Dear Dr. Romance,
I've read your articles online and was impressed by your viewpoints and solutions to problems between men and women.
I'm married for more than 10 years with no kids. I joined a new firm 2 years ago and started working with a lead on a new project. I felt he's nice at first and we worked very closely together. Sometimes we chat a little about each other's personal life. There's once when he told me he's been married for more than 10 years with 2 kids. He's about the same age as I am. He met his wife in college and they had the same background. When I commented that he found the perfect one, he said she's not perfect but is his other-half. He couldn't keep on divorcing to find a perfect one. I told him the first one is usually the best. Another day later, he told me his mother divorced for his stepfather when he's 14, he experienced stress during that time, and he didn't want his son to go through the same he did.
After he left my cube, he emailed with "Girlfriend?" in it. I instantly felt insulted and emailed him back with angriness. He explained to me that "girlfriend" didn't mean someone to sleep with, but a 'meaningful' close friend. I asked him that coworkers getting along well with each other is good, but why did him want to put me in this position? He said sorry, and later he referred to this request as a joke. A few weeks later he came to me and said he's been thinking about me all weekend, and asked me if one could love 2 people at the same time. I said that's not love but attraction. He said felt better and we continued trying to maintain our work relationship until one day he asked me for my pictures via email. I rejected him and he emailed me back implying it was my fault.
I started to examine myself thinking I might have misled him sometimes and felt depressed. Since he blamed me, I stopped talking to him, tried to avoid interaction with him as much as possible. He noticed and came to apologize saying he was unprofessional and hurt my feelings. But his apology didn't change much Now I just feel the relationship is awkward and I don't have much respect for him even though everyone else still thinks he's a very nice and helpful guy.
Now my problem is, every time he asks me to do things, I have resentment since I don't feel he deserve to be my lead. But I know this is not good for the work and my own career. People don't know what happened between us and would think I'm trying to be hard on him for no reason while he still presents himself as a nice, patient, and helpful person in front of everybody including our big bosses.
I thought about leaving the team, but I've earned my reputation here through hard work and I like what I'm doing. Can you tell me the right approach to deal with it? I hoped I'd found your web site much earlier for I feel so stuck in this relationship for quite a while. Thanks and I look forward to your reply.
Actually, I think you've handled a difficult situation rather well. This man is a user, and he has learned that being charming will get him what he wants. As you already realize, he's not such a nice guy. If you want to stay in your present position, keep doing what you are doing, being polite and cool, but not giving him any personal warmth. Focus on doing your job. "Mirrors and Teachers" will give you pointers on giving him a time out and handling his harassment without creating a problem. "Setting Boundaries and Saying No" will strengthen your resolve to keep him in place. Be patient, he'll find another victim before long, and leave you alone. You might also find my book, It Ends With You helpful in understanding how other people can seem nice but actually be trying to take advantage of you.
For low-cost counseling, email me at email@example.com