'Ruin a friendship' by getting engaged

Office romances can be risky, and sometimes they end in disaster.

That is why Aron Griffin and Layton Skelly, who at one point were aides working in 1003 Longworth, the office of Rep. Sam JohnsonSamuel (Sam) Robert JohnsonWatchdog: Social Security acting head hasn't been authorized to serve for months Five things to watch for in Texas primaries Millionaires should pay their fair share of Social Security payroll taxes MORE (R-Texas), decided to be friends — just friends.

Courtesy of Layton Skelly
Aron Griffin and Layton Skelly were aides for Rep. Sam Johnson.

In the first three years of knowing each other, their friendship was close; they told each other everything over dinner, at the movies and at cookouts with friends who implored them to realize they could be more.

Even family members tried to persuade them, but to no avail. They were best friends — no more, no less.

“I had a big crush on him when he first came on board,” said Skelly, who in 2001 worked with Griffin; both were legislative assistants.

Even so, Skelly told herself they were better off as friends, so jealousy concerning Griffin and other women wasn’t a problem.

He, too, wasn’t troubled by the nature of their friendship. “There was never any need [to be jealous] because we developed almost a sibling relationship,” he said.

One year, Skelly even brought Griffin home with her to Wilmington, Del., for Thanksgiving. On another occasion, he introduced her to his mother, who promptly told her that she’d be the woman her son would marry. The pair laughed it off, and their friendship persisted — without complication and without the threat of romance.

“I definitely knew he had to be a part of my life for the rest of my life,” said Skelly, 27, sitting next to Griffin, 28, last week in the Longworth cafeteria, “but I never imagined taking it to the next level and ruining the friendship.”

So for three years, she said, “he was absolutely my best friend.” And, thankfully, neither of them was a big dater.

In 2002, Skelly left Johnson’s office to work for the White House Domestic Policy Council. In 2003, she returned to the congressman’s office, where Griffin was the legislative director. In March 2004, Griffin left the office and was working for the House Education and Workforce Committee. Skelly was promoted to legislative director in December 2004.

In March 2004, their friendship began to change. No longer constrained by the confines of a small congressional office, they began considering the possibility of altering their relationship. “It wasn’t an odd thing,” Griffin said. “There were very few secrets, and we talked about everything. We were so close and adored each other, actually.”

So they tried it, and, lo and behold, it worked.

“It was easy, and came naturally,” Skelly said.

Griffin agreed: “It wouldn’t have been unusual for us to go to dinner together or to a movie. So it wasn’t a huge mental leap to go on a date.”

Skelly laughed, recalling the “big, fat ‘I told you so’” they received from family and friends. “No one was surprised,” Griffin said. Skelly added, “There were no back flips.”

Still, there were surprises in store. And fate played a hand. On Oct. 30, Griffin and Skelly, now a full-fledged couple, fled Washington for a weekend to Linden, Va. The plan was to tour the vineyard by day and go to dinner at the Griffin Tavern.

While the tavern bore his name even though there was no relation, the highway on which the tavern sits, Zachary Taylor Highway, is named for her great-great-grandfather, the 12th president of the United States.

Skelly, imagining that Griffin might propose by Christmas, tried not to think an impending engagement was to happen during their weekend. But the thought crept into her mind and was hard to shake.
The couple had toured the vineyard and were busy packing up their picnic lunch of sandwiches and sodas when Skelly did a visual check of Griffin to ensure there were no square shaped boxes on his presence. She couldn’t find any.

But there was something else. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” he said, arm outstretched with a ring sitting in his palm.

Looking back, Griffin said, he wasn’t nervous in the slightest. “There were no doubts that she was the one I’d spend the rest of my life with,” he said, and “I was fairly certain she’d say yes.”

After the tears ended and the shock wore off — the delay was so long that he decided to ask his question again — she accepted, agreeing this time to be his best friend as well as his wife.

The couple are planning an October wedding in Wilmington.