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Work colleague leaving. I feel really low and emotionally conflicted

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I am feeling weird about a colleague leaving and I am trying to find a way to process my feelings and grief. There are so many things at play that I don’t know where to start but I think most of it boils down to a mixture of sadness, jealousy, lust and a personal life crisis.

I’m a 38 year old man and I work in a Higher Education Institution. My colleague is a couple of year’s younger than me. I have been at the organisation for a slightly longer time period than her but she has now been working as a fellow manager and colleague alongside me for nearly 9 years.

We both have long term partners (over 10 years) and would say we are both generally happy in our relationships. She is getting married next year and I am engaged.

For the first few years we only really crossed paths in meetings and on the occasional project. She wasn’t that sociable and didn’t really indulge in work nights out (where as I did). We would have the occasional spot of lunch together and I remember a few road trips to conferences that were good fun but I would not say we were close.

Then the pandemic and lockdowns changed things.  We both achieved a promotion which meant working much closer together. We also realised during lockdown that I had moved onto the same street as her (just a few doors down). This led to the occasional lunchtime walk and upon moving back to the office we started lunching more often, walking home together and occasionally socialising, mostly with groups but sometimes just the two of us after a stressful week at work.

Nights out tended to be pretty raucous. We both enjoyed a beer and whilst nothing more than friendship developed and the nights were purely filled with innocent chats about life, I started to become very attracted to her.

This past week she has been offered a new job and will be leaving the company in the new year. It’s in the same town and she will still be on the same street but I have nothing but anxiety and grief related to this news. I am of course pleased for her and this is her ideal job but it has thrown up a number of things that I am trying to process. All of which I do realise are about me.

Firstly I do feel I am a little Jealous. I have had a few interviews elsewhere without success and have been with the company for a long time. I am definitely feeling ready to move on and some of it I feel is down to the selfishness I have knowing that she has moved on before me

Secondly there’s the personal life crisis for me. Not only am I keen like her to progress and move on. I am also at a certain age where socialising with work colleagues is becoming harder. I have a fairly active social life away from work but she is my last real connection to someone that I can go for an after work drink with and let off steam. A lot of this is down to the fact that we are both in senior management positions, so keeping distance from direct reports is part of the job (it’s lonely at the top!) and also by the fact that the majority of the company is younger than 30 so we have little in common. I am not sure who I will turn to in future when things get too much or I’m having a bad day.

Thirdly I am genuinely sad to be losing a friend and colleague. We have achieved a lot and whilst we are quite different we have been through up’s and downs together.

Finally there are the other feelings that I have which are hard to describe and process. This woman is aesthetically beautiful. Just seeing her each day puts me in a good mood. That said I genuinely feel that these feelings that I have are pure lust and not out of a desire for a relationship with her. I say this as she has a whole host of personality traits (though never directed at me) that would grate on me as a partner very very quickly. She can be quite rude, blunt and confrontational. She often sees everything from a negative point of view (whereas I am a glass half full kinda guy). She is also quite often unprofessional at work in terms of her swearing and mannerisms in the office and in meetings. Put it this way if she was a member of my staff we would be having conversations! I know professionally with these behaviours I am going to be better off without her in the office.

But aesthetically she is just one of the most stunning women I have met. My reaffirmation that this is lust is that when I do fantasize about her (which is often) it is purely sexual. I genuinely feel I would just like a couple of nights and mornings getting to know her in that way and get it out the system. Not that I would ever entertain that due to my loyality to my partner and I don’t think she has the slightest attraction to me. But the fantasies persist and have done for a few years.

It’s just weird because I feel like I can clearly separate the friend who is good for a natter and the female form in front of me that I am attracted to.

I was the first person she told when she got the offered the new job and she is already putting in calendar dates to meet up with me.

In all of this I appreciate that I have a wonderful partner whom I love dearly. She is aware of and has met/socialised with this friend, as I have done with my colleagues partner. But I realise this is a form of emotional cheating.

I am just in such a weird mood. I have lost lots of colleagues and even people who have been best friends over the years and I have been fine with this and moved on but on this occasion I feel a so lost and empty.


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I think this is about what is missing in your life more than about this person.  Because you are so attracted to her I'd see this as an opportunity to cut ties and then decide whether your fiancee is your person to marry given how attracted you became outside of your committed relationship.  I'm sorry you're sad!

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We all meet attractive people when we're in a committed relationship. What matters is what we choose to do about it.

If you truly value your fiancee, cut off this other woman. Permanently. You do not have just friendly feelings for her and are putting your relationship at risk if you choose to continue this. 

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1 hour ago, Bernie said:

 I appreciate that I have a wonderful partner whom I love dearly. She is aware of and has met/socialised with this friend, as I have done with my colleagues partner. But I realise this is a form of emotional cheating.

Sorry this is happening, you'll miss her.

Perhaps it's a wakeup call to get involved with more socializing outside of work such as groups, clubs, volunteering, classes and courses, sports and fitness, etc to broaden your social horizons. 

It's good you can acknowledge, at least to yourself, that it was an emotional affair, not just the "friend at work" version you told your fiancee. 

If there are issues in the relationship try to work on that such as living together and if you are really ready to get married. 

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This isn't so much about your crush on another woman as it about your lacklustre feelings towards your own relationship. 

Something isn't right if you are crushing this hard on someone else and feeling this gutted about her upcoming departure. It's normal to have passing crushes on other people but this level of sadness and confusion warrants your closer attention. 

What's the backstory of your relationship with your finaceé?


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I hear. I’m going through something similar with a close colleague who has lost his contract with my employer. I’ve never had the attraction of which you speak, but he’s been my closest work friend for 18 years, and my heart aches at the idea of working without him in the new year.

 The attraction stuff is just your projection, which you can keep or let go in the same manner as people who lust for a celebrity and typically outgrow it over time. I think private crushes are common, yet I can’t speak to whether they ‘must’ signify a lack of attraction to a partner or ‘must’ represent a degree of disloyalty versus simple autonomy. You can explore this over time, and without the distraction of continual renewal of the attraction over daily exposure.

My guess is, your largest impact will be the social aspect at work. If the role will be refilled, you’ll learn whether you can build a reasonably satisfying relationship with the new person, even while you might explore new relationships with superiors or colleagues on another campus.

You may want to actively seek a mentor, whether professional or social or spiritual through a network in your field or of retired leaders in the same or other fields.

Meanwhile, grief is natural and not something you need to squelch. Consider whether bringing your inner conflicts to a professional to help you work through them might help. I may take my own suggestion on this one, because I find myself in a robotic state at the moment, and I will learn over time whether this is helping me bridge a gap, or whether I may suffer greater impacts from this later.

Head high, and write more if it helps.

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4 hours ago, Bernie said:

We both have long term partners (over 10 years) and would say we are both generally happy in our relationships

Generally happy sounds really "meh" to me.

4 hours ago, Bernie said:

I started to become very attracted to her.

When you have a partner, it's up to you put up your own personal boundaries of not developing a close bond and socialize outside of work with a person you fantasize about. You do have control over your mind with practice, and you definitely have control over your actions, which means not sharing personal stories, going to lunch or to bars after work, and stopping at each others desks for long chats. It's not good for your primary relationship and yes, it's an emotional affair, even if one-sided.

4 hours ago, Bernie said:

have a fairly active social life away from work but she is my last real connection to someone that I can go for an after work drink with and let off steam.

How about letting off steam with your fiancee or occasionally, a guy friend? Or, going to the gym? It's nice to have some social interaction at work. I've had times when it was enjoyable and times where my colleagues weren't my cup of tea. But don't lose sight of the fact that it is work, and you can solely get your social needs met outside of work with people you feel totally platonic towards.

If you won't change your behavior, and gradually your mindset, do your fiancee a favor and let her go so she can one day meet a man who knows how to be a partner worthy of her.

If she was writing this same narrative about a guy at work, how would you feel and what would you want/expect from her?


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6 hours ago, Bernie said:

 But I realise this is a form of emotional cheating.

Yes, absolutely it is.  Now try and reverse the role and ask how would you feel if your fiancee was having an emotional affair?  Would you still be feeling comfortable marrying her?  You say you "love her dearly", but when reading your post it almost comes across as if you are way more into the work colleague than your fiancee (imo).

You need to get your head out of the clouds and stop living in fantasy land and face reality by asking if you are really ready to marry your fiancee, because it seems like something is lacking in your relationship.  Work on that.

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