Whenever two people partner to accomplish a common goal, a unique relationship is formed. Effort, intensity, time and togetherness create a potent combination, often vital to completing a given assignment. This sense of connection can, in turn, lead to intimacy

A partnering relationship requires joint effort. All parties strive together, brainstorm together, and sometimes even sweat together. Often, the length of the task requires a give-and-take effort, with one partner switching off with the other as stamina or inspiration swings from person to person. Through these swings, each person learns to trust and rely on the other.

The synergy that combined efforts provide can be truly amazing: By joining forces, two people can work harder, work faster, and accomplish more than either could alone. But the multiplying effect of joint effort can lead to the conclusion that something is special or unique in the pairing. Conversely, the conclusion can be drawn that without the other partner, nothing can be achieved. And so a dependency has been established.

In an intense, time-pressured partnership, caution may be thrown to the wind: A person who usually leaves the office at a specific time each day may stay late. A person who is careful to keep a respectful distance from a colleague may allow that zone to constrict under pressure. In an emergency, whether real or created, people may compromise or alter the guidelines that normally govern their behavior.

The intensity created in the work situation, then, can mirror the intensity we experience in sexual relationships. Such feelings of attachment and unity can be similar enough to cause confusion. Even if the conscious mind does not acknowledge the connection, often the subconscious will. One or both partners may find themselves suddenly considering the other from a sexual point of view.

Intensive, emergency-oriented tasks can fast-forward relationships from work to personal. While intensity tends to blast through relationship boundaries, time tends to erode those same boundaries. The more time people spend together, the more comfortable they may become with each other. The more comfortable people become, the more they share. The more they share, the more they begin to view themselves as a couple, partnered together. They begin to see themselves within a relational context. Coworkers may reinforce this perception of the two being a “couple” by the joint recognition and praise given to the partners for their achievement.

In workplace relationships like the one just described, the time may come when one or the other party will loosen up too much, allowing a boundary to slip. If both partners are not careful to continually reestablish boundaries to keep their relationship within a certain framework, these “slips” can lead to one party to begin to view the partnership as more than just a work connection.

Of the average person’s waking hours, a large majority of the time may be spent working or at the office. When you combine this extended time together with the intensity and partnering caused by work-related tasks, it’s no wonder that the workplace breeds romance. Therefore, as co-workers co-mingle, it is up to each individual to set their own set of boundaries.

 

Gregory L. Jantz, PhD is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and an internationally recognized best selling author of 28 books related to mental wellness and holistic recovery treatment. Excerpts of this post were taken from his book Too Close To The Flame.