Ask Dave-Our Love Could Get Us Fired

Two women find their secret affair is extracting a very high price. Here's advice on what to do.

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
I have been seeing another woman from work for about a year now. We both are in management and our company policy clearly states that dating co-workers is verboten. It's a policy violation, and we could be terminated. No one from work knows that we are dating (and no one knows that she's even gay!) due
I understand the reasons why Cupid aims his bow at the workplace.
to the policy. While I think our relationship is strong, I am not happy. At first, it felt fun and sort of clandestine to meet on the sly. Now, it's harder to be discreet and avoid public gatherings for fear of sending signals that we are together. Therefore, we don't go on dates. In the beginning, this wasn't a big deal, but when months go by and you don't go to dinner at a restaurant in town or to see friends, it gets frustrating. We do nothing but see each other at our places. I know that we risk getting caught sooner or later. Worse, maybe our relationship will diminish due to lack of "dating." I need your advice on what to do now.
-Loving in Fear

Dear Fear,
Loving in fear is no way to love. In your relationship, you are dealing with the confines of a double closet; both the work secrecy and the fact that your partner isn't out yet. No wonder it feels frustrating. Who can breathe comfortably stuck in such a restrictive space? The fun "clandestine" aspects have worn off, which makes sense. In the contest between blind romance and see-through reality, reality always wins in the long run.

I understand the reasons why Cupid aims his bow at the workplace. Given how much time we spend at work, finding a co-worker attractive is bound to happen. A flirtation that sparks up an otherwise dull nine-to-five workplace can easily lead to a relationship. But the exciting feelings can quickly become a gut-wrenchingly terrible mess in which your financial, career and emotional stability are threatened.

There are many stories of people who've met their match in the workplace, and it's worked out well. No one got fired, and there were no broken hearts or other repercussions. But there are many more that have ended in heartache. You are smart to evaluate what to do next before your relationship causes either of you more hardship. At this point, you need to proceed with caution and be clear about the risks:
  • If someone gets emotionally hurt, you'll have to face this pain every single workday, and that will wear on you both.
  • People have a way of picking up on romantic vibes. You could be wrong that people don't know about this relationship. And also consider that people may be picking up on some aspect of the sexual dynamic and feel confused by it. Did you know that damaging sexual harassment charges can be filed not only by employee against employer, but also by other employees who feel uncomfortable with any form of office romance?
  • If you get caught, you'll be fired and that will add strain to both your professional and personal lives.
So what should you do now? Here are three ideas for you:

Keep the secret for now, but talk with your girlfriend soon.
Hopefully, she'll agree that the secrecy has to end. You don't have to set an arbitrary date for announcing your relationship to the world, but make it
The fact is that you both have a lot vested in your careers.
clear that you see an open relationship, free of concerns about work security, as the next step. If she doesn't agree, then you need to seriously reevaluate your relationship with her. Based on what you've said, it doesn't seem like you can be happy with the status quo (and I don't blame you). You can be unhappy for a short while and recover. But prolonged unhappiness will eventually erode your love.

Stay focused on your career.
Your livelihood deserves respect. While you are smart to realize the dangers of office romance, you need to start thinking ahead. The fact is that you both have a lot vested in your careers. What's at stake are what I call the "three S's of the workplace": salary, stability and sanity.

Set forth your Plan B.
Consider your options, and start planning. Does your company policy allow you to transfer to another division within the company where your relationship is a non-issue? Or does one of you need to start thinking about a job with a different company? Is your relationship enough of a priority that you'd both be willing to make such a sacrifice? Will there be an imbalance if one of you feels like she has to sacrifice more than the other in order to keep the relationship alive and healthy? What new arrangement feels fair to both of you? I know that thinking about these questions has as much sex appeal as a "pre-nup" agreement, but think of your Plan B as an emotional "pre-nup."

Bottom line: It's time to decide on priorities and to convey a new office romance policy of your own; namely, that the status quo can't continue. Convey to your partner that this isn't a choice between work and love. That's not an option. It's a choice between putting your relationship first by making career changes or risking both your professional reputations and mental health. Given the high stakes, true love shouldn't be so quick to gamble.

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit Dave’s website and send your dating questions and comments to him at
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