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A date with a coworker felt like a bright spot in 2020 (and maybe it was)?

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  • #370554
    Ry
    Participant

    For all of us, 2020 has been at the very least, a challenge. In January, I moved to a small town of approx 35K in the Midwest to begin a new job, and in March, we were all sent home to telework. I had just recently ended a relationship and the move was, in part, a fresh start. Not knowing a soul here, it took some time for me to become accustomed to the isolation. In a sense, I used the pandemic as an excuse to not date. I needed time to work on myself before entering into another relationship. I eventually decided to give online dating a shot in September, but really only went out on a date with one woman. I just didn’t find anyone I really connected with on the dating apps. However, 2020 did offer one surprise before this year was up.

    In my first week or two in the new organization, I saw a girl across the floor that caught my eye: Slim, with beautiful eyes and a bright smile. We’d pass each other on the rare occasion and exchange smiles. I thought that I would have to eventually meet her, but the pandemic put a stop to those aspirations. Fast-forward to June and we hired a new person into our office. All I knew was her name and that she transferred from another department. Since she was one of a few new hires, I thought that maybe getting the office together for a hike outside in September would be a safe way to meet and reconnect with the new members. I messaged the office but she was really the only one who agreed. The hike wouldn’t materialize for a few weeks until we had a virtual training class together. The class was generally awful, so the group ended up messaging on Microsoft Teams throughout the weeklong training. She and I had a really good rapport from the beginning of our messaging and eventually decided to meet up for a hike late in the week. Imagine my surprise when the girl I saw (with her handsome dog) was the same girl from January! The solid rapport continued and we ended up setting up a “date” for the following week.

    The date was dinner and drinks that lasted 5 hours. It was so casual and effortless and we both seemed to be on the same page with so many things. Both have our graduate degrees, both divorced, she has no children and does not want any while mine is grown, and while there is an age gap, she thought I was younger and I thought her older. We ended up kissing at the end of the night and it was my hope that this was the beginning of something. However, before our second date, she texted me this:

    Hey. So, before we go out tonight I wanted to talk to you. I have a lot of fun with you and I really enjoy the time I spend with you. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely get along great and I do enjoy talking to you, but I’m just dipping my toes back into dating and I’m just not really sure that dating a coworker is the best choice for me right now. I’m new to my career and if things don’t work out that never seems to go well when you have to work together after. I just wanted to tell you upfront—before feelings got more involved and too much time went by. I like you and I’d be happy to keep hanging out. Like I said, I have fun with you. It’ll just have to be as friends. So, if you still want to grab some dinner tonight, I’m down.

    If not, that’s okay too. I won’t have hard feelings about it, but if you change your mind and want to hang out as friends, I’m always down. Just shoot me a text.

    While not a punch to get the gut, I did compose myself after this text and called her. I said that I understand her misgivings and respect them and that I’d still like to see her as a friend. We went to dinner and had another great time. However, I do not know if I can comfortably handle just being work friends. Granted I wholly understand her position. One, dating a coworker is inherently risky if things go south. Two, she is working a second job to repay student loans, so she has very little free time. Three, this was her first date since her divorce was finalized in January, and I think she is still working on herself. Finally, it is winter and she said that dating is much tougher when it is bitterly cold and the sun sets shortly after 5PM.

    I suppose what is tough for me is that I have rarely felt such a connection with someone. There was zero awkwardness and things just feel very natural when we chat or the two times we’ve gone out. I feel so comfortable around her and find it easy to express myself and be vulnerable around her. She isn’t without her flaws, as we all are, but it was one of those things where we were nearly finishing the other’s sentences. (We made a “twins” joke many times.) She is driven and fiercely independent and does not feel like she is a clingy person.

    I understand her position and will not push for more. She did say after our second dinner “date” that she hopes, if nothing else, she can be a bright spot in my life, which I appreciated. I replied that I feel the same and that while I do not believe in fate, it is odd how we ended up meeting how we did and how there is such a connection. I’ve continued to apply for other jobs within the organization and elsewhere in the country, but for some reason, nothing has materialized yet. There must be a reason?

    I had my counseling appointment yesterday, and my counselor was ecstatic that I was able to be emotionally available and vulnerable around another person. The counselor iterated that even if we do not end up in a relationship, that this was important for me, as opening myself has been an issue in past relationships. The counselor is 100% correct but I find myself having a hard time not wishing things could be more (or hoping they will be). The counselor understood this and said to take things slow and do not pressure her for anything. That I could end up taking a job in another office and that maybe her heart will be ready for more in the spring. I hope my counselor is correct.

    #370573
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ry:

    Welcome back. It reads like the date or dates with her and she herself,  have been “a bright spot in 2020” for you. Reads like you like who she is, that her flaws are not a deal breaker for you. Reads like you very much enjoyed your time with her and that the two of you clicked.

    Her reasoning regarding dating a coworker makes sense to me, and your counselor’s input and advice to you make sense as well: (a) suggesting that you accomplished something important with this woman- you were “able to be emotionally available and vulnerable around another person”, (b) advising you to “take things slow and do not pressure her for anything”, and (c) pointing to hope for a future relationship with her, once you no longer work with her in the same office.

    anita

    #370622
    Ry
    Participant

    Thank you for taking the time to reply, Anita…

    Yes, there was definitely a connection, but I think that I saw the writing on the wall in the days after the first date. While the date was really great, and the kiss felt unforced, I think she realized that it was, while not a mistake, not the best idea. Any mentions of another kiss or something more intimate–like dinner at my home–went either unrequited or ignored. I hoped she was only taking her time, but feared she thought that a relationship with a coworker (in the same office) was a bad idea. She is right, of course. Dating a coworker is inherently dangerous–even if we continue to telework full time for the foreseeable future.

    It’s tough because I felt such a strong connection with her, and I believe she felt there was something more with me. Conversation and our interaction felt just so fluid and effortless. It’s strange because I rarely find that in another person. However, I have tempered my expectations and will embrace whatever a friendship looks like. It was nice hearing from her every day for a few weeks, so it bittersweet not to hear anything from her since Friday afternoon (as it is Sunday evening as I write this).

    As you and my counselor have said, I’ll just take it slow and enjoy whatever time she allows for me. And perhaps someday soon things may change that could lead to something greater.

    #370623
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ry:

    I will read your recent post when I am back to the computer in about 12 hours from now.

    anita

    #370636
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ry:

    You are welcome. This is what you shared/ what I understand about this woman: she has a graduate degree, new to her career, working a second job so to pay for her student loans, has little free time. She is divorced, her divorce finalized in January this year, no children and she doesn’t want to have children in the future. When she had the date with you in September, it was her first date since her divorce, and she was just dipping her toes back into dating. She is slim, “with beautiful eyes and a bright smile”, in her early thirties (?), friendly, extroverted, “fiercely independent” and not at all a clingy person.

    I can see your attraction to her and why you felt so comfortable with her: she was friendly and positive, not miserable (your ex was often miserable), not the smothering type (your ex had a tendency to smother), not angry or bitter (your ex who had a short fuse), fiercely independent.. all these things made you very comfortable with her. These traits is what you need in a woman, seems to me.

    anita

     

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by anita.
    #370760
    Ry
    Participant

    Again, thank you so much for taking the time to reply, Anita…

    Yes, I agree, positivity, independence, and intelligence are all traits that I need in a woman and a partner. She was…refreshing after a year of solitude and a focus on improving myself. Perhaps it was foolish on our part to contemplate a relationship when we will work in the same office when we inevitably return to the office after the pandemic wanes. While we connected well on the office’s instant messaging chat, it wasn’t until we were in person that the chemistry became palpable. A kiss, while not anticipated, felt inevitable at the end of the date.

    While I agree with my counselor that opening myself up to this woman and be vulnerable, it seems that’s all it will be. While I understand and accept that anyone has a right to change their mind about a relationship (in any form) at any time, the “radio silence” kind of stings. She texted and called nearly every day for weeks, but she has gone mostly quiet since our dinner non-date last Thursday (after sending that text I shared above). We had another great time, so I don’t know why we stopped chatting. Perhaps it is to protect herself, or maybe I came on too strong? I don’t know. The non-date dinner ended with a hug and I made no attempt for anything more. It is just odd and has me conflicted. Maybe the fear of dating or socializing with a coworker made her erect these walls? Maybe she wasn’t ready to let anyone get close after her divorce in Jan?

    It’s just disappointing and a bit sad because I found her so stimulating and our conversations so effortless and easy. 🙁

    #370762
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ry:

    You are welcome. If it was up to me, the person on the other side of your screen, I would make it so that you and her were now in a wonderful, loving relationship, because as you said, her “positivity, independence, and intelligence are all traits that (you)  need in a woman and a partner”.

    I understand why her “radio silence” stings you, and why you are conflicted, disappointed and sad. You brought up a few possibilities as to why the radio silence: (1) “to protect herself… the fear of dating or socializing with a coworker made her erect these walls” (2) “to protect herself… Maybe she wasn’t ready to let anyone get close after her divorce in Jan” (3) “maybe I came on too strong”.

    Having read the text she sent you, and your account, reads to me that #1 is probably a reason, but maybe not the only reason. Seems to me that one strong motivation on her part, in regard to you, is to keep it friendly, not wanting your feelings hurt, not wanting awkwardness in the workplace when you “return to the office after the pandemic wanes”. In other words, I think that what motivates her the most in regard to you is to prevent awkwardness in the workplace/ to keep it friendly.

    I was wondering, you wrote: “She did say after our second dinner ‘date’ that she hopes, if nothing else, she can be a bright spot in my life”- can you tell me the context of what she told you: did she tell you this after you told her that she/ the first date with her was a bright spot in your life, that you are otherwise lonely or depressed, anything like that?

    anita

    #370770
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    To respond to your question, we both mentioned on our first date that this was the first date for either of us this year. She mentioned that she was terrified to go out on a date, but that our date could not have gone better. She is also very empathic–another trait I found intriguing–so I am sure that she picked up on my loneliness. We both shared that we attend counseling as well so that perhaps added to her perceptions?

    After our second date (non-date), I called her to express some thoughts about our meeting, which, in hindsight, may have been too much. I essentially said that it was bizarre how we met and clicked and that I’d like to continue to see her as friends, and perhaps things would evolve in the coming months (if I was to find a job outside the office). She interjected the “bright spot” comment during the conversation, so perhaps that was a subtle hint that this is all our relationship would be? However, she did say that she wanted to continue to hang out as friends, so that adds to my confusion.

    She is an avid hiker–another appealing trait to me, as I am as well–and she mentioned carrying a gallon of water in her car when she goes. So, before things went “south,” I bought her a Nalgene as an early Christmas gift. :-/ So, not I am not sure if I should offer it or if she would accept it. And it’s purple, so it’s not my color. 😐 Also, I’ve been baking bread since the weather has cooled, and have given her a few slices at our first two meetings. I may reach out to her later this week to ask if it is okay if we still hang out.

    It’s just confusing because I enjoy our company and am not trying to push for anything more than friendship. Just unsure of what to make of the silence.

    #370775
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ry:

    She told you that “she was terrified to go out on a date”- this makes me think that # 1 and/or 2 above may be correct.  I didn’t see anything in your recent post to suggest #3: that you came on too strong as the reason for her silence.

    It seems to me that this woman is a decent woman, honest, straightforward and like you wrote and suggested: empathetic, friendly, extroverted, independent, and indeed a “bright spot” in your life.. if only she was a part of your life.

    She ended her text to you with: “if you.. want to hang out as friends, I’m always down. Just shoot me a text”- I suggest that you do shoot her a text and suggest to hang out again, as friends.

    anita

    #370777
    Ry
    Participant

    Thank you, Anita. I will reach out to her and let you know what transpires.

    -Ry

    #370779
    anita
    Participant

    You are welcome, Ry. I think that she is likely to respond positively to you reaching out to her. I will be looking forward to your update.

    anita

    #370808
    Ry
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    Well, I asked her to call me when she had a moment, which she did. We had another easy and fun conversation. (She said her face hurt from smiling.) We didn’t talk about anything serious, but I eventually did ask if we could hang out next week when she has time, to which she replied that would be great. So, that is a relief as I wasn’t sure she would because I notoriously hyper analyze.

    I feel that I just need to continue to mitigate my expectations. While I definitely feel a special connection to her, I know that time would only help to ensure that connection is both mutual and sustainable. Need to focus more on the time we spend together and less on the time in between I suppose.

    -Ry

    #370823
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ry:

    I appreciate you updating me. I will be back to you and reply in about 11 hours from now.

    anita

    #370834
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ry:

    “I asked her to call me when she had a moment, which she did”- it is nice that you added the italicized, being considered of her time, showing her that it is okay with you that she may be busy and not call you back quickly, sending her the message  that you don’t want to pressure or burden her. She did respond quickly.

    “We had another easy and fun conversation.. I eventually did ask if we could hang out next week when she has time, to which she replied that would be great”- again, considerate of her time. She responded with enthusiasm, using the word “great”, and smiling so much that her face hurt.

    “(She said her face hurt from smiling)”- strong emotion caused her to smile that hard. This caused you to get positively excited over the possibility of a love story happening here. But with that positive excitation there is also a negative excitation: anxiety, fear of being let down.. so you cautiously, self protectively put her expressed strong emotion (and your excitement over it) in parenthesis to weaken it, to mitigate it.

    “So, that is a relief as I wasn’t sure she would because I notoriously hyper analyze”- anxiety is fueling the hyper analyzing, so as you proceed, you will have to manage better the expected anxiety to come, make a plan for it, including a daily or twice daily walk for example, maybe when you feel most anxious.

    When you notice that you are hyper analyzing the relationship (friendship or more, whatever it is), ask yourself: is there anything I should do right now/today, anything that I should tell her today? If the answer is No, and that all you should do is wait, then say to yourself: well, there is nothing for me to do today, no problem that I need to solve today through talk or action- therefore,  I will think about all of this when it becomes practical. Not now.

    “I feel that I just need to continue to mitigate my expectations”- to mitigate means to make less severe, serious or painful; to reduce, lessen, weaken. You want to weaken your positive expectations because they go hand in hand with anxiety and the resulting hyper analyzing. Expectations that this will turn out to be a wonderful love story is a positive kind of neural excitation, but in very anxious people, any neural excitation, including a positive neural excitation is involved with anxiety, a negative, painful neural excitation.

    “While I feel a special connection to her, I know that time would only help to ensure that connection is both mutual and sustainable. Need to focus more on the time we spend together and less on the time in between, I suppose”- if you are anxious, the time in between will feel like a very, very long time, just as it had so far. This is why it is most important that you manage your anxiety on a daily basis, so that you don’t suffer while waiting, and so that the relationship has a better chance to develop.

    Do you exercise/ walk daily.. listen to mindful meditations.. there are mindfulness exercises that can help you, and you can plan a daily routine with these things (?)

    anita

    #371700
    anita
    Participant

    I hope you are having a pleasant afternoon, Merry Christmas, Ry.

    anita

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