Love at the office

How to make a relationship work while at work

Love in the workplace is still considered taboo, says career adviser Jutta Boenig, even though everyone knows someone who’s had an affair or even started a real relationship with their colleague.

It makes sense that people fall in love at work, says psychotherapist Wolfgang Krueger — they are interested in the same things and work together closely. But is it possible to work alongside your partner?

The main prerequisite is that both partners can endure being near each other and can cultivate a constructive culture of conflict, says Krueger. Relationships at work affect the entire system, says Boenig.

How well a couple does at work depends on how involved both are, says partner therapist Andrea Braeu. Some will meet, at most, in the cafeteria for lunch, while some remain in constant contact all day.

“Such symbiotic relationships are always difficult,” says Braeu. If two people are constantly together, it’s hard to create passion because there are no stimuli from the outside. Or in short: Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Partners who work together are advised to at least seek out their own hobbies or meet friends by themselves.

Especially for couples who co-head a company, the business always comes to bed with them. Krueger thus suggests that they make a rule that there’s no discussion about work in their private lives. “Love needs space and levity; work ruins the atmosphere in this case.”

Couples who work together should leave their signs of affection at home to avoid having their colleagues start spreading rumours.

Couples could, for example, agree that they will speak about work for, at most, an hour after they’ve left the office for the day and avoid the topic entirely on the weekends, recommnds Boenig.

When should a couple let their colleagues or even supervisors know that they’re in a relationship? “When you have the key to the other person’s apartment and know their close friends, that’s a good time to make it official,” says Krueger. Boenig advises a charm offensive on the topic — that way colleagues won’t be able to spread rumours.

But shows of affection at the workplace? Bad idea. “In general, you shouldn’t spend too much time making googly eyes at each other all day, and also not always eat lunch together,” advises Boenig.

It’s also difficult for colleagues when a pair separates — if one of them is taking it poorly, they shouldn’t discuss their woes with work colleagues — they do have to work with that person after all.

Problems with work relationships arise for the most part when the couple breaks up: Not many people could see their ex every day at work and still manage to keep their resentment at bay. Usually one or the other person will leave the company after things end badly.

Certain workplace relationships involve power dynamics that should be considered by both parties carefully. “The fact that one person officially has more power than the other brings a tilted position to the relationship,” warns Krueger. Love doesn’t stand up to institutionalised power — secretary and CEO, for example — and the pair should go separate ways professionally, advises Braeu. – dpa

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