What Jim and Pam taught me about office romance
Finding love can sometimes be a long, treacherous journey that may or may not end up the way you’d hoped. In fact, sometimes it doesn’t even start the way you’d hoped. While there might be a general idea about how you’ll find and fall in love with the mate of your soul, it doesn’t usually play out that way.
Falling for someone can happen just about anywhere. You could be knee deep in dirty clothes at the laundromat, grabbing your daily latte in your pjs, or at a fair like Noah and Allie via The Notebook (in my dreams). But the most common place to find love may not be far. According to a Career Builder online survey, 39% of employees have dated a co-worker while 30% of those lovebirds married after the fact. That’s a lot of daytime feels.
With numbers like that, love might be closer than we realize. This whole survey got me thinking about a few televised office romances because, obviously, learning life lessons from fiction is just as good as experiencing it myself. One couple that comes to mind, are Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly. They not only worked together but became BFFs in the process and, over time, realized their feelings were even deeper than that. Through the course of The Office, I watched their relationship transform from friends to confused friends, to secret lovers, to public lovers, to broken up, to friends, and with more ups and downs through the middle, they finally created that happy ending I was hoping for, proving office romance can survive and thrive.
A few things I learned from Jim and Pam go far beyond what the writers probably intended but that’s because I’m prone to finding the hidden meaning in just about everything. So what can we learn from an office romance?
When you’re already friends, it’s scary to feel more.
In a work environment, things are professional. If you work somewhere that encourages regular hang outs or friendships during non-business hours, it’s only natural you might develop feelings for someone you spend a lot of time with. But there comes a point when you might wonder about the risk of taking the next step. Could it jeopardize the friendship you’ve built? Will work be uncomfortable if it doesn’t work out? When the feelings mount, decide if it’s worth the risk or if it’s a passing crush. When Jim decided to [finally] kiss Pam despite her engagement to Roy, there was a collective “awwww!” in my house because from our view, it was a long time coming. IRL, you don’t always notice how big the buildup may be so when that first kiss is imminent, it’s super scary to realize it’s actually happening. But in praise of Jim and his unwavering love of BFF, Pam, go big or go home.
Being involved at work creates a multiple personality disorder.
At work, you’re all “type, call, meeting,” but if you’re involved with someone at work, once you clock out, it’s a whole other story. You’re one person in the office and someone else when with your new partner. I get it. It’s fun, exciting, a little dangerous. But eventually, it will become harder to hide the fact you’re dating. That and those stolen kisses by the fax machine were totes obvious.
Boundaries are important.
When you begin dating someone from work, it’s important to have a talk about what is OK and what’s off limits. Discussing the project you’ve been paired up to work on while at work? Sure! Kissing by said fax machine? Probably not. Jimster and Pamcake were always careful with how and when they showed their affection which made it all the more sweeter (and appropriate at work).
Make sure there are no employment rules about fraternization.
This is a thing. Some companies frown upon having outside relations with inside peeps because it might cause issues within the office itself. While not always fair, make sure you know the rules and if needed, speak with HR (in The Office terms, whoever your Toby is) as soon as your relationship is ready to go public. So, ya know. Neither of you gets fired.
If you decide to go public, make sure you’re ready for it.
It’s one big decision to act on those butterflies but it’s on another level to tell everyone about it. Depending on where you work, spilling about your relationship status might be considered controversial. If you’re lucky, no one will care who dates whom as long as the work gets done. Jim and Pam handled this like pros (once the sneaking stopped).
Keep the details private.
It’s no one’s business what you do outside of the office so to cut the gossip, keep all those special feelings and moments to yourselves (even if your relationship is public). You don’t want any of those stories to come back and bite you later. no need to appear as complete strangers a la Dwight and Angela, but still. Keep it classy.
Prepare for people to take sides if there’s a break up.
I’ll admit, I was Team Jim even when he started dating Karen because I *knew* he wasn’t over Pam and they belonged together. If that whole thing had happened for real, I’d probably not like him much. That’s the beauty of TV. I can be whatever team I want and it really means nothing.
If it doesn’t work out, have a plan for your life and career.
Maybe you don’t want to think of the relationship not working out but let’s play devil’s advocate. Realistically, what if it doesn’t? Can you handle seeing that person everyday after or will it hurt too much? If you can’t think that far ahead or are sure it won’t end in disaster, maybe acting on those initial feelings aren’t such a good idea. At least, when Pam and Jim didn’t work out the first time, it was the season finale so I didn’t have to see their uncomfortable daily interactions for the whole summer. In life, you can’t really take a hiatus like that.
If it does work out, you have it made.
Because LOVE! Not everyone finds it, so major props.
Love is a tricky thing in or outside of the office. If you feel yourself stuck, wondering “will this work?” or could this last?” just remember: If scripted fictional television characters can make it, so can you.
Or take a note from successful series and just cancel the whole dang show.