For Love or Money

Passion on the job.

Randolpha didn’t intend for her crush on an officemate to cross any boundaries.

“We just connected right away,” says the 30-year-old sales manager who asked that her last name be omitted.

“I saw him every day. We talked. There were lots of long talks.”

Granted, many crushes are harmless, even playful — that guy with the great car you sometimes see on your Capital Boulevard commute or the one you always bump into at your favorite Triangle coffee shop.

“Attractions, which are different than crushes, are natural,” says clinical psychologist Charles Anderson, a marriage and family counselor.

“The only people who don’t have attractions are dead. It’s what we do with those attractions that determines the character and quality of our life.”

Clearly, the workplace is a rich source for socializing. In fact, many people spend far more time there than they do at home.

So what’s wrong with flirtatious banter if two people really connect or simply enjoy chatting on a regular basis?

It’s one thing if you are single and attracted to another single person. However, if you’re married or in a committed relationship, there’s a lot more at stake.

It’s possible, of course, that the flirtation could wane and the two of you could develop a solid, collegial relationship or friendship.

The litmus test is whether you would feel comfortable telling your mate about conversations and time spent with the other man.

“Sometimes the crushes that women get into are used as a way to cope with stress and avoid problems in their present relationship,” says Susan Borrelli, a marriage and family therapist.

She and other therapists who generally see clients after the crush has progressed from a flirtation to an extramarital affair, try to help clients identify the real problems in their lives or relationships.

“I try to explore the issues. Is there a problem in the marriage? What are they not getting at home? Or is the marriage OK and is there another problem?” says Lynn Kauffman, a psychotherapist and clinical social worker.

Randolpha says her relationship with a co-worker was platonic for some time and evolved into something more only when the two had to travel for work.

“It could have just remained a crush,” she says, adding it came at a time when she wasn’t feeling happy with her marriage.

“My husband took me for granted. That’s the way I felt.”

She finally ended the crush-turned-affair after a few months.

“I was self-destructing,” she admits.

Anderson says that a healthy realization doesn’t always arrive in time to save the primary relationship.

“When you involve a third person, you’ve complicated your ability to manage that original relationship with grace and dignity, regardless of the outcome,” he says.