Am I overthinking this?
June 17, 2012 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Coworker and I are spending time together outside of work, hitting it off, and I think she's interested. She's also on the verge of getting a divorce. Am I setting myself up for something bad?

She and her husband have been separated for a year, and seem to be going toward an uncomplicated divorce, for the sake of their young child. She hasn't dated in the interim, because she wanted to be sure that a divorce is what she wanted. She and I have been spending lots of time together over the past couple weeks, but so far, it's been as friends.

That's changing, though. We've been sharing texts about how much we like each other, and how much fun we have together. It's obvious what comes next.

I'm interested, but there are some things going through my head...

* Am I just setting myself up to be her first rebound?

* Is it possible that I'm some kind of surrogate man for her to talk to and trust, and that deep inside, she's not ready for a long term relationship?

* How do I have a tactful conversation stating that "yes, I'm interested, but I'm concerned that you may not be ready to be in another serious relationship so soon".

* Should I just relax and not worry about it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Run away. Do not pass go. Leave her alone. Bad idea.
posted by Specklet at 5:55 PM on June 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

Separated for a year with no dating? I believe the runway is clear. Have fun getting to know each other better!
posted by jbenben at 6:00 PM on June 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Do not date your coworkers.
Do not date married people. (Even if they are "on the verge of divorce" or "pretty much separated" or whatever else they call it.)
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:01 PM on June 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be flip. There's not really enough information here to give you an in-depth answer, but the red flags for me are: you are coworkers, you seem to have a new friendship and not much else in terms of a basis for a real relationship, and she's going through a divorce with a kid involved.

If you are interested in a serious long-term relationship, a coworker dealing with a divorce is probably not the person to go after.
posted by Specklet at 6:02 PM on June 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'd be very upfront with her about your concerns. If her divorce process hasn't even started, it will probably be a long road ahead for her with lots of ups and downs. As uncomplicated as the divorce may seem, it can always get complicated and it's generally fraught with unpleasant emotions.

This is not to say that she isn't ready, but I'd go into it with your eyes wide open. Be honest about your hesitations and see what she has to say.
posted by Sal and Richard at 6:05 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's hard to give you an answer because you didn't mention what you are looking for. If you're looking for a serious relationship, chances are you're better off having an honest conversation with her about that before you get intimate, rather than taking an online poll. I know, crazy.

If you can handle something casual, just relax and don't worry about it. Married people on the verge of a divorce that you happen to work with and have a kid can be a little complicated, but everyone deserves to have a little fun.
posted by phaedon at 6:07 PM on June 17, 2012

It's the perfect situation. She's truly available, and you have a lot in common. Work is a *great* way to meet your partner. But sure, have the conversation. See where she's at.
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:13 PM on June 17, 2012

Eh, go for it. Life is complicated and messy. Just be cautious and don't get in over your head.
posted by ian1977 at 6:17 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're looking for something serious and you're worried she may not be. I agree there's a good chance of that, and you might want to ask her before getting involved.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:20 PM on June 17, 2012

Ugh, she has a young child and isn't divorced yet, AND she's your coworker. Not a good situation.
posted by discopolo at 6:24 PM on June 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Doesn't matter how long you've been separated. Until the divorce paperwork comes through and tells you "Congratulations, you're now divorced," there's a whole set of emotions that you don't process.

Dating coworkers can be problematic/troublesome.

Dating people getting out of a long relationship can be problematic/troublesome.

If she hasn't had a rebound, you could very well be it. That's not to say she's consciously looking for a rebound, but more to say that when you get out of a serious, committed, relationship, the last thing you generally want to do is lay the groundwork for the next one.

I'd play it extremely slowly, and would not expect much out of it for a while. If she's seriously interested now, she'll be seriously interested in 6 months once she's had a chance to process it all.
posted by swngnmonk at 6:29 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Doesn't matter how long you've been separated. Until the divorce paperwork comes through and tells you "Congratulations, you're now divorced," there's a whole set of emotions that you don't process.

Not in my experience. The papers were a mere formality, the only emotion was relief that the paperwork burden was complete. Everyone's experience is different.

This seems like an acceptable dating situation, but one that probably is best taken slowly. One year separation is good, but is still only a year and the divorce is not yet complete. If you connect it would seem to be worth the risk that she is not emotionally ready for this. You should get a sense of that early on anyway. The work issue should also not be taken for granted of course.
posted by caddis at 6:40 PM on June 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Given that she has been separated for a year without dating, she doesn't sound like the "fools rush in" type. The lengthy divorce, for the sake of the child, also suggests someone protective of other people and probably mostly over the husband. If you are sure it won't be a problem at work, I don't see why you shouldn't give it a shot.

No relationship is perfect. There will always be something to worry about. At one time, I had fantasies that I had met the perfect baggage-free guy: Never married, no kids, no recent girlfriend. In the long run, I was relieved it never went anywhere. There were reasons he was perpetually alone.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 6:52 PM on June 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

no one here can tell you yes or no.
Sure dating X,Y,Z is problematic, dating humans is problematic.

A child, an incomplete divorce and a co-worker is not in any objective way a bad situation. It's only subjectively a bad situation if you don't want to be in a relationship with a child and all the attendant details.

Last weekend was the 18th birthday of my son. Not my biological son, his mother and I met volunteering at a food co-op when he was two. Entering a relationship with a child is complicated, and perhaps for that reason, it is a good idea to enter into the relationship slowly to make sure it makes you both happy.

But no-one here can tell you whether is right or wrong for you. Our culture has moved far beyond the ideal of the virgin bride, people come with histories nowadays.

All of your concerns are valid, but even if they are valid it doesn't mean the relationship is doomed. People and relationships are often contradictory and complex, I think the key to a good relationship is now about finding the perfect unblemished partner, but about learning to negotiate the inevitable chaos and catastrophe of a relationship.

So no you are not over thinking it, but perhaps you would be better off thinking through with your new friend. Because the real thing you need to answer is not 'will this relationship have problems?', it will, all relationships do. The real question is what will it be like dealing with the problems in this relationship, without a six year run up of just hanging out as footloose world-travelling 20 year olds as practice.

So have the tactful conversation. Use all the social skills you have accumulated over the course of your lifetime so far, and try real hard not to mess it up, and if you do mess it up try really hard to recover.

good luck & have fun
posted by compound eye at 6:59 PM on June 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

You don't mention the kid much, but he/she is the most important element here. Are you happy with the notion of becoming a (de jure or de facto) stepfather? If not, stay away for everyone's sake.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 7:01 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

sorry typo .. I think the key to a good relationship is NOT about
posted by compound eye at 7:01 PM on June 17, 2012

Proceed with caution. The odds aren't in your favor here, as everything you are thinking/hearing about - rebound issues, newfound intimacy/limerance being illusionary, unprocessed emotions, etc, is real - but one never knows.
posted by Miko at 7:23 PM on June 17, 2012

Are you going to be able to handle being a rebound, if you are? I think that's the only real question. It could go either way, and I don't think we can tell you otherwise with any real confidence.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:23 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Until the divorce paperwork comes through and tells you "Congratulations, you're now divorced," there's a whole set of emotions that you don't process.

I took almost three years to get divorced and by that time the actual event was barely a blip. We had stayed married until I got my degree and could afford my own health insurance. The official divorce was just a business agreement by that time.

I don't think that the poster should run away just because of the lack of an official divorce but definitely keep his eyes open and go real slow.
posted by octothorpe at 9:40 PM on June 17, 2012

It's bizarre that people would think that the legal status of the marriage matters. It only matters if you two are interested in getting married.

I think you have the green light on two conditions: (1) your workplace does not have a no-fraternization policy where your relationship might become an issue, and (2) you're in a vertical reporting relationship where one of you reviews the work of the other.
posted by moammargaret at 6:36 AM on June 18, 2012

Do what you think will make you happy. Sure there are things to be cautious about but if you have a healthy appreciation for what it is, a new and maybe exciting relationship with an unclear future, and you remain mentally and emotionally honest with yourselves about some of the unique pressures in this situation, then don't let anyone on the internet tell you not to just take a chance.
posted by shimmer at 6:55 AM on June 18, 2012

Sorry, meant to say you're NOT in a vertical reporting relationship, obviously.
posted by moammargaret at 6:57 AM on June 18, 2012

It's bizarre that people would think that the legal status of the marriage matters

It's likely very individual. I'm sure that for some people it really does feel like a "blip," a formality. For others, though, which I know from close experience with them, it is a significant moment which brings up a lot of unexpected emotion. I'm not even sure if we knew the people in question that we could predict how it would strike them. Maybe it'll be a thing, maybe not; it entirely depends on the individual. But since we don't know, I think it's good advice to note that yes, this happens to some people.
posted by Miko at 7:40 AM on June 18, 2012

More context would be helpful, but I think this is a bad idea. The coworker thing for one, but mostly because "heading toward" and "on the verge of" divorcing are not the same as "divorcing" AND you don't even know if she's interested in that way. I'd give this some time to develop a bit more, at least. Two weeks of "spending lots of time together" over the course of ___ may mean different things to her than to you.
posted by sm1tten at 10:35 AM on June 18, 2012

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