Lost souls parting ways
May 22, 2007 7:02 PM   Subscribe

Emotional attachment to a co-worker who is leaving. Mutual sense of respect, wonderful person, perhaps attachment, unexpressed feelings. Cope much?

A coworker of the opposite sex is leaving (ie, opposite coast) after a 2 year period of time during which we've grown into a really comfortable professional relationship. We've not really spent much time together away from work (except for an occasional social gathering), but we've used our close proximity within a small office as a way to bond and spend quality time together. Lunches/ etc is our only alone time which happens on average once a week.

We’re about the same (20s) age, with hormones but they haven’t really gotten in the way and we reached a sort of tacit agreement to not cross that line. It’s more out of a sense of respect for each other, especially given the small size of the company, but I can’t say that there hasn’t been a moment on certain days when we’ve looked at each other with meaningful glances. It really is an emotional affair. But more than anything we really enjoy being around each other. And this person is a great friend.

Now, this person is leaving and I feel that a huge part of my life will be gone, just like that. Given the nature of our relationship, I fear that once there is no work together, there will be no friendship (since that’s our main avenue of contact). How do I cope with a loss like this and is there any way to make it feel better? Because right now, I’m not feeling so great about it. Work will not be the same. It feels that we’re both lost souls and neither of us wants to talk talk about the leaving in an adult way. I don’t know how this should end. What can I say that will be meaningful before parting ways? I'm not really sure what to make of this crossroads. Certain irrational feelings are mixed in together and I'd like you to guide me, please.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I mean no disrespect by this, but as long as you're not otherwise encumbered, I think the best course of action is to, ahem, get drunk, and proceed to screw. Seriously.

It's gonna be a sad departure, either way, and it sounds like your relationship is complicated. And frankly, the human instinct is to make things more complicated than they already are. I say go with it.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:24 PM on May 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

With the internet, im, txt messaging, etc its not like you'll never be able to communicate with this person again. Perhaps a long-distance friendship would work? If its work that you talk about the most then it may be fun learning about his/her new job while he/she may enjoy keeping tabs on what is going on at your work.

But I sense there is more here - perhaps some regret that things didn't progress romantically? If thats the case then you have to make a choice: either act quickly or bite your tongue. It sounds like things are set, so its unlikely that any last minute romantic move will change things for the better... but if you make your feelings felt then who knows what could happen down the road?

Keep in touch with the person, make a real effort to communicate with them a few times a week and see how it progresses. Good luck!
posted by wfrgms at 7:35 PM on May 22, 2007

the only reason i would caution against the farewell f*ck is because that's all it will be. if you really want there to be a real relationship, stay in touch with him after he leaves. ask him how he's settling in, how he likes the new city, how the office culture is over there. tell him you miss having your office buddy around and pass along the gossip from your own office.

if there's a real connection, he'll continue to stay in touch and open up. you should open up a little to him, too. not, "hey, i am secretly attracted to you," but talk about things you used to not talk about, your personal life, etc. the distance will actually work to your advantage.

good luck! i don't think it will be as hard as you fear. i don't know if it'll turn into something more, but at least you should be able to stay in touch.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:51 PM on May 22, 2007

oh good lord. this is almost me except he's not going anywhere, at least not as far as I know. Please, please say something.
posted by sweetkid at 8:14 PM on May 22, 2007

I'm sorry to hear that this your terrific friend is leaving your office. It's human relationships like yours that make the workplace so much better than simply "tolerable."

My experience has been that once I leave an office, I rarely see former co-workers. No more proximity. Out of sight, out of mind.

If this is what happens for you, it will mean looking for new friends, in the office and outside work, adding to your social network, filling the hole.

Fortunately, Wonderful Person hasn't left quite yet and you'll have at least one more time alone together. What's to stop you from bringing the subject up?

Talk about how much you've enjoyed WP's company, what it's meant to you. Then wait and see how WP responds. If you get a brush-off, drop it.

If WP expresses similar thoughts, slowly take it to the next level by telling WP a tiny little bit of your feelings. Wait and see what the reaction is. And so forth.

If at any time you get expressions of horror, distaste, rolling-eyes, you know you're on the wrong track and can drop it. If you get good eye contact and a warm smile, continue slowly in the same vein. And leave plenty of space for WP to reply.

Expressing your feelings to another person can build trust and openness. It could be the start of a new level of your relationship with WP.

At the very least, it's better than doing NOTHING and waiting for the sadness to set in after WP departs.
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:18 PM on May 22, 2007

I agree with wfrgms on this one.
posted by Rain Man at 8:20 PM on May 22, 2007

sounds like a great book plot.
posted by STHayden at 9:18 PM on May 22, 2007

Four words:


Who knows? You're in your mid-twenties now. Five years from now each of you will be settled in your careers, ready to settle down and have a family.

Perhaps your paths will cross again...it's destiny.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 PM on May 22, 2007

This sounds a bit more like a 20's question than it does a work question. When I was in my 20's, I always felt awkward about expressing how much certain friends meant to me, and about how much I wanted to stay in touch. And those conversations, when they happened, were quite awkward. The other person didn't know how to respond gracefully any more than I knew how to bring it up gracefully.

But I can say that I'm still in touch with the majority of those to whom I expressed such a sentiment.

Also, I recently (about a year ago) left a job of 7 years in which I'd developed some very close, intimate, and meaningful relationships. I rarely saw these people outside of work, but interacting with them during work meant a great deal. I feared the out-of-sight-out-of-mind thing would get the better of us, but, much to my surprise, I'm still in touch with them.

FWIW, I think it's possible to be both sincere and non-gushy at the same time. Perhaps you can say something like "working with you has been one of the best parts of this job. I'm really going to miss having you here."
posted by treepour at 12:42 AM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

Allow yourself to grieve for the imminent loss of someone important to you. Part respectfully as friends. Getting drunk and ending up in bed together would ruin all you have shared.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:37 AM on May 23, 2007

Don't watch In the Mood for Love. Or do: it might make help you cope to see your situation enacted on the screen...
posted by ibeji at 5:59 AM on May 23, 2007

This made me think of the episode of The Office (US) where Michael Scott says: "Jim and I hang out a TON... mostly at work."


Man, ask this person out to dinner! And then say "Geez, I am going to miss you when you're gone!" and then the other person will either say "Gosh, I know!" or "Heh." and then you'll know how to continue.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:52 AM on May 23, 2007

Gotta agree with MC Lo-Carb here, especially because I don't think it's possible to "ruin all you have shared."

-- Option 1: You part as friends/co-workers, the relationship ends and you spend 6 months being sad and wondering about what might have been. Memories of happy platonic lunches when you're clearly pining for more are gonna be cold comfort once this person is on the opposite coast.

-- Option 2: You make a move and get rejected, or have sex and it turns out awkward and bad. Still not any worse than Option 1 (IMO). At least you get some closure.

-- Option 3: You make a move, have hot awesome sex (or at least a deep and sincere expression of mutual feelings), and part as happier and more fulfilled people. Yay!
posted by junkbox at 10:27 AM on May 23, 2007

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