A while ago I formed a friendly relationship with a co-worker of the opposite sex. We laugh and call each other our "work spouse." We e-mail each other during the day – short little hellos – and walk to grab the occasional lunch. Every Monday we recap our weekend spent with our respective families, kids and partners.
We are not constantly together or anything like that but I've noticed a shift in my feelings toward him; I realized he is a big reason why I dress up every day. We are very professional but it's clear we lean on each other to pass the predictability and boredom of the office. I don't want to go down a slippery slope but I don't want to give up the time we share at work, either. I'm concerned my feelings will get stronger. What should I do?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Founder, Women's Executive Network, Toronto
It's certainly an interesting dilemma and one that illustrates a topic we're discussing in the Women's Executive Network's Breakfast Series: doing the right thing – which is not to say that I think you're doing anything wrong.
What you've described here is an innocent opposite-sex office friendship. It's always nice to have someone to talk to at work – after all, you spend the bulk of your day and week at the office. It's natural to want to form a bond with someone.
Where it has become tricky, and what you seem to be struggling with, is the potential for this office friendship to turn into something more, which could then threaten your relationships with your respective partners and families. It is indeed a slippery slope.
Would you be comfortable if your real spouse were dressing up for a friend at the office who also happened to be of the opposite sex?
The key here – and it's equally true when we have to make any decision – is to really look inside yourself and your personal values. What is most important to you?
I think if you take the time to be introspective and let your values guide you, you'll know what to do.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Former deputy prime minister
Run like the wind. Your "work spouse" is obviously becoming a lot more than a co-worker. Getting dressed up and having the butterflies are signs that real romance is supplanting a simple work relationship.
But the love that is obviously creeping into your work space may be missing elsewhere. How are things on the home front? Has your partner's romancing ended? Or has your marriage simply morphed into predictability and boredom? The office dalliance is obviously filling a gap in your life.
Before you decide to torch the home front in favour of a new love, decide whether your marriage is worth saving. If the answer is yes, the energy you are currently expending on fantasizing about an office spouse should be redirected to the one you actually married. That may mean opening up to him on what is missing in your married life.
Longevity in love is hard work. But in the long run, working on the real relationship with your real spouse is a better investment. Good luck and good love.
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