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    Student-professor romantic relationship
    neuroingrid posted:
    I have been a nerd all my life which has gotten me into the topmost school for Neuroscience in my country. There is a professor here who I think likes me more than is normal for a student-professor relationship. He has asked all kinds of personal questions like, "Where do you live? Which dorm? What is your cellphone number?" He wrote it in a small pocket diary. Once when the server was down in the entire institute, he told me that he would call me later during the day. That evening when he called, he addressed himself by his first and last name, and then he quickly said, "Were you doing something? Did I disturb you? Is the internet working?" Since it wasn't he said that he would call me the next morning, he also added, "Will you be doing something? You should maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle".Ever since that day, he has been flirting with me.

    The next day since I had to meet him to work on the paper that we are supposed to author together, since he had all of the content on his computer, he said,"Pull up that chair and come and sit beside me". I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and then I sat at a safe distance besides him. That same day he told me that he thought of me as a very social person. I told him that I wasn't really, since I am an INTJ according to the Myers-Briggs Personality Typology Test. He said that that was interesting. He asked me, "What are your hobbies?" I said, "Music". He said, "Who are your favorite composers?" I said, "Bach". He said, "You like Bach?! Bach is so mathematical!" to which I replied, "You don't like Bach?!" With a very elaborate gesture placing his left hand on his chest and slightly bending in my direction he said, "I'm a romantic person, I like romantic music!" Then he asked me if I wanted some music, he got me Vivaldi's four seasons the very next day and some of the sheet music that he had as well!

    The next day, he asked me if I liked playing with cards and magic. I told him that I used to like them a lot when I was a child, then he asked me if he could use me to practice his magic tricks. He told me that he wanted to show me some tricks with the rope, so I should come in the afternoon during lunch break so that no one would see us especially when he plays with the rope with me. When I came, I had to shut the door. He showed me all sorts of tricks, and every time his tone was very flirting. Once, when I had worn a pink dress, the moment I entered the room he pushed the chair that was behind him that had a stack of books and then he signaled me to pull up the chair and come and sit beside him. I ended up sitting so close to him that we were in each other's personal space. He just wouldn't move a bit. At one point of time, both my palms were on his table. He tapped my palm gently with his finger-tips. Then one day, he squeezed my palms in affection. Then yet another day, he gave me a hug. I hugged him in a very professional manner, but even when I was away from him, he still lingered and he rubbed my shoulders and slid it right down my arm and my hand and squeezed my palms.

    Once when I asked him about his wife he curtly told me, "I have been meaning to tell you this for quite some time. I am a private person. Don't ask me personal questions about my wife and daughters." I apologized profusely and I told him that I would never do it again. Then he said that it was over and he gave me a hug, this time more tightly and passionately than the first followed by rubbing my shoulders and sliding it down my entire hand. The next day, he told me that the piano in his house belonged to his wife's and that she was a peculiar person.
    neuroingrid responded:

    Now if this was somewhat of a student-teacher or even a very affectionate friendship, why would he object to my asking about his wife and daughters? Is it because he doesn't want me to remind him of the fact that he is married? Also, since that day, he has been closer than before. Like, the same day after chastising me for asking about his wife and daughters, he saw me in his lab, he asked me if I needed anything, and if he could go back to what he was doing. Once when I had a headache, he asked me to have a NSAID. He asked me if I had one. I told him that I could go to my dorm room and get one. He told me that he had one and that he could give it to me. After working on the paper, he sprang from his chair; he gave me the NSAID and some of the water from his very own bottle! Also, he gives me a lot of resources. He goes through great lengths to see me succeed professionally. He has also told me that I would get to work with him on many more publications. Do all these signs indicate that he wants to get romantically involved with me?
    fcl replied to neuroingrid's response:
    It certainly looks like that OTOH he perhaps behaves in this way with everyone he tutors (context is everything). I suggest you take great care where you tread here because if he IS trying to hook up with you and you refuse he might turn much of this against you saying that you were prying about his family, that it was you who shut the door, that it was you who pulled your chair up too close. Do you see where I'm leading?

    If I were you, I would try to avoid being alone and cut off with him. If he wants you to close the door tell him you're claustrophobic and it needs to be open at least slightly. If he gets into your space, do the same, tell him that you're claustrophobic and when people are too close to you it can trigger a panic attack. Ditto when he hugs you (use his own words, "I've been meaning to tell you for quite some time that I'm claustrophobic...")

    On the other hand, he may just be particularly close to the students he mentors and not realize that he has crossed the comfort line. He may have a zany streak.

    In any case, if he IS loooking for a relationship (and we don't know that he is) it would be VERY inappropriate for him to date his own student - his being married makes that even worse.
    There's nothing inherently dirty about sex, but if you try real hard and use your imagination you can overcome that.
    stephs_3_kidz replied to neuroingrid's response:
    If you're that uncomfortable why don't you just find another tutor? If that's not a possibility, why don't you just tell him, "Hey, you're making me uncomfortable, and we have work to do." It doesn't sound like you're trying to discourage him, either. Does it make you feel awkward? That's understandable, but if he's making you feel badly then you have a right to tell him that. If he gets mad, he gets mad.

    I agree with FCL that it sounds like he's either trying to hook up with you or he has a zany personality.
    neuroingrid replied to fcl's response:
    "It certainly looks like that OTOH he perhaps behaves in this way with everyone he tutors (context is everything)."

    Thanks for your reply. That is a great statement. I have known this gentleman for about a month. And I have seen him interact with other men as well as women who include doctors, graduate students and technicians, not to mention, other non-medical professionals. He NEVER has them sit so close to him. I have seen that a couple of times. He maintains a good distance from them. They all sit either opposite or far away on his left. I have even seen his facial expressions and body language when he talks to them, without him noticing of course. He is SO professional. Everyone seems to regard him as a reserved eccentric psychiatrist who doesn't talk much. In fact, I have a cousin who is a doctor and has interacted with him, he of course does not know about all of this. He too has the same thing to say, that he is a strict reserved gentleman. So you can imagine how shocked I was to see this professor behave like this to me. Not just that, there is a very close friend who is a clinical psychologist here whom I trust, when I mentioned his name to her, she was SHOCKED herself. She couldn't believe her ears! Also, to everyone else, he is very brief and to the point. With me, he takes all the time that is available. I am free to walk into his office whenever I want, talk to him about anything that I want. Once when we were done for the day, as we left, he was in his motorbike. He came up to me, spoke to me, and squeezed my hands, and went off. Also, when he has any meetings, he tells me all about it. He has also warned me against some of the professors since there is a lot of politics, he added that, he didn't want anything bad to happen to me. Then, he keeps complimenting me on every single little thing, saying that I am a very intelligent person. Whenever he sees me, he either stares or looks and talks to me with a twinkle in his eyes, when he likes what I have worn, his pupils dilate. Not just that, the very first day when I was in his office, he clenched his fingers nervously. Although I am not a psychologist by profession, I could tell that these were signs of attraction. I should see what is in store for me tomorrow.
    neuroingrid replied to stephs_3_kidz's response:
    Hi, thanks for your response too. Since he is internationally renowned, it would be very good for me professionally since almost all of his students have gone on to do very well. Most of his students were males though. Sometimes I wonder if he sees me as an extension of his intellectual and creative self, since we both think similarly as far as intellectual and academic pursuits are concerned, we have similar creative interests in classical music, we like literature and many other things. Ever since I stopped asking about his family, he has gotten one step closer to me, like he has told me that he has a lot I could do for him. For example, when he rebuked me for asking about his family, I knew that he was under intense time pressure and I knew that he was stressed, so I was wondering if I had done anything to trigger it. Towards the end I asked him if I could work with him on other publications, he said in a very romantic way, "Of Course!", and then he gave me a hug. So I am trying to play safe, but at the same time, I think that I do not want to be taken advantage of.

    Do any of you feel like I am being taken advantage of?
    stephs_3_kidz replied to neuroingrid's response:
    I don't think you're being taken advantage of, but if you are determined to stick it out and let him be your mentor, you know what you are getting yourself into.

    Why not stand up for yourself and tell him that you don't like having your personal space invaded?

    Honestly, the LAST thing I'd do if someone was making me that uncomfortable would be to ask them if I could work on another project with them.

    I don't think you are as put off by him as you say you are. You are just wondering if he's coming on to you. Clearly he is. Are you going to accept that it the way it is, or are you willing to tell him that he's a married man, your mentor, and that he's overstepping boundaries?

    Or are you interested in him as well?

    It really sounds to me like you are.
    tmlmtlrl replied to neuroingrid's response:
    I don't think he's taking advantage of you as much as he is conditioning you to have an affair. He's putting you in your place and seeing how well he can control you. Also, as FCL has said, I would be very worried about him turning the table on you as far as who did what if you tried to go forward with what's happened.

    I definitely believe you need to create boundaries and not let them be crossed. And try your best to be subtle about it. Being claustrophobic would be an excellent excuse. If he does get too close after you said something about it you could get up and walk around a little and tell him you needed to catch your breath.

    You are in a hard position and if you want to continue to study under this man you really need to do something now and not let this escalate anymore. I'm sorry he's put you in this position.
    neuroingrid replied to stephs_3_kidz's response:
    Well, I am not a silly romantic girl you find in music videos who fall in love with men at the first sight, and since I am a neuroscientist in the making, I certainly did NOT fall for this long white bearded eccentric professor who is in his 50s and I am in my 20s! It's just that, I would be naive and I would deceive myself if I thought there was nothing he was doing. I mean, I could misinterpret his over-elaborate gestures and what he says and the way he says it. But, how can I ignore the physical contacts? I have never been touched in a romantic way on my palms by a man with his finger-tips, and to have that done by an eccentric psychiatrist is clearly beyond my imagination! All I am trying to say is that, I cannot ignore the facts. During the first few days, I thought it was just an interest in an outstanding student since I had topped the merit list by defeating all other doctors, engineers and surgeons, and what was more difficult was the fact that there were only two seats. But, when things started to get a bit more intense, when it came to things like, "I'm a romantic person, I like romantic music. Pull up that chair and come and sit beside me. I would have to close the door when I show you the tricks so that no one sees, You need a magician" AND the little physical accidents I would be too stupid to ignore, then that gets me to wonder what to do. Now, the reason I sought to write here on this discussion forum is because I know for sure that he IS NOT HERE, and that this is the only place I thought I could seek refuge and counsel to avoid getting myself in an embarrassing situation.

    I tried to indirectly remind him of the fact that he is married by asking harmless personal questions about his wife and daughters like, "Do you have kids? Is your wife a doctor as well. Don't any of your daughters play the piano? Do they come here? Now interestingly, he told me that nobody at his place played the piano, he added that his daughter played the piano with just one finger! Now I happened to hunt his daughter on a social networking site where she poses in front of the piano and claims to play pieces by some of the musical geniuses. So, looking at that, either his daughter is boasting or this professor is lying. On another day, I saw his younger daughter come to the institute and they both went home together. That same day, he happened to see me at a far off distance. He was so professional, he didn't even look at me and smile. On another day, when I was walking down the corridor and he was coming down the stairs, both of us were alone, he waved his hand to say hi.

    Well, as for me liking him, I admire and respect him for his outstanding accomplishments. I would like to work with him professionally because it is really a privilege to be able to work with him. I NEVER in my wildest dreams thought HE would want to get romantically involved with ME! It's just that I am a bit perplexed as to why he behaves in different ways at different times and in different places!
    BalconyBelle replied to neuroingrid's response:
    You may not be a 'silly romantic girl', but you certainly are naive. The reason he behaves in different ways at different times and in different places is because (as has already been mentioned) he's conditioning you for an affair. He's teaching you your place--which isn't an equal, or worthy or respect, merely an fairly intellectual companion and bed-mate who he can push into a corner whenever he feels like it. He also doesn't want anyone else to know what he's up to. He knows what he's planning to do is unethical, so he's already setting up the framework to minimize his chances of fallout.

    He will always treat you as though you're invisible in front of his family, because he's setting you up to be a sexual convenience, and he doesn't want them to ever know about you. He won't discuss his family with you, or allow you to talk about them, because you aren't important enough to him--and because there's absolutely no chance he'll leave them for you even if he gets you into bed. He reserves his more intimate contact for when there are no witnesses so that if you decide to come forward later, it's a case of he said/she said: or more specifically, internationally renowned professor vs. delusional student & home-wrecker wannabe.

    If you decide to walk into an affair with him, do it with your eyes wide open. Don't delude yourself into thinking that his actions and behaviors are anything but unconscionable and unethical--the same could be said about you if you decide to take the plunge. You apparently have a great deal of professional respect for this man, bordering on hero-worship, but there is nothing flattering about receiving this kind of attention from a married man. Professionally, he may be one of the greatest minds in his field, but in his personal life, he's a rat.

    I think the suggestion of claustrophobia is brilliant, and I'd suggest you take it. You're apparently a brilliant student, your career is just beginning, and there's no reason why you should endanger your professional reputation by sleeping with your married professor. The potential fallout is enormous, and you're smart enough to hopefully realize that. You don't need to sleep with him to work with him, and if he pressures you that way, you can go to the Dean or find another tutor. He has crossed the line, but you don't have to--and you don't have to keep allowing him to do so.
    GuardSquealer replied to neuroingrid's response:
    I have to agree with the feeling that he is conditioning you. He is playing a very tedious game with you. Trying to make sure the situation is completely in his favor and that if anything goes wrong he has a way out.

    If you don't want to end the relationship completely because of possible professional reprocussions, then you need to go forward with great care.
    neuroingrid replied to BalconyBelle's response:
    BalconyBelle: Thank you for your brilliant advice! I will certainly keep my eyes wide open and be careful while I am with him. Well, I do accept the fact that I am naive, since I have never been in such a situation before and that is the reason why I felt I needed counsel and advice from people who were far more experienced and elderly. Coming to think about it, I think he does realize that what he is doing IS unethical, which is why I could read his face when he asked me to come in the afternoon when no one would see and that was the best time for him to close the door! I very vividly remember those facial expressions.

    Now, although he does not want me to get anywhere close to his family including his daughters, let alone mention about them, he does treat me very well though. Like, he makes sure I am OK, he gives me excellent ideas, access to books and resources that are difficult to find, I am always welcome to walk into his lab whenever I feel like, he provides a kind ear to my problems, he also told me to go to the best school of music in my city since he didn't want my fingers to get rusted. Also, I forgot to mention, during the first few days when we got to know each other, he tried to attract my attention to his intellectual and academic accomplishments by drawing me to the fact that he had many publications in high impact factor journals and that he was going to author a series of textbooks and that the publishers had already paid him an advance, so his next five years were taken care of. I thought of this as "intellectual flirting".

    I like the attention that I get as far as my academic, creative and professional pursuits are concerned, but getting physically involved is certainly a big NO-NO. I am not so stupid to do something so unethical, but as I said before, I CANNOT IGNORE WHAT IS HAPPENING.
    neuroingrid replied to GuardSquealer's response:
    Thanks so much for your advice and reply! I will try my best and see what I can do, and how I do it. What complicates matters is the fact that EVERYONE in the institute thinks of him as a gentleman with NO FAULTS whatsoever. They know him as being reserved, soft-spoken, kind-hearted, brilliant, genius, so a very close professional friend of mine who has been here for 3 years was SO SHOCKED at what she heard.

    Coming to Balcony Belle's response of me being a delusional student, well, I would have to say, being a graduate student in my country's equivalent of the NIH, I have a LOT of responsibilities and books to not just read but literally MEMORIZE, not to mention the rotations we have in different departments. I could mis-interpret the tone of his voice and his gestures, but I cannot afford to ignore the way he smiles at me, the twinkle in his eyes, AND the warm passionate touches. When I meet him next, the first thing I will do is I will sit far away from him AND not right besides him, and if he calls me closer, I will stand but not sit besides him so that his arms and other body parts does not touch me. I once tried doing this, but he curtly told me to sit down. I'll see what I can do.
    BalconyBelle replied to neuroingrid's response:
    Neuroingrid; I was not saying that you were a delusional student at all--I was saying that he's deliberately setting things up so if that if they continue in this vein, and you try to come forward, he can (and probably will) spin it so that you seem delusional, while he remains blameless.

    As you yourself pointed out, he's created this image of himself as a perfect gentleman with the university at large. Pretend you've got a bad case of claustrophobia, avoid close/private contact at all costs, and remember--in a case of he said/she said, he's setting things up so that YOU will be the one to take the fall.

    Personally, I think you're probably brilliant at academics, but not as well-versed in relationships...which is why I (and everyone else who's responded) is warning you to proceed with caution. I don't think you're delusional, but you're running the risk of having others treat you that way if you allow this behavior to progress, and then try speaking out. I believe you, I don't think you're making it up, and I wish you the best of luck in getting out of an extremely awkward situation.
    Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to BalconyBelle's response:
    Neuroingrid: Along with all the other advice you are getting, I think it's important that you pay attention to the politics of the situation. As you've suggested, your career is at stake. So, it's not only important that you keep your boundaries clear, but that you also do it in a way that has the least chances of jeopardizing your future. You do not know how he will handle rejection, whether you handle the situation directly (i.e. saying what you want and don't want) or more indirectly (i.e. sitting at more of a distance, always keeping the door open). While he has the clout to help your career, he also wields some power in stifling your career and causing you many problems. If there is anyone at your university who you trust, you might want to talk the problem over with them so they can help you maneuver through the politics. Perhaps your friends who know him (e.g. the clinical psychologist) can also help you with this.

    Also, please be careful with your feelings. You admire this man; he flatters you; you are spending time with him. If you continue this relationship, you may become more comfortable with him, begin to relate to him as a confidante or close friend, and start having more romantic feelings for him -- despite what you tell yourself in your head. This could then lead to you doing things that you really don't think are a good idea. For instance, maybe on a day when you are particularly vulnerable, you might feel comforted by a hug or touch from him (telling yourself that, after all, there is nothing really wrong with this). After that, you might find yourself thinking that the hugs or touches are nice and don't have to lead to anything else. But this is just one step closer to you becoming more emotionally attached and physically involved. So, please be careful and consider increasing your distance if you find your guard is beginning to go down in his presence.

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