Whether you are a fan of romance movies or not, there will be times in your life when you’ll feel like you are in some typa movie. You’ll get to certain points in life that the things you used to see in movies, but never thought could actually happen, will begin to play out in your life. Except that, this is not Nollywood (or Hollywood), but rather Your-llywood.
If you work in the corporate world, one of the movie scenes you’ll likely see is the office romance scene. You’re either a lead actor in it, a supporting actor (friend to one of the parties involved), or you are one of those watching.
You see, I happen to have practical experience in two of those three categories.
- Lead Actor in a real-life Office Romance Scene
After seeing it in several movies, I never pictured I’d be a lead actor in an office romance happening real-time.
How did I end up here?
My first time meeting him was at the first stage of my interview with this big organisation. You could say it was the dream of every fresh graduate, and of many parents/guardians for their wards, to work there.
He was the embodiment of who I thought I wanted to be as a young professional, and my ideal type of man. Well, almost.
Young, unmarried, soft-spoken, eloquent, smart, charismatic, fashionable and nice. Those were my thoughts, and it didn’t take long for me to start admiring him. (But the good girl in me wouldn’t let me bring to his awareness my crush.)
As soon as I joined the organization, the young man came to me. He was the first person to approach me as a friend, and he appeared to be the nicest around. He on-boarded me and, in the process, we got to talk about different things, including the fact that he lived close to my area. Before long, I heard him say, “You know, we could be coming to work and going home together. I have a car, and since you don’t drive, you can be riding with me.” As the Yoruba girl that my mother raised me to be, I said, “Oh, no, you don’t have to bother. Thank you.” But, it didn’t take much to convince me, since I wasn’t driving. And, honestly, I didn’t see riding with your co-worker, who lives on the same axis as you, as that big of a deal. I had ridden in the car of colleagues from previous organizations.
So I started riding with him, and before I knew what was happening, the young man I had a crush on popped the question. He asked me out. I was dazed. What was happening? Was this a movie? Was someone playing a prank on me? I was both excited and confused.
I definitely was attracted to him, but at the same time, I was new and didn’t want people to think, “Oh, she’s new and she’s already going out with a manager.” “She’s new and she’s already going out with her boss.” “She’s going out with him so that she can get promoted quickly.”
Different thoughts of what people might say went through my mind. So I told him, “How about we start with just being friends?” But that didn’t sit well with him. He felt we were already friends. He wanted to be more than friends.
I tried to use all the words I could think of to convince him to be just friends, but he was relentless. And since I was already so attracted to him, I found myself saying, “Okay, let’s give this a try.”
What was it like?
At first, it felt good (as most romantic relationships start out). It was exciting, and at the same time nerve-wracking.
Here I was, with this person I admired but never said anything to.
Here I was, with this person the logical part of me said not to get attached to.
Here I was, with this person my guts kept screaming, “Do not be in a relationship with him.”
Here I was, with this person the hopeless romantic in me thought, “He’s not handsome, but there’s something about him…I think he’s charming.”
I remember thinking, “This is too good to be true. I have been in a relationship before, but the way this one is all over me is something.” Alas, I was right! Na hin way be that. His secondary KPI in the office was to worm his way into the heart of every young and beautiful “new girl.”
I fell right into the hands of a certified player who belonged to a clique of young, single and married playboys in the office, and I had no idea that wahala had jammed me, until I had given myself to him 99.99% emotionally, and it was too late to not be hurt by whatever he did.
How did I not know I was being played?
I asked myself this question time and time again. I think that was one of the major things that made the hurt severely. The singular fact that I could get played like that.
As for how I did not know, well, I’d say he was smart. He played his cards right in the early stage. He was the sweetest and kindest person. He spoke like he had sense, and did the things I liked. Overall, he spoke my language. And while he was doing all that, I legit thought, “Wow, how can someone be doing things perfectly. Exactly how I like them to be done. This can be nothing but fate. My God, I have found love!”
It was later, after I had gotten out of the relationship, that I found out, it was never fate. Everything was calculated. Baba made sure to do his homework before approaching me, and man, he did it well.
I realised that, even before I resumed as an employee in the company, he had done some background research on me (via Facebook and Instagram), since he saw my CV beforehand. He was able to gather a lot of facts and insight about the kind of person I was, and he presented himself to me just that way. But I had no experience in that regard, as until then I had never been in involved in an office romance, or worked in an organisation as large as that, with majority of the staff in their 20s.
How did I know I was being played?
The truth is, I never knew until I was out of the relationship. I was just an honest girl who naively believed everything an experienced playboy told her in the name of love.
But just like the popular saying “time will tell” goes, the man behind the mask was revealed in no time, and I began to see the real person and knew this was definitely the worst of them all. He was abusive verbally, emotionally and sexually. It was like he was always looking for a fault in me to complain about.
The painful part of it was that, at the office, he was literally the coolest guy. He was Mr. Nice Guy, that young boss who seemed to be very understanding and empathetic to the needs of everyone around. Everyone loved him, whereas I was seriously hurting from his regular abuse. It was affecting me psychologically. I was losing myself, my self-esteem, my sense of worth. I started to feel like I was nothing. Like I wasn’t good enough. Like something was wrong with me, as he constantly intimidated, looked and talked down on me. Sometimes I would go home after seeing him and begin to cry.
After repeatedly making it known to him that I wasn’t happy with the way he was treating me, there was no change or improvement. Instead, it seemed like he was treating me that way on purpose. And at the office, he would still smile, laugh and act all nice to other people.
I then realised I couldn’t continue that way, and so I broke off the relationship, even though at the time, it felt like the most difficult thing for me to do. I was emotionally attached, still in love with him.
What happened after the break-up?
Literally, the worst season of my life.
He went about spreading rumors about me in the office. From my seat I would hear those around me making jokes, pointing to me. On my way to the restroom I heard the side-talks. It got to a point that two other employees approached me at lunch to ask me strange questions, and, thinking back now, it all adds up. They heard a gist.
Sometimes, he openly threw shades at me right in front of other colleagues and even tried to shine and look cool to an intern by talking to me in a derogatory manner. He was my superior and the company frowns at insubordination so there was only a little I could say back.
He worked hard to frustrate me, tried to ruin my career by telling others in position of power that I wasn’t good enough. At some other point, he tried to get me moved to another team in other to take the position of someone who was underperforming and was under some sort of “investigation”. It was as if he was doing everything to get me to eventually resign and believe me, many times I wanted to quit. But deep inside of me, I knew quitting my job because of a man didn’t sound good. I was relatively new to the company, and I needed the money.
Fortunately, I had people who kept encouraging me, and so I stayed the course. But it wasn’t easy.
- A bystander (One of those observing/watching the real-time Office Romance scene)
With all sincerity, I can tell you that it is so much better and easier to remain in this category. Having been in this category for a longer period than I was in the first category, I can tell you that this is a chilled category to fall into. If you’re the type that when you love, you love hard or give yourself 100 per cent emotionally to that one person you’re in a relationship with, or maybe it usually takes you a while to move on from a heartbreak, then I would advise you to stay jejely in this third category, for your own sanity and emotional well-being.
If the organisation where you work is not so large, or maybe there are not a lot of employees in the company, then getting over a failed relationship may be a bit easier for you. In the sense that if it’s a large organisation and your ex happens to be “a ladies’ man or people-person,” then it is most likely that you’ll feel some kind of pain or hurt each time you see him acting all cool, laughing, playing or even flirting with other people, and you’re most likely going to keep seeing that happen for as long as you’re both still working in that organisation and you’re yet to heal from the heartbreak.
I’m of the opinion that you first of all you need to know yourself. Know what works for you and what doesn’t. If you know you’re the type that when you’re in a romantic relationship, you love hard, or you are the type who doesn’t really have a lot of dating experience, or you are someone who needs a lot of time to get over things (heartbreaks, rumours, etc.) or you can’t handle people gossiping about you or throwing shade at you directly or indirectly (especially from someone who once professed love to you), then I’ll say, it just might be better to avoid being involved in an office romance. It is honestly much easier to watch these things from the lens of an observer than to be the one going through the pain real-time.
Albeit, I know about office romances that have led to beautiful beginnings too. There are people who found true love in their place of work and ended up getting married, and then raising beautiful children.