Ask Dave-I Can't Hide My Feelings

Nobody at the office knows I'm a lesbian, but I can't hide my feelings about my new co-worker.

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
OK, this is a first for me. I've never fallen for anyone at work.

I am a lesbian, but only a close circle of personal, trustworthy friends know. I purposely haven’t told many people. Mixing my personal life and work together to me is just a plain N-O. We've acquired a new work partner, she's clearly a lesbian, and we
Mixing my personal life and work together to me is just a plain N-O.
get along great. In fact, we get along a bit too well you could say and, at times, I find it difficult to focus because her smile and eyes are just fixed on me. It's amazing feeling like this, but I find it a tad distracting now simply because I don't want anyone at work to know that I'm a lesbian. Of course, there’s also the issue of getting work done (which I can do, but I'm zoning out). I'm sure that, in some way or another, a few people have started to question, or a light bulb has gone off in their heads, because I get giddy and smile like a dork when I'm with her. (I have tried to get this under control.)

Now I don't know what to do. For one, the age-old rule comes to mind. Never date someone from work. I think this is a work policy, but there's always a loophole. So long as no one knows, is it OK? Then there’s my personal dilemma. Dating would be a giant personal life issue and I see myself questioning my feelings towards someone who has great potential given my current debate about being an “open door lesbian.” Do you have any advice for me?

I'm willing to get to know her and start something special, but don't know of any rules regarding dating people at work. Please help!
-Crush at Work

Dear Crush,
Given how much time we spend at work, finding a coworker attractive is bound to happen. Sometimes a flirtation can spark up an otherwise dull 9-to-5 workplace. But a fun attraction that fills you with exciting feelings can quickly become a gut-wrenchingly terrible mess in which your income, career and emotional stability are threatened.

Of course, 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. It’s dangerous to give a free rein to powerful emotions in a workplace where those emotions might be counterproductive. While I wouldn’t tell you to avoid a chance at romantic happiness, I will say that you should always imagine a sign over this woman’s head that reads, “Proceed with Caution.”

First and foremost, work is a rough place to have a fling. If someone gets hurt, you’ll have to face this pain every single workday, and that will wear on you both. But if you decide to pursue this woman despite the risks, then follow these guidelines:

Workplace policy
To answer your question regarding workplace policy, find out what yours is: Check out the company's policies on sexual harassment and privacy before
Sometimes a flirtation can spark up an otherwise dull 9-to-5 workplace.
you even think about courting her. Laws and corporate policies sometimes vary by state and organization, respectively. If laws and policies are favorable, how does the company culture view interoffice dating? If laws, corporate policies and company culture are accepting, it’s still smart to avoid dating anyone in the same department or anyone who reports to you. Dating your employee is verboten. Not only does it set a bad example, but also it could make you a target for damaging sexual harassment charges.

Coming out at work
Decide if this woman is worth being out at work. You are right in assuming there might be gossip around the water cooler. People have a way of picking up on romantic vibes. You are around these people all day, five days a week. Ask yourself if dating a co-worker is the way you want to come out. For all you know, she might be all for announcing your affair to the world. Getting someone else to keep your secret is much harder than holding onto your privacy.

Respect your job
Stay clear that it’s your priority to stay focused on your job. Your career and livelihood deserve respect. You are smart to realize the danger of being so distracted that you cannot focus on the work at hand.

Pursue slowly
If you decide to move forward, approach her as a friend first. Spend time with her in a neutral setting to see if your crush is just a passing infatuation or if it has real romantic potential. Initially, a relatively-brief lunch near the office is a smarter option than a long, languorous, candlelit dinner.

Consider Plan B
What if you start dating her and things don’t work out? What if the romance ends on a bitter note? Handling those feelings is hard enough when the person is across town. But how will you feel if she’s across the hall? I know that thinking about this has about as much sex appeal as a “pre-nup” agreement, but think of your Plan B as an emotional “pre-nup.” The fact is that you both have a lot vested in your jobs. What’s at stake are what I call the “three S’s” of the workplace: Salary, stability and sanity.

Bottom Line:Dating this woman would be a risk. But if after slow, deliberate consideration you decide it’s a risk worth taking, be smart and cautious about it.

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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