Guy in love with a guy I work with, not sure if he feels the same way. Very confused, it's consuming my life.
November 17, 2012 8:03 AM   Subscribe

In love with a guy I work with but I don't know if he feels the same or is too scared to say anything. I just came out as Gay and not sure if he is or not.

I work with a few other guys, one of which I had an immediate crush on. I have kept myself in the closet up to now and finally came out for two reasons, I was severely depressed and lonely and I didn't want an opportunity to pass me by with this guy if he had the same feelings. I thought at first he was totally straight, he is hard to read and does talk about girls and had a girlfriend. I always felt uncomfortable because I thought he didn't like me, he wouldn't talk to me at first and would always talk to the other two guys mostly.

Suddenly this summer he would tease me and throw things at me playfully and we started talking and going out to lunch. I fell in love with him, we have enough in common to talk about and he is an amazing person. There are signs that he might have feelings for me, the occasional stare and smile at me, he parks right next to me everyday at work. I have been talking him up up until this point because I am afraid he might just be a nice guy and I am misreading things.

I finally came out to my family, friends, and the guys I work with. It went well, they are all very cool. I have good people I have in my life I realize and should not have been so scared. I told this guy and he said he was cool with it and that was it. I texted him one night after work because I was so confused if he had feelings or not. I told him I liked him and was unsure if he had the same feelings for me. He said he is straight, just a nice guy. He said he wasn't offended or upset and didn't intend to confuse me.

Of course I was heartbroken, that whole night and next day I never felt more upset in my life. The only thing that got me out of bed was my family being supportive and getting me out of the house. I really didn't feel I would have left otherwise.

I have a feeling though that the guys in the office were suspicious that I might be gay and liked this guy and they made it seem like he was interested to get me to come out. I don't know if it ends there though now that I am out.

I have a feeling the rest of the office knows what is going on and is trying to get him to say something to me but I don't know if he is scared or unsure of his feelings or he wants me to say something to him. If he is scared, I totally understand and want to give him the space to figure things out. The week after I told him I liked him he avoided looking and talking to me. I let it be as not to be weird or seem pushy. I finally asked another guy what he thought. He said give him some space and he will be alright. Sure enough the next week he was back to normal. He continues to park next to me and talk to me and give me those glances with a smile. I have overhead things at work that I am not sure if I am mishearing or taking out of context. He has referred to me as his boyfriend to one of the other guys. I don't know if I heard that right or not because my back was turned and it was said ever so lightly. I have heard other things where he is concerned and feels bad for how I am feeling, but again not within my vicinity to know if it was me they were talking about. I have caught out of the corner of my eye the boss pointing to me while looking at him and other guys saying 'just tell him'. I also thought I head one of the guys say 'kiss your boyfriend goodbye' as we were about to leave for the day. In which I caught another smile out of the corner of my eye. I quickly gave a smile and looked away. Last night I swear that one of the guys said 'are you ready to hookup ?'. That time I do know it was me because they have a nickname for me. Or are they just having fun with the idea that I am gay and like him? He was talking about hooking up with a girl during lunch out with the office, at which I thought I noticed one of the guys give him an annoyed look. Is he just teasing me to get a reaction out of me? I don't know if i am over analyzing or if something is really going on here.

All I have been thinking about is this guy for a very long time now, I barely function outside of work other than cooking and doing laundry. I have activities I want to pursue but this is consuming me. I don't want to miss out on a good thing, I am having panic attacks because I think I should say something but I am so unsure of what is real and what isn't.

I asked one of the guys at work if any of this was true, and he said he knew nothing and that was all he said.

I want to ask this guy out for drinks or dinner to talk, but I don't know if he would be up for that. We never have hung outside of work, other than a birthday party where me and him left the bar and went to dinner and he paid. He is hard to read, I feel like I am always the one initiating the conversation with him, he never seems to ask me about me very much if at all. I don't know if this is because he is scared to show his feelings or if I am totally misreading the situation entirely. We just mainly share some small talk, but when the other two co-workers are there he talks mostly to them. I try to join in when I can, but feel like I am intruding.

Everyone I have talked to said to just give him space. I don't know what to do anymore. I can be patient if he tells me he needs space to figure things out or I can just maintain my stance and be patient and hope he can talk to me when he is ready. I really hope he is not so afraid to talk to me. I have always been told by people that I am too nice. I would never do anything to hurt anyone ever, especially someone I love.

What do I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's request. -- restless_nomad

He said he is straight, just a nice guy. He said he wasn't offended or upset and didn't intend to confuse me.

Am I confused? You told him you liked him and this is how he responded. You really should deal with this and stop obsessing because otherwise this could potentially turn into a very bad situation. As it is, you have a work friend, you like each other, you expressed your feelings, he very gently turned you down and life goes on. Please don't escalate this, that's not fair to anyone, including yourself.

Or are they just having fun with the idea that I am gay and like him? Unfortunately upon re-reading, it sounds like this might be the case. You need to branch out and fill your life with other people and other activities.
posted by bquarters at 8:14 AM on November 17, 2012 [40 favorites]

My brother went through a similar situation, with his roommate. Unfortunately, he was engaged at the time to a woman, and when he came out to her they naturally cancelled their plans. It was a tough time for him, as he was being rejected by so many people he cared for.

My advice is to do what he did: He changed jobs, moved, and started finding communities of like-minded people, all of whom seemed to have a similar story in their past. He was lucky enough to live in a city with a thriving LGBTQ population (Madison, Wisconsin), so he didn't have to look too far.

tl;dr: Change your environment, get involved, and someone excessively cute and sweet to you will find their way into your orbit.
posted by thanotopsis at 8:26 AM on November 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Everyone I have talked to said to just give him space.

That's exactly what you should be doing.
posted by kdar at 8:27 AM on November 17, 2012 [6 favorites]

Work relationships are troublesome enough without confused feelings. You're also dealing with coming out, which takes time to process. Leave him be and look for someone else in a different, non-workplace environment.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:30 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

First, congratulations on coming out!

Regarding your question, I'm afraid that I have the same reading as bquarters. Unless you're talking about two different crushes?

As for what to do, I agree again - branch out, find new people & activities. I'd especially recommend looking into activities/clubs which would help build a peer group of other out LGBTQ folks who share similar interests (bowling, books, computer programming, beer tasting, tennis, football-watching, choirs, etc). I think it's important to have a peer group, and from what I understand, your only social outlet outside work is your family - that's lovely to have a supportive family, but you need a social outlet outside of work, IMHO.

A plus of this is that it sounds as if your coworkers are also fairly supportive (the teasing sounds fairly gentle by male-coworkers' standards in my experience), and that your crush let you down so kindly. But you really do need to drop this and take him at his word.
posted by pammeke at 8:30 AM on November 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Work is boring. People are always delighted to have a tidbit to gossip about just to liven things up. Guy at work coming out? Excellent, that should get us through the next 4 weeks! Oh, he has a crush on someone IN THE OFFICE? We can work with that for the next six months! It isn't necessarily malicious; but it sure isn't great for your morale.

What I'm saying is, yes, they probably are gossiping about you - not necessarily out of any malice or dislike; but it's unlikely that your interest in this guy has gone unnoticed, even if he didn't tell anyone about your note.

If you're going to stay in that job you'll need a to toughen your skin up quickly and absolutely stop obsessing about the guy. Sending him the note was crossing a pretty big work boundary. He let you down gently; now you need to get busy meeting new people to date outside of work. Good luck and congratulations on coming out!
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:51 AM on November 17, 2012 [13 favorites]

A lot of this sounds really inappropriate for a workplace. Your colleagues are teasing your friend in a totally unprofessional manner, comments like "kiss your boyfriend goodbye" are borderline harassment (towards him and possibly you), and the talking about you behind your back isn't appropriate or professional either. Just because you've come out recently doesn't make your personal life everyone's business and you should totally be able to be as gay as you want without this highschool-style drama ensuing. But it's also inappropriate and unprofessional for you to be talking to your coworkers about your crush on your friend and you need to cut that out too.

Your friend has said he's straight and not interested, unfortunately you need to just believe him and move on. Chasing after him at work could end up getting you in trouble and it's not really fair to him. And it's not fair to you either to sit around pining for someone that has specifically said they're not interested. Go out and pursue your other activities, hopefully meeting all kinds of wonderful people who actually do want to be with your in the process, and enjoy your life.
posted by shelleycat at 9:07 AM on November 17, 2012 [12 favorites]

You need to get out and meet lots of cute guys right now. Make friends, flirt, go on dates, and develop a support system. Being hung up on your coworker isn't good for you, him, or either of your jobs. Think of something you like to do, and find the group of gay men who are doing it in or near the city where you live. I can almost promise you they exist and that they will be beside themselves with excitement to meet you.

Your user name suggests to me you're in/around the Los Angeles area. If this is true, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center is a great place to start. They host fun events and serve a huge cross section of the population so you'll meet lots of different people. Their 'resources' tab has links to other gay social groups in the area.

No matter where you are, I would especially suggest trying to get involved in something physical (softball, dodgeball, etc) because you sound understandably overwhelmed at your current situation and the exercise will help. Plus you'll be running around with a bunch of sweaty, well-exercised (available!) guys which I suspect will help ease the work crush.
posted by justjess at 9:15 AM on November 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

We've all liked people who did not return our feelings (or returned some small part of our feelings, or returned our feelings deep inside but was too cowardly too admit to it...these are in effect the same and should be treated the same as not returning our feelings.)

The only thing you can do is take someone at their word. Trust me as someone who has been through it, no matter how many signals you think you are getting or how much someone seems to like you, if they say they are not interested it's time to give it up and focus your energy elsewhere. continuing to pursue someone who has said they are not interested will only bring you pain.

What's more, from what you wrote there are absolutely no clues that he may like you romantically. Of course, anything is possible in the universe, but nothing you wrote at all leads me to believe a.) he is gay and b.) he is in love with you. Stop torturing yourself with this.

Lastly I want to congratulate you on coming out. I think you're brave and you have a lot of love inside you. Someone will be lucky to have you. Just do yourself a favor and focus your energies elsewhere!
posted by bearette at 9:17 AM on November 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would not consider it appropriate, no. Keep your work life and personal life as separate as possible. Intertwining the two is already causing you emotional stress and it's only going to get worse if you don't learn to start separating them as quickly and completely as possible.
posted by something something at 9:21 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

And the other co-worker I have been talking to about this which I have hung out with outside of work and consider a friend has said that he doesn't mind if I need to talk anytime he will listen. Is that still inappropriate if he gave the go ahead multiple times?

I think it's better to talk to friends that you do not work with about this. It might be especially helpful to find a gay and lesbian community in your area.
posted by bearette at 9:21 AM on November 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

This may be redundant or unsubtle, but it reads as if not only is he clearly not gay but your coworkers are fucking with you.
posted by lilnublet at 9:32 AM on November 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

It's really hard to tell if your co-workers are fucking with you, or if you're wildly miscontruing bits and pieces of overheard conversations.

Regardless, this guy has turned you down. The best way to get over a crush is to get a new one -- so get out there and start looking!
posted by DoubleLune at 9:39 AM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

what is with the leading me on part? That is what is causing me so much confusion.

I don't think he is trying to lead you on. He sent you a clear reply. My guess is that he is trying to continue treating you as he always did but that he really does not want a relationship nor to lead you on.

About the jokes you overhear, people joke about things as a way of defusing tension. Unrequited crushes cause tension. Workplace romances cause tension. It's a way of talking about things in a lighthearted manner.

For instance, the joke "better say goodbye to your/my boyfriend" might just be a way of saying "you/I should go say goodbye, even though, yes, this situation makes it all feel a little awkward." The joke "are you ready to hook up?" could be a jokey way for a coworker to ask him "how is the situation going? how are you feeling about all of this?"

This is not to say that you should not have come out, but you should try to deescalate the tension here. This would ideally never have become a frequent topic of workplace conversation, but it has, so do your part to help it fade away. Unfortunately, he does not want a romantic relationship with you. Stop reading meaning into his glances and parking space choice. Start looking for romance elsewhere. Sorry you are dealing with these feelings and this workplace awkwardness, but there are more fish in the sea!
posted by salvia at 9:47 AM on November 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

He isn't leading you on. At all. You may or may not be able to see this given your closeness to the situation.

What he hasn't done is completely changed his demeanor in a way that suggests he was freaked out by your advance.

The other friends are making jokes about the situation. They probably realized this far in advance of you coming out, and I don't think this is done in a mean or malicious way.

The best case here is to step back and find another outlet, meet people outside of work. There isn't a need to quit, you just have to focus on the attainable - other gay men, not the admittedly straight coworker.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:50 AM on November 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm going to be blunt: your crush has turned you down. Always take someone at their word about these things. If they change their mind, they will let you know in no uncertain terms, leaving no room for doubt.

As an important rule of life, you shouldn't be mixing your work and personal life like this. It's already causing you anguish because you have to interact with your crush every day, and you also think that a source of emotional pain for you might be a source of gossip for others. And this is before anything has gone wrong. Tread carefully, because it can get worse.

In the future, do not make friends at work, do not confide in anyone at work about anything. I'm not saying be in the closet or anything, but never take it above small talk level "yes, I live with my bf and he's an electrical engineer" kind of thing. In this case it sounds like you confided in your coworkers and that's not how you should be relating to them. At work, you are, in the nicest possible way, a dreadnought robot from the future, and everything is just business, and any attempt at delving beyond public knowledge gets a "talk to the hand".

Also in the future, when you have a crush, confide in someone who doesn't know the crushee. Then they aren't caught in the middle, they have no stake in the outcome other than the usual biases, and drama is quarantined so it can't spread through your network.

I can't tell what is really going on at work. It does seem like some gentle teasing and gossip is going on, whether it is more malicious than that I cannot tell. But I strongly suggest you look for another job and put this behind you. Pressing the reset button is in order. Once in the new job you can, outside of work, go on a dating site and start looking in earnest for what you really want: a serious relationship with a nice guy who is available to you. Sorry that's not this guy. I know it sucks. But you can get what you want out of life.
posted by tel3path at 10:04 AM on November 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

This is really distressing to read. I agree with the majority of the advice here. To add my own gut reaction: it seems like you're in a pretty bad place mentally, despite the brave and great step of coming out of the closet. "Seek therapy" is a MetaFilter cliche, but that really sticks out to me. You sound like you're in a really bad spiral, lacking any outside context, having panic attacks, not getting out of bed. That all sounds really ruddy, and I feel worried just as some stranger on the internet. I think that if it's all feasible, you should really seek some help and treat yourself kindly before you get any further down.

Moreover and to speak to possible fantasies: He is not an attainable lover; if on the odd-probability he is not a 0 on the Kinsey Scale and is sending some flirty signals purposefully or despite himself, he's not being real and conscious. I don't think that's what's going on, but that's just to say that even if it were, it wouldn't make any sense. The moment for him to have said anything was when you said something, yourself; all bets are off. That isn't how real-world relationships work or come together. It only works out that way in stories, or in your head or heart.

This sucks to even type given it seems you're painfully infatuated: this will not end well. You might deserve a good lover for being true to yourself and coming out, but this is not going to be how you find one. Disengage. Seek contact elsewhere. Do not go further down the rabbit hole, please.

You're out: find someone who is also out and gay and honest and wants you on real terms.
posted by Keter at 10:06 AM on November 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

I hope this isn't taken as being too harsh, but your story strikes a nerve with me and I would really like to share what I've learned from similar situations.

I am just coming down off of one of my biennial crushes right now, so it seems at 38 I may have something to offer. I hope it doesn't come across as unkind. My heart melted when I read this. I just wanted to hug you and tell you that everything is going to be ok.

This happens to me every couple of years and has since I was in high school. Luckily I learned how to get a handle on myself sometime around 1998.

Let me tell you: Get this under control now. I am not saying that you can't let all these feelings kind of wash over you for a bit. You can.

But at the end of the day you have to accept this guy's word.
He has the right to define himself.
It doesn't matter what you want.
It doesn't matter what you think he may want.

If you don't, your continued attentions may very well be construed as harassment. It could get very messy at work and really throw things out of whack.

Neither you nor anyone here can magically read this guy's mind. Maybe he really is just a sweet straight guy. Maybe he is a Kinsey 1.7 who likes attention. Maybe he is secretly gay or bi and is fighting the urge to call you lest his entire worldview crumbles.

It doesn't matter much to you in this case.
He has said what he has had to say and that is that.

If you are like me, you may not have a functional gaydar and may be picking up on cues that someone is available if the situation is just right and everything falls into place. That works in high school and college; it does not work so well in your thirties. What we take for exploratory romantic happenstance in college feels much more like stalking on the other side of 25.

Really look at what you've written there.
You have only hung out with this guy once, and the rest of your interaction has been work-related except for the times he has rejected you. This is not someone who is available emotionally, regardless of what else is going on.

Don't trick yourself into thinking that something means more than it does. He parks next to you? Great. He smiled at you? Delightful.

I'll do the tl;dr thing as well:
At this point:
Unless this guy comes to your house unbidden and invites you out or confesses his undying desire wearing a trench-coat with a boombox held high over his head in the rain, your job is to leave him alone, be civil at work, do your job, and meet guys who are available outside of your office environment.

Trust me, you don't want to take this to its logical conclusion as you've constructed it for us above. Everything implodes and you end up ruining what could have been at least a decent friendship.
posted by Tchad at 10:11 AM on November 17, 2012 [13 favorites]

Don't trick yourself into thinking that something means more than it does.

This times a million.

He is not leading you on, he's being friendly. He told you he was not interested in dating you and you need to respect that.
posted by OsoMeaty at 10:58 AM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Being secure enough in his masculinity to be friends with a gay man (even though his work friends tease him about it - which is harassment, BTW) is not an expression of romantic interest, and if you take it that way (despite the fact that he has specifically told you not to) you will quite likely cause drama. This will result at minimum in losing a friend and at maximum losing a friend and a job.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:16 PM on November 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

He said he was straight. I'd focus on feeling heartbroken so you can get through the tough parts quicker.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:38 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

He said he's straight. You have to take him at his word. First, that's the only choice that respects him, because what he told you is his decision. Second, he is almost certainly telling you the truth, and if he's not, he's not ready or willing to do otherwise for reasons which are his own.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:23 PM on November 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

At the risk of sounding harsh: This guy is not sending you any signals about wanting to date. If I were in his place and getting this kind of ongoing attention from someone who liked me even after turning them down gently, as well as being the subject of a great deal of office gossip and teasing because of it, it wouldn't be long before I sought some intervention. No matter how friendly and harmless you probably are that kind of thing isn't fun for anyone and could hurt both your careers.

This part really alarmed me on your behalf:
I have caught out of the corner of my eye the boss pointing to me while looking at him and other guys saying 'just tell him'.

The conversation he and your co-workers had with your boss that seemed to be about you could very well be the beginnings of an official complaint about unwanted, unprofessional attention and distraction from work duties. Refocus your personal life on seeking out healthy, supportive relationships, and make a commitment to be as robotic and professional at work (with him and your co-workers) until you get over this guy. I really wish you the best of luck.
posted by sundaydriver at 8:16 AM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

The other people at work are being shitty and unprofessional and they're ribbing him over this. They're ribbing you, too. It's crappy of them and if he's actually a nice guy but is still a party to it, the easiest explanation I can think of is peer pressure. That sucks, I know.

Look, he said he was straight. He turned you down. He tried to be vague but nice about it at first (this is a common method of rejecting someone whose feelings you don't want to hurt) and then when you asked for clarification, he flat-out told you he was straight, thus not interested, but again tried to avoid hurting your feelings by saying he wasn't upset or offended and wasn't trying to confuse you.

I'm still not certain why that wasn't the end of it - why you're still saying you think maybe he's confused or afraid to show his feelings. He's not. He's straight. He might like you as a friend, but that's it, and you could maybe start asking yourself some questions about why you're still thinking like this after receiving an unambiguous answer.

Coming out can be a fraught time, with a lot of emotions running high, and I get that, but your crush on this guy is a completely separate thing from the guy himself, and it should probably be a thing that stays in your head. If there are any decent LGBT-friendly counseling resources in your area, that would be good to look into.

In the meantime, here is a really strong suggestion: Please stop talking about this with anyone you work with. Stop asking co-workers about it, about him, etc. Keep things completely professional. I say this because this sentence leapt out at me:

I asked one of the guys at work if any of this was true, and he said he knew nothing and that was all he said.

Anything you tell a coworker is probably going to get back to your boss. The crush and the confession, I would not give a shit about if I were your boss. But if you confessed the crush and then heard an unambiguous no and continued to wonder about his vague, uncertain feelings - as if he hadn't already answered the question - and then asked a colleague about this guy's feelings and about all these secret hints and so on - I would probably start to become a little concerned.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:04 AM on November 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

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