Jump to content

Embarrassing advisor problem


Recommended Posts

I have been having an issue with my advisor that is very embarrassing and I can't really talk to anyone about. I have been a member of this forum for a long time, but am posting under an account I made some time ago to discuss this (I tried to ask about it in the chat when it still existed but was called a troll).

 

The long and short of it is, in contrast to some of the experiences of others posting on this forum, my advisor is a totally lovely man. The problem is that because he has been so generally wonderful, I have been infatuated with him for over a year (when this account was made was when this issue first became obvious to me). A number of things make this very embarrassing and problematic. First off, we are both married. Second, there is a very large age gap between us (not that this really makes much of a difference, but this would feel a little more justifiable if he was super hot and in his 30s or 40s).

 

I have tried dissecting why I have these feelings, and I think psychologically I understand the appeal. I had a very tumultuous childhood and I think I look to older men as a possible source of stability (this isn't the first much older person I've been seriously attracted to). Also, since I admire him so much as a professional and person, in my brain the idea of him actually reciprocating affection and seeing me as a worthy partner is incredibly appealing.

 

I know that I obviously cannot and will not act on these feelings, but I find myself very distracted thinking about him and what he thinks about me. I waste a lot of time daydreaming and the worst part is I start to feel like I find excuses to talk about him, and I worry that people will begin to realize that my admiration for my advisor goes beyond normal and people will start talking. Of course, the idea of anything happening between us is preposterous but I know that rumors can ruin careers and I know and like his wife (who is also a professor in the department).

 

Any advice on how to squash these feelings, or experiences from others who have been in the same position? I am very ashamed of it and I know I need to put an end to it somehow. Working with someone else is not an option, as this would be way more weird than my current behavior. (Others have made unsolicited comments about how we seem to have a really positive mentor/grad student relationship and people would find me leaving his lab very shocking/suspicious). I have tried focusing on the things I don't think about him but my brain always seems to find a way to minimize it. Help?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alright, well the first thing to realize is that this is very normal. I definitely have a bit of a crush on my PI and have discussed this with my one of my close friends in the department who also has a crush on hers. I might even go as far as saying that it seems like *most* students have some sort of feelings towards their male advisors since we admire them so much. It is hard to admire someone of the opposite sex so much without any addiitonal feelings creeping up. The important thing to be conscious of (which I think you are) is that it is simply a crush and will never turn into anything more.

 

I agree that you should be aware of the amount you talk about him around others unless they are close enough to you that you can explain the situation and make it clear that nothing is going on. You are right that if you talk about him way too much than others could take notice and suspect and it could turn into a bad rumor.

 

Aside from toning down the talking Im not sure what advice to give. I think that this is pretty normal and honestly, my opinion is that an innocent crush that is never acted upon can be kind of fun. No matter who they are on, crushes can definitely be distracting from work. I guess instead of beating yourself up about something that you cant help at all, especially when you have stayed in the boundries and done nothing wrong, focus on just not letting it interfere with your life. If you catch yourself daydreaming then try to get your thoughts back to work. Im not sure if seeing him more or less often would help you focus but I would adjust those sorts of things that you do have control over so that it doesnt impact your work greatly. Feel free to PM me if you want to discuss/vent about it further.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe taking a bit of a vacation (even just a little staycation) with your current partner to remind yourself why you love him or her and why you married that person in the first place.  Sometimes being married or together with the same person for a long time can start to feel routine so that attractions like this can be exciting even if there is no real intention to act on the attraction.  That said, I think you're right about not wanting rumors to get started, so I'd say to try to spice things up with your partner so that your sexual and romantic attractions to him or her are renewed.  This might help you feel less attraction and more just respect and camaraderie for your supervisor.  If you find yourself unable to stop daydreaming or thinking about him, I think you might want to try out a couple of therapy sessions.  Perhaps this attraction is standing in for something else, like you suggested, and maybe talking things through with a professional will help you sort your feelings out.  

 

Best of luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The OP isn't talking about having sexual feelings for her adviser though she would entertain a proposition (who doesn't if you find someone attractive?).  She is on track when she mentions her childhood.  Sometimes people who walk in our adulthood remind us of the void that we experienced as children and we're so happy to have that void filled in some way.

 

It sounds to me that your personalities have meshed quite well and that's wonderful.

 

It is important to be a bit conscious of how you talk about your adviser to others in your department and field.  Hitting the right tone in your first sentences will immediately let others know that you have excellent relationship and they don't need to worry about you at all.  Simply convey that you deeply respect your adviser but are open to hearing their feedback on this or that.  They will be more willing to communicate with you and resepct you, thus diffusing any possibilities for rumors.  Rumors will spread if you maintain an atmosphere of maintaining an exclusive relationship (i.e. will only listen to your adviser and no one else and don't interact with others in relatively similar manner as with your adviser).

 

Many graduate students have reasonably good relationships with their advisers.  Some go naturally deep faster than others.  Some just fizzle out at some point.  By the way, grad students think MORE about their advisers than their advisers about them.

 

Also see PM for the 24/7 obsession.

 

from this poster who feels  :wub:  about HER own adviser (and it's four years later...).  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello everyone,

 

Thank you for your very helpful responses and suggestions.

 

I am definitely working to curb how much I talk about him, and honestly I don't think it's so bad how much I do. I'm just really cognizant of it and I try to make sure I don't convey anything that might give away my feelings. Aside from that I don't think how I talk about him is totally out of line with how I talk about other people. I actually have pretty positive/close relationships with a lot of the professors in the department (his wife has actually given me lots of advice and seems to look out for me a lot). So in a sense, that's actually kind of comforting because from the outside how I interact with him is not at all unlike how I interact with others. It's just obvious from the outside that we work well together but he has been recognized for his mentorship and tends to have very positive relationships with his grad students in general.

 

I think maybe considering a couple of therapy sessions might be a good step, so I can work through some of the issues that have been causing me to attach to this figure in my life. As for my relationship, I don't think that's actually the problem, but spending some time and reconnecting definitely couldn't hurt. I've been spending such long days at work that I think he really misses me.

 

I guess the most helpful thing is hearing that I'm not a total freak though. I'm sure I'm not the first or the last grad student to harbor an attraction for their advisor, but it's certainly not something that people make a habit of talking about.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Definitely not a total freak :)  And my advice for the re-connection comes in part from my own relationship where I just feel like I spend so much time in my own world and my husband in his that it is easy for some sort of a disconnect to slip in.  We do occasional trips to this remote cabin up north that we both love.  I know that's projection (can you tell I have a strong background in psychoanalytic theory and Freud . .. lol), but getting wrapped up in our work/academic lives transfers to that work and the people in it. Your responses are normal.  You're dealing with it.  You've got this.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A lot of folk have academic crushes on their advisors. 

 

Maybe it is something you can make a joke of if ever anybody comments on how well you get along. ("Of course - he's so intelligent, who wouldn't want to hang out with him?!") That way you can laugh it off, admit it instead of feeling guilty and desperately trying to conceal your feelings, and people will be a lot less suspicious because it is clearly just a run-of-the-mill academic crush.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that it is not uncommon to develop feelings for those you admire, I certainly have in the past. One thing I have found that helped, something that came about quite unexpectedly, was when the professor I so admired was knocked off the pedestal I have placed them on. I realized that the person I was crushing on was not the actual professor but the idea I had of them and it took them demonstrating some of their less than desirable qualities/abilities (?) for me to realize that (in this case it was repeatedly (unintentionally) giving me rather bad advice in an academic situation). While I still have feelings of great admiration for this person, it helped take the edge and urgency out of the crush-factor and has allowed me to develop a better personal and professional relationship with them.

 

That crush 'put aside,' so to speak, there is now a committee member of mine that smells oh-so-fine ;) But after the previous experience I find managing and untangling my feelings substantially easier.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use