The Adulterated Thrill Of An Office Romance

Everybody’s felt the temptation. It’s what happens when human beings work together closely in an office. You grab lunch with a coworker, get coffee together, and maybe even a drink. You stay late in the evenings, working on that important project for the boss, your eyes meet and your heads touch over the file in the conference room. Tension builds -it might as well be a scene from a romantic drama. It’s that old cliché you’ve collapsed into: you’ve fallen for a coworker. It draws you in and you can’t resist the magnetic pull of an office romance.

The first thing to know is this – you shouldn’t beat yourself up for it. It’s a natural urge, attraction develops through proximity. As we get older, our avenues for meeting new people become limited; we no longer have large groups of friends (like during high school or college) to navigate our relationships and find a partner. Nobody likes to spend a lot of time on dating apps. Instead, work becomes a priority, and who is easier to fall for than the person a mere two desks over?

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It’s happened to most of us, because we tend to build connections to other people under times of great stress. (And what is a modern corporate office if not a stress-manufacturing factory?) It’s difficult for anybody to resist the temptation to mix business and pleasure, as you slowly get to know someone over the course of weeks and months. After all, work is so dreary – what better way to liven it up than to engage in a tiny flirtation as you draft yet another memo that nobody will read? It’s harmless, you tell yourself. It’s not like you’re going to do anything about it. No, no, it’s just a way to make it through the mundane work-day. But be warned, it can escalate quickly. One moment you’re making PG-jokes at the water cooler, and the next minute you’re going on the holiday together.

The appeal of office romance is very simple: it is sneaky. It gives us a thrill to be secretive, to indulge in romantic overtures in private, something that other people aren’t privy to. There’s something impure about it, it has the whiff of an illicit liaison, since its forbidden (think Romeo and Juliet, the Indian version). Most offices do not encourage romances between coworkers: even if there’s no question of favoritism, work tends to get affected when you’re crushing hard on your team partner. The boss won’t want to send you to London to work on a complicated merger if you’re likely to spend the entire time hooking up with your coworker in the hotel room (though I suppose we could call that a different kind of a merger!) So you have to keep your desire under wraps, which is not an easy thing to do at the best of times. This is the kind of situation that leads to you two sneaking into empty conference rooms to make out like teenagers. The risk is very high; office policy may even dictate that you lose your job over a sexual relationship with your coworker. Unfortunately, human beings are not particularly risk-averse! We tend to do incredibly foolish things, and then cry when we reap the consequences that we knew were certain to follow.

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One of the worst consequences of an office romance is this: it is likely to end poorly. Not for any other reason but because almost all relationships do – this is the inherent truth about dating and why it’s so hard. Unless you’ve met ‘The One’ you’re going to marry, you’ll have to suffer a painful ending to your relationship. Normally, the best method for this is to avoid the other person until your heart heals. However, consider that this won’t be possible in an office environment. You will literally have to see the other person every single day. If you fight with them, there will be no way to avoid them. Your boss might even pair the two of you on a month-long project. How can you escape the heartache and recrimination that is sure to ensue? It’ll be like navigating a minefield. There are even cases of people quitting their jobs or leaving the industry altogether because they didn’t want to work with their exes. That is an enormous career sacrifice with nothing to be gained but a brief fling that you will not remember, so try and minimize the fallout of flirting with your coworker.

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The best way then to indulge in an office romance is to make sure that you’re prepared for any eventuality that arises, including the end of the relationship, as well as the boss finding out. Be prepared to justify yourself, be prepared to leave the job, and be prepared to have your feelings hurt at any time.

The thrill of a clandestine relationship also means that you will not have the legitimacy of an official relationship: you won’t be able to kiss or hug or put on any public displays of affection. You won’t be able to call them “baby” in front of other people, or hold their hand. This may not seem like a deprivation at first, but as time goes by you will feel the ways in which a forbidden, secret romance is different from a public one.

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Ultimately, we follow our hearts. The office romance may be inadvisable (watch movies like Tyler Perry’s Obsessed for a good breakdown of why), but if you take precautions, you might just end up finding out that your colleague is not just a team-player but a good match for your life. But if all you desire is a fling that can’t last long, then you’ll have to hope for the best possible outcome because office flings, by their very nature, often don’t end well.

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