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         Office Romance

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For An Old Friend

I dated someone five months last year. By the time we'd dated long enough for the "relationship talk" to come up, he had an important audition on the horizon. Questions of commitment were put on hold pending the outcome.

Neither of us imagined he would get the job because, well, it's kind of the holy grail to people in his line of work. Many, many try for it and very, very few succeed.

But—he did get it. In the space of a couple of weeks he was yanked out of my life, moved away and on top of the world at his new insanely high-profile, fairy-tale job. He has fan pages now, a huge paycheck, and people coming out of the woodwork by the hundreds to pat him on the back.

We're still "friends." We go to lunch whenever he's in town but in between we don't talk or e-mail much; he was never much of a phone or e-mail communicator even when we were together.

He never said so much as a "thank you" for anything—the shoulder rubs, the messages wishing him luck, the time spent fielding a billion phone calls from a billion people so he could concentrate on acing his audition.

His lack of response to my efforts hurts. Trying to talk to him like a normal person doesn't help; he'll respond with humor to the details of my conversation, but completely ignore anything with the slightest emotional context.

Staying together after he got the job was always mutually understood to not be an option. In short, he was not there for me. This isn't new or surprising; his distant, unsupportive behavior appeared as a potential relationship red flag while we were dating.

We worked together, and I still work here, so I have to listen to people talk about him constantly. My public attitude has never been anything but supportive, but the truth is I'm heartbroken, angry and unbelievably hurt.

It could all be over for him in a few years, and then again, it may not. Then I'll be seeing his Photoshopped face plastered on the side of buses and buildings.

I've got projects for which I'm getting positive feedback, and I'm happy with my life. That he accepts my loyalty and friendship without attempting to return it hurts. I don't know what I can do to feel any resolution.

Laura

Laura, Edmund Morris, Ronald Reagan's authorized biographer, tells a revealing story about the former president. During his 1980 campaign, Reagan headquartered on a Virginia estate.

At dawn of his first day there, people awoke to the sound of an ax. Outside, Ronald Reagan was chopping down a stately tree. Beyond the tree lay fields, woods and mountains.

Reagan didn't own this property, and he didn't own the tree. He didn't have permission to cut the tree down. Nonetheless, that's what he did. Asked to explain himself, he replied simply, "Because it spoils the view."

Little acts reveal character. While dating you noticed this man's distant manner, though you loved his star persona. But how much of the real man did you acknowledge?

Though personable on the outside, he is cold and callous. You never had the power to make him a sensitive, thankful human being. Ask yourself why you loved someone who treated you so poorly.

We have one suggestion. If the success of any one of your projects could be advanced by a letter or good word from him, ask. Get compensation; get something in return. Receiving something can take the sting out of the hurt.

A man like him understands this sort of request. It won't bring you emotionally closer, but it could advance your career. Despite what you think, not asking will make him think less of you.

It was never an issue that you would relocate with him. Like Reagan's tree, you spoiled his view.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)

 

Sliptease

I am a divorced woman, 38, involved with a man, 26. It started quite innocently when my slip was showing in the office, and he said, "The flag is at half-mast again."

After a couple of days, I asked what he meant. He became all embarrassed and said it means your slip is showing below your dress. So after this I would ask, before leaving the office at lunchtime or in the evening, if my slip was showing. I loved to watch him get embarrassed as he told me it was.

Then I would feel for the elastic waistband through my dress, attempt to pull it up and ask him if it was okay. I could tell he was excited. It made me feel good to attract the attention of a much younger man and it boosted my ego.

One evening he asked if I would go out with him for a meal. I accepted and teased him by asking about my slip when I got out of the car and when we left the restaurant. Each time I made the necessary adjustments.

From this point it developed into a relationship which I feel quite guilty about. Half of me says go buy some shorter slips and stop teasing him. The other half says keep teasing him and enjoy the moment.

Twelve years is quite an age difference, and I don't wish to hurt his feelings. Is he attracted by me or by my slip? That's the question. Perhaps the lesson I am learning is not to flirt in the office or tease.

Vicki

Vicki, the famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee said, "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing slowly...very slowly."

Many young men can be captured by sex and many young men confuse sex and love. You are working this young man up in an exquisitely slow fashion. Though he is well into his 20s, he seems to have a naïve, innocent quality. You could see this as a lark, and he could see it as capturing the attention of a mature woman.

His response to your dalliance makes you feel empowered. It makes you feel pretty. You could stop it, but it feels so good to play with him. The downside is there is no value in enticing someone you aren't interested in, and no value if his interest is only skin-deep.

Gypsy Rose Lee never fully disrobed on stage and the final message to her audience was, you can't have me. Have a talk with yourself, then have a talk with him. If you decide this relationship is going nowhere, give him the "you're a great person, but" speech. Make it clear the matter is not open to discussion. And buy a shorter slip.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)

 

Too Close For Comfort

I befriended my boss when she was hurting and going through a divorce.  We fell in love and started dating, but soon realized chaos due to the newness of her divorce and our working together.  The relationship was tough and complicated.  She walked away, then I did the same. 

I told her I would quit my job so we could have a chance to see if we had a future.  She said she might be making a mistake but wanted to be alone to heal.  I thought that was a great idea and part of me felt relief.  But it wasn’t over.  Working for her is unbearable.  We tried, but it is impossible to keep emotions out of the way so we can relate as professionals. 

Things are a little better now, but they will never be normal.  She is the boss and has the power.  I can’t tell you how many times I left her office or a meeting feeling like I was under a rock.  I believe she is overcompensating by being extra tough, and I have to tell you, I work my tail off.

Many times I asked her to treat me like the others, but she can’t seem to admit she treats me different.  My peers know she has been tough on me, but they do not know why.  It’s embarrassing.  I think I need to move on and soon.  I am looking for a job, have had interviews, and can live without a paycheck for a year. 

Am I running, or is this common sense to get out of a situation that makes us both extremely uncomfortable?  I have learned a valuable lesson for sure.

Evan

Evan, in the novel Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray made a telling observation.  He wrote, when one person has obligations to another and they have a falling out, it “makes of the former a much severer enemy than a mere stranger would be.”  When things get sticky, our minds leap to see the other party as the villain.  We deny our part in the affair, and as Thackeray said, attribute to others “the most sinister motives.” 

Thackeray wrote of a falling out between businessmen, but many situations are variations on this same theme.  For example, a woman is unhappily married.  After she decides to divorce her husband, she shares all of her husband’s faults with a friend.

Then she changes her mind and returns to the husband.  Perhaps she couldn’t find anyone else, perhaps she feels more financially secure with him, or perhaps unhappiness is so familiar she is afraid to seek something better.  But having aired her dirty laundry to a friend, she now feels compelled to give the friend the coldest of cold shoulders.

Why?  Because it is impossible to pretend to be happily married around a person who knows the truth.  The woman wishes her friend would simply vanish from her life.  This mental reaction allows the woman to pretend to herself and to the world she is in a good marriage.

For your boss, you are her Achilles’ heel.  Romantic involvement gave you intimate knowledge about her, more leverage in the workplace, and weakened her authority.  At least that’s how she sees it.  She is chagrined.  Now she seeks to put you in your place as her subordinate. 

Much is written about open and honest communication in the workplace, but none of it works when the boss is unreceptive.  There simply is no technique you can use to get her to relent.  You make her feel emotionally vulnerable.  Seeing you sets her off.  That’s not your intention, but you are powerless to alter her emotions.

Unless your company is large enough for you to transfer to another department, leaving for greener pastures seems like the best option.  Before you leave, share the real reason for your departure with trusted colleagues.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)

 

A Pickup Line

I just started a wonderful new job.  The atmosphere is laid-back, and the people alone make the place fantastic.  The best of them all is my boss.  She is 29, a month my elder, and very comely in appearance.

At first I was merely attracted to her, but as time went on, I fell hard.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but she has such a sweet and gentle spirit.  Problem is she's not only my boss.  She's married.

At weekly meetings, I didn't want them to end.  I'd lose focus during the conversation.  I'd stare at her when she was talking.  She is such a delightful and special person I couldn't help it.  I wished I could be with her all day.

On some occasions, I thought she had to know this.  It was killing me inside.  She'd walk by me in a sundress, and I'd look her over.  I would notice her looking down at me coyishly, then she'd get a call from her husband and be all happy to hear from him.  I cut my eyes back to my computer, upset.

I thought I had to tell her, so one Friday, I did.  She told me everything I needed to hear.  She said she was happily married.  I said I wouldn't hurt her in her career.  She told me to get over it.  I told her it was done, but that I love her in a way that makes me want to do the best for her.

I want to be there for her, but now she's very cold to me.  I say hello in the hallway and she walks by me quicker.  Her actions appear scripted.  It sears my soul every day to think I hurt or scared her in any way.  Will things return to normal so we can be close friends in spite of all this?

Reynold

Reynold, you will never be close friends because friends is not what you want from her.  She gave you no opening for your remarks.  You created a problem for her with a subordinate, a problem with no easy solution except to keep you at arm's length. 

You created a permanent difficulty in your new job, one which can influence your chances for raises and promotion.  The only solution is to keep your eyes and your thoughts to yourself and do your job.

You are looking at this strictly from your own point of view.  Where did you get the idea you can tell any married woman you are romantically and sexually attracted to her?  That would mean, when you marry, any man is free to hit on your wife.

When crossing the street, it is best to look both ways.  If you think only of your own objective, the opposite curb, you are likely to get run over.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)

 

Irresistible

I'm attracted to my manager.  He was the one who showed his interest to me first by complimenting me and making wonderful eye contact.  He is single and one year younger than me. 

Until today he only asked me out one time and that was when a close friend of ours also attended the dinner and we had so much fun.  Indeed I never gave him enough opportunity to approach closer because I was not sure if this was wise in terms of office ethics.

He has a good reputation in my company for his character, virtues, and moral values.  For the past five months we have been working side by side on the same project.  Sometimes we have a chance to talk friendly about our private lives, and once he told me he misses relationship opportunities since he hates to see himself chasing after women.

From what he told me I figured out he will never ask me for a private date because he is afraid it might be considered trying to seduce a woman working under his management.  So today, after struggling by myself for many months, I offered to have a drink with him some night this week, and he accepted with great joy.  Do you think I am doing something right?

Anjuli

Anjuli, work is a less artificial situation than dating, and it is hard to conceal who you really are in your daily work.  Many happily married people met at work.  There are, however, several things to keep in mind.

Dating someone at work also involves your livelihood, so you must respect this element.  Keep your personal relationship out of the workplace.  At work, focus on the job you are paid to do.  Although you may want to share the joy of your new relationship with your coworkers, it is a joy they may not share.  Would they be happy that you have a special relationship with your manager, and they do not?

Some will suspect your special connection with him will mean favorable treatment for you at their expense; others will suspect you of shirking your job responsibilities.  In addition, what you might innocently say to one person may, after being repeated, turn into something else.

From the outset you need to realize if either of you does not wish to continue the relationship, then you will both be in the uncomfortable position of working side by side with someone you were once romantically involved with. 

The outer attraction between you was too great for you to resist asking, and for him to resist accepting.  You can minimize the risk by doing your job well, and if this turns out to be more than a job for you, we will be very happy for you.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)

 

Moral Compass

I have had a very secret little big crush on my boss since I started working for him.  I just turned 18, and he is in his mid-20s and married.  Knowing he is married and much older, I thought of it as an innocent, completely one-sided crush.  I am young and dumb and like the butterflies.

The other night a lot of people from work went out, and everyone got completely smashed.  On the car ride home he was way more affectionate toward me than a married man should be.  I tried to prevent it, but he is so cute and I was so drunk.  I don’t want to go into specifics, but I could tell in his eyes, if I let him go for it, he would.

I want so badly to talk to him about it, but I love my job and would be mortified if he didn’t remember what happened or the conversation went sour.  He was drunk and it probably meant nothing, but it hurts so bad because there are feelings on my end.

Lisette

Lisette, there are two kinds of butterflies.  The butterflies of anticipation and the butterflies of dread.  You have fantasies of the two of you together, but what about the fantasies of his wife calling you on the phone.  A married man is not in your pool of interest just as a man you find unattractive is not in your pool.

Somehow in your head you think it is legitimate to ask, how can I take another woman’s husband?  If we were willing to tell you that, we would be willing to tell another woman how to take your husband.  At 18, this isn’t the direction to be going.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)

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