Work Spouses

What are they?

From knowing your favorite sandwich at the corner deli to reminding you about your kid’s afternoon soccer game, the line between co-workers and family members continues to blur as Americans put in long hours at the office. But what happens when a co-worker becomes more like a spouse and less like a colleague?

A close platonic relationship between coworkers of opposite sexes is referred to as a “work spouse.” Although work spouses by definition are not intimate, there’s an intrinsic intimacy formed between you and the people you spend the majority of your waking hours with. While some aspects of a work spouse relationship are harmless, it’s often a slippery slope that can lead to infidelity. How do you know if your relationship with someone translates to a work spouse? There are a few simple ways to tell.

  1. You depend on a specific co-worker for little things – snacks, an Advil, an extra highlighter.
  2. You share inside jokes with one of your co-workers.
  3. You and your co-worker can finish each other’s sentences.
  4. You’d have no problem being blunt with this person and vice versa.
  5. They’re your go-to person when it comes to sharing eventful office news.
  6. You know how each other takes their coffee and what each other’s favorite lunch order is.
  7. They know nearly as much about your personal life as your best friend or spouse does.

The positive aspects of a work spouse relationship may include things like emotional support in the workplace, efficient and productive teamwork, and an outlet for work-related stress. 

graphic illustration of two people crossing with each other

However, it can have a negative impact on your job as a whole if the relationship hits a rut, and it can often be perceived as cliquish by other co-workers. Even more detrimental is the effect a work spouse relationship can have on your real-life marriage. To avoid these pitfalls, be sure to set boundaries with your closest co-workers.

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