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Posted on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Crush on co-worker makes her think about dumping boyfriend

By Carolyn Hax

Hi, Carolyn:

I have a long-standing crush on a co-worker. He would even say I had an emotional affair of sorts with him: I would do really fun things with him and not tell my boyfriend, or even lie to him about what I was doing.

Eventually I broke up with Boyfriend, thinking this would allow me to pursue a real, honest relationship with Crush (nothing physical ever happened, but I wanted it to). Bad timing: My crush had just met someone new.

Eventually Boyfriend and I got back together, but now Crush is single again. I still think I could have something with my crush, but I don't want to take the chance of losing my boyfriend if it turns out my crush doesn't share my feelings. Am I a terrible person for, essentially, keeping my boyfriend as the consolation prize?

-- Boyfriend or Crush?

You aren't the first person, not even close, who has stuck with a snug old relationship while waiting to see if a better offer comes through.

So I've had many chances to wonder whether people who do what you're doing ever flip the roles in their minds. Have you asked yourself how you'd like to be, unbeknownst to you, your boyfriend's "consolation prize"?

He's somebody's son, somebody's pride and joy. I doubt his parents held, bathed, clothed, fed, sheltered, taught and loved him in hopes that someday he'd have the honor of sparing you from being single. Break up, grow up, clean up.

--0-- --0-- --0--

Dear Carolyn:

I was taught that it was a bad idea to date a man who was going through a divorce, especially if he was newly separated. He's on the rebound, you'll get your heart broken, etc. I've always considered it sound advice.

Now it seems every newly single man I know has jumped right into a new relationship. And these relationships have lasted, some leading to marriage. It seems highly unlikely that all of these men happen to meet Ms. Right so soon after leaving (or losing) Mrs. Wrong.

As a divorced 40-something, are my options: (a) be forever alone, or (b) snatch up some lonely, recently separated man who loves me not for me but because I was there when he needed someone?

-- D.

I was taught that it's a bad idea to make decisions about individuals based on generalizations.

Some people do look for new relationships to ease the pain of old ones, yes, and you're wise to keep an eye out for those. Time alone to heal is an important component of self-awareness, which is an important component of healthy relationships.

But it's not unusual for people to get all the alone time they ever needed (or wanted) while on paper still in a relationship -- by living separate lives under one roof, by not communicating, by watching their bond erode over the years from lovers and partners to roommates. For some, the separation is the culmination of hard emotional work, not the beginning of it.

If you believe it's morally wrong to date someone who is separated, then I won't try to talk you out of it. But if your only concern is the volatility of people on the rebound, then I suggest the person, not the person's status, is the more reliable source on that.

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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