Work Spouse

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work spouseBy Dr. Karen Sherman, hitched

Does your significant other have an "Office Spouse?" Don't worry, it might be good for your marriage.

My spouse has an "office spouse." I know it's nothing, but it really gets to me. He comes home and tells me about work things and they all involve her. He knows I'm not too fond of it, but insists that I have nothing to worry about. Am I just being jealous or should I say enough is enough?

Many years ago, a noted relationship expert said there should be a sign in front of workplaces stating, "Caution: Men and Women Working Together." It was Shirley Glass' contention that a leading cause of extramarital affairs was due to men and women spending so many hours together interacting at work. However, timing is everything and recently there was some research published that offers a different perspective.

Vault.com surveyed 575 employees and found that 23 percent said they did have a "work husband" or "work wife." These office spouses served to provide both mental and emotional support to each other. Additionally, office spouses tend to have inside jokes and bicker with one another like one would with his or her romantic partner.

Other studies have found that flirting in the workplace serves a positive purpose. People who flirt have a better feeling about themselves and they bring this energy to their work. It also makes them feel like they want to get up and go to work. And indirectly, with all this going well, these people will then be better partners back home. My guess is that as you are reading this, you are not necessarily feeling relieved.

Here are some general guidelines that were suggested in an article on CNN.com for someone to consider ensuring the relationship with a work spouse is not crossing over a dangerous line:

1. Are you acting differently than you would if your romantic partner were present?

2. Are you usually flirtatious or is this a behavior that is developing only in response to the work spouse?

3. Do you find yourself thinking about the work spouse outside of work?

4. Are you making comparisons between the work spouse and your real spouse?

You say your husband tells you what is going on at work and his stories include his "work wife." To me, that is the most important factor. He is not hiding anything from you. I also commend you in that you are able to express your feelings to him. I know how frustrating it is that your husband is not validating you and seems to be minimizing your concerns.

Perhaps you would consider reframing your talk -- rather than sounding like you are distrusting him, let him know how much you value him and the relationship you have with one another. This will be easier for him to hear. You might even want to thank him for sharing these work stories with you. Keep in mind that having an open accepting relationship is one of the best ways to keep your relationship strong!

Next: From "You're Fired" to "I Do": An Unlikely Love Story


Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last. Copyright © 2008 Hitched Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

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