Why You Should Never Swear Off Sh*tting Where You Eat

I’ve been in the professional world for about five years now, and in that time I’ve had several people urge me to never date a coworker, to not “dip the pen in the company ink” or “sh*t where I eat.” (That second analogy is just f-cking weird, if you ask me.)

These respective opinions often come as a direct result of someone’s experience with dating co-workers, which, according to a CareerBuilder study, 38 percent of professionals have done.

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The reasoning has often been pretty sound. People tell me that it could end horribly, which at best would result in probably a lot of awkward and uncomfortable moments and at worst could result in being fired for violating a workplace policy. Some of them have even told me horror stories—like that they’d had a fling with their boss and then were unjustly fired, resulting in a lawsuit and all kinds of terrible stuff.

But so many of my friends and coworkers have found happiness and/or love with someone they work with. Which is ultimately why I wish I had pursued an office romance sooner. 

"People tell me that it could end horribly, which at best would result in probably a lot of awkward and uncomfortable moments and at worst could result in being fired."

I have only dated a coworker once in my life, and it began just after I’d given notice and declared that I was relocating to New York City from a tiny town in Maryland. I threw a going-away party a couple weeks before my departure, and something magical happened: A soon-to-be former coworker and I acted on the sexual tension that had been brewing for months. Before we consummated our journalist-on-journalist attraction, we’d grazed hands at a post-work happy hour, kind of held on for a few seconds, and made a lot of eye contact. Something was there. We both smiled at each other. Those happy hours were when I should’ve tried to start things. But I didn't because I thought office romances were for dummies. 

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Christie Hartman, Ph.D., a Denver-based dating expert, behavioral scientist, and author of It’s Not Him, It’s You: The Truth You May Not Want—But Need—to Hear, is in favor of dating coworkers (I wish I'd spoken to her sooner!).

“Last time I checked, it was one of the top ways couples met, the other being through friends,” says Hartman. “When dating, the tough part is getting past the discomfort and awkwardness of the approach, of dating a stranger, of the unknown." So...the things that make online dating so tough.

Hartman said that in the workplace, you have a chance to get to know someone before going out with them, which increases the probability that things will work out. You can also take your time with the approach and the asking out, and the other person is somewhat “vetted” by other coworkers, which can be helpful. 

“You have something in common,” says Hartman. “And you’re more likely to share similar values if you work in the same field.

“Just avoid dating bosses/subordinates and dating anyone you deal with on a regular basis,” she says.

“Last time I checked, it was one of the top ways couples met, the other being through friends.”

Of course, you can ignore that guideline if you're able to go to HR and figure out a way to work around the relationship, which is something many companies and organizations are open to.

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So back to my going-away party... My soon-to-be former coworker and I just kind of started making out when we were alone outside under the guise of my smoking a cigarette (even though I don’t actually smoke). We had an incredible two weeks where we tried to fit in as much hooking up as possible to make up for lost time. It makes me sad that we didn’t act on our feelings beforehand because then we could have enjoyed each other for at least a few months, if not longer. Sure, it may have ended horribly, or we might have forged enough of a relationship for us to try long-distance and then perhaps land in the same city together. But because I didn't give it a shot sooner, it just kind of fizzled. 

My hesitance is something I regret, especially because our bosses from that time ended up getting married. And this isn’t entirely uncommon. The CareerBuilder study claims that almost 31 percent of the people polled who dabbled in inter-office relationships ended up marrying their coworker. 

 I could be married right now, you guys!

So next time you're looking for somewhere nice to sh-t, consider doing it where you eat. You never know what beautiful things might come of it. 

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