His First Love Doesn't Know It
Q: I am a 26-year-old doctor who works in a hospital setting and I go on frequent rotations to various hospitals. During one of my rotations, I have met a 25-year-old junior doctor who is working as my junior colleague. We spend about eight hours a day together seeing patients. I have fallen in love with her during the one week!!! What complicates things is that I have found out she has a boyfriend who is a medical student. It absolutely devastated me. During work, I've been treating her extra nicely and we often take lunch breaks together. She's been very friendly (but seems to be the same to other staff members as well). I'm never sure if she just chats to me a lot because she is starting to like me or just treating me as a close friend/nice boss. We went to a movie once but it was with a colleague who was leaving, as part of a farewell. I'm normally a very shy and subtle person (haven't been in a relationship ever). I don't want to scare her away or make her dislike me, and if I become too bold she might feel it's workplace harassment.
Is it unethical to try to get a girl who already has a boyfriend? How do I find out if she's just being a friendly person or she also has an interest in me? I'm going on another rotation in three more weeks and I really fear that I will never see her again, and she's all I can think about. -- Andy, 26
Dr. Susan: I hope this woman is not really all you can think about, Andy, considering that you're a doctor with the lives of a lot of people in your care. Perhaps it's for the best that you're moving on in three weeks, or else you might end up in trouble, because the truth is that your inexperience is showing in nearly everything you've said. Let me clear up something for you: What you feel for this woman you've known for a week is not love. Puppy love, maybe; strong attraction, lust, some chemical reaction caused by many hours of proximity, her alluring smile, and your neediness and lack of experience. Is it unethical to "try" to "get" her? Depends on how you go about that. Dating relationships aren't like marriages or verbal contracts between a lawyer and client or real estate agent and client. In other words, it's fine for you to attempt to lure her away from her current love interest if she's interested. The key word is "interested." I don't get the feeling that this woman is being anything more than friendly toward you. To get some clarity, you could ask her out for coffee, or at some point tell her you're really going to miss her when you go on the next rotation. You could casually say, "Too bad you've got that boyfriend, because I'd love to ask you out myself." See how she reacts. Beyond that, I'd strongly urge you to let this one go (as excruciating as the thought is!) and try to find time to meet and date women casually. Allowing yourself to become so desperate and lonely that you fall in love with a woman who's already taken is bound to cause you nothing but grief.
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.