Last week, I shared some very basic advice surrounding the office romance and how to approach the first level of personal intimacy. Now you find yourself at the threshold of taking that next step—what should you do now?
What advice do you have for couples whose relationship starts out at work?
Be sure you talk about the risks and downsides related to dating a co-worker BEFORE you decide to begin to date. BEFORE is the operative word. Decide and intend to date each other. Make the dating process as conscious as possible. Recognize that the majority of people we date are ultimately NOT a match for us, and that is a normal and expected part of the dating process. If dating couples can’t agree to date with this frame in mind, they should not date each other. They should not engage in fantasy thinking and should not focus on how attracted they are to each other. This is good advice for anyone dating, as a matter of fact, and especially critical when co-workers date.
What is the best way to foster a new relationship that begins at work?
The same principles apply to all new dating relationships. Resist, with all your might, having l-o-n-g telephone conversations, sending incessant text messages or emails, and spending all your time together. This is a sure-fire way to kill a relationship before it even has a chance to grow and succeed. Relationships are living entities that grow between two people. Anything that grows into something strong and beautiful takes time. If either person is obsessive or demanding, seems needy or especially desirous of the other person’s time and attention, especially to the exclusion of others, end the whole dating process as quickly as possible. It can only get worse!
How can they keep it fresh and avoid the burnout that comes from seeing each other all the time under any circumstances?
Don’t see each other all the time! The answer is actually IN the question. It is not healthy to see each other all the time and to stop being fully engaged in your own personal life in addition to your relationship life. In addition to your relationship life is the key here! You must be YOU before you can come together and create WE—AND, you must never lose your YOU in the WE! You can not hedge burnout if you don’t stay actively engaged in interests and activities you enjoy and spend time with people who ignite your passion and imagination, and value and esteem you! It is essential to be invested and involved in your own life as well as in your Honey and his or her life. Bring the excitement and the energy of the experiences you have in the world back to your relationship. No one can be everything to anyone. Those expectations or assumptions are born out of an unhealthy part of Self, and are the seeds of boredom, burnout, and turn-off.
How can couples avoid taking work-related criticism personally; how can they avoid jealousy at how their partner interacts with other people?
Again, the answer is IN the question! Emotionally intelligent adults will be able to maintain the boundaries between the personal and the professional. This is an essential relationship skill that must be in place with all couples if they are to be successful building a life and a long-term relationship together. Be sure to discuss this and explore how able and willing you are to set, maintain and honor your boundaries and the boundaries of others. If “dating couples” discover that they need to strengthen these skills, this must be done ASAP, and preferably before co-workers begin to date. The dating relationship will go careening down the mountain at the speed of light if this skill-set isn’t fully operational and well in place.
Jealousy is like rust to the soul! Jealousy comes from a belief deep inside that you are not good enough and that if you were better, different or more (fill in the blanks) than you would be lovable and he or she would love you forever. The person who is jealous has the issue and must resolve this issue. This is a personal issue and must not be brought to the relationship and worked on together; and the partner must NOT be tasked with doing or not doing anything in service of the jealousy. It is the problem of the person who is jealous and the “fix” lies within that person alone. Tough words, I know, but that is the truth. Don’t fall into the “…if you, than I…” quicksand. The truth is that no one can make you feel jealous, and no one can contribute to you not feeling jealous! Jealously is an inside job!
When co-workers are mindful and intentional about dating each other, and they sit down to have these kinds of discussions, they can head off potential problems and either decide not to date or structure the dating framework in such a way that these issues will simply not occur; and if they do occur they will have a plan in place to address the problems and challenges ASAP.
Dating is serious business and should be taken very seriously. Dating in the workplace is serious, risky business and people need to be especially conscious and intentional. If you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail.
Remember, only YOU can make it happen!