Every week, Danny Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: the letter writer in an open relationship who wants to ask a former colleague on a date.
Danny: i’m taking us both out of our comfort zones today!
i feel like whenever i do “open relationship” questions, 9 times out of 10 my answer is “this is a really bad way to try to open up a relationship, just break up” so i’m trying to branch out
Nicole: Right!! This seems like a stable, healthy open relationship and people so rarely write in about those!
A of all, congratulations on smoothly transitioning to an open relationship
Danny: yes! well done you!
Nicole: B of all, do you still work at the same PLACE with this gentleman?
Danny: obviously my strongest inclination is to say: Look, if you don’t know how he’s going to react, and he works in your field/sometimes with your company, do not tell him you’re in an open relationship, because what if it backfires
like, is he a freelancer who often works for your company? is he in the same building?
Nicole: I definitely think those details are relevant
Danny: is this a total one-off and he’ll never work with you or any of your colleagues ever again?
right, I really don’t want you to ask this guy out and then have him react badly and maybe gossip about you at work
I might go with a light email about being interested in getting to know him outside of work
Danny: in general I think it’s a good idea to keep work and romance separate unless it’s completely unavoidable, so even if that means occasionally letting a cute sort-of-colleague pass you by, that’s your best choice
Nicole: and then IN PERSON you can be clear
yep, agreed if colleague
also I married someone from work but agree completely with you
Danny: that was completely unavoidable!!!
you had a CHASTE COURTSHIP and then before Steve WENT AWAY TO EUROPE he said “i think we should either stop being friends or become very seriously involved and probably married”
that was some “stop the world i want to get off (and move to the mountains and have babies)” stuff
Nicole: It was very very beautiful and moving
Danny: so I think maybe the best move now is to talk to your partner about it
since this exact situation has never come up before
Nicole: That’s a good idea
Danny: and you two might want to have a sort of official policy
on how you deal with attraction or infatuations that come up at work or through work-adjacent things
Nicole: Also please watch the Chris Fleming video about polyamory and don’t do any of that
Danny: yeah don’t invite him over for board games and “announcements”
but I don’t get that vibe from this LW
Nicole: Not at all.
Danny: so have a preliminary talk with your partner about work-related people, think about possible worst-case scenarios and whether you think it’s worth the risk
Nicole: So, yes, if they are not really your colleague, ask to hang out outside of work and then be clear and polite and prepared to back off
Danny: if you decide that it is, and you’re prepared for it to become uncomfortable or awkward, then I think you can try to gauge his interest obliquely
Nicole: if they are, think carefully and talk to partner either way
and you know, I’m all about self-preservation, so I think it would be fine to just get together and try to raise the issue indirectly to give him a chance to signal what his interest level in open relationships is
Nicole: scripting for “I am in an open relationship” when you DO want to explore becoming romantically involved is tricky
Danny: I would honestly be a little cheesy and labored and try to bring up the IDEA of open relationships using the specter of “a friend” for plausible deniability
just in case his reaction is, like, “Oh God, never”
Nicole: “And since I’m in an open relationship myself, I tried to help her…”
IF HE REACTS OK
Danny: I feel like a spy, this is great
Nicole: also you are so into making up a friend
which I love
Danny: NO ONE EVER SEES THROUGH IT
IT’S BULLETPROOF, NICOLE
Nicole: I agree!
ok I did get called on it once
Danny: “my friend…..she doesn’t go here…..she has nine boyfriends, they all live on the moon”
Nicole: it was in college
Danny: who would dare! you have to let people have the polite fiction of the friend!
Nicole: called me on it WHERE I STOOD
in real time
Danny: I am so, so sorry
Nicole: I hope he’s not her colleague and they have a nice time and maybe date
Danny: but in sum: I think the reason you’re finding it so hard to come up with a good script and are worried he might feel misled is because it’s very difficult to bring up your open relationship in order to hit on a former colleague, which is probably a good thing, because I think work should mostly be for work and looking for prospective partners should be its own thing
Danny: if in this particular instance the guy is open to the idea, he’ll definitely let you know once you kind of heavily hint at it
if he doesn’t, back way off
and look for cute guys outside of work
Nicole: SO MANY GUYS OUT THERE
Danny: there are worse things than having periodic crushes on people you encounter at work and just sort of releasing them back into the world
non-consummated crushes are perfectly nice
Nicole: That’s honestly so true
Danny: *joyce from buffy voice* have you tried NOT consummating your work crushes