Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I’ve Fallen In Love with My Lesbian Co-Worker”

I have found myself in a terrible predicament. I’ve had this crush on a female co-worker, “Sandy,” for six months now. I am a 24-year-old woman who works in a law firm as a trainee and she’s a 30-year-old lawyer. Not that it matters any, but I’ve been straight my whole life and never felt any attraction towards women until I met her. I’m in love with her. We have hung out a few times with other co-workers as a group but never just the two of us.

She has this habit of getting a little too forward when she’s drunk, which was fine until last night when we were at a casual work dinner and I found out (via our fellow co-worker and mutual friend) that she is dating another female trainee/soon-to-be-lawyer, “Kate,” whom I’m also close with. I also found out that this has been going on for months and that Sandy, Kate, and our mutual friend all had figured out the way I feel about Sandy. The worst part is though that while we were at that dinner, while no one was looking – being clearly drunk – Sandy put her hand on my thigh a bunch of times, held my hand, and caressed my forearm under the table while her girlfriend, who is also my friend, was sitting right there across the table from us. Things got worse when we all decided to go to this gay club afterward and she and I started dancing and grinding against each other, all while her girlfriend was around. I don’t know what kind of relationship they’re in because she has thrown in conversation a bunch of times that she’s a free spirit, does what she wants when she wants to, and can’t commit to the monogamous lifestyle.

I should mention that this isn’t the first time she’s done things like that with me but the difference is that I didn’t know she was dating Kate and also it hadn’t really gone that far.

The night ended with an exchange of messages between us wherein she told me that she’s confused about MY feelings, and when I straight up asked how she feels, she said she feels nothing. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this.

For the time being I want to explain myself to Kate and apologize for my behavior because I know it was wrong. We’ll all have to find a way to co-exist because, unfortunately, we all work closely with each other on a daily basis, and this is going to be hard for me to deal with. — Straight-Up In Love

Sandy’s a predator and you are her prey. This isn’t love. This isn’t friendship. This is straight-up manipulation, and maybe her gender is clouding that for you, so let’s pretend Sandy is a man, ok? Let’s pretend Sandy is a 30-year-old man named Sam whose position at work and his age make the power dynamic between you imbalanced in his favor. Maybe you aren’t his direct subordinate, but you are definitely a subordinate in your office – a “trainee” to his established professional position. You think you’re in love with him and he suspects as much. And for months, as he suspects that you – a trainee in the law firm where he’s employed as a lawyer – are in love with him, he flirts with you, hits on you, “gets a little too forward while drunk” with you, all while dating another trainee and, supposedly, feeling “nothing” for you. Do you see how Sam’s behavior – and, arguably, his intentions and his integrity — are grossly inappropriate? Same with Sandy. It is NOT, in fact, “fine” that she gets too forward with you while drunk. She’s a colleague! You are a younger trainee! She’s taking advantage of you and, frankly, treating you like shit.

The best thing you can do at this point is to keep your head down, quit socializing with Sandy and Kate, and keep things strictly professional with them and everyone else in your office. Don’t apologize to Kate. You’ve done nothing to apologize for. If anyone owes her any kind of explanation, it’s Sandy, and since she didn’t seem concerned about Kate’s feelings — or yours! — while grinding against you in a gay bar in front of Kate, there’s no reason you need to be worried either. As you said, you aren’t privy to the status of their relationship or what kind of rules and boundaries they share. And, in fact, given that Sandy is openly forward with you right in front of Kate, you would absolutely be forgiven for assuming theirs is an open relationship. And if it’s not? Still not your problem. Sandy’s the one ignoring boundaries.

Speaking of boundaries, you need to set them like yesterday. Quit letting colleagues touch you intimately. When someone – whether you work with him or her or not — behaves in a way that confuses you, ask for clarification. If you’d done this with Sandy when she first started acting forward with you, you’d have saved yourself months of agonizing over her feelings and whether her behavior meant anything. You likely would have discovered sooner that she was dating Kate, and maybe you wouldn’t have fallen in love with Sandy, knowing she was unavailable to you.

If at this point you don’t know how to co-exist with these people in an office where you work closely with them, it might be time to look for a new position. If you can’t be strictly professional at work and your feelings are interfering with your job, that’s not good. You might also consider speaking with an HR rep if you have one, but if you don’t already have another job lined up, that can backfire. At any rate, keep your distance from Sandy because she will continue to prey on you, especially now that she knows your weak spots.

I am in college and have been hanging out with the same guy for a couple months now. Things have been good, and we see each other nearly every day. A couple weeks ago he asked me to be exclusive with him (i.e. we aren’t seeing/talking to other love interests). This made me happy and I am fairly content with our status. Additionally, he let me know that he would need more time to get to know me before referring to me as his girlfriend because he has been hurt in the past. I’m okay with taking the ‘labels’ thing slow. However, I was thinking about how I really am already acting as his girlfriend. I have helped him navigate big life decisions, I do his laundry, help him with school, and host his friends over at my place. I am happy doing all of these things, but I do wonder if maybe I should take a step back until he wants to make things official? The way I’m looking at it, why would he ever ask me to be his girlfriend if I am already acting as one? — Already Acting Like His Girlfriend

YOU DO HIS LAUNDRY? Girl, no. Stop. Stop doing his laundry and hosting his friends over at your place and acting like his girlfriend if he won’t even call you his girlfriend! What are you doing? That line about how he’s been hurt in the past? Puh-leeze. Who hasn’t been hurt in the past? If you’re so hurt you can’t be in a committed relationship with anyone, don’t go getting exclusive with someone and letting her do your damn laundry and hosting your dumb friends over at her place; stay single if you’re too hurt to be someone’s boyfriend.

Look, LW, you’ve written to me several times now – here (LW1), and here (LW2), for example. It’s clear you are desperate for a boyfriend – a perfect “unicorn” boyfriend and you’re willing to overlook certain things to convince yourself that you’ve found him. But only two weeks ago you wrote to me about your concern that this new unicorn wasn’t over his ex – I assume the same ex who hurt him so much that he is now unable/unwilling to call you his girlfriend. Please, please read between the lines here: He doesn’t want any boundaries in your relationship. He wants to take without giving. He wants YOU to be exclusive to him, but I would be shocked if he’s honoring such exclusivity to you. I suspect, instead, that he just likes knowing that you aren’t seeing anyone else and that the “exclusive” title is a bone he threw you to keep your tail wagging while you serve his needs. Ugh, I don’t even know this creep and I’m sick of him. He’s no unicorn, LW. He’s a super basic college boy looking out for his own interests, other people’s feelings be damned.

Honestly, I think it’s time for you to take a break from dating and work on your self-esteem. I promise you, there’s more to life than having a boyfriend. Host your own friends at your place and nurture a social circle that supports you emotionally so that you aren’t so susceptible to the charms of the next guy who wants to date you without any labels.

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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.

15 comments… add one
  • dogmom November 19, 2019, 9:53 am

    LW2, wait, you’re the Snapchat LW from a week or two ago? What happened to that guy? Is the guy in this letter the Snapchat guy? If so, how did you go from “this guy might be shady bc his ex is still his No. 1 Snapchat bestie” to “I do his laundry!” in such a short amount of time? If this is not the Snapchat guy, where did this new gym come from? So many questions!

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    • dogmom November 19, 2019, 9:53 am

      Guy, not gym!

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  • Peggy November 19, 2019, 10:11 am

    Excellent advice from Wendy to LW #1 about Sandy-she sounds like an A-hole and dangerously manipulative.

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  • anonymousse November 19, 2019, 11:13 am

    LW1- stop hanging out with coworkers. Don’t apologize to Kate, you’ve done nothing to her. Getting too close and talking about feelings with someone you work with which is almost never a good idea. I agree that it sounds like Sandy is super manipulative and enjoys the drama. Hey at least she had a moment of honesty- when she told you she feels nothing.

    Take a step back. Be “busy.” Stop drinking and going to clubs with coworkers. It might be a good time to start looking for a new job.

    LW2- you do seem desperate for a bf. Desperate for love. Why do someone else’s laundry for them?are you his lover or his mother? College is not where women go to meet a husband. Spend time on your own, building a life that fulfills and excites you. Maybe when you stop looking so hard for love, you’ll find some other kind of happiness. Like feeling confident on your own.

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  • Essie November 19, 2019, 11:29 am

    LW1: OMG, do NOT get into this drama with coworkers. Especially not at a law firm. No, no, no, no.

    Aside from Sandy being an asshole and toying with you for her amusement (which everyone else is right about), if Sandy, her girlfriend and your mutual friend have figured out how you feel about her, everyone else at your workplace knows that you’re desperately crushing on Sandy. Is that how you want your coworkers to see you? Do you want to be known around the office for your intelligence, professionalism and work ethic, or do you want to be known as “the one who has a thing for Sandy?”

    Honestly, I’d start looking for another job. This is an untenable situation, and if it spills into the office, you’ll be the one who gets fired, not Sandy. She’s billing clients. You’re just a trainee. You’re the definition of “expendable.”

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    Bittergaymark November 19, 2019, 11:53 am

    LW1). Yeah. Do NOT apologize. This chick is bad news. Stay away from her and her girlfriend. Start looking for another job. This will all soon blow up in your face. Big time.

    LW2). Stop doing his laundry. Seriously? What will you stoop to next? Spraying yourself on the floor outside his front door so he can wipe his feet on you night after night? Um… I think — given your letter history — that You should embrace being single for a while.

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  • Sea witch November 19, 2019, 12:16 pm

    LW1: this is sexual harassment and she’s exposing the company to a lawsuit.
    LW2: ha ha – glad Wendy called out the laundry thing. I’ve never done laundry for a boyfriend, ever. My spouse and I both do laundry, with him doing it perhaps a bit more. He doesn’t want to call you his girlfriend because that would chase away other women who might approach him. He’s keeping his options open and still shopping around.

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  • PDX816 November 19, 2019, 1:08 pm

    LW1 – I have worked in law firms since my early 20’s. this is not normal office behavior, I have never NEVER had drinks with a coworker in such an intimate setting. we have done group outings, with large numbers and it was a work event. This isn’t drama, this is manipulative and you need to report this to HR immediately. Her behavior is not acceptable, her age is irrelevant, as an attorney she knows better. All attorneys take ethics classes, both regarding their practice and their clients. Depending on her state this could be disciplinary in nature.

    LW 2 – Please kick this guy to the curb, he is using you and your desperation is allowing it. Please seek out counseling services at your school, you need to work some stuff out before you will be in a healthy place for a relationship.

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      Guy Friday November 19, 2019, 3:06 pm

      All attorneys take ethics classes, both regarding their practice and their clients. Depending on her state this could be disciplinary in nature.
      Regardless of her state this is a violation of that state’s ethics code. I don’t even need to know what state she’s in to know it is. ALL states have a clause in their ethics codes that deal with “offensive character,” and it’s for situations exactly like this, where it doesn’t technically impact client files but still runs contrary to how you want a lawyer to behave.

      Also, not to quibble, but I’d respectfully disagree that this isn’t normal law firm behavior based on my experiences. I’m not saying it’s appropriate firm behavior, but the legal profession is a messed-up, incestuous, hedonistic-at-times situation where people blow off steam WAY too hard, and I have seen and heard of situations like this occur more times than I care to admit.

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      • PDX816 November 19, 2019, 3:32 pm

        I have worked in multiple firms from large corporate firms to nonprofit and have never seen what the LW described. I will count myself lucky.

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        Kate B. November 19, 2019, 10:03 pm

        I’ve worked in law firms for 20 years. I have seen it and it never ends well.

  • BonV November 19, 2019, 1:16 pm

    LW1: since you are young, you’ve probably never heard this advice: don’t shit where you eat, i.e. NEVER get involved with someone at work (and certainly never get involved with someone at work as legally and emotionally imprudent, Sandy).

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    • BonV November 19, 2019, 1:19 pm

      edit: “…as Sandy.”

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    Kate B. November 19, 2019, 10:04 pm

    LW1: The only thing you should be making is tracks away from this situation. Sandy is a walking lawsuit and she will drag you – and Kate – down with her. What she is doing is straight-up sexual harassment and she is putting her career – and yours – in jeopardy. You do not want to be anywhere near that mess when it explodes.

    LW2: I don’t know what it’s like in your world, but in my world, being exclusive = girlfriend. Also, doing laundry for someone who doesn’t give you anything in return = doormat.

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  • brise November 21, 2019, 4:49 am

    LW1: I don’t think that you are in love with Sandy. You are fascinated by her because she is senior in the firm, she is charismatic and enjoys her power on the others, including through sexual seduction. You are new, lack confidence and seek recognition.
    So don’t think you will be desperate if you back off or if you move on in your career. This won’t break your heart. It will just show you a very old emotional trap in the professional field that is to idealise and worship a boss who sucks the life out of you at a new job.
    Back off and do your work in a calm way. Avoid the hanging out. You will be fine.

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