Starting from my first work place experience as an intern up on till this day I have had at least 5 different work spouses. Even though at the earlier point in my careers, I wasn’t aware of the work spouse concept, I am thankful for those relationships as they made each one of those jobs easier and some have led to lasting friendships.
A work spouse refers to a co-worker, usually of the opposite sex, with whom one shares a special platonic relationship having bonds similar to those of a marriage. These bonds include high levels of disclosure and support, mutual trust, honesty, loyalty and respect (from my own personal experience some of my work spouses have been same sex).
Having a work spouse can be both beneficial to your job, your organisation at large and your home life/romantic relationship. As having a close confidant in a colleague that you can share your successes and frustrations with can be a soothing antidote to an otherwise stressful workplace environment. In the same vein, it has been proven that companies that prioritise social support networks such as work marriages are much more likely to thrive since social relationships are critical for long term well-being and mental health.
Although there is the small threat that work spouse relationships can deepen into something more romantic and affect a persons outside relationship/home life, a study by Karla Begen, P.h.D. and Chad McBrideP.h.D. has found that people with work spouses ultimately enjoyed their home lives with their real spouses more because they had a better work-life balance that led to a more positive well-being outside.
Some potential downsides to the work spouse relationships includes making other colleagues feel alienated by your closeness, leading to jealousy that can itself create workplace tension. And like every relationship, there is a chance of a break-up or separation. This can be as a result of a disagreement or a work spouse leaving the position. If the breakup is hostile, it can affect the whole team environment causing a great deal of tension. Some employees have said that they would consider leaving their jobs if their work spouses left which can have a significant impact on an organisation.
To get the best out of your work spouse relationship consider spending extra time with the other people you work with so that they feel appreciated and equal. It is also important to set boundaries with your work spouse by letting them know about your real life partner and vice versa and also never sharing things with them that you would be uncomfortable with your actual partner hearing.
Do you have a work spouse? Has it made your work life more enjoyable? I’d like to hear your experience in the comment section.