The first woman I ever had sex with was my co-worker at a carpet-cleaning company. What better set-up for a lesbian encounter? Alas, like many workplace romances, it was short-lived and ended awkwardly.
Why do so many folks end up romantically involved with co-workers, and are these relationships always doomed? Studies have revealed that up to 40 per cent of adults have been involved in some kind of workplace romance, and it’s not particularly surprising. Spending time together every day with shared common objectives, victories and disappointments makes it easy for attraction to bloom. And statistics show that nearly one-third of office relationships result in marriage, so it can’t always be bad. Neil McArthur, a philosophy professor at the University of Manitoba who specializes in sexual ethics, believes that workplace romances are a good thing. “Busy people don’t have a lot of places to meet people, and on balance most workplaces aren’t negatively impacted by them.” He believes that companies are overstepping their boundaries when they try to restrict what employees do with one another on their own time.
If you’re thinking of dating someone at work, there are some pretty important questions to ask yourself. Could either of us lose our job if our relationship were to become known? Would I be attracted to this person if we were to meet outside of our work roles? What will things be like at work if we break up? The answers will reveal a lot about whether it might be worthwhile moving beyond playful flirtation to a full-blown fling.
Because both your personal and professional lives can be greatly impacted, care must be taken to protect both parties if you decide to pursue a romantic connection with a co-worker. Even if your com- pany doesn’t have outright rules against it, you’ll want to take into account how accepting the general office climate is. Whether or not you are out as queer at work will obviously have a big impact on your level of secrecy, but even if your relationship is common knowledge, it still shouldn’t be evident to someone who doesn’t know. You’ll want to avoid things like unnecessary touching and frequent long lunches away from the office.
On account of the risks involved, the workplace is usually not a great place to find folks to date casually. Break-ups can be especially awkward when you’re forced to see the person every day, and being a serial dater of co-workers is likely to land you a bad reputation pretty quickly.
If you do find someone special at work and start to date seriously, you’ll want to watch out for the pitfalls of spending too much time with your partner. Be sure to maintain your own hobbies and interests to keep things balanced and interesting. As nice as it is to be with someone who already knows what your day was like, it can be easy to fall into a comfortable (and boring!) rut if you start to spend 24 hours a day with your partner.
In general, when it comes to workplace romances, your best bet is to proceed with caution. But they can and do lead to real happiness and connection for many people, so love could be just a cubicle away!
–Bick Facey is a sex-positive lover of words, and singer of sassy, silly and sad songs.