Here's the Thing: Don't Cheat!! Obviously!!

AN ANGEL:

A few months ago, I made a big leap moving away from my home city (where I’ve lived for 26 of my 30 years) to pursue a job opportunity on the other side of the country. It was a daunting move, but it’s proved to be a rewarding one. I’ve learned a lot about myself just by being somewhere different and new. 

By far the hardest part about moving was the fact that I did it without my girlfriend, who just wasn’t in a position to leave at the same time I was. So we’ve been doing long-distance, the plan is that she'll join me here in the new year. I know she is apprehensive about moving, which I totally get. I’m really looking forward to having her around again though, and she says she's looking forward to it overall. 

So I've been here on my own, making friends with my new my co-workers. Which is a good thing. They're really nice people. What's less good is that I've come to realize that I have a big ol' crush on one of them.  

I know this isn’t something new or unique. It happens to people every day! Only I genuinely thought that my crush-having days were far behind me. And the ways that 20 year-old me would have dealt with this situation don’t really feel appropriate for 30 year-old me. I feel unequipped to deal with the whole thing. 

There are a lot of things I don’t want to do. I don’t, for example, want to blow up my relationship over an infatuation. I love my girlfriend. And I recognize that I’m in a pretty odd headspace, alone in a new city with new friends. I’m lonely and horny and excited all at once, and it’s easy to mix all that together and mistake the results for something deep or real when in fact they're neither. 

There’s also no reason to believe that this crush is anything but one-sided. We’ve spent time alone together, made plans with just each other, exchanged messages when we’re apart. You can spin those things as romantic if you want to, but they’re also just the things that friends do. I don’t want to botch what could prove to be a rewarding, long-lasting friendship with a pretty cool person by either withdrawing completely from it or by making it weird with my weird feelings.

So I’m definitely not going to act on these feelings in any direct sense (no tearful breakups, no messy confessions of love). But I also don’t want them leak out because I can’t process them healthily and have them either poison my relationship or sabotage this emerging friendship. Can I just wait for it to all blow over? Do I have to cut ties with my friend before I get in too deep? How do mature, functional adults deal with these situations? 

Me trying to stop this reader…before he cheats!!! 😎

SOPHIA:

Badly!!! That’s how mature, function adults deal with these situations. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but clandestine crushes on people you’re in close proximity with often end up bungled in one way or another. I’m not saying that this is going to blow up your relationship or job or even budding “friendship” (More on Those Quotation Marks Later). But I am saying that there’s no good, easy way to sit yourself down and go, “Don’t feel this way, keep it together!!!” and then your mind and body just play along. So: give yourself a break.

As I’m sure you’re well aware, crushes while you’re in a relationship are normal and healthy and (unless you act on them) perfectly harmless. It would be weird if all of a sudden after dating someone you lost all interest in everyone else. Again, I’m sure you know this, but it cannot hurt to hear again. This isn’t some subliminal message saying: you and your partner are doing poorly. This is a normal human reaction to spending time with a hot, nice person. This is especially normal when you’re not around your girlfriend AND in a new city trying to form connections with people lest you feel alone and adrift. I want to be sure that you know that this, despite what I’m sure it feels like, Not a Large Deal.

How you handle this crush, however, is a Very Large Deal.

First things first: you simply must prioritize your girlfriend at every turn. That likely means taking some extra protective steps with this crush of yours that you might not take with other friends. This is not because this person happens to be a woman and you happen to be attracted to women. It’s because this person happens to be a crush!!! You know how you feel about her; do not give that fire any oxygen, ok?!?! Choose to put effort in with your girlfriend. You are no doubt missing the connection, fun and flintiness of your gf being in town with you. That is understandable and difficult, but you are not going to deliver your best self to a new crush on a platter because of that. Bring the energy and zest that you’re giving this crush to your girlfriend. Dress nicer. Work out. I don’t know your methods of self-betterment, but usually crushes spur them; give the gift of that to your longterm love.

It doesn’t sound like you’re considering it BUT: You should absolutely NOT tell your friend that you have a crush on her. Not even in a, “Hey, let’s not do this activity one on one because I’m sort of attracted to you and I don’t want to encourage that,” kind of way. This is the biggest bonehead move of all. That might seem like a fab idea because, you know, Honesty is the Best Policy and all. But guess what? Dishonesty is the second best policy and right now you’re going to keep this crush to YOURSELF. Not only does admitting that you have crush on someone make it real to you, it makes it real to them. And now it’s in the air and you’ve certainly colored the friendship and either they’re going to start encouraging the crush, too or you’ve really fucked things up with them. It also is concretely de-prioritizing your girlfriend, who has feelings and probably (definitely) doesn’t want you telling people you’re attracted to them even if you follow up with “I HAVE A GF WHO WONT LET ME FUCK YOU SORRY.” The takeaway from this paragraph is: DON’T TELL ANYONE.

When you hang out with Crush, please try to do things in groups if at all possible. Honestly, I think you should probably be doing that anyway since you two are coworkers and coworkers hanging out one on one can be a bit dicey. You need to keep this professional for a whole lot of reasons!!! Frankly, not out of fidelity or anything, but simply because who the fuck wants to keep talking to people they’ve spent all day with, I don’t text my coworkers outside of work all that often and I’m certainly not meeting up with them one on one much. You are in a very specific situation because of moving to a new city, but please please be careful.

I don’t think you need to be dramatic about it, but if you keep going on Dates-That-Aren’t-Dates you are going to confuse your poor heart (dick). Your brain doesn’t know not to get a thrill from going to the movies 1 on 1 with a hot babe!!!! Be normal. Be friendly. Don’t Make it Weird Just Because You Got Horny!!!!!! Be kind and be attracted, but don’t act on any of this. Don’t do little arm touches. Don’t laugh extra hard at her jokes. Don’t sit around your house mooning about how she gets you and also listened to Red Hot Chili Peppers growing up. (EVERYONE WHO WAS BORN IN THE LATE 80s DID, PAL). Stop those kind of thoughts in their tracks. Seriously actively say to yourself, “Yes, Self. I know that you’re attracted to Crush. I get it. We are not going to ruminate on that. We’re going for a jog now/reading a new book/jerking off to weird porn. Bye!!!”

You don’t need to cut her out cold turkey and text her “WE CANT HANG OUT ANYMORE. CANT EXPLAIN. BYE.” But just try to not text her outside of work so much and cut down on the one on one shit. Hang out in groups. Treat her like a coworker, please.

Time will be the only thing that shrinks your attraction (or finding out she voted for Jill Stein or likes black licorice). That’s it. The idea that you can do something that can “get a crush out of your system” is stupid and bogus. So give yourself time and the gift of conviction that you know you will get over it. Presume that. Go forth with the attitude of “This is a minor, normal crush, amplified by my current circumstances. It will end.” Could you and this crush have a great relationship if you were single? Probably! That’s true about you and a lot of people!!! But you’d have pretty much the same relationship you have with your current girlfriend after a couple years. That’s how life is, ok? You pick a path and most of the paths are about the same (some are fucking wild), and your life is just about what your life was going to be. Don’t get fooled by shiny new titties and wonderful conversation, both of which are— let’s be clear—the best.

Ok, let’s talk about if you and the coworker are friends, since I told you I’d get to this: I think that it’s perfectly normal to be attracted to your friends or at least for it to have occurred to you what they might look like naked. That’s fine. That’s still friendship. You can be abstractly horny for someone and still be their friend. What ISNT friendship is using someone to plug up a hole of longing that you have because your gf is out of town. What also isn’t friendship? Attraction that you aren’t allowed to act on so you force yourself to be chaste and filed with deep emo longing.

It’s very different to see someone and enjoy them visually and emotionally and have a passing thought like, “Yeah Victoria and I would probably be lovely together if we’d dated. Sucks that you only get one life.” And to be pining over someone you work with, upset that you two cannot be together, fantasizing about them emotionally and sexually fulfilling your every need. The later is not friendship. Friendship provides something for both of you which is loving and kind but which does not threaten the relationships you have with others. Ever. If you think you are veering into the later category of crush-ness, you need to really step away and step away FAST. I don’t care if you have to start lying a bit or staying in on Friday nights until your gf moves out. I don’t care what your plan is but that is not being someone’s friend. That’s simply not-acted-upon-attraction and it’s trash and it happens quite a lot to women where their actual friendship is not valued and their hotness is.

If, however, you’re in the first camp of a polite, sweet tendre that you are a bit ruffled by but in no way considering acting on AT ALL EVER, then enjoy it. That’s my real advice. Let go of the anxiety that you’re going to act on it or be inappropriate. (In this scenario you already KNOW that you would never!!!!!!) Let go of the anxiety of whether she likes you back romantically (UNIMPORTANT BC THIS IS NOT HAPPENING!!!) and simply enjoy feeling like a dingus hunk seventeen year old again. Enjoy being energized and enlivened. Enjoy remembering that your life is not over and that your heart (dick) still works and gets excited. Crushes are pretty fucking nice when they aren’t the Most Awful Thing in the Whole World. Keep it innocent and enjoy it. And then bring that zest and sweetness to the real star of the show: your girlfriend who is about to make a big scary move.

This actually brings me to my very last point: are you suuuuure your girlfriend is going to move? I think you guys are doing a very good job of ignoring some stuff. Now I’m only going off your letter and 📢 IT IS VERY FRIGHTENING TO MOVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY FOR YOUR BOYFRIEND 📢!!!!!!! (There should be a way to turn emojis around). I’m not trying to create an issue where there isn’t one; you know better than I do what is really going on. But please for the love of god be real fucking honest with yourself and her if you feel like there is hesitation going on that is larger than normal move anxiety. And if maybe the hesitation and uncertainty on her end has in some ways encouraged your crush (someone who is in the city you want to be in, isn’t hesitant, is easy to be around and talk to because you don’t have major things to discuss, etc). Please continue to have conversations with your girlfriend. You can bring it up like this, “Hey, I know this move is scary and I’m feeling super excited about it, but that’s partially because I’m already here and have a job and I can imagine that it might not be the same for you. How are you doing with it?” Check in with her!!! Directly ask about it (don’t just say, “You can talk to me anytime!”) and be prepared that you might hear some hard things. Don’t pressure her to be in a bad place or freak her out or anything, just open the door for her to be honest with you.

GOOD LUCK, YOU’VE GOT THIS!

ASK A QUESTION!

❤️❤️❤️NOTE: because so many sweetie pies have been asking questions, it can take up to a month or two to answer them. I’M SORRY. I try to answer “urgent” / timely letters ASAP and more general questions later. IF I HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO YOURS, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO RESEND!!! I DON’T MIND AT ALL!!!❤️❤️❤️


Sophia Benoit writes this very newsletter; she also writes about sex & relationships for GQ, tries to write about Fleetwood Mac for GQ, avoids writing by tweeting at @1followernodad, works full-time as a researcher for Lights Out With David Spade, and has had bylines in The Guardian, Reductress, Refinery29, Allure, and The Cut. You can reach her or yell at her at 1followernodad@substack.com.