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Your Call: My Boyfriend’s Boss Sexually Harasses Him But He Doesn’t Care

Tue, Nov 6, 2012

Advice, Dear Em & Lo, Your Call


We get a lot of¬†advice questions¬†coming in at¬†EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can‚Äôt answer them all. Which is why,¬†once a week, we turn to you to¬†decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your advice in the comments section. The letter is long this week, but it’s a good read!¬†

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Dear Em & Lo,

I have been dating my current boyfriend for 3.5 years, and we have plans to move in together and eventually get married. He has given me a promise ring and we rarely fight or disagree on things. Things have been great between us until he got this new job. His female boss is twice his age, and is very needy towards him. He works 40 hours a week there and she is constantly texting him and with him most of the day. She then proceeds to text him for the remainder of the time that he is home, often with me.

I understand the need to be accepting of his desire to have female friends, but I feel that this relationship is inappropriate, not only in the amount of messages, but their content. The jokes that pass between them are often sexual in content, or have sexual innuendos. She constantly fishes for compliments from him. As she is his superior, I feel that this is unprofessional, but also unacceptable, as he has a girlfriend.

It is my understanding that good friends often want to know how the significant other is doing, and are interested in them. She has no interest in me, and never asks about me. She probably doesn’t even know my name, I’m just “the girlfriend.” She invited him over to her house when she had another female friend over, and he went. He wasn’t planning on telling me about it, as he didn’t think it was a big deal.

She always says things like how she misses him, sends him “xoxoxo,” and makes comments like how they will be “alone together later [wink]” She is twice his age, and he constantly tells me that it is nothing, and that they are just joking around. He doesn’t mind me reading the messages, which makes me feel like he is naive and doesn’t honestly think there is anything wrong with the messages. Personally, I think messages with sexual innuendos are unacceptable. If he doesn’t respond, she will send him 3 and 4 messages until he responds.¬†I feel that comments he wouldn’t/couldn’t make in front of me, shouldn’t be said. Or if it isn’t something he would say to our mutual female friends, he shouldn’t say it, or shouldn’t be encouraging the comments she is making.

I want to trust him, and although I don’t think anything will happen, it bothers me that he is joking about something like that with another woman. I suppose this is a double standard, as it wouldn’t bother me if he joked like that with his male friends, but the point is that he WOULDN’T likely joke with his male friends like that, as he isn’t bi.

I’m feeling confused and upset. We did have a talk, and he said he understood and that the comments would not continue. But now I am worried that they will, they will just be deleted from the phone. I don’t want to be the girl that makes an ultimatum, seeing as this is a new job which he enjoys. But I feel that it is not an appropriate work relationship, and it makes me uncomfortable. He says that I should trust him, and that they are just jokes and have no meaning, but at what point is that taken too far? I would feel uncomfortable joking like that with another man.

Not sure what to do, or if I am being ridiculous.

– Bossed Around

What should Bossed Around do? Let her know in the comments below.

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5 Responses to “Your Call: My Boyfriend’s Boss Sexually Harasses Him But He Doesn’t Care”

  1. Johnny Says:

    You’re right, it’s inappropriate on a number of levels, and your BF mishandled the situation on a number of levels – from letting it happen at all to telling you about it. He should have swiftly and discreetly nipped this in the bud as soon as it started.

    That said, I can’t really think of anything you can “do.” With his livelihood on the line, interfering in any way is out of the question. And he’s opened an avenue of inappropriate communication that will be difficult to close.

    I guess I’m just trying to reassure you here – no, you’re not crazy for being bothered by this. Yes, his boss is out of line. Yes, he has handled it all incorrectly.

  2. Finikki Says:

    I’m pretty sure that it’s only sexual harassment if it makes him uncomfortable or if he doesn’t like it, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. He doesn’t seem to mind this at all and the fact that he’s responded regularly and hanging out with her outside of work indicates to me that he enjoys this incredibly unprofessional relationship with his boss.

    If I were in this situation, I’d be very nervous about what is going on when I was not around, especially since you say they are like this at work, too. When he says that their conversations are “just jokes and have no meaning,” he is downplaying this situation in a huge way. Anyone in a monogamous relationship (that wants to stay in one) should understand how inappropriate this is and just stopping the texts (if he actually does) won’t change what happens when he’s at work.

    To be frank, I don’t believe that these are just words; if he’s not in a physical relationship with her already it seems incredibly likely that he will be at some point, even if he really isn’t interested but just wants to keep his job.

    What you need is some serious couples’ counseling and he needs to understand that if their conversations are just “jokes” to him, they aren’t to his boss and he needs to set very clear boundaries with her both at work and outside of work. This may cause him to lose his job in which case he should see a lawyer; hopefully he has an HR department where he can report her behavior. If you two want to stay together, this may be a case where an ultimatum is needed.

    TL;DR: You’re not crazy, this is incredibly inappropriate, he needs to make it stop completely and you two need counseling.

  3. Johnny Says:

    Oh yeah, one other thing. Your boyfriend is doing the one thing that pisses me off most in the world from a partner: playing stupid.

    Your boyfriend likes the attention he’s getting from his boss. Ok, whatever. He’s human, if very immature, and everyone likes flirting. But this situation has gone too far, and he does so see why it’s inappropriate. It’s totally apparent. The fact that he’s acting – acting! – like he doesn’t see what the big deal is the part that would infuriate me.

    I learned a word for this: gaslighting. The term comes from a movie where a guy tries to convince his wife she’s nuts by flicking the gas light on and off, and denying that it’s happening. Basically it means pretending you don’t see what your partner’s problem is, when of course you ARE the problem and you know it.

  4. hannah Says:

    Yeah, I agree with other commenters… It’s definitely a situation that he’d have to be pretty naive to not see what’s going on. It is probably inappropriate how she acts, but that’s not really the problem. The real issue is how he is responding. I think you have a very charitable reading, that he simply likes the attention. This might very well be the case. But regardless, it still is pretty unfaithful to be exchanging flirtatious texts. I mean the stuff she is sending about them being alone together is totally disgusting, and i’d think anyone monogamous person would shut that down immediately. I know I would!!! Yes, it’s true that this is his boss and his job is important, but I actually believe that a spouse is more important than a career. I’m sure he’d agree anyway, and it’s good you talked about it, but I think you also need to stop being such a pushover and so eager to view it all as innocent. It’s just not. I do get your concern that he might just hide the texts instead, but ya know, it’s very possible he’s already doing that with the worst offenses anyway. I definitely would want to lay down some very clear guidelines with him of what is and isn’t acceptable, especially since it seems like he is oblivious to this, and just point out how it looks from your perspective. I mean it REALLY looks like he has feelings for her. If he is worth marrying, he will take this seriously.

  5. Lili Says:

    It is not her fault. She makes advances on your boyfriend because he not only allows her but he entertains her games. He is responsible for it. A man with true genuine intentions and commitment would have stooped her on her first attempt.


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