Flirting with change

Flirting with change

Don’t be too hasty in allowing love to guide career choices

By Patti Carmalt-Vener 04/09/2014

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Dear Patti,
My boyfriend, Quinn, and I work at the same real estate office. We’ve been dating since last year, but we have kept it a secret because our office has an unwritten policy about workplace romance. I am only the receptionist for now, but I am training to get my real estate license. Quinn is a top agent and has been helping me a lot. My boss says the company will probably hire me once I get my license and I’d like this since very much as I already know the environment and my coworkers. It feels like home.  
  
What I don’t like is that Quinn flirts — too much, I think — with female clients. I’ve told him this makes me angry but he blows it off and says it’s all part of his style to be successful at selling. I believe Quinn loves me and shows me in all sorts of ways. We love each other and really want to move in together, but Quinn is now saying that it would be easier to go public with our relationship if I found a job at another agency. On the one hand, I wouldn’t have to watch him flirt (maybe, though, he’d do it even more), but on the other hand, I want to move up the career ladder in the agency where I have roots. I resent that he thinks keeping his job there is more important. 

— Aubree

Dear Aubree,
If love happens at the workplace, the potential is high for distractions, anxiety, stress, favoritism and jealousy. On the plus side, you have both determined that you want to build a future together and, accordingly, need to start exploring possible areas of compromise so that neither side feels she or he is the only one making sacrifices.
  
As you’ve explained, there’s a lot at stake right now in leaving a company that has not only encouraged your professional growth but has thrown in a possible job offer as well. To change jobs right in the midst of moving in with Quinn could impose undue stress and pressure. My recommendation would be to experience at least six to 12 months of cohabitation successfully or until that lifestyle change segues to an engagement or marriage before you give up a job that you deeply value. 

You should also consider that your mutual employer may actually be more understanding of your relationship than you think. The fact Quinn is already a top agent, coupled with your joint commitment to comport yourselves diligently and professionally in the workplace, may cause the company to revisit its dating policies. Likewise, the decision to keep your dating a secret until you both knew it was a sure thing is a testament that you’re as dedicated to your work life as you are to your personal one.

While it’s not uncommon for salespeople of either gender to turn up the charm, Quinn may want to dial it down out of respect for your feelings. If his romantic commitment has been strong enough to encourage cohabitation and a discussion of job changes, it’s not unreasonable to ask that he not dismiss your feelings and that the only woman he flirt outrageously with be you.

Healthy partnerships are built on working together and making appropriate compromises. If half of that partnership is always yielding to the other half just to keep things together, it will quickly become unhealthy, unstable, exhausting and stressful. Your reference to resentment causes me to suggest that you delve into your past and explore whether there are pre-existing patterns of giving too much of yourself than was really warranted. A mindset of always acquiescing to the demands of others not only leads to bitterness but can also have a devastating effect on your self-esteem. If such patterns of giving in existed in your past, the dynamic with Quinn may be a chance to embrace loyalty to that relationship and, at the same time, still look out for yourself. Move slowly rather than impulsively giving up aspects of your life that are meaningful to you. The stronger you become as individuals, the stronger the bond you can forge as a couple.  

Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email pcarmalt@aol.com. Visit her Web site, patticarmalt-vener.com.

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