It was all the computer’s fault, actually. If the computer setup at the campaign headquarters had been better, Jim never would have suggested that he and Tracy go to his place to work on the leaflet. But the computer at campaign headquarters was old and slow, and it had pitiful memory capacity. His swank publishing program wouldn’t load on it, so Jim suggested they go to his place to work.
When Tracy first came into Jim’s apartment, she laughed and teased him about his housekeeping skills, or lack thereof. Jim’s ears perked up a bit when she quipped that his place lacked a woman’s touch. Both of them, then, huddled close to the screen to work on the leaflet. While they waited for a copy to print, Jim found himself telling Tracy about Susan and why that whole thing hadn’t worked out. Tracy seemed sympathetic and shared bits of her latest romance debacle. They laughed about their common bad luck with the opposite sex.
With a couple of hours of desktop-publishing brilliance, Tracy and Jim created a truly remarkable leaflet. Even the candidate himself thanked them for their hard work. His staff decided they should do all of the leaflets and mail-outs from then on. Pleased with their own creative synergy, they agreed, and began spending more and more time together at Jim’s place.
After several weeks of working together, Jim and Tracy were taking a break, sitting together on the couch. Jim stretched out his arms to work the aches and pains out of this neck when Tracy suggested she would give him a backrub. One thing led to another and before he knew it, Jim was lying on the floor with Tracy astride his back, kneading his tired muscles.
When they finally stood up, it seemed like touching each other was the most natural thing in the world. Taking Tracy in his arms, Jim continued the physical togetherness they had already started.
Jim and Tracy’s relationship might never have turned sexual if they had wisely insisted on working only at a safe site. An important boundary for all of us to remember is to conduct our relationships on neutral ground. Neutral ground means no “your place or mine.” With a relationship that should include personal distance between the two partners is conducted at the home of one or both of the parties, the familiarity and seclusion of the surroundings can translate into a loosening of boundaries.
This does not mean coworkers should never set foot in each other’s homes. This can happen at legitimate social events such as dinners or holiday parties. The difference with these events, however, is that they are designed for groups of people.
One way to honor the neutral ground boundary is to avoid any places and situations where other boundaries may have a tendency to slip. Going out for dinner after the game with your mixed softball team is fine. You’re with a large group of people, probably with family members of the team present.
But going out to a steakhouse after work with an opposite-sex colleague in the next office is not fine. The two of you are alone in a darkened room surrounded by people who don’t know you. The purpose of such a get-together is to get together, to promote union. The atmosphere of the meeting is intimate and private. Boundaries have a way of receding in dark, secret, romantic places.
Generally you should have a clear idea of what you consider to be neutral ground. For some, the office of a coworker ceases to be neutral as soon as the door is closed. For others, neutral ground stops at a five-foot radius around a certain individual. People and situations send out “vibes.” Listen to your inner voice. It is God-directed and can alert you to situations you should have nothing to do with. So be smart. Interact with opposite-sex associates only on safe, neutral ground.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.