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CONTEXT:

I live in France, am 23 and I have had a crush on a coworker (21) for about 6 months and told her so around 1 month and a half ago in no uncertain terms. We had been talking regularly, about personal topics such as family, emotions, our convictions and beliefs, projects for the future, fear of the employment market, etc. and went once to grab drinks in the evening.

She rejected me and said she would prefer if we stayed as coworkers. She even let go of the basis of friendship we had going until then, perhaps because she was afraid I would fall again. We didn't talk about personal topics anymore.

I've since met another woman, and the crush is over. I have accepted her choice, I went on with my life. We still meet at work, sometimes make small talk as we cross paths, but the talking about personal topics and the friendship is gone.


SITUATION:

Last Thursday, as I was returning from my break outside, I saw her on the verge of crying in the break room. I asked her what was wrong and learned that between her finals and her car breaking down, she has too much on her plate. I proposed to check her car and she accepted after she talked about it to another colleague.

As far as I was concerned, I would drive her back to her house, check her car, and go back to my place. She had been clear that we should only be colleagues and I was moving on myself.

While I was checking on the car, she was handing me tools, listened to what I was explaining her about her car, went to get tissue and water for me and told me I could use her room to wash my hands afterward.

I made some repairs on the plugs, and the car started as usual. She thanked me, I told her she should have it run a bit and drive around to be sure it wasn't a fluke.

I'm pretty sure I didn't word this in such a way that she would feel pressured to take me with her but she did, and we went and drove around for 2 hours, talking, laughing. After that, we ate some fast-food while watching a bit of film at her place, and then I excused myself and went home. All in all, she seemed a lot more friendly during this evening.


PROBLEM:

The evening went like we were good friends again, like before I admitted my crush to her. We again talked about the more personal topics that we used to talk about before I told her of my crush on her, stuff you don't usually talk about with new friends or coworkers.

Since then, we exchanged small-talk over texting for 3-4 days, which didn't occur since I admitted my crush on her to her, but she has been acting colder starting yesterday and seems to be reverting back from being friendly to being a cold and distant coworker.

I do not know what to think of the situation and the dynamic between us, anymore.


QUESTION:

I want to know where she and I stand, and plan on asking her directly after work this weekend, as I'm leaving on vacation afterward. I know I can be a bit blunt and would like to have advice on the following points:

  • Getting her to answer truthfully without pressuring her
  • Having a clear-cut answer on our relationship: Are we strictly coworkers, or also still (a bit) friends?
  • Telling her that I refuse to be used as a friend when she needs me, only to be treated cold and distant as a coworker again afterward.
  • Figuring out why she was so different when I repaired her car vs. before that and now.

So, given the above, how do I approach a conversation with her about her behavior towards me, that will get me a truthful answer about whether I was used/just a coworker or not used/a friend?

  • 1
    @Berthollet I gave your question a second, pretty heavy, edit. It still has a lot of details on your previous relationship with her, and on the evening you spend repairing her car, that might overshadow your actual question on finding out whether she is open to being more than just coworkers or letting her know you feel used/don't want to be used that way. I do hope you get some good answers that focus on answering your question, instead of focusing on all the details! :-) Feel free to roll back the edit if I completely missed the point... – Tinkeringbell Jun 4 at 12:05
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    @Tinkeringbell Good edit, it does focus more on the issue at hand rather than my rambling. I tend to add as much details as I can when asking personnal questions, borderline oversharing. I hope to get some pointers as useful as the comments already there. Thank you, you're all a bunch of nice fellows ! – Berthollet Jun 4 at 12:14
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    I'm not clear on why you feel used. You say that you're the one who suggested looking at her car. Were you expecting compensation? She may have thought the food and movie were sufficient. – BSMP Jun 5 at 7:51
  • @BSMP I was not expecting compensation, as I thought that I would only be there to check the car and then depart. I feel that food and movie is enough, as I did not expect anything other than a "thank you". What makes me feel used is the reversal of the dynamic (coworker-> friend) in the space of an evening only to reverse again days later. – Berthollet Jun 5 at 8:04
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I believe there might be a misunderstanding between the two of you. It is possible to me that the two of you might be seeing this situation quite differently. I remember being in a similar situation a few years back; my best friend confessed his feelings to me a few months after I started dating my first partner. At that time, I thought it was crystal clear that nothing would happen between us, as I was already in an exclusive relationship, and happy on top of it. It took me a couple of months to realize that he was still hoping that I would return his feelings and break up with my partner to date him instead.

It made me realize that sometimes people need a clear no to move on, and I believe you might be in a similar situation here. This woman told you before that she didn't want to engage in a romantic relationship with you, yet you're troubled because she recently behaved in a way that sounds flirty to you. Now, your confusion is understandable, and maybe she indeed changed her mind regarding your relationship. Maybe she was just being nice to you after you helped her, though. I feel that what you need is a clear statement on where you two stand, as my best friend needed a few years back.

So, in order to induce this conversation with your coworker, I would advise you to be direct, and to express facts rather than feelings. You might want to avoid telling her that her behaviour made you doubt about her intentions, as it might come across as rude. By following nonviolent communication principles, you might want to say something along the lines of

Hey Ana, it was nice spending some time with you the other evening. We shared some quite intimate thoughts and facts about ourselves during that evening. I never had that kind of conversations with a coworker before. Does that mean you would like to become friends?

This should induce a conversation about where you stand on the relationship spectrum, and whether she'd like to become friends ... or something else. It would give her the opportunity to say whether she'd like to get to know you more. I lived in France for many years and know that women may have some struggle expressing romantic feelings because they are expected not to make the first move, so saying something would be an invitation to clarify her feelings towards you. Either she'll confirm she does not want to be more than coworkers, or she'll tell you she'd like to become friends or try dating. Or ... she gives you an unclear answer, in which case you might want to politely ask for a clear statement:

I don't know how I feel for you and I believe it would be easier for me if I had a clear idea on where we stand. Would you like to strictly keep this relationship to professional matters or would it possible to become friends?

This would indicate that you're asking her for a clear answer on whether something more intimate is possible between the two of you. Now, it does not ask whether something romantic is possible. But from my experience, if she is sure she does not anything more personal to happen between you, it will give her the opportunity to let you know. This does not ensure you she'll directly tell you if she's willing to take this on a romantic level, as explained before, but if so, it will open the door for you to get to know each other.

4

OP here.

I had the conversation with her today after work. While she had finals the whole week, she did not seem down or frustrated so I took the opportunity to ask her about that whole ordeal while she was in a positive mood that would aid in getting her to open up to me.

I feel important to mention that we had more texting yesterday. I went to observe the wild seals in the bay (a 2-hour drive) and took some photos I posted publicly. She initiated conversation with banter and was interested to know if I was with friends, then surprised and impressed when I told her I went alone. She acknowledged that she was stingy on Monday because of her exams.

First, how it went. We exited with other coworkers with whom we made some small talk. Then soon left and we found ourselves alone. I took the lead and pushed the topic toward the car, the repair I had done and how it was holding up, keeping the tone light. I made sure to keep to the facts and stay nonviolent, as avazula advocated. The topic jumped to the evening we shared and I asked my questions, namely

Should I interpret it as you wanting us to be friends ?

To which she answered that she didn't know before telling me that she doesn't know if she can talk to me about personnal topics without me getting high hopes again.

There I should have stayed silent and let her speak her heart out, but I didn't. I assured her I wouldn't and joked by telling her I was no masochist. Feeling like I was going to screw up if I kept going, I aborted early and said goodbye.

We left eachother with "We can be friends" and that was it.

So, I had many more questions, but I could feel myself getting stressed out and chose to abort instead. I do not know if she is interested in getting to know me more, but I know that we can be friends. I could interpet her earlier behavior as her wanting to know me more, but it would be more prudent not to.

Overall, it went okay, as I have the main answer I was looking for. But it could have been better if I had not treated the conversation as very important by making mental notes on what I had to ask and how, which caused my stress to shoot up.

I did not expect her answer to be related to the crush I had on her, and I was surprised. I did not believe she would still be thinking about it when we stated clearly we would only be coworkers and we did not even had a real conversation between my confession and last week. I thought she moved on too, as I had.

Thank you to everyone here, you really helped me out !

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