When it comes to dating a coworker, there’s one general rule: Don’t do it. But sometimes, that’s way easier said than done — especially if your job requires you to spend long hours and tight cubicles with the same person. Tempting (and steamy) as it may be, it can also turn out to be super awkward and traumatic — something we all saw unfold on the first season of UnREAL and — spoiler alert! — we’ll see more of in the second season. But hey, if you’re going to cozy up with a coworker, just follow these nine rules that’ll help make things easier.
1. Sleep on it. Like in the “think about it for a few extra days” way, not in the literal sense. In any other dating scenario, you might be eager to jump in bed with your crush a week after meeting, but in this case, do not rush. Get to know the new guy as a friend before you two cross the line. Not only will this ensure you’re only crossing said line for someone who may actually be worth it, but you’ll also know a bit more about his integrity, which will probably make you feel more comfortable as you two enter into a delicate situation.
2. Get real about the aftermath. If things don’t work out and there’s a messy breakup, are you prepared to still see or interact with this person every day? And if not, is one of you prepared to switch jobs or departments? If those stakes are too high for you, avoid the office romance so you don’t end up crying to your work wife in the bathroom. That being said though, how will you feel if you don’tgive into this desire? Are you willing to live with the regret of not knowing? If the answer is no, then go for it.
3. Inform your superiors. Grab your boss for a meeting to make he or she aware the situation before they end up hearing about it at the proverbial water cooler. Keeping them in the loop upfront not only shows respect but that you’re mature enough to deal with the situation. No need to go into details about your feelings for bae, but do tell your boss that the relationship won’t interfere with your work performance. Then close your mouth. Rather than turning it into the source of all office gossip in perpetuity, use discretion when telling your coworkers.
4. Keep your attention where it should be during office hours. You’re not being paid to date, so don’t spend your time on the clock making googly eyes across the conference room table. This goes beyond just physical PDA — keep conversations at the office related to the job. Shelve last night’s argument or tonight’s dinner plans while you’re there. What happens between you two should stay that way.
5. Keep coworkers out of your relationship. Your coworkers shouldn’t have to be a part of any relationship squabbles and take sides, and you shouldn’t ask them to. You’ll end up looking far worse and pettier than the object of your anger.
6. Rely on your own merit for professional growth. Obviously you have each other’s back — just as you would for any colleague you respect — but don’t rely on your love interest to help you score a coveted account, new role, or praise from your boss. It’s much more satisfying to succeed on your own merit, and everyone else will appreciate your achievements more if you’ve earned them.
7. Keep spreadsheets out of the bedsheets. It’s nearly impossible not to bring work or stress home with you, but it’s even harder to avoid when you and your S.O. are both dealing with the same work situation. Make it a rule to focus only on each other once you’re off the clock. If you’re really trying to build a healthy relationship, these boundaries will help you exist as a couple in the real world (read: outside the office). And, if you’re more interested in keeping it light, it’s always more fun to talk about, well, anything besides work.
8. Maintain independent friendships and hobbies. Working alongside your boo and then seeing him after work can driven even the most adoring person mad. Try doing your own thing: Take Italian classes, learn to code, see your girls — anything to maintain your identity. It’ll keep you sane and even better, the heart grows fonder with a little distance — even if it’s just for a few hours. Plus, you’ll have more to talk about over dinner and a bottle of Malbec if you actually did things separately that day.