Telling a coworker how I feel...
July 4, 2006 1:46 AM   Subscribe

Do I tell my married coworker that I'm falling for her, and how? And am I opening up the possibility of sexual harassment issues if I do?

I've worked with a married woman since I started with my current company about 5 years ago. It started that she was my supervisor's manager; as we both moved forward in our careers, I am no longer directly below her in the company org chart, but due to the nature of my position, I've been working more and more closely with her. Over the past 18 months or so, I've found myself increasingly attracted to her. She knows I have a crush on someone at work but I have not actually told her it's her. Despite that, I'm fairly sure she knows it's her. I've flirted as best I can, leaving small gifts, making sure I say "g'night" before I leave if she's still there, asking how her weekend was... but I can't tell if she's actually interested, if she's just toying with me and enjoying the attention, or I'm totally wrong and she has no idea.

And yes, the fact that she's married does weigh on me ethically but she's an adult, it's her decision to make should it come to that.

(Want/need more info?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (97 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
No, you don't tell her. She 's married. As in, to someone who isn't you.
posted by lekvar at 2:00 AM on July 4, 2006

try not to do that, really. you'll thank us in a few months
posted by matteo at 2:08 AM on July 4, 2006

Please don't tell her.
posted by roomwithaview at 2:11 AM on July 4, 2006

Please don't be that guy. Yes, she's an adult, but so are you. Grow some backbone, and find a woman thats not attatched. There's almost nothing worse than a guy that goes after another's girlfriend/wife, in my book.
posted by efalk at 2:14 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Stop flirting. Back off. Give up. Go after somebody single.

Not only are you opening up the possibility of sexual harrassment issues, you're opening up the possibility of acting like a total tool.
posted by flabdablet at 2:26 AM on July 4, 2006

Don't do it.
posted by Devils Slide at 2:27 AM on July 4, 2006

Seriously, just stop. Quit it with the gifts and the attention. There are reasons we have sayings like "Don't put your meat where you make your bread."

Continuation of this type of behavior will end really, really badly.
posted by quite unimportant at 2:28 AM on July 4, 2006

Of course she knows you have a hardon for her; if you stopped thinking with your cock for a second, you'd see through her games. Dude, if you screw around with her and she has a crisis of conscience and then files a lawsuit against you, you will be up shit creek even if she doesn't win the lawsuit. Yeah she's an adult but so are you -- if you fuck up her marriage you are just as culpable as she is. And word will get around that you are a homewrecker.

It seems to me you don't give a shit and you have already decided to make it happen. You just want us to make you feel ok for doing so and want advice on how to go about it. Well my advice is dust off your resume because you might screw yourself out of your job.
posted by randomstriker at 2:30 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Do I tell my married coworker that I'm falling for her? No.
And how? Don't.
And am I opening up the possibility of sexual harassment issues if I do? Probably. At the very least, a level of uncomfortableness between you both.

Imagine you were successful in wooing her. How much could you trust her not to dump you for the next guy?
Imagine she's your sister, and some scumbag at work is planning on hitting on her. Or her husband is your brother.

Get out a bit more and find someone else to crush on.
posted by b33j at 2:30 AM on July 4, 2006

Even if it went well for you, it would still be breaking up a marriage.
posted by evil holiday magic at 2:34 AM on July 4, 2006

"but I can't tell if she's actually interested, if she's just toying with me and enjoying the attention, or I'm totally wrong and she has no idea."
posted by anonymous to human relations

If you are this clueless after 18 months of pussyfooting (dontcha just love how accurately descriptive some words are?) around, and can only post these questions to the Green anonymously, you're no where in the ball park of being anywhere near capable of carrying this off.

Keep the egg off your own face, and the grin off hers, and take your romantic interests elsewhere immediately.
posted by paulsc at 3:03 AM on July 4, 2006

She's an adult and you're not responsible for maintaining her marriage. On the other hand, I can't see this going anywhere good unless both of you are looking for something on the side and both of you know what you're doing. This situation can go bad in so many different ways that I think you should back off unless the thought of blowing your life up appeals to you.
posted by rdr at 3:07 AM on July 4, 2006

Make sure that you don't find her attractive exactly because she is married. Sometimes an attraction to a married person says more about your issues than any real "chemistry".

Oh, and don't do it.
posted by qwip at 3:28 AM on July 4, 2006

Step away from the chaos and pain that this will certainly cause. Being an adult means that you can control yourself. Don't get involved with married folks... try to imagine what it would feel like if you were the spouse of someone who cheats. It hurts. Do you want to be responsible for causing that pain? Would you want it done to you?
posted by Corky at 3:57 AM on July 4, 2006

There was a link posted some time back to a blog written by a man about his adulterous affair with a coworker. I can't find the link right now, but I highly encourage you to search it out. He was brutally honest about why he had the affair and the consequences it had on his life.

He eventually concluded that he was driven to his affair by something he was missing from his life, not by love for his coworker. It took having an affair, being discovered, and losing his job and family to figure that out. Your tone reminds me a lot of how this man talked about his attraction to his coworker. Perhaps if you read his story, it will help you navigate your way through this.
posted by rhiannon at 3:59 AM on July 4, 2006

One more thing... If you're going to go ahead and attempt this anyway make sure you have sufficient social skills and grace and that you and your co-worker like each other enough to cement a friendship if she rejects you. If you don't, then you're pretty far out on a limb. She doesn't have to file a harassment claim against you. All she has to do is to mention your behavior to her co-workers and you're screwed.
posted by rdr at 3:59 AM on July 4, 2006

Jesus, no.
posted by blag at 4:12 AM on July 4, 2006

You even have to ask?

randomstriker writes "It seems to me you don't give a shit and you have already decided to make it happen."

posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:16 AM on July 4, 2006

rhiannon is referring, above, to Anatomy of My Affair blog, I think. This thing got some notice here a few months back, but I personally felt like it was a little to pat to be true, and might just be astroturfing a book of the same title. Maybe not.
posted by paulsc at 4:38 AM on July 4, 2006

Yeah, fucking up other people's marriages is a big no no. If there's anything to karma, and don't we all wish there were, you'd have to spend the rest of your life worrying about pianos falling out of the sky.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:46 AM on July 4, 2006

She's married, not divorced. Unless that changes, please go after someone else. There's plenty of fish in the sea, I'm sure.

And... yes, also quit with all the "romantic" gift-giving crap. This cannot end well.

Make sure the blood goes to your brain, not your dick, and think with the appropriate organ.

I know lots of people before me have said the same damn thing, but perhaps the numbers will be able to convince you of the futility of your course of action.
posted by madman at 4:54 AM on July 4, 2006

Walk away. Seriously. There is no good that can come from this, and those karmic pianos are a bitch.
posted by vespertine at 5:04 AM on July 4, 2006

If she is not complaining to you about her marriage all the time and saying things like "I wish that X were more like you", then she doesn't want to have an affair with you. By the sound of it, she has had ample opportunity to do this if she wanted to. If only out of your own self-interest, don't go ahead with this; you'll lose her respect, chances are she'll tell other people about it and things will be impossible for you at work.
posted by teleskiving at 5:12 AM on July 4, 2006

Don't do it. Not only are you breaking the "don't poop where you eat" rule, but she's married. Even if she sat at work all day complaining about her husband, there's no good reason for you to try and start a relationship with her. I mean, has she really indicated any interest in you whatsoever? Maybe it's all in your head, and you've been making her extremely uncomfortable all along?

A friend of mine once gave me some good advice: "Just because you love someone, it doesn't mean you have to be with them." Think about that for a while. If you truly cared about her, you'd leave her alone.

But I think you're going to do it anyway.
posted by saturnine at 5:14 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Continuing on where teleskiving ended--If you decide to go through with telling her and regardless of what her reaction might be, I would be prepared to find another job...and fast.
posted by sexymofo at 5:22 AM on July 4, 2006

You should definitely do it.

Who am I kidding? Dude, this is a terrible idea. Walk away. Walk away now. Don't be creepy lecherous work dude.
posted by Justinian at 5:27 AM on July 4, 2006

". . .but I can't tell if she's actually interested. . ."

If you can't tell by now, she's not.
posted by Neiltupper at 6:16 AM on July 4, 2006

posted by languagehat at 6:19 AM on July 4, 2006

This situation can go bad in so many different ways that I think you should back off unless the thought of blowing your life up appeals to you.

Worth repeating.

You'll find you often meet up with these people in your life that you know instinctually, were things different, you could immediately hit it off with. You can flirt all you like if it makes the both of you happy, just to confirm the obvious attraction. And perhaps in another universe the two of you are together having wonderous, impossible sex with each other. Smile on that thought and move on. Because you don't live in that universe. In this universe, that person is attached to someone--legally, ethically, morally, and financially--and if you escalate the situation any more than it already is, you're asking for trouble.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:20 AM on July 4, 2006 [6 favorites]

I am with Neiltupper. If you can't tell if she is interested, then she's not. If she wanted to have an affair, she would of already acted.

Absolutely do not tell her. Get a grip fast, stop paying her inappropriate attention, and find a person who is single.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:39 AM on July 4, 2006

I agree with the pile-on, but will add

since when is "making sure I say "g'night" before I leave if she's still there, asking how her weekend was..." flirting?

Not when I was a young man chasing work ladies it wasn't, that's for sure.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:51 AM on July 4, 2006

No. Do not tell her. Really bad idea.

Go out. It's summertime (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). Try to meet someone else. Get out in the world and open yourself up to meeting a nice single woman. Grab a friend's dog, take a walk in the park, say hello in the produce aisle, buy a cutie a coffee, flirt with the gal in line behind you at the movies, then offer to buy her a popcorn.

Keep your eyes open for meeting/dating available women, as it sounds like you're pining for some romance.

I have a workplace crush on a fellow, and I enjoy seeing him around, and I enjoy those nice tingly feelings when we chat, but that's where it does, and should, end. I'm married, he just got married.

Crushes and/or attraction DO NOT HAVE TO BE FULFILLED. We are not children, who must have every single whim or desire granted to us to achieve happiness in life.

Only bad will likely come of it if you proceed.
posted by Savannah at 7:07 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

if she's just toying with me ????

Nothing you wrote indicates that she is toying with you, flirting with you, or has anything but normal socially-friendly co-worker interest in you. You're deluding yourself if you think otherwise.

Don't do this.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:12 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

People like you make me want to throw up my hands and wonder where the hell chivalry, decency, and respect for fellow man (or woman) went. Whatever happened to the Rules for Guys, for example? Don't screw around with a married woman; it's obvious from your post that you don't respect the woman (her wedding ring, unless she's a whore, is her sign to others that she's otherwise attached to someone), so at least respect the guy with the matching ring on his left ring finger, and stop screwing around with his wife.

Get yourself a subscription to a porn site, horn dog.
posted by Merdryn at 7:13 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

1) She's not interested, she's just toying with you.

2) It's a dumb enough idea to date someone you have to see every day, it's completely off the wagon when you throw in she's married. As others have said, this is going to be a disaster

3) Odds are the husband knows exactly who you are as your coworker and him probably laugh about "the little puppy dog who follows me around the office". Every attractive woman has a few of those around her. They never have a shot.

4) To reiterate what Joseph Gurl said, it doesn't sound like you're flirting, but fawning over her. It doesn't sound like she's reciprocating
posted by slapshot57 at 7:13 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think this is the first dating/relationship inquiry that AskMe has ever been unanimous on!

Oh, and don't do it. She knows and is toying with you because she likes the attention and gifts, not because she likes you.
posted by falconred at 7:19 AM on July 4, 2006

No, no, no, no.

There are millions (well, truthfully,billions) of other women out there.

NEVER date where you work.
Pretend Married women have the plague. Or syphilis. Or herpes. Or both.

You have no business with them. They're taken.

Want her to be 'less' attractive? Stare at her nostrils. Nobody has attractive nostrils.
posted by filmgeek at 7:26 AM on July 4, 2006

She goes home every night to her husband and they have a good laugh about the tool she has wrapped around her finger.

But there's a chance it will turn from funny to creepy and laughter will turn towards resentment and negative actions towards you.

From now on treat her civilly, like a co-worker. Not like something you want to bed.
posted by Mick at 7:35 AM on July 4, 2006

Nobody has attractive nostrils.

This is the internet. There's a fetish for everything. Yes, EVERYTHING.

Never mind how I know this.

Original poster: therapy might be a good idea, at least for a checkup. 'cause if you're "obsessing" after 18 months and still haven't done anything or have any aswers, you got issues. Solve them and don't drag the nice married lady into it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:36 AM on July 4, 2006

You both need to get some morals. Back off homewrecker!
posted by rinkjustice at 7:40 AM on July 4, 2006

Oh gawd.....

There is nothing wrong with flirting with someone but really, you need to get a life, hire a hooker or something. Start meeting other women but stop fixating on the coworker!.

The wife of a friend of mine worked part time for his best friend who is also married. I have known all of these people for many, many years. He found out last year that they had been screwing around for over a year. Because of this, two families were destroyed. It was really difficult for the kids to cope with especially.

In your case, just drop the flirting (you obviously can't handle innocent flirting), don't give her gifts, don't even try and see her outside of work, and move on with your life.
posted by JJ86 at 7:43 AM on July 4, 2006

anonymous -- it sounds like you are misinterpreting ordinary workplace friendliness as a potential sign of romantic interest. You are almost certainly mistaken.

The good thing about your situation is that you have gotten all this good advice from AskMe before you did anything irretrievably stupid. Sounds like you can still save face. So, let me be the first to congratulate you on at least having enough common sense not to act on these feelings.
posted by jayder at 7:45 AM on July 4, 2006

As falconred said, you have a unanimous verdict. How often does that happen around here? And what does that tell you?
posted by pmurray63 at 7:46 AM on July 4, 2006

Even ignoring the fact that dating someone you work with is often a very stupid idea, and that screwing around with someone else's wife is generally considered pretty damn immoral, the answer's still no. If you really must have an illicit workplace affair, it's only common politeness to let the one who's actually cheating on their spouse make the first move.

If the single guy initiates the affair, then that's the 'completion' element of 'complete bastard', right there. Or, when they get turned down, 'complete idiot'.
posted by flashboy at 7:57 AM on July 4, 2006

I can't count how many times I thought a woman was really into me and it turned out she was just being friendly.

Quit your job and move on before you do something stupid.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 7:58 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Adding another "no" vote here. I expect, since you asked the question, that what you would like is for someone to tell you something like "Dude, this could be True Love, she could be The One, you have to GO FOR IT or you'll have a lifetime of regret." But what you're getting instead is MUCH more valuable: everyone's trying their best to help you to NOT have to learn things the hard way. Things like "don't date coworkers" and "don't go after married people." This is advice that people rarely take, always thinking that their own case is "different" or "special." Please, buck the trend. Take our advice. Don't learn the hard way.
posted by JanetLand at 8:04 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Marriage isn't just a bond between two people, it's also a covenant between the couple and the rest of society. You are obliged to leave her the fuck alone. It's not "her decision, should it come to that". It is the couple's decision "should it come to that". It is your obligation to see that it does not "come to that".
posted by klarck at 8:11 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you really love this woman, you will not mess up her life by hitting on her - if it doesn't work out, you make her workplace unbearable, and if it does, you make her homelife unbearable. If you care about her at all, you will limit yourself to simple workplace friendliness.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:11 AM on July 4, 2006

it's also a covenant between the couple and the rest of society

How can I be party to a covenant I didn't agree to? Everyone's right about not fooling around with marrieds behind one partner's back, but this "we all have a covenant with married couples" goes just a bit too far.
posted by mediareport at 8:25 AM on July 4, 2006

If "she's an adult," then that makes one of you, I'm afraid. Grow up.
posted by jamjam at 8:33 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Leaving all moral judgement aside, should anon want to go for it, it would probably be sensible to take his flirting out of the workplace, since, as others have noted, in the workplace she's somewhat bound by standards of courtesy. Is there any possibility of meeting her outside of work (preferably alone)?

If I were in anon's shoes, there is no way I would directly confront her with my neverending love for her - it would just come across as crass and quite embarassing (provided she isn't also secretly madly in love with anon, which, though possible, doesn't seem all too likely from what anon writes). I would try to make small, but progressively more clear advances which has the advantage of being something noticable without being something that could not later be downplayed or denied, thus saving face, should things not work out. Either she plays along or she stops at some point, in which case you know you tried (which is good for your feeling of self-respect) and you know for sure how things look.

While I agree that there probably isn't much to win here for anon and that he has to spend his whole day in the office with all the possibility of prolonged embarrassment, I do have to note that the heart is quite the headstrong body part (so to speak) and that being in love is in my book nothing to be ashamed of, regardless of the employment or marriage status of the people involved. If you, anon, want to go for it, I wish you the best of luck, even though I fear that this type of situation (i.e. admiring women from a distance for a prolonged time) rarely works out the way you wish.

If this is a recurring pattern for you, I would second the recommendation that you consider if some sort of counseling might be beneficial to your wellbeing.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 8:56 AM on July 4, 2006

Yeah, I don't buy the "covenant with society" bull either, and I also don't think she's toying with you (nothing you said even remotely suggest that she's doing anything at all with you except working and being nice). The issue isn't that she's married, it's that she's not interested. If she's aware that you're flirting with her, she's being very kind about not having to straight-up tell you to leave her alone, and if she's not, she's still probably not interested, please take the hint and back off while you still have your dignity.
posted by biscotti at 9:02 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Leaving aside the fact that she's married, let me say this.

I met my wife where I worked. We dated while we worked together. I knew she liked me, she knew I liked her (in retrospect, it was fairly obvious then, but not totally crystal clear, I guess). We took it slow, we started out as just friends, we kept it professional at work.

When I first asked her out on a real date, I made sure to do it outside work (at lunch off company property). I was pretty sure she would accept the date, and that the advance would not be unwelcome. I had already done several things with her outside work by that point, and been to her house, testing the waters, so to speak. We had a non-work relationship already when we took it to a romantic level, which I think is very important.

But it was still a bit stressful and a bit risky. If our relationship would have soured, it would have been awkward as hell to work together day to day. But luckily it didn't.

Some people will say "never get involved with someone at work." The reality is that many, many people meet their mates at work. Just be cautious.

(But the married part really, really throws a giant monkey-wrench into the the mix).
posted by teece at 9:11 AM on July 4, 2006

I've flirted as best I can, leaving small gifts, making sure I say "g'night" before I leave if she's still there, asking how her weekend was... but I can't tell if she's actually interested, if she's just toying with me and enjoying the attention, or I'm totally wrong and she has no idea.

The best thing for you to do is to knock this off. All of it and any of it. She is a coworker. It's an economic relationship. Don't give her any more gifts. Don't initiate any conversations about her weekend or her personal life. Don't volunteer any information about your weekend or your personal life. Keep your communications focused on work-related matters. If you are forced to make chit-chat to be polite, pick a vapid, stupid topic like, I don't know . . .Bob, That Wacky Guy In Accounting (He Drinks Coke For Breakfast, You Know!) or This Darned Copier, It Never Works Right. You know, typical content-free office talk.

And go out there and get a honey in real life. Once you do this, she will fade. She won't have the same power over you.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:12 AM on July 4, 2006

Yes, of course it's a bad idea. You knew that before you asked.

To be fair, though, if most men refused to allow their dicks to overrule their brains, there'd be far fewer marriages. So, I sympathize and understand the compulsion.

But, still, it's a bad idea.
posted by SPrintF at 9:23 AM on July 4, 2006

biscotti and mediareport, I think you're both taking the "covenant with society" thing a bit too literally.

I think I understand what is meant by those who are advocating that concept. It is something I'm sure you'd agree with: that people who are married are considered to be romantically off-limits, unless the married person makes the advance.

Maybe that's not a covenant, strictly speaking, but it's a norm by which decent people abide.
posted by jayder at 9:30 AM on July 4, 2006

[...] people who are married are considered to be romantically off-limits, unless the married person makes the advance.

Isn't attraction a two-way road? People approaching each other step by step rather than one of them making all the advances?
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 9:38 AM on July 4, 2006

Stop falling for her NOW.
posted by kindall at 9:38 AM on July 4, 2006

I have been the woman in this situation before and my read on this is that she is probably aware of your interest and being discreet about it so that you can get over your crush on your own and not embarass yourself or her by making a play for her. My guess would be that she assumes it's still okay to be friendly to you because she's married, she knows that you know she is married, has never indicated that she is dissatisfied with her marriage or in some sort of open relationship, and works with you.

Any of these indicators except possibly for the last one give most people the NOT AVAILABLE FOR YOU message, so she shouldn't have to give you any other sort of message. While it might be exceedingly helpful if she were to take you aside and say "Look, I know you have a crush on me but I'm telling you right now nothing will ever come of it ever" this is not her job or her responsibility. It seems by what you have said that she has given no indications that she is available to you besides not saying no. Not saying no is not enough to go on, even if she is aware of your interest.

I have had a few awkward conversations with men where I've had to say "Um, I've been nice to you at work/school/wherever, you knew I was in a relationship/married and now you're falling for me and want to know how I feel about that? I'm sorry but that's your own problem and I apologize if you thought I was leading you on." It's a lousy conversation to have to have especially when you're having it with someone who is a friend of yours and you have a suspicion they will turn into a surly/resentful non-friend any minute now.

I guess my question for you would be "How are you going to feel if she says that she does not have any feelings for you?" Are you going to be mad at her, mad at yourself, mopey, or will it be okay, chalk one up for experience? And the follow-up question, "How is this going to affect your working relationship with her?" While my main point is KEEP IT TO YOURSELF ROMEO, my secondary point is that if you value your job and you value this woman as a friend and/or co-worker in addition to a potential romantic interest, it would be a better idea to work through your crush on your own time purely in the interests of workplace harmony, if not for all the other reasons people have stated above.
posted by jessamyn at 9:40 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

you should back off unless the thought of blowing your life up appeals to you

There might be a valuable catharsis in blowing up your life, anon. It's hard to keep this sort of thing inside, just you, all alone.

The chance of getting into this woman's pants are very, very, low. In the right circumstances you might get a sympathy hug, and a peck on the cheek, if you grovel and beg and look pathetic enough in her eyes.

But the alternative - bad vibes at work, looking like the hopeless spurned suitor, long nights of drunken tears alone at home, sleeping on the bathroom floor - this might be worth pursuing from a mental health / personal growth point of view.

It's worked for me, anyways.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:04 AM on July 4, 2006

posted by drezdn at 10:09 AM on July 4, 2006

Regarding the whole issue of society having a general covenant with married people to assist them in the maintenance of the marriage, I think there are many jurisdictions where elements of such a covenant are enshrined in law, particularly where issues of adultery are involved. In New Jersey, for example:
"In a divorce action where adultery or deviant sexual conduct is alleged, the pleading must also name the adulterer, or the correspondent. The complaint shall state the name of the person as the correspondent with whom such conduct was committed, if known, and if not known, shall state available information tending to describe the said person, including details of the time, place and circumstances under which acts or series of acts were committed."
The idea being, obviously, that making the name of the person who helped facilitate the crime of adultery upon the wronged married person, is itself some kind of censure, but in some jurisdictions, it was once, and may still be, illegal for a person so adjudicated as a correspondent to ever legally marry the person with whom they had been adulterous.

Just another reason why it's a dopey idea for Anonyomous to pursue this.
posted by paulsc at 10:10 AM on July 4, 2006

So, you work closely with her, you confide in her (somewhat) about crushes, you ask her how her weekend goes... has it occurred to you that she's interacting with you as a friend, not leading you on? Female friendships often proceed in exactly this manner. How would you expect her to act differently if she was just interested in friendship as opposed to something more?

If I were her, and you knew I was married and you still pursued me, I would take it as a sign of disrespect for my choices and my marriage. I would also take it as a sign that you think I'm the kind of girl who cheats (and that you're okay with that), and that's not a good signal to send. I wouldn't necessarily find it upsetting that you were attracted to me, but I would find it insulting if you pursued it.
posted by heatherann at 10:29 AM on July 4, 2006

Unfortunately, I have been in a similiar situation, although from the other side of the coin.

I once worked with a young lady who was exceptionally skilled at her job, reasonably attractive, and seemed to have a bit of a crush on me. In most cases, this wouldn't be a problem for a guy - however, I happen to be happily married, and had no desire to pursue a romance outside of my relationship.
She had recently parted ways with her long-term boyfriend, and perhaps wanted something to rebound off of. She would hang out at my desk, comment on my clothes, walk, smile, hair, etc.... and then just grin and walk off. There were often small brushes in the hallway, pats on the back, hands on the shoulders, that kind of thing.
Don't get me wrong - at first I was flattered. I'm not the cutest kid on the block, and her attraction to me helped build me up a bit. However, I had no desire to pursue an affair with her, and I tried to make that clear without being direct.
I decided to ignore her for as long as possible, but she kept at it. There was nothing that really pointed toward sexual harassment - she was very careful with her words and actions - although at times I felt uncomfortable with her even in the same room. Every time I looked her way, she would be staring at me. Smiling, of course. Perhaps a cute little wave.
Eventually, I felt that the situation had fixed itself - she had began to stop coming around as much... After repeated attempts at asking me to join her for lunch were refused, she stopped asking.
And then one day, out of the blue, she asks if I would like to join her after work for a drink. Before I could respond, she stated something along the lines of "and if you get me really drunk, maybe I'll let you take me home."
I ended up saying something like " I'll have to call my wife and see if it's okay... do you mind if she comes along? You've got cable, right? So, after we go to your place, if you're drunk and passed out, we can watch HBO?"
Not the best reaction, I agree. But I was offended, felt she was way out of line, and I wanted her to know that I was not interested. We had always had a relaxed type of relationship at work anyway, so my comment was intended to be humorous, while still getting my point across.
She turned around and left, and I figured it was settled. Then a few weeks later, outside of work, she walked up to me in a grocery store. She looks around for my wife, and then whispers the following in my ear -
"I'm not wearing any panties."


I backed away, told her that I found her comment to be disgusting, and asked her to please leave me the hell alone.

After that, our relationship at work was great, believe it or not. I can't say how she felt about working with me at this point, but I can say that she never flirted again.

My point of all this is as follows - although you may think you're being cute and adorable... if she's happily married, she most likely feels a bit offended that you would not consider her marriage as a reasonable factor in NOT pursuing her. She married for a reason - and it wasn't to have little romances within the workplace.
My advice is this - if she has never mentioned being unhappy in her relationship, or never returned any of your silly little flirty actions, please do nto pursue this any further. You are not only about to make a fool of yourself, but also stand a good chance at messing up what sounds like a fairly nice working relationship.
posted by bradth27 at 10:32 AM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

There's nothing wrong with feeling attracted to someone, anyone, who just does it for you. So the question is not about the legitimacy of the attraction. Feeling attracted to someone means that you're alive.

You should recognize, though, that (based on what you've said here) there's a very substantial chance that things would not work out between you and she. Sometimes, when one becomes really enamored of a particular person, it's hard to imagine feeling that way about anyone else, but try to remember, mentally if not emotionally, that there are other women out there who can make you feel that way.

The danger in this situation is that you might begin to feel like the only acceptable resolution to this thing is for you two to get together. Try to avoid getting too bound up in that emotional pattern. It's not good for anybody.
posted by clockzero at 10:37 AM on July 4, 2006

Dear Lord, be thee man or boy? Are your actions dictated by your honor and integrity or your cock?

No, do not tell her, stop sending gifts, and back off.

This business about married people being responsible for their own marriages--well, Christ, unmarried people have the responsibility to not be dicks and make it harder for married people to be faithful. It is the driver's responsibility to be in control of the car and remain sober when driving, but does that mean it's OK for you to designate your alcoholic friend as the designated driver, then get trashed in the backseat with two ladies and have a crazy mudfight? Oh, sure, you can, but you're a royal asshole for doing so.
posted by schroedinger at 10:44 AM on July 4, 2006

Don't do it. Don't go through this thread searching for the one post that seems a little equivocal and take that as encouragement. Just don't do it.
Do not ever imagine that anyone's marriage is something to be fucked with in any way, shape, or form.
posted by willpie at 10:51 AM on July 4, 2006

"Royal asshole" is a truer comment than you may know, as the entire Western romantic tradition originated with pining for other people's wives. Surprising to see so many people here treating it as twisted and unnatural, though it's probably a bad move.
posted by johngoren at 10:52 AM on July 4, 2006

johngoren: Yes, and I wonder how many people regularly get off on music inspired by affairs or pining after someone else's spouse, including "Layla," or love the whole Johnny Cash-June Carter story, etc. The bothersome part about this one is mainly the work angle, and the you-don't-know-how-she-feels part. That's so asking for giant trouble, and a probable firing, if not a lawsuit.

(Also, I agree on sparing us the "covenant with society" bit. The Catholic church somehow apparently saw fit not to recognize Nicole Kidman's previous marriage to Tom Cruise as legit, so not even major religious organizations recognize particular covenants.)
posted by raysmj at 11:42 AM on July 4, 2006

the entire Western romantic tradition originated with pining for other people's wives

Awesome misread of your own link.

That ruled.
posted by mph at 11:43 AM on July 4, 2006

Come on man. It's a crush. Get out some more.
posted by toastchee at 12:02 PM on July 4, 2006

Wow, how on earth did you all get so uptight? I read this, and it's all like "OMG SHE'S MARRIED AND MARRIAGE IS FOREVER COS NO MARRIAGES EVER SPLIT UP. YOU'RE GOING TO HELL". Completely ridiculous.

I recommend you take her for a drink. Or two. Or three. Then see what happens. You only live once, and there's no point in spending your whole life worrying about stupid society's stupid norms and censure and all that crap.
posted by reklaw at 12:17 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

As a married woman, here is my read on the situation: if she wanted you to make a pass at her, she would be very, very obvious. She would be rubbing up against you, flirting with her hands and eyes, making suggestive remarks, possibly even making deprecating remarks about her husband ("Charles just doesn't 'get' me...sigh")

The fact that she wears a wedding ring is proof that she takes her marriage seriously and expects you to do the same.

What I am guessing is going here is she may just be enjoying the extra attention. So much of the power that our society gives to women is wrapped up in their appearance; a beautiful, attractive woman is a powerful woman. So while she may be secretly thrilled by your attentions ("Ooo, I still have what it takes!") she doesn't want you to actually make a pass or she would have already told you so.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:39 PM on July 4, 2006

The only reason to go for it is so you can report back here and we can all laugh/cringe/link-to-this-for future-reference-when-someone-else-wants-to-do-something-equally-stoopid.

Get on and have a social won't regret it.
posted by i_cola at 12:40 PM on July 4, 2006

Dear Lord, be thee man or boy? Are your actions dictated by your honor and integrity or your cock?

and the poster can't be a woman/girl because....?

sometimes a married woman flirts and enjoys attention because it can sometimes fall by the wayside in marriage...not that she's not happy--just has to be reminded of what it's like to be desired by someone who hasn't heard her go to the bathroom...

but whatever it is, whatever the circumstances, often something like this can be decided by simply thinking ahead a couple steps: so you tell this woman and you start fooling around--are you up for whatever is going to happen following this? if it happens, you're entering a world of secrets (often badly kept) or divorce, or both...given that exclusive one-on-one relationships are complicated enough, are you up for the extra layer of stuff to consider along the way?
posted by troybob at 12:42 PM on July 4, 2006

Let me add that she may enjoy your attentions-- she may even fantasize a little about you, but if you force her hand by admitting you want her to commit adultary, she may get angry because you will have destroyed her safe little fantasy.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:45 PM on July 4, 2006

This is almost always a bad idea, but:

More than twenty years ago I was in almost the exact situation. We met at work and were both in committed relationships. It was incredibly hard, wrenching and often ugly, but I couldn't lose her no matter what it cost.

We're still together, happy, and coming up on our 14th anniversary. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Your mileage may vary.
posted by timeistight at 1:01 PM on July 4, 2006

follow-up from the OP:

I picked on you to reply to by email because... well, you got mentioned in
the form to submit the post anonymously, but also because you hit on some
points that kind of made a dent in my thick skull... primarily the "How are
you going to feel if she says that she does not have any feelings for you?"
question. I'd like to think I'd be able to chalk it up to experience but, to
be quite honest, I don't know that's the case. It's new territory for me - I
have never actually gotten interested in someone who is, by all of society's
rules, unattainable. She doesn't fit any of my normal interests,

That being said, I had kind of decided to myself before posting that if
someone made a good argument for saying something, I would. No one has, and
for good reason - it's a stupid, selfish idea. I did come in looking for a
justification to make it okay, but I sat down this morning and looked at
what I was doing and all of the responses and realized there wasn't any way
to make this an okay idea. I do this, I'm a jerk. Got it. I don't want to be
that guy, and thank you all for pointing out to me that I was becoming that
guy. I got a bit too caught up in the fantasy of it to actually see the
details of what would be behind it.

Just to clarify for a few folks... yes, what I've done is pretty clearly
flirting, but in rereading, you wouldn't be able to tell that from the
context I laid out. If I added that she's the only person I said goodnight
to as I left, the only one that I asked how her weekend was, the only one I
left gifts for... (well, that one's pretty obvious)... and she's well aware
that it's just her.

The blog that rhiannon and paulsc mentioned helped too. Whether the story is
true or not is irrelevant - it put a different perspective on it for me.

The folks who say "stop falling for her now" - not really helpful. Emotions
aren't just a switch you can flick on or off. This'd be so much easier if it

That being said, it's over. No more attention to her any more than there is
to my male coworkers. No more gifts, no more popping my head in just to say
g'night. I'm going to knock it off. I'll have relapses; I'm a realist. But
I've got 76 reminders right here (okay, a few said go for it... call it 73)
that it's a monumentally stupid idea.

Thanks. I mean it.

(If you want a follow-up discussion, how's this: "What do I do when she asks
why I've stopped being the way I was?" :-)
posted by jessamyn at 1:16 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Certainly, a gracious, and altogether human response from the OP. I, for one, thank him for making the effort to reply in thread.
posted by paulsc at 1:22 PM on July 4, 2006

If she were ready to consider this possibility, she would be at least separated. If she's never made any mention of such thoughts at work, she has absolutely no intention of leaving her husband.

If you manage to convince her to leave her husband, somehow, nobody will be looking at it like "Oh, well, what a great guy, getting her away from a man she never really liked." Instead, the world will view you as "Scumbag that likes to wreck perfectly happy lives."

On the other hand, if you do try to take her away from her husband and are not successful (VERY LIKELY POSSIBILITY) you will still be viewed as a scumbag that likes to wreck happy lives, but more than that, if you are lucky and don't get sued, you will be so hated at work, not only by her, but by others, that you will leave.

File this idea under "Just because it's not illegal doesn't mean it's a good idea." along with "Playing the lottery" and "Eating broken glass".

Wait, and if the opportunity presents itself CLEARLY (ie: She starts working on divorce papers, etc) then you can consider it. Although there will be rumours at that point that you still wrecked their lives, you know you didn't. And she won't be spreading them, so at least they'll be short lived.
posted by shepd at 1:29 PM on July 4, 2006

Certainly, a gracious, and altogether human response from the OP. I, for one, thank him for making the effort to reply in thread.

Seconded. I can understand the blindness induced by emotion (I've been in your shoes, though not in a work situation), and I salute your ability to use this thread to straighten yourself out. Well done, and thanks for the update!
posted by languagehat at 1:38 PM on July 4, 2006

Oh, and:
"What do I do when she asks why I've stopped being the way I was?"

Smile and say "I was going a little overboard there, wasn't I?" If she says anything like that (in a friendly/joking way), it's clear she appreciated the attention (and was probably glad in the way Secret Life of Gravy mentioned), and you may be able to transmute your crazed one-sided passion into a mutual joky-affectionate friendship. Just make sure you've expelled the idea of a "relationship" completely from your mind!
posted by languagehat at 1:42 PM on July 4, 2006

Congrats on coming to your senses, OP. Sometimes it takes a village.
posted by LarryC at 1:51 PM on July 4, 2006

She may not say anything at all. Some people say she's toying with you, but it may be that getting gifts and such leaves her a bit dumbfounded. She may be of the mentality of "if I ignore, it'll go away."

I mean she's been put in something of an awkward place. Her options would be:

1. Telling you to stop with the gifts and such and that she isn't interested, which is incredibly difficult to tell someone face to face that you work with every day.

2. Telling you to stop with the gifts and such and that she isn't interested, and then risking your saying "I was just being nice, I wasn't hitting on you, you misunderstood." Which isn't true of course, but she doesn't know that for certain, and she'll feel like an idiot and again have to face you every single day.

So she doesn't want to risk either, hence she says nothing and just tries to be polite and say thank you. And so it continues.

In short: cut it out already. :)
posted by miltoncat at 2:20 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Well done, OP.

If she asks, I'd be non-committal and say something, "Just busy, I guess." or "I got a lot on my mind at the moment." The kind of thing you can say to anyone, and still retain your privacy.

I think it's possible she sees you as a dear friend, and any questioning in that line will be from an interest in your welfare, rather than an indication that she misses your romantic intentions. Try not to take it the wrong way.
posted by b33j at 2:33 PM on July 4, 2006

Kudos to you for seeing the light, but...

What I've done is pretty clearly flirting, but in rereading, you wouldn't be able to tell that from the context I laid out.

Dude, we can all read between the lines. You couldn't be more transparent if you were a pane of glass.

What do I do when she asks why I've stopped being the way I was?

You could graciously tell her that you became concerned that your behaviour might have been making her feel uncomfortable. Speaking from my own experience, I guarantee you that she will appreciate that.
posted by randomstriker at 5:07 PM on July 4, 2006

Astonishing. An almost-unanimous relationship thread full of sensible responses with very few recommendations for professional help* and--this is what's really remarkable--a sane, reasonable, even graceful followup by the OP.

I seriously doubt the crush will say anything about the cessation of special attention. She's likely been monitoring your actions, glances, and comments with clinical exactitude, watching for the moment when things redlined and she'd have to initiate one of the dreaded conversations jessamyn described. She'll note your changed behavior and silently thank one or more deities that you've finally gotten hold of a clue somewhere. And that's it.

I do sincerely admire your response. It indicates that you're not a complete ninny, you'll behave as if you're in an office setting and not a telenovela or The Real World: Scranton, and things will work out fine. You and she can be work pals, which is a relationship far more interesting and durable and income-enhancing than a work fling.

And soon enough, this will all be a story you tell non-married belles and filles to illustrate the sweet cluelessness of your younger self, thus offering cover for your fearsome macking-on-the-ladies skillz. They won't know what hit 'em.

*Not that this bothers me but I know it's one of many points of contention on MeFi -- below circumcision, declawing, and YouTube, but above seatbelt advocacy. I think. No doubt I'll be corrected if I'm wrong.
posted by vetiver at 5:33 PM on July 4, 2006

How can I be party to a covenant I didn't agree to?

There are some things you agree to by being part of civilized society. "Don't fuck someone else's wife" is up there with "Don't piss in the streets". Sure, you never signed a "Don't piss in the streets" contract, but that doesn't change the fact that it's just the jerk thing to do.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:50 PM on July 4, 2006

it's just the jerk thing to do.

Which I already agreed with. But calling it a covenant - saying that every marriage is also a promise between the married people and the rest of society - is absurd. It's not a covenant. It is the right thing to do.
posted by mediareport at 6:30 PM on July 4, 2006

Glad to see that the OP seems to have come to his senses. It restored some of my faith in people.

I'm fairly certain (although I certainly cannot prove it) that my mom was in the exact same situation as the woman he speaks of. Her suitor crossed that line and made the advances and she made the wrong (from my perspective, at least) choice, ending in a nasty, bitter divorce.

Fast forward almost ten years and things still aren't that good between mom and me, and my dad is still pretty devastated, although he has moved on. Thanks for not doing that to somebody else.
posted by jtfowl0 at 6:43 PM on July 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Don't tell your married coworker that you are falling for her unless she is married to you. And even in this case I would think twice about telling her. Women can take this in the wrong way.
posted by zackdog at 12:43 AM on July 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

What do I do when she asks why I've stopped being the way I was?

To begin with: stop hanging onto the idea that she'll single you out for special attention. I know you have feelings for her, and I know where you're coming from, but seriously. Just cut it out. I doubt she will, but if she does, just let her know that you decided it was inappropriate behaviour. And that you thought the other male co-workers were getting jealous and you didn't want to have to start bringing in presents for them as well ;)

Best of luck.
posted by saturnine at 5:09 AM on July 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Good response anon.

[Music: Heart-rending but ultimately hopeful.]

Fade to black.

posted by i_cola at 5:57 AM on July 5, 2006

Along with all the excellent reasons already cited for knocking it off, may I suggest that breaking up her marriage is potentially not just her problem or some minor ethical dilemma as you seem to envision it.
States in which alienation of affection is possibly a viable cause of action:

Missouri (appears recently abolished)
New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Carolina
South Dakota

[To succeed on an alienation claim, the plaintiff often must show that (1) the marriage entailed love between the spouses in some degree; (2) the spousal love was alienated and destroyed; and (3) defendant’s malicious conduct contributed to or caused the loss of affection. It is often not necessary to show that the defendant set out to destroy the marital relationship, but only that he or she intentionally engaged in acts that likely would impact the marriage.]
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:33 AM on July 5, 2006

Why bother, when Merdryn, klarck, jessamyn & schroedinger put it so succinctly? Reklaw, you're pathetic.
posted by Pressed Rat at 12:30 PM on July 6, 2006

I love AskMe, and I love the OP. Unfortunately, I'm in a committed relationship, and male. Fuck!

There's so much good advice in here, and kudos to you, OP, for considering it all and coming to a wise conclusion.

Like others, I'd advise not dwelling too much on the possibility of the follow-up discussion. You are trying to move past this and let this go.

Also, a good general rule of thumb is, whatever reklaw says, do the opposite.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:37 AM on July 10, 2006

Don't even think about it. She's unavailable, and you'll just cause trouble for yourself and her.
posted by DanTolumbro at 10:09 PM on November 24, 2006

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