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Help me, Dr. Hughes! I Like Someone at Work!

by Maryann Pisano on April 6, 2015


The information presented in this website and the comments from Dr. Hughes are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or psychological disorder. The information presented is not a substitute for medical, psychological or psychiatric treatment. You are advised to seek professional medical and psychological help as necessary.


Help me, Dr. Hughes!  I think I like a co-worker.  What should I do?  

It is no surprise that people find romance at work!  The atmosphere typically involves long hours, common goals, and seeing people at their most competent.  Friendships can develop and certainly love can blossom.

Before you go gung-ho into expressing your feelings for a guy at work, you first need to ask yourself some very important questions:
1.  Is this person my boss or someone with whom I am ethically forbidden to be involved with?  If so, don’t do it.  You can get fired for this kind of thing.
2.  Is this person already in a relationship?  Many people compartmentalize their lives.  You may have no idea that they guy you are crushing on has a girlfriend or wife.  Not everyone keeps framed photos in their office and not everyone is quick to mention their home situation.    Save yourself the embarrassment by doing your homework first.
3.  Why do you like this person?  There are many, many people in the world.  Why do you think that this one person, at work, is the one for you?  Be sure you like them for more than just a similar job or from proximity or from the time you spend together.

If you believe that the guy is available and that a relationship wouldn’t be a problem and you further believe that you like this person for all the right reasons, you may feel ready to jump in with both feet.

Before you do that, think through the possible consequences.  Yes, you may have met your soulmate, you may skip off into the sunset together, and this may be the best thing you’ve ever experienced.  You also need to think through what happens if the relationship doesn’t work out, either early on or after some period of time.  What if things end weirdly or badly?  Will you be able to emotionally tolerate staying at your job?  What if rumors are spread around at work?  Can you handle that?  What if everyone finds out (which, by the way, they will!)?  Even if things are going well, get ready to be the topic of many lunchroom conversations and gossip.  People will believe that you two share all information and that may caused strained relationships outside of you both.

If after you consider all these things, you are ready to take the risk of the relationship, go for it.  Start by meeting your potential guy outside of work to do non-work things.  Set very clear rules and boundaries about communication and behavior at the workplace (perhaps no personal emails, no kissing by the water cooler, no mixing personal with business at all).  Make a plan for if things go well, or for if they fall apart.  Will you both continue to work there if things get too intense, either good or bad?  Will you tell others?

Of course, this is a lot to think about and certainly not the very first conversation you would have with a potential date.  But it should probably be the 2nd or 3rd conversation.  Dating at work is a whole different dynamic than dating someone outside of work.  It can be wonderful and glorious and set the stage for a long-term relationship which enhances your life.  Or it can ruin both of your lives very quickly.  Good luck!

Dr. Carsi Hughes received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Northwestern University Medical School. She is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in adult psychopathology, clinical neuropsychology, and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Academic appointments include Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology and Post Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Studies at Dominican University.

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