Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“How Can I Make My Male Coworker My Friend?”

I’m a new immigrant in my mid-40s and I’ve already lost my all friends back home, so I really need to make some friends again.

It has been almost two years working in a company as a professional. Since the beginning I started working with a gentleman who was in charge of another department. After several months I realized I had feelings toward him. I need to say that I am happily married with two children. This gentleman was so nice, polite, and supportive of me. I truly want to have him as a friend at work. To be honest with you, yes, first my feelings were like a romantic type. But then I realized that he was not that type of person, and I thought it would be nice just hanging out with him at work or outside as a friend. I am kind to him, I bring him some food sometimes, and I gave him a New Year’s gift. He also has been so kind and polite to me. Whenever I need his help, he is ready to help and has told me that he always has time for me. But on the other side, he never opens a discussion about personal stuff, ever. He has never asked me if I am married (and I don’t know if he is married). He is totally uninterested in knowing about me. Even after the holidays, he just asked a general question and answered my question in the same way.

I behave in a professional manner, but I have expressed my feeling in a subtle way several times. Like the other day, when he thanked me for the lunch, I answered that it was impossible for me to find at the company a more trustworthy and sincere person than he is to be liked as a friend. In response, he said that it was very nice of me to say that and it was great to work with me as well.

I feel he tries to avoid me in public. (For example, he does not talk to me except to say ‘hi.”) I remember that when I started my job here, he used to talk to me more on different occasions. On the other hand, whenever he has a chance, he stares at me a lot. He doesn’t even try to make it subtle.

One Friday we had an argument over a job matter. After the weekend, he came by and asked me to talk. He said that the whole weekend he was thinking aboutwhat had happened. We talked and resolved the issue. Do you think if he did not want to have me as a friend, he would have tried to solve the issue as he did? I feel bonded to this person and I just want to be his friend. — Wanting His Friendship

He does not want to be your friend. He only wants to be cordial professional colleagues and that’s it. He probably senses that you have a crush on him — maybe he’s attracted to you too — but he is not interested in pursuing this crush, and there are so many good reasons why that might be (because you work together and that could easily complicate your jobs and your work relationship; because you’re married; because maybe he is in a relationship). You keep dropping huge hints that you want something more from him than just a cordial professional relationship, and he is trying, as nicely and politely as he can, to tell you that he can’t be that for you. You need to back off. Stop bringing him lunch and gifts and telling him how much you like him. Even if he’s flattered, he has to be feeling uncomfortable by now. Just stop.

You say you are happily married, so why are you so obsessed with this man at work? What are you missing in your marriage that you are seeking elsewhere? You need to figure that out, reconnect with your husband, focus on your marriage, and look elsewhere for friends (here are some tips for making new friends).

I really cannot stress this enough: Your pursuit of this colleague who has given lots of clues that he isn’t interested in anything more than a cordial professional relationship is really inappropriate. You are not bonded to him. You literally know almost nothing about him (not even if he’s married or single!). Your pursuit of him is a substitution for making genuine friends (with people who would want to actually be friends with you) and your acting on a crush so relentlessly signals something amiss in your marriage. No one who is truly happily married in a monogamous relationship carries on with someone the way you have been with this coworker. It’s one thing to have a harmless attraction to someone you say hi to occasionally; it’s quite another thing to doggedly pursue a relationship with gifts, lunches, compliments. You are crossing the line. And he is a distraction from something you would prefer ignoring. The longer you ignore whatever that something is, the more it will eat away at you, keeping you from being genuinely content.

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

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

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

27 comments… add one
  • avatar

    JD January 10, 2019, 9:12 am

    Agree with Wendy that you clearly aren’t so happily married if you are obsessed with his man. You are obsessed. He has shown no interest in you. You THINK he was staring at you. For all you know he was noticing you staring at him obsessively or staring at the clock hoping the day ends. Best case you are making this man feel uncomfortable, worst case this could escalate and cost you your job. You need to leave him alone and stop with the hints. This all comes across as really over the top.

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  • avatar

    Kate January 10, 2019, 9:32 am

    He doesn’t want to be friends. There’s every indication here that he wants a good professional relationship and nothing more. Even your last question there, no, he’s just trying to smooth things over professionally. He sounds like an intelligent, professional guy who honestly could be one step away from talking to HR about you if you can’t pull it together.

    You may want to have a few sessions with a therapist, just to dig into this situation and develop some ways to cope, while also getting into what you may be missing emotionally, and maybe even constructive and appropriate ways to make new friends. You can call the number on your healthcare card and ask about it. In my experience, this type of service has been included in my insurance with a small copay at every company I’ve worked at from tiny to huge. Take advantage of it if you have it.

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    • avatar

      Kate January 10, 2019, 9:44 am

      Also, there could definitely be cultural stuff here that you’re bringing from your home country that I’m missing, but in US workplaces, this type of behavior is not ok. Bringing in snacks for the office, for example, fine. Bringing in lunch for a co-worker, not. I actually did ask my boss if her mom had any left-over matzoh soup after their holiday, I would love to try it, and she brought me some. But unless someone asks for some reason, don’t do it. It’s weird. If you go on a trip and bring back some treats for the office, great. Or a secret Santa or Yankee swap, sure. A gift for one person of the opposite sex, nah.

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  • avatar

    Poppy January 10, 2019, 9:45 am

    When I was in college working as a server, I was responsible for training two new employees. One was a female middle eastern with islamic beliefs and the other was a black American Christian man , both had never served before and training took 2 weeks. She immediatly started having a thing for the man and become very friendly with him. She had a husband and she would tell him “I like you a lot but if my husband found out he would kill you” and assorted other weird shit. The poor guy had zero interest in her from day one and was overwhelmed by her and scared. He eventually quit becasue she kept saying she was worried her husband would find out about her feelings. She eventally got fired too but for unknown reasons. She was very opened about pro Islam and people being stone to death for being gay, white americans are all racists, sexist in that women were to bow down to men shit. She couldnt comprehend discrimination and culture appropriation here in America. I bring this up because this letter reminded me of that. She would bring him gifts and want to be “friends” though she liked him.

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    • avatar

      Poppy January 10, 2019, 9:48 am

      My advice to LW is to leave the man alone and stop bringing him gifts. Be professional. If you want friends then go out and find ones outside of work or join a group activity to make friends.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark January 10, 2019, 9:45 am

    Yeah. You’re laying it on a bit thick. The constant compliments and showering of gifts would make most people mighty uncomfortable… Back off.

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  • avatar

    Hannanas January 10, 2019, 9:56 am

    Be honest, LW, in no way do you just want to be ‘friends’ with this guy. You want to get to know him better to have a better chance at winning him over. You say you don’t have any friends, but you’ve been working as a professional for two years now, and you have a family? Plenty of opportunities to make friends there…

    And I get it with the cultural differences, but this type of behavior (gifts, compliments, food) for straight people of the opposite sex is pretty obvious in almost any culture.

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  • avatar

    Amerre January 10, 2019, 10:03 am

    Make a different friend, one who you can introduce to your husband with no guilt!

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  • avatar

    dinoceros January 10, 2019, 10:26 am

    I get that there are cultural differences here, but something important to learn about your new location is that if someone specifically chooses not to talk about their personal life with you at work, then they don’t want to be anything more than professional with you. Your behavior is coming across as though you want to date him. If this is your intention or not, you need to stop. It’s not OK to act like that to someone at work who is not interested, especially if they are married.

    If you want to make a friend, I think you need to probably keep it to someone of the same gender for right now until you learn more about how people socialize where you live now. But at work or not, you need to also look for signs that a person also wants to be your friend too before you keep showing your interest. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or woman, at work or not. If someone doesn’t reciprocate your interest and behavior, then you need to back off.

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    • avatar

      dinoceros January 10, 2019, 10:27 am

      Also, I think that you’re not being honest when you say you just want to be friends, because you are too obsessed with him. He avoids you because he doesn’t want to give you the wrong idea or make other people think something is going on. I think he likely stares at you because you are probably staring at him first and because he probably thinks the situation is weird.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse January 10, 2019, 10:41 am

    If you are staring at someone and theybhappen to look at you, it doesn’t mean they have feelings for you. He doesn’t want to talk to you in public. He doesn’t talk to you about his private life.

    That should tell you that he is a work colleague and that’s it. Nothing more.

    I agree with everyone else, refocus on your husband and family. Make new friends. Stop bringing gifts and food for him.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark January 10, 2019, 10:57 am

    Honestly? Are we sure the LW Is female? There was a subtext of forbidden love that made me wonder…

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    • avatar

      JD January 10, 2019, 10:58 am

      I thought that too right away.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark January 10, 2019, 11:01 am

    It was the overall tone. And then this line…
    .
    “To be honest with you, yes, first my feelings were like a romantic type. But then I realized that he was not that type of person…”
    .
    Type of person? Type…

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    • avatar

      Kat15 January 10, 2019, 1:00 pm

      This makes sense, I thought it meant he wasn’t the type to cheat but the LW doesn’t know if he’s married or even in a relationship

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  • avatar

    Essie January 10, 2019, 11:08 am

    The way to make friends at work is to be nice to everyone, not to pick one specific person and pester them with compliments, gifts and food until they agree to be your friend. If people see that you’re a pleasant, positive person, they’ll want to talk to you, and as you get to know your coworkers and they get to know you, you’ll probably find some that you have interests in common with and before you know it, you’ll have friends.

    I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, either, but what you’re doing with this man would be seen by anyone in the West as obsessive romantic interest. You really need to stop, right away, or you’re going to end up being warned by management.

    I think you may have mis-read his “niceness.” He’s not being nice to you because he wants to be your friend or your boyfriend, he’s just helping a new coworker get settled into her new job. It’s something anyone would do. Your manager might even have asked him to help you.

    At any rate, he’s made it absolutely clear that he doesn’t want to be your friend and he’s not romantically interested in you. He’s your coworker. Nothing more.

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  • avatar

    ron January 10, 2019, 11:41 am

    LW:
    From what you describe, this man already is your friend. He treated you as a friend. However… he has sensed, correctly sensed based upon what you wrote, that you wanted him as a romantic partner, rather than just a friend. He definitely does not want that. That is why he has backed away. Probably also, he knows that other people at work have sensed that you want him as more than a friend and he finds this both a professional risk and a bit embarrassing. He doesn’t want the reputation as one who would consider something romantic with a married co-worker.

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  • avatar

    anonykins January 10, 2019, 11:42 am

    This sounds SOOOOOO similar to today’s Captain Awkward letter, but with just enough of the details changed. Makes me wonder whether someone is submitting the same letter with slight changes to try to get a different answer….

    In any case, agree with Wendy (and the Captain, who had the same advice for that LW) – this guy does not want to be your friend. Respect that, especially since this is work. If you need new friends, direct your attention elsewhere.

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    • Bon Vivant

      Bon Vivant January 10, 2019, 12:35 pm

      I thought the exact same thing.

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    • avatar

      Rebecca January 10, 2019, 2:36 pm

      I was scrolling down to make the same comment! Seems like they’re trying out different explanations for what is obviously just a person who (for very good reason) is not interested in developing this professional relationship further…

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster January 10, 2019, 12:06 pm

    What in the bunny boiler shit is this letter.

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    • avatar

      saneinca January 10, 2019, 12:56 pm

      LOL. Agreed.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph January 10, 2019, 12:26 pm

    It may also be a cultural thing, but there’s a weird formality in how you approach a friendship with this person that does not really match American cultural norms (assuming thats where you emigrated to?).
    We don’t typically identify a person and declare “I want a friendship with you.” Rather, friendships develop organically.
    1. You meet,
    2. You talk about [thing which caused you to meet]– in this case that work but could also be a hobby, like if you met at a sporting event or a concert or a painting class you could talk about that subject which you both have interest in.
    3. Then personal stuff kind of naturally enters into the conversation: “How was your weekend?” “oh good, my husband and I went to X and did Y.” And then rather than dropping the conversation, the other person instead asks more questions or talks about the time they went to same place or did same thing or have you tried other thing which is similar you might like. (This is also how you’d know if each other were married, but it seems you never even reached this stage of friendship with him)
    4. Then maybe one of you invites the other to do something out side of work, and if that is fun, the invites continue and the talk continues and it turns out you have a friend.

    I think the last time I made a friend by declaring “I want to be friends with you” and the other person declaring “me too!” and then it was so, was when I was 5.

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    • CurlyQue

      CurlyQue January 10, 2019, 2:54 pm

      That’s what i thought, how does LW not know the relationship status of the gentleman? It’s usually in the very beginning, getting to know your coworkers stage of interaction but it’s been two years?

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      • avatar

        Kate January 11, 2019, 9:25 am

        If he’s wearing a ring, then you know. But yeah, if people have a partner they will usually mention them. The only co-worker I can think of who didn’t / doesn’t is my current boss who is not out but definitely has a same-sex partner, never mentions them, but I know. It’s easy enough to figure. I have a junior co-worker who has mentioned their partner literally twice in passing but never talks about them. Kinda weird but still, I know there’s a relationship there.

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  • avatar

    CET January 11, 2019, 8:31 am

    Keep him at a polite distance at work…don’t try to be great friends with this man. Obviously you are obsessed with him and he may have a crush on you as well. Please stop focusing on him for the good of your marriage. Instead start trying to make other friends…focus on that instead. It takes time to make friends. Start showing interest to any women in your life who seem really nice to you. Over the course of the next year you might gain a friend or two.

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  • avatar

    Kaye July 6, 2019, 8:19 pm

    You could end up named in a sexual harassment suit if you don’t back off!

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