The Hassle of Loving Relationships

(Japan Times, submitted 1/12/06, published 1/22.06 as "Reply in a coworker relationship")

January 12, 2006

Japan Times

Dear Editor:

I read with interest Kaori Shoji's January 10, 2006 article "Men Retreat from 'Hassle' of Loving Relationships." I suspect Michiyo of overgeneralizing her experience. Her friend was a coworker, and employers strongly discourage coworker relationships: nothing is more disruptive to harmony.

Female coworkers of mine sometimes become flustered when a conversation with me moves away from innocuous shoptalk and becomes personal. They will start talking nervously about their husband or boyfriend, my wife, etc. After one particularly annoying conversation I consulted my wife, who said thoughtfully, "Most people have little experience with true intimacy, even if they've been married. So when they're offered it, they don't know how to deal with it." I later realized that at the level of instinct, there are only three intimate relationships between males and females: boyfriend/girlfriend, parent/child, and brother/sister. Shoptalk is brother/sister; personal talk is ambiguous, and hence anxiety-provoking.

Michiyo might have benefited if she had accepted that brother/sister is the only intimate relationship possible with a male coworker, and devised a different approach. For instance, she could take advantage of a new transfer opportunity, then approach him on her last day and say: "I'm sure I'll like my new job, but that isn't the only reason I'm transferring. We've been working closely together for three years. I like you and would like to go out with you seriously, but relationships and work don't mix. Please don't say anything now; just think it over and let me know how you feel. Here's my home phone number."

Then she should walk away and get on with her life. In this way, she shows that she has dignity and self-respect, and most importantly, that she isn't needy. Any man with self-respect would honor this kind of overture, even if he decided not to accept it.


David Dahlbacka
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