Truth and accountability time.
Against every massive effort I’ve instigated to prevent this from happening, I have somehow managed to develop romantic feelings for one of my coworkers.
I’m embarrassed, ashamed, and seriously annoyed with myself on so many levels.
He’s so not my usual type. Even though I’m more drawn to humor, intelligence, wit, and thoughtfulness than I am to physical appearance, I’m not typically drawn to Adonis-types. Which this guy totally is. Like insane, ridiculous, PAINFUL attractive.
He’s several years younger, which for me (being 36 going on 85) really matters.
And, the kicker – and my reason for writing this blog – he’s unavailable.
I fall for unavailable men. Every single time. Whether they’re emotionally unavailable, or they don’t feel the same way about me; whether they’re married or otherwise involved in a committed relationship – unrequited affection is where I fall. Always.
To be clear, regarding men who have spouses or significant others, I have never and will never act on feelings I develop for them. Ever. I can’t necessarily control how I feel, but I can control how I respond to my feelings – and my morals will prevail, unfailingly.
There have been instances in the past where I’ve been candid about my feelings – but this was to ensure that the boundaries remained clear, and to distance myself from any benign flirtations that may have been happening.
Even in the most platonic of cross-gender relationships, there tends to be a level of flirtatious banter that takes place. It’s completely non-sexual (in most cases) and tends to be profoundly non-romantic.
However, if I’m personally feeling an attraction, and if my feelings extend beyond friendship – even the most innocent flirting tends to make my heart flutter. This leads to feelings of sadness, which I would rather not experience.
I’m a flawed human, and my intellect can only protect my heart from so much.
I don’t intend to do this to myself, at least not consciously… But with such a prevalent pattern, I need to acknowledge that I’m the common denominator here.
As any decent therapist would say –
“The thing that these unavailable men have in common, is you.”
This one has been hard. I work in an office that’s full of truly awesome guys. They’re all smart, funny, and kind; and my workplace friendships with each of them are unique and enjoyable in different ways.
With this particular individual, it took a while for us to become pals. On the surface – much like me – he seems to be on the quieter side; and while totally friendly, he tends to observe more than engage when he’s not completely comfortable.
Since I related to him in that regard, I knew I just needed to gain his trust a bit. My intentions with becoming his buddy were simply part of my desire to feel at home in the workplace.
I started making a point to say hello to him, I’d acknowledge him when we were gathered in the same group of people, ask him questions, and just try to make him feel comfortable engaging with me.
It didn’t take long for his walls to come down, and once that happened – our dynamic shifted.
I discovered he has a wicked sense of humor and is – for lack of a more suitable word – weird. Like, really unabashedly weird, in the most entertaining ways. He also appreciates my sense of humor (not everyone does), which made it easy to become solid workplace pals.
As time crept by, I noticed him looking at me during group conversations, seemingly waiting to hear what I had to say; and if I talked, he actively listened.
I brushed it off as me being overly self-conscious and sensitive.
As more time has passed, and as he’s become more comfortable engaging with me, he’s been saying things like –
“I think you’re a very intelligent person.”
“Your hair is lovely today.”
“I think you’re amazing.”
“You’re way too hard on yourself, Molly. Just eat the pizza.”
“You look really nice today.”
“You don’t see yourself clearly, you look great to me.”
“I can tell you’ve been working out.”
“Molly, you really are an amazing person.”
***Insert epic face-palming and gut-punching memes here!!!***
These are things I’ve been hearing on a consistent basis for many months now… among other variations of similar compliments.
I’m listing them out in quick succession to illustrate how prominent his words are in my mind. Every time he pays me a compliment, I hear ALL of his compliments in my memory, played on repeat.
Believe me, I’m acutely aware that his kindness towards me, and his appreciation for who I am as a human – it all comes from a platonic place.
His girlfriend is a knockout (she’s also age-appropriate for him), and they own their home together. He’s devoted to his life with her, and I’d have to be delusional to think otherwise.
My struggle is not with knowing the difference between friendly kindness and romantic interest. I’m a smart, pragmatic woman, and I’m clear on fantasy verses reality.
My struggle lies in hearing these kind, wonderful sentiments – hearing such beautiful words of affirmation which elude to seeing me in a way that few men do – coming from a man I can’t pursue.
The struggle is knowing that his ways of ‘just being nice’ are what I think about as I fall asleep at night.
Sure, it always feels good to know we’re looked upon kindly by others… But receiving compliments from this individual has become what I look forward to each day – and that’s insanely unhealthy.
I know I deserve better.
Even though I’ve always struggled with self-perception, and I’m definitely fighting body image issues on a daily basis (the mid-thirties metabolism plunge is real and it SUCKS), I do intrinsically know my value.
I know I’m powerful as fuck. I’m honest, intelligent, and stubbornly independent. I’m loving and kind, generous and empathetic. I’m resilient, and I’ve survived shit that would make others into lesser people – but has made me into a Motherfucking Phoenix.
So, why do I continuously settle for placing my affection and energy with men who are out of reach?
Because it’s safe.
I’m able to predict the outcome of the situation before it even begins, and because of this – the pain that inevitably comes is familiar and manageable. This is my way of outsmarting real heartbreak.
I promised myself years ago, when I unpacked this shit in therapy, that I would break my pattern of falling for the unavailables.
Because of this promise – and because I thought I was done with this pattern – I was in denial about how I felt about this individual for a while.
Then, a few months ago, I had a dream about him that was extremely scary. Reminiscent of Hunger Games and Walking Dead, the dream focused around an intense, apocalyptic, life-or-death scenario, in which my coworker died a heroic, self-sacrificing death for the greater good, and in an act of protecting me.
I was sobbing hysterically as I witnessed this, and shortly thereafter I woke in a panic with a racing heart.
For those brief few milliseconds before I was fully conscious and uncertain if what I’d just dreamed was real or not – I was in a state of devastation. The thought of anything happening to him was causing me physical pain.
After those moments passed, and I knew my dream had no basis in reality, I had no choice but to face the truth.
The truth is, I like him. I’m wildly attracted to him, and I wish there was something I could do about those feelings. Perhaps if I were a woman with a flimsy moral code, I’d test the boundaries of pursuit – but I will never compromise my integrity so gravely.
My reason for cracking open my vulnerability and sharing this with the world? I’m beyond ready to let it go.
My infatuation with him is not serving any positive purpose, and it’s taking up way too much space in my life. It sure as hell isn’t bringing me joy and happiness. If anything, it’s blocking the light of possibility from shining on my circumstances.
I was talking recently with one of my closest girlfriends, who is processing some intense experiences with a gifted therapist. Some of it has to do with assault and trauma, and I’m so proud of her for the progress she’s made. I’ve been there myself, so I know how brutal it is to face those dragons… But I also know how rewarding it is to reclaim your power.
My girlfriend said to me:
“You can tell yourself that what you went through wasn’t that bad all you want. You can ‘not that bad’ just about any painful, traumatic experience if you’re comparing it to someone else’s experience who – in your eyes – had it so much worse. The thing is though, until you stop ‘not that bad-ing’ your pain, you’re going to keep cultivating the same scenarios. Over and over again, until you face and embrace that what you went through changed you at your core.”
I’m sharing her words, because situations like this are exactly what my ‘not that bad’ story continues to cultivate.
The trauma that I’ve experienced over the course of my life has created a fear in me that runs so deep – the fear of being hurt – that I continue to be drawn to men I know I can’t be with.
As I mentioned above, it’s my way of controlling the level of heartache I feel. If I were to actually fall for someone who was available, invested, and willing to be with me? That’s a level of vulnerability and uncertainty that’s just fucking terrifying.
Adding to the scenario just how absurd and disappointing modern dating has become, it’s so much easier to just be drawn to the unavailables and romanticize the hell out of the potential that may or may not even be there.
But, screw the easy. I’m ready for different, and I’m ready to do better.
Here’s what I know:
I am NOT the –
“Let’s be casual. –
Let’s have fun. –
Let’s see where this goes. –
Let’s not take anything too seriously. –
I’m oh-so-carefree.” – Girl.
I am nowhere close to being that ^^^ girl.
(No judgment whatsoever on those who can be comfortable in that realm. It’s admirable, it’s just not how I’m built.)
I AM the –
“What do you have to offer me?
Why are you worth my time?
Show me you mean it. –
Prove yourself. –
Are you going to rock my world in every single way?” – Girl.
And I am supremely unapologetic for ALL of the above. Zero fucks given for knowing who I am and what I want.
I frequently talk about how vital it is to face our fears, and I’m often quite good at doing so. I’ve slayed some epic dragons, and conquered some epic personal battles. I often look into the fire and smile.
Here, though? I remain a scared little girl.
Time to change her story, once and for all. It’s scary and triggering to even consider opening myself up to the kind of pain and heartache that can accompany being truly vulnerable with a romantic partner, but –
One thing is absolutely certain. If I continue to cultivate attractions and attachments to unavailable men, I will continue to be distracted and isolated from healthy, productive opportunities and potential.
Breaking this pattern is definitely not as simple as writing a blog, releasing the story into the regions of cyberspace, and calling it a day. I know this. But, it’s a start. I’m owning it.
Lord knows I’m nowhere close to perfect… I don’t call myself a Hot Mess to be cute and ironic. I’ve absolutely played a role in this situation. I’ve flirted and complimented him right back; and I’ve justified it by knowing that he’s not invested in me or my words.
I am better than this, though – and I can do better for myself.
My coworker is not going to cease being a charming, intriguing, untouchable Adonis. I likely won’t cease being attracted to him overnight. However, I can consciously and actively disconnect my emotions from that attraction.
When he compliments me, I can smile, say “thank you,” and then acknowledge his words for EXACTLY what they are – flattery which he will never have to support by his actions, or be accountable for.
I sure as fuck deserve better than that.
Navigating this is challenging. On one hand, we can’t control who we’re attracted to. On the other, when you find yourself thinking, “Well… Here I am, again,” it’s time to take a deeper look inward and make a change.
For me, that time is the present.