Two problems

The woman I want is a colleague at work and she has a boyfriend. What should I do?

By Cary Tennis
Published December 3, 2002 8:48PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I'm a single 30-year-old man. I got out of a very intense and draining long-term relationship about a year ago. I haven't been seriously involved with anybody since then.

Lately, I've become very attracted to someone. She's all the things you want: smart, funny, sexy and full of life. We have great conversations, we flirt, and I love spending time with her. So what's the problem? Well, there are two. She has a boyfriend and she's a co-worker.

We see each other outside of work often, although only when her boyfriend isn't around. She tells me about her relationship, and it's not good. He's never there, they're always fighting, and they have sexual problems. She asks my advice. The evil side of me wants to sabotage the relationship. The good side says that would be taking advantage of our friendship for my own self-interest. So far, the good side is winning, but the evil side is getting tired of waiting around.

The fact that we work together is also a concern. I like my job. It's somewhat of a sanctuary and I don't want that kind of drama there.

All of this is causing me to act like a jerk to her some of the time. I give her gruff, one-word answers, I refuse invitations to lunch, I don't say goodbye at the end of the day. Stupid, petty stuff that I can't believe I'm doing.

Should I just tell her how I feel and let the chips fall where they may, or should I wait for her relationship to crumble of its own accord and then see where I stand?


Dear Conflicted,

I would like to see you lay your cards on the table and let the chips fall where they may.

Of course, it might be awkward. But awkward can be good. Awkward can be bracing. I try to include at least one awkward moment in my daily routine just to keep in practice.

You say your job is a sanctuary? That's extremely odd. A job is a place of suffering. Perhaps you are in the wrong line of work. Or you may be sitting at the wrong desk. Have you checked your name tag lately?

Seriously, while I often counsel caution in such matters, I have the feeling that you need to blow this situation wide open. Confess your feelings. See what happens. Either she will become your girlfriend, or, after a short period of soul-cleansing awkwardness, she might become your soul buddy. Either outcome would be good.

Cary Tennis

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