“Have I Killed my Long-Term Relationship For an Unrequited Office Crush?”

I am two years out of college and have been with my current “boyfriend,” “Peter,” for six years. We were been long-distance for the first four of these six years, as I was studying/interning abroad or across the country and Peter was finishing college and landing his first (and current) job, where he has been quite successful. Two years ago, I moved close to where Peter lives and works, and last year I was finally able to move to the same town as he lives in. But as we got closer geographically, an emotional distance grew between us. We had many ugly fights, including one where I felt concern for my safety (he was driving and made an impulsive, dangerous U-turn). I had very low self-esteem at the time – I felt lonely in yet another new place and was struggling with early career stages that weren’t very fullfilling. The fights made me feel worse and, pairing that feeling with doubts about my sexual identity (I may very well be bi), I thought about ending the relationship at the time, even turning to a therapist for support. But I clung to the relationship as the sole functioning part of my life, and when, a year ago, I got a job offer that allowed me to both love my 9-to-5 and live in the same town as Peter, I jumped on board. I convinced a reluctant Peter to look for a place for the both of us… but I wasn’t really convinced myself.

Since then, I got myself in a quite a situation: I’m afraid I fell in love with my colleague/manager “Paul” (we are a small company where hierarchy is nebulous). He is 10 years older than I am, single, and a powerful concentrate of charm, and I find myself strongly attracted to him physically, emotionally, and intellectually. We have developped a friendship that is quite intimate and that I find sometimes ambiguous, but maybe this is wishful thinking from me. We spend long evenings together on a regular basis, and he can be a bit tactile -but we live in a country where that can be just friendly.

Of course, for the past year, I have drifted away from Peter, cultivated friendships outside both these relationships, and all of these culminated in our breaking up earlier this summer. We got back together briefly, I put the brakes on it, and now we are in this grey area — not together, but not broken up. Peter is doing therapy, and he says he loves me and wants us back together. I love him, but I’m afraid I’m not in love with him anymore and won’t be able to fall in love with him again. However, he would be the perfect partner (stable, committed) for starting a family, and I’m finding that I want to take that into account. On the other hand, I’m pining away for Paul, and I could throw all concerns away if he were to suggest anything were possible between us. Though it may very well be delusonial and he feels nothing more than an affectionate friendship for me, the attraction is so strong it makes me pause and wonder if I could feel that, but in a requited way, and maybe outside of the workplace environment.

What do you think, Wendy? Did I hurt a relationship that could have had -might still have – potential for the sake of a silly office fantasy? Or is this a wake-up call for me to tune into my feelings/emotions and do some exploring? Can I do both? Have I ruined everything? What is Paul thinking? — Moth-to-the-flame

Your relationship with Peter isn’t in a grey zone; it’s done, finished, complete. You aren’t in love with Peter and you never will be. After six years, you know this as well as you know anything. The idea that Peter might be a perfect partner is a fantasy in itself. First of all there’s no such thing as a perfect partner, but Peter doesn’t even come close to being a good partner for you. On top of not being in love with him, you feel emotionally distant from him, you have ugly fights with him, and on at least one occasion his reckless behavior made you fear for your safety. That’s hardly a recipe for perfection. As young as you are – just two years out of college – even if you have a strong desire to have kids, you still have plenty of time to find an actually great match for yourself – as opposed to someone who’s a bad match for you but with whom you share years of history. Don’t settle.

As for Paul, I’d be very leery of a guy who is ten years your senior and has a managerial role over you in the small company you work for. With the “quite intimate” friendship you two have developed and the “ambiguous,” “affectionate,” “tactile” connection he’s fostered with a younger subordinate (who has been in a relationship for most of the time he’s known her), he is clearly crossing boundaries that a standup kind of person should know not to cross. It’s inappropriate at best and potentially predatory. At the very least, he’s abusing his power. It also sounds like he’s preying on the vulnerability you are likely exhibiting (as a younger, more inexperienced person, as someone who very recently had self-esteem issues, as someone who is feeling unstable in her relationship and is questioning her sexuality). For all of these reasons, I don’t think Paul is the gem you seem to think he is, high concentrate of charm or not. If you want to continue this intimate friendship, fine, but don’t risk your job and your emotional well-being by exploring some kind of romantic relationship with him. Trust me when I say it’s not worth it.

What you should do though is explore your sexuality. You’re young and single and questioning how you identify – and whom you identify as an ideal partner. There’s literally zero reason to tie yourself down to any one person and so many reasons to explore multiple people. Date for fun rather than searching for the partner to have a family with (again – there’s plenty of time for that and no need to rush). Date to see who turns you on and what characteristics you particularly value in a person. But don’t date Peter. Or Paul. Maybe there’s a nice Mary you can ask out?

I’ve been dating my boyfriend, “Ken,” for three years now. He has been diagnosed as a sex addict. I didn’t find out until about six months ago. He’s in treatment, seeing a therapist once a week and going to meetings three to four times a week. He’s cheated on me with multiple women, multiple times. He claims to have been clean of other women for about six months. He came out and told me that he wants to stop. He came clean about it, got help on his own, and wants us to go to counseling together. He stopped staring at other women for a little while, and then this past weekend he started staring again. It’s a turn-off for me. He was able to get away with it for so long because I was in school full-time and working full-time. If he continues to stare, I’ll have to leave him, because it’s making me uncomfortable. — Tired of His Staring at Other Women

Someone in active recovery for any kind of addiction is not in a place to foster a connection with a romantic partner. If you were married and/or had kids together, I’d advise sticking it out a little longer – with the caveat that at least for the first year of his recovery he will be pouring almost all his energy into getting better and not into making your relationship better. Since you are merely dating and, I hope, don’t have children together, you are free and clear to move the fuck on, which is exactly what you should do. His staring at other women is like the least of the problems here. He’s cheated on you with multiple women, multiple times, and he continues to abuse whatever tenuous threads of trust you have for him. It’s great that he’s dealing with his issues and taking active steps to get better, but the foundation of your relationship is made of too many lies to ever build anything stable and long-lasting on it. MOA.

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


  1. anonymousse says:

    LW1- I don’t think your boss fantasy destroyed your relationship. It wasn’t working to begin with. The closer you get, the worse your connection is. That tells you this will never work long term. It’s time to let go of things that aren’t working for you. This is not the sole functioning thing in your life.

    Your boss is a distraction. I’m sure he likes the attention, but he’s your boss, a decade older and should know better.

    Commonly when someone is trying to decide between two people, the clear answer is neither. Take some time to explore and enjoy your early adulthood. Date lots of people. Figure out what you like. A good match is obvious because it’s so easy and without so many hurdles.

  2. Both LWs; It’s okay to be single. Better than okay, even — it’s better than being in a relationship that isn’t working for you.

  3. I’m going to put this in blunt terms. Your relationship has long since run its course, you don’t love him anymore, you’re fighting, you’ve broken up and haven’t even officially gotten back together. You’re so emotionally checked out that you’ve developed a huge crush on your boss. But, you see your boyfriend as an easy option for a ring and a baby, so you’re debating keeping him around even though by your own words, you don’t love him and won’t love him in the future.

    Doesn’t sound very nice when you read it that way, does it?

    Your relationship with Peter is over. You know it is. Do you really want to make a family and raise a child with a man you don’t love and can’t get along with?

    The thing with Paul is just icky. Really. It is. Read what you wrote. He sounds like a creep.

    It’s time for you to be single.

  4. Bittergaymark says:

    Wendy nailed these.

    LW1) Paul did NOT kill you Peter relationship. Don’t cling to that fantasy. The car incident alone is SCARY.

    And yes, LW2, the sex addict is NOT in a position to date.

  5. LW1) Tell Peter that while you’re happy he’s going to therapy to handle his issues, you’re done and he hopes he continues to better himself for the next girl. Realize that Paul is an office crush that you’ve put a lot of fantasy thought into BECAUSE of how the Peter relationship was going. Crush’s can be fun but you need to realize that’s all it is. Date around and enjoy yourself!

    LW2) Definitely leave this man. Most addicts in active recovery are told not to be in a relationship so that they can focus 100% on themselves.

  6. LW2) I was married to a sex addict for 17 years. Believe me when I tell you it doesn’t end well. After multiple cheating episodes, multiple tears, multiple promises, multiple broken promises, I finally learned my lesson: believe his actions, not his words. Good luck.

  7. dinoceros says:

    LW1: I don’t agree with jumping from one guy to another because it usually means that you are using the second guy as an escape from a failing relationship. But regardless, I think you should use it as a good opportunity to move on from a relationship you should have ended a lot time ago. Just be single until you find someone who you can be in a healthy relationship with.

    LW2: I don’t know why you’re still with him, to be honest.

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