My work crush has a GF??
July 20, 2013 4:05 AM   Subscribe

Help me get back to Friendzone and leave Crushville far behind...

A few months into a new job, crushing on a smart, funny guy who seemed to reciprocate. I was excited to have met someone who seemed compatible in so many ways, and by then I had made my way well into downtown Crushville. Then after several weeks, the G word was casually slipped into a conversation. I was floored, since more often that not, he had initiated/prolonged the conversation or chat to a degree beyond what I would consider offhand or casual.

In general, I guess what I mean is- were I his GF, I would have had issues with how he was interacting with me. Never overt flirting or anything like that; just communication that seemed like it was on a track to lead to more. Empirically, I really saw his behavior as representative of someone who was unattached. I was honestly expecting to be asked out soon. For example, would you be bothered if you learned that your SO had spent lengthy periods outside of work (over 2 hours) chatting with another girl/guy?

I really feel a connection and want to stay friends, especially since we work in the same place and will be for a long time (on different, but related teams; he is not my boss or subordinate).

Ignoring him or suddenly not interacting when a pattern has already been established will seem odd. But right now I don't know if I can stop myself from continuing to feel or hope for an attachment that cannot be. I already find myself thinking of him too often. How do I get out of Crushville??
posted by I_Love_Bananas to Human Relations (26 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
For example, would you be bothered if you learned that your SO had spent lengthy periods outside of work (over 2 hours) chatting with another girl/guy?

Well, that really depends. My SO has lots of women friends who have many, many conversations with him of great length; he also has women coworkers with whom he's friendly, and will frequently attend events related to the community of professionals he's involved in with those coworkers in a social capacity.

I would only be troubled if I felt the particular nature of that time together was crossing some lines -- flirting, inappropriate levels of intimacy, the feeling that I'm being deliberately excluded from something that I should be able to be involved in. The amount of time my SO spends with women who aren't me isn't a problem on its own.

Not everyone makes friends with people who are of the gender they're attracted to; lots of people do. Sounds like maybe your coworker is one of them.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 4:41 AM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

Think about what you yourself have said right here:

were I his GF, I would have had issues with how he was interacting with me. Never overt flirting or anything like that; just communication that seemed like it was on a track to lead to more. Empirically, I really saw his behavior as representative of someone who was unattached.

And then ask yourself why you'd want to be the girlfriend of a guy that flirts that much with other women. Because if he flirts that much with you when he's got a girlfriend, then you know he'd flirt that much with other people if you were his girlfriend, and then you'd be the one who'd have issues with him.

And you don't want issues, do you? No. So why would you want him if you know that's what he'd be like?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:41 AM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Not threadsitting; just want to get an early clarification out there- flirting, outright, definable as such, has not occurred.

But the level of connection, shared sensibility, "oh, I know he'll think X is funny," recognition of a kindred spirit (ugh?!)... when you have "clicked" and you know it? That feeling lights a spark that, for me, is interpreted or perceived as a precursor to a deeper relationship. That is my off-ramp to Crushville; YMMV.

So Jane from across the hall may not call any of it flirting, because her mind doesn't bend that way. Flirting is subjective and because I see this "connection" as a romantic precursor doesn't mean others would. In fact many may not.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:49 AM on July 20, 2013

Firstly, I'm only going by what you said - which is that "If I were his girlfriend I'd have issues with how he was behaving towards me."

Secondly, I'm not necessarily saying that this is true of the situation. I'm only suggesting a way to use a thought your brain has already had and hack it to help snap you out of the crush. You know? You were the one who thought "if I were his girlfriend I'd have issues with how he was talking to me," I'm only saying to turn that on its head thusly:

"man, we have such a connection that I'd be jealous if I were his girlfriend....hey, wait, if I were his girlfriend, would I want a guy who'd go around having those kinds of connections with other girls still? Wait, hell naw."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:57 AM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Understood, Empress. 😃

I want to stay his friend. I want help getting over my attraction to him. I'd like to stay friends and maintain a connection but my brain wants that connection to become more. I need help in this case to keep that from happening.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:15 AM on July 20, 2013

That's precisely what I've been telling you to do. Suggesting it just the one more time, and then dropping out so we don't end up arguing back and forth.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:24 AM on July 20, 2013

I guess you haven't heard of a work spouse? Not at all uncommon.
posted by yohko at 5:38 AM on July 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

Your question and follow up comments seem to boil down to this:

If you were dating Man A, would you be mad at him because there was another women who thought that maybe, someday, something might occur that might, possibly, lead to a relationship with Man A.

To which I assume most people would scratch their heads, and then point out that in a situation like this, the only person who has a problem is the woman who's asking the question.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:13 AM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: One way to get over a crush is to get really interested in something or someone else. Another way is to notice little things about him that are slightly annoying and think about those a lot. Pull back the amount of time while still keeping friendly when you do talk. But definitely be too busy to spend that much time. Lastly meet his girlfriend, get to know her as a person who would be hurt if you pursued this. Stop thinking about how maybe one-day he will break up and be yours. Stop listening to love music.
posted by SyraCarol at 6:41 AM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

This is so personal that it is really difficult to answer. So, I'll answer from my perspective. Personally, I would trust my partner not to start a romantic relationship with another woman. He's an adult and he can make good choices. I wouldn't want to date someone where this was an issue. Living in a constant state of "what is my boyfriend/girlfriend doing right now?" is unpleasant and I am not in the business of policing behavior.

So, if I found out my boyfriend was flirting with another woman, I would not care. Flirting doesn't mean anything. I trust him to be a good guy and to not lead other women on. But in my view, flirting is hard to define and harmless anyhow. This is just, like, my opinion, though - different people have different boundaries and lines.

You might want to examine a few things here so that you can both move on from this situation and feel more secure in future romantic relationships. Therapy couldn't hurt in this endeavor. I also recommend the book How to be an Adult in Relationships so that if and when your future partner flirts (or you think they're flirting with someone) you can handle it and express your needs and feelings in a productive and honest way.
posted by k8lin at 6:48 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have evidence that he's had a GF this whole time? Perhaps he has a new GF and thought the easiest way to tell you was to casually let it slip. It's not uncommon for people to pursue more than one potential relationship at the same time, either.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:44 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is it possible that his interest and the spark you felt were ...gasp!...friendship? If so, the crush thing will resolve itself shortly. Keeping busy, staying aware of his GF, going out and trying to actively meet people outside the office will all lead to that day where you are like "Oh. That guy? Oh man, what was I thinking?"

It seems to me that your real question here is: Am I allowed to be mad at this guy for letting me have a crush on him? And that answer is no. I am married and I don't always let it fly when I meet new people, especially people of the opposite sex. Why? Because if I am interested in a friendship, it would be presumptuous of me to assume the other person is romantically interested in me and to shove that out the first time we meet. In fact, if he had said he had a GF the first time you talked, do you really think you would have spent the time to get to know someone that you say you have lots of fun with and enjoy the company of?

Suck it up, move on, decide if you can get over your own embarrassment (because I'm sure he didn't even notice) and have a good friendship.
posted by mrfuga0 at 8:00 AM on July 20, 2013 [12 favorites]

Best answer: So far, several responses have focused on the sub-question 'would you be bothered if you learned that your SO had spent lengthy periods outside of work (over 2 hours) chatting with another girl/guy?' So I will focus on the main 'How do I get out of Crushville??' question.

I know Crushville well. And there are different parts of town. You have been smack in the middle of downtown Crushville. You don't just get airlifted or beamed out of that part of town. So, make your way to one of the still-very-cool-but-off-the-beaten-track parts of town: this is where you hang out with the folks that you know are 100% not available, and you still have a crush on them, but it's OK. You are not pining for them because there's no point - 100% not available. And that little spark that's still there? Just adds a certain extra something to the friendship. You are now in East Harmless Crush Village.

I mean, imagine if you had met this person at work, and he had on a wedding ring. Same guy, same connection, but 100% not available from jump street (because I am old-school like that). You would very likely still have a crush, but it would probably not have taken up so much mental and emotional space because: guy's just not available. So every time you start thinking about him, just remind yourself -- literally say it, if you need to -- 'not gonna happen'. It will still sting for a while because you had certain hopes. But that will fade, and you really can still be good friends with him.
posted by fikri at 8:12 AM on July 20, 2013 [10 favorites]

Best answer: From a Mefite who wishes to remain anonymous:
I'm currently in the exact same situation but with the genders reversed. I was pretty darn excited when she started inviting me to lunch after very tentatively and slowly getting to know each other. Didn't find out about the very long-term boyfriend until a pretty serious crush had developed. For what it's worth, I'm 95% the feelings are mutual but I know neither of us would ever act on them.

My point of view is that she has not led me on or done anything unethical. I can see how it might feel really good, in the midst of a long term relationship, to have someone new like you. It's even been nice for me to have a crush as it had been a few years since I felt this way towards anyone. The fact remains though, that no relationship is possible and this is a serious bummer for me. We both have crushes but she goes home to a real relationship.

I am trying to make takeaway be that I need to be the best version of me that I can be at ALL times. I need to put myself in more situations where I might meet someone and be ready when this happens with someone who is available. After a long time where I didn't think it was possible, I have feelings for someone. And I think someone has feelings for me. Neither of those things seemed likely a few months ago so that's good news.

I hope to remain friends with my work crush because I don't really relate to most folks I work with and we have a lot of shared values and interests. But I need to focus my romantic energy elsewhere. This is very difficult because she's awesome and a great match for me BUT if I don't want to be bummed out all the time it is an absolute must. Also, my hope is that we'll be better friends when we're on equal footing.

Also, I started therapy again. It's very helpful.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:16 AM on July 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

Oh, and now that you know the real score, it would be good to take off the rose-colored glasses. We tend to idealize the people we crush on; so quit doing that. Try to see him with a more objective, critical eye, and that may also help take the edge off what you are feeling now.
posted by fikri at 8:19 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

One note of warning: while it's certainly possible that his attentions are pure, it's also possible that he is sounding you out for some kind of real affair/emotional affair/transitional relationship. If you're still stuck in Crushville, your heart probably leaped at this possibility...but please, as someone who has been there more than once, trust me: it. is. not. worth. it.

In my experience, these are the signs to watch out for: the connection is hard to pin down in the beginning; there's little outright flirting, but lots of compliments (you're so smart, you're so funny, you really get me). He mentions his girlfriend offhand, late in the game, but doesn't really talk about her in any detail. You pull away, he backs off, things sort of cool down for a while, and then slowly build up again. Still, no real talk about the girlfriend, until the complaints start coming, or else compliments that mask complaints ("she's a really good person" or talk of how domestic and feminine she is) all of which combine to build up a contrast between the girlfriend, who is Boring, and you, who are Not. At this point, he might start talking to you a lot about your dating life: you'll get into the habit of sharing stories about the guys you're seeing, which is really just an excuse to talk about sex. He'll trash them all but get a vicarious thrill from hearing you talk about your adventures as a Single Lady, and give you lots of advice 'from a guy's perspective,' which can usually be translated into 'guys only think about sex.' Then, at some point - alcohol will be involved - a line will be crossed - could be anything from hand-holding to doing it - and you'll get to hear a lot of fun self-laceration about his Mixed Feelings. At which point, you'll be sure this is going to turn into a real relationship, like, any second now...

Instead, he will either a.) confess to her and try to reconcile, in which case you are no long in the picture and work is about to get super awkward b.) break up with her, in which case, you'll get to babysit him and play Boyfriend/Girlfriend for two weeks before he realizes he's on the rebound and needs to Figure his Shit out, and goodbye to you or c.) he'll just feel vaguely guilty and bump you back to the beginning of the cycle, and you'll start all over again, until suddenly you wake up one day and realize you haven't dated anyone seriously in six months because the crushing part of your brain has been busy obsessing over this jerk.

Or, you know, he could be perfectly lovely and have no idea what's going on in your head. But honestly, after twenty years of dating, I've realized that you can usually trust your instincts. If you felt like there was a spark, there probably was. But if you don't want to spend entire swathes of your twenties chasing unavailable men, now is the time to learn how to stomp it out.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:49 AM on July 20, 2013 [14 favorites]

Aaaand now I read some of your earlier questions and it looks like you're older/more experienced with relationships than I thought, so I feel like my last paragraph, especially, might read as pretty condescending. This is something that happened to me, in my twenties, which is I guess why I read the question that way. Sorry in advance if it came out wrong, and good luck figuring this out!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:58 AM on July 20, 2013

I'm with pretentious illiterate. Having also been used like this before, I think you are getting played.

You get over your crush by keeping it in mind that he's a most likely a shitty human being that intends to use you.

What you describe IS flirting.

You're barometer for what's going on sounds waaaay off.

Slow down and start paying attention to him with a more critical eye. See if we're not right about him.
posted by jbenben at 9:20 AM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, hi, this has happened to me too.

His 'intentions' towards you may be innocent; they may not be. He himself might not even know what they are. I think that sparks of the sexual/emotional/psychological variety are mutually felt almost 100% of the time, and if you are someone with relationship experience, you are probably not imagining things or making stuff up. Trust your instincts.

In the meantime, you want to hightail it out of Crushville ASAP. Some things that have helped me in the past:

1. Try to date a lot, even if you don't feel like it. Time you spend meeting and being open to other people is time not spent obsessing over how Great this guy is and how Perfect you are together.
2. if you want to continue to hang out with him, do, but always include other people. Do NOT interact on a one-on-one basis. This might also need to include emails, etc. Like, if you want to send him a funny link, send it to him and some other folks. If your situation is extreme, you might need to designate an alternate recipient for stuff that makes you think JUST about him. (a girlfriend of mine offered to do this for me when I was deeply embroiled in a hopeless crush, and it worked. This may lead to the realization that other people 'get' you the way he does.)
3. As mentioned above, try to see him with a more critical eye. Find someone who doesn't like him that much and ask them what they find annoying or unattractive about him.
posted by sideofwry at 9:38 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Most people who have an SO of long standing inherently mention them in conversation. Not as in a "back off, I'm taken" sort of way, but because an SO is a major part of their life and thus should reasonably be mentioned in conversation, as in, "my girlfriend and I went to that movie last night." Any dude who does not reasonably mention being with someone SOON in your acquaintance and is flirting with you... is probably a skeeze who gets off on having two girls into him.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:57 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had a work crush like this once, although I was much, much younger. Shit, it was almost a decade ago. We also connected, he was definitely flirting even though it wasn't overt like in your situation. He also let the girlfriend thing slip, (and I was super disappointed, because I definitely thought it was going somewhere), but he didn't stop flirting with me. We remained friends, until the following year when I realized that what was going on was complete bullshit. He was just playing with my emotions. It gave him a self-esteem boost. That's what this guy is doing to you as well. That is not what good people do. I'm no longer friends with him. So get over your work crush.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 1:29 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

*Er, it was overt. Unlike in your situation. The flirting, that is.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 1:46 PM on July 20, 2013

Stay the hell away from this situation. There are lots of people out there you will click with; go find them. I'd be upfront with him and say, in person, "I'm sorry, I read romantic overtures into your behavior toward me and was responding to those untilI found out you had a girlfriend. I like you, but I feel like our relationship would intrude on your partner's emotional attachment to you. So let's just be work colleagues, that's what would make me feel the most comfortable."

I think he was digging on having an office spouse with whom he could dish, and he'll probably want to still stay "friends" with you. You may have to be polite but very, very firm should he press you for more of your time. Say hi to him in the break room and have light work chat, do not see him outside of the office or engage in long conversations.
posted by Unangenehm at 2:12 PM on July 20, 2013

Look, I have the kind of work spouse relationship with one of my colleagues. We tell each other stuff nobody else gets told, we use each other as sounding boards to help solve whatever the problem of the day might be, we help each other out and we can quite happily talk to each other for hrs and hrs - we once attended a course that entailed 4 hrs in the car travelling to the venue and because that was insufficient time to chat we then had dinner and talked another 3 hrs and we had yet more stuff to talk about the following day driving back...we regularly observe something and glance at each other across the room and share a mutual reaction.

We very quickly built up a rapport and even though we only worked closely together for just over a month we do still spend a lot of time with each other now. We technically work out of the same office but are both hardly ever there so we end up having to coordinate diaries to make lunch dates and what not...I also know I'll get a response to emails when he's supposed to be on will he for that matter. He's about to go and work for our firm in New Zealand for a couple of years and I'll miss him dreadfully once he's gone...

But he was always very open about his girlfriend of over ten years. There was always a mutual understanding that we like each other, get on very well, trust each other and even are attracted to each other but that the mutual attraction would never be acted on.

The fact that the girlfriend did not get mentioned for a very long time troubles me. You need to move away from friendship with this guy and back to professional relationship.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:00 PM on July 20, 2013

Another possibility is that he was single and interested, and recently became exclusive with someone, ie it's only just now that he gained a girlfriend.

I suggest letting yourself enjoy the knowledge that someone you're interested in enjoyed your company and connected, perhaps hold a tiny little candle that sometime in the distant future, circumstances might be different, and enjoy that too, but let that be enough. Put it far in future, not in present reality, allowing yourself to look for and date other people.
Basically, feel good about yourself - enjoy the validation - but treat it as only that.
posted by anonymisc at 6:39 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can't prove he's flirting, but he is. We can't prove he's a weasel, but he is.

posted by tel3path at 4:32 PM on July 21, 2013

« Older How to stay positive in dating despite MANY...   |   Chest pain, partner won't let me call 911. What... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.