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Help! I can't get my coworker out of my head.
The sex with my coworker was...electrifying in a way I have never experienced with anyone else and feel like I may never experience again.
Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly beg people to either stop dating someone or to ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency.
Last July I broke up with my boyfriend of four years ten days before I was supposed to move in with him across the state with plans to propose not long after. I have never, ever doubted or regretted the breakup, but the devastation did shatter me so much that I feel parts of me will never be unbroken.
During the last few months of the relationship, I spent a lot more time at work and developed a hardcore crush on one of my coworkers. This crush was not inherently the reason the relationship ended - I'm absolutely sure it would have ended eventually regardless - but it probably did expedite the process. Crushing on him made me realize I wasn't actually happy with the relationship I was in. He was a friend before he was a crush, and he helped me so much as a friend to repair myself after the breakup - called me every other day just to make sure I wasn't too sad, breathed with me to ward off panic attacks when I needed it, gave me a bunch of Netflix recommendations with his own notes, etc.
At the same time, once we started working very closely within the same department, our horniness for each other grew exponentially over the course of the last 3 months of my relationship. From July to September, I hooked up with him maybe a dozen times. Once I found myself developing real feelings for him, I decided to stop hooking up with him because I knew continuing to hook up without dating would be setting myself up for more heartbreak, and I logically knew he wouldn't be the boyfriend I wanted or needed. He was totally fine with it, and we remain friends who text about work drama and very surface level life stuff occasionally. I've since started a different full time job and work one shift at the old job every other month, so I very rarely see him.
Right after I stopped hooking up with him, I met the man who would become my boyfriend now of 7 months. He is the kindest man I've ever met. He is sensitive, caring, understanding, accepting, supportive, and hilarious. I could go on and on about him. I feel incredibly lucky to have found him, and he reciprocates the feeling.
My conundrum is this: the sex with my boyfriend is *very* good. It's nurturing, attentive, loving, comforting, and honestly incredibly healing (I have a litany of sexual trauma in my past). I would even call it exciting, because it is!!
But the sex with my coworker was...electrifying in a way I have never experienced with anyone else and feel like I may never experience again. It was mind-blowing. And I'm not even talking about doing more adventurous sexual activities, because on paper the sex with coworker was wayyyyy more vanilla than the sex now with my boyfriend. There was just something about it that set endless fireworks off in my brain and body. I don't regret stopping hooking up with him because while exhilarating, the inconsistency of it (Taylor Swift's "August" really hit the nail on the head "cancelled my plans just in case you called") was exhausting and anxiety-provoking, which may have made the times it did happen all the more breathtaking.
I have been racking my brain trying to pinpoint every possible reason it was so out-of-this-world good. Was it because our forbidden thirst for each other secretly snowballed for three months to be quenched for the first time in one whirlwind of a night? Was it because he didn't want anyone at work to know, so we shared this dirty little secret? Was it the size of his dick?? (Kind of a joke but also kind of serious).
When I told him that I had started dating someone and wanted to continue on that path, he sincerely congratulated me and said he was happy for me, and also jokingly added "I'm just sad you're saying goodbye to the best sex of your life!" And months later I am still mad that in some sense he was right. It's this mischievous flirtation that made me want to fuck him all the time but not date him. The sex would be fucking unreal but otherwise it would only end badly.
I don't think the history of electrifying sex with my coworker negatively impacts my current sex life with my boyfriend that much. When we are in the midst of it, I am in the moment and only thinking about my boyfriend. The reminiscing about the coworker comes mainly in daydream and solo-masturbatory fantasies, and now that the weather is becoming more like it was when we were hooking up, I'm remembering it more often. I should add that there is no chance the coworker and I would even be alone together now, nothing has ever or would ever happen within the confines of our work setting and there's no reason he would ever come to my house or be in my car. (I've never been inside his house, one of the little reasons I didn't want to start dating him). No matter how much I reminisce, I would not jeopardize this relationship for that. He wouldn't interfere either. Infidelity is not a concern here.
My concern is feeling guilty that what was technically the best sex of my life happened with someone who isn't my current boyfriend. I have not voiced these words exactly to either of them, and my coworker and I haven't talked about these details in approximately six months. I have told my boyfriend all of what happened short of "Sex with you, while much more loving and experimental, is comforting but not electrifying!" He knows that the sex with this guy was electrifying, he knows that I called it "the horniest time of my life", he knows that we still text occasionally. He has voiced being totally fine with this, and I have voiced that if he had concerns I would take them into consideration. (Note: if his concern was "I don't like you talking to a friend you've hooked up with in the past", we probably wouldn't be dating.)
I know logically that sex, while important, is not the most important part of a relationship. And I feel very secure in my relationship. I love my boyfriend, and I am so happy with him. So how can I convince my horny and emotional core to settle the fuck down? How can I get him OUT OF MY HEAD? Will it just happen with time? Is it something I shouldn't feel guilty about? Was I technically not ready to enter the relationship in the first place, whether due to the crush or still being sad over my ex? My boyfriend knows the details of my last relationship and has voiced that he will never force me to "get over it" or bottle up feelings about it. It's kind of unavoidable because I wake up a little shaken up from dreams about the ex periodically. He's been beyond understanding from the beginning.
Is my personal life just really messy, and does that mean this relationship was doomed from the start?? While I can allow myself to be vulnerable to a point, I am of course terrified to go all in and end up even more devastated in four more years, so sometimes a voice in my head tells me to avoid all future devastation by never putting all my eggs in one basket. Help.
I tell people (myself and my close friends mostly) this all the time—and I think one of the reasons it comes up so much is that we get so much messaging to the opposite:
Your job in a relationship is not to hunt out weaknesses and ferret out precursors to future potential red flags. Your job is not to Blue’s Clues your way to figure out how it’s going to end, why it’s going to end and how bad it will be if it ends. Your job is not to avoid at all costs being a dingus who “didn’t see X coming.”
The job of a relationship is to love someone well, to insist they love you well and keep doing that as best you can for as long as it is healthy, fun and functional.
The lesson we all got somewhere (??? movies? TV shows about 20-somethings? Idk?) that we’re supposed to catch every possible partner flaw or compatibility kink early and cut love off at the knees if we get so much as a whiff of future pain has been, on the whole, harmful, I think. I’m sure you feel extra pressure after getting so close to moving in with and getting engaged to someone only to have that relationship not work out; it must feel like a lot of pressure to never get to that point again unless you’re SURE. BUT GUESS WHAT? That is not the job! You will not be sure! You will have nagging doubts about your partner some days! It’s ok. The job (again) is showing up and loving someone for as long as it is good for you both.
So my first note to you is this: I don’t think you’re in trouble. I don’t think your relationship is fucked, doomed or damned. I don’t think this is a red flag about you, your current boyfriend, or the sex you two are having. I think there’s some work/examination that could be done (I’ll describe that below), but I also think that if the last thing you do about this Sexy Ex Issue is write this letter and then never worry about it again, you’d be fine.
But certainly some things do stick out to me about your letter, and I sincerely empathize with a lot of what you wrote. Firstly, I am—I think like you—very enticed by thrill and excitement. I am not all that into contentment and stability. It’s nice! It’s lovely and I have personally and actively chosen the path of Being With One Person because of the many many benefits. However, there is no denying that (for me) there is a lot of thrill in being with a new person. My point is this: OF FUCKING COURSE THE SEX WAS REALLY HOT WITH THE IN BETWEEN HOOK UP GUY. OF COURSE IT WAS. LIKE FUCKING OF COURSE.
The guy has literally everything on his side to make said sex extra hot: low commitment, low responsibility, clandestine affair, kind of a catalyst for ending things with your ex, lots of anxiety. Anxiety is key here, as you very wisely nodded to. Anxiety is about anticipation, the unknown, and those things are strong fuels for desire. Of course, as you also identified, anxiety also feels like shit, so it’s not very sustainable for long term hotness. (I wrote this in a very recent letter, but there is a reason you don’t want a rollercoaster to last for 6 hours). Excitement is meant to be short term.
I think it’s perfectly normal that your stable months long relationship is not matching up in hotness to your secret affair!!! I also think that while plenty of people in long term relationships are having HOT dirty sex, even more people in long term relationships are having much more stable, compassionate, healing sex. The key ingredient to your hot sex with your hookup ex was the anxiety and of course the long term relationship you’re in now isn’t producing that. I also think that a lot of people are not in a relationship with the person they had the hottest sex of their life with and it’s ok! You wouldn’t stop going out to eat if you couldn’t only have the best meal of your life every time. It’s ok. You will still have different hot sex with your boyfriend now. (And you can keep fantasizing about whatever you want on the side! I personally can’t recommend fantasizing about a specific person and one you keep in contact with platonically, but I also cannot decide what you think in your brain. Do you!)
Ok, I’m going to rapid-fire answer some of your questions that you have line by line to make sure we get to them all:
Was it because our forbidden thirst for each other secretly snowballed for three months to be quenched for the first time in one whirlwind of a night? YES. YES IT FUCKING WAS.
Was it because he didn't want anyone at work to know, so we shared this dirty little secret? YES. YES TO THIS, TOO.
Was it the size of his dick?? Nope!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
How can I convince my horny and emotional core to settle the fuck down? Give it time, give yourself grace and patience. Your job in life is not to get over things as quickly as possible. I’m sure you will always look back fondly on this coworker hookup but with time your concern about how hot you find it will fade. I promise.
How can I get him OUT OF MY HEAD? You don’t have to invite him into your brain every time you think about him, nor do you have to self-flagellate for having fantasies or thoughts about him. It’s not going to help anyone—certainly not you or your boyfriend. So, when you do have a thought about him that you don’t want to have you can say, “Ok thanks brain for that. I’m not going there right now, but I hear you.”
Will it just happen with time? Yes.
Is it something I shouldn't feel guilty about? This question is a double negative but, no you should not feel guilty!!!!!! Being guilty does nothing for anyone. If you really want a place to pour your energy, pour it into your partner and sex with him or finding good porn or learning a new strawberry shortcake recipe. I cannot tell you how much of a waste of your time guilt is about this topic.
Was I technically not ready to enter the relationship in the first place, whether due to the crush or still being sad over my ex? Were you wrong to enter into the relationship? No, I don’t think so. You did the best you could with the information you had; you weren’t harming anyone or yourself. Fabulous! Is this relationship going to last forever? I don’t know! Maybe in a few months or years you find that you two aren’t ultimately sexually compatible enough, maybe you find out something entirely different—that he has a bad relationship with his mom and won’t draw boundaries, that he wants to live in Michigan and you won’t move, that you guys have different ideas about money. I don’t know! You don’t either! Stay in the relationship for as long as it is good. Get out if it is bad. Don’t try to guess the ending because there isn’t one yet—you guys are both making it up as you go along.
Is my personal life just really messy, and does that mean this relationship was doomed from the start?? I’m about to explain below a little more, but I do think that you are attracted to messy or dramatic situations as a stand in for excitement and connection. I think this is very very very common and not a massively big deal—especially since you also seem very self-aware and reflective. But watch out for it. Is your relationship doomed? GOD NO! Also, as far as messy goes, I think you’re a long way from “really messy.”
That said, the thing that sticks out to me about your letter, the only tiny tiny tiny concern I have is that you are not letting yourself be very alone between relationships, it doesn’t seem, based on the timeline you gave. I’m probably very biased and certainly no one needs to do things my way, but I think there is almost immeasurable value in being alone after a relationship. I don’t mean dating people causally for 4-6 months but taking things slowly. I MEAN ALONE. I mean not dating people. I mean sitting with your shit and figuring out what the last relationship meant, what you’re taking from it, who you are without a partner, who you want to be with a partner in the future, what you want a future partnership to look like, what your life looks like with JUST YOU IN IT— not a partner to define it. I am not by any means anti long term love—I’m literally in a 5 year relationship—but it is really really hard to figure out who you are when you’re always with someone else. It’s like trying to figure out how tall you are with shoes on—you can get close, but it’s not perfectly accurate.
This isn’t me saying you should break up with your partner now! I explicitly do not think you should do that. I just recommend that you to sit and think about what led you to getting until 10 days away from a move to break it off with your ex, what led you to flirting with a coworker to speed up the timeline of that break up, what led you to a rebound fling, what sources of validation do you chase, what insecurities are you still working on, what do you feel like would help make you feel more secure with your current partner, etc. Look for your patterns and try to listen to them. You’re not necessarily going to change yourself—that’s not the goal! Just listen to yourself. Learn!
Keep your boundaries with this ex-hookup very very strong. Be vigilant. You need to be the one watching out for if you ever start to cross lines—your partner should not EVER have to worry about that. I think you’re doing a great job being self-aware; keep it up.
Ok, you’ve got this! Go be a big sweetie and have nice hot stable long term sex! I think you will have a lot of mindblowing sex in your life, it might just be different than you expected. Please don’t blow your life up because of the memory of good sidedick.
You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at email@example.com
Do you know how much good sex doesn’t involve a single dick let alone a massive one? Please.
I understand that technically he was not on the side but you understand what I mean.