Help me keep my hands to myself.
November 21, 2007 6:59 AM   Subscribe

For the first time in the 3 years I've been with my fiancé, I'm irresistably attracted to someone else. Of course, I have to work with the object of my lust.

I've just started a new job, and I've become overwhelmingly attracted to the guy who is training me. Besides his physical attributes, his personality and interests mesh well with mine and we have a lot of non-work-related conversations. My attraction is so strong that I have a hard time concentrating on my work.

This has totally taken me by surprise because I am very happy and in love with my partner. We've had the normal ups and downs of any relationship, but at the end of the day I know he's the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. I have zero intention of cheating on him. I have never betrayed him in the slightest.

Before meeting my fiance, I do have a rather sordid history of pursuing all the wrong guys - married men, my supervisors at work, etc. I definitely lack self-control in this area.

Though my coworker definitely likes my personality, I don't think my physical attraction is recriprocated, so I don't foresee him doing anything inappropriate. (Also, he's married, apparently happily.) I have to talk to him many times a day for work-related reasons (plus our cubicles are next to each other), but I want to make sure that I don't cross any lines. How can I keep myself out of danger here? How can I get through the day without these constant fantasies driving me crazy?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This is totally normal, so don't think that you're an awful person for having these types of thoughts.

Pick something about him that you find irritating and fixate on it. Maybe he drums his fingers or smacks gum or has a silly phrase that he likes to repeat a lot. Maybe he sneezes too loudly or doesn't do a good job trimming his nose hairs. I'm certain that if you're around him long enough, you'll find something, and when you do, just keep reminding yourself of that.
posted by kitty teeth at 7:09 AM on November 21, 2007 [3 favorites]

Talk it over with your fiancee. If you don't have that kind of trust and openness, are you sure you want to be getting married to him? Put another way, if your fiancee doesn't know about your secret attraction, your fiancee doesn't know everything he's getting involved with -- and that's not fair to him either. Secrets are bad.

To directly answer your question, the only ways I know of to make temptation go away are to give in to it, to taint it ("oh, he's a Tory, ew"), or to remove it from opportunity.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:11 AM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Think about what you would want your fiancee to do if he were the one in this situation, and do that.

I'm not sure what you're referring to when you say you lack self-control. You don't have to stop being attracted to other men again now that you're engaged. It would be nearly impossible to control that. You just have to not act on it, and that is something you will need to be able to control. If you really can't help yourself, then you're not ready to be married.
posted by boomchicka at 7:14 AM on November 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

Focus on something about him that is unappealing. Does he sniffle instead of blow his nose? Maybe he has a hairy mole on his face? Cleans his ears with his keys? Bad breath/gross teeth? Whatever it is, focus on the unsexy traits instead of the hot ones and in time he may just become one of the menagerie of weirdos at your workplace instead of a perfect Romeo.

Also, you can interrupt the fantasies with thoughts of how life would be if you cheated with him, he turned out to be a jerk and terrible in bed, and then your fiance found out threw you out for being a skank.
posted by defreckled at 7:16 AM on November 21, 2007

How can I get through the day without these constant fantasies driving me crazy?

Have sex / masturbate before you go to work?
posted by chunking express at 7:18 AM on November 21, 2007 [3 favorites]

The neuro-linguistic programming brigade would probably tell you to spend time vividly imagining him doing really repulsive things, then run these mental movies until you associate him strongly with whatever disgusting habits you've decided to imagine.

Might work. I am not endorsing NLP.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:21 AM on November 21, 2007

I think kitty teeth has it right. However I respectfully disagree with seanmpuckett's recommendation to discuss this with your mate. Yes, secrets are bad; however in this case, revealing your crush (because that's what it is, right?) has the potential to harm your long-lasting good thing ("She's attracted to someone else more than me? I'm not enough for her?" etc, etc.), and if you can control your self-destructive impulse (because that's what it is, right?) you will have harmed noone -- in fact you'll have strengthened your relationship knowing that you successfully overcame temptation. Focus on something unattractive and remember your good thing. I recommend nostrils: nobody has attractive nostrils.
posted by waraw at 7:24 AM on November 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

Even though you seem to be getting to know each other rather well, you're still only exposed to his polished "work face". Imagine him picking his nose. Imagine that he secretly gambles away fortunes on cheesy online casinos. Imagine that he cheats on his wife and doesn't use protection. Imagine that his junk smells really, really strange. Imagine discovering that he has deepseated issues about people of a certain other race. Imagine that he is mean to waiters. Imagine that he sticks gum under tables.

In other words, you need to stop idealizing him and practice hanging all sorts of all-too-real human attributes on him. There's so much you don't know about him, and it's possible that if you got to know each other in an environment that didn't automatically steer people toward getting along that you'd have gathered quite a different impression of him. This may not keep you from becoming friends with him, but it will surely dampen your attraction.

After you've worked there a while, more of his less savory traits are sure to come to light, and I think almost all of us have gotten to that point where we wind up with an experience or a bit of information that makes us thank GOD (or whoever) that we didn't sleep with so-and-so back when we thought we wanted to. Wait for that. It will come.
posted by hermitosis at 7:25 AM on November 21, 2007

If you do act on this crush, even if your coworker reciprocates, it has the potential to make your home and work life a whole bunch of suck.

You need to work on taking Mr. Crush down off the pedestal you've set up for him in your mind.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:30 AM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

It is perfectly natural to be attracted to other people while you are in a relationship. The committment part of it comes from not acting on said attractions.

Don't cheat, don't tell your fiance, keep a little bit of distance (no after-work drinks or coffee breaks), and wait it out. A few months from now, you'll probably have thoughts like "I can't believe I had such a crush on Coworker X. It seems so ridiculous now that I know him better."
posted by emd3737 at 7:58 AM on November 21, 2007 [4 favorites]

seanmpuckett: Talk it over with your fiancee. If you don't have that kind of trust and openness, are you sure you want to be getting married to him? Put another way, if your fiancee doesn't know about your secret attraction, your fiancee doesn't know everything he's getting involved with -- and that's not fair to him either. Secrets are bad.

I don't know that this is a very good idea. I have a feeling that by doing so you'd be giving power and a place for those feelings in yourself and in your relationship where they don't deserve one.

Trusting someone enough to build a lifelong relationship isn't about telling them everything that's going on in your life. When you're getting to know them, telling them everything can be a good default, and it can help to build that trust and knowledge of each other that will serve you well in the long run. But being someone's partner also still means that each of you have your own lives and responsibilities. This is something that you need to take care of yourself. What might you expect him to say if you tell him? That he supports you somehow? You already know how he'll feel about it, and you already know what needs to be done about it. Being in a trusting relationship means a partner trusts the other partner to do certain things on your own, and this is one of them.

I've been married for all of six months. Because of the nature of relationships, I'm certain that, at some point in our lives, my wife will probably have the feelings you're describing about somebody besides me. And I'll probably have them about somebody besides her at some point, too. Suffice it to say: when she does hit that moment, I trust her to know what needs to be done and take care of it. And I hope to Christ she doesn't tell me about it, because it will do no good for anybody.

Just go and take care of the situation. You're an adult; be responsible. You say you "definitely lack self-control in this area." So find a new job.
posted by koeselitz at 8:11 AM on November 21, 2007 [8 favorites]

When you find you're lusting after her, immediately conjure a mental image of her puking over a toilet, a little vomit in her hair, her skin pale and washed out, a large mole with a few hairs growing out of it revealed somewhere you normally can't see, dark circles under her eyes, eyes screwed shut because of the bathroom light, given that she has a massive hangover and perhaps is still a little drunk.

She suddenly becomes a great deal less desirable. :-)
posted by WCityMike at 8:24 AM on November 21, 2007

If you truly lack self-control in this area and see yourself inevitably sleeping with this guy--especially if he ever does reciprocate--then you need to leave this job. You are aware of the problem. If you do not take steps to resolve this issue, even if it is as drastic as leaving the job, make no mistake the results will be your fault.
posted by schroedinger at 8:33 AM on November 21, 2007

I recently went through a 10-month period in which I was feverishly attracted to the person I sat next to at work. I feel for you, my own situation was miserable. I tried many of the things suggested here, but the only way it really resolved was when he got a better job and left.

I'm not saying leave your job or anything like that, you are probably built of stronger stuff than I. But be prepared for battle with yourself. Make a conscious effort to see and speak with him as little as possible. Don't have lunch with him, don't socialize with him outside of work even in a group, and resist idly chatting with him during your down time at least until you feel you are really over him. I am of the opinion that distance and little contact are the best remedies for these situations. Oh, and really hot sex with your fiancé. Every night. At least twice.
posted by Squee at 8:33 AM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this helps you but it certainly helps me. I realize and accept that the image portrayed to us (by others and by ourselves) is RARELY reality. Once you really get to know a person you begin to realize there are lots of awful, bad things about them (it's human nature).

Just knowing that always made me realize there is nobody "better" out there for me and the person I'm with, whose faults I can stomach is the best for me.
posted by gadha at 8:49 AM on November 21, 2007

It doesn't matter where you get your appetite, as long as you eat at home. And remember, that tasty dish you're savoring is surely not as rewarding as the one you have at home. Keep it as a fantasy. And for god's sake, do not tell your fiance. Unless you act on your fantasy, it's about respect, not trust.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:57 AM on November 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

You're not going to do anything, you said so yourself, so to answer your question....

You don't really know the guy and you've idealized him in your mind. Everyone looks better from a distance. Unfortunately it takes time to get close enough for the pox and wrinkles to appear. You'll just have to wait for that to happen, time is the only thing that really works. In the meantime, have great "relations" with your fiance and try to enjoy the adrenaline rush you get from the interaction, it's one of the perks of being human!
posted by MiffyCLB at 9:06 AM on November 21, 2007

I sometimes have that myself. I tend to refer to those dudes as my "work boyfriends" and I get distracted by them as well. I'd never do anything about it, but it's distracting for sure.

I generally just get over my work boyfriends in about a week. No reason why, but that's how it works for me. Many times, I continue to talk to that person in the same way I did before, but without the same insane attraction factor.
posted by santojulieta at 9:14 AM on November 21, 2007

What everyone said about focusing on the unattractive parts of your co-worker, and:

Reinforce your love for and attraction to your fiance - call him while you're at work to hear his voice, make plans for the evening, and keep a devilishly handsome picture of him framed at your desk.
posted by catburger at 9:42 AM on November 21, 2007

Don't have a three-way. Start being inexplicably cold to him until your conversations become super-formal.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:55 AM on November 21, 2007

May I suggest you have sex with this man and keep the fact from your fiance?
posted by xmutex at 10:05 AM on November 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

My friend who is reading this over my shoulder is nodding sagely as she experienced exactly the same thing recently.
She dumped the fiance and ran off with the guy from work, but shes never looked back and is very happy, she adds.

My point I guess is its different for everyone, only you can decide what to do in this situation and none of this, i hope, will influence your final decision.
Good luck!
posted by Neonshock at 10:11 AM on November 21, 2007

Acceptance. You can accept that you do have these feelings, but also understand that you don't have to act upon them. The other thing is to break down the feelings in the sense that you have to realize that although it feels like you are constantly feeling attracted to him, you are not thinking about him at times too. Think of the swoons as separate incidents (which they are). Just get through them a swoon at a time instead of trying to kill the whole thing at once. They will lose their power over time.

I'm going to suggest one other thing. Go to a sporting goods store and get what is known as a pitch counter (baseball). You may have seen one in a stupid Axe commerical starring Jessica simpson's ex husband where he clicks it every time a hot woman looks at him. When you are at work, every time you think of the other guy, click the counter. At the end of the day, write down the number. At first the number will go up wildly and you may be concerned. Do it for at least three weeks. You will notice, as time goes by, that the number starts going down and down. When that happens, you will start to lose your crush.

Also, look to see if you are working on some sort of project or something that is bothering you. It may be that you are pushing these powerful feelings into your consciousness so that you can push out some feeling you don't like. If so, find that feeling you don't like and feel it, a lot. The crush will wither presently.

This is something we all face. I was very shocked the first time I felt it and thought it meant that my relationship with my girlfriend was doomed and that I was going to have to chase this married woman, because if I had feelings for someone, I "had" to act on them.

Do not sleep with him. That's just plain stupid.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:15 AM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Even if you were single, going after this married cube-neighbor would be absolutely retarded.

Get some time to yourself and have a nice deluxe-grade wank to the fantasy of it, then realize how ridiculous it is and be grateful for your current happiness. You've got a better guy.
posted by fleacircus at 10:48 AM on November 21, 2007

It's natural. It happens periodically. It'll likely happen again.

You will have to determine your response anew each time.

As your primary relationship ages, you'll accumulate some good things...(like contentment) and some bad things (like resentment), so the 'right' answer will continuously change.

In fact, if you run off with NewGuy and dump Mr. Main Squeeze, it'll eventually happen with NewGuy, too!

We're programmed for serial monogamy. (Lots of folks might disagree with me, but I refer you to Humanity's dismal record on 'affairs' and rest my case.)

Infatuation is perishable. It's wonderful, but if you follow most advice, you are apparently allowed to indulge it but once. When Mr. Right comes along, it is no longer allowed. Sad, methinks.

There are alternatives to the standard model of relationships, if you are interested in investigating them. One may fit you better than the one in which you find yourself.

Best to get a handle on it, if you can. My personal feeling is that longing breeds resentment, and that even the good feeling of being monogamous and faithful generates a mirrored negative feeling of having given up something you really want, deep in your bones. Being human sucks sometimes.

I've mostly ignored infatuations like this for decades, and can truthfully say I wonder what I missed by being such a goody-two-shoes? Good luck to you as you navigate it.
posted by FauxScot at 11:03 AM on November 21, 2007

FauxScot: We're programmed for serial monogamy. (Lots of folks might disagree with me, but I refer you to Humanity's dismal record on 'affairs' and rest my case.)

Oh, I agree entirely. And as anyone who's ever been married can tell you, if you follow your whims and your programming, you're not likely to stay in a relationship for long unless something strange or extraordinary happens. Oddly enough, we seem to be programmed to want more than we're programmed to be capable of.
posted by koeselitz at 11:27 AM on November 21, 2007

He's married. Besides that, he may not even be remotely interested in you. You're worried about something happening which you have no reason to believe really will on his end. Unless you think you guys click enough for him to want to cheat on his wife with you.

Having personalities that match really well can lead to other things, like, oh, friendship. It is possible to be friends with someone of the opposite sex without sleeping with them or without even wanting to. You did say you think that he doesn't have the physical attraction to you that you do him. Getting along + not necessarily wanting to have romance with you= friends.
posted by fructose at 12:01 PM on November 21, 2007

When that cute actress pooped the hot tub on last weeks episode of Nip / Tuck, I must admit I never could look at her the same way again on the show. Even though it was all faked and she's just an actress on a show... they ruined the whole thing for me...

anyways, picture him pooping a hot tub.
posted by ZackTM at 12:12 PM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest the opposite of looking for something unattractive about him. Imagine instead going for it and sleeping with him, and damn he's a fucking great lover! You share an hour or two of incredibly hot sex.

OK, now it's cuddle time and you're laying there thinking how great that was for a few moments. Then you catch your breath and start thinking of the four lives you've just fucked up. How are you are gonna break the news to your fiancé (or how you're going to cover it up)? His wife is really going to hate you, isn't she? Perhaps somebody becomes violent over the situation.

Was that hour worth it?
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 12:44 PM on November 21, 2007

hate to be contrarian, but if you've been engaged for 3 years and not married, maybe it's time to re-evaluate things? Mr. right over there may indeed be mister right...
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:22 PM on November 21, 2007

but if you've been engaged for 3 years and not married,

I'm sure they didn't get engaged on the first date :).
posted by mdn at 1:40 PM on November 21, 2007

It is perfectly natural to be attracted to other people while you are in a relationship. The committment part of it comes from not acting on said attractions.

It's not natural to be so attracted to them that you can't concentrate on your work.

I think you need to re-examine your commitment to your relationship with the fiance. If you were actually committed to him, I don't think you would be so hot-and-bothered over the new guy that you can't concentrate on your work. Lots of people work around very, very attractive people, and yet they manage to concentrate on their work just fine. Being driven to this level of distraction signals a problem with your relationship with your fiance.
posted by jayder at 2:52 PM on November 21, 2007

I agree with what fructose said.

Don't take any of the silly advice upthread about imagining him doing disgusting things. You still have to work with the guy, so there's no point making that difficult in a different way.

I think jayder is half right -- that level of distraction is a little weird, but I don't think it's necessarily your relationship that's off kilter. You might, as Ironmouth suggested, be using this crush to get some completely unrelated uncomfortable thoughts off your mind.

Don't panic. As you pointed out, he's probably not reciprocating your attraction anyway. Give it a little time and trust yourself to do the right thing. If you don't do anything stupid, a crush on a good person can and will calm down and solidify into a solid friendship later.
posted by tangerine at 3:12 PM on November 21, 2007

Dang, I want to be able to help you through this. It's tough and is something that I've experienced myself.

For me, the issue almost invariably has had something to do with a some kind of avoidance. In this last case, I simply was miserable at work and was using my attraction to a co-worker as a way to avoid working on that.

I was also out-of-touch with my wife. We had grown physically and emotionally apart. Since we moved to Houston and she's had to help her elderly mother, I've spent a lot more time feeling lonely.

I had to work on those things in therapy.

I've also had to (re)recognize that there are certain types of women that I am really attracted to. I see these attractions as part natural and part due to childhood neuroses. In some cases, I've had to simply stay away from those types of people, to bring the conversations away from personal matters, to avoid physical contact, to be very focused on Other Things, to do whatever I need to stay a functioning adult.

I'm not saying it's easy, but it's what I've had to do and, if I manage it, it works.


posted by tcv at 3:21 PM on November 21, 2007

You probably should stop using words like "overwhelmingly" and phrases like "I definitely lack self-control in this area." It's good to be aware of your weaknesses, but it's bad to frame the issue as one that's out of your control, because that usually means that at some level you're already persuading yourself that it's understandable and OK to give in to emotional/hormonal urges, as much as you (the "you" you would like to think of as the "real" you, to whom those urges are external and even alien) abhor that idea.

But remember, the "you" that thinks and the "you" that gets horny are not separate. It's all you.

Don't think of yourself as an abstract being with perfect intentions, dragged down by a lack of some quality called "self-control" and therefore doomed. Think of yourself as a physical and therefore imperfect being with a lot of different urges and intentions, ranging from very good and very bad (in terms of their impact on other people), that arise for all kinds of reasons. It's all you. You are the one who decides.

(Does this mean "Keep doing exactly what you're doing and rely on willpower"? No; if you know that something is especially tempting, and it's likely that you will eventually find it tempting enough to make a choice that you will later regret, you should figure out how to defuse the temptation. That's a way of making the choice before it becomes the kind of pressing, RIGHT-NOW situation in which bad choices are usually made. I find that looking at temptations objectively (like many of the suggestions above) helps a lot with this. But be aware that deep down you may have internal resistance to defusing the temptation, because you find the attraction itself pleasurable.)
posted by No-sword at 4:15 PM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm not into monogamy at all, so admittedly I may have a different perspective on this. But if I was in that situation, I would want my partner to tell me that they were attracted to someone else. Not only that, I would want them to tell me the specifics in detail while we were naked. ;)

Thinking about sex with hot people is normal and healthy. If you can't talk to your life partner about your fantasies, you don't have a life partner.
posted by groovinkim at 6:26 PM on November 21, 2007

As people are saying, just try and imagine him as a normal, flawed human. Don't go overboard with thinking about him doing disgusting things, just keep it firm in your mind that the having is not nearly as satisfying as the wanting makes you think it will be.

I'm reminded of a picture I saw somewhere featuring a rather hot blonde in a bikini with a caption that read to the effect of "no matter how hot she looks here, remember somewhere there's someone who is tired of putting up with her crap". That pretty much applies to almost everyone on the face of the earth at some point, this person is no different.
posted by barc0001 at 10:08 PM on November 21, 2007

Be conscious of any behavior on your part that expresses an interest in your crush. Are you extra obsequious to your crush? Do you use flirtatious body language? Do you work to build rapport or friendship with this person?

Proactively being cold and dry with someone is a good way to tune the relationship down.
posted by philosophistry at 10:33 AM on November 22, 2007

Coming back to the thread: er, whoops. Sorry. Fiance, not fiancee.
posted by WCityMike at 11:25 AM on November 22, 2007

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