Work Relationships; The Substitute/Work Spouse
"Work Spouse"- a co-worker, of the opposite sex, with whom one shares a special relationship, having bonds similar to those of a marriage- intimacy without the sex or commitment. The work spouse is a potentially key relationship when one's actual spouse or boy/girlfriend is not able to be there. As people work more and spend less time at home, these hybrid relationships have begun to catch on. In one 2006 survey, 69% of workers said they had an "office husband" or "office wife."
There are variations to the definition above, such as a platonic male/female friendship, in any area of one's life. For example, a married woman has a close friendship with a man she knew in her childhood. She does not have sex with him, but has an emotional connection, or many similarities and interests shared, therefore becoming an important relationship as significant as her and her spouse's relationship, like a substitute spouse...but perhaps borderline emotional affair?
OK, here's my story on this subject because you know everything I write about has a personal meaning (and a point). Well, here it is. A year before I met my husband, I met a man off an online dating site, we met in person twice, and talked on the phone for hours. He lived two states away so I was not interested in a long distance romantic relationship. When I met the man who would become my husband, this other man was still my friend. We continued to talk on the phone and communicate through email. When I got married, my husband voiced his concern and was uncomfortable with this "other" relationship so I ended the friendship.
Upon ending that friendship, I realized a big chunk of my relationship with my husband was missing. In other words I had been getting my "other" needs fulfilled by the "other" man. My friend and I had talked and shared things, we had an emotional connection, and it led me to feel like I was getting everything I needed. Once I ended the friendship, I had to work hard to get that same level of emotional conenction to my husband. I had no idea how mixed up things had gotten.
My scenario could have lead to something as complicated and destructive as an emotional affair had I not ended the friendship. So my question is how "safe" is the new phenomena of work and/or substitute spouses? People seem to act like it's typical and harmless. How different is it from having an emotional affair? If you're getting emotionally fulfilled at work, there is no incentive to connect to your actual spouse at home.
These relationships seem innocent enough, but even the generic definition of a "work spouse" could have serious consequences. When the Internet phenomena entered everyone's homes, so did the "other" man or woman, which led to the emotional affairs in which married folks were getting fulfilled by someone else in non-physical ways, but nevertheless cheating. Now, with Facebook, people are connecting with long lost past boyfriends and girlfriends, which also lead to some trouble in marriages.
Is intimacy only to be shared between spouses? What guidelines are in place between men and women who are friends? I can understand the concern of substitute spouses because there should be a level of intimacy exclusively between husband and wife, a sacred bond. Work relationships of the opposite sex are complicated because people spend more time at work than at home, enabling a bond to easily develop between a spouse and a co-worker...without established boundaries...and possibly not knowing where it leads to.
- 7 Signs You Have a Work Spouse
7 Signs You Have a Work Spouse - Get Career Advice from the experts at CareerBuilder.com
Right or wrong?
- physical feelings or attraction to your friend (substitute spouse)
- lying to your spouse about anything concerning your friend
- talking about intimate details of your marriage to your friend- this one is hazy because we share intimate details of our marriage to friends of the same sex, like a woman with her girlfriends, but there is a fine line to be aware of with a friend of the opposite sex.
- having an impact on the emotional aspect of your marriage or a distancing from your spouse
- you are avoiding resolutions of issues in your marriage
- your spouse is concerned, uncomfortable, or disapproves of the relationship with your friend
- Search within yourself for why you "need" this other person in your life or in such a significant role in your life.
- misleading and insinuating anything more than friendship: i.e. being too touchy feely.
- only discussing marital probems with that person or consistently speaking negatively about your spouse.
- Friendship with them should not interrupt your home life: i.e. texting or facebooking your work spouse while at dinner with your real spouse.
- having a variety of close friendships and not depending on one in particular of the opposite sex.
- sharing interests with someone of the opposite sex
- setting boundaries from the start
- Talk to your spouse. Involve your spouse in this friendship
- keep special events and things between you and your spouse: if your spouse can't make it to an evening out, don't take your work spouse instead.
- Your real spouse is your priority
- some intimacy with your friend is possible if you have good self-control
As I'm writing this, I have two great friends, both men, in my life; one is my high school buddy whose known me longer than anyone else and we talk about significant things in our lives. The other is a man I dated for years, but I've always felt for him like a brother- he was an awful boyfriend, but a terrific and dependable friend. They're are both married and so am I.
My view on this is it's perfectly acceptable to have friends of the opposite sex, but the key aspect in the friendships I mentioned is distance. I haven't seen one of those friends in 3 years and the other I see twice a year, maybe. We talk on the phone periodically, but not for hours. It's safe to say we remain at a safe distance.
I'm alarmed about people with work spouses. How can a safe distance between two people of the opposite sex be established when they are around each other more often than their spouses? They probably have more quality time together than the average husband and wife who have kids at home. I think this phenomena is filling a gap where there should NOT be a gap- people should miss their spouses when away anywhere, even if it's at work. Spouses should not be replaced or substituted because it only masks issues in a marriage and can open up the door to cheating.
Psychology studies have shown one immensely important ingredient necessary for someone to fall in love and this is distance and proximity. People who come in contact with each other more often are more likely to hook up. There is good reason to feel a bit cautionary about certain relationships of the opposite sex who spend a lot of time together.
Remember the statistic I quoted in the beginning? 69% of people have a work spouse. Guess what? Another statistic I found stated 70% of people have thought about cheating on their spouse and the number one place cheaters begin their affairs is at work. Wow! Interesting data correlation there. Since the work spouse idea has only been around for as long as women have been in the workforce equally alongside men, it is yet to be determined how this will affect marriages overall.
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