With Valentine's Day round the corner, your thoughts may be turning to love. Rhian Morgan talks to three couples about their workplace romances – as well as two experts, who offer up the pros and cons of finding love at work
The card shops’ shelves have been swathed in red for weeks now, and window displays full of balloons and hearts. There’s no escaping it – Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us.
I met my husband at work seven years ago this January. Our eyes met over tea – I was working as a deputy culture editor, he was interviewing for a sports reporter role, and I handed him a cup just as he was coming out of the interview room. At that time, our departments worked alongside each other. I merely thought he looked tall and smartly dressed, as I wasn’t looking for romance – and certainly not in the office!
He got the job and was sat opposite-adjacent to me. One day, we were discussing in the office the fact I like horror films, which is unusual for a culture editor, to say the least. His eyes lit up and he engaged me in conversation. This led to platonic trips to horror screenings which, now I come to think of it, seemed to happen late at night in a London bar.
When we decided to get together, we had a long discussion about “coming out” to our colleagues. He was all for it, I was not so keen. No, better that, in these initial stages at least, we keep it a secret. This secret gradually leaked out and was confirmed in the minds of the suspicious when we both arrived at the office very late – he had given me a lift and we had been stuck in a jam.
Office romances are great when they work. Simon became my best friend there and we were inseparable. He helped me through all the ups and downs, and was always supportive but discreet.
We went on to launch our website, MovieRamblings.com, which focuses on horror. And, for all those who are anti-romance for any reason, Simon has the perfect antidote – he is showing the first British uncut screening of the original My Bloody Valentine, on February 12, at Harlow College.
For everyone else, we have a few more tales of when office romances run just as smoothly – and one where love backfired.
Sharon Hewitt (50), is a successful business owner of award-winning company Chiltern Relocation. She met husband Paul, 55, (Vice President of Sales for a UK and Ireland software company) over a mystery Valentine’s card 25 years ago. They both live in Beaconsfield.
“I took a chance 25 years ago by sending a Valentine's card to a then former client of mine and eventually married him and had two children. Paul was trying to sell a house in 1989 through the estate agency I was working for and, despite having only met him twice, I sent him an anonymous card on February 14. It read: ‘To a young professional male from a young professional female, a clue to my identity lies within your home...'
“I had tried engaging him in conversation but it was a professional relationship. When I sent the card I thought I could either lose my job or gain myself a boyfriend. It took him two days to work out the card was from the estate agency and then it was a process of elimination as there were only three of us who worked there. He wrote me a card back, saying: ‘To a young professional female, your carriage awaits’, and then took me out for lunch.”
The couple got married two years later and had two children. Sharon said: “A lot of people don’t do Valentine’s Day because it's so commercialised but we wouldn’t be together if it wasn’t for that day."
Every year the couple send a furry animal card to each other – the same as the one that cost £1.99 back in 1989.
Jaime Johnson, 36, from Devon, and Gary Cattermole, 40, from Essex, mergered in more ways than one after a company buyout. They now live in Frinton on Sea with their two small children, and formed their own partnership, www.surveyinitiative.co.uk
Jaime said: “I used to manage a consultancy and survey provider in Bristol. I met Gary when the consultancy purchased the survey company and we mergered. Working with the two teams to align the objectives, we found we were on the same wavelength and both enjoyed the challenge of learning new things and exploring different approaches to a meet a business need.”
This is still their ethos in their new company: to focus on quality and put their clients’ needs at the forefront.
Jaime adds: “We still enjoy working together and enjoy having a shared interest as well, as facing challenges at work together, and being able to support each other.
“Working to build the business together, and facing any differences in opinion of how the business should progress, has only helped to make us stronger as a couple.”
Teacher Geraldine*, 42, is from Wales. Despite finding love, it all went horribly wrong and led to her changing jobs
“I fell in lust the day I met my new teaching assistant. I been at the school for a decade, loved it, and felt I’d be there forever. I certainly didn’t expect to find love there, as my colleagues were mostly women. But Gareth*, although not traditionally handsome, was tall, well-built, and extremely charming, with a deep, commanding voice. It was a coup de foudre; the attraction hit me like a lightning strike.
“I’ll be honest, when he asked me out, professionalism went out the window and I gave in to the attraction. Soon we were deep in a passionate relationship but only one colleague hinted she may know, by saying we looked good together. Eventually, we decided it was best if he assisted another teacher. This made it a lot easier on our consciences.
“I soon fell in love and felt like I’d met The One. However, the writing was on the wall when he admitted he’d bumped into an ex and she’d asked him to get back together. He said he had turned her down but he started pulling away from me, until eventually he ended it and went back to her.
“He told me outside my classroom, just before afternoon lessons. I was a state, totally devastated, and tried to go on teaching but ended up bursting into tears in front of my pupils. Totally unprofessional, I know. I went to see the headmaster, who was both surprised and horrified.
“Although I was still treated with respect, I found it hard to see Gareth every day at work. I also felt humiliated by the incident and decided to leave a job I loved. Gareth went on to become a teacher and he is now a head of department. However, I heard his ex soon finished with him when she heard he had broken up with me. The news was of no comfort and there was no going back. But it taught me a hard lesson: never put a relationship before your career, especially when you work in teaching!”
Click here to read about the pros and cons of office romances, with advice from a leading psychologist and a divorce coach.