Dear Thelma: My manager and I became close friends but now he avoids me

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Those contemplating suicide can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 / 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 / 019-261 5999 on WhatsApp); Jakim’s family, social and community care centre (011-1959 8214 on WhatsApp); or Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929 / email / befrienders centres in malaysia).

Dear Thelma,

Recently, I started working at this new place, and my manager and I became close friends and started going out quite a lot.

But after that I noticed he has been sort of avoiding me. This makes me upset because I really like him a lot.

I don't know what I should do now – confront him or just keep quiet and pretend like nothing ever happened between us?

It's really starting to take a toll on my mental health and I keep overthinking it. Sometimes I feel like I'm never good enough for people because nobody ever loves me the way I love them. It makes me wonder if I'm unlovable or maybe I just don't deserve love?

I feel so done with my life because all I've ever got is betrayal, pain and heartbreaks.

I never show people how broken I am on the inside; I pretend to be happy. Everyone I know thinks I'm a very joyful, happy-go-lucky person; only my pillows know that I cry myself to sleep every night.

Sometimes I think, is it worth living when there's no happiness? Every day I wonder if I should kill myself...

I've thought of quitting my job because I can't bear to see him every day and feel hurt over and over again but I wonder if that is a valid reason to quit my job.

Am I a fragile person? Maybe it's not him that's the problems, but me – I get attached too easily. I don't know.

Anxious and heartbroken

I'm sorry you're upset. As you mention suicidal thoughts, I urge you to visit a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who specialises in mental health issues, to be assessed for depression and anxiety.

Now, about your experience. You don't say explicitly that you dated your manager or had an affair. Possibly it was simply a few lunches during the work week.

However, you thought you had a close personal relationship and you feel rejected. That sounds like romance and that is a problem.

Work is about exchanging labour for money. When the place is pleasant, it is possible to have friendly relationships with colleagues. However, it is a professional setting, not a romantic one.

Dating co-workers who are our equals or who work in other departments happens, simply because we spend so much time in the office together.

However, it's tricky as personal feelings can compromise professional relationships. This is true for relationships that work and for those that don't.

While office dating has pros and cons, bosses dating their subordinates is a no-no. With bosses having all the power, you cannot be on an equal footing.

Some companies explicitly forbid these relationships because the potential of abuse is too high.

In short, dating your boss or hoping to date your boss has too much potential for trouble. I urge you to avoid it.

As you've already gone down that path, should you talk out your feelings? I think it depends on what your relationship was like.

If you were intimate or you dated romantically, meaning you talked about love, then you can talk it out. Don't address it in the office, though. Keep it out of your professional life.

But if you had feelings but there was nothing concrete from his side, then I'd leave it well alone. Not because your feelings don't matter but because it's best to keep that relationship professional.

What concerns me is that aside from this one instance, you had a series of relationships where you feel you loved more than you were loved. That sounds as if you're picking partners who aren't a suitable match.

Also, you talk about being betrayed. That puzzles me a bit as you don't mention cheating.

If you have had partners who cheat, that is betrayal and a problem. It may signal that you're ignoring red flags.

Reading it another way, if you consider dating to be a commitment and breaking up a betrayal, then I suggest your expectations need managing.

Dating is about figuring out if you're a match. Often, two perfectly nice people are not. There's no blame in this. It's just one of those things. So, when one person feels it's not working for them, the dating stops.

It can be sad, frustrating or disappointing to lose a potential relationship. Those feelings are perfectly natural. We feel them and then we move on. And hopefully, we learn from every relationship, refining and refining until we find our match.

This does not seem to be your experience. To top it all off, you hide your real self.

Of course we don't show all of ourselves to everyone, but with close friends we should feel safe enough to be authentic. I'm concerned that you feel that's not possible.

I also see black and white thinking in your letter. This may come from depression but if it's part of your regular approach, it might be curtailing your opportunities.

In sum, in addition to getting help from a doctor, I think you should book sessions with a therapist. Start by making a safety plan for when you dip. This will help you reach out when you need it.

Then talk through your experiences and the issues laid out above. See where you stand, what you can learn, and what you want to change.

It will take some time, you won't be able to figure this out in a single session, but it will help you understand yourself better and move into a happier space.

Please know that I'm thinking of you.

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