With most workers spending between 30 and 40 hours at work each week, it is hardly surprising that they can become close to their fellow employees. A work spouse, however, is not just a colleague. They are someone with whom you have a particularly intense relationship and this can bring both advantages and disadvantages.
According to research, 44.4 per cent of men claim to have a work spouse. This rises to 50.2 per cent for women, showing just how significant the role of the work spouse has become. A work spouse is a colleague with whom you are as close as if you were married. As a work spouse is also generally of the gender to which you experience attraction, this can make the relationship seem similar to a marriage.
There are advantages to this. Work can be a stressful place and a work spouse is someone with whom you can unburden the load. You can discuss problems with work or colleagues and perhaps even personal issues. A work spouse may even give you a reason to look forward to going to work.
The problems come when the work spouse relationship becomes too personal, particularly when it takes over from your real marriage. This is especially true if your spouse at home does not know about the closeness of your relationship with your work spouse. Research suggests that 69 per cent of women but only 57 per cent of men introduce their work spouse to their romantic partner. Of the people questioned, 21 per cent admitted lying about the nature of their relationship with their work spouse (only 17.4 per cent of women but 24.5 per cent of men).
When you lie about your work spouse, it immediately turns the relationship into something it should not be. Some may even interpret it as an emotional affair, which can be as serious as a physical infidelity, if not more so. If you are concerned about your spouse overhearing your conversations or even knowing about your work spouse, it suggests that the relationship may have gone too far.
Since 61.9 per cent of women admit to being physically attracted to their work spouse, rising to 84.4 per cent for men, the likelihood of some kind of infidelity seems high. Boundaries become blurred and the integrity of your real marriage can be damaged.
Attraction to someone other than your spouse is not wrong on its own. The important thing is how you handle that attraction. This means being honest with both parties. Honesty and communication are vital to any relationship and if your partner knows about your work spouse, you will be able to establish boundaries that work for everyone involved. Provided that you carefully consider your behaviour and are open about your feelings, you should be able to avoid any major issues.
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