Don't Sh*t Where You Eat: Why You Should Never Date A Coworker
Published on Elite Daily:
I sighed and closed my eyes as Lana Del Rey's sultry voice made love to the lyrics of her song American; I was newly obsessed with her music. As the tracks changed, and Burning Desire slid into my background noise, I felt the memories from my office party unconsciously creep into my mind again, for at least the 50th time; why couldn't I stop thinking about this? Keeping my eyes firmly shut, I lazily browsed the highlight reel of the night: how it felt to be so close to him all night, his arm around me, fingers eagerly gripping my waist, lightly grazing my back, posing for pictures; enjoying the atmosphere and each other's company. We were already great friends, but it had seemed different that night...more intimate somehow. I replayed in my head how when he first saw me that evening, his eyes had slowly slid over my body appreciatively before settling on mine with a sly grin. In turn, I remembered how the shirt he wore accentuated his shoulders (he really was attractive and definitely my type - why hadn't I noticed that about him before?). My mind ran through the various flirtations we enjoyed through the evening, but quickly fast forwarded to the end of the night. Sitting next to him on the company chartered bus - amidst other co-workers - he innocently rested his hand on my knee, and then slowly, teasingly, slid his hand up under my dress to touch me...and I didn't stop him. Surprising myself, I waited, with bated breath, shocked at how much I wanted it, how much I liked it. I remembered how it felt, having to stay quiet so no one would notice us...feeling my breathing grow more shallow at the thought, I shook my head and released another sigh, much heavier this time. I knew myself too well, and it was already too late; I wanted him. Worse yet, I already knew what that meant for me - likely heartbreak. How did he manage to flip my switch - how did I let this happen?
That was the exact moment I fell for my coworker; our relationship crossed the line and every boundary, and we definitely didn't stop there.
Office romances are not unusual, and occur quite frequently; a recent survey shows that upwards of 59% of respondents had been involved with a coworker at a point in their career. Even our President is guilty - Barack met Michelle Obama at a Chicago law firm they both worked at (she was his supervisor); obviously they are one of the success stories. It's easy to understand the appeal and the motivation - you spend more time at work than anywhere else, and you get to know people on a real, personal level. To this day, some of my very best friends are former coworkers. I myself had previously dabbled in office flings, but none had been serious, and so, I never understood the saying "don't sh*t where you eat." Suffice it to say, I understand now. This one, he was different.
When I first started at my job, Seth and I barely spoke unless out of necessity - this lasted for about a year. I didn't mind him (and I don't think he minded me either), but he was a few years younger than I, and before I got to know him, I just saw him as a cocky kid - I wasn't impressed. Our desks were positioned very close to each other, and we ended up partaking in daily life together, voluntarily or not. Over time, I began to appreciate his quick, witty humor, and saw how generally likeable he was overall. Our friendship blossomed as we took to Skype to rant about work and the people around us; we realized how alike we were, and it turned personal as well. We not only discussed our jobs and what we wanted out of our careers and life, but we also talked about our relationships (we both were otherwise involved initially). When Seth wasn't in work, I realized that I missed his presence, and that I looked forward to seeing him and talking to him everyday. Still, I was blind to all the signs... blind to everything until he made that move on me after the party. It's amazing how someone can become so important to you, to your life, unexpectedly - and in such a short amount of time.
Seth and I had the opportunity to grow close emotionally before our relationship ever turned physical; once it did, it was like the groundwork was there for what looked to be a perfect relationship - our chemistry was off the charts. Everything seemed perfect - if only we didn't work together.
After hooking up a few times, Seth explained that he was uncomfortable with starting a relationship with me because we worked together, and he didn't want to ruin our friendship. I understood, and agreed that perhaps we should refrain - after all, we were best friends, and I didn't want to ruin that, either. Almost a year later, we finally admitted to each other that our feelings had grown stronger despite our attempts to cut out that aspect of our relationship. Relieving that craving and just giving in to it was an exhilarating high - I had tried unsuccessfully to deny to myself that I was in love with Seth, but once he admitted he felt the same, all of my emotions poured out around me like the floodgates had been lifted; there was no turning back after that happened. Seth told me he loved me, he told me that he just couldn't stay away from me anymore, and I was all in.
Studies say that being in love produces brain response similar to being on cocaine; the high is addictive. It certainly was for me; I remember there were nights I had trouble sleeping because I was so happy; then just as quickly, everything came crashing down around me.
Seth was younger than me, and he just wasn't ready for what he believed I represented. Even though we never made our relationship "official," he ended it - officially. Shortly after, he met another girl and began dating her. Heartbroken, I had to put on my game face every day and pretend nothing was wrong, and continue to work side by side. Coworkers who were none the wiser about our secret relationship (and those that were) asked questions about his new girlfriend as I perfected keeping my face frozen from emotion. Despite our friendship, having been "best friends" - despite the love we did have for each other, we just were unable to recover (and we tried). While it's very possible to move on and be friends again, you never really bounce back to what you once were; Seth certainly wasn't comfortable asking me for relationship advice, and I definitely didn't have the heart to hear about it, or try.
Office romances are a regular occurrence for sure, but they are also the source of office gossip, not to mention many broken hearts and ruined friendships. If you become involved with a coworker, recognize up front that it may change your satisfaction level with your job, how you are viewed by your peers, and it can even change your life. I lost my best friend - someone who knew me better than anyone else - to awkward silences and regret. For me, I never again will "sh*t where I eat" - the lingering aftershocks of that heartbreak were enough to cure me of the urge. If you're stuck choosing between a dating a coworker or a match on Tinder, choose the latter - it is surely safer than the destruction an office romance can cause.