Getting closer with a work friend when you have a bit of a crush too...
September 26, 2015 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Can it be done safely, or should I just leave it alone/keep it 100% about work? I have a friend/coworker who has been really good to me since I started at my job a couple years ago, recently helped me through a rough situation at work in a way that made a huge difference, and is a lot of fun to hang out with as well. I'm interested in being better friends and to be someone who has his back to the extent he has had mine, but there's some awkwardness to that, given minor power dynamics and the fact that I have a bit of crush on him (hopefully a secret one). Has anyone successfully navigated anything like this? Any suggestions? Some potentially relevant details below:

--What I mean by "minor power dynamics": We are the same age and have the same job title, but he's been there a few years longer than me and the structure of our relationship so far has been more about him taking me under his wing at work than just being friends.
--It would be easy to delude myself, given the amount of attention he pays to me, but my gut tells me than an expression of romantic attraction on my part would be met with him turning me down in the nicest possible way and me being super embarrassed.
--We're both pretty reserved about non-work personal stuff, and I'd be comfortable sharing more with him, but I'm not sure if the reverse is true.
--I AM dating and not all hung up on this (really!), despite the fact that I'm writing this question. I recently broke it off with someone I was really excited about, which sucked, but I'm still actively doing the "meet new people and be open to the possibilities" thing.

Thanks in advance for the wisdom I've come to expect from Ask MetaFilter.
posted by Squalor Victoria to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think since you're the one with the crush, and good work situations are not that easy to come by, I would tell you to leave it alone. If he wants to take it to after hours then consider it a bonus and re-evaluate at that point.
posted by bleep at 1:38 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would just let it play out. Keep up your professional relationship and be friendly, but don't try to push the relationship in a particular direction.

As for your crush, I would be willing to bet that a lot of it is situational. He's a nice person helping you out in a stressful situation (new job) - add in the charge that comes with a new friendship, and if you find him physically attractive, it's pretty easy for that to turn into a crush. I bet that as you guys work together more, that will cool off a bit.

Whatever you do, though, don't date him or hook up with him anytime in the near future. Sometimes workplace romances can work out, but dating someone at a new job is pretty much always a bad move.
posted by lunasol at 1:48 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Leave it alone. If you feel like he'd reject you, then just jump ahead to how you'd responsibly handle it post-rejection. You can be friendly, but you don't have to be friends outside of work.
posted by RainyJay at 2:02 PM on September 26, 2015

Work crushes are totally normal, and they can be a fun distraction if you have absolutely no intention of pursuing it. That's sort of the very definition of a work spouse. But again, this only works if you have absolutely no intention of pursuing it.
posted by Ruki at 2:27 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

The reason you want to become better friends with this guy is that you have a crush on him, and that's the very reason you should back off. Keep things even more professional and neutral than you would with someone you had no romantic interest in. Other people at work tend to notice a crush very easily, and especially so when they're curious about a new co-worker.
posted by wryly at 2:50 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm sure you guys are on the right track (as much as it's not exactly what I want to hear...) but can I clarify a little and pose a follow up question? I'm not sure why people think I'm new--I've been at my job & known this guy for two years. The fact that he's one of my favorite people there would be very old news both to him and my other friends at work.

I guess what I'm saying all are totally right that I need to back off it and not try to make anything happen...but am I totally shooting myself in the foot if I just...keep the door open? (Like by including him if I'm inviting a group to do something, it's up to him if he wants to be there.)
posted by Squalor Victoria at 6:50 PM on September 26, 2015

I don't think there's anything wrong with that. As long as when you're being honest with yourself, it's not just a rouse to get him alone.
posted by bleep at 6:56 PM on September 26, 2015

Best answer: I'll be the voice of dissent here. Over the years, I've become friends with several people at work with whom I had mild crushes. In my case, the crush largely meant I thought they were awesome and good at what they did and I admired them. Plus, they were cute. The key, though, was that my crush was secondary to the fact I thought they were great and spent a lot of time with them. If you are in the same situation, I think it's doable.

My advice is to make a hard and fast rule not to actually pursue anything romantic because you are coworkers. No "leaving the door open" for anything except friendship. You can daydream, but that's it. No real flirting, no discussions of dating life or romantic interests or any overt moves at all. You have a separate dating life --keep it that way. If you are reasonably certain you can do the same, you can move to being friends outside work, but NOT with the intention of maybe something more happening.

As a cautionary tale: someone once was friends at work with me (we had lunch together every few weeks) but after a holiday party once he moved towards kissing me. Even though he stopped with plenty of room for plausible deniability, I shut that down fast, and now we barely saw hi in the halls.

With my own crushes-turned-friends, I go to lunch or afternoon coffee and the occasional dinner or party. Eventually my crushes on these folks died (and sometimes that process was helped by knowing more about who these people were). But now I have real friends from work, not just work friends. That, to me, is worth it.
posted by alligatorpear at 6:21 AM on September 27, 2015

should I just leave it alone/keep it 100% about work?

posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:16 PM on September 27, 2015

Sorry, I completely misread your post! If you've known him for two years and still have a crush on him, then it seems like it's unlikely to go away anytime soon, and you probably shouldn't do anything to fan those flames. But I don't know, I don't think inviting him along to a group thing, as you suggest, is such a big deal. As long as you're not going to get all stressed out about whether or not he will show and feel rejected if he doesn't. (You mean a group of coworkers, right? If so, that seems like just a part of a friendly professional relationship in a social workplace. If you mean it's your non-work friends and he'd be the only person from work there ... I wouldn't do that.)
posted by lunasol at 6:17 PM on September 27, 2015

Best answer: It's a terrible idea to indulge a crush at work. If you let the crush feelings simmer, there's no telling when they might boil over. There's nowhere for the crush feelings to go -- no possible benefit to letting them grow. Of course you want to pursue the friendship further; that's what a crush feels like. My advice is to mentally magnify whatever you don't like about the person. Or go read all the AskMe questions from people tormented by having crushes on people they can't pursue and be grateful your feelings aren't to that point yet.
posted by salvia at 10:40 PM on September 27, 2015

am I totally shooting myself in the foot if I just...keep the door open?

I don't think there is a middle way here; pursuing him is either on the table or it's not. Keeping the door open means it's on the table--and means you are feeding your crush. Whether or not that's a good idea is something to think about and decide, but don't delude yourself into thinking you can reach some sort of compromise halfway point.
posted by kapers at 11:00 AM on September 28, 2015

Best answer: You sound like you've been vaguely interested for a while (as opposed to having new-crush blindness...although might you be experiencing some post-breakup loneliness?) but don't really know this guy. I'd ask him to grab lunch, strike up a conversation about not-work, and see if he's actually someone you want to know better. I wouldn't expect it to go somewhere romantic, but, yeah, provided that you don't have massively dramatic tendencies or a massively straitlaced workplace, it's okay to make friends at work, and it's okay to make friends with people you're mildly attracted to.

Tangentially, you might find this thread an interesting study of how widely people's opinions can vary on personal and professional boundaries.
posted by orangejenny at 3:42 PM on September 28, 2015

Response by poster: Y'all made me feel better about the whole thing--just a little bit of a wake up call that didn't involve me doing anything embarrassing in real life, which is always good!

I like Salvia's advice to mentally magnify what I don't like about the person--I don't have anything truly objectively negative to say about him, but I can remind myself it IS a negative to me if someone politely brushes aside my non-overbearing attempts to chat about slightly more personal topics (as I feel has happened) or, VERY importantly, is not physically attracted to me (which I am good at telling). And being physically attracted to me is obviously a trait I 100% would need in anyone I date.

Thanks for helping me get over this one, guys.
posted by Squalor Victoria at 7:37 PM on September 28, 2015

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