DEAR EXENE: I've been working at an office for about three months, and I've become friends with a small group of people there, including a female whom I've been sort of flirting with here and there. It hasn't been anything sexual—just more or less telling jokes and occasionally going to lunch with her. I've had a girlfriend for several years, and while I love her a lot, I'm not the kind of guy to talk about my relationships with co-workers or friends whom I don't know very well. Anyway, I was at a work-related function at a restaurant with my female co-worker, my boss and some work friends when someone asked if I had a girlfriend. I said, "Yes." Since then, the female co-worker has been super-short and distant with me to the point at which she almost seems mad at me. I guess I should've told her I'm seeing someone, but I also didn't really put it out there that I was interested in a relationship with her other than as friends, even though I may have picked up on the fact she was interested. Am I an asshole for not mentioning my relationship sooner? If so, how do I go about trying to repair my friendship with this person?
DEAR SHANE: You say you've gotten to be friends with a female co-worker, and you've been sort of flirting, telling her jokes, going out to lunch with her, just kind of paying attention to her, making her smile and laugh. It's kind of romantic, really. And this goes on for three months, and you never mention having a girlfriend? Then you see her outside the office, and you don't tell her you have a girlfriend? Instead, she hears it in front of her co-workers (who probably already know she is interested in you), and she feels like the biggest fool in the world—humiliated, misled, hurt, angry, stupid, not good enough, lied to, used, etc.
You probably cannot repair your "friendship" with her, and please don't try. Apologize to her for the misunderstanding, explain you should have mentioned being in a relationship. Tell her that you like working with her and want to put it behind you. And never do this to another woman again. Then you won't be an asshole.
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