In 2017, I was working at a small communications company in New York City when I became involved with a coworker. I’d never dated anyone at work before and agonized over whether to ask him out—since there were only about six of us on staff, I knew it could get messy. But the attraction and feelings were so strong that it felt like something I couldn’t let go of. It was more than a mild crush; it was the strongest and most deeply I had ever felt about someone.
“Jeff” was smart and funny. We had an undeniable chemistry and attraction that I hadn’t experienced with anyone before. We worked in an intense environment with some crazy people and having him to commiserate with helped both of us endure the long hours. We joked about our coworkers and their ridiculous habits and—like something out of The Office—would pull light pranks on our colleagues.
When we first started dating, we had the same title, so the melding of our personal and professional lives wasn’t an issue. After we’d been dating for about a month, though, things changed: I got promoted, another colleague left, and the company restructured a bit internally.
When our teams were reorganized, I became the team lead, and he had a supporting role. A trusted colleague knew about our relationship. During the internal reorg, she said to me, “You’re his boss now.” I panicked. This was what I had worked so hard to avoid. I knew he was a little insecure about the differences in our titles, and I knew these changes would make everything infinitely worse.
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