When I was 22, I dated a coworker for a year.
Tyler and I didn’t meet on the job. We had been in a relationship for almost four years before we started working together (which, by the way, wasn’t planned). But for about a year we sat three cubes apart from each other and kept our relationship under wraps.
It wasn’t always easy. We were young and worried about our reputations. It wasn’t against company policy to date a coworker, but I didn’t know what people would think if they knew we were involved romantically — so, for those reasons, we chose to keep it a secret.
It was tricky at times. We arrived and left separately. We didn’t acknowledge each other in the hallways. We didn’t eat lunch together. We avoided our colleagues on social media. We worried about running into coworkers on weekends.
It was a bit exhausting, so I was somewhat relieved when Tyler got a new job elsewhere.
Office romances are generally not recommended, but they happen all the time, and when they do there are usually three possible outcomes. The relationship turns sour, and your reputation and career take a beating. It ends, but you’re both mature and cordial and don’t let the breakup affect your work. Or things work out.
Luckily, we fall into the last category. Tyler and I survived our year as coworkers and got married in October.
A new survey by CareerBuilder found that nearly 40% of employees admitted to having a romantic relationship with a coworker, and almost one-third of office relationships result in marriage. Meanwhile, about 5% of workers who have had a workplace romance say they have left a job because of an office relationship gone bad.
I recently asked my Business Insider colleagues about their own office romances. Here are the stories of love, heartache, and regret that seven of them shared:
'In 2008, I landed my first job in television production by responding to a Craigslist ad. Relatively unaware of what I was getting myself into, I accepted a $30-a-day internship offer, happy to have any semblance of employment in the midst of the Great Recession, which was in full swing.
'It turned out that I'd go on to spend the better part of the next year on the road with the Big Apple Circus, helping document the lives of dozens of performers and crew members for the multipart PBS series 'Circus.' And though I barely realised it at the time, from then on the course of my life would change.
'Adapting to production life on a circus lot was a unique challenge. Not only was I grappling with how to operate new and exotic camera and audio equipment on the fly, I was also thrust into a touring schedule that involved multiple stops in some of the more unsavoury nooks and crannies of the American East Coast. It was awesome, but intense.
'To make matters worse, I soon realised I had a fairly debilitating crush on our show's story producer, a beautiful but impossible-to-read narrative specialist who was very much my senior and, as I saw it, way out of my league.
'In spite of this seemingly insurmountable challenge, I was persistent about getting to know her. First by ensuring that the shoot notes I sent her after each day were impeccably thorough and detailed (and injected with my own brand of humour and whimsy), then by engaging her in conversation over the course of social gatherings in the trailers of members of the circus troupe (the trapeze artists, in particular, knew how to throw a good party).
'In this unorthodox setting, I'm pleased to report that our love blossomed. We got married in the fall of 2011, and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our first kid this July. We still work together from time to time, too.' -- Marcus Ricci, BI Studios video director
'After another tearful argument on a street corner a few blocks from my office, I once again cursed myself for encouraging Ryan (not his real name) to apply for that open position at my company.
'Ryan is my ex-boyfriend, and our breakup was neither clean nor simple. But four months ago, those details didn't seem important to me.
'Ryan had spent a year desperately searching for a job, and the idea of him stuck in the Midwest, living in his parents' place and working unskilled jobs physically hurt to think about. He was too smart and too creative to have amassed such crippling student debt for nothing. So I hooked him up. I helped get him a job at a media company in the heart of Manhattan -- something he had never even considered a real possibility.
'It wasn't until he was all packed up and moving across the country that I realised I'd done something really, really dumb.
'There was (is) still a lot of baggage between us -- stuff I just didn't care to sort through. I was done, we'd broken up, I'd gotten a new job, moved to a new city, and was working really hard on figuring out who I was.
'But that's the interesting thing: The thought that my life was about to get a hundred times messier was barely a blip on my radar, because I was helping Ryan get his 'big break.' This opportunity, and its potential to launch his career as a journalist, overshadowed whatever 'lovers' quarrel' we were mired in. Screw emotional well-being, right? Just think of the résumé!
'I don't want to sit and whine about how uncomfortable and awkward and upsetting it is to work with an ex (because it is).
'Now it's been a few months since Ryan started his job. We don't talk a lot because we realised that we've needed space to heal from our relationship, but now that space is only created by a silence, a wall and a hallway. Retrospectively, I know I probably shouldn't have mentioned the open position to Ryan, and he probably shouldn't have applied. First, because healing ourselves should have been a priority, second because working with exes is absolutely miserable, and third, because opportunities come more often than we give ourselves credit for.
'But sometimes the allure of a job trumps logic, and I wonder how many more personal sacrifices Ryan and I (and people in our positions) are going to make for the sake of an advanced career and dollar bills.' -- Louisa Alter, Business Insider social-media intern
'My boyfriend, A.J., and I met when we worked at the same summer camp in 2012.
'Being surrounded by 30 20-somethings in the middle of Wisconsin made it pretty easy to date without it being taboo -- we were not nearly the only two to pair off that summer. The only thing we had to do was keep it secret from the campers. Occasionally it proved pretty difficult to keep the secret from middle-school-aged girls who decided I had a 'crush' on A.J.
'Having A.J. as a coworker those first few months played a major role in how our relationship continued after the summer. We could still have dates on weekends, but during the week we would sometimes only get to say hi to each other at meals or in the staff break room.
'Considering we haven't lived in the same city since, being able to manage our time and live without seeing the other person all the time were useful skills. I'm grateful we learned how to be a couple while we were coworkers.' -- Lydia Ramsey, Business Insider reporter
'He was devastated -- way more than I thought he would be, since we'd only been 'dating' for a few weeks.'
'I once had a coworker -- I'll call him 'T' -- who had been flirtatious at the office holiday party and afterward, but I didn't think anything of it.
One day T asked me out to dinner at a fancy French restaurant, which should have been the moment when I caught on, but I was still completely oblivious as to his intentions. I assumed we were hanging out as friends.
'After dinner, we stood outside the restaurant talking, when T made those intentions clear by swooping in and kissing me.
'For the next two weeks or so, we went out to dinner and the movies a few times, though we acted as usual at work and absolutely no one knew. I felt a little weird about it because, A, it was a super-small company, and, B, I didn't know how much I really liked him.
'Eventually, I realised those two factors combined did not make for the beginning of a great relationship, so I told T it was over. He was devastated -- way more than I thought he would be, since we'd only been 'dating' for a few weeks.
'A few weeks later, I left the company for a different job, which had nothing whatsoever to do with us dating. T kept trying to rekindle the relationship, but I told him (as nicely as possible) I wasn't interested. I haven't spoken to him in years, but I know he's still at our old company. I'm dating someone else now, and I assume he is, too!' -- anonymous Business Insider reporter
'My girlfriend and I met seven years ago while working at a national consumer magazine in New York City.
'She was a graphic designer and I was a copy editor, and under the pretense that I had queries about kerning in cover lines, I'd knock on her office door in hopes of luring her out for a drink. After a couple of tries it worked, and the rest is history.
'But even after we started dating, we tried to keep it on the down low. While some friends at work knew about us, through gossip and after-work drinks, most of the staff didn't know or didn't care.
'One time, though, during a big edit meeting, the managing editor was going through her list of all those with upcoming vacations, and it so happened that my girlfriend and I were taking the exact same days off (for a trip to Mexico). That got a few people giggling and us blushing.
'Neither of us had ever dated a coworker before that -- we were both a little wary of it -- but I'm happy to say it worked out.' -- Daniel McMahon, Business Insider copy chief
'Two summers ago, I was a caterer with my ex-girlfriend at our university.
'We started dating before we got those jobs. By the time we were working together, we had been dating for over a year.
'It was honestly one of the best times of my life. We would share looks across rooms and kiss in elevators when we managed to find alone time. Sadly, not a very salacious or dramatic experience. Our boss knew we were dating and didn't have a problem with us working the same events.
'We're not together anymore, but working together really didn't have anything to do with our breakup.
'The biggest challenge of working together, honestly, was maintaining the balance of social circles. Many of our coworkers were also friends, some mutual, some not, and many were privy to the fact that we were dating. So if I was working with a friend, I had to be aware of the grapevine.' -- anonymous Business Insider employee
'I met my fiancé nearly five years ago when we were working together for a fast-growing daily-deals startup in Chicago.
'When we met we shared a cubicle. Our department had just moved to a new office and space was tight. We had a lot in common and quickly became good friends. It's worth noting that we did not begin dating until months after we no longer shared a cubicle and both of our roles had changed a bit so that there was less overlap in our work. We worked together for about another year and a half at the same company after we began dating.
'Generally it was totally fine. We were both keenly aware of the prevailing attitude that it's often a bad idea to date a coworker. And also that it could have the potential to be really bad news if things sour. But none of that was a problem for us.
'We didn't keep it a secret, but were as discreet as we could be about it. Nobody really cared, and it wasn't necessarily atypical in the young, laid-back startup environment. The biggest challenge was somewhat unexpected, though in hindsight seems obvious: It made it harder to unplug from work. You wind up talking about the same stuff a lot of the time, which can become a bit of a drain.
'Anyway, now we're getting married, so it worked out great. I wouldn't necessarily recommend anyone date a coworker, but it's worth the potential pitfalls if you first build a great work friendship, are both generally chill people, and are confident enough it can turn into something long-term.' -- anonymous Business Insider editor
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