Flirting--fun or folly?
March 23, 2007 3:29 PM   Subscribe

There's a guy at work who fascinates me and I would love to get to know him as a friend, but I'm afraid to pursue it for fear he'll think I'm coming on to him. (I'm happily married and not looking for an affair). Should I just relax, not overthink it and let things develop, or should I run?

I'm a woman, but I tend to gravitate toward men and have always had more men than women friends, especially at work. This guy I like at work, Jason, is super pleasant and maybe just a touch flirtatious (but so is everyone else there--it seems to be part of the culture). The slight flirtatiousness is what has me running scared. I think partially I'm responding to blurry feelings of attraction to Jason, but since I'm aware of them and not going to act on them, I should feel stable and not threatened. Instead, I'm really anxious whenever this guy is around. I'm sort of afraid he's going to ask me out, and sort of afraid I'm going to suggest meeting up. Ideally we'd just have lunch occasionally when I need a break (I pull some every long days over there), and since we have some background and work-related stuff in common, it would be so great to just chill and chat with him. But I'm dreading his thinking that it would all mean more than it does.

And then I'm wondering if I'm being dishonest with myself. Am I just looking for a person to flirt with because I'm bored? It's not technically infidelity, but it doesn't reflect too well on me. I'm full of guilt and just super miserable right now.

Is it possible to have a flirtatious friendship that doesn't go anywhere?

Jason doesn't know I'm married I don't think. How can I mention it without seeming like I'm holding up garlic in front of a vampire? Again, he hasn't been inappropriate or forward at all. Am I projecting my own attraction to him, on him?

I want to be honest with him. I'd like to give a nod to the attraction between us (assuming he senses it), let him know I'm not available but do it in such a way that he knows I think he's terrific just the same. I don't want it to feel like rejection to him. I just want him to feel great about himself. And it would be a privilege to be his friend.

Sorry for the ramble. Please help. I'm feeling horrible and I'm so upset I'm actually losing weight (the only upside here!).
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The fact that you are thinking about this guy so much when you haven't even really gotten to know him yet doesn't bode well for a simple friendship. And the way you want to tell him your married, while at the name time giving a nod to your mutual attraction, seems to indicate that the subject is up for debate.
posted by hazyjane at 3:37 PM on March 23, 2007

Am I just looking for a person to flirt with because I'm bored? Yes.

Is it possible to have a flirtatious friendship that doesn't go anywhere? If you're so hot and bothered by this whole thing that you're losing weight, this will not be one of those friendships.

I want to be honest with him. I'd like to give a nod to the attraction between us (assuming he senses it), let him know I'm not available but do it in such a way that he knows I think he's terrific just the same.
Eww, no. Absolutely not, are you kidding? You want to have your cake and eat it, too. But you can't, or rather, you shouldn't. Plus, there's no non-creepy way to say what you want to say.

Jason doesn't know I'm married I don't think. How can I mention it without seeming like I'm holding up garlic in front of a vampire?

Jason: What did you do last night?
Me: Well, my husband and I made dinner, then we....

Telling him you're married is your first step- do it now (although if you work in the same office, how could he not know?). Then, channel all this extra sexual energy toward your husband, rather than simply pushing it away from this Jason fellow. Find a new hobby. Join Netflix. Something. You need to get your mind off this crush. It will fade in time, as they all do.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:47 PM on March 23, 2007 [4 favorites]

Imagine that there were a woman at your husband's workplace, and that he felt about her just the way that you do about Jason. What would you want him to do? Do that.
posted by daisyace at 3:50 PM on March 23, 2007 [9 favorites]


Every marriage hits a boring spot once in awhile and even if your intentions truly are pure, this could be trouble.

But the fact you are fascinated, almost guarantees this would be trouble. Ever heard of an emotional affair?

Don't beat yourself up about this-attractions happen. To all of us. But you need to set yourself clear boundaries NOW rather than walk casually too near the edge. Lots of good people have done the latter-and fallen right off the cliff.
posted by konolia at 3:51 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

You are playing with fire.
Please don't pursue this.
You sound like a good person, he sounds like a good person.
But just pull back.
And like PinkSupHero wisely counseled, channel all your good energies onto your husband.
posted by Dizzy at 3:51 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is it possible to have a flirtatious friendship that doesn't go anywhere?

Of course! The danger is whether or not both of you are aware it's not going anywhere. In my experience, that either happens or it doesn't; there's no way to force it.

What I'm hearing is that you've got a bit of a crush, and you feel guilty about it. I think that's a perfectly reasonable reaction... but not a necessary one. It is O.K. to have a crush. It would be worrisome if you never did. A crush only becomes a problem when you act on it, or when you over-think it. I believe you are much more in danger of the latter.

My advice is simply to continue talking with this person and trust your intuition. If you're getting strong signs that the attraction is mutual, and it makes you uncomfortable, voice it tactfully... but be sure to voice it. Otherwise the urge will be to avoid him at all costs. It would be a shame to let a potentially rewarding friendship get away because you couldn't take the first and most important step in any relationship, platonic or otherwise... communicating.
posted by ndicecco at 3:56 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

The only reason that you think telling him you're married is hard, is because you don't want to tell him. Telling someone you're married or in a relationship is one of the easiest hints ever. You don't have to even tell him, you could put your wedding picture (or any picture of your husband) on your desk -- that ought to do it. Good luck!
posted by ruwan at 3:56 PM on March 23, 2007

The beginning of your question reads like you are interested in Jason as a buddy. By the end, you sound more clearly attracted to him. How much of the above would you share with your husband? It seems notable that you don't mention communicating any of this to him, but I understand how someone might leave that out when they are feeling flustered from a crush. I find advice like daisyace's helpful in these kinds of situations.
posted by juliplease at 3:58 PM on March 23, 2007

IANAD Phil, but what if you invite him and a couple other people out to do something with you and your husband. To me that seems to give off the... uh... "I'm married, but still think you're a cool guy" vibe.

I don't know about all the other stuff.
posted by tngrn at 4:00 PM on March 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

Am I just looking for a person to flirt with because I'm bored?



If you're that bored, and need a distraction, find an internet crush. Not anybody you actually correspond with. Pick a MeFite with cute text or something.

Daisyace has it. If Mr Anon was losing weight fretting over a girl he worked with...well, no need to expand on that.
posted by kmennie at 4:02 PM on March 23, 2007

Jason doesn't know I'm married I don't think. How can I mention it without seeming like I'm holding up garlic in front of a vampire?

It's possible you and your husband have one of those marriages where this sort of thing is totally within the boundaries of what is appropriate. However, I bet it's not. My advice is to mention this to your husband because, to my way of thinking, the longer this becomes your own private little infatuation, the more the tittilating "ooooh secret!" aspect can be hard to undo.

If Jason doesn't know you're married, why not? Do you not wear a ring? Do you keep it a secret? Most of the openly flirty offices I have been in usually have stuff like that pretty above board, though yours may be different.

All your back and forth here seems to indicate that the headiness of this guy in your life is making little waves with you in a way you like but don't think is sustainable. My opinion is that if you were really as certain that you weren't looking for an affair as you initally state that you are, there is no problem here. When I was in committed long-term relationships I met new people who were attractive to me and possibly attracted to me but I didn't keep those meetings secret from my partner and we'd sometimes have flirtatious friendships that didn't go anywhere and it was fine.

Don't worry about this guy feeling rejected. If he's flirting with you and the news that you're married and unavailable makes him feel "rejected" that's sort of how the system is supposed to work. You don't want to break the longish "moment" that you guys seem to be having but you know it's coming. Try to be graceful about it, you might have a decent friendship come out of it and you can take your hot-n-bothered enrgy back home to your husband.

In short, people aren't scared of heights because they're afraid of falling, they are scared of heights because they are afraid of jumping and no matter how much thought you put into this, you are no different.
posted by jessamyn at 4:03 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Feeling a crush can be useful; it reminds you that you're alive. As long as you don't do anything stupid, like talk about it, eventually it'll go away.

I suggest that you make a point very soon of mentioning that you're married, and then invite the guy to go get lunch. That'll make it clear that you do like him, but you aren't available for, you know, other stuff. After a while the mutual intensity you're feeling will fade into something warm and quiet and nice for both of you. And if you're destined to become good friends, that can be very comforting ten or twenty years down the road.

For what it's worth, "people I'm attracted to" have always been a large subset of "people I want as friends." I'm not married, but lots of my friends are. If I avoided them because I found them attractive, I'd miss out on the companionship of some of my favorite people.
posted by tangerine at 4:15 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Do you want to be friends with him but be committed not to flirt with him? Then, tell him you'd like to do lunch sometime after dropping the H-bomb. Invite him out to a barbecue, or your birthday party. Tell him bhe's invited to bring a friend (read: date). Men and Women can be friends without flirting. Your office is messed up if the contrary is the dominant culture.

These feelings may come and go. Draw your boundary line now, with your husband. If you have fuzzy boundaries, like me, you need those off-limits areas. Don't find yourself back at his place, drinking, by yourselves, trying to resist the worst. Don't go there to begin with.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:18 PM on March 23, 2007

As said above, allude to the fact you are married and keep it professional.

I have played both roles in this scenario, once as your husband (my wife entered into an emotional affair with a "friend" - she now lives 350 miles away with him) and once as "Jason". In both circumstances it went beyond friendship and in both circumstances divorce followed. Unless that's where you want it to go, I wouldn't risk your marriage because you are bored.
posted by ill3 at 5:24 PM on March 23, 2007

Is it possible to have a flirtatious friendship that doesn't go anywhere?

Sure. I happily nurse a couple of harmless crushes at any given time. But there's no chance, none, of real interest. If a crush came on to me, I'd be confused and un-attracted. It's Not Part Of The Deal.

What kind of crush are you harboring? Can you imagine kissing this guy? Do you kind wish he would? If so, you may want to re-think this.
posted by desuetude at 5:32 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Flirtation, particularly when we are married or in committed relationship, brings us dangerously close to one of the most pernicious sins of all. No, I don’t mean adultery. I mean the sin of using another human being to soothe our own anxiety, to feed our ravenous ego. Sending out “mixed messages” that arouse interest, deliberately fishing about to see if we can get a little “stroking” — this is toxic, manipulative, adolescent.
posted by amber_dale at 6:48 PM on March 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

I forgot to mention that whenever my husband or I either have someone come on to us or we are starting to crush on someone we tell the other. Seriously!

Secondly I have found although it is fine to be friendly, as a married woman I won't become a serious friend to a guy, particularly if he is single. No lunches alone, no deep conversations, etc. I have casual friendships with guys but I keep it casual. OTOH I am very comfortable with my husband being friends with women, but that's because he gives off such a big brother vibe I know he's safe. (He avoids women dressed scantily and keeps me posted on everything else.) I know myself and I know my hubby, and this works for us.

Yeah, one other thing. I find it very unnerving if a friend who is a guy starts acting flirtatiously-could it be this guy is flirting with you and you are picking up on that? I actually had to have a talk fairly recently with a male acquaintance about boundaries. Not the most comfortable conversation I'd ever had.
posted by konolia at 7:00 PM on March 23, 2007

You are crushing. It is normal. Don't act on it or be his buddy. If you have a wedding ring, I'd wear it. If you aren't, why not? It is designed to avoid this sort of thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:32 PM on March 23, 2007

If you can be scrupulously honest with everyone involved including yourself then go for it, otherwise stay well clear. One of my best friends for the last 10 years started as an office crush, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
posted by Manjusri at 8:55 PM on March 23, 2007

I think it depends on the industry you're in. In the restaurant industry, flirting is what gets you through the shift. It's very much a staff-against-the-world mentality, and a good portion of the workers are young and fit and vibrant and vivacious. Everybody knows who's married or coupled and that is totally respected, but you're coming into so much physical contact during busy times that you would burst if you didn't acknowledge it and have fun with it.

Provided you can keep control of your own damn self.
posted by vito90 at 11:23 PM on March 23, 2007

This will end is disaster. Desist.
posted by unSane at 10:00 AM on March 24, 2007

Based on personal experience of having a married 'work boyfriend' at a previous job make a pass at me on my last day, I'm going to say don't fool yourself that it can stay safe and harmless. If somebody's seeking somebody out for flirting, there's always some kind of intention underneath there. And when it's being initiated by somebody who's married and it's in the workplace, there's just too much potential for drama.
posted by gov_moonbeam at 11:20 AM on March 24, 2007

One vote for "Men and women can't be friends."

posted by eleyna at 12:24 PM on March 24, 2007

posted by allkindsoftime at 1:09 PM on March 24, 2007

Is it possible to have a flirtatious friendship that doesn't go anywhere?

It's possible for some people. You don't sound like one of them.

Yeah, run.
posted by yohko at 7:29 PM on March 24, 2007

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