She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
So I feel like I'm going out of my mind. There is this professor that I have have the hots for. It's so weird. I have never been attracted to a professor until now.
He's in his early 40s, and I'm 23. I'm not sure if the age gap is appropriate, but from day one, my gut has told me that there's attraction.
My questions for you: What are the signs that there's an attraction? And can anything come of this? Or is it all in my head?
I appreciate your answers and time. (He’s divorced as well.)
You certainly are not the first person to feel attraction for a professor. So many of us, myself included, have at some point blurred the line between admiring and being sexually or romantically attracted to a teacher.
When you’re in college and just finding your place in the world as an actual adult, it is natural to feel pulled towards someone you look up to, someone who you perceive as wise and experienced, in ways that, at 23, you probably don’t feel yourself. Confusing that with something more is easy to do. For someone on the other side of that admiration, namely your professor, I imagine it would be intoxicating to be looked up to in so many ways.
The problem is things can get messy, real fast.
Let’s address your first question. Signs that there is an attraction can be murky. While I think we can usually trust our guts when it comes to this stuff, I have seen, far too many times, when a friend projected their feelings onto the object of their desire and completely misread the situation.
Let’s assume the attraction is mutual. Is it a bad idea to go there? Probably. You are both adults. And I have no moral judgment in consensual relationships between adults, even when one is the teacher, and one is the pupil.
However, it SO EASY for this to slip into tricky power dynamics.
He is older, he is (somewhat) in a position of authority, and that’s not the healthiest way to start a dalliance. First, get clear on what you would want from this. Sex? A relationship? The potentially trickier a situation is, the more important it is that we are honest with ourselves about our intentions, wants, and needs. Second, probably best to wait until the end of the semester before you pursue anything. Having to sit in a class taught by someone you are (probably secretly) involved with could make for discomfort — to say the least.
Waiting also gives you the time to sort out if there is a mutual attraction happening and to sort out what you want to come of it.
In the meantime, I say — enjoy the fantasy. We HAVE ALL fantasized about someone who probably wouldn't be so good for us to get involved with in actuality. And it can be fun and stimulating to imagine where it could go. Often that fantasy is way more fun than reality.
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