The Timeline Of Dating A Co-Worker: Why Success Is Rare At The Office

by Karen Schneider
Fox Searchlight Pictures

I sighed and closed my eyes as Lana Del Rey's sultry voice made love to the lyrics of her song, "American."

It was the summer of 2013, and I was newly obsessed with her music.

As the tracks changed and "Burning Desire" slid into my background noise, I felt the memories from my office party subconsciously creep into my mind for at least the 50th time.

Why couldn't I stop thinking about this?

Keeping my eyes firmly shut, I lazily browsed the highlight reel of the night: how it felt to be so close to him all night, his arm around me, his fingers eagerly gripping my waist and us enjoying the atmosphere and each other's company.

We were already great friends, but it had seemed different that night. It was more intimate, somehow.

I replayed in my head how — when he first saw me that evening — his eyes had slowly slid over my body appreciatively, before settling on my face with a sly grin.

In turn, I remembered how the shirt he wore accentuated his shoulders. (He really was very attractive and definitely my type. Why hadn't I noticed that about him before?)

My mind ran through the various flirtations we enjoyed throughout the evening, but I quickly fast-forwarded to the end of the night.

Sitting next to him on the company chartered bus (amidst other co-workers, mind you), he innocently rested his hand on my knee.

Then slowly, teasingly, he slid his hand up under my dress to touch me.

I didn't stop him.

Surprising myself, I waited with bated breath.

I was shocked at how much I wanted it, and how much I liked it.

I remembered how it felt. I had to stay quiet so no one would notice us, and I felt my breath grow more shallow at the thought.

I shook my head and released another sigh, much heavier this time.

I knew myself too well, and it was already too late.

I wanted him.

Worse yet, I already knew what that meant for me: likely heartbreak.

How did he manage to flip my switch? How had I let this happen?

This was the exact moment I fell for my co-worker.

Our relationship crossed every line and every boundary, and we definitely didn't stop there.

Office romances are not unusual. They occur quite frequently.

A 2012 survey shows that upwards of 59 percent of respondents have been involved with a co-worker at some point in their career.

Even our president is guilty.

He met Michelle Obama at a Chicago law firm they both worked at. (She was his supervisor.)

Obviously, they are one of the success stories.

It's easy to understand the appeal and motivation: You spend more time at work than anywhere else, and you get to know people on a very personal level.

To this day, some of my very best friends are former co-workers.

I myself had previously dabbled in office flings, but none had been serious.

I never understood the saying, "Don't sh*t where you eat."

Suffice it to say, I understand now.

This one was different.

When I first started at my former company, Seth* and I barely spoke, unless it was out of necessity.

This lasted for about a year.

I didn't mind him (and I don't think he minded me, either).

But, he was a few years younger than I was, and before I got to know him, I just saw him as a cocky kid.

I wasn't impressed.

Our desks were positioned very close to each other, and we ended up partaking in daily life together, voluntarily or not.

Over time, I began to appreciate his quick, witty humor and saw how generally likable he was overall.

Our friendship blossomed as we took to Skype to rant about work and the people around us.

We realized how alike we were, and it turned personal as well.

We not only discussed our jobs and what we wanted out of our careers and lives, but we also talked about our relationships. (We both were otherwise involved initially.)

When Seth wasn't at work, I realized I missed his presence. I looked forward to seeing him and talking to him every day.

Still, I was blind to all the signs.

I was blind to everything until he made that move on me after the party.

It's amazing how someone can become so important to you unexpectedly, and in such a short amount of time.

Seth and I had the opportunity to grow close emotionally before our relationship ever turned physical.

Once it did, it was like the groundwork was there for what looked to be the perfect relationship.

Our chemistry was off the charts. Everything seemed perfect.

If only we didn't work together.

After hooking up a few times, Seth explained he was uncomfortable starting a relationship with me because we worked together, and he didn't want to ruin our friendship.

I understood, and I agreed that perhaps we should refrain.

After all, we were best friends, and I didn't want to ruin that either.

Almost a year later, we finally admitted to each other that our feelings had grown stronger, despite our attempts to cut out that aspect of our relationship.

Relieving that craving and just giving into it was an exhilarating high.

I had tried unsuccessfully to deny to myself that I was in love with Seth, but once he admitted he felt the same, all of my emotions poured out around me like the floodgates had been lifted.

There was no turning back after that happened.

Seth told me he loved me. He told me that he just couldn't stay away from me anymore, and I was all in.

Studies say being in love produces a brain response similar to the high of being on cocaine.

The high is addictive.

It certainly was for me. I remember nights where I had trouble sleeping because I was so happy.

Then, just as quickly, everything came crashing down around me.

Seth was younger than me, and he just wasn't ready for what he believed I represented.

Even though we never made our relationship "official," he ended it officially.

Shortly after, he met another woman and began dating her.

Heartbroken, I had to put on my game face every day and pretend nothing was wrong.

We had to continue to work side by side.

Co-workers who were none the wiser about our secret relationship (and even those who were) asked questions about his new girlfriend as I perfected not showing any emotion.

Despite our friendship, having been "best friends" and the love we did have for each other, we just were unable to recover (even though we tried).

While it's very possible to move on and be friends again, you never really bounce back to what you once were.

Seth certainly wasn't comfortable asking me for relationship advice, and I definitely didn't have the heart to hear about it.

Office romances are a regular occurrence, but they are also a source of office gossip, not to mention many broken hearts and ruined friendships.

If you become involved with a co-worker, recognize upfront that it may change your satisfaction level with your job and how you are viewed by your peers.

It can even change your life.

I lost my best friend — someone who knew me better than anyone else — to awkward silences and regret.

I never again will "sh*t where I eat."

The lingering aftershock of that heartbreak was enough to cure me of the urge.

If you're stuck choosing between a dating a co-worker or a match on Tinder, choose the latter.

It is surely safer than the typical office romance.

*Name has been changed.