What's the protocol for drunken office hookups?
June 20, 2011 8:29 AM   Subscribe

I drunkenly hooked up with a coworker. We haven't talked about it since. Should we?

I am a single early 30s female working in a professional office environment, as a member of a small team. A male colleague and I have had very good chemistry together for several months, with some light flirting. He has a long-term girlfriend that I have never met and know nothing about as he never talks about her, but I do know she exists; even if he were single I know it’s generally a mistake to pursue someone working on my team.

However, about a month ago at an after-work event, we both got very drunk and ended up making out pretty heavily (not in front of our coworkers, fortunately). I am ashamed to admit that I don’t remember the exact sequence of events that led to this (like who initiated it) nor details about the encounter other than that he ended up at the door of my apartment, clearly ready to come inside and take things further, but I sent him home. I also remember openly discussing his girlfriend but can't remember what was said. I also said some absolutely mortifying things about how awesomely sexy I thought he was. *Cringe*

Literally the day after this happened, he left for a three-week business trip. Conflicting schedules prevented us from seeing each other before he left, but he sent me a business-related email that day that included, “Unfortunately I didn't get to speak to you before I left… hope you’ve recovered from last night, I had a great time…”

I wrote back that I was also sorry we didn’t have a chance to speak and that I also had a good time. And that was that.

Now he is back in the office and am I just wondering if I should say anything else to him about what happened. We’ve only chatted briefly so far, and everything has been friendly and professional but also just a little bit tense. I certainly don’t intend to let what happened interfere with our working relationship, nor do I plan to tell anyone about what happened and I am sure he won’t either. If I am honest, I would say that were he single, I might try to pursue something with him; since he is not, there is clearly nowhere for this to go (unless he's planning on leaving his girlfriend any time soon.) I just wonder if it’s somehow rude or weird not to ever mention it again, especially as we will obviously continue working together (and go out drinking with colleagues – in fact we’re all supposed to go out together this Friday).

A friend tells me the protocol for drunken coworker hookups is to NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN; I’m just wondering what AskMeFi thinks is appropriate here. Broach the topic first? Wait for him to bring it up? Silence forever? Formal sit down discussion or lightheartedly laugh it off? And if you've been in this situation, how did you handle it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A friend tells me the protocol for drunken coworker hookups is to NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN

I think this is probably the way to go.
posted by empath at 8:35 AM on June 20, 2011 [13 favorites]

You guys both did right by sending good wishes the following day, and now, particularly given your mixed feelings (ie, you cannot dispel all sexual tension by swearing that you want a purely professional relationship and nothing more), I think that not speaking of it again is probably the best move.
posted by salvia at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't see any reason you'd need to talk about it, if things aren't too awkward and you don't think it will happen again. I would, however, take care from now on to not get super drunk with coworkers.
posted by something something at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

If it were me, I would not bring it up unless he brings it up first. It's entirely possible that he feels just as embarrassed as you do about the situation and is glad that you sent him home so that he didn't end up cheating on his girlfriend.

If he brings it up, you'll have to talk about it (what choice do you have otherwise? Avoid him forever or quit your job?). But, personally, I'd let it be unless he brings it up first. That will lead to things being awkward and tense for a time but, hopefully, that will dissipate after a few weeks.

A word of warning: if he suggests that he will leave his girlfriend so that the two of you can get together, beware. He was willing to cheat on her; he may be just as willing to cheat on you.
posted by asnider at 8:38 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

If he brings it up, or if awkwardness grows to the point that you need to say something, you might go with something like "ha ha, yeah, what a night. I'm so glad we can put that behind us and work together without being awkward. Of course, I wouldn't want to interfere with your relationship with Molly by doing anything like that again. But, water under the bridge, no?" and then change the subject.
posted by salvia at 8:39 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't talk about it, and keep to 0-2 drinks Friday (or whatever's the minimum for you).
posted by sweetkid at 8:42 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keep a respectful silence, take some measures to prevent this from happening again (i.e. no more Serious Drinking with sexy, unavailable men) and you're golden.
posted by griphus at 8:50 AM on June 20, 2011

This happened to me in college with a coworker. I ended up bringing it up with her. Turned out she liked me and didn't say anything because she thought it was just the 1-night hookup thing for me. We ended up dating for a few glorious months. So ya, I'd say something normally.

However, his having a girlfriend sends up massive red flags. I agree with asnider- if he cheats with you, what's to stop him from cheating on you?
posted by jmd82 at 8:52 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not only did it never happen, you have an alcohol-induced memory lapse of anything which might have happened (except that nothing happened). And that is going to inspire you to lay off the alcohol (and coworkers) in the future.
posted by anaelith at 8:53 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

don't bring it up :)
posted by bunny hugger at 8:55 AM on June 20, 2011

As the person with something to lose, he has the right of first mention. If he doesn't, then you don't.

If, however, you hear that he broke up with the girlfriend, then you're allowed to bring it up. Once.
posted by Etrigan at 8:59 AM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

What drunken hookup? There was no drunken hookup. If no one else saw it, it never happened. If he rather unfortunately brings it up, laugh it off and then never speak of it again. Also, drink way less at work related functions.
posted by crankylex at 9:09 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

this guy is willing to cheat on his girlfriend while drunk, and then even in the stark, sober, better-judgment light of day, sends the person he cheated with a cutesy text message.

nothing about this screams boyfriend material to me.
posted by crawfo at 9:18 AM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

Meh. Booze makes people stupid. Sobriety is that point when you realize that you were stupid, and boy are you embarrassed by the stupid. Nothing really happened. Necking isn't intercourse, it's just sloppy drunken exchange of germs. Best to just pretend it didn't happen, really.

That said, I think some folks are being too harsh with the whole "he's a bad, bad man for getting drunk and following biological imperative". I say that only because I'm going to go with my gut assumption that y'all are young. Young enough that you are still a ball of hormones on feet, the both of you. Because really, young, jacked up on hormones, and rendered stupid by booze....frankly, I'm pretty proud of the both of you that you didn't end up making the sweaty beast with two backs.

TLDR; Booze makes you stupid. Inexperience leads to poor decisions. Hormones make you crazy. Combine the three of them into a cocktail, and it's a recipe for shame. Learn from your mistakes, but pretend this one never happened.
posted by dejah420 at 9:44 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

OFFS! you both showed quite a bit of self-control considering the circumstances, if he were a real cheat it wouldn't have stopped at the door. Congratulations to all those of you who while in a relationship & while drunk didn't get to first base with a girl you're attracted to, and who showed she was attracted to you, serious Kudos, you get the sainthood gong, seriously.

The fact that he left when he did and sent a pretty respectful message was a very good indicator that he is a nice person.

So now let this nice person know how much you appreciate it by giving him the time & space to realise whether or not his relationship is more important to him. The time that has passed suggests he does value his relationship more highly than the nascent whatever attraction between you. It may indeed (ironically) have made him understand exactly how much he wants to keep it and he probably has already told his girlfriend about this. So leave him raise it if he needs to.

Sheesh, clearly lots of people here who would (perhaps could) never be tempted to a human failing. If we don't learn from our mistakes the lesson ain't that interesting!
posted by Wilder at 9:49 AM on June 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

If you aren't pregnant or infected, say nothing.
posted by orthogonality at 9:49 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

well, in my book "hooking up" involves removal of clothing, so to my mind, you only nearly hooked up. way to dodge a bullet! how he feels about his relationship and how this event falls into that is all him.

part of your confusion and focus on this topic is probably the part where you like him and if he were single you'd probably see where that making out could go - but that part is already covered - he said he enjoyed himself, you said you enjoyed yourself. if he becomes single, that email exchange is the door left open. so all you have left to do now is treat him like a coworker, get less drunk around coworkers in general, and maybe do some out of work fooling around with someone not connected to your work friends to work out any intensity you feel.

on preview: dejah, i'm inclined to agree with you, but she's early 30s. i'd guess he's around the same age - slave to hormones because they're young isn't really a good excuse here. but, yeah, i don't think he's an awful, terrible, undateable man...that is unless he tries it again while in a relationship.
posted by nadawi at 9:49 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm not about to excuse what happens between two adults while drunk, but the 'don't talk about it EVER' line works because - why do anything else? This is one of those cases where the incentives all stack up when this is sealed tighter than Area 51.
posted by chrisinseoul at 10:06 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't like that he came by your place for sex. I don't like that you were the one to raise concerns about his girlfriend, not him.

Frankly, he doesn't come off as a good guy.

You should rethink your attitude about your attraction to this fellow, be thankful you don't remember much about that night because it will be even easier to forget, and MOVE ON.

I'm sure his long term girlfriend thinks he's sexy, too.

You're playing with fire and wondering if you have an ethical "in" to revisit your attraction. You don't. Be glad you made the right choice in the end. Stick with that. I'm sorry you're involved in this whole thing. I know it's confusing and maybe even hurts a little.

Don't harbor feelings for someone in a committed relationship.

Move on. Say nothing. Ever.
posted by jbenben at 10:57 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I think you want to bring it up, because hey, "very good chemistry" is hard to walk away from. But this is not a can of worms you want to open. To answer your question, no, it's not "rude or weird" to not mention it.

roboton666, it's insulting to call the OP a liar. She has no reason to lie, and in fact, doing so would not give her the accurate advice she's seeking.
posted by Specklet at 11:24 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

To me it sounds like you want to bring it up with him. Maybe you want to find out what he thinks or this episode got your hopes up.

Best to leave it alone and not mention it.
posted by Sweetmag at 11:31 AM on June 20, 2011

nadawi: "on preview: dejah, i'm inclined to agree with you, but she's early 30s. "

Ah, reading comprehension fail on my part.
posted by dejah420 at 1:06 PM on June 20, 2011

First off, I want to disagree with the argument of "if he cheats on her, he's not boyfriend material," because who knows if they're open, or if they're only together because they're afraid of being lonely, or if they have some kind of fucked-up codepencency they're trying to break, or anything. You don't (nor do you remember who brought up the girlfriend, or what was said about her). Moreover, that argument feels a little bit like arguing that men have more agency than women, and that all women are more or less interchangeable in the context of a relationship. (However, if he offers to explicitly leave her for you, that is kinda fucked up.)

Second, if you feel like discussing it with him, go right ahead. But figure out what you want to say first, and what, if anything you want to know from him. The worst he can say is "I'd rather not talk about it," and that's all. But make sure you're alone (and probably not at the office), and don't tell anybody else at the office, either, THAT'S the real bad form thing.
posted by Jon_Evil at 1:31 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

The protocol for ill-advised drunken makeouts is Ignore and Don't Repeat. That goes double if it's a coworker, and triple if either of you are committed elsewhere. Sounds like you managed to avoid too much awkwardness - stay professional & friendly, and the tense should pass soon.
posted by Space Kitty at 3:43 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Jon_Evil: I was with you about the "who knows? they might have an open relationship!" bit, right up until...
Moreover, that argument feels a little bit like arguing that men have more agency than women, and that all women are more or less interchangeable in the context of a relationship.

I don't see any gender assumptions in it.

A made out with B. A has an SO. A tried for a homerun at the door, and went home unsatisfied. Sent B a nice-ish note the next day. B doesn't want to homewreck A's relationship.

A, B, and A's SO could each be male, female, TG, or other, for all it matters. The math's the same. B (the OP) should probably avoid discussion of the Event. If A (the coworker) were in an open relationship, IME the coworker will advertise this to the OP in due time. In the meantime, A is probably not being faithful, and as a coworker, seriously risky anyway.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:09 PM on June 20, 2011

That probably could have been written without the confusing double-names (A/coworker, B/OP, A's SO/coworker's girlfriend), but that would have required at least one less gin & tonic.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:10 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Never speak of it again. Eventually the awkward will fade.
posted by paultopia at 10:43 PM on June 20, 2011

Like jbenben, there are things I don't like about this.

- has long-term gf, but never mentions her
- prepared to flirt with you at work
- there's an innocent explanation for your being at the door of your apartment, but not for his being there
- he expected to take things further and you were the one who stopped him

Now if the story had unfolded some other way, maybe I'd buy the idea that he was a great guy who just got carried away. As you tell it, my suspicion is that he was more sober than you realized, but either way I don't think this guy is as trustworthy as you think he is. The timing also smells from my point of view: next day leaving on a three-week trip.

The Komodo dragon, a carrion eater, bites its prey and goes about its business, leaving its toxic saliva to bring about a slow death. About four days later, it returns to consume the corpse at its leisure.

As for his saying "I had a great time last night" to me that comes off the page as though uttered by Rob Newman in a smoking jacket, and not as the "professional" message you think it is.

Just to put some contrast to this, at a company dinner once, the guy to my left was in his cups and was photographed putting his arm around me while I rolled my eyes to Heaven. The next day he emailed me to say he hoped he hadn't been offensive towards me or anything. I laughingly reassured him that he hadn't been. If he'd said "I had a great time last night" that would have conveyed a very different message.

Here you are thinking that nothing happened and you have a purely professional relationship, but in the meantime your emotions are stirred and there's lots of unspoken tension between you. Say nothing. Nothing happened. He has a girlfriend. You're not attracted to unavailable men, not even secretly or silently, not even if he someday becomes single, not if within weeks from now he were to start showing veiled signs of being unhappy in his relationship, the end.

You couldn't have seen this coming, but you need to be literal-minded here and stick to your guns. Watch out for this guy, watch out for interpersonal conflict happening at one degree of separation from him, and don't get drawn in.
posted by tel3path at 1:20 AM on June 21, 2011

Also: get ready to be asked about this by someone else at some point.
posted by tel3path at 1:37 AM on June 21, 2011

There are some things I have done that never happened. this should be one of those things for you.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:56 PM on June 21, 2011

Generally speaking, I think "I had a great time..." is followed up with "lets do it again." Since he sent this message while sober, it can be reasonably assumed that he was thinking straight when he wrote this.

It really comes down to one thing... what do you want from him? Do you want to give it a shot and have an office romance? Do you never want to pursue it and open that can of worms? Its your decision. People on the internet can say no no no to office relationships all day, but its your life and you never know what can come of it. There are plenty of couples out there who married their office buddies.

Once you decide that, then act on it. If you want something more, find an opportunity to talk to him about it and see where he's at. If you don't, then don't speak of it.

Good luck!
posted by p1nkdaisy at 12:25 AM on June 23, 2011

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