Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“He Had a Fling with Another Co-Worker. Should I Be Worried?”

Office romance

I’ve been dating my coworker for about six months now. We’re not completely open about our relationship but everyone pretty much knows we’re together. When we started dating, he told me he hooked up with another female coworker of ours. I found out that he didn’t want anything serious with her and that it was just casual. The thing is that we’re all the same age and hang out in a group from time to time. I notice that when we’re together in a group, they seem like they’re still attracted to each other and they get along really well still (they share inside jokes and laugh at each other’s jokes a lot). She recently left for another job and at her going away party, she and my boyfriend had a lingering hug and and smiled at each other for a while as he and I were leaving together. She still plans to hang out with us all when we go out in a group. Should I be concerned? — Concerned Girlfriend

I think you ARE concerned — at least a little bit — or you wouldn’t have written in for advice. What you’re really asking is whether your concern is valid and if it seems to an unbiased person whether your boyfriend may leave you (or cheat on you) with this former fling. And I can’t answer that for you. What I can do is point you to the moment he told you that he’d hooked up with this former co-worker and ask what you think his motivation was for sharing that information with you and how he handled your reaction. Do you think he wanted to make you jealous? Did he simply want to be honest and open with you and give you the opportunity to back out of a relationship in case you were uncomfortable with the situation? Did he try to reassure you that he didn’t have feelings for this woman and that you had nothing to worry about? That early conversation can give you some clues about your boyfriend’s intentions and his relationship and feelings for this other woman.

That said, six months have passed and his feelings for you have likely changed — hopefully deepened — and it’s possible his feelings for the former fling may have changed too. Maybe her leaving the office reopened something in his heart for her. Or maybe it was a chance to really close the chapter forever on whatever they shared together (which could explain the sort of lingering hug you say you witnessed).

You may never know exactly what’s going on in your boyfriend’s mind and what his feelings are for this woman and if she may come between you eventually, but if you’re concerned — and you are — you should share your concerns with your boyfriend. HE’S the one to put you at ease here. He’s the one who can reassure you there’s nothing to worry about — that he’s not at all interested in having anything more than a friendship with this woman. And if he’s not able to do that, or if you’re still uncomfortable with the idea of a friendship between them — even one conducted in group settings — then after six months of dating, you may want to re-evalute whether this is a relationship you want to continue pursuing.

***************

You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

49 comments… add one
  • avatar

    SasLinna September 17, 2013, 10:13 am

    The interactions between your guy and the other co-worker could all happen between friends, even the lingering hug can be just friendly. Also, if they’ve hooked up before, then yes, they’re probably still physically attracted to each other to some degree. But that doesn’t mean that they are acting on it – in fact, they may have consciously decided not to pursue anything more than a friendship anymore. The really decisive thing here is whether you trust your guy to keep an agreement to be monogamous (I’m assuming you have one) and whether you believe that he’s serious with you. If you don’t believe he’ll stick to monogamy, then you’ll always be afraid that he’ll cheat, if you don’t believe he’s serious, you’ll be afraid that he might leave you for another woman, even if he doesn’t cheat. I would try to find answers to these questions as objectively as possible, like Wendy suggested – what has HE said to you about monogamy and does he appear to act on it, what has HE said to you about the prospects of your relationship and his commitment level?

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    • avatar

      SasLinna September 17, 2013, 11:15 am

      Maybe some of your worries stem from “not being completely open” about your relationship? Why aren’t you if pretty much everyone knows you’re together anyway? Who wants to keep the relationship from being “completely open”?

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      • avatar

        MsMisery September 17, 2013, 1:09 pm

        Indeed. Is it because coworker romance is frowned upon in your workplace? Or because he’s the Office Dog and he wants to keep things on the DL?

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      • avatar

        SasLinna September 17, 2013, 1:13 pm

        What confused was that she said that everyone knows they’re together, but they’re still not completely open about the relationship. Maybe they are hiding it just from the bosses? It just doesn’t really make sense to me to to be partially open about the fact that you’re a couple… it makes it sound like maybe their relationship hasn’t progressed to bf/gf status yet.

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  • avatar

    GatorGirl September 17, 2013, 10:20 am

    Gah some women like to fabricate drama.

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  • katie

    katie September 17, 2013, 10:25 am

    i just love how “laughing at each other’s jokes” is included in here as possible evidence of ulterior motives. ..

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    • Diablo

      Diablo September 17, 2013, 10:46 am

      My female co-worker made a joke yesterday, and I laughed. Does this mean I am about to cheat on my wife? OMG, I ruined EVERYTHING!

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed September 17, 2013, 10:49 am

        How could you!

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      • katie

        katie September 17, 2013, 10:52 am

        your such a whore with your jokes and everything.

        wow. just wow.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo September 17, 2013, 12:11 pm

        It wasn’t even my joke. I’m the victim here!

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed September 17, 2013, 12:14 pm

        You LAUGHED. You are threatening your relationship with your wife. I hope it was worth it.

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      • avatar

        Guy Friday September 17, 2013, 12:53 pm

        Yeah yeah. That’s what they all say. Just because she initiated the joke didn’t mean you HAD to laugh. Have some self-control!

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      • Diablo

        Diablo September 17, 2013, 4:07 pm

        Sometimes guys just have a REACTION, y’know. Morally, we’re the weaker sex. We can’t be held accountable! It’s my wife’s fault for not telling me enough comedy jokes earlier in the week, to keep my laugh muscles satisfied.

        OMG, I just asked my co-worker about her presentation and she made some vague “onward and upward” type remark. I could have blanked her, but I smiled. In the moment, I thought i was just being polite, but now I’m worried that it will carry over into some netherworld of innuendo and deceit. And she’s married too! She has no shame! Help!

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      • othy

        othy September 17, 2013, 10:59 am

        DIablo, I always thought better of you, and your relationship seemed something to aspire to. How dare you!

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  • Ettakit

    EttaKit September 17, 2013, 10:29 am

    It amazes me how many DW columns can be answered with “Why don’t you talk to him about it?”

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    • avatar

      lemongrass September 17, 2013, 10:50 am

      Most issues boil down to a lack of communication.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna September 17, 2013, 1:19 pm

      Although I think she would be better off talking to him about monogamy/commitment level in general than about her worries about this particular woman. I mean I guess it’s fine to mention it and hope your mind will be put at ease, but honestly if my bf came to me with this type of worry and I hadn’t given him any cause for concern, that would seem insecure to me.

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  • theattack

    theattack September 17, 2013, 10:30 am

    Trust your boyfriend until you have reason not to. This isn’t reason not to trust him. The only thing you should do here is have a non-accusatory conversation with him if you truly can’t put it out of your mind.

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  • avatar

    starpattern September 17, 2013, 10:47 am

    From what you wrote, it doesn’t sound like you have anything to worry about. You only hang out with her in group situations and he was open with you regarding their past relationship. That said, I don’t really think it is unreasonable to be somewhat concerned when you pick up on your SO being attracted to someone, even when it is hard to point to specific things that make you think that is the case (laughing at each other’s jokes seems like you’re reaching but – I get that there is a lot of context you can’t convey in letters). What matters is how you handle it, and how your boyfriend handles it when you ask about it. Don’t go crazy grilling him about it, but do bring it up and let him put your mind at ease, like Wendy said. If they are openly flirting at times, ask him to cut it out because it makes you uncomfortable. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that much even if he does have feelings for her, as long as he is choosing you.

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  • rainbow

    rainbow September 17, 2013, 10:56 am

    I think if they still had something for each other beyond a little chemistry, and old friendship and good wishes they would look more uncomfortable and do their best not to touch each other when you’re around.

    Source: Right now I’m the coworker, I guess.

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    • Fabelle

      Fabelle September 17, 2013, 11:11 am

      Yeah, I think that’s exactly what this is— a little chemistry, old friendship, good wishes. If the LW is uncomfortable with her dude having those things with another person, it’s going to be a bit difficult for her.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow September 17, 2013, 10:59 am

    Is it just me, or does it feel like we’ve had a lot of questions lately about “lingering hugs”?

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki September 17, 2013, 11:11 am

      I just wish someone would define what “lingering” is… like is there a specific timeframe or is it the type of hug or what? I’m not much of a hugger unless it’s my husband, but I just don’t get it.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 September 17, 2013, 2:58 pm

        I think if it is a mouth hug then any time frame is too long.

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    • iwannatalktosampson

      iwannatalktosampson September 17, 2013, 11:28 am

      It’s like when his chest motor boats your chest. I’m fairly certain that’s the definition.

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    • avatar

      sarita_f September 17, 2013, 11:36 am

      OMG, have you guys read that one of the Duggar girls is finally ‘courting’ someone? She’s 20, and supposedly the parent’s put the physical parameters on the relationship – and Jim Bob has limited it to one “30-second side hug upon greeting.” And they only hang out in the presence of their families. To me, 30 seconds is DEFINITELY lingering. I would be so uncomfortable to be in the room. Not to mention how BEYOND squicky it is to have your parents dictating things like this to a grown-ass adult. Oy.

      http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20735445,00.html

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      • avatar

        quixoticbeatnik September 17, 2013, 11:46 am

        I find this SO weird. She’s 20 years old, I feel like she could make her own decisions. But then again, she’s been guided by her parents all of her life, so would she really have the same emotional maturity as a regular 20-year old who hasn’t had her parents pretty much make her decisions for her? I mean, she hasn’t even kissed anyone yet, so I’m sure the long side-hug is exciting for her. It seems weird, but it’s normal for them….

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      • avatar

        sarita_f September 17, 2013, 12:23 pm

        Yeah, exactly. While I wouldn’t say they totally live in a bubble, most of their experiences are HEAVILY dictated by their upbringing and parents. I personally would feel a bit irresponsible raising a child like that, but whatever, she’ll go from her parents care and feeding to her husband, who will be expected to make all the big decisions and lead the household.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark September 17, 2013, 12:33 pm

        Ugh… The Duggars make me wanna vomit. They tie with the Kardashians for Most Grating and Disgusting Reality Family Whose Ongoing Fame Disproves the Very Existence of any God…

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle September 17, 2013, 11:57 am

        Right?? Isn’t 30 seconds pretty “lingering” for a hug?

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest September 17, 2013, 3:12 pm

        30 seconds is a LONG time. Or at least it seems like it. Who wants to side hug for that long?

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      • avatar

        sarita_f September 17, 2013, 4:29 pm

        Because, HOLY HELL ARE HIPBONES SEXXXXXXXY.

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  • avatar

    kerrycontrary September 17, 2013, 11:04 am

    Talk to him. I mean maybe she is still interested in him and that’s what your gut is telling you, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to cross any lines. If they were going to date they would’ve done it before you two got together. I don’t maintain friendships really (I mean I’m friendly, just not close friends) with exes, but I maintained most friendships in a FWB situation so that means I’m still going to have inside jokes and laugh and talk to those guys.

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  • iwannatalktosampson

    iwannatalktosampson September 17, 2013, 11:24 am

    Lingering hug for the win.

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    • avatar

      quixoticbeatnik September 17, 2013, 11:47 am

      Gimme some of dat christian side-hug! My coworker used to say that to me all the time, I found it hysterical.

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  • landygirl

    landygirl September 17, 2013, 11:29 am

    Be afraid, be very afraid.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray September 17, 2013, 11:40 am

    In your letter, your focus is on the relationship your boyfriend has with his coworker, but you should place more focus on your relationship and how things are with your boyfriend. From what you say, there’s nothing to worry about, and it doesn’t sound like you have any reason not to trust him. I think at 6 months, one does tend to wonder where the relationship is going, and maybe that’s where your concerns stem from. Talk to your boyfriend and hopefully he can alleviate those concerns for you.

    Also, I would think about why you’re having these concerns and what that says about you.

    Lastly, maybe you know more about the casual fling than you would have liked to know, from either your boyfriend or someone else? Not everyone likes to know these things, but being worried that he will cheat because he had a fling with someone he still talks to (and the way you describe it) is irrational, so keep that in mind, too.

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  • avatar

    Bunnycsp September 17, 2013, 11:53 am

    LW, your issue is about to resolve itself. Old co workers don’t hang around. They fade away. So at first she might come around but eventually, she will be gone. If they start hanging around alone and lying to you about it, then it will be a problem.

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    • avatar

      starpattern September 17, 2013, 12:00 pm

      Good point – this is exactly what has happened with every departing coworker in my experience.

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  • Heather

    Heather September 17, 2013, 11:53 am

    I am going to go against the grain and say that, while it seems obvious to us that there’s nothing to worry about, I can’t pretend like I’ve never gotten the least bit jealous over something small like that.

    When she sees him hugging this coworker and them laughing at each other’s jokes, I am betting she doesn’t WANT to feel a little uncomfortable because, as we’ve pointed out, he hasn’t exactly given her a reason not to. And I agree that I don’t think this is anything to worry about. But I can at least appreciate that the LW has some feelings about the situation that she can’t put to rest.

    What Wendy said. If nothing else, discuss this with him. And it’s also a leap of faith, one that only you can make. From an outside perspective, I wouldn’t be worried. I have a long term SO and there are a couple of excellent friends I have who I have slept with (not dated), but it’s in the past and the idea of being sexual with them now as opposed to my boyfriend makes me laugh. I share hugs and jokes with these friends and my boyfriend knows the past I have with them, and I told him there’s nothing to worry about at all (which is true). So take it for what it’s worth LW. Good luck!

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    • iwannatalktosampson

      iwannatalktosampson September 17, 2013, 12:03 pm

      I don’t know I’ve never gotten jealous over something that small – but at the same time I’ve never really been put in that position. I’ve never had a significant other stare lovingly into another girls eyes when I’m around, I tell them to do that shit behind my back. (Kidding, mostly). I mean how often are these things happening? My boyfrannnds are always busy making sure I’m happy and having fun and not really hugging other girls. Goodbye hugs sure, but the majority of the night is normally spent together even when we’re out in groups, so I just can’t really relate. And when they do hug someone goodbye? I’m not creepily staring at them and counting how long it is. So maybe they do do those things, but I’m probably busy hugging other people goodbye or taking shots or doing whatever, I’m certainly not watching and overanalyzing their every move. So maybe the fact that someone is creepily watching their SO all night is in and of itself a sign that something’s amiss?

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      • avatar

        starpattern September 17, 2013, 12:39 pm

        Yeah, I wonder whether this is something that she is looking for all the time or if this particular person is setting off her alarm bells. If she is constantly on the lookout for reasons to get upset about his friendships with other women, that’s one thing and the problem is probably her paranoia. But if it is the just way he interacts with this specific woman that is making her uncomfortable, I think her concern is not necessarily unreasonable, even if it is unwarranted.

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      • avatar

        starpattern September 17, 2013, 12:40 pm

        *just the way….

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  • avatar

    bethany September 17, 2013, 12:16 pm

    To me, there’s not enough info here to know if you should be worried or not. Are you guys even in a committed relationship? You mention that you’ve been dating, but not if you’re exclusive or bf/gf.

    Just because someone hooked up with someone else in the past doesn’t mean that they’re going to again, or that they even want to again. He probably hooked up with her because they had some sort of chemistry/connection. While he might not have wanted a relationship with her, that chemistry doesn’t just vanish. So yeah, they might have jokes, and lingering hugs, but I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark September 17, 2013, 12:25 pm

    “Dear Wendy. Help! I’m absurdly insecure and suspicious. Do I have your permission to needlessly create problems in my relationship?”

    Apparently — Yes.

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    • SixtyFour

      SixtyFour September 17, 2013, 12:53 pm

      So, I agree with you in this case that this is probably a whole lot about nothing since they’ve only been together for 6 months and of course the guy is still going to have some affectionate feelings towards someone he was once with. That’s pretty normal.

      BUT…. ya know, it seems like you never have anything nice to say about women, and it’s really starting to grate on me. Either we’re being too jealous and insecure and whiny, or we’re being doormats who can’t stand up for ourselves and demand better out of our boyfriends or husbands. There doesn’t seem to be any in between with you.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark September 17, 2013, 1:08 pm

        Perhaps that had less to do with me and more to do with how those that write in here simply tend to be so in the wrong. And I’m sorry — but in this case I massively disagree with Wendy. (Something that isn’t that frequent.) Here, however, she fed into the LW’s own painfully unfounded insecurity in a way that left me, well… frankly rather baffled.

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  • avatar

    Liquid Luck September 17, 2013, 12:48 pm

    Oh man, I must be the worst girlfriend ever since I do all those things. But in my defense, I only give my male friends lingering hugs and laugh at their jokes in front of my boyfriend to keep him in line. I have to make sure he knows that I’m desirable to other men so he doesn’t forget to dote on me and be grateful that I’m even with him, amiright?

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  • Lindsay

    Lindsay September 18, 2013, 8:58 am

    So, I could probably be the co-worker in the letter. I had a fling with a guy at work once, and he didn’t want a relationship, yadda yadda. And we stayed friends, and he gave me a hug when I left my going-away party, etc.

    I obviously can’t tell you whether you should be concerned or what this stuff means to your boyfriend, but I can tell you that it doesn’t automatically mean he’s being shady. Friends smile at each other and joke around. And in my situation, we were closer friends than we might have been had we not had a thing together. I think the nature of the situation usually makes that the case (unless you don’t decide to be friends or purposely distance yourself).

    If he didn’t want anything serious with her, but does with you, then I’d say that’s a pretty good reassurance. And if somebody got on my case (not saying you’re doing this) about whether their boyfriend had feelings for me or whatever in my situation, I’d be like, “UHH, he’s with YOU, does it seem like he wanted to be with me?”

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