Sex Edition: Reiser-Is it okay to combine work and play?

By Becky Reiser

Office relationships happen all the time, and The Pitt News is no exception. Here’s the… Office relationships happen all the time, and The Pitt News is no exception. Here’s the story of two colleagues and classmates who became more than that

I wasn’t supposed to write this column.

I wasn’t supposed to admit to being involved in a workplace relationship, and I especially wasn’t expected to tell you that I dated my boss. But I did.

The workplace relationship is the elephant in the office. It is large and takes up an entire desk, classroom or checkout line. It passes notes and e-mails in staff meetings and shares glances with you over computer screens. It is whispered about over lunch breaks and stared at during work parties.

Chances are that most of you know what I’m talking about. According to a 2009 survey by, 40 percent of surveyed workers admitted to dating a co-worker.

Of those, 42 percent admitted to dating their boss. And it wasn’t just girls enamored by powerful superiors — more than one-third of respondents were men.

Have you seen a lot of doors closed and shades drawn lately? Apparently we are no longer living in a “Mad Men”-esque society, where office assistants slept with their bosses and new, younger secretaries were introduced periodically to boost morale.

Instead, at work we are finding our dates — and sometimes, our lifetime partners. The same survey found that three in 10 people who dated a co-worker ended up marrying that person.

In college and soon after, you will spend the majority of your time at work. (If you’re fortunate enough to have a job, that is.) There won’t be classes to distract you or basement parties to plan. You will dress to impress with other college graduates at your internship, entry-level position or stint in graduate teaching. Just like in high school when your significant others were decided by classes or extracurriculars, your work will become a social outlet. This holds true especially if you are in a new city — or say, Pittsburgh — without any of your former classmates.

I didn’t date anyone to get ahead. Luckily for me, the promotions I received at work were decided before I started seeing my boss, or were awarded by someone else altogether. My relationship wasn’t in any way influential. I don’t believe this is always the case, but relationships stemming from the workplace should never have motives other than the proverbial butterflies.

There are plenty of places online to find advice about such situations. Some sources say just to forget romance at work altogether, whereas others offer discreetness as your biggest weapon. There are some places of business which even have their own rules about dating a co-worker. The ones that allow it often encourage both members of the relationship to sign an agreement saying that they are involved in a consensual relationship — perhaps for no other reason than to prevent future sexual harassment claims.

If none of this scares you and you’ve thought in depth about what would happen if you and your sweetheart were to break up but still be forced to play nice at the office, then by all means, go ahead and plan a rendezvous.

I must admit, I didn’t think very long about the above recommendations. Looking back, I wish I had. I’m still in said relationship and happy to report that things are progressing swimmingly. But no one ever told me about the gossip, the looks or the jealousy that arises from dating someone you work with. They also never told me how hard it would be to keep it a secret — something I was able to manage for only a couple of months. I definitely was a victim of the stink eye, “Juno”-style, more than once.

A rumor started at my office. Apparently a lot of people believed the rumors because I started getting weird looks and texts alluding to something — something that I didn’t do. How do you handle that? I couldn’t exactly confront the gossip unless I admitted to the relationship, which I wasn’t ready to do yet. I didn’t want anyone else fighting my battles for me, so I couldn’t ask my boss to address it.

In a “normal” relationship, I guess you can discuss these things as they come up. If you get jealous about the treatment of another person, you talk it out. In the office, you are mandatorily quiet and professional. There is no room for pettiness behind closed doors, because it just isn’t conducive to a working relationship.

My friends constantly asked me why I didn’t get sick of the person I was seeing. After all, I saw him pretty much every day.

Honestly? That was the easiest part. After work I was able to be myself with someone I cared about. I didn’t have to hide my feelings or text instead of having an actual conversation. It was liberating to leave the office and not have to think so hard about what I said or how I acted. After all, everything was easier — both at work and at home — after I had ditched the elephant.