Workplace dilemmas: I just can’t help falling in love

Each month, our agony uncle responds to your concerns. This time: dealing with habitual infatuation in the workplace

Dear Tim,

Have you ever had that feeling of falling in love with someone? Not the feeling of actually being in love, but the thing that happens in the first few days and weeks of infatuation?

    I always seem to fall for people in my workplace. Colleagues. So it gets complicated when we split up,...  

The feeling of butterflies in your stomach when they come into your vicinity, as if your legs may just give way beneath you?

Of wanting to spend every spare moment with them – so much so that you construct increasingly spurious reasons to talk to them?

That magical feeling of hearing them laugh at your every joke, and enjoying their company so much you feel as if you could never tire of their anecdotes, of their charm, of their sheer presence in your life?

It’s one of the loveliest sensations in the world. It makes you glad to be alive, gives you a spring in your step and a smile on your face. I adore it.

Trouble is, I’m beginning to think I’m addicted to falling in love. Every so often I have a longer-term relationship, but it always fizzles out after a few months because I get bored.

Then I have a fallow period where I don’t see anyone, before the process of infatuation starts again.

That would be problematic in its own right, but there’s a further complication. I always seem to fall for people in my workplace. Colleagues. So it gets complicated when we split up, because everyone ends up feeling awkward.

It is inevitable that my infatuations should be with people I work alongside. I’m a lawyer and we work extremely long hours. Sometimes I’m in the office for 20 or more hours, and it’s not uncommon for me to sleep in the car, grab a shower in the gym and then start another day.

On one level, it’s fine that I form these relationships. I’m a single, or should I say “self-partnered”, guy. So I’m not hurting anyone. That said, my latest girlfriend is married, though I know she’s unhappy in her relationship and wants it to end.

I’m not overly concerned about the ethics of it all. But I do wonder if I should be reining myself in. The thing is, work is so all-consuming that it’s actually kind of nice to have something else to focus on while I’m there. And love is one of the best distractions of all.

Tim says:

Crikey. There’s a lot going on in this letter and I’m not quite sure where to begin.

Let’s start with the thing that you don’t really acknowledge as a problem: your work-life balance. It’s clear that you are dedicated to a very demanding professional life. I presume you find it stimulating, and it clearly gives you an aura of confidence that shines through in your letter.

    ...I can’t help but wonder if some of your habits around relationships are a means of coping with stress.  

But I can’t help but wonder if some of your habits around relationships are a means of coping with stress. There’s a sense in your poetic descriptions of falling in love that you see it as a form of escapism, a way of getting away from the demanding routines of your daily life.

So maybe you’re not as in love with falling in love as you think. Maybe you’re actually longing for a release from pressure, something to think about that isn’t work. Maybe you need a break.

Of course, you describe many of the signs of falling in love and it’s absolutely right and proper that you should relish the experience of connecting with another human being.

But it is almost as if the thrill of that initial spark has become a drug for you. Something you crave just for the sake of it, without letting it develop into a full-on relationship in which other qualities emerge.

Now, this could be for two reasons. Some people genuinely do find it very easy to fall in love, hard and fast. They can often end up feeling broken-hearted when things don’t work out, even if they’ve been a big cause of that relationship failure.

For others, the experience of falling in love isn’t actually real. It’s a form of displacement, taking their mind off the thing that’s really at issue and focusing it on something more acceptable.

I wonder if that’s what happening here. In which case, you may try a two-pronged strategy: one, try to stop yourself from falling in love so readily by seeking companionship with family and friends and busying yourself with other pursuits.

Two, consider counselling to help you discern what’s really going on here. You may be surprised by what emerges.

Finally, and I think this goes without saying: back off the married woman. She may be desperately unhappy in her marriage but you can’t allow yourself to become the reason for its breakdown. Especially since you’ll most likely move on to a new relationship soon enough.

She’s off limits, right? It’s for your good and hers.

Published: 8 November 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

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