Last month, a friend who's 32, single, a vice president of a Fortune 500 company and usually sane, called me with a problem: Sexual electricity is scrambling her brain.
"Now don't laugh," she began, "but there's this man at work, and I can't get him out of my mind. I know the dangers of mixing my work and sex lives, and I've never been tempted to do so. But the sexual electricity between us is so intense, I'm on fire."
The workplace is where we often meet our mates. But it's still not a great idea to mix our work and sexual lives -- too messy, too complicated, too distracting.
Knowing this hardly ever stops anyone who's in the throes of a sexual attraction, so if you aren't sure if you're going to say "yes" or "no" to a full-fledged affair, here are 10 ways to protect your sanity, your career, and maybe even your life while you make up your mind:
* Remember that you don't have to do anything about the sexual attraction you feel for this person. Your feelings are valid and shouldn't be denied, but this does not mean that you have to act on them.
* Make a decision ahead of time that you'll make this experience a positive one. Feeling attracted to someone -- whether or not the feeling is returned -- can add spice and excitement to your workdays. Enjoy!
* Act like a mature adult, not a giddy teen-ager. Make the way you feel about this co-worker a reason to perform your job more efficiently and competently, not less.
* Don't engage in childish stunts -- anonymous notes, hang-up phone calls, or finding 45 reasons a day to stop by his desk.
* Resist the temptation to confide in others about your grand passion. The last thing you or your boss needs is a workplace buzzing with gossip and "Have they, or have they not?" speculation.
* If you're married, ask yourself if the real reason you feel so attracted to this person is that you're missing something in that relationship.
* If your feelings aren't reciprocated and you're beginning to feel preoccupied and morose, see less of this man. Consider moving your desk or office out of his path.
* If you're becoming obsessed with the object of your desires, consider transferring to another location or even looking for another job. Also consider professional counseling to help understand why you're engaging in this self-defeating behavior.
* If your feelings are reciprocated, you've had a date or two, and you suspect you're going to ignore your own good judgment and have an affair with this co-worker, talk about it with him first. Carefully set the standards and guidelines that will govern your relationship. Do not fall into bed with him; this is never a good idea, particularly in these circumstances.
* Finally, practice safe sex. Ask him directly about his past and present relationships and when his last AIDS test was administered. And run like the wind if you don't like (or believe) any of his answers.