In today’s career-oriented society, we can see that relationships are becoming more and more non-traditional. To me, the most intriguing of these modern dynamics is the Work Spouse.
Many of us have, or at least know someone who has, a work spouse. The work spouse is that person who knows exactly how you take your coffee, and at precisely what moment in the day you need it. They come to the meeting with an extra pen because they know that you never remember to bring one. It’s the person that brings you back something when they go to lunch, even though you told them you weren’t hungry. When you need something, you don’t even have to specify what it is, you get three words out and they already know what you need. They know what your flaws are and how to balance them out. If they quit, or move to a different position within the organization, you might actually go through a brief post-breakup feeling. In short, they’re everything that a great life partner should be; someone who knows you better than you know yourself, someone that will always have your back – it’s just confined to the place of employment and missing all of the physical intimacies.
I am lucky enough to have both a work husband and a work manstress. Before you accuse me of being a work adulterer, I want it to be known that my work husband has a work mistress, though their situation is a little different than ours.
My work husband “Dean” and I actually have a pretty unique situation. We’re actually coming up on our six year workiversary – we worked together at a previous job, where we first took our work vows. We’re actually really great friends outside of work too, so we may not really count as work spouses, it really might just be a friends thing. Who knows. Anyway, we used to work right next to each other (there’s been some reorganizing, so now his desk is on the other side of a wall from me), and there would be times when he would be speaking with a client and the conversation would be veering towards a subject that I knew he was not as well-versed in as I, so I would already be handing documents to him, or sending the information to him via our instant message system. We have no problems handling each other’s accounts, and in the past, when we were in two completely different but interdependent departments, would often work together on conference calls with a client to make sure we were giving the best resolution possible. Dean and I have a flirty streak with each other, but it’s completely nonphysical and really more joking banter than authentic flirting.
My work manstress, his name is “Ben,” and that’s potentially a relationship that may get me in trouble down the line. Not so much on the work end, but in the personal life. However, I kind of don’t care. He’s actually in a different location than I am, and we met because I essentially reamed him out for something. Something sparked though, and our bond is a bit more electrifying and the philandering exchanges we have are very authentic. We do share information on accounts, and have worked together to find answers. We share our complaints and offer that buffer, so the more casual work spousal duties still exist, but the fundamentals aren’t there, simply due to distance. The reason I may get in trouble? Definitely have slightly more wanton conversations with him than I do with my real boyfriend, and when I need to… relieve myself solo, Ben is the star of the scenarios that play out in my head to get me where I need to go. But all of that aside, the downside to our pairing is that he leaves several hours before I do, and my day just drags after that.
Someone who had no idea what the hell a work wife or work husband was once asked me, “Isn’t that cheating?” and of course I felt a twinge because of the nature of my relationship with Ben. We’re really the exception though; the work consort isn’t categorically the norm. There isn’t anything to be ashamed about when it comes to the work spouse; there isn’t anything dubious behind it. The whole concept is that you’re like each other’s platonic personal assistant, only out of choice rather than obligation. Having that person around that you trust, that person you know will always have your back, isn’t anything that anyone should fault you for, and may be one of the only things that gets you through your day.