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How We Love Now

Long-distance relationships, office romances, and marriages arranged online are new items on the romance menu.

Office Romances No Longer Taboo

Is the office romance still taboo? Look no further than Bill Gates and Melinda French for the answer, says Patricia Mathews, MBA, president of Workplace Solutions. The founder of Microsoft met his wife, a Microsoft employee, at a company event in New York. "That's an example, perhaps, of a workplace romance that worked out very well," Mathews says.

Once feared for its potential to spark sexual harassment claims, the office romance is losing its stigma. According to a 2006 Workplace Romance Poll by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and CareerJournal.com, restrictions against office dating have relaxed.

"Workplace romance is dropping the negative stigma that was associated with it in the past," the report read. "It appears that employees have become more open-minded about relationships between their colleagues." Most employers now permit office romances, even though they discourage it, the survey also discovered.

And more workers are warming to the notion personally, the same survey found. About 40% of workers polled said they engaged in an office romance at least once in their career, up from 37% in 2001.

Our career-driven society encourages office romances, Mathews says. "With work being what it is today and people devoting lots of hours to their jobs, sometimes the only place to meet someone is at work."

Furthermore, boundaries between work and personal life are blurring, especially among young people, experts say. And some companies unwittingly nudge the trend along by providing exercise and game rooms on site, as well as other social hot spots. According to the SHRM, people under 40 are the most likely to date a co-worker openly.

Conducting an office romance can be tricky. If both partners don't conduct the relationship in a professional manner, experts warn, it can harm morale, lead to charges of favoritism, and damage careers.

And some types of romances are still frowned upon, such as one between a supervisor and subordinate or any kind of extramarital affair, Mathews says.

Experts warn, too, about the office affair gone bad. "You may have to face a breakup and continue to work with him or her," says Lisa Mainiero, professor of management at Fairfield University.

Still, the office can be a good place to meet a like-minded mate, she says. "You will have quite a bit in common, and commonalities are the foundation for many successful romances."

The Internet Changes Arranged Marriages

In the past decade, Indian matrimonial web sites have revolutionized a time-honored tradition: the arranged marriage.

The tradition remains strong in India, and some Indian-American parents still believe it's their duty to find a son-in-law or daughter-in-law. But nowadays, parents can arrange marriages in cyberspace. Or young people can log on to an Indian matrimonial web site and take the lead in a search traditionally left to their elders. 

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