I do have one question – what did you mean by frat/bro type?

    1. Blue_eyes

      From the “Bro (subculture)” page on Wikipedia:
      “Bro is a male youth subculture of “conventional guys’ guys” who spend time partying in ways similar to each other. While without a consistent definition, the popular image of bros is a “fratty masculinity” type, predominantly white, and associated with frayed-brim baseball hats, oxford shirts, sports team t-shirts, cargo shorts, and boat shoes or sandals.”

      1. Another Job Seeker

        Wow. My experience has been different. I have several family members and colleagues who pledged fraternal organizations while they were in college. They don’t fit the partying, womanizing stereotypes that seem to be referenced here. On the other hand, they are loving fathers and faithful husbands who serve the community through their fraternities, schools and other organizations. I suspect that like many other organizations, fraternities include members who respect others as well as members who choose not to do so.

          1. Another Job Seeker

            Not directly. It seemed implied to me, though. I see it this way. There are young men in college who are members of fraternities. They see many of their fraternity brothers being disresptful and choose not to behave that way. Painting all (or most of the) “frat boys” with one negative brush is not fair to the fraternity brothers who do respect women and relationships.

            1. Katie the Fed

              I think it’s more about Bros than frat boys. But there’s also a high degree of overlap. I knew EXACTLY the kind of guy OP was referring to, because I know dozens of them.

            2. Blue_eyes

              I don’t think anyone here is “painting all frat boys with one negative brush.” You asked what the OP meant by frat/bro, and I and others answered. The “frat bro” is certainly a stereotype, and as such definitely does not apply to all fraternity brothers, or all young white men. I think the OP used “frat/bro” as a shorthand to quickly give us a sense of the personality of the client.

        1. Artemesia

          Presumably when they graduated from college they grew up. Lots of guys don’t. Even 50 years ago when I was in college frat boys acted like this bros stereotype — it was the norm, not the exception. Frats today are from my pretty close up observations even more into binge drinking and misogyny than they were 50 years ago.

          1. Myrin

            Wasn’t there an extensive discussion here just last week about frats? (The OP whose boyfriend wanted to include his time in a frat in his resume.)

            I read this whole thing in rapt fascination since frats don’t really exist in my country (well, I guess some technically exist, but I’ve never met anyone who was part of one [I’m a uni student myself] and they aren’t a social “thing” like they seem to be in the US – see: the point where I can’t even tell from the top of my head if they exist). I was fascinated by what some commenters said about the meaning of traditionally black fraternities/sororities, I hadn’t ever heard of this before, but in general the commentariat seemed to confirm the stereotypes I’d heard about frat boys/bro culture.

            (I’m also shocked that, as per your comment, the tendency in behaviour seems to be going in the opposite direction from what you’d expect. How disheartening.)

        2. My 2 Cents

          Ugh, stop trolling, Job Seeker, you know EXACTLY what this person meant by frat/bro type, it’s one of the best known stereotypes out there, and for very good reason. I am sure you are a current or former frat member and hate that you are painted with that brush, correctly or not, but none of us really buy that you have no idea what the stereotype means or that it couldn’t possibly be true.

  13. Christy

    OP2, you have my sympathy. A dear friend is in this situation and it’s been really hard for her.

    Do you have someone you can talk to about this? Decision time like this can be a great time to find someone who is 100% in your corner regardless of what decisions you make. Perhaps a therapist? Not necessarily to tell you what path to follow, but just to be an ear for you.

  14. beckythetechie

    At OP #3– you may find that rather than researching all this yourself, even though you’re excited about it, booking a wedding coordinator now will not only save you a bunch of money on the event (because coordinators work directly with vendors and venues to get deals to pass on to clients) but lifts the pressure to do *everything* yourself. If you can turn it over to the planner, at least mentally, and schedule time with her/him like you would any other work activity, you’ll get the urge to plan under control without stressing yourself or your work situation as much.

    Congrats and good luck!

    1. Melissa

      And, OP3 – if you choose to do so – you can hire a wedding planner/coordinator to do varying amounts of work. Some wedding planners plan the whole thing from beginning to end, but some wedding planners just handle the big details (like venue, florist, etc.) or one particular aspect (like turning a bare loft into a decorated masterpiece) while you do the rest. And some wedding planners just handle the day-of. That can also reduce the price, if you hire a coordinator for just a short time or a certain thing.

      My mother-in-law is a wedding coordinator and she, of course, planned our wedding. She planned it on very short notice and we STILL got a great deal on a venue that she had a relationship with, and I didn’t have to do much more than select some colors and pick out a dress. It was great!

    2. catsAreCool

      I keep thinking that if I do get married, I’ll do it in church, invite family and a few friends, and have Mexican food catered because I like it and have brownies for dessert.

    3. OP3

      Thank you! That helps quite a bit. I’ll see what I can delegate to the day-of coordinator and to my eager friends. That does take the pressure off.

      1. Technical Editor

        OP3, I feel for you. I just got married, and my productivity TANKED at work. Pin that, Google this, daydream. Repeat.
        I wish I had hired a coordinator, but I couldn’t let go of the control. If you can Let Go and Let the Planner, your productivity will be so much better.

  15. beckythetechie

    OP#2– While I agree that the work relationship is bad form, whether to continue it seems to hinge on 2 things.
    1) What are your employer’s guidelines about potential romantic relationships at work? Most places say “Don’t do that” and for good reason. But ultimately, you have to keep that at the forefront of your mind as you think your way through this. You agreed to abide by those rules when you signed your contract; regardless of how your personal life shakes out as you deal with the rest of it, that contract is what will keep you solvent on your own should it come time to separate.

    2) If the proverbial shoe were on the other foot, what would you want your spouse to do? I’ve been with my husband for four years. Our relationship is such that, because of our respective orientations, if one of us were to develop this kind of interest in another person, we’re prepared to sit and discuss it, if we’re both agreed that it’s worth exploring, we’d be okay with the spouse having a couple of trial ‘dates’ and reevaluating the scenario. I realize ours is a rare circumstance, but I wanted to bring it up because of the “rocky” part of your marriage you mentioned in the letter. Ultimately you seem to be conflating two problems. The important part is taking the time to communicate with your spouse, and acknowledging that issue as one separate from your coworker attraction. You can’t fix both the coworker problem *and* the marriage difficulties by backing away from your work relationship. A rough spot in a marriage can be just a rough spot; it can be a sign of changing times and a need to move on. It’s two separate issues that may, if you take the time to talk about it, have a very different outcome than you forsee right now.

    I’m sorry to see you in this situation; I know it has to be confusing and gut wrenching to have to make these choices. They’re not what we expect we’ll ever have to face when we stand in front of our dearly beloveds and talk about growing old with someone. But, try not to punish yourself as you think through this; maybe there isn’t a single party to blame, though that’s often our instinct.

    1. MK

      I think that even if the company does not forbid employees dating, it’s a particularly bad idea to bring a “bad marriage+crush= infidelity?/divorce?” situation to work. If there are rules against it, there should be no question at all about it.

      Polyamory or an open marriage is, I think, irrelevant with the OP’s situation. In those relationships, third parties are part of the normal progress of a happy relationship, not symptoms of/solutions to problems.

      Also, I am not sure “what would you want your spouse to do?” is the right question to ask. Suppose the OP decides that, their marriage being how it is, she wouldn’t care if her husband had an affair, and gives herself permission to pursue her crush. When her husband finds out, I don’t think he is going to be impressed with a “But I wouldn’t mind if you did it!” defence.

      1. Zillah

        I agree. I also think there’s real danger in opening up a relationship for the purposes of saving it. IME, that doesn’t generally work, even though it can in other situations. That’s doubly true when the person you open it up for is the catalyst for you neglecting your spouse in the first place.

    2. Melissa

      On one level, I agree with you – my husband and I also have this kind of relationship. So I know what you mean.

      BUT…one of the key points to an open or semi-open relationship is that you don’t really use dating/outside partners to get through a rocky patch. That’s not going to fix it. In fact, for many people, the dating might only exacerbate the rocky patch – you’re attracted to this outside person because, as others have said, emotional romantic affairs are much more fun and less work than maintaining a marriage, and new infatuation is intoxicating. So you spend the energy and affection you could be spending building your marriage back up on this new interest instead. Besides, you presumably – and me and my husband – have this pre-arranged arrangement that we already know about. It’s a completely different thing to have a spouse that you haven’t discussed this with and go to them and say “So, how do you feel about open relationships? Because at work there’s this guy…”

    3. neverjaunty

      While I think you make a lot of great points, advice that the OP consider some level of polyamory is likely to make the crush/rocky marriage situation worse. (You know the joke: “Relationship broken? Add more people!”) That’s particularly so given that probably “while in the throes of a crush” is the very worst time to try to negotiate a difficult conversation with emotional maturity, calm and thoughtful consideration of what that will mean in the long term.

  16. AdAgencyChick

    #4, my eyes popped out from the get-go (printing emails and overnighting them?!) and just got bigger and bigger from there.

    I’m glad you told this story so we can all marvel at it, but sorry you had to go through it, OP!

    1. junipergreen

      I had a colleague who printed all his emails and kept them in binders. Computer classes didn’t help. The rest of us computer-literate folks just kind of got used to it, but whenever colleagues from other departments joined us for meetings and realized exactly what those binders contained… It was fun to watch their eyes bug out.

    2. dang

      When I was filling in for a co-worker over the summer, one of the people she worked for would constantly try to get me to do this. She had been told no multiple times but tried again since I was new.luckily I thought it was bizarre enough to ask about and was told to just keep telling say no because it was ridiculous.

    3. Annie

      I had a former boss who insisted that I print out and file all emails, and make extra copies for him if I needed his approval on something. I tried to explain how to store emails in folders in Outlook, and I offered to show him how to cc/bcc, but he thought hackers would get in, so. :/

      At least none of his emails were pornographic though!

    4. Hlyssande

      It’s kind of hilarious, but he probably also got a sick thrill out of making them not only view his porn, but also pick and choose for him what he’d like the best.

      Not cool to involve random people in your kink, bro.

  17. Katie the Fed

    #2 – you’re already having an affair – it’s an emotional one. In many cases it’s only a matter of time before it turns into a physical one as well. Please don’t delude yourself that it’s just a crush – you’re sharing emotional intimacy with someone who isn’t your spouse.

    I’m not saying any of this to be judgmental, but because I want you to realize how serious it is. In my much younger days, I was very, very stupidly the “other woman” in an emotional affair. In my naivety, I thought I just had a friend, but then it turned into something much closer, feeling developed, etc. I finally came to my senses and put the kibosh on everything before it got physical, but it’s something I regret to this day.

    You REALLY need to extricate yourself from this, immediately. And I urge you and your husband to seek counseling – it will either help you rekindle the emotional intimacy you’ve been getting from this coworker, or you’ll realize the marriage has to end. But you can’t fix things with what you’re doing.

    Good luck – it’s rough.

    1. ms. anon

      Yes, please put an end to this relationship immediately. I was in the same situation about 10 years ago and the emotional affair turned physical. It did not end my marriage, but it definitely changed things. It may seem fun and exciting with this new guy, but it’s not worth it to go down the current path. Good luck. This is a tough situation.

    2. catsAreCool

      This sounds like an emotional affair to me, too. I don’t know if this is part of the reason your marriage is rocky, but it’s taking time and energy away from your marriage.

      It’s gonna make you look bad at work, too.

  18. OP1

    OP1 here – in an effort to keep this as anonymous as possible I originally left gender out of it, not that it matters, but Ash & Jamie are girls, Taylor is a dude. Ash is very focused at work and while she is not pining for Jamie, she is more beginning to think that, as MK pointed out earlier, the I don’t date coworkers thing was just a cover up for, “I find you physically repulsive” (hyperbolic but whatever). I only know what she is telling me, but I have told her to just play dumb and ignore everything. She is not going out of her way to get this info and is just keeping her relationship with Taylor strictly professional. She even stopped sending him dumb texts outside of work hours. I was like a proud mama. I think she is just frustrated and ego bruised. And as someone else mentioned, maybe it wasn’t a lie but Jamie was so fabulous he broke his rule for her. Either way, time to move on for her.

    1. fposte

      Play dumb or play professional, when it comes to people yapping to her about Taylor: “Honestly, this isn’t something that I want to talk about at work any more.” From the sound of it, this is really Ash-started drama and you’ve been trying to talk her down; good for you in finally getting some traction, and good for Ash in finally listening to you :-).

      Sorry, Ash, but sometimes people turn us down. Whether it’s for a job or for a date, they get to do that, and we then need to move on.

    2. MK

      “I don’t want to date you” does not equal “I find you physically repulsive” and I would never imply that it is. For all anyone knows, it’s Ash’s personality that put Taylor off, not her looks (though I don’t advice suggesting that to her).

      1. some1

        If Ash is old enough to have a job, she has probably rejected at least one person, too, and that person probably wasn’t repulsive or had a horrible personality. Sometimes you just aren’t feeling it.

    3. Artemesia

      ‘x rejected me because x finds me physically repulsive’ is just such a childish way of framing rejection. The world is full of people whom I would have no interest in dating and I am sure the world is full of people that have no interest in me likewise. None of this has anything to do with ‘physically repulsive.’ Most of those people are people I would be fine socializing with and vice versa. Jamie dodged a bullet here in not getting tied up with this drama llama.

      1. OP1

        I love the term drama llama and plan to start using it – the whole “I find you physically repulsive thing” was my own hyperbolic commentary and nothing that Ash had said to me.

    4. Mochafrap512

      Just FYI, your pic is up. Anyone at your job who knows you can figure out who you’re talking about.

      1. OP1

        Appreciate the heads up however I don’t work at the same company as my friend and her coworkers. that being said, I changed the pic anyway.

    5. neverjaunty

      It’s really none of Ash’s business why Taylor said no. Maybe Taylor was lying and he had his eye on Jamie all along. Maybe he didn’t date co-workers but changed his mind. Maybe he thought he was gay and was afraid to say anything. Maybe he thought Ash was so wonderful and gorgeous that she would dump him right after a couple of dates and so went with less-threatening Taylor. Who knows?

      The point is that Taylor moved on a long time ago and Ash needs to stop picking at this scab.

  19. Takver

    #1 – Someone I know is currently dating a coworker after turning down another coworker. When she turned down the first guy, she did say it was a bad idea to date from work, but that was just part of letting him down easy. When she started dating the second guy, the first guy tried to make a joke out of “So much for not dating coworkers!” but was unable to conceal his sour grapes.

    Maybe it’s not the best thing to let someone down easy by saying something that isn’t true, but obviously Taylor wasn’t into Ash. Then Taylor met someone at work she was into. I don’t think that’s an “idiot” move–if anything, I’d think Ash should learn to read subtext.

    1. anon in the uk

      A co-worker I turned down decided that this meant I must be dating our boss (because apparently there are only two men in the world). He complained about this to another colleague, who told him he was ridiculous and to not ever utter anything about it again (then warned me).

  20. Blue_eyes

    OP#3 – Can you start keeping a list of things you want to look up about weddings? Whenever you have a wedding thought while you’re working, just jot down the question or idea so you can come back to it later, when you’re not at work. Then in your free time you can totally binge on all things wedding. I also wonder if your level of distraction will decrease over the next few weeks as you get used to being engaged – so maybe the problem will resolve itself.

  21. some1

    One more reason #2 needs to back the hell away is that right now she can do that with minimal disruption. If you forgot to delete a text or email and your spouse finds it, things can turn to shit very quickly. Like your spouse confronting your coworker, telling your coworker’s significant other, outing you guys at your work, or creating drama.

    1. Marcy

      Yes, this. Even worse than the spouse confronting the OP’s coworker, the spouse could confront other people in the office thinking it might be them. When I was 16, I was working at my first job. A woman called for her husband one day and I told her he was out in the parking lot but I could take a message and have him call her. She then accused me of sleeping with him (although the way she put it was much more graphic). Again, I was 16 he was probably 30ish (not sure but seemed really old to me at the time LOL). I was pretty grossed out about the whole thing. I worked in a grocery store so there were tons of other females there so I have no idea why she accused me other than she may have thought I was lying about him not coming to the phone? Who knows how many other women/young girls working there she may have accused.

  22. Jessica

    In regard to OP#2, I have a crush story that worked out badly. I was working a volunteer job and kept getting scheduled with a man who was about 10 years older than me. I was in my mid-twenties at the time and pretty sheltered, which I think led to my naivete. I thought being nice and friendly was the way to go, but apparently he took that as more interest than it was. He was 1.) married and 2.) totally not my type if he wasn’t married. Anyways, over time, it became pretty apparent that he was unhappily married and was infatuated with me because I was nice and friendly. Didn’t really know how to handle it. Here’s the thing I think people mistake about crushes. You only see a portion of them and you are choosing to see the best. He thought, “Oh look, here is a younger woman who is nice and friendly and makes me laugh. I’ll just go after her, especially if it gets back at my mean wife.” Um, duh, we WORK together. Of course I’m going to treat you nice, friendly, professional. But deep down, I had a lot of thoughts about him that were less than kind and I thought he was pretty much a loser. Anyways, he got way too comfortable with me and started talking about his wife, finally telling me that she was a bitch. Uh uh. No way. I don’t care how bad you think your wife is, you don’t bash her. Picture it from her perspective. Your husband is talking trash about you to some other woman that he is crushing on? Not cool at all. I immediately said, “Did you just call your wife a bitch? That’s so uncalled for and I can’t believe you would just say that to someone else.” and he kind of sputtered and shut up. I asked to never be scheduled with him again and pretty soon stopped volunteering there altogether in order to avoid him completely. Heard he got divorced about 6 months later. I am STILL pissed off when I think about how he bashed his wife and made a volunteer job I liked turn into something I’d rather avoid. I’m single, so it’s really changed how I interact with people. Yes, still nice, but less friendly. It’s come up a few times, since it seems a few men out there think single women are just dying for any relationship. I’ve shut those down immediately. But that’s a whole other story, Sorry for the novel! Moral: don’t think your crushes are more than they really are!

    1. SherryD

      Thank you for that “novel”! I had (or am having) a slightly similar situation in a workplace setting, and I totally agree. It has made me more cautious about being friendly with male coworkers, although I think I will probably get over it eventually.

    2. catsAreCool

      “Did you just call your wife a bitch? That’s so uncalled for and I can’t believe you would just say that to someone else.” Good for you! Most people would have frozen up and not thought of anything to say, but you made it clear that this was not OK.

    3. Career Counselorette

      I don’t know if you saw this Captain Awkward post recently, but it hits on exactly the dynamic you’re talking about. Workplace crushes can be sinister sometimes.

      1. Sarahnova

        Yes, and I also have to second the captain on, a man who complains about his marriage to you is a man about to hit on you. Run away.

    1. AW

      There’s research that says that using your hands while listening helps you retain information better. There was also a study recently that said that people had better memory retention when writing their notes instead of typing them.

      I used to bring my knitting to work back when I took the bus because I would knit while waiting at the bus stop and during the ride. I generally didn’t knit at work though. (Few exceptions include a couple of power outages that made it impossible to work.)

  23. Embarrassed by myself

    Maybe someone here can help with this one. In the past six months or so, I’ve had several…explicit dreams about a coworker. In fact, the coworker who sits next to me in a very tightly packed cube farm; if we both reached out our hands we could probably high-five. It is mortifying to me. This is someone with whom I’m professionally close and socially friendly–enough that we’ve met each other’s significant others at work-adjacent functions and sometimes have a group lunch with the rest of the dwellers in our cube pod–but after working together for six years, we’re not one-on-one friends of any type and I see no likelihood of that changing. I suspect it’s my brain’s warped way of dealing with unrelated work anxiety–this person sort of symbolizes work to me because we literally spend every working moment 4 feet from each other–but I just want it to stop before I start being completely unable to make eye contact in a way that will be noticeable and even more embarrassing to me. (And I have been racking my brain trying to think of any issue that might have set this off–we’d worked together for over five years before this started happening–but I can’t think of any.) Help!

    1. Not So NewReader

      I think you are right that this is about an unrelated work problem and has nothing to do with coworker.
      Try to think of dreams as the mind on vacation. The mind wanders around aimlessly and shamelessly exploring this idea, that idea. Often times we will dream things that we would never think about during our waking hours.

      The only real awkward part here is that you are not able to figure out what is really bothering you. Tell yourself that no one at work knows about your dreams or even cares! It’s all happening in your dreams and no where else. Keep looking your coworker in the eye, you have done nothing wrong.

      For me talking it out helps. Maybe talking here will be enough to get rid of the dream.
      Sometimes when I am not sleeping too deeply, I can tell myself- “oh this stupid dream AGAIN? I am not going to do this again.” Then the dream just stops.
      I have also told myself that if Stupid Dream starts I am going to wake myself up, get up and have a glass of water. I just sit up for five minutes, then go back to bed. This can work at times, too.

    2. Melissa

      I think sex dreams are, usually, just sex dreams. Like any other dream with any other content, you don’t control the content or the direction.* People have sex dreams about people they’re not even attracted to, or don’t like, just because our brain works in really silly ways when we sleep! If you aren’t romantically interested in him, sitting four feet away from him every day is probably enough to trigger it on its own. Add in some work stress…perfect recipe.

      *Unless you’re a lucid dreamer, which is totally cool but doesn’t happen that often.

      1. Alma

        This! Yes, lucid dreaming (for me) is more successful if I seem to be observing as if watching a movie, rather than seeing the action in the dream through my eyes, as if I was one of the two actors. It takes practice!

    3. Anon for this

      For context, I’m male and gay and partnered, so YMMV.

      Every 4 or 5 months I wind up having a dream about a coworker or get small crushes on someone in the office. At first, I just tried to ignore them or talk myself out of them, but they just seemed to get more intense. Finally, I just indulged myself in the fantasy (and yeah, that’s exactly what you think it means). And that was it, the crush/dreams went away. The next time around, as soon as it started I didn’t waste any time. Boom, handled.

      My theory is that resisting it just makes it seem more alluring or interesting. Getting it out of your system, so to speak, let’s you see it for what it is and process it from a more detached frame of mind.

  24. Alma

    Your “explicit” dreams may be indicating a relationship that is too close physically, ie you can literally high-five him without either of you moving. This type of “intimacy”, if you will, can be very stressful. The dream image, “if it were my own dream”, doesn’t match the waking relationship. However, because the dreams repeat, they may indicate something your waking self might need to attend to.

    In a quiet time (not at work, LOL), think about other stressors or things at work that make you uncomfortable or anxious. Does it have to do with a co-worker infringing on your work accountabilities? are there cooperative work assignments that are not working? is there a place you can go to work for a few hours a day to get phyiscal space?

    Sometimes a dream is just a dream – but other times, to get your attention, your dreams will use shocking images. I find it helpful to say out loud to myself before I go to bed, “tonight in my dream I will ask myself or the other person why we seem to be inappropriately intimate” (or something like that). Your question may be answered for you.

    1. Embarrassed by myself

      This is a really good point. Now that I think about it, the coworker does seem to have a smaller personal-space bubble than I do–will do things like stand up and step closer to ask a question to either me or the other adjacent cube even though we sit so close already. So maybe I am processing the fact that it’s weird for me to be that physically close to someone with whom I’m not more otherwise intimate. This makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks!

  25. Purr purr purr

    #1 just sounds like too much drama to even get involved with. My advice would be for Ash to just resume her professional behaviour and not bring it up. Taylor and Jamie obviously don’t want to or they’d have said something to Ash already.

    And does it matter why Taylor lied to Ash? All that matters is that he’s not interested. Maybe he didn’t want to hurt Ash’s feelings that he wasn’t interested, maybe he was telling the truth about not dating colleagues but then found that Jamie was worth scrapping that rule, or maybe Taylor and Jamie were already dating quietly when Ash asked Taylor out. It would be great if her colleagues would stop talking about it too! I’m sure that’s not helping. OP, I’d really stay out of it but if Ash wants advice, I’d tell her to move on!

  26. Elizabeth West

    I avoid looking for love at work. Just too much drama. I’ve done it before and never again. I cannot afford to lose a job over a guy, no matter how hot he is. There are guys at my job who are fairly attractive, but 1) they’re all married already, and 2) even if I met the love of my life there, I don’t want to be at the same job all day with my SO. I’ve had two sets of married bosses, and I don’t know how they could stand being around each other every. Single. Second. of. Every. Day. Looking forward to seeing someone at the end of the day is nothing to sneeze at. And one ex and I worked at the same place, though not in the same area, but people would ask me about him all the time and I did not want to talk about our relationship with them all day.

  27. AW

    I would think the work LW#4 was asked to do would qualify as sexual harassment. How did they not get sued up, down and sideways? Their turnover must be through the roof.

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