Is it unfair to tell my colleague I'm in love with her?
January 23, 2015 11:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm in love with my female colleague. We went on a date in 2014 and left it as friends. Now I'm thinking of finding a new job - should I tell her why or is this unfairly burdening someone else with my problem?

Me: 34 year old man. Her: 33 year old woman. Both single after being in other long term relationships that each ended in the last half of 2014. We both work in a corporate environment in the US. We're great friends at work, have lunch and dinners together at work a lot (long hours) and attend lots of functions and corporate gigs together, and people have often commented and joked that we make a great couple. Our desks are about 10 yards away from each other. I've been here for 7 years, she's been here for 5 years.

I couldn't stand it any longer so in November last year I asked her on a date, telling her I'd had a crush on her for many years. She was unsure but decided to give it a go, so we went out for dinner and a movie in early December. I loved it but at the end of the date she said she had trouble seeing us as more than friends.

I thought I'd be OK with that and had a few weeks' vacation lined up anyway, so I went off on my vacation but thought about her constantly. Now that I'm back at work with her she's all I think about, and it's making me miserable. Nobody would know though... it's a huge charade of positivity on my part and although we still get along well, things are slightly awkward and we've never mentioned the date.

Even though I've been with my employer for almost 7 years now, I'm thinking about leaving and finding a new job (in a new city?) because I don't know if I can continue just being friends. It's affecting my work and I know it'll negatively impact on potential future relationships (as it has on past relationships, unfortunately).

My question is: is it unfair of me to tell her why I'm leaving? It'll undoubtedly come up. Is this the time for a white lie, just saying I found a new job? Is telling her that it's not just a crush - that I'm in love with her and that's why I have to leave - unfairly burdening her with my issues and making this her problem, or is it respectful and honest? Admittedly a part of my motivation for telling the truth is that it might win her over and I think that's manipulative. Would it be comforting to someone to know that someone out there does love them, even if it's not returned?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (53 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, it is unfair to tell her. She knows how you feel (at least she knows you have feelings for her), she was very nice and respectful in telling you she doesn't deserve them -- she didn't even white lie and give you a "don't like dating people I work with thing", she just told you she wasn't interested. Good for her.

This is not her issue, and it would not be nice of you to make it her issue. It's not like leaving a job after 7 years is a weird thing to do, just say "it was time to move on".

And as a special note, to this:
Would it be comforting to someone to know that someone out there does love them, even if it's not returned?
The answer is very, very strongly, unambiguously, no room for error: No.
posted by brainmouse at 11:57 AM on January 23, 2015 [77 favorites]

Is this the time for a white lie, just saying I found a new job?

Yes. She doesn't want to be romantic with you and telling her will only make her uncomfortable.
posted by asterix at 11:57 AM on January 23, 2015 [11 favorites]

She already told you how she felt. Find a new job. If she asks why, make the kind of noncommittal remark about "taking on new challenges" that we all make when we find a new job. Work on letting this go.
posted by trunk muffins at 11:58 AM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

If a colleague and friend did this to me I would find it far from comforting. It sounds like she has been very clear that she views you as a friend. Love means respecting her feelings.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:59 AM on January 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

I get the desire to emote a little for the relief you think it might bring, but you need to do the compassionate thing, not the satisfying one.

Keep it to yourself.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:59 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry your feelings weren't returned. That's so painful. I would let sleeping dogs lie and not tell her the real reason for your departure. It's the kind thing for you to do for someone you care about.
posted by cecic at 11:59 AM on January 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

You could tell her - without necessarily being manipulative - if she asks why you're leaving.

It's unlikely to win her over though. You've been right there under her nose for five years and she's known for some time that you have a crush on her and she's decided not to act on it. And not because you work together (which would be a totally valid reason for saying no), but because she didn't see you as more than friends. That's not the sort of reason that goes away.

Honestly, 5 years is a long time to be hung up on one person with no return & these days 7 years is a long time with a single employer. It's a great, healthy decision to move on. Honestly, I'd consider going no contact at this point so that you can really leave this behind you.
posted by yogalemon at 12:00 PM on January 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

Do not tell her you're in love with her. What's the point? She already shot you down once. Telling her you're in love with her will do nothing but make her feel uncomfortable. It's not going to make her jump up and realize you're the one for her. It will probably do the opposite.

Is this the time for a white lie, just saying I found a new job?

Do exactly that and do not elaborate further.

Seriously, don't.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:01 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yes, it's unfair. You'd be doing it probably half-hoping she would say "No, don't go! I know I said I just see us as friends, but now that I might be losing you, I've re-examined my feelings and I love you."

That is not going to happen and, really, you know that.

And maybe part of you wants her to be pained that you are leaving.

That would be wrong of you to do, too.

You know where she stands. She already knows how you feel (if not the depth). None of it will make any difference. Move on to a new job in a new town with new people and new challenges.

Leave her behind to live her life nonethewiser. If you love her, you'll spare her the awkwardness. You'll be doing yourself a favor, too, in the long run.
posted by inturnaround at 12:01 PM on January 23, 2015 [13 favorites]

You may have an infatuation - and I agree with the others that she knows and has made her decision about that - but "in love" is a two-way thing. If you declare that that is the condition of the relationship, you will be telling her that her actual feelings and consent are not of any significance to you. That is the opposite of love. This is how restraining orders begin.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:02 PM on January 23, 2015 [20 favorites]

Is this the time for a white lie, just saying I found a new job?


Is telling her that it's not just a crush - that I'm in love with her and that's why I have to leave - unfairly burdening her with my issues and making this her problem, or is it respectful and honest?

Making it her problem.

Admittedly a part of my motivation for telling the truth is that it might win her over and I think that's manipulative.


Would it be comforting to someone to know that someone out there does love them, even if it's not returned?


Your manipulative impulse is understandable, but you know it's manipulative, so it's on you not to behave poorly. It's also totally understandable that you might harbor some anger at the situation/at her for being the reason you need to kind of upend your world, but again: not appropriate to express that to her. I suggest talking to a counselor or therapist during your transition to a new job, so that you can work through all of these impulses and feelings with someone who isn't her, and who has your long term best interests at heart.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:02 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Admittedly a part of my motivation for telling the truth is that it might win her over and I think that's manipulative.

You are absolutely right that this is manipulative and I just wanted to say that I think this is a very thoughtful question that shows you are really thinking about and trying to respect her feelings. Unfortunately, the answer is that no, you really can't tell her and, if she's made it clear that she's not interested and you DO tell her you love her, there's NO WAY that will win her over anyway.

Bottom line: You seem like a considerate and thoughtful person, leave the job if you need to, no matter what don't tell her, good luck.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:03 PM on January 23, 2015 [32 favorites]

Just want to emphasize that my therapy recommendation IS NOT a suggestion that I think your feelings are in any way disordered or an illness. Your feelings are 100% totally normal and human. It's just that friends can sometimes give shitty, drama-stirring advice, and you can't talk to her about it, so a therapist is a pretty good option.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:05 PM on January 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

Would it be comforting to someone to know that someone out there does love them, even if it's not returned?

I'd be indifferent, but then I'm a guy and don't much have to think through the potential ramifications of having someone out there pining for me.

I think I'd just suck it up, and move on emotionally. Join a dating site. Ask someone else out. Realize it's not going to happen with her. I would even say changing jobs over something like this makes it seem like you're 17 or in need of therapy. You can control your emotions. Just move on.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:08 PM on January 23, 2015

Wow, because the tone of some of these (otherwise spot on) answers is getting a bit harsh, let me just put out there that the fact that you are mindful of the fact that telling her you're still in love-- and that's why you're leaving--would be burdensome and experienced as manipulative, and the fact that you probably wouldn't have posted this unless you knew at some level you should allow yourself to be talked out of it, makes you a more mature and considerate and caring friend than many other (grown-ass) men I have known or heard about in this situation (including times when I've been at the receiving end in a way that felt manipulative or even punitive).
posted by blue suede stockings at 12:09 PM on January 23, 2015 [27 favorites]

I'm with Mrs. Pterodactyl - the fact that you realize that this is a manipulative impulse shows that you're a thoughtful person. So look for that new job, and when you get it, make non-committal noises about "new horizons and challenges". Go no-contact and find a partner who will appreciate you - it will be a lot easier to do that when you aren't crushing on someone who's right in front of you.

I can't figure out a way to say this nicer: I've been the woman in this situation, and when the guy found a new job, I knew (or strongly suspected) why. I was always relieved and a little grateful that he removed himself and therefore the awkwardness from the situation, but it never made me reconsider my stance on not dating - it just made me think of him in a positive light.
posted by RogueTech at 12:10 PM on January 23, 2015 [12 favorites]

I completely agree with everyone advising you not to tell her. If she asks why you're leaving, "I just need a change of scene" has the advantage of being both neutral and true.

It sounded like she was respectful of you and your feelings. Be the same way on the way out. I'm sorry for your difficulty and hope your change brings something good.
posted by Gelatin at 12:17 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Even though I've been with my employer for almost 7 years now, I'm thinking about leaving and finding a new job (in a new city?) because I don't know if I can continue just being friends. It's affecting my work and I know it'll negatively impact on potential future relationships (as it has on past relationships, unfortunately).

Do you like your job? Because if you do, I would stay and 1) cool the friendship and start distancing yourself from her and 2)work hard on developing other interests outside of this crush and throw yourself into online dating and hobbies. Because once you find the right person for you, your feelings for your crush won't be as powerful and at that point, you might be able to resume a friendship.
posted by vivzan at 12:18 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't think it's "unfair" to tell her the truth. Unfair is when you come up with a great idea and someone else overhears it and decides to sell it as their own. Unfair is when a person gets charged with a crime they didn't commit. Unfair is when you get paid half of what your colleague get's paid despite doing the same amount of work. Telling someone a simple truth about how you feel isn't "unfair". It's just telling the truth. If she can't handle it then that's her issue and not yours. However- this doesn't mean I'm necessarily recommend you telling her...

The question is why are you telling her? Are you telling her simply to get it out in the open so that you guys can part in complete peaceful honesty? Or are you telling her because you expect her to change her mind or treat you differently by doing so? If it's the latter, then you are projecting expectations onto her and THAT would be unfair.

However it would be unfair to you if I were to say- no, you're supposed to suffer in silence and just pretend you're a-ok when you're not and she's the one that's supposed to be sheltered from reality while you're dying inside. You're both grown-ups and simply telling it like it is without drama can be done. But know this- She knows how you feel and it's very, very unlikely she will ever change her mind about this. If this is really affecting your work and your life to the point where you think changing jobs and place will truly benefit you, then by all means please do so. And if you want to part ways in honesty and just let her know how you feel there's no crime in that. How maturely she responds to that simple truth will speak more about her than anything else. Just really ask yourself first- what do you want out of this? And be honest with yourself. For if you're giving honesty it's only fair that you be 100% ok with her giving it back to you - in no matter what form- and hold absolutely no resentment towards her for it. Even if it doesn't make you feel so hot afterwards.
posted by manderin at 12:20 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

A classmate in college did this to me right before we graduated. He wrote me this big long letter about how I tortured him daily, how he was the only person who really loved me, and how he felt so sure we were meant to be together.

I spoke to this person once during one class, because it was part of an assignment. I didn't even know his name. And here it was that he'd basically been stalking me and pining for me for 4 years despite me never demonstrating any inherent interest in him.

Can you imagine how creepy and upsetting it was to hear this from someone I was fundamentally not interested in? You are venturing down that same path. Let it go. You are in love with the idea of this woman. If you really truly loved and respected her, you'd have moved on. You gotta get over this, and you can't make it her problem by telling her.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:20 PM on January 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'm a woman who is currently dealing with a (potential) similar situation from the other side. A confession of feelings would seriously creep me out even more than I already am. It's definitely not "comforting."

She has already considered dating you and decided not to. Like some of the other people who have answered your questions, I'm curious about why you have been nursing an unrequited crush for so long, especially if you were in a relationship. What is so special about her? Do you think there might be something subconscious going on that is making you hang onto the idea of her, rather than find someone who likes you back? These would be good things to explore in therapy. This sounds like a pretty extreme situation. Maybe if you sorted out your feelings you wouldn't have to leave your job. Good jobs are hard to come by these days and it sounds like you have seniority there. I'd really think twice about such an extreme solution.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 12:28 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

is this unfairly burdening someone else with my problem?

Yes. She's not interested in you. Telling her this only puts her in an uncomfortable spot where she has to go "oh, um, sorry that your unrequited feelings for me make you want to leave, I guess it's my fault for not loving you."

Loving someone means you strive not to make them feel bad. Move on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:35 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

I just wanted to add- if you do this please don't tell her you're leaving because of her. I was assuming you wanted to tell her your feelings AFTER all your bags have been packed and you were saying goodbye knowing you're never going to see her again. Perhaps a silly assumption to have made. If you tell her beforehand then it's implied that you want her to stop you from going- then she'll feel like you'll want something from her and that's NOT cool.
posted by manderin at 12:39 PM on January 23, 2015

In a couple of years, you can either look back and say "oh jeez, why did I open that can of worms? I realize now that I was making it all about me and my feelings" or you can say "wow, I was so mature and exercised such self-control and kept my dignity and I am proud of myself for not making a big feelingsbomb".

You will feel better in the long run if you can pat yourself on the back for biting your tongue and moving on. The temporary satisfaction of expressing your feelings in these situations tends to become regret and embarrassment later.

Every time I have kept my mouth shut, I have been glad I did and impressed with myself for being such a grown-up when I really wanted to get angry/reveal my feelings/be all emotional all over everything.
posted by Frowner at 12:42 PM on January 23, 2015 [21 favorites]

Just get a new job in a new place and move on. The past 5 years have kept you in a situation that is making you miserable and stunting your emotional growth.

She's a friendly co-worker, and she told you flat out that she didn't want to date you. I'm telling you, if she had ANY interest at all, she would be in a relationship with you. If anything had changed since your date, she would have told you. Most people are willing to risk a lot for people they want to date. Your being a co-worker is not THE impediment to her dating you, it's not even AN impediment. She doesn't like you that way.

So no, don't tell her. Just go. Then go no contact. That way you can get over her. Grieve your feelings, and then, once you realize how much time and energy you've wasted on this crush, get back out there and be with people who are interested in dating you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:42 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do not tell her. But maybe tell a therapist, counselor or friend. I say this with the kindest of intentions: This is not her problem and it would be completely selfish of you to impose your feelings on her, knowing that she does not share them. She has the right to go to work in an environment free of your romantic and/or sexual harassment. She's not interested.

That said, it's definitely not a crime to have feelings for someone.. totally human and understandable.. but it is your responsibility, as an adult, to work through those feelings. You asked her out -- cool! -- but now find a way to come to peace with the fact that she is not interested in you. Understand that we have ALL had to do this: it is common for people to be interested in/ attracted to people who do not share those feelings. It sucks, it hurts.. but that's just life.

Think of it this way: How would you feel if someone you were not into developed an infatuation with you and tried to make you date them when you told them you weren't interested? Let's say that you thought this person was great, but you still weren't attracted to them romantically. Wouldn't it feel creepy and stressful to have to work in an environment where this person wanted to guilt-trip you into dating them? Wouldn't you rather they just sort of.. respectfully got over it?

It's great that you see that your motives in telling her you're leaving because of her would be manipulative. That shows insight on your part. Just get another job and mentally wish her the best. You WILL get over her. It's just a matter of time.
posted by Gray Skies at 12:55 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think you are correct in saying that it would be manipulative to tell her that she is the reason why you are leaving. Love means being selfless!! Why would you want to pressure her into something that would just result in what sounds like a potentially unhealthy one-sided relationship?

That being said, I think it's okay to tell her how you feel independently of your decision to quit. I think you're allowed to honour your feelings, and if you express yourself in a wholesome and healthy way with no pressure or expectations I don't think it will disturb her. Because having a crush and being in love are two different emotions, and it's been four months so I actually think that there is a possibility that the situation might be different now and that you are allowed to tell her what you feel as long as there is no element of pressure, coercion or expectation.
posted by dinosaurprincess at 12:56 PM on January 23, 2015

Look, you took your chance and asked her out once. Fair enough. However, she indicated she wasn't interested and you need to respect that and avoid the (understandable) temptation to behave manipulatively. Switching jobs may make sense for you, but don't burden her by professing your love or telling her she is the reason for your departure. Just tell everyone, including her, that that after seven years at the company you were ready for a new challenge. Maybe reference the end of your long-term relationship (you are in a period of transition in your life and that got you thinking about trying something new.)

(I think some of the answers above are too harsh about what you've done so far and what you feel. I think you can have real feelings for someone you've known for five years, worked with, and spent lots of time with at lunches, dinners, and other occasions. I don't see the point in claiming that your are just infatuated and don't actually know her. That doesn't seem to be true and I don't see evidence that you've behaved inappropriately, yet. Keep it that way and leave on a high note.)
posted by Area Man at 12:59 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Would it be comforting to someone to know that someone out there does love them, even if it's not returned?

You are conflating two things here: Love the noun, which describes fluttery feelings. Love the verb, which is very hard work. You don't love her. You have feelings for her. Love involves taking good care of someone. Telling someone you "love" them when you aren't taking good care of them is ..not nice. It's very selfish and kind of creepy. It's the sort of thing a user does.

You had your shot. She accepted your date. She doesn't want romance. If that's a problem for you, then get a different job and don't tell her why.

Also, I will suggest that your feelings are running wild precisely because she a) turned you down and b) is remaining civil. Actual relationships are rarely all up side. They are hard work from both sides if they are any good. "Unrequitted love" feels awesome because it stays in fairy tale land. It's all unicorns and the like in your mind, without having to smell their feet, deal with their dirty laundry (both literal and figurative), etc.
posted by Michele in California at 1:00 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

One thing to get very clear: You are not leaving your job because of her. You are leaving your job because of YOU. If you can't concentrate because you have feelings for her, that is in no way her problem or her fault, and it's unfair to imply that she is the reason you're going.
posted by aimedwander at 1:05 PM on January 23, 2015 [36 favorites]

Something to keep in mind: Once you're gone and she wants to keep in touch, how are going to react to communication with her? Because this isn't so much about her, but you being unable to move on emotionally. You should look into why that is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:18 PM on January 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

I have friend-zoned, and been friend-zoned by, close friends similar to this situation. It goes against the grain of most opinions here, but in this situation I don't think the friend-zoner (male or female) should be let completely off the hook, and left blissfully ignorant. If a (close) friend is aware of your feelings for them, even non-verbalized, it isn't a kindness on their part to continue the friendship with you. Indeed it could be considered selfish, taking advantage of the friend-zoned individual, leading you on. We have to take responsibility for how we treat others, and part of that is recognizing when to break off a friendship for someone else's own good.

I think he should tell her. This person is unlikely to be horribly traumatized by it. They know each other well, and she was already made aware of his feelings for her previously. Indeed she is 99% likely to finally flat-out reject him and break off contact, which will help him steel his resolve to finally move on.
posted by lizbunny at 1:23 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Leave the job. Wait at least a month and make sure you are in a new job and ask her out on a date. Make it clear it's a date. If you end up going on a few dates, and things are going well then tell her.

There's a chance she liked you but didn't want a workplace romance. But don't count on anything and don't just leave your job because you're hoping it'll end with you being in a relationship.
posted by cacao at 1:30 PM on January 23, 2015

Good God in heaven these answers.

It is not creepy that you have feelings for her. It is nothing to be ashamed of. You have done nothing wrong.

You love her. I have no problem saying that. You know her very well. You've seen her nearly every day for five years. She is your friend. I love people I've known for that long. Maybe there are some aspects of herself she hasn't shown you, because you work together, but hell, there are aspects of ourselves we hide from people we're dating for months, even years. Is it the same kind of companionate love that people mean when they talk about the person they've been married to for a decade? No, but that doesn't mean it doesn't count. There are lots of different kinds of love.

For some reason, people like to label these emotions as 'limerence,' as though by doing so they can shrink them down into a tiny box and dismiss them and treat them as if they have no power. Like experiencing 'limerence' is this slightly embarrassing physical condition, like heartburn or hemorrhoids, that you ought to do your best to refrain from talking about in polite company. Oh, limerence... you still suffer from that? Don't you know the cure is to take up regular exercise, go to therapy, and get a hobby? It's just limerence - except there is no 'just'... this infatuated, falling-in-love feeling is the most powerful set of emotions most of us will ever experience. Feeling them - even for someone who [gasp] doesn't return them - does not make you weird or pathetic or broken. I feel sorry for people who believe this. I believe that experiencing love - painful as it might be, irrational as it might be, messy as it might be - expands your heart.

Look, I've been the target of unrequited love every so often, and when I was younger, I responded in the same "Ewww, get it off me," way as a lot of the posters here. It's overwhelming to have someone direct their huge emotions at you when you don't return them. But those men were mostly respectful about it, as - it seems - are you, and that's all anyone can ask. We do not have an absolute right to be shielded from the emotions of others, even those we meet at work. Even those we would prefer to keep as friends.

If you tell her you love her, she'll probably be overwhelmed and upset and maybe even angry. She'll also live. She will almost certainly not be won over (I wish that was how it works, but it doesn't.) But you could try. If you're set on your course - quitting your job - do it. Don't say anything to her before you do, because if you're hoping she'll date you so that you won't quit your job, then yeah, that would be manipulative. But once you've quit, take her out to dinner, and at the end of dinner, you can say, "Listen, you probably know this already, but I love you and I always have. If you don't feel the same way about me, I understand, but if you ever do want to try this, I am here." Then go home, focus on your new job, and do your best to move on.

You fell in love. The person you were in love with didn't love you back. Welcome to the experience of being fully alive. Luckily, there is a lot of great poetry and music and literature about this to keep you company in your distress. Eventually, you both will be all right.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 1:43 PM on January 23, 2015 [41 favorites]

If you guys had never been out on a date (or even if you'd asked her out and she said something like "You know, I have an iron-clad policy about not dating people from work"), I could sort of see telling her. In that case, you might be genuinely unsure about whether your feelings were returned. In this case, you asked her out, she said yes, and upon dating you, SHE DECIDED SHE DID NOT WANT A ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU. Yes, that totally sucks, and hurts, and I get that it is painful. However, I strongly believe that it is unfair to continue pursuing somone AFTER they have chosen to reject you. It's not wrong or evil to develop feelings for a coworker, and as long as you're respectful (and not, say, in a position to fire them!), I think it's fine to ask them out. But if they give it a shot and aren't into you, I think that's kinda it.

If her feelings magically change, the ball is in her court and she obviously has the ability to say..."You know, I wasn't in a place for a relationship last year, but if you're still interested I'd be up for trying another date." She has chosen not to do so. That sucks, and I get that, but continuing to pursue someone who has given you an unambiguous NO is in no way going to change their opinion and is honestly pretty uncool.

I think you realize this, since you asked this question, and so trust your gut on this one. People shouldn't have to reject us over and over for us to get the message that the answer is no.

Also, I'm not sure what exactly you were considering saying. If it was more along the lines of "Hey, I'm leaving this position but I still think you're really cool, and if you'd like to date sometime call me up" I think that would be not 100% awesome (given the prior rejection), but semi-okay. It is definitely not okay to dump a feelings-bucket of "I'm being forced to leave my job because you don't looooooooove me" on someone. For one thing, you are NOT leaving your job because of her. You're leaving your job because YOU cannot deal with your feelings and handle the rejection in a healthy way without doing so. That's on you, not her. She has no obligation to date you to make your life easy and happy. If you really care for her, PLEASE do not try anything guilt-trippy like this. Best result is that she sees through it and is pissed at you for being a dick. Worst result is that she actually DOES feel guilty and bad about it, know, it sucks to make people feel bad for things that are in no way their fault or responsibility! So don't do that.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:59 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

It's not going to make her love you, if that's what you are truly wondering. At best it will be a really awkward and anticlimactic conversation that you'll beat yourself up for later, at worst, you will upset her and she will feel burdened and guilty. Maybe even mad, since she already made it clear to you that she doesn't want to date. Don't leave it on that note.

I agree she probably already knows, so it's not like you'd be handing her a nice surprise. Also, there is a very good chance that, no matter how you couch it, whatever you'd say to her would be interpreted as an accusation: "You're making me quit my job." Which is a horribly unfair thing to lay on someone.

Please don't do this-- for her sake AND your own. It's not gonna play out how you want it to. I'm sorry, unrequited love suuuuuucks and I understand where this urge is coming from. It's a fantasy, though, and I think you know that. Listen to the part of you that's talking sense, not fantasy. Good luck. Give yourself time to heal, apart from her.
posted by kapers at 2:25 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Would it be comforting to someone to know that someone out there does love them, even if it's not returned?

I've been on the receiving end of this twice - and both times it was horribly awkward and a bit painful for me. It very much felt like telling me about it was playing out some kind of script and had very little to do with me the human being.

If you need to tell her for YOU, knock yourself out. She'll deal with it. As long as you keep the conversation respectful, you're both adults and can handle difficult discussions. I wouldn't imply that your employment decisions are based on these feelings - but an honest conversation that you love her and hoped things would work out differently is reasonable.

But if you think you're telling her for HER... Don't. She knows how she feels about you. She's not going to fall in love with you based on *your* feelings. It may very well make her feel awkward and uncomfortable. There's absolutely no need to do this.

So, if you need to tell her so in five years you know you said it, sure. It will probably be a difficult conversation and most likely nothing will change. If you think she "needs" or wants to know - she very much doesn't.
posted by sonika at 2:55 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Would it be comforting to someone to know that someone out there does love them, even if it's not returned?

I've been on the receiving end of this twice - and both times it was horribly awkward and a bit painful for me.

Yeah, it sucks. Don't do it. It just spreads the pain around. That said, I think you're making a good move getting a new job to be away from her. It'll be hard to move on if you're seeing her every day.
posted by zutalors! at 3:09 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I actually sort of suspect a guy changed jobs to avoid me. He was married and one day called me "darling" or something in casual conversation. Shortly thereafter, he was no longer working there. He worked in the cafeteria. So he only really interacted with me for like five minutes a day or something. So I thought that if that was the reason he changed jobs, it was maybe an overreaction.

I chalked it up to "He was young and trying to do what he felt was the right thing to try to be faithful to his wife." He never told me he had big feels for me and he never told me he was changing jobs over me. It still sort of bothered me, but having since spent time on AskMe and also having dealt with various other far more problematic situations where there was much more potential for various people to really get harmed, I ultimately decided it was pretty shrug-worthy.

So I think if you feel you need to go, then go. But I don't really see anything to gain by telling her.

I'm not saying that you having feelings is in any way creepy or whatever. We feel what we feel. But I do think that she made herself clear. And it is basically creeper behavior to keep trying to get up in someone's space and bring back up the issue of love/romance after they have made themselves really clear. So it's (potentially) creeper behavior because it is disrespectful of her previously stated boundaries. I would likely give a very different answer if that detail were not there. I, myself, am prone to bringing up my feelings or what I think someone else is feeling and trying to air things out and so on and so forth. I am well acquainted with both the upside and downside of doing things like that.

I will say I have some sympathy for the suggestion above to change jobs, don't tell her why you changed jobs, and then make contact one more time to see if the issue was she didn't want drama on the job. And if she is still not amenable, really and truly drop it forevermore (unless she initiates something). But, beyond that, I really think this is your issue, not hers.

It takes two to tango and she is telling you that she does not see doing that with you. So you need to figure out what you need to do to deal with you, basically.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 3:12 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm not saying that you having feelings is in any way creepy or whatever. We feel what we feel. But I do think that she made herself clear. And it is basically creeper behavior to keep trying to get up in someone's space and bring back up the issue of love/romance after they have made themselves really clear.

Most important thing said in this thread, IMHO. anonymous, please listen to this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:20 PM on January 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

Stop and think about how you'd feel in her situation; someone you went on a single date with ramps up the drama by telling you, wild eyed, that they're leaving their job because they're in love with you and they just can't tolerate being around you for a single second longer because it hurts so much to see you every day.

What would you think of that situation? I know that I'd be a little freaked out.

I've sort of been in your situation. Crushing hugely on a coworker, they figured it out, didn't reciprocate. Shitstorm ensued. It's been over ten years and I still look back on that situation and cringe. What you're proposing doing is selfish. You're doing this to ease your own burden by giving it to another. She doesn't need to know this and she probably doesn't want to. I know it hurts, but she's not interested. Please respect that. Don't put yourself in the situation I was in.
posted by Solomon at 3:31 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Can you imagine how creepy and upsetting it was to hear this from someone I was fundamentally not interested in? You are venturing down that same path. Let it go.

Hold up. The guy who wrote you that letter sat there quietly seething for years, never revealing his feelings until he eventually gave you a creepy, aggressive letter about how you had been "torturing" him. I don't think it's fair to compare the OP to him. If he told her (and I'm not saying he should) it wouldn't come as a shock to her, and it presumably wouldn't be so accusatory and over-the-top.

OP, I think it may be a good idea to find a new job. As long as you're around this woman, the awkwardness is likely to continue. If you're in a relationship and you've spent all this time pining for somebody else, I think you need to take a hard look at the relationship.

I don't think you need to tell this woman how you feel. I suspect she'll have some idea, without you having to say it. If she wants to pursue something with you, she'll let you know. But it sounds like she doesn't. I'm sorry. Unrequited love is the absolute shits.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:33 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised more people aren't hitting on this point! The economy is not super nice right now, so I am wont to advise you to leave a job you've liked enough to stick with for seven years! Seriously, in my field it would be much simpler to stick with the job, but maybe ask to move my desk a bit, take on a slightly different role even, and work on processing my unrequited feelings for someone. If that's an option, I might even venture to say that's the healthier aproach: confront and change your mental state rather than leave it to avoid dealing with it. You can certainly become friends with a person you are attracted to, and there may be tremendous value in it for both of you to not end your friendship because you tried--and failed--to make it into something else.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:39 PM on January 23, 2015 [15 favorites]

So you were in a relationship that ended last year? Were your feelings for your colleague the reason your last relationship ended? It's a little unclear whether you've been pining for 5 years or just for the past 6 months.

If it's been 5 years, then you should get a new job and a therapist. If it's been for the past year, get some new, absorbing hobbies and give it time. Either way, don't tell her. She already knows that you were interested.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:52 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

I once went on a date with a colleague and then decided after that I didn't think it was a good idea to date someone I worked with, though in this instance I did like him. We remainded friends, but when he accepted a job somewhere else he wrote me a love letter, saying that he thought I had made a mistake and that we should try again. It made me really uncomfortable and, frankly, upset, because I felt that he didn't respect my choice. Any crush-y feelings I had completely vanished. To this day I wish he had never written that letter, because then we could have stayed friends.
posted by toerinishuman at 5:22 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Don't tell her. It's none of her business, and it will be nearly impossible to make it come across as definitely respecting her decision and not asking her to reconsider or at least feel bad for putting you in the position of leaving your job. The result will likely be that she is uncomfortable and you are disappointed.

When I have these urges, to re-open talks about failed romance (talks that can take on many different forms), it's always because I want them to say: "OMG, I've been in love with you too, this whole time, I just couldn't tell you until you brought it up THIS time because moon phases."

They never do say that. It's always really hard for me to see that that's my true motivation, but in the end those conversations are never satisfying.
posted by bunderful at 7:11 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Would it be comforting to someone to know that someone out there does love them, even if it's not returned?

Nope, it's scary and upsetting. I mean there may be people who love me from afar, who knows? It's their secret to keep. Once they specifically tell me then it's a thing that we BOTH know which means I feel weird about it because why did they tell me, probably because they are hoping maybe they'll see a glint of something from me? I know you mean well, and are hurting, but the idea that there is anything comforting about knowing that the person I thought was a good friend has been pining for me even after I told him I wanted to be friends? No, that is basically like someone saying "I don't respect your boundaries and I want you to reconsider what you said about us being friends even though I've been playing at friends all this time." Respecting my boundaries would be for you to manage your feelings on your own. Which is tough because if you and this person are such good friends, she can't really help you with this. Because, at some real level, that is the difference between a good friend and someone who is a partner or person you are dating.

I am sorry but I feel strongly about this because this is a thing that used to happen to me a lot. I'd be very clear "Hey we're just friends. That's okay right?" and guys would say sure and then they'd show up at my doorstep at inappropriate times saying they just HAD to talk to me. And that was 1) awkward and 2) ruined our friendship.

Do what you have to do for you. It's a bad space to be in (I've been there, sort of) and I know you feel like you just need to do SOMETHING. But let that something be something that doesn't in any way imply that she is responsible for your misery. She is not.
posted by jessamyn at 7:21 PM on January 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

this is not love. It's a very powerful crush. It possibly is motivated by your desire not to think about something else.

I suggest doing some online dating before deciding to move from this job. I'm not saying you're going to find anyone right away but you need to know that this is a big world of human abundance and this person is not the only person in the world.

whatever you do not tell this woman that.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:36 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just my $0.02US: Don't tell her why before you leave[1].

After you leave, let her know that you wish that you and her had worked out better, and that you'd love to try again.

*shrug* who knows? Maybe her real objection was that you both worked together. It's a crapshoot. But isn't love always a crapshoot? "Everybody plays the fool (sometimes, baby) / No exception to the rule" and so forth.

[1] although if she bluntly asks you "are you leaving because of me?" I think you should tell her the truth.
posted by doctor tough love at 7:28 AM on January 24, 2015

It seems like you care about this woman and her feelings and that you really don't want to upset her. That's great, not creepy. I'm sorry that word came up so many times, it's not accurate. You just have feelings of your own to deal with, that's all. BUT YOU SHOULD DEAL WITH THOSE FEELINGS ASAP:

Even though I've been with my employer for almost 7 years now, I'm thinking about leaving and finding a new job (in a new city?) because I don't know if I can continue just being friends. It's affecting my work and I know it'll negatively impact on potential future relationships (as it has on past relationships, unfortunately).

Your feelings for her have had (and are having) negative effects on both your relationships and career. THAT'S A PROBLEM. That's what you should look into. You should leave your job for a better opportunity, not because it's "too hard" to be friends with her. The same for breaking up with your partner.

Anyway, leaving your job and city seems a bit extreme, maybe you can work it out with therapy. But if you feel that it is too painful to see her everyday or something, then yes, leave, cause that's a little over the top and it seems like a sign that something's wrong there.

Take some time to figure out your stuff, man. Maybe all of this you're feeling is the rebound-mode talking?
You guys seem to be good friends. If she asks directly, maybe you can be honest and tell her that you need to make a change -for your own sake and well-being in general, post-break-up stuff-, but don't say anything that can make her feel responsible or guilty, because she isn't, and keep it short.

You are the one who allowed those feelings to have a huge impact on your life and while it's great that you asked her out, that didn't work out and now it's time to move on.

Good luck.
posted by divina_y_humilde at 9:55 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Well, everyone has already commented, I kinda saw this late. But I do wanna say: You can sometimes confess a crush, and it depends. It depends on how one-sided your relationship and crush is, and whether you're using it to establish your boundary or not.

I'd say the only time you can sit there and say, "I'm leaving, I love you," to a crush is when you either had a super intimate relationship with them and/or if you were lead on a lot, or if after your initial confession they kind blew hot and cold at you about your feelings, even knowing how you felt about them. (Sometimes people just encourage adoration because it feels great to be loved, with no intention of following through).

If after all that, you decided to leave, and let them know, and they kept maintaining contact with you -- asking you why you left, even knowing your feelings-- still expecting you to be in contact with them, or if they texted you sweet things like how much they felt your loss with you gone, you probably would be forgiven in having a, "Well I can't be in your life because I love you, wish you felt the same way but you don't, good luck," talk.

I mean, it might still not go down well, and I wouldn't recommend it at all, but I don't feel you'd be wrong in doing so, because in the above case, they're the ones violating your boundaries.

But this is not the case here, and that is not the relationship you had. You don't seem very close outside work, and it doesn't feel as if you know her that well. And she was very clear about not wanting a relationship. There's no wiggle room there. So there's no point revisiting it. It's pointless to waste any more energy devoted to her. She may feel like the end all and be all right now, but give it a little time and distance and you'll be struggling to remember what you liked about her-- when you have someone there with you who reciprocates.

That said, tell her or don't-- but either way try not to feel ashamed for feelings and being vulnerable. I think that in society we're kinda designed to quash feelings and view being ruled by them as inherently weak and bad and oogy. And that we should be above all those primitive things and you should feel ashamed for loving someone. Don't feel bad, though. It's only human and it happens to all of us.
posted by Dimes at 12:37 PM on January 24, 2015

For what it's worth, I was about to chime in to echo the chorus of "no way, don't tell her you love her" until I read pretentious illiterate's fantastic comment, and it completely made me change my mind:

"We do not have an absolute right to be shielded from the emotions of others, even those we meet at work. Even those we would prefer to keep as friends." So true. We have a right, but it is not an absolute right. Context matters.

You dated once and she has told you to stay in her life. She has said she wants to remain friends. In maybe 99 out of 100 questions like these, I think folks are fearful the OP is about to veer into stalker territory - like we're all shouting NOOOO! at our screens, and remembering back to the times our own creepy ex-creepers have creeped on us. You are not creepy at all here, OP. Because the way you've framed this question and the background you've provided, I just don't get that type of negative creeper vibe from you here at all. To be clear: my answer would be much different if you had say, not already gone out on a (for real) date with her, and if you had not already told her you had a crush on her. She knows all of this really, and it's a bit awkward, and she's still allowing you to be in her life beyond the coworker relationship - which is an important distinction indeed. In short: You saying "I love you" to her wouldn't be telling her anything she does not, sort of, on some level, already know.

That is to say, please also consider that a proclamation from you may be overkill and could have a repellant effect. Or not? Who knows? However, personally, in my younger days, I did find BIG, unambiguous romantic statements amounting to "I love you," particularly where I had not already been physically intimate with the person for awhile, to be off-putting, and to make me feel a bit less of an attraction for the guy. A too early, unsolicited "I love you" can be an inadvertent anti-seduction technique. It just really depends.
posted by hush at 2:19 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

One thing that I'd like to add: don't quit your job while you're emotionally off-balance. Especially not if you don't have another one lined up. It's totally okay not to want to be around her, but I would expect that the next step would be to back things off a bit, and start a job search, and maybe in a couple of months you'll have a job offer and can decide if you like it or not, based on the job and your career, not on feeling really emotionally raw.

I'd start with a conversation. "Hey Sally, being on vacation gave me time to process everything, and I've realized on coming back to work, that being "just friends" with you is a lot harder than I expected, and I think I feel more strongly about you than either of us realized. I know you don't feel the same way I do, but I wanted you to know that even though I think I've done a good job of acting like it's no big deal, I'm having a difficult time; so if I create a little distance here at work, you'll know what's going on."
Note that you're not asking her to do anything drastic (eg change her mind), and you're not threatening to leave, but you are telling her that you have serious feelings, and feel way more fallout from that date than she did. You say you've been trying to act as happy and unconcerned and non-awkward as possible, so I can see why you'd want to tell her that it's not true, you really are upset. She's someone you want to be honest with, so it's commendable to be honest. It's also commendable that you've identified ways in which you could be petty and manipulative and still claim you were "just being honest", and that these are things you think you want to avoid.
So. Let's assume that her changing her mind and wanting to date you is off the table. What else do you want? Do you want to know her better as a friend? Do you want her to only treat you professionally? Would you rather not interact much for a month or so? Are your long-term wants for this friendship different from your short-term (i.e. would you rather get over her and be friends, or get over her and grow apart into casual acquaintances, or not get over her and painfully carry a torch for 10 years?)?
If there is something she can do for you (like back off) then it's definitely worthwhile letting her know. If there's nothing that she can do (given that she can't magically start being in love with you) then maybe there's not much to talk about. But I suspect there's something to talk about.

I was in this situation, in which a friend told me he loved me and I knew I didn't and wouldn't ever feel the same; we continued to be friends and see each other regularly, but things changed afterward. Afterward, he would call/text me only for business purposes; while he was always happy to hang out as friends, it became my job to contact him socially, I think because he didn't want to hound me if I felt awkward about hanging out, or maybe because he would take it personally if I was legitimately busy. But there were definitely new rules afterward, and it took an honest (non-manipulative) conversation (or two), plus a few odd weeks/months, to figure out what they were.
posted by aimedwander at 7:07 AM on January 26, 2015

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