Help me close the door on this infatuation..
December 4, 2013 4:15 PM   Subscribe

I act like an idiot around this person. I need to stop and salvage my dignity.

I work with only 6 other people at my job. We recently hired someone new for a position that's above me. She's around my age and I find her quite attractive. Depending on the day, we interact quite sporadically. During her first week I made it a point to introduce myself and just casually get to know her. All of the other co-workers aren't the social type so I figured I'd be kind and make her feel welcome. We ended up having lunches together for a bit and got to know each other more. Somewhere along the line, my flirtation instinct kicked in and I begin to act like an idiot by making jokes, asking her about her life and making it pretty obvious. As a side note: I haven't had a relationship nor had physical intimacy in years. Almost 6 to be exact. I'm 27 and I haven't put myself out there at all recently. I have confidence and self esteem issues that I plan on figuring out. In fact, I start therapy this Friday.

Anyway, at some point I find out this new co-worker has a boyfriend. Which isn't devastating to me because I've had bad experience with dating co-workers and it never REALLY crossed my mind. In fact, I was sort of relieved I found out.

The problem is that this infatuation isn't going away. I've been incredibly lonely this past few months and I can't stop myself from thinking about her most of the time. Keep in mind, I am 100% respecting her, not monopolizing her time at work and I'm not doing anything weird or stalker-ish or anything. I don't even hint about us dating or me asking her out. It's just when I do talk to her about anything work-related - I always start acting like a desperate idiot making jokes or starting nice and short casual conversations. I think it's getting to the point where she obviously knows I'm interested and then afterwards I feel guilty and ashamed. Which ends up being pretty hurtful because I'm embarrassed about my obvious flirtation. I then spiral into a small depression about it.

I definitely know that it's just my lack of dating and non-existent love life that's making me romanticize her. I've had bad experience with online dating but I'm trying again. I just prefer meeting people face to face without having a profile for them to judge me on.

My brain sees someone that's really attractive and someone I've had fun conversation with, and I just automatically start pursuing it. It'll never happen because of the obvious circumstances but do I just avoid her altogether? I can't look for another job - I have to hold onto this one for a few months. It's a small workplace.

Can anyone relate or help me out?
posted by MeaninglessMisfortune to Human Relations (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've had bad experience with online dating but I'm trying again. I just prefer meeting people face to face without having a profile for them to judge me on

Eff that, just go on more dates with other people. It's a numbers game and there is seriously no logical reason why meeting someone face to face should go any better or worse than messaging them online before you meet them face to face (especially to vet them for being a decent writer, music/movie taste, religious preferences, etc). I can not believe that in 2013 this bullshit stigma about online dating still exists, and just because you've opened the floodgates for online prospects doesn't mean you are shutting off all "IRL" opportunities to meet women. It's not zero-sum. May as well draw from as many wells as possible.

Go meet other women - find them in real life, find them online, it doesn't matter - but filling your calendar with dates will very likely ease some of your infatuation here.
posted by windbox at 4:44 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get out and meet some new people, even if it doesn't involve dating. Go to some meet ups, take a class, volunteer. Just get out of the house and give yourself something else to focus on. Once you start doing that, things will fall into perspective.
posted by rpfields at 4:44 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is inspiringly honest, dude. Thanks for that.

I don't know if you can make that kind of feeling just go away. It sounds like you're doing all the right things as far as trying to recontextualize your feelings. Simply by being respectful, by acting appropriately, you're starting down the road towards faking it 'til you make it.

Honestly, I think as long as you're not behaving inappropriately, even if you can't completely hide your attraction you won't offend her.

I wouldn't necessarily try to stop feeling it. Maybe you can just work with it. Platonic relationships between adults can have an element of physical attraction under the surface, and that's OK as long as it's just part of the mix of the interaction.

Another thought: ease into sharing stuff with this person that you wouldn't share with someone you were hitting on. I've recontextualized inconvenient attractions in the past by talking to the woman I was attracted to about other people I have crushes on, or about my relationship issues. That's something to be somewhat careful about in the workplace, but if it's not too explicit it might be OK.

Also, I wanted to tell you that you aren't alone in terms of what you're seeking therapy for. I was a little younger than you when I was in that place, but I was there and it wasn't fun. It's something you can totally get out of, though. And the level of honesty and introspection you seem capable of will help you out of it.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:55 PM on December 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Oh yeah, for confidence issues in your 20s: pushups and pullups worked miracles for me. At that age your body will put on muscle surprisingly fast, and it's not even about bulking up, just feeling yourself getting stronger can really help. It's a big part of how I overcame my own jitters and finally managed to lose my virginity at a relatively late age.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:57 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've had bad experience with online dating but I'm trying again. I just prefer meeting people face to face without having a profile for them to judge me on
I'm with windbox. The good thing with online dating is that it's more out in the open where everyone is at. IRL it's not written on their forehead if someone is partnered or not but it is in their dating profile! So brush off your profile and ask us for feedback on it and we'll be happy to give it. There are several examples of posters doing this on AskMefi.
posted by foxjacket at 5:24 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

What else are you doing in real life to meet people? That sense that she's the only attractive and funny person in the world might go away if you had good venues for meeting people outside of work, if you don't already. Even if all you do is go to a gym with a good gender balance, it might help, or it did for me when I once found myself eyeing coworkers. The good news is that you're apparently comfortable at making fun and funny chit chat.
posted by salvia at 6:49 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've had bad experience with online dating but I'm trying again. I just prefer meeting people face to face without having a profile for them to judge me on.

This is what I would have said up until recently.

I've been online dating for about a year. I had a ton of 'meh' experiences, plus one truly horrendous one (pathological liar and cheat) that nearly broke me. Then, a couple of months ago, I met someone truly amazing online. We are spending the festive season together. :))

You know, truly, fuck what anyone else thinks about online dating (because yes, in some sectors there is still a slight stigma in 2013, for some bizarre reason). Keep it as a valuable tool in your arsenal of 'ways to meet available people'. Enjoy meeting women and hanging out.

Also, go out and join a sporting club or gym or whatever, work on feeling fit and awesome (note that I said feeling, not looking), eat good food, take care of yourself physically and mentally.

You sound like a considerate, intelligent, thoughtful person. You're 27; I bet you're a fucking catch. Love yourself first, and hang in there.
posted by Salamander at 7:55 PM on December 4, 2013

I'll tell you what works for this type of thing: EMDR. People tend to think of it only for big traumas but it works for tons of other stuff as well.

Seriously fast and very thorough.
posted by trinity8-director at 8:15 PM on December 4, 2013

Don't worry too much about freaking her out because I'm guessing you aren't. You are around the same age. You aren't in a position of power over her. You aren't some married guy hitting on her. You've never even asked her out let alone pressured her or said something uncomfortably sexual. And even after she told you she had a boyfriend you continued to be friendly with her. So really don't feel ashamed or guilty.

And this is coming from someone that is really touchy about being hit on in the work place, but nothing you have done would upset me. I would just think oh the nice guy at work has a little crush on me and let you down gently, which is exactly what she did by casually letting you know she has a boyfriend. No big deal. Don't beat yourself up.

Also maybe look at this as something that woke up something inside you and helped you make positive changes in your life. Who knows where that will lead for you. Sometimes people come into your life for reasons you don't understand and even if you weren't meant to be with them, they changed the course of your life in some unexpected way that opens up new possibilities that you never would have found without them. Maybe she's that for you.
posted by whoaali at 8:28 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

afterwards I feel guilty and ashamed. Which ends up being pretty hurtful because I'm embarrassed about my obvious flirtation. I then spiral into a small depression about it.

As you say, you have confidence issues and it's pretty clear. Why should you be ashamed or embarrassed about your feelings? My instinct is the same as Salamander's:

Also, go out and join a sporting club or gym or whatever, work on feeling fit and awesome (note that I said feeling, not looking), eat good food, take care of yourself physically and mentally

The better you take care of yourself, the more confidence you'll naturally have.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:04 PM on December 4, 2013

Seconding everyone who's reassured you that you probably aren't freaking her out, and you're doing all the right things for reframing it and being respectful. I too am a woman, and there have been a few men over the years who obviously had crushes on me, yet never acted on it because I had gently let them down. That's, like, pretty much a best possible outcome and I'm happy when a respectful, professional-friendly relationship can continue.

It's true you don't often hear about this sort of case, especially in the workplace. It can be what people call "harmless flirtation", though naturally it's harder when you feel a real tug for someone. As long as she's clearly cool with you, and you're respecting her boundaries, you're OK.

Another thing that I've found very helpful (because I've also been on the flip side) is to remind yourself that no matter how strong the pull may be now, in a few months it may well have dissipated and you'll be like, "okay, I get that they're attractive, but, erm, hello me? What was that infatuation all about?" And I say that as someone who's been single for nearly a decade now. You don't always need someone else in your life for an infatuation to dissipate. It can just happen. One day you look at them and are all, "oh, X." and it hits you that a month ago, you would have been "OMG it's X who lights up my day and ohhhh dimples and laughter that is like ambrosia for the ears sigh". And you sit for a second and are like, "okay. Well. Moving on."
posted by fraula at 11:59 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

The fancy name for this is propinquity. It's normal and you're being decent about it, so there's no reason for the guilt. The fact that you're so self-conscious about it probably means you're not doing anything to harm her, so I'd just accept it as a fact of psychology rather than some horrible thing for which you're to blame. The crushy feelings will eventually fade, as fraula says above.

Confidence: last time I was single, I did the 100 push ups thing (although I never reached 100 before meeting someone :-). I'd second the thing about finding activities outside work. I've found that partner dancing (e.g. ballroom, swing, salsa, whatever) is fun and gets you into contact with lots of women without the up-front expectations of stuff which is explicitly about meeting your mate: the best attitude to take there is to make friends with people and see what happens.
posted by pw201 at 4:17 AM on December 5, 2013

You sound nice and normal! What a relief :)

Your feelings are your feelings, and you're acting appropriately. You can minimize contact a little, but it is normal to have chemistry with coworkers (both sexual and non-sexual chemistry). At work, you can try channeling this energy into your projects. Outside of work... go out there and meet some ladies!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:33 AM on December 5, 2013

Never be embarrassed about a crush! There's nothing wrong with them and as long as you're appropriate and don't make your crush her problem, she'll likely only be inclined to look more kindly on you. (Not to crush you back if she's not into you, just to feel positively towards you).

Seriously, only people with low self esteem despise the people who have crushes on them. The rest of humanity tends to be tickled and respect your good taste even if they don't reciprocate your feelings. Thank goodness we are not in middle school any more.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:57 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older I'm not doing a cigar and Red Sox tickets four...   |   Creative ways to spruce up an apartment kitchen... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.