I began working at our office in June of 2006. Mike, my boyfriend, and I began dating about six months later. So yes, that’s over a year of dating under extenuating circumstances. My friends and his friends knew we were a couple, and to them the fact that we’re coworkers doesn’t even factor - except on the odd occasions when we made them play along with our charade. You see, we did our best to keep our secret love affair from coworkers. Based on their reactions to our news, it appears we did very, very well.
Of the four people we have told face to face, their shock (and on occasion hurt by our betrayal) has been very genuine. Even after we’ve confessed, it’s taken a few minutes of reassurance to convince people this is not some sort of sick joke.
The thing is, it’s not so much that we’ve been dating secretly, it’s that we’ve been dating secretly for so long. If it had been a few months, people’s reactions might have been much more subdued. But it’s been more than a year. This is not a casual dating thing. This is the exchanging of keys, meeting one another’s family, moving apartments so I could be closer to him, taking international vacations kind of relationship. And to most people we work with I bet the thought of Mike and I sharing the occasional lunch outing seems normal, but the thought of us sharing pretty much every aspect our lives is pretty unbelievable. And I can see why it would be. We jumped through some pretty big hoops in order to keep it that way, but we did that at our own expense.
Mike and I over the past year have woven our lives together. But the more we did that, the less we were able to share our lives with the people we see more than most - our coworkers. Mike has never seen one of my belly dancing performances because I take that class with a coworker. He was not able to really talk about his Mexico vacation because I was in Mexico (AKA “Arizona“) with him. And I have been lying about the smallest of things, like watching cable TV, how I do my grocery shopping and where I do my laundry. The answers are that I am obsessed with watching HGTV at Mike’s, I use Mike’s car for grocery shopping, and I do my laundry at Mike’s place because he has a washer and dryer.
We’ve had coworkers ask us why we waited so long to tell people, and to be honest, I don’t really know why any more. At first we weren’t sure of what this was, so there was no point in broadcasting something that may be off our own radar in a month’s time. We gradually realized this dating thing was probably more than just a thing. He became worried of how it could be seen at the firm. Then I became worried of how it could be seen at the firm. Let me state that our firm has no policy about interoffice relationships, which is only helped by the fact that Mike in no way supervises me, and I in no way supervise him. If anything, we’re pretty equal and independent of one another in our jobs. However, another (and possibly bigger factor) was how much Mike and I know some people at our firm like to talk. Many a time I’ve overheard people say “Man, there’s no good gossip at the firm lately.” Needless to say, Mike and I were not really eager to fill that void.
So I guess that’s how 14 months after we started this relationship, we found ourselves in my kitchen arguing about the constraints that we had created for ourselves. It was at that point I told Mike I was tired, “so fucking tired” were my words. And I broke down crying in his arms. It had all become too much, too hard, for too long. The convenience of not having people know was nothing more than a burden. Having to keep the one person I spend more time with that anyone else separated and quarantined into neatly pre-sized, compartments of my life had worn me down. I was tired. And not just tired of lying about how I spend my weekends or pretending to be a single gal in the city. I was tired of not being able to share how much Mike means to me, how truly, ridiculously happy I am to be with him and how lucky I feel to have found someone who loves me wholeheartedly.
So yeah, when I put it that way, I can’t understand why we waited so long. Especially since every coworker we’ve told (including management) thinks it is pretty great that we are dating. I think it’s pretty great too. I’m a very happy girl these days, and it is my greatest joy to be able to tell any one why.
Check back for subsequent entries titled "What I Learned from Having a Secret Boyfriend." That's the good stuff.