I need to NOT like this person. Immediately.
March 7, 2014 9:32 PM   Subscribe

I've started a real nice friendship with someone in a serious relationship. I can't help it but I feel like I'm starting to develop strong feelings. I need to stop and prevent these thoughts from going any further.

I've posted a question previously about having an infatuation on a co-worker. As it turns out, we have a shared interest in film. Out of nowhere, she invited me out to catch a flick we both wanted to see. This soon developed into us exchanging movies and having conversations about them both at work (occasionally) and us going out and catching new movies. We've done this a few times and have ended with us having drinks afterwards.

We got to know each other more and now we have a nice friendship going on. She occasionally talks about her boyfriend, we sometimes talk about ourselves personally and it's all just fun and we both have a real good time. Time passes real quickly and I enjoy her company. We have great chemistry. But tonight we caught a flick, had some drinks and I feel myself feeling jealous and envious of her boyfriend. It's definitely the alcohol and the loneliness I've been wrapped up lately that end up making me feel this way. But I honestly like talking to her and I find her attractive.

I know that we should probably stop doing this, because she's a co-worker - she's in relationship - and it's been awhile since I've been romantic with anyone, so I don't need much advice on that. We're both at a job that's just a day job for right now. It's just my habit of personalizing/romanticizing that I need to stop. I don't want to continue this thought pattern and end up down a road that would lead to nothing but hurt. Any advice on how to appreciate this friendship more would be great. I just need to be reminded that these feelings will pass. I don't want to do anything stupid. Or some tips that would help me avoid all of these romantic thoughts that my mind conjures up.

I've been actively looking for people to casually date but I've hit a real slump. Online dating hasn't been working out too much and it's been incredibly hard.

Thank you
posted by MeaninglessMisfortune to Human Relations (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You need to stop seeing her. Now.
posted by LarryC at 9:35 PM on March 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

No alcohol around inappropriate love interests. Ideally, no spending time in darkened rooms alone with inappropriate love interests. Invite other people, or make an excuse not to. Basically, don't do things with her that are date-like until you're not feeling like you'd like to be dating.
posted by Sequence at 9:40 PM on March 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Don't see her again without the boyfriend being there. Tell her you want to get to know him better too.
posted by Etrigan at 9:42 PM on March 7, 2014 [15 favorites]

We cannot force ourselves to feel what we do not feel and vice versa. I'm sorry to tell you that there is really only one way for you to do what you're asking here. Stop spending time with her. You may be able to resume seeing her socially once your feelings pass, but they aren't going to go away if you're spending time with her - particularly in date-like situations (movie, dinner, drinks). They'll only develop further.

Sorry. Tell her you're busy. Start online dating or other methods (going to bars) if you'd like to find someone to date. Stop seeing her. Focus on a new hobby. Tough it out and you'll get through this crush.
posted by sockermom at 9:49 PM on March 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

You can't logic your way out of feelings. You're just going to have to back out of this situation.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:50 PM on March 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I agree that you definitely need to stop hanging out/seeing movies with her. Just do not spend time with her outside work.

This is something that has helped me in similar situations though- think of it as you don't want to date her, you want to date an alternate world version of her that doesn't have a relationship and who reciprocates feelings. That person just doesn't exist. So your feelings are for a non existent person.

YMMV but that helped me put a finality on things that ended the sort of hoping that leads to torture.
posted by sweetkid at 9:58 PM on March 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Have you thought about telling her how you feel? You're aware that what you feel is inappropriate to act on, and you're good friends. I get the feeling that ceasing to see her outside of work will either hurt her feelings ("what am I, chopped liver?") or hurt her feelings AND generate a confrontation and drama. If she knows that you like her as a friend, and that you're a little infatuated but trying not to make it a thing, she'll be more understanding if you choose to mostly see her with other people. And you're more likely to keep the friendship. You may be able to get to the point of joking around about it, which might help. Also, if you have a crush on her and are truly not going to do anything about it and you've discussed that, this may deepen that friendship while lessening the tension that feeds back into the crush.

The thing about infatuation is, in my experience, that it has to wear itself out and you have to concentrate on not feeling deprived or bitter. Say "There is love in my life, and I am working on finding the right person for me" in the mirror every night to remind yourself, if that might help. Remind yourself how grateful you are for the friends in your life. Not dating someone gets easier over time; feelings come and go, and you aren't required to act on them.

(I was a closeted in a hostile environment for a long time, so it's sort of the same thing. You get used to it. Try to shut down your romance for this woman without shutting down your romantic feelings in general, because that's a PITA to undo later. And don't drink around her or when you're feeling especially lonely, it's not helpful.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:20 PM on March 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

You already know the answer: stop going out with her outside of work. It's pretty simple.

The other option is tell her how you feel, but there are a lot of possible outcomes with that you should consider.

I found myself starting to like a friend of mine who was straight, so rather than put myself through that, I decided to just stop hanging out with her so much. It worked. I got over it before it got past the point where I wouldn't be able to get over it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:25 PM on March 7, 2014

Date someone else. Start an okcupid account or something.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:42 PM on March 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm going to (respectfully) disagree with the advice given above.

While you both have the responsibility to be civil, respectable humans, you are in a much "safer" position than she is. She already has a SO and is flirting with infidelity disaster by continuing this friendship. On the other hand, you're unattached. While it probably isn't advisable to foster this kind of friendship with an attached person, you haven't really done anything wrong yet. As long as you aren't trying to actively sabotage the relationship she is in, I don't really see a problem with this.

That said, you are probably setting yourself up for disappointment. If you are okay with that risk, I think it would be fair of you to be completely honest with her. At a very non-emotional time, tell her that if she wasn't dating someone else you would pursue her romantically. Based on her reaction, you should know how to proceed.

I remember being in your position a few years ago. Some of the best (and worst) experiences and relationships I had came from choosing people that common sense would have said to stay away from. When it comes to these types of friends/relationships, you are gambling with emotions. Just like gambling with money, don't put it on the table if you aren't willing to lose it. If you want to protect fragile emotions, you should walk away. If you want to roll the dice and hope for the big payoff, you have to be willing to take the risk.

Tread carefully - you are on dangerous (but not technically against the rules) ground.
posted by _DB_ at 12:32 AM on March 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

The way karma works is you're probably going to get your ass handed to you either way.

There are no rules to hanging out and dating, and you're going to get a lot of Puritanical dating advice on MetaFilter, which is probably what you're seeking anyway - somebody to reinforce the idea that this is a bad move. My advice would be to watch out for "magical thinking," the idea that some compulsive, poorly conceived relationship with a technically unavailable person that you happen to see on a daily basis (due to work) is like the one. In other words, "the worse the odds, the greater the reward." You are probably self-aware that this is just your desperation talking. This is like going all-in in poker when there is only one card in the deck that can save you. It's a bad habit that needs to be unlearned. You're better off learning to love yourself first and foremost.

Couldn't hurt to back off for a minute, gather your bearings, and maybe even at some point if you still feel the same way, tell the person how you feel and stay out of the results. That would be a respectful thing to do. Hell, even give the other person an opportunity to get out of their current relationship cleanly. Who knows, maybe if you show some dignity, the universe will reward you with a peaceful mind, a loving heart and a great partner. Impulses can be controlled, or at the very least, tempered by reason, self-love and grace.

And seriously, fuck online dating. Don't take any of that personally.
posted by phaedon at 1:08 AM on March 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

You shouldn't tell her. That may make your life easier but puts her in an awkward position for no good reason.

Don't drink alcohol with her. That is more likely to set off maudlin feelings.

Not seeing her is one way to handle it, but I don't think it's necessary. One thing I've done to help get unproductive thoughts out of my system is to notice when I'm having them and consciously choose to think about some other predetermined topic instead. For example, I stopped obsessing over one guy in part by thinking about my plans for my garden every time I caught myself at it. It could also help to think warm fuzzy feelings about how awesome this friendship is and will be if it stays platonic.
posted by metasarah at 5:04 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are not a slave to your emotions. You are an adult human being. You have it within yourself to control your feelings for her and accept simply being friends and coworkers.

Do not tell her how you feel. That isn't fair to her and puts her in a very awkward, and probably very uncomfortable, position.

If alcohol has that kind of effect on you, you need to avoid drinking with her around.

Enjoy her friendship and accept that's all that it is.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:29 AM on March 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Having romantic feelings for someone and maybe getting your heart broken a little isn't something that's going to kill you. You know it's just a friendship, and she knows it's just a friendship, and if you both act like grownups, the only thing that's going to happen is that you'll get a little wistful, and then move on. Crushes are things that take you through the gamut of emotions, and I think once in awhile a big crush is just plain fun.
posted by xingcat at 5:48 AM on March 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

Or some tips that would help me avoid all of these romantic thoughts that my mind conjures up.

The thing about a crush or infatuation is that you almost always put the person on a pedestal and create an ideal version out of them. However - she's human, she has flaws, and isn't that person.

One big way I've found to stifle my own desires in these areas is to recognize that even IF something happened between you today, she would be cheating on her partner. Is that the kind of person you want to be involved with - someone who pursues their impulses over their commitments? Someone who breaks hearts?

If not, then this conundrum is something to focus on - any time there is inappropriate intimacy, touching, alcohol, etc. - this is her boundary that she sets with people who are not her partner. Would you be okay with it if you were her partner? If not, then you have clear evidence of an incompatibility with you two.

I would also advise against ever drinking with her again, as even our basest impulses are hard to control in that state. Bow out of future drinks events and focus on opportunities for platonic hanging out, particularly with other coworkers. Reset the boundaries.
posted by rutabega at 6:08 AM on March 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't see what's so terrible about your telling your feelings to somebody who's fine with going out to movies and for drinks afterward with somebody (who's of the gender that she's attracted to) other than her boyfriend. Would it be that much of a surprise to her that you, a single person, would start to have romantic feelings for somebody with whom he has "great chemistry" (interesting phrase to use about "just a friend" -- doesn't chemistry imply a two-way interaction?) ? She's participating in this, so I don't see why she has to be protected from it.

I'm much older than a lot of the people here, but I would wonder if my husband were going out several times to movies and then for drinks in the evening with another woman. And I would never do that -- if I wanted to see a movie with a male friend (I am straight, female) that my husband didn't want to see, I'd go in the afternoon, and no alcohol. And if I were single and a man friend with a girlfriend asked me out to a movie and then drinks, I'd question that too.

I would want to know more about her relationship with her boyfriend. How long has it been going on? Do they live together? Maybe they have an open relationship? Maybe she wants to "cheat on" him and has done so before? Maybe she's questioning the relationship. A boyfriend isn't a husband. The gambling analogy maybe is not so apt here. People change partners all the time and many many people "overlap." I agree with the person above who said you're going to get a lot of Puritanical dating advice here. And so you did.

If it were me I probably wouldn't tell my feelings at first, but, rather, check out her feelings toward her current boyfriend. Ask her more about her current relationship. See how stable you think it is. Of course you're taking a risk, but you take a risk any time you go for love. But I wouldn't spend too much time on this exploratory project, and listen carefully to what she's saying. If you get a clear sense that she's happy with her boyfriend, then I agree with the people who are telling you to back away. And/or you can tell her as part of that conversation, or another one, that you find her interesting and you're single and (you could say this in a sweet charming way) it's just too hard for you cause she's so great. You don't think she'll get it without you're seeming creepy? You're NOT creepy. This is a perfectly normal and expectable situation.

Yes of course you have to weigh the risks and benefits, but I have listened to so many conversations of people talking about the horrors of "cheating" and should they risk telling their feelings to somebody who has a "boyfriend" -- and some of these people are *twelve years old*, in middle school! It's lovely to develop this sense of morality and ethics, but really, you know? Nobody in that group of 12-year-olds is going to marry their "boyfriend". The reason people have these rules because they *want to break them* -- and they do. Frequently.
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:39 AM on March 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

I wonder if she's unhappy with her boyfriend and sniffing around. She should be old enough to know what kind of activities these are and put the kibosh on anything romantic. If you really want her, ask her how it's going with the bf. If she's in lurve, back the F off. If she hems & haws then you can mention your feelings and see what she says. By the way you would be a girlfriend stealer, but just don't get physical and let her make the choice to end things with the bf first. Or just back off right away and don't even go there. Up to you.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:05 AM on March 8, 2014

I'm with those who say that you should talk to her -- embarrassing as it will be -- because she should probably know how you feel, either way. If her response is 'oh god, I didn't know that -- I'm sorry, we should probably cool it' then she'll be helping you deal with things. If she tells you that she's thinking of breaking up with her boyfriend, then you'll both get to decide what to do. And if she says that she's enjoying flirting with you but doesn't intend to break up with her boyfriend, then *you* get to decide what to do.

I've never been upset when someone (male or female) confessed that they had a bit of a crush on me. It's very flattering, if a little embarrassing, and it's certainly far better to communicate than to run away.
posted by jrochest at 8:18 AM on March 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

So the answer to your question of how to stop having these feelings is to stop hanging out with her. Ideally, without telling her anything, so she thinks you're just rude and stops wanting to hang out with you either.

The other question you could have asked would be "what should I do about the fact that I have a nice connection with an attractive women I work with, who enjoys my company, shares my interests, goes out drinking with me, and also has a boyfriend?" and the answer to that is to confess your crush and see what she says. Going out to movies and drinks with a guy other than her partner is very possibly an indicator that her relationship isn't all that long for this world anyway.

Relationships overlap ALL the time. There's a huge disconnect between how people moralize about it and what people actually do.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:16 AM on March 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if she were having problems with her boyfriend and using your relationship as an opportunity for emotional infidelity.

If I were you, I would do one of these things:
--Don't make plans, and be "busy" if she suggests something. Be perfectly friendly, as she is a co-worker, and go ahead and go out with her when other people are all going out together. But don't get into 1-on-1 conversations with her in dark bars.
--The next time you are out having drinks after a fun evening at the movies, tell her that you are starting to feel like the time you spend hanging out is more date-like than buddy-buddy like, and that you are finding yourself enjoying that aspect of it. Tell her that this makes you uncomfortable because she's in a relationship. Tell her that you'd like to just be social friends rather than 1-on-1 friends, but if she's ever in a position to date, you'd love to take her out on a real, honest, date.
posted by tk at 10:23 AM on March 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

The big problem, as I see it, isn't so much the "boyfriend" angle as the "co-worker" angle. Would you be able to be pleasant and professional with this woman if things went sour? Do either of you have a vindictive streak? Are you peers, as opposed to one being higher up than the other?

Some relationships overlap, and it could be that Co-worker would dump Old Boyfriend to be with OP if things worked out. On the other hand...it's possible that she won't break up with Old Boyfriend and there will be all kinds of drama and cat-and-mouse games between OP and Co-worker. And OP might not be able to distance himself from a co-worker causing him romantic misery as he could from some woman he met on OKCupid or at a coffee shop or wherever.

It might be best to talk with her and proceed accordingly. If there's any hint that this might turn into a drama-fest (for instance: she has no intention of breaking up with Old Boyfriend but wants to keep things flirty and full of potential with you), then start dialing things back.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:31 AM on March 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have firsthand experience with infidelity. I was unfaithful to my husband and, during my divorce, I spent some time in the company of men I normally would not give the time of day to, some of whom had a long history of repeated affairs or similar. I was miserable and read everything I could get my hands on about infidelity, as much research-based as I could find. Here is my take:

1) I suggest you read up on the topic of infidelity. It isn't pretty. Almost everyone thinks they are the special exception, this is True Love, blah blah blah. Nope. Not remotely. This has been going on since the dawn of time and will continue long after you cease to exist.

2) You have almost zero hope of working things out with her if this leads to an affair. You think you are seeing a "whole person" and are attracted to that whole person. Nope. You are seeing bits and pieces of a person who is currently getting some of their needs met through someone else. IF the affair worked while she was with him, the relationship has poor odds of working once she leaves. People are almost always unfaithful with someone who meets the needs their current partner is failing to meet. This does not mean the "other man/woman" is a better fit for them. On the contrary, it just means they are half an answer, just a different half than the lame one they currently have.

3) It is pretty uncommon for an affair to actually kill a relationship. Research shows that usually the relationship was dying and the person sought out the affair to help them end it -- to have a squeeze during the transition, to give them an excuse to break up, etc. In most cases, if they do leave their primary relationship for the other man/woman, that relationship also ends within about a year. At which point, the individual goes looking for someone who can meet their needs better than the two lame half answers they were balancing.

4) Some of the points I made above, about how she is getting some needs met elsewhere, etc, seriously skews your perception of what she has to offer you. If she is getting laid regularly, you are likely dealing with the relatively calm, cool, collected version of her which might cease to exist the minute she stops sleeping with the guy. Her relationship is a big part of her life. Who she is currently is substantially influenced by that relationship. You like her the way she is now? Great! That in no way means you will like her once he is gone. It doesn't sound like you want to arrange to be the other man for the next two decades. The odds are really, really poor that you and her can arrange happily ever after with a relationship started this way, assuming you are as compatible as you think you are, which is really not that likely.

I strongly suggest you find a way to get your own needs met so this stops being a big deal to you. Consider masturbating enough to make sure you are not sexually needy while around her. Find someone who is available to spend time with. Or find some other emotional outlet entirely -- it does not have to be romance per se. My observation is that people who crave strong emotions tend to do things like volunteer work, spiritual/religious stuff, get involved in bdsm or polyamory or something of the sort. Not getting enough emotional outlet in your life? Go volunteer at something that will make you cry -- a homeless shelter, a children's cancer ward, or something else entirely that you can personally identify with that will jerk your little heart strings. Then little miss feel good and a movie won't be such a big damn deal.
posted by Michele in California at 10:54 AM on March 8, 2014 [15 favorites]

I've started a real nice friendship with someone in a serious relationship. I can't help it but I feel like I'm starting to develop strong feelings. I need to stop and prevent these thoughts from going any further.

If the relationship is *that* serious, she'll be able to tell you to go and kick rocks. But she hasn't.

I know that we should probably stop doing this, because she's a co-worker - she's in relationship - and it's been awhile since I've been romantic with anyone, so I don't need much advice on that.

1. If you want to stop this because she's a co-worker, that makes sense. Romance at work often ends badly...but then again, there's like 20% of people who find their mates at work.

2. If you want this to stop because she's in a relationship and you feel as if your boundaries have been crossed, you may want to flat out tell her this. Chances are that she will either say:
a. yeah, this can't happen.
b. umm yeah, im not really that into my boyf anymore.

Either way, talk to her not random internet strangers who will judge you for finding happiness. Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:14 AM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's in questions like this that I most feel the generation gap between myself and the modal Metafilterian. I'm an older guy, and in my day, we tended to think it was worth the risk of pain to pursue someone we felt a connection with.

Yes, there was often pain and awkwardness involved, but sometimes it paid off and happiness was the result! And even the pain and awkwardness seem sweet in retrospect.

It would be scary and possibly embarrassingly awkward, but really, would it be so terrible to have a respectful, low-key talk with her and let her know what's going on with you? You could still decide to cut back or even cut off your time with her, but maybe things will go the other way too! Or maybe she can look out for you and try to set you up with a friend of hers.

I'm not suggesting pushing yourself on someone who is not interested, nor am I suggesting that you become a pest to her or an embarrassment to yourself! If you take the risk and she's not interested, you can be a gentleman and apologize for putting her in an awkward position and promise never to bring it up again.

You're lonely, you want to be in a relationship, and you've found a colleague who seems to click with you. This is a rare thing and I personally wouldn't toss it away.
posted by jasper411 at 11:25 AM on March 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

Ok, I'm coming at this from a different perspective -
at no point have you said that these feelings are something you need to take seriously, you've even said that it's more that you're lonely than that you're OMG compatible. So golly, don't mention the crush to her, and you don't necessarily need to cut off contact with her.

You just sound like you're lonely, and you have a new friend crush.
A new friend can be so awesome that you kind of get displaced romantic feelings for them. It's kind of a good sign actually, for the friendship, because you just think that they are that awesome. Seriously, some people get them even for friends who are inappropriate genders (for them), and then get super-confused about what it all means.

So, here's what you're going to focus on: Wouldn't it be awesome to have this person as a friend in 10, 20 years time? This could literally, be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. This crush you're having, is because you really like them, but you're going to get over this hump, so that you can be long term friends with them, and they are going to be so, so happy for you when you do find a partner. When you're drinking wine and watching movies way in the future, you'll kind of be amused at the crush you had with your good friend, but you stuck it out.
If you ever feel like you couldn't just be friends with her, or wouldn't be interested in hanging out with her if you were 'just friends', then please, please, do back off, and possibly drop all contact. That's not fair.

In the meantime, you are going to make a point of never getting drunk with her, until you're over your infatuation. You're going to invite other people along, as often as possible. You're going to hang out with other friends as often as possible, seriously, to help with your loneliness. It might even be a good idea to ask her for advice about your dates, or let her know how it's going, to reinforce the idea in your head that this is a friend, not a dating object.
Also, I'd really really recommend getting a massage. Just a normal massage, because people get touch starved when they're single, and get lonely for any kind of intimacy. If you have friends you can hug, hug them.

If you've been lonely, and suddenly have one of your relationship needs (friendship, fun, emotional support, intimacy, touch, sex etc) met by someone, you will naturally try and jump at the chance to have some of those other needs that aren't being met, met by that person, but often that's just not going to work out. Figure out what needs you can get met elsewhere, it will also help on the dating scene, because you'll be feeling comfortable in yourself, and not deprived or lonely.

Good luck.

(And if you think you're going to fuck things up with her, please, please take a break).
posted by Elysum at 8:37 PM on March 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

If you ever feel like you couldn't just be friends with her, or wouldn't be interested in hanging out with her if you were 'just friends', then please, please, do back off, and possibly drop all contact. That's not fair.

Or for God sakes, make your move. You get one life. Other people's bad relationships aren't sacred cows for you to protect. Her boyfriend sounds like an idiot for tolerating your dating her. How do you know that you're entitled to something with her? —because you both want it.

Elysum makes a good point about it probably not working out. You have to decide if the sex is worth possibly losing the friendship.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:06 PM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Of course, this is assuming you're in a social milieu where you're allowed to have opposite sex friends. If you wouldn't be able to have her as a friend when you get a girlfriend, then yeah, there's not much point pursuing this as a friendship.

I honestly can't relate to any of the comments about how her boyfriend shouldn't be 'allowing' her to socialise with you though, so if that's too big a cultural difference, my advice may not be useful.

Seriously, a partner telling me who I can and can't socialise with when I'm not with them? Wow. Instant DTMFA.
I've never cheated on anybody, and the only time I could see that level of control from a partner being semi-acceptable is if someone did have a history of cheating, acknowledged they had a problem with it, and accepted their partner vetting their social relationships as a condition of maintaining the relationship...

posted by Elysum at 1:53 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Someone above in the thread suggested that you should ask to meet the boyfriend — why you would be the one to decide to waste an evening like that I have no idea. When the boyfriend realized that a single guy is going out for drinks with his girlfriend and possibly developing feelings for her, he should probably have met you, or made sure that she is making it very clear to you that there is no chance of a relationship so that you don't get the wrong idea and start imagining something down the line (and start making moves). It has nothing to do with controlling her. That this isn't happening means that either she is deceiving him, or he is an idiot. If she is deceiving him, you probably don't want to date her long term.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:39 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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