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Brad Mislow + Julie Eyerman

Brad Mislow + Julie Eyerman

December 22, 2014

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Do You Have a Work Spouse?

There was no ring, no bridesmaids, no teary-eyed dance with Dad, but somewhere along the way, you found yourself with a spouse. You see him every day…at the office. He’s your work spouse. And whether you chose each other or were thrown together, you probably know more about him than your best friend. Chances are, he knows you pretty well too, down to what kind of cheese you like on your turkey wrap…

You’re not alone.

According to a recent study by the Vault, an on-line career and research source, 32% of the people they surveyed had a close relationship with a co-worker of the opposite sex they recognized as a “work spouse.” And just like a marriage, there are the good times, and the bad, until 5 p.m. do you part.

It’s no secret that men and women think differently. With a work spouse, you have a perfect ying to your yang. He may be an introverted strategist; you may be an outgoing people person. That means one of you does the detailed thinking; the other one sells it. It’s simple. Find each other’s strengths and work with them. Together you both win.

Some people respond better to women. Some to men. It’s not very PC, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. But lucky you. Since there is one of each on your team, you have a 100% chance of getting a favorable response.

Also, you get all the benefits of a male point of view. Stuck finding a birthday gift for your brother? Want to delve deeper on the mysterious behavior of the guy you’re dating? The answers are just a desk away.

Mark Your Territory
If you cohabitate in an actual office, it helps to set boundaries about the shared aspects of your daily life, such as music, neatness, décor and phone etiquette. Knowing what pushes each other’s buttons in advance (like your fluffy pink chair covers and his love of Rush) will help you work out your differences and set the tone for a shared partnership that can weather the battlefield of compromise.

You probably aren’t interested in cars, wrestling and hockey. Well, he’s not interested in nail polish colors, feminine hygiene or why you chose to wear those boots with that skirt. So find mutual topics of conversation. Like how you can’t stand your co-worker that shamelessly sucks up to the boss.

Sometimes having a work spouse gets too close for comfort. That’s why taking time apart is good. Remember, it never should be personal. That’s why declaring your need for space should be as simple as saying; “Hey, I need some quiet time this morning.” Or try working from Starbucks for a few hours. Just remember to come back with a donut (sprinkles optional).

If there are problems, it’s best to talk it out than letting it fester. Because when you two argue, you sound like a married couple fighting (yes, that’s right, you do). At least that’s what it sounds like to anyone within earshot. And no one wants to hear it. Especially the boss.

Think Before You Wink
When it comes to hooking up with your work spouse, the best advice is don’t. But if you just can’t help yourself, know in advance that he will cease to be your work spouse and will suddenly become your boyfriend. And from then on, everything will be personal. From why he asks you to leave when he takes a call, to why he didn’t bring you coffee this morning.

Even if you two aren’t having an affair, your co-workers will think you are anyway. Quash these myths as quickly as possible. Talk about your boyfriend or husband to other co-workers. Avoid coming up with cute nicknames for your work spouse or touching them excessively. Keep it professional and your co-workers will have less reason to suspect you two are an item.

You still can talk about sex. Just find your comfort level. Knowing where the line is helps define the boundaries of your personal and professional relationship. Some topics are off limits, and that’s not a bad thing. Besides who wants to hear about the non-stop lovefest that was your work spouse’s weekend with his wife in the Poconos? Not you.

Balance Your Work Spouse With Your Real Spouse
The bottom line is there will be jealousy from your significant other towards your work spouse. The degree of which depends on you—and how you balance your work and personal life.

Let your real spouse know honestly and up front why you need to work with this other man and how it benefits your career and livelihood. Instead of talking about how fabulous your work spouse is at home, tell your real spouse how fabulous he is. And don’t compare the two. Doing so will only blur the lines and make for misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

On the positive side, you no longer need to bore your real spouse with endless stories about the office. Instead, you can jaw on and on to your work spouse about work dramas, and on company hours. That way your home life can be focused on the important things at home, like how the dog got into the garbage…again.