Q: Several years ago I was quite smitten with a guy at work. But because he didn't feel quite the same, we only developed a friendly non-physical relationship. He left the company and in time I was able to put it behind me. He recently returned to the company and I find that my feelings for him have been reawakened. Despite my several attempts to reconnect with him in a friendly way, he responds in only a polite and somewhat distant manner. This is really painful to me and is messing me up. We work in somewhat close proximity and it is unavoidable that I see him on a regular basis. I don't see a way out of this situation. Leaving the job is not a possibility and every time I see him it hurts more and more. Do I ask him why he is acting this way and try to get some closure? Just start avoiding him to protect myself? What do I do?
– Hurting, South of Boston
A: Your feelings for this guy "have been reawakened," which means that you need his boundaries. He shouldn't be rude to you, but it's great that he's being clear about his intentions (or lack thereof). This time around you won't get confused about the potential of the relationship.
Let's imagine that this guy wrote me a letter. He'd probably say something like, "Dear Meredith, I just returned to a job that has me working with a former friend who had a big crush on me. I think she has a crush on me again. How do I deal with her without leading her on?" And I'd probably say, "Be polite. Keep your distance. Treat her with respect, but make it known that you won't be offering more."
My advice to you is to be friendly, smile, and treat him like any other co-worker. Set the tone. Show him that you can be nice without crossing lines. If it becomes unbearable and he's actually being mean, you can have the talk. But for now, just try to keep him in perspective. You have other friends at work. You didn't need him while he was gone and you don't need him now. I'd rather him keep his distance than mess with your head.
Readers? Should she confront him? What is he doing? Could you work in a small office space with a former crush? Does he share her feelings? Is she being oversensitive? What should she do? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.