“I [24F] work as an admin in a law firm and have developed feelings for a junior lawyer [30M]. He confessed that he has a crush on me but is not interested in pursuing a relationship.
To clarify, his job is incredibly demanding and he works ridiculously long hours (12+ hour days) and a relationship is, understandably, too much of a commitment for him right now. However, he has continued to flirt and find reasons to interact with me after the grand reveal which has left me utterly confused. I really like him, but is he leading me on? Should I wait around for him to change his mind after he has a better handle on his career?”
Dear OMG Betch,
There are a couple reasons why a person might tell you that they have a crush on you but choose not to pursue a relationship. You already listed a pretty good reason why. It could be that he works a very demanding job and isn’t looking to develop a relationship with anyone at the moment.
So I’ll throw a couple other reasons that might explain his behavior.
It could be that he is just a big flirt. And his way of telling you that he has a crush on you could be an advanced flirtation tactic. This way he can set a level of expectation that he isn’t looking for a relationship with you and you shouldn’t look to him for a relationship either. This way, both of you can stick to harmless flirting and good-natured compliments without the other person (i.e. you) getting the wrong idea.
It could also be possible that this was his way to gently let you know that he is interested in casually hooking up with you. He has communicated his attraction but set the expectation that he isn’t looking for a relationship. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t interested in hooking up with you. This obviously comes with a caveat that you should not sleep with your coworkers, especially if you cannot easily avoid him in professional environment.
I also think that it is very possible that this was his way of letting you down gently without hurting your feelings. Plenty of folks in demanding careers have maintained perfectly happy and healthy relationships. Hell, one of the healthiest and happiest couples I have ever known worked off-schedule shifts (she worked graveyard shifts at a hospital while he worked the standard 8-to-5) and they made the best use of that one or two hours together. So his way to defer to his career to turn your flirtations down could just be a way for him to reject you in advance before anyone’s feelings get hurt or misunderstands.
Regardless of whatever his intention is, I would strongly advise to just listen to what he is saying instead of trying too hard to read between the lines. If you do not think you can participate in harmless flirting without getting your feelings all tangled up, then prepare to shut the flirtation down or set some really hard boundaries around workplace interactions with him. If you are finding that you cling to every word of his, then that says a lot more about where your headspace is at than his. So creating some distance to have your feelings de-escalate to match his level of emotional engagement might not be a bad idea.
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