When I joined a large PR company three years ago, I was so thrilled because it felt like I had finally landed my dream job. As if that wasn't pleasant enough, I soon also found out I had a fantastic team and a very understanding boss. This made me feel as if all my Christmases had come at once and I couldn't possibly have been any happier in my professional life.
During my first few weeks at this new job, one of the guys in the team took me under his wing. Gary* had been in the company for a couple of years then and he was tasked with showing me the ropes. We got on like a house on fire and he reminded me so much of the guy friends I had when I was in university. You know, the kind of nice guys you hang out with and have a ball with but would never be interested in romantically because they felt more like brothers than lovers.
Gary and I shared a few clients so we spent a lot of time working together. Our colleagues soon started referring to him as my 'work husband' and me as his 'work wife'. We laughed it off of course although we were close and did share several inside jokes. But, while we were always professional towards each other, I did feel a bit strange spending more time with him than my boyfriend.
Time flew by and, before I knew it, I was celebrating my one-year anniversary at the company. Gary insisted on taking me out to dinner to commemorate the occasion. I thought it was going to be with our entire team but when it was time for us to leave the office to head to the restaurant, it was just me and him. I asked him why the others weren't invited and he said that, since the two of us work the closest within the team, he felt it should be kept between just us. Gary never fails to make me laugh and we enjoyed catching up on all the gossip in the industry, so it was a very lovely night.
Will you hang out with me?
When I look back now, I realise there was somewhat of a shift in our relationship after that night. Gary became extremely comfortable with me and, while things never turned unprofessional, he seemed like he wanted to just hang out with me, as opposed to getting any work done. I always had to steer him towards our tasks so that we could meet our deadlines (and not get fired!) because he was more than keen to spend our brainstorming sessions talking about anything else but work.
Gary also began asking me to hang out after work hours. It started by casually inviting me to his best friend's 30th birthday party but I declined his invitation. I didn't have a problem socialising with my colleagues but we usually did things together, like going for dinner or after-work drinks. This seemed a bit strange to me, for him to want me to hang out with him and his friends. I told him I had plans with my boyfriend – I wasn't lying – and he seemed genuinely disappointed that I didn't want to go.
He tried a few more times, mentioning a good concert or a new bar that “we should check out”. I always made excuses. We still spent a lot of time working together but I became more wary about how I was behaving with him. Because we got along so well, I never felt uncomfortable with him and still had a great working relationship with him. But I wondered if he was interested in me so I made sure I didn't send out the wrong signals because I certainly didn't want to be anything more than colleagues.
No fun anymore
A couple of months later, we were at our company's annual dinner and our team had had an exceptional year so we were all in the mood to celebrate. There was a fair amount of merrymaking involved and it was on this night that Gary confessed that he was in love with me. I laughed it off initially because I thought it would lighten the mood and he would retreat. But he said it again and with such seriousness that I realised there was no way I could avoid tackling the situation.
I decided I had to be firm so I told him I had a boyfriend and that nothing would ever happen between me and him. He told me he loved spending time with me and that he had never met a woman he was so comfortable with. I told him I enjoyed being with him too but my feelings were purely professional and platonic. I added that I was willing to forget he ever told me this, so that we could continue working with each other as usual. He obviously thought this was a ridiculous idea as he stormed off.
When we returned to work on Monday, Gary was cold towards me. We got things done but the atmosphere was tense and, honestly, it was no fun at all. After a few weeks, I couldn't bear it anymore. I wasn't sure if talking to HR would've helped my case and I knew Gary wouldn't budge if I spoke to him about it again.
One of my ex-colleagues had told me about her amazing new job and was trying to get me to join her company as they were expanding. I decided to find out more about the opportunity and ended up resigning two weeks later to take up this new job. I swear Gary was shocked when I announced that I was leaving; maybe he thought I would eventually come round and be with him. Whatever the case, I didn't want to work in that unpleasant environment anymore and I'm convinced I made the right choice by moving to a new job.
*Name has been changed
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