Do you ever find yourself eager to get to work so that you can talk to your coworker? Or, have you noticed that there is a particular coworker who seeks you out to talk to? Maybe you think about him while you’re getting ready in the morning and choose to wear the dress he complimented you on the other day. Or, maybe you know she’ll be at your lunch meeting and you splash on a little more cologne. Not that you necessarily sought out the attention of this person because you were attracted to him, or vice versa. But somehow, a connection has been forming between you. It could just be that you are working on the same project so you spend significant time with him. It could be that your workspaces are near each other so there’s lots of opportunity to chat. Maybe there aren’t many people in your office so it just works out that you talk to the same person often. You’ve realized lately how much you enjoy those chats. Sounds like you have chemistry with a coworker.
Harmless? Maybe, maybe not.
It’s at least something to be aware of.
Affairs, both emotional and physical, begin when a connection is made. One person makes another person feel significant somehow. She laughs at your jokes. She tells you she likes your jacket. He notices your new hairstyle.
We have countless interactions with our coworkers each day. These interactions are rarely significant on a personal level…until they are. A man that you would never normally be attracted to may suddenly seem like a superhero when he helps you out with something. (Especially, if you’ve been asking your husband for help with something for weeks and he still hasn’t gotten around to it.) A woman that you would never intentionally flirt with laughs at your jokes. Lately you’ve noticed that you try to be a little extra funny when you’re around her. (At least someone at work appreciates your sense of humor. Your wife just rolls her eyes at your jokes at home.)
It’s difficult sometimes to take time at home to cultivate a healthy relationship with your spouse. Date nights can seem frivolous when there are other bills to pay. Children’s activities can make your schedule hectic and leave little room for connective conversations.
But people are wired to need meaningful connection in their lives. If you’re missing out on connection at home, it will feel that much better when you make a connection at work.
There are a couple of things you can do to keep workplace interactions benign.
First, tell your spouse. You may think that’s the last thing you should ever do, but it is really the first step in defusing any connection you may feel with a coworker. It won’t necessarily make you stop enjoying your coworker’s listening ear or attention, but it will help evaporate some of the fantasy surrounding it. When you think no one knows how much you enjoy the attention of another person, your mind can create all types of scenarios and daydreams about the role you play in that person’s life. Telling someone about it brings thing back in perspective for your daydreams.
Telling your spouse that you appreciate the attention of someone at work takes courage. It also take some maturity in your relationship. Listen, it’s ridiculous to think that the two of you are going to be married forty to fifty years and never feel an attraction or connection with another person. It’s also ridiculous to think that no one will ever find you attractive and fun to be around. Your spouse needs to recognize that and recognize that it’s just a matter of time before the same thing happens to him or her.
Having an honest and open talk about your feelings can lead you to a deeper intimacy in your marriage. You have the opportunity to trust your spouse with this information. He or she has the opportunity to receive it with understanding, not judgment. It might be a small risk to tell your spouse how you feel, but it’s a risk that is worth taking for two reasons.
First, so your marriage has the opportunity to deepen and grow from talking about it. Second, to dispel the feelings around the coworker before they intensify. Sometimes a conversation like this is a good wake up call to the complacent level of connection in the marriage right now. It’s so easy to take your spouse for granted, and situations like this can help turn things around before there is an actual problem to deal with.
Another way to keep the personal connection from getting any stronger is obviously to limit the amount of time you spend around him or her. Change up your routine so you aren’t eating lunch in the break room at the same time. Take the stairs if she takes the elevator. It’s not easy to avoid someone in a smaller work environment, but no doubt you can find a way if you try. If you are serious about protecting the relationship you have with your spouse, you will be vigilant even to the point of extremes to avoid any other connection that could get in the way.
Finally, it’s up to you to keep the conversations you do have with that person brief and surface level. Relationships deepen when more and more personal information is divulged. An emotional affair is extremely easy to fall into, and extremely hard to dig out of.
Personal connections at work, the gym, your children’s school, and other places will happen. When it does, recognize the situation for what it is. Naiveté is your enemy here.
Be proactive in guarding your heart. If your conscience feels a twinge when you’re around this person, it’s probably worth backing off the friendship. If you think your spouse would raise an eyebrow about the time you spend or the stories you share with your coworker, it’s definitely time to reverse the trajectory of that relationship.
It’s a lot less painful to turn off a connection at the very beginning than several steps down that road.