Anyone who has ever worked probably felt stressed out from their jobs before. That’s why many of us turn to our friends or colleagues to vent or destress. Others, however, turn to their work husband or work wife to help them get through their work days.
Succinctly, a work husband or work wife is a colleague whom you share a platonic, non-romantic relationship with — emphasis on “platonic” and “non-romantic”. They are what many would consider their friends that help them make their jobs easier by “being there” for them when working. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 25% of employees have had a work spouse before — and it’s not hard to see why.
The average American, based on a report by Statista, works around 35 hours a week. This means there are plenty of work problems and stressors that could befall them — which also means that there are plenty of reasons to confide in someone who understands the field that they work in.
When people share common stressors, it could lead to mutual understanding and better bonding. Scientists at the University of Freiburg in Germany conducted a study called “The Social Dimension of Stress Reactivity: Acute Stress Increases Prosocial Behavior in Humans.” There, it’s found that stress triggers a person’s fight-or-flight response. When it does, it can make people more social towards each other (tend-and-befriend).
Everyone knows that stress has negative consequences — stress alone is a negative feeling, after all. In the workplace, when workers are stressed out, it can also lead to demotivation and a decrease in productivity. However, most people with a work spouse say that having them around reduces their stress levels.
There hasn’t been a widely published survey that can provide a statistic as to whether or not having a work husband or work wife is considered cheating. However, we can find a few discussions on Reddit and other websites — and their opinions vary. Some say that it constitutes cheating (and if it’s a non-physical relationship, it’s then counted as emotional cheating), while others say it’s a harmless title that they call their coworker whom they share a close bond with.
As for what counts as cheating, it also depends on the person and couple. In a BBC interview with relationship scientist, Marisa Cohen, they said, “Each partner has their own specific view of what constitutes cheating, which can range from creating connections with others, to spending time with another individual that the partner may perceive to be a threat, even if that relationship is completely platonic,”
Perhaps if a work spouse didn’t have the titles “husband” and “wife” attached to them, the topic wouldn’t create that much of a ruckus. Moreover, if a work husband or work wife is merely a platonic friend or colleague of the opposite sex (or gender that someone an individual is attracted to), some people are better off just calling them their “friends.”
Furthermore, if a person is already married, and their real-life spouse isn’t on board with the idea that their partner has a work spouse, then they shouldn’t have one — so as to not strain their marriage. Additionally, a work spouse may also have a real-life partner — and they may end up being the ones not happy with the idea of their husband or wife having a work spouse.
Sharing a close relationship with someone at work can also lead to a person becoming attracted to their colleague. In a survey by Zety, they found that 89% of Americans have been attracted to their coworker before. Even if you can assure yourself and your real-life spouse that you won’t catch feelings for your work husband or work wife, you can’t guarantee that your work spouse isn’t — and won’t be — attracted to you.
What should be normalized, however, is to motivate, inspire, and help a friend or coworker work more productively, happily, and as stress-free as possible.
Hint: To avoid crossing the emotional cheating line, keep conversations and interactions with your work spouse to work topics. Never, ever, discuss personal details regarding your marriage, sex life, romantic interests, etc. with your work spouse!
Having a work husband or work wife isn’t all that bad — especially if they understand you, calm you down, and motivate you to work harder. However, when your actual husband or wife doesn’t like the idea that you have a work spouse, then it’s best that you drop the “husband” or “wife” title and save it exclusively for your real-life spouse instead. At the end of the day, a work spouse is typically and solely a friend from work — and, as much as possible, it should remain that way.