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“I’m in the Middle of Co-Worker Love Triangle”

I started dating a coworker a few months ago. Things were going great, but I had to miss the company holiday party to attend my grandmother’s funeral out of state. My boyfriend still went to the party as it was sure to be a great time for him. Fast forward a week: I was at my desk next to another coworker who had sole access to all of the photographs taken at a photo booth at the office shindig. A mutual friend, “Jenna,” came by and asked my coworker if all of the photos were going to be accessible to the whole office. She seemed a little worried about some of them, so as soon as she left, we decided to get nosy and find out what she was so nervous about. It wasn’t the most considerate decision, but Jenna is our friend and we thought it would be funny to find pics of her being drunk and goofy with her hubby. What we found instead were pictures of Jenna and my boyfriend getting cozy in the photo booth! I wouldn’t say that they were making out or even directly kissing, but they were alone in the booth and definitely very affectionate: close hugs with cheek kisses, fake “air” kisses, and the like. I confronted my boyfriend about the photos and he’s pulling the expected excuses, like “I’m so sorry, we were so drunk, we were just having fun and being silly,” etc.  Jenna has stated that she’s attracted to my boyfriend and she named him as the #1 guy she would sleep with in the office. I also know that she’s slept with other coworkers despite being married. Is this dump-worthy? I mean, I was at my grandma’s funeral! I want to think I’m overreacting, but I have a bad taste in my mouth … and it’s not fruitcake. — I Work with Jerks


Hmm, I dunno; I’m almost more inclined to think it’s a bigger deal that your boyfriend of several months skipped  your grandmother’s funeral than it is that he made air kisses with a female co-worker in a public photo booth at a company holiday party, but that’s just me. In both scenarios, you have to decide if and how much your boyfriend’s actions illustrate his commitment to you and whether you’re okay with his level of commitment at this time. If you aren’t okay with it — if you want more of a commitment than you feel like you’re getting — it’s time to express that to your boyfriend, and if he can’t give you what you want, then MOA.

In addition to figuring out whether your commitment levels are a match, you have to decide if you trust the guy. This isn’t about Jenna and her attraction to your boyfriend and whatever is going on in her marriage; she could be the biggest office tramp in the world, cheat on her husband all the time, and have a huge crush on your boyfriend and it shouldn’t affect you one bit if you trust him. But if seeing those photos of him and Jenna really gives you pause and reason to worry, maybe you don’t. It would hardly be fair to hold Jenna’s indiscretions against your boyfriend, though. If he’s never given you any other reason to doubt his commitment to you — and that’s where his skipping your grandmother’s funeral may come in — you shouldn’t count this one action of questionable judgment as reason enough to dump the guy. But if this is just one more thing in a list of ways he’s let you down, definitely don’t be shy about moving on. A relationship without trust is going nowhere fast.

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{ 22 comments… add one }

  • avatar Tudor Princess February 1, 2011, 10:21 am

    I agree with Wendy. Sit down and have a serious discussion with him about how you feel (no blame game, though. Just an honest assessment of your feelings). It’s completely possible that he is really embarrasses about his behavior and is blowing it off because he’s not sure how else to deal with it. Discuss with him how you see your relationship and decide where the both of you want it to go. If you don’t see eye to eye, it might be a good idea to reevaluate if this relationship is right for the both of you.

    Personally, I don’t see it as odd that he didn’t go to the funeral and the LW didn’t seem to hone in on it either. She just seemed more upset that he did it while she was there, and not that he wasn’t there with her.

    • Betsy Betsy February 1, 2011, 10:47 am

      I agree that she didn’t hone in on it, but one of the reasons that Wendy gives great advice is that she can really read between the lines to what people *aren’t* saying directly.

    • avatar cdj0815 February 1, 2011, 12:56 pm

      This why I do not drink to the point I feel like I am not in control of my actions. I hate having to play the blame game on alcohol and any other substance. When I screw up, I did it because I was thoughtless.

  • avatar Amber February 1, 2011, 10:45 am

    I guess I don’t view him not going to the funeral odd either, perhaps he wasn’t able to get the time off of work? They couldn’t afford to both go? But, maybe once she got there she realized she really wished he was there and that is adding to how upset she is over this (which i don’t want to down play, i’d be upset to if I found photos like that).

    I also think it says a lot that he said, he was so sorry. And while no excuse can make it go away, it sounds like he was sorry that it happened. I don’t think it’s dump worthy but I think they definitely need to sit down and talk about it and for her to explain to him how hurt she was. While Jenna’s actions are definitely not ok I agree this is more about the LW and her bf than Jenna.

  • avatar ladiejoy February 1, 2011, 11:03 am

    I don’t think it’s at all weird that a boyfriend of only several months didn’t attend the funeral. Thing is, people are weird about death and funerals and each person deals with things differently. Some folks just are VERY uncomfortable with funerals, and unless it’s someone close to them, would rather not go. I see no problem with that. I never expect my bf to go to all the funerals I’ve had to attend – but he chose to go to a few of them where he recognized it would be very hard for me. But then we’ve been together more than a decade, not just a few months.

    The LW makes it seem as if the relationship is slightly on the casual side. It could be the pictures were just innocent fun – but she was worried because they might LOOK inappropriate to others. Or maybe they ARE having a fling. Who knows – but trust your instincts and I’d pay really close attention to their interactions over the next few days. If any more red flags show up, it’s definitely a MOA situation. From the letter, though, it kind of sounds more like SHE was being super flirty and you probably have nothing to worry about…

    • avatar Eagle Eye February 1, 2011, 3:18 pm

      Very true, when my grandfather passed away, about a year into my relationship with my current boyfriend, we decided, jointly, that having him take off work to fly across the country was unduly expensive, both for the price of the tickets and the missed wages.

  • sobriquet sobriquet February 1, 2011, 11:07 am

    I would also add that the LW should talk to Jenna. Why not bring it up (casually) and see how she responds? Since she has been bold enough in the past to state that she’s attracted to the LW’s boyfriend, she may not have much of a filter.

  • avatar princesspetticoat February 1, 2011, 12:03 pm

    She did make the comment in the letter about how it seemed especially disrespectful since she was at a funeral. I don’t think that the letter is specifically about the funeral but it does make a difference that she was greiving alone while her boyfriend was getting snuggly with another woman.

    I wouldn’t be as concerned about the pictures themselves as I would be about what they represented. If the bf and Jenna met in line for the photo booth and took some silly, drunk photos, that’s one thing. But if they were hanging out all evening making kissy-faces and the photos are just the documented portion of their night, that’s another thing.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask both Jenna and the bf, separately for their story of what happened that evening. You could judge their trustworthiness from there.

    • avatar AnitaBath February 1, 2011, 3:38 pm

      Agreed. I also thought it seemed like the coworker seemed a little more worried than was warranted by the pictures. Maybe she thought they were worse since they did worse things that night or something?

  • avatar Wolvie_girl February 1, 2011, 12:08 pm

    Depending on the details that we don’t know, I actually think it may have been wrong (or at least inappropriate) of him to attend the funeral. They had only been dating a few months, and she doesn’t say it had gotten really serious or that they lived together, just that it was going great. Personally, I don’t think it’s appropriate to bring your BF of a few months to a funeral, ESPECIALLY if he hasn’t met her family yet (obviously we don’t know the answer to this from the letter). A funeral is a time for family and loved ones to greive their loss, not for a few months old boyfriend to prove his comittment by attending a funeral for someone he’s never met. If they were in a really serious relationship, living together, contemplating marraige or long-term plans, then his presence may have been appropriate, but there are pleny of ways he can show support for her in a difficult time apart from attending the funeral.

    • avatar Wolvie_girl February 2, 2011, 8:46 am

      BTW, I don’t think making kissy-faces with a married woman in a photo-booth is dump-worthy (if that’s all it was), but it’s also not the best way to show support for his girlfriend who is greiving.

  • avatar MiMi February 1, 2011, 12:15 pm

    Boyfriend going to a party “as it was sure to be a great time for him” (while I was mourning my grandmother) + unprofessional drunkenness at an office function + playing kissy-face with a married woman in a photo booth + lame excuses afterwards = immature, no-responsibility-taking, losery dude. MOA!

  • avatar Amy February 1, 2011, 12:18 pm

    I wouldn’t want a few months boyfriend to attend a funeral with me. I prefer to get to know a bf well before I bring him around my family. However – during this time – that’s when I’d be on the lookout for red flags. After going through the heartache of a divorce – I just don’t have time for putting up with a bunch of nonsense from a man. If a bf did something that warranted a letter to Wendy – that would be answer enough for me. Why would I waste my time with someone who behaved in a way that made me question whether their behavior was dump-worthy or not. If you have to question a man’s behavior – I don’t want to spend my relationship energy on him. There are lots of men out there who will think you are a great catch and won’t risk screwing up a relationship with you because he got drunk and made a mistake at an office party.

  • parton_doll parton_doll February 1, 2011, 12:24 pm

    I agree with Wendy’s advice, but it also seems that the LW skewed the information to her benefit a little. She says that she’s friends with Jenna and was looking for goofy pics of Jenna and her husband, but it seems to me that the LW was looking for scandalous pics of Jenna with other co-workers, given Jenna’s history. It just so happens those scandalous pictures were with her own bf. To me, the LW being upset, seemed to stem a bit from wounded pride. If I were the LW, I would make sure that when she and her bf discuss the incident, that she is clear and honest with herself on where her hurt is really coming from.

    Also, the LW doesn’t say whether or not her bf and Jenna were friends previously, so it really could have been innocent. She trusted him enough to let him go to party without her, knowing Jenna would be there. And we don’t know when or under what circumstances Jenna made the remarks about being attracted to her bf (was this before they were together, while at a girls’ night out, in a joke, etc). Not that Wendy could accept a novel from each one of her LW’s, but I think a little more information may have been helpful in this situation.

  • avatar cdj0815 February 1, 2011, 12:53 pm

    Give him a chance and try to work things out if you think you have something worth saving in your relationship. Also you and Janice may need to have a little girl talk about boundaries. Go out to eat or have drinks to discuss this. I would not discuss her/boyfriend actions on the job.

  • avatar awendybird February 1, 2011, 1:45 pm

    Good advice from Wendy as usual.

    My question is: Who are the people used in the photo? I would love it if she sent the question with those photos to see if we think they are innocent enough. Doubtful, but a girl can dream.

    • Dear Wendy Wendy February 1, 2011, 1:51 pm

      That was just a stock photo I found. I don’t have photos from the LW, though that would be funny (and possibly illegal?).

      • avatar cdj0815 February 1, 2011, 3:50 pm

        Good one Wendy. I liked it.

  • avatar Lamia February 1, 2011, 2:49 pm

    The funeral thing, I don’t think we have enough to know the full story. Maybe she didn’t want him there, maybe he couldn’t afford it, maybe he wasn’t comfortable… there’s a lot of maybes in this case.

    As for the pictures, I would really keep an eye on things. Maybe it was just a drunken indiscretion. Or maybe it was more serious. See how he acts around her. Like if he encourages flirting or shys away from it.

  • avatar Elizabeth February 1, 2011, 10:04 pm

    Since Jenna inquired about the pics in front of LW, I’m inclined to believe that Jenna wanted LW to see them and cause her some stress or a break-up.

    • avatar TheOtherMe2011 February 2, 2011, 4:10 pm

      I also had that thought, especially if Jenna had mentioned her attraction to the co-worker before LW had started dating him, that could almost be a motive for her to try and get some sort of payback.

  • avatar fast eddie February 2, 2011, 9:00 am

    Her grandmother’s funeral was a completely valid reason for not being at the party but it left him in the surreal situation of wanting affection with alcohol numbed reasoning ability. Jenna took advantage of the situation and she has no qualms about stealing another woman’s man.

    Only the two of them can say what all happened that night but he may be truly committed to IWJ and feels guilty for feeling attracted to Jenna under unusable circumstances. They should talk it out and let the result be realistic. The bottom line here is whatever did or didn’t happen needs to be fully explained and dealt with in realistic manner. She need to define in her own mind what she wants to happen and let him know that is.

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