Girlfriend or teaching assistant?

Originally Published: February 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: June 27, 2012
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Dear Alice,

I don't know what to do. I've been going out with my girlfriend for over two years, but I've been secretly seeing one of my TAs for the past few months. I really enjoy sex with my TA much more than with my girlfriend. It's probably because my TA is more experienced and is more willing to try different things. But, I really do love my girlfriend and don't want to break up. Do you think it's okay to keep both relationships going? I don't want to hurt anyone, and I especially don't want my TA to get mad at me either. Help.

Caught between a rock and a hard place

Dear Caught between a rock and a hard place,

Who is the rock and who is the hard place? You are asking if it's okay to keep both relationships. Sounds as though you don't want to choose between these two people, and that you want to keep both. Perhaps a review of the pros and cons may offer some clarity.

Basically, you need to think about what you want. Can you have good sex and companionship and commitment with your girlfriend and/or your TA (teaching assistant)? How much effort would it take to maintain relationships with two people, and is it something you want to do? Can you take the techniques you learned with your TA and use them with your girlfriend? Can you stop seeing your TA without affecting the course, or do you need to wait until after the course ends? Can you get the love and close feelings you have with your girlfriend from your TA? How about the fun and experience you get from your TA with your girlfriend?

Another consideration is Columbia's Consensual and Romantic Relationships Policy, in which Columbia prohibits relationships between teaching assistants/professors and students. Is it possible for you tostop seeing your TA and wait until after the course ends? Are you and your TA aware of this policy? You can learn more about it on the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action website.        

Consider the best and the worst things that might happen if you were to keep this situation going, and be honest with yourself. Who are you hurting and how? Your girlfriend, because you are having a private affair? You, because your TA still has the opportunity to grade your work? Your TA, because can s/he even objectively evaluate your work? If they are angry, how would you respond to each person? (Don't forget the chance of continuing to see both people openly, risking that they also won't be monogamous with you.) Considering the possibilities may help prepare you to communicate what's going on to all involved because you'll already have identified the best and worst possible case scenarios.

Perhaps taking a break from both could allow you to help figure out your needs and wants, determining your next steps. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Alice