True Stories: How I Fell In Love With My Married Coworker

"Loneliness is so far out of the conversation that it took me a year to even realize I felt it."

By Keith McCormick

It started much earlier, but I became aware of it on a Thursday. Wednesday I was out of the office; when I got home, there was an email waiting for me from Sara.

Subject: Walk
Do you want to walk at 12:30 p.m.?

We had started walking for half an hour at lunch, as an office, as part of a fitness challenge (which are always cropping up when you work for the government). Sara and I were the only two who kept it up after the challenge was over. We liked the air, we liked the sun, we liked each other's company.

We hadn't always gotten along. When I started, I made a few too many jokes, and she gave a few too many disapproving looks. Our timing was always just a little bit off. At one point, I resolved to just keep my mouth shut around her.

Fortunately, that didn't last. Vows of silence never really do with me. I talked. She talked. I opened up a little. She thawed out a little. We ended up bonding over photography, of all things. She was taking a class, and even though I'm not a photographer, I knew enough about film to talk about f-stops, depth of field, and composition. (Thank you, expensive, impractical degree.) We became friends. Work friends. Close work friends.

We became friends. Work friends. Close work friends.

So, an email from Sara at the end of a long day was welcome, and it was nice to feel like I had been missed. I wrote back, "Was on site all day, ugh. Tomorrow, though. Definitely." The next day, the Thursday, she called in sick, and when I saw that on the white board, all of the air went out of my tires. The day dragged on, and I drank more coffee to compensate. I didn't even realize I was in a bad mood until someone else commented on it. Then I thought, "This can't be just because I was looking forward to walking with Sara, can it?"

Then I thought, "Damn, I think it is."

Then I thought, "Well, what's so special about today?"

Then I realized it was every day. I realized that in the last six months I had talked to her more than I'd talked to any other living person. I realized how much time I spent thinking about her when she wasn't around. I thought about how I wanted to know what she thought about every little thing. I thought about how I compared every woman I date to her. I thought, "Oh shit. I've got a big fucking problem."

I had a big fucking problem for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I'd met Sara's husband, Anthony, on several occasions. He was a very intense guy, but basically decent. I don't believe in God, and I am generally skeptical about marriage as an institution, but I am a promise keeper. I fancy myself an old-school, my-word-is-my-bond kind of guy, and it's the first thing I respect in other people. Plus, I feel like if you love someone, you shouldn't try to fuck up their life.

After that, all of the other objections (we work together! I don't want to mess up our friendship! I don't know if she even thinks about me that way!) seemed relatively minor. So, I did what responsible adults have been doing since the Stone Age. I resolved not to tell anyone about this, ever.

 

Loneliness doesn't get its due in our modern, socially networked age. People talk about screen fatigue or anti-depressants or cyberbullying, but whatever happened to old-fashioned loneliness? Loneliness is so far out of the lexicon of modern ailments that it took me a good year and a half to even figure out I felt it. (My previous diagnosis was that I had an extended case of feeling vaguely shitty.)

This, by the way, is not an easy thing to admit for someone who is a loner both by history and by temperament. I like long car trips by myself. I like coming home to my own apartment and locking the door behind me. I like being able to do what I want when I want, and not worrying about what anyone else thinks. So it's hard to admit to loneliness without somehow feeling like the last decade spent largely in solitude has been a huge mistake.

It's hard not to see loneliness as a failing.

Which brings me to the other difficult thing about loneliness. It's hard not to see it as a failing. After all, any reasonable, kind, moderately well-adjusted person should be able to make friends, should be able to meet a mate. It's not like anyone else has anything better to do. In some ways, admitting to loneliness is admitting that you fail at being a social animal. It's also hard to discuss it with friends without it feeling accusatory. It's easy for, "I'm lonely," to come out as, "Why don't you call me more often, asshole?" And if, through some moment of drunken honesty, you do blurt out how you feel, the next time that friend invites you over to dinner just feels like pity.

 

Commentarium (70 Comments)

Aug 05 11 - 12:55am
oh please

That was lovely.

Aug 05 11 - 1:09pm
Ginger

Right. I feel like crying

Aug 05 11 - 1:17am
phineas

Great story, thank you.

Aug 05 11 - 1:24am
Ebonini

wonderful story.

Aug 05 11 - 2:15am
M.

I loved the loneliness passage. Kind of blunt, yet somehow beautiful.

Aug 05 11 - 3:48am
G

Ditto.

Aug 05 11 - 2:19am
lisa

OK, so work with me ..on the subject of loneliness..movie called, "My Life as a House" from mid-90's (i think)...man disconnected from ex-wife and kids, etc...gets news he has cancer, asks a nurse for a hug because he realizes he hasn't had any physical contact with another person in years..so moving and hit home..I need to see that movie again

Aug 05 11 - 9:53pm
Lookt Up

Actually "Life as a house" (2001) or so says IMDB.

Jul 04 12 - 2:50am
SS

I need to see that movie. The loneliness this author writes about can be emotionally crippling. I'm quite extroverted, yet living alone in a large city really does suck. It's like that Seinfeld episode where Jerry makes a joke about how easy it is to make friends when you're in college, etc, but not once you're an adult in the 'real world'. So true.

Aug 05 11 - 2:33am
Riiiight

Very cool story. I liked that even though he didn't believe in God or marriage as a whole, he respected her boundaries.

Aug 05 11 - 3:07am
kman

its called being a decent person.

Aug 05 11 - 1:25pm
RaTard

you win for the most awesome comment kman. I wish Icould shake your hand!

Aug 05 11 - 5:46pm
Mirror

What kman said.

Aug 05 11 - 7:50pm
janer

ditto.

Aug 07 11 - 9:34pm
ts

LIKE

Aug 05 11 - 3:52am
Show

Jeez, change a few details and this could've been a story about the last month of my life. Very nicely done. Hits very close to home. Good stuff.

Aug 05 11 - 3:54am
Soma

Beautiful story. Enjoyed it all. And enjoyed his sense of goodness to genuinely feel happy for her.

Aug 05 11 - 8:40am
mp

More proof that babies ruin everything.

Aug 05 11 - 4:27pm
src

+1

Aug 05 11 - 5:26pm
devo

Rule number 47 -- no matter how tender and sweet a story, someone will find a way to make a cynical joke. In this case, cynical and hilarious...

Aug 05 11 - 9:02am
Ed

Yak Yak

Aug 05 11 - 9:19am
mm

This was amazing.

Aug 05 11 - 9:31am
Wait, what?

So if he confessed his love to her on the last day of work, how does the last part fit into the story? Shouldn't they already have gone their separate ways?

Aug 05 11 - 10:06am
devo

That was a fantasy sequence.

Aug 07 11 - 9:01pm
wutwut

Was it really a fantasy sequence? I found that part confusing as well.

Aug 07 11 - 9:51pm
lalaland

I think the big confession on the last day of work could be read as the fantasy sequence, while the pregnancy announcement was the wake-up call that put their relationship into perspective.

Aug 09 11 - 9:07am
guapo

The grammatical colon he uses confirms that it was his fantasy to eloquently spill his guts.

Aug 05 11 - 10:44am
fiction alert

Isn't the climax of this thing from last week's episode of the show "Louis"? C'mon, man.

Aug 05 11 - 11:32am
Z

fantastic... plainly told, no nauseating 'writerly' flourishes...just a small little tale, honestly expressed. good stuff.

Aug 05 11 - 12:51pm
TR

Excellent writing. You also articulated clearly what so many people have experienced.

Aug 05 11 - 1:12pm
Ginger

I love it. Made me smile.

Aug 05 11 - 1:23pm
lalaland

That story, especially with the reflection on loneliness, shook me to the core. I loved it. I'm going home to cry now.

Aug 05 11 - 2:11pm
L. Ashlie

Beautiful story -- surprisingly tender and very well told.

Aug 05 11 - 2:44pm
fredericka_md

thank you for writing this. very, very well written story.
also, i needed to read it.

Aug 05 11 - 3:04pm
michael22blue

Wow, I know this feeling for sure. I have been fighting this inner battle for the last three years. I work with the most amazing woman I have even met. She is the kind of girl that is just perfect. She is married to my best friend, because of my introduction of him to her. I see her happiness and his love and I know that my silence is needed. This story is so refreshing because in the end I know my loneliness is someone's happy ending. Thanks for making this guys day a little bite brighter.

Aug 05 11 - 11:29pm
Seattle Blonde

Good for you. And I know it sounds really trite, but it does happen that you can look back on these things from a different place years later and be glad that you didn't do anything. These pivotal spots in our lives end up becoming part of the journey later on, and enrich our lives especially when we can learn something from them or just appreciate opening our emotions to a new experience without selfishly harming anyone else.

Aug 05 11 - 5:16pm
Hmm

:(

Gah. Loneliness sucks.

Aug 05 11 - 9:15pm
hello

Say hi to a stranger today.

Aug 05 11 - 9:59pm
bloop

great story, love how honest and real it was. bravo

Aug 06 11 - 10:22am
PJC

Great story. I really identified with the description of loneliness, especially as someone who can enjoy being alone. Feeling lonely really does feel like it's your fault. Also, I've had the weird realization of being in love with someone who will not or cannot feel the same way.

Aug 06 11 - 11:24am
Karolina

EmoGirl065.gliteruje.pl - shock!

Aug 06 11 - 2:23pm
Courtney

What else have you written? I'd like to read it.
crfarm@gmail.com

Aug 06 11 - 10:52pm
Sarah

This was so honest and true. Really touching. Great work.

Aug 07 11 - 12:25am
SW

That was great. I cried a little.

Aug 07 11 - 12:46am
Matt

That help put a lot of things into perspective... thank you!

Aug 07 11 - 1:29am
oops

Yeah babies ruin everything according to the mermaid theory..

Aug 07 11 - 2:00pm
Dude...

Got a little misty reading that one. Like many others, I can identify with much of what is being said. Feeling alone in your own little world really sucks but is often mocked on some level by the rest of society. People are put down for feeling lonely. But it is very real and deep for far more than would ever admit it.

Aug 07 11 - 3:26pm
TwiddlerOnTheHoof

Yep, a really good piece. Often wonder whether all this "socially enabling" tech we increasingly live with is really just a great big band-aid over societies rampant with isolation, dislocation... loneliness.

Aug 11 11 - 4:48pm
GJ

I've thought the same thing about the so-called "social media revolution." How come if we're all so much more connected, it seems like more people than ever feel lonely?

Aug 07 11 - 3:41pm
AB

Great story. I feel like the hardest part is never getting to verbalize your feelings towards them and never getting to hear their honest response in return. I so wish that the unavailable people I was half in-love with, whom I suspected of being half in-love with me back, would tell me how they felt. Even if nothing came of it, the validation of my feelings and curiosity would be good.

Aug 15 12 - 2:55am
Jody

I am not so sure if the validation is of much help. I am unavailable and in love with another unavailable coworker. Expressed feelings and found them to be mutual one fine evening. Been over a year and half and it has been extremely frustrating to say the least.

Aug 08 11 - 10:12pm
CB

This made my day, as sad a story as it is. Writer man, I hope you find what you're looking for. Thank you.

Aug 09 11 - 5:38am
ssa

amazing! love

Aug 11 11 - 4:59pm
A. Friend

Thank you for writing this "Keith." It means a lot to me and I'm sorry, for what it's worth.

Aug 11 11 - 6:16pm
PositiveKi

Wow. I was stunned by the story. Sounded like my life. I too was very involved with friends. I actually had them in 'groups' as it were: my work friends, military buds (I was a reservist), my outdoorsy friends, etc. So I was busy.

I enjoyed time to myself. After working in sales & marketing, seeing corporate customers every day, it was good to come to my OWN place...and do what I wanted to do...no compromises.

I've always been told that I saw my glass as always half-full, so no worries as years flew by. I could only recount once or twice in my life...perhaps for half an hour...where I felt "lonely." I recall saying to myself, "Hmm...so that's what loneliness feels like." But no worries, I had plenty of time.

I began a Big Brother (aka Surrogate Father) to the young son of a woman I dated. After we split, I kept that up at his request (and her acceptance.) I got involved 'being a dad'...and saw him through grade school...middle school...high school...then he went to the Naval Academy, so I saw him even then. I was best man at his wedding.

Still, things were far from lonely...as the years sped by (I'm not a bar fly, even though I worked in them for a time.) Then, while traveling and eating by myself about 18 mths ago, I finally realized that I missed 'sharing my life' with someone else. Unfortunately, I'm now 64. Where does one find someone now...even though looks, health and job are all doing well, thank you.

Don't wait. The years fly by.

Aug 11 11 - 7:04pm
Junebug Jones

So beautiful. Like a whole novel in two pages. I loved this. And I love that Nerve has some of the best writing on the web. Whenever I see the Nerve email in my inbox I can't resist clicking.... and I'm never disappointed.

Aug 17 11 - 5:34pm
Cinthia

It made my eyes all blurry at a given point. Story of so many of us lives. Well written. I want to see more.

Sep 29 11 - 5:57pm
Tina

such a great write! have tears in my eyes after reading this!

Oct 21 11 - 11:39pm
Anonymous#1

Reminds me of my current situation.. Cannot b selfish. Can only Love her from a distance but wouldn't want to interfere her married life.. I feel happy just for making her laugh often.. Just try to light up her face and bring joy to her life.. I wish I never met her because it's hard sometimes to sit at night and feel pity for not having a chance to meet her earlier..
But i'll b strong & will never reveal the secret

Oct 25 11 - 11:10pm
Lonely2

I absolultey cannot believe how much this story is my own. I have never read anything that mirrors my life as perfectly as this. I still don't know which path to take, but I have to stick with the old saying "if you love something, let it go"

Dec 18 11 - 10:21am
here is me saying...

We actually do control who we fall in love with, though I think women recognize this more than men do.

After about 30 years of marriage, and especially because my wife is very sick, schizophrenia, and not well managed by drugs, I realized I was thinking about cheating...

Sigh...

I hated myself, I decided that no matter what I couldn't. do it (I made this choice before I met someone.)

I had a technical career, no life sciences, no psych courses. So what do I do now, I counsel lesbians who want to change. And so far two lesbians have stopped having sex with other women. Anyway, I love my wife, I can't cheat, she used to, well, if you're married you know...

So I talk with lesbian's and no, I don't sleep with the women I counsel...

Jan 04 12 - 12:10am
Elles Belles

That was great... here's to hoping everything works out for you.

"It's a fine line between keeping a secret and telling a lie" So true

Apr 12 12 - 3:43am
Philpster91

Excellent story! This is a carbon copy the last 6 months of my life! Hits my heart in a big way! Cried when he explained what he was experiencing to her. Also made me smile!

Apr 19 12 - 1:05pm
wow

wow...

Apr 21 12 - 5:54am
Sam

Amazin story, very well written!

May 18 12 - 9:59pm
W

What a life I have; married to a woman who is everything I never wanted, while madly in love with a married co-worker. I keep waiting to find something out about her I don't like, but it hasn't happened yet. The initial attraction was not physical, we just got to communicating on a level I just don't reach with anyone else, including my wife. We seem to understand and appreciate each other on a deep, intuitive level- the soul mate I never had. She knows I enjoy our talks and IMs. I don't know if she knows how deeply I crave it. I don't know what to do; there is a reason they call it "falling" in love, not "climbing" in love. It's like tripping over a tree branch and landing face down in the dirt. I love her! I really do!

Jun 16 12 - 5:44pm
BARDH

o my God ...
I did not read all the story but I have also the problem...
My friend was in love with me , ... I was not in love with him ....
After 16 years I kissed him. He also touched me ...
He is married .,. I know he won't let go her ... He doesn't have children ..
I love him, I want to be with him ... We know each other long time ago ...
Pleas can anyone help me, what should I do ...I need him ... I need him ...

Jun 20 12 - 3:03pm
Coach

Yup, I've been going through something similar. We are both married. We both love our spouses. We've worked very closely together for thirteen years. We still share coffee breaks, lunches, text messages, and phone calls. We even get together during vacation time, just to talk and catch up. I realize she is my best friend and I crave her company. I get depressed over the weekends when we aren't together. I look forward to going back to work every Sunday evening. We hug, and I've kissed her forehead but we've never been physically intimate. We've said, "Love ya" and "miss ya." and the sexual tension is palpable. Recently I texted her and asked her " in another place or time in our life would we have had a chance?" She replied, "that we probably shouldn't go there". I replied that if she said, "Stop!", I would never mention it again. She replied that, "she didn't want things to get complicated so we should stop." I replied that by now she must know that I loved her; so much that I would never want to do anything to mess up her life. This is eating me up. But........I will never hurt my wife or ruin my co worker's marriage or life.

Jun 23 12 - 11:23pm
Panda

So happy to have found this article as its comforting to know that I'm not the only out there who is in love with someone who they shouldn't be in love with. From this article, I feel like I can be strong on dealing with this situation, although it hurts to hide your feelings, at the end of the day loving someone doesn't mean you have to be with them, but to let them be happy.

I'm in love with a married woman. Each time she messages me, I get excited. Each time we meet, I get nervous. I really want to tell her how much of an amazing woman I think she is, but I shouldn't. I feel lucky and happy, that even though I cannot be with her, at least I could provide some laughter and happiness to her. I do remind myself that she is better where she is now, with someone who could provide a happy and financially stable life for her, because I won't be able to provide that lifestyle for her. She's a special woman to me.
Thanks for the article.

Jul 22 12 - 12:30pm
chriren

Oh, am really feeling the same.... Loving someone who is with a happy relationship... And being close and fantasize everything with that person... kills me to have seen that he was already happy.. But the problem I see him and I can`t let little connection to be cut.... OMG!