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 some. 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.