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October 2009

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Ask Our Coaches:
Office Romance: Is there really anything
wrong with it?

"Is there really anything wrong with dating someone at the office?"

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.

Dear Coaches,

I work with a woman I'm really attracted to – we're both single right now, not dating anyone, and we've known each other for a couple of years. She's in management and so am I. She's attracted to me, too. We've joked about dating each other, but neither of us has made a move to do so.

I've thought of asking her out on a date, but just wanted to get some advice. I know with social networking that the lines between personal and professional have blurred. Society has changed a lot over the years and so has formality in most business offices. It's challenging to find someone you're attracted to.

Is there really anything wrong with dating someone at the office? What are your thoughts? Should we take a chance? What other advice can you give me and us – to protect ourselves and our jobs?

Mark in Boston

Dr. Janice responds …

Historically, rules in the workplace against dating co-workers, and especially subordinates, were established to ward off cases of sexual harassment. Over the years, however, many human resources departments relaxed these rules for a variety of reasons, one being that dating co-workers might reduce the incidence of sexual harassment. Knowing that singles like yourself would prefer to date someone they are familiar with, it's understandable that you would gravitate towards dating someone with whom you work.

Because you ask, "Should we take a chance?" and "[How can we] protect ourselves and our jobs?" I'll address the first of the "chances" you allude to: the chance that your relationship won't work out. If so, then you'd be forced to be in physical proximity to this woman after the break-up. Singles typically fear running into an ex after a break-up, and there are few places to hide in an office where you are tethered for many hours a day.

The other "chance" you take would be losing your jobs outright if there is a company policy against "fraternizing." While sneaking around your workplace might be exciting, you really can't protect yourselves and your jobs. So before you decide to date, I suggest you think about your current job and ask yourself: Is this where I want to be? Are there other jobs or careers that would be equally, if not more, gratifying? Because if the answer is "yes" then you might end up with a double win: a better job, and a girlfriend.

Janice D. Bennett, Ph.D. | | 212.874.1470

Rick and Jo respond …

While it may be an issue for office policy, we believe the work environment is a great place to sort, screen and test potential partners. There are few places these days where you can interact with a potential soulmate and check them out over an extended period. We believe being able to observe your "target" as they deal with challenges and interact with different people is very important when choosing a potential partner.

So the issue, then, is how to deal with company policy. Why not get clear on the exact boundaries and ground rules and then proceed accordingly. You will both need to be aware of and responsible for the consequences at work if dating is unsuccessful. Yes, it is challenging for singles these days to find someone they are attracted to – so don't let her slip by. Maintain the attraction, perhaps in small ways that observe protocols initially (acts of kindness, etc.), and once you know the boundaries, go for it!

For real clarity and certainty as to whether she really is a good long term prospect, we recommend you work with a RCI coach, so that your relationship choice is directed by wisdom and powered by attraction.

Rick and Jo Harrison | | +61.3.5420.7366

Katherin responds …

Bottom line: I recommend you do not date someone you work with on a daily basis. Understand that people in close proximity and those we see frequently often appear more attractive. Many studies have documented this phenomenon.

However, if you do want to date her, I would be very certain she meets all of your non-negotiable requirements prior to asking her out. If you start dating, I would recommend you not disclose it to your coworkers and that you both agree to remain respectful should the two of you no longer date. Keep your private life private and you are less likely to have problems in the workplace.

My concern is your statement about how challenging it is to find someone you're attracted to. If you believe it's hard, then it's hard. Instead, change your mindset to realize there are many attractive and available single women.

Take time to understand exactly what characteristics you find attractive in a woman, both her physical and her "energetic" qualities (i.e. her confidence, radiance). Get out of the office and go to singles events, classes and dances. Create an online dating profile etc., to widen your chances of meeting single women and finding your perfect match.

Katherin Scott | | 425.681.2620

Hazel responds …

I commend you for thinking about this before taking action. Other than the fact that you work together, it sounds like you might both be in the same place to explore a relationship.

Obviously, it can be a challenge if you're working with someone you date and it doesn't work out; however, that said, what a pity if you pass up an opportunity that could turn into something really wonderful.

Ask her out for coffee, to make it a little more casual, and talk to her about your concerns. If you are both willing to put some boundaries in place, you could make it work. It would be important, in advance, to know that if it didn't work you would remain friendly in the workplace so that neither of you have to resign.

I'm sure she, too, would not want to have a problem if you dated and, after a while, found you didn't gel. Nothing lost, nothing gained if you don't at least speak to her. I wish you lots of luck.

Hazel Palache |

Dr. Dar responds …

Having had an office romance myself, I understand how you must feel. Given that we spend so much time at work, it is understandable that we meet potential significant others at work as well.

Here is the scoop: first check on what policies are in place at your workplace as a critical first step. Once you know the policy, you can then figure out what is next. I don't see anything wrong with dating someone at the office if you keep the following in mind:

• You are honoring the company policy about workplace romance
• You have an agreement in the relationship as to how you will both handle yourselves if things do work out and if it does not work out
• You both agree to avoid cloudy decision-making and biases if you both collaborate at work
• You both have clear and defined agreements about how you will conduct yourselves in the workplace, and
• How, when, and if you will inform your managers and others in the workplace about your romance (because people find out even if you think they will not).

Lastly, should the romance become deeper and you both want to become more committed, you should both have an agreement about your plan for handling things like will you both continue to work at the same company, will one of you seek other employment, and other issues.

Dr. Dar | | 704.651.8568

Feature Article:
Relationship Competency: Are You the Partner you Seek?

By Ann Robbins

Relationship Competency: Are You the Partner you Seek?

Many of my clients come to me with a laundry list of things they are seeking in a relationship partner. I am frequently amazed at how easily they are able to recite this list of criteria, yet fail to look in the mirror and discover, or uncover, their areas of relationship competency and readiness.

"I want someone who is emotionally available, generous, kind, a good listener, caring, loving, attentive, honest," and the list goes on and on. Yet, if I ask them what it is they bring to that future partner, the list is often shorter and (forgive me) distorted.

To bring reality and accountability to the matchmaking process, we often begin with a few coaching sessions. Here are a few tips to help you achieve the relationship happiness you deserve:

Define Your Ideal Relationship

This is an actual exercise, where you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and identify your criteria for your ideal relationship. This is based on your requirements, needs, and wants. It is critical to the health of any relationship that your partner has very similar requirements and needs, otherwise the relationship has a high probability of failure.

Requirements VS Needs and Wants

Requirements are those non-negotiables that are so important to you that if missing, would cause you to walk away from a relationship. It is important to evaluate your requirements, and make a list of those things that are critically important to you -– things for which you will not settle.

For many people these include fidelity, trust, communication, emotional and physical intimacy, and authenticity. Typically, requirements are values based. In order for you to make a list of your requirements, you should begin by listing your top five to ten values. From there, think of what values you want your partner to have. Common values are what help sustain relationships over time.

Your needs are different than your requirements in that needs are negotiable. A need may be something like, "I need to know my partner finds me attractive." How your partner shows you that you're attractive to him is negotiable.

Wants are the "nice to have" things in relationships. They differ from requirements and needs in that they won't make or break the relationship, and will not make you unhappy if not met.

Here's a great way to remember the difference between requirements, needs, and wants.

Think of baking a cake. A cake requires certain ingredients in order to be a cake! Flour for example. No flour -– no cake. Non-negotiable.

A cake also requires heat and time for baking, however how much heat and how much time are negotiable. You can bake at 350° for 40 minutes, or bake at 325° for an hour. Therefore, these are needs. A cake also needs a pan for baking. But, it can be square, round, oblong, a layer cake, a sheet cake -- all negotiable, and therefore, "needs."

What flavor do you want? Chocolate? Vanilla? What about frosting? One piece or two? All very flexible and many options and choices, and therefore, "wants."

When making your list of requirements, needs, and wants be sure your requirements truly are non-negotiable walk-away items. You should have no more than about ten. If your list is too long, that person probably does not exist. Your list of requirements should align with your values and the standards you're willing to hold yourself to.

Understand that BOTH of You are Responsible

As co-creators of your relationship, both of you must take responsibility to enrich, deepen and nurture your relationship. This is a key step in achieving your life vision and ultimate happiness together. You are jointly accountable for the success, health, and longevity of your relationship. Both partners must be willing to take ownership for the relationship and its outcome.

Assess Your Core Relationship Competencies

The following tips, taken from Relationship Coaching Institute's Coach Training Program, will help you draw from past experience with prior relationships, or if in a relationship now, make a fair and honest assessment of your current competencies in that relationship. Assess your level of proficiency as accurately and honestly as possible. You will then be able to uncover areas of strength as well as those that need attention.

1. Communicate Clearly and Honestly: Do you communicate positively and effectively? This includes deep listening, communicating from the heart, and positive negotiation skills. Do you listen actively, or are you thinking about what you want to say next? Are you authentic and do you speak with truth and love? Do you apply win/win negotiation when differences arise? Ineffective communication is one of the primary sources of relationship breakdown.

2. Know What You Need: We all have patterns of behavior in intimate relationships. It is important to understand the effects of your limiting beliefs on your adult relationship choices and behaviors. Do you have major wounds that play themselves out in conflict or areas of stress? Gaining these insights and sharing them with your partner will help both of you be better able to remain calm and aware when these issues arise.

3. Take Personal Ownership: Do you remain centered in the adult role? This is one of the most important relationship competencies. Many of us bring our angry child or inner critic to the relationship in times of conflict and stress. Examine how you behave under pressure and stress. You may be surprised.

4. Accept, Appreciate, and Manage Differences: My mother always told me, "Never fall in love with a man's potential." How right she was! It is critically important you are able to understand, respect, and work effectively with differences between you and your partner. Focus on the elements of the relationship that really matter, don't sweat the small stuff, and don't make the mistake of trying to change someone to fit your idea of a perfect partner.

5. Nurture Love and Intimacy: Are you present in the relationship? Are you deeply connected to one another in ways that invite openness, trust and support? Are you able to express love and caring? Are you able to receive the love that is given by your partner? Understanding the importance of expressing gratitude, appreciation and love is key to a healthy relationship.

Many people find it easier to give love than to receive it. If this is the case for you, explore your prior love relationships and your limiting beliefs and ask yourself if you feel worthy of receiving love. If you don't, please seek the help of a relationship coach or, at the very least, begin a self-help discovery process to allow yourself to believe you deserve a loving and functional relationship.

Set Goals for Improvement

The above relationship competencies are important to any healthy relationship. Certainly there are others, and assessing honestly where you stand is a great way to begin. Once you've done that, set goals for improvement, development and growth. No one's perfect, but we all have a responsibility to be the best we can be, and bringing our best self into a relationship helps ensure success. No matter what, remember you're worth it!

Copyright © 2009 by Ann Robbins. All rights reserved in all media.

Ann Robbins

Ann Robbins is a Certified Professional Matchmaker and Relationship Coach and is owner and President of LifeWorks Matchmaking, LLC. She can be reached at 954.561.4498 or visit

Bonus Article:
Why am I Still Single and What Can I Do About it?
Five Attitudes That Keep You From Finding the Love of Your Life

by Michelle Vásquez

You want to find a life partner and you wonder why you are still single. You may be divorced, or maybe you've never married. Maybe you've lived with a series of partners; maybe you have only kept a relationship going for a few months. Maybe you keep picking the wrong kind of person. You may be baffled when you see other people who have been happily married for decades. What do they know that you don't?

Your attitudes about dating may be keeping you from finding a life partner. Here are five attitudes that can keep you from finding the love of your life:

#1 I know my type and what I'm attracted to

This one can get you in trouble simply by blinding you to anyone who doesn't fit nicely into the mold of your ideal partner. It doesn't mean that you must give up your requirements or values.

Sometimes people immediately discount a potential date because of the physical appearance. While physical is very important to so many people, I would encourage you, at least, to give a person who doesn't fit your ideal physical requirements a second look before you dismiss her/him.

Also, a first meeting with a person will not always tell you whether you share common interests. You may need to have a second or third encounter before you screen that person out. Of course, if the person has horrible manners and treats you badly, run and don't look back!

Here are some questions to consider when thinking about your type:

• Are your physical requirements set in stone or do they have some flexibility?
• What if she is not as gorgeous as you expected, but you and she share the same values?
• What if he doesn't have a college education, but he runs a successful business?

Instead of focusing on your "type," focus on your requirements for a successful relationship. You are better off thinking about your values and how you would like an ideal relationship to work.

#2 If love is meant to happen, it will just happen

Where did this idea come from anyway? Its first cousin is, "Love will happen when you stop looking for it."

If you want to have a backyard garden, you wouldn't say, "If it's meant to happen, it will just happen." No, you would decide what you want to plant, how large you want the garden, what tools you need to dig the soil, what time of year to plant, which plants are best for your region, and so on. You would take the time to plan, making sure you do everything just right.

You have set goals and continue to do so in many areas of your life: your education, vocation, health and fitness, and family planning, to name a few. Why is it that when it comes to finding a life partner this attitude persists? What makes your love life so magical while other areas of your life are structured and goal-oriented?

#3 I don't want to go to bars or night clubs

This is another frequent protest I hear from the singles I have coached. Where did we get the idea that bars and night clubs were the only ways to meet singles?

Think about all the places you go and things you do on a regular basis:

• Weddings
• Religious events
• Hobbies
• Activities
• Parties/gatherings

Think about what you would like to do, but don't currently do, and add this to your list of places, activities, and events where you can meet singles. Create your list, then get out there and get busy!

#4 I'm too _______ (fat, skinny, short, educated, old, poor, messed up in the head, etc.) to attract a great life partner

I'm not saying that you cannot improve yourself. You should definitely be mindful of self-improvement. In my book, that's a lifetime work in progress. However, you must start with the idea that you are good enough, even if you don't believe it yet. You do deserve to find happiness in a love relationship. You may not be ready for a love relationship, but you can begin to get ready.

Having an "I'm not good enough" attitude will keep you from finding a good match. We all have these limiting beliefs. Working with a relationship coach can help you to discover and change these beliefs that are holding you back from finding the love of your life.

#5 I'm too picky

How do you know if you're really too picky? You really won't know unless you have a well thought out list of requirements for a successful relationship. Your requirements are things you will not compromise on. Having a list of requirements makes you a "discerning single."

Here are some examples of what I would consider to be too picky versus being realistic. If you find you are discarding the people you date for flimsy reasons, ask yourself what is really going on.

Too picky: If you require that she have the body of Aphrodite, you may be too picky, especially if you are over 40 and you are not a Greek god yourself.

More realistic: You value staying in good physical shape and you make healthy eating choices. You would not be interested in a woman who looks like she doesn't care about her physical appearance, whose idea of exercise is picking up a drink and putting it down again, and for whom fast food is a first choice for dinner.

Too picky: Although a man seems to fit your requirements, you are still looking at him through a microscope to find the tiniest reason to discard him from your list of potentials.

More realistic: You know that, like you, no one is perfect. You look at his flaws and ask yourself, "Can I accept this and live with it?" If you decide that you can, you keep going. If you decide that you cannot, you move on.

This list of attitudes is by no means complete. It's just a list to help you think about what may be holding you back. I challenge you to take some time to list the attitudes you have that are keeping you from finding the love of your life.

Examine your list and figure out where the attitudes came from. Then decide whether they are helping you or hindering your search for your life partner. A relationship coach can help you work through these attitudes so you can create new, more helpful ones!

Copyright © 2009 by Michelle Vásquez. All rights reserved in all media.

Michelle Vasquez
Michelle E. Vásquez
, MS, LPC, is an RCI Relationship Coach who helps singles and couples attract the life they want and create the relationships that bring them joy. She specializes in working with couples who are experiencing relationship difficulties as well as with singles who want to find the love of their life. Bilingual. | 714.717.5744


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