Do you have a work spouse? Do you even know what one is? A work spouse is defined as a person on your job with whom you share a special bond that is purely platonic in nature. The bonds come from spending long hours together working on common goals and sharing common experiences. Given that most Americans spend nearly half of their waking hours on the job, these bonds can become very tight.
According to Captivate Network, a market research firm, a total of 65% of all Americans claim that they’ve had a workplace spouse at one point during their careers.
“It’s your number one ally and advisor at work—the person you can laugh with or be stressed out with, have politically incorrect conversations with, and give honest opinions to,” says Linda Young, Ph.D., a Houston-based psychologist.
Don’t worry, most of these relationships won’t get you into trouble, since only about 8% of them cross the line into romantic experiences. But there is an attraction to these relationships because they provide the comfort and security of knowing that someone is there to provide, support and protect you in ways that your spouse may not. This is what makes them so attractive to so many people.
Dr. Young also says that these relationships can provide a competitive advantage in the workplace.
“A noncompetitive ally at work makes you more likely to look forward to going to your job, which can increase your productivity,” she says. “When things get tense and emotional during a shoot, I appreciate Jake’s level head and calming nature, which balances me out,” says MJ. “And when he’s gotten himself into a sticky spot, I can help him form a plan to get out of it or convince him to ask others for help so he doesn’t embarrass himself in front of our boss.”
One of the things that experts say you should be aware of is that, in many situations, these relationships can blur the boundaries of work and personal life. That’s when you are even more tempted to engage in a romantic relationship with your workplace spouse. According to Chad McBride, PhD, a Psychologist at Creighton Univerisity, a quarter of workplace spouses stay in touch on nights and weekends, and 35% talk about their s-x lives. They say that being vulnerable brings a spouse-like feel to your relationships.
“I find myself telling Jake things I don’t even tell my closest girlfriends. We talk about any anxieties I might have about my boyfriend, and he asks me for girl advice,” says MJ, who adores his work wife. “If you can be strictly platonic and still get into those private, personal topics, then there’s no harm,” he says.
But experts warn that you should be careful in these relationships if you wish to remain faithful. The feelings of closeness you have with your workplace spouse can fill the void that you might have in your normal relationship. We can’t tell you whether or not it’s OK to have personal thoughts or fantasies, but you should be careful about letting that cat out of the bag.