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?
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.