As anyone who has engaged in one knows, office romances can be tricky. Apart from being against the rules at a lot of companies, it’s often assumed that one person is trying to use the relationship to get ahead in his or her career. It can also make co-workers -- and bosses -- super uncomfortable.
What if you break up? That awkwardness will be present eight hours of the day. What if you’re one of those handsy couples who can’t get enough of each other, even at meetings? That awkwardness will be present eight hours of the day.
For these reasons, I’ve generally had little interest in dating a co-worker, and truth be told, there were few contenders for such a relationship. After graduation, I was hired as a door-to-door canvasser, which, apart from the twice daily, hour-long van rides to Long Island with five or so dudes, was lonely work. The pool of men at the newspaper I worked for after consisted mostly of forty-, fifty-, and sixty-somethings, and I wasn’t quite ready to add a silver fox to my list of beaus. I then spent four years at a marketing agency where most of the guys fell into my general age range, but the pickings were still slim.
Seeing my fair share of office romances go up in flames only added to my wariness about partaking in one myself. Still, I decided I wouldn’t designate them completely out of the question, but rather something to be saved for a special occasion, like wearing a sequin-covered dress or eating candy corn. If I was going to get together with a co-worker, I wanted the relationship to be on par with Jim and Pam’s (minus the poor timing). And, in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what I got.
When Andrew moved to New York City and was hired as an intern at my office, sparks didn’t exactly fly right off the bat. I was seeing someone else (albeit casually and at a distance) and wasn’t looking for anything serious. Plus, Andrew wasn’t quite my type. He was cute, sweet, and nice, three qualities I wasn’t used to seeing in one package, let alone being attracted to, but he didn’t seem like the sort of guy who would make me roll over for his affections. Where was the fun in that?
Over the following weeks, though, there were little moments. We were constantly chatting each other about non-work things. He took to complimenting me at random and asking if I wanted to get food with him. We’d “accidentally” end up on the subway together. During the weekly office happy hour he started buying me drinks. Perhaps most crucially, he laughed at all my jokes, even when I was making fun of him.
By the time his housewarming party rolled around, we’d gotten to the stay-up-talking-and-spend-the-night stage in our courtship. Not long after, we and some other friends went dancing, where he explained why he’d held off on making a move.
“I really like you, but I feel weird because you’re my boss,” he shouted over the music. I in turn, asked why he would think that, because in no capacity was I his boss — I was just the girl who set up his computer and gave the interns a few marketing tutorials.
Apart from a few small tasks while I was training him and the other newbies, I’d never actually assigned him any real work. I tried explaining this to him, but apparently the liquid courage he’d worked up to tell me he liked me had also affected his comprehension skills.
I figured I’d have to take action. At the end of the night, I pretty much said, Screw it, and, before hopping in a cab and heading home, planted a kiss on him. He yelled, “What is this, a romantic comedy?” as I sped away.
We didn’t really discuss it, but from that point on, we were dating. As far as what that meant in terms of working together, it didn’t really change anything. No one, our employers included, really seemed to notice or care. (It remains unclear whether our bosses’ general cluelessness had anything to do with it.) We weren’t even the only office couple, and there wasn’t any sort of rule in the employee handbook about dating co-workers.
Still, Andrew was a bit apprehensive. I’d started looking for other work, and he seemed slightly bummed when I was offered a raise and decided to hold off the job hunt. He hadn’t been at the company that long and still didn’t realize just how lax the place was about, well, everything.
Even so, I think he was worried less about things being awkward if we broke up and more that we would get sick of each other after spending all day and most nights together.
I was concerned myself, to an extent, but luckily, we didn’t have anything to worry about. Though the office was small, we didn’t end up wearing on each other. It was nice to be able to grab lunch together and steal away to the Family Dollar below the office whenever we wanted, and the building’s stairwells made for great impromptu make-out spots. (We were really into professionalism in those days.)
Once Andrew was hired full-time, we didn’t work on anything together until about a year in, when he became project manager to some of my clients. In that time, we both became pretty disillusioned with the company, and in a lot of ways our relationship made the job bearable.
Right around the same time, we both found new jobs and put in our two weeks notice within days of each other. Now, we’re coming up on our second anniversary, and, while I hate to jinx myself, I get a distinct long-haul vibe from this relationship.
Don’t get me wrong -- I don’t consider myself the poster child for office romances. Like I said before, I’ve bore witness to enough doomed ones to know they don’t often pan out. Obviously, though, some of them do, and aren’t those the ones that count?