Eight Essential Lessons on Co-worker Flirting

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Lunch breaks: a great time to flirt. Photo: Chris Haston/NBC

When news of David Petraeus's love pentagon first broke, no one could buh-lieve that the former CIA director would bang someone he worked with, or that an Army general would be "flirtatious" on the job. But the truth is, lots of people do it. (Sleep with professional contacts, not jeopardize national security with their libidos.) Spending every day cooped up in an office with someone cute can lead to sparks, which can lead to cute e-mails, which can lead to lingering after-work drinks, and, well, you know.

While some of us (ahem) have never engaged in the fine art of workplace flirting, plenty of our friends have wooed, bedded, dated, and even married their current and former office-mates. (Exhibit A: In the past two months, I've been to two weddings involving couples who met at work.) We conducted an informal survey of six seasoned office-flirters, who offer the following lessons:

1. Digital Flirting, Though Risky, Is Also Easiest
"If you flirt out loud, everyone hears you and gets annoyed. So my best workplace flirtations have always been digital. To delude myself into thinking it's secret and/or impermeable to sexual harassment legal findings, I use personal Gchat and e-mail accounts." — Maria, 28, serial dater of co-workers

2. But Really, Any Platform Can Be Used to Flirt
"He'd send me calendar invites to meet in a conference room to make out." — Whitney, 28, married to former co-worker

"I'd take the subway out of my way to ride home with her after work. It's like the modern commuter version of carrying her school books." — Nick, 32, married to former co-worker

3. Anticipate the Need to Look Hotter at Work
"I felt pressure to look good every day, which was tough because I was hung-over all the time from all the after-work drinks we were having together." — Anna, 28, married to former co-worker

"Looking cute every day is essential during the beginning phases. You have to step up the wardrobe, do your hair, and wear makeup — you have to look hot but subtle, not to mention workplace-appropriate, which is a fine line." — Alexa, 30, cohabitates with co-worker

4. Don't Date More Than One Colleague Per Workplace
"Things got messy because another girl in the office was jealous that he'd picked me, which led to a lot of petty gossip. I eventually left because the politics were so awful." — May, 27, cohabitates with former co-worker

"It’s a pain in the ass to have your dirty laundry around. No one likes running into an ex. Or having your exes run into each other." — Alexa, 30, cohabitates with current co-worker

5. Everyone Will Find Out
"We tried to keep the relationship a secret but were outed at the holiday party when we hopped in the same cab home. We continued to deny it, and then another co-worker caught us holding hands on the sidewalk near the office." — Whitney, 28, married to former co-worker

"We never had to make an official announcement because everyone just eventually found out. Except for this one really oblivious guy, Rob, who still can't figure it out to this day. We fired him though." — Nick, 32, married to former co-worker

6. And Everyone Will Tell Everyone Else
"You know the office rumor mill: You tell your office bestie, who is sworn to secrecy, but somehow the information is too delicious not to share with another trusted source." — Alexa, 30, cohabitates with current co-worker

7. And Everyone Will Judge You
"Everyone knows, and they’re making assumptions that go further than you did. When you leave your job, everyone will assume it’s because of the romance, regardless of the timeline. Even if you leave the shittiest job in the world for the best job in the world, everyone will still think you fucked yourself out of a job." — Maria, 28, serial dater of co-workers

"This bitchy girl we worked with got all up in my business about it and was really disapproving. But that did make it more scandalous and sexy." — Kendall, 28, married to a former co-worker

8. But Sometimes It Is Worth It
"We got married last month. I actually recommend office relationships, because you meet people sober and know that you like them sober." — Kendall, 28, married to a former co-worker

"It's been three years now, and it still works great. Plus it's cheaper to take cabs to work together in the morning." — Alexa, 30, cohabitates with current co-worker