The above quote is from the show The Office. This was a conversation that took place during the second season. Jim is in love with his coworker Pam but at this point in time she is engaged and has just set a wedding date. Spoiler alert (though this was like four years ago so I don’t feel bad) Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) are now married, with two young kids and still working together. This is a wonderful story and as we know this can absolutely happen in real life as well.
But sometimes it doesn’t go well and people find themselves in huge messes. Heck, it even happens to celebrities like Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter. They worked together on the show Dexter, fell in love and got married and then got divorced (though according to recent reports they are now together again.) Imagine if you had to go to work everyday and play the sister of your ex-husband. Or worse what if you had to go pretend to be in love with your new ex-husband like Sophia Bush did on One Tree Hill? Our situations aren’t usually that bad but what it comes down to really is why do we fall in love with coworkers in the first place? For Office Romance Week we decided to ask the experts what is the psychology behind the office romance?
Dr. Tina Tessina told The Grindstone:
“Research shows that the workplace is where the majority of couples meet. There’s a reason for this: Unlike online dating, newspaper ads, singles events and speed dating, the office gives you a chance to actually get to know and even bond with a person before declaring your interest. Working side by side with someone daily, seeing him or her under pressure, commiserating over problems and congratulating over wins gives you a portrait of the person on the inside as well as the outside. Because it’s the inside that matters in a love relationship (despite all the media focus on the external) love can grow without either party really being aware of it. The couple develops a relationship “infrastructure” in an organic, natural fashion, as opposed to forcing it. These relationships often last a long time, because they’re reality based. Unfortunately, the same ingredients can make office connections tempting even to the married, which is the downside of the issue.
The reason so many people date in the workplace, even though it’s often disastrous, is that it’s easy. You get to know someone well by working alongside them, observing them interacting with others, seeing them under stress. A lot of these relationships do work, and it’s actually a good way to meet someone — it’s just that the consequences of a poor choice are so big.”
Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Marriage & Family Psychotherapist and Author, told The Grindstone:
“With a coworker, if you get into habits of sharing personal information, long talks, lunches, etc. and particularly if they are a good listener with empathy, it is very easy to believe you are “falling in love” and that this coworker is the most special person in your life … the self-disclosure that goes on is something that automatically brings us closer to another person, but doesn’t mean we’re “falling in love” – with a coworker, if you are unhappy with your marriage/girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other, it can be an easy slide into thinking this coworker is so much more appreciative of who your are, and is willing to give you their time and best listening skills, unlike what happens in your relationship outside of work (so many spend more time with a coworker than the special person in their life.)”