Wondering if you’ve gone crazy with all the questions swirling around in your mind about the person you’re seeing at work? It’s common to feel this way leading up to Valentine’s Day when love is seemingly everywhere.
Will my boss find out and fire me if we start dating? Is this person worth the trouble of getting dressed up for work every morning? How do other people balance their professional and personal lives? Does this relationship have a future, or am I setting myself up to fail?
If you are feeling overwhelmed, know that I have been in your shoes before. It is a scary but also exhilarating time. While there is always the chance it may not work out, dating someone from work can turn out great if you handle the situation correctly and ensure that your company does not have any policies against fraternizing first.
Need help deciding your next move? Check out these tips, real-life stories, and stats. And if you’re feeling really stuck, there’s even a love contract to help you out.
[Related: Be As Proactive at Dating as You Are at Work – LEVO]
Of the women surveyed by Vault.com, 17 percent said that office romances led to long-term relationships, and 20 percent reported having dated a supervisor.
One such story come from “Jane,” who has chosen to remain anonymous while sharing her office love story.
Jane found herself feeling increasingly lonely on weekends, months after her break-up.
“I decided after some whiskey shots, that I would try Match.com on Saturday night,” she said. “I was quick to set up my profile–three photos and the most basic info I could add without answering any real questions. I really just wanted to research the kinds of men that were online.”
Soon after she nodded off, she abruptly woke up with a throbbing headache. She was immediately stricken with fear upon realizing her ex could see that she was online. frantically logging back on, she planned to delete her profile but saw an email from her company’s CEO instead.
He was polite and sweet, and wished me luck in finding someone. We exchanged a few emails that day, Sunday. He told me he didn’t date coworkers, so as friends we decided to meet up for a drink that Tuesday.”
He kissed me that night and then took me out on a real date that weekend. We kept our relationship secret for about six months and finally, we talked to HR, who consulted with our lawyer and pretty soon, we were signing a ‘relationship agreement.’ We had to both advise our coworkers (for him, it was the President) and for me, it was the SVP. They were not supportive and both thought it could hurt business.
Well it’s been almost two years and we are still in love.
So, what usually goes into this thing called a relationship agreement? Also known as a love contract, its main goal is to protect employers from any potential risks or liabilities.
Here’s what you can expect to see in one.
XpertHR’s Beth Zoller stated that a love contract is a document signed by employees who are in a workplace romantic relationship. This contract defines the parameters of their relationship.
By signing this contract, the employees acknowledge that the romantic relationship is consensual and agree not to lash out or take legal action against the employer. The employer’s expectations of appropriate workplace conduct should also be discussed in this contract.
Although Jenelle Augustin, 25, and CEO of Jones Lifestyle Group LLC didn’t sign a love contract, she took a similar approach to Jane’s when dating in the office.
Augustin started dating her husband after they met and were seated in neighboring cubicles.
He was humming and I told him to stop. We began talking, and approximately two weeks after that, he invited me to an event where he was performing. We started speaking regularly via email, then Google chat, then he finally asked for my number. It turned into a whirlwind romance and after courting for 2 years, we wed on September 12, 2014 and have been married almost 5 months.
During the time we worked together (three months–before I started my own business and he went into copywriting and brand consulting) we tried to keep our burgeoning relationship under wraps, as we didn’t want to become office gossip.
A thriving office romance requires both parties to be grown-ups. You should also touch base about the relationship’s goals early on. This way, no one becomes fodder for gossip and then has their heart broken!
These tips from It’s Just Lunch, a international matchmaking service, comes straight from spokesperson Irene LaCota:
“Keep quiet around others. Try to keep your relationship private as long as possible, especially during the early stages when you’ve made no commitments to each other. Otherwise, coworkers will scrutinize the two of you and fuel the office rumor mill.”
According to LaCota, it’s important that you talk with your partner before things get too serious. This way, you can figure out the rules of the relationship and avoid any misunderstandings that could lead to hurt feelings.
“As a couple, develop speaking points so you both offer the same story when someone in your office asks about the two of you. Co-develop standards for how you interact at the office.”
She notes that often, relationships are strained because one partner tries to be professional at work while the other expects some semblance of public affection.
“For example, the guy interprets a head nod as a brushing off when all the girl was simply to do was be discreet,” says LaCota.
“Keep it professional at all times at the office and on the road. Treat each other as coworkers at the office, and not as romantic partners. No revealing emails. No kisses over the cell phone. Give each other some space. You don’t need to be together all the time. In fact, you don’t need to be together all the time at the office. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. “
LaCota claims that sharing a room for business trips is discouraged, as you never know who you’ll run into in the hallways of your hotel.
And, the conversation you’ll be forced to have afterwards will likely be very uncomfortable. But that’s a topic for another article entirely.
[Related: 5 Signs You’re Dating Someone Who’s Intimidated By Your Success]