Who would I want my work spouse to be? Who would I want to hang out with all day as an office companion? John Krasinski of the “Office.” Otherwise known as Jim Halpert.
Yes, I know that “The Office” is — as a TV show — on its last gasps of life during its final season.
But through the years, Jim as a character has revealed some of the best qualities of an office spouse. A lot of my office spouses have reminded me of Jim: loyal, funny, sarcastic, boyish, and mischievous. I met my first “husband” during my early twenties. We were both graduate students in the same sociology department and clicked right away. He had a beautiful French wife, who sometimes met us during our long lunches in the student union during which we’d gossip about all the professors that we worked for.
I met my second “husband” a few years later when I was teaching middle school. He was also married, and I became good friends with his wife. He and I would stop by each other’s classrooms all day long, eat lunch together, and go out for drinks on Friday afternoons. He’d give me valuable dating advice (from a guy’s perspective), and I’d always take his wife’s side when he described occasions when his wife was angry with him. I had someone to walk with to faculty meetings and who would roll his eyes with me at the same time when a colleague would say something dumb or arrogant.
Over the years, I’ve had several “work spouses.” And I realize that this is one of the most important things that I miss about working outside the home. Now the only banter that I have all day is with my cat or dog, and this isn’t quite as entertaining.
I’m already married to a real husband. We own a house, and we live with our toddler. But I think I want a work husband. Badly. I want to find an office spouse and remarry. Of course, most on my mind right now is concern about same-sex couples’ right to marry. But here’s why I’m in favor of everyone’s right to another kind of marriage entirely, one that doesn’t discriminate at all between its straight or gay members:
Work spouses understand the daily and hourly realities of your professional life in a way that friends — and even your real spouse — do not. They may be working on the same project as you, or deal with and see the same miserable clients. They know why lunch staff meetings are so ridiculous, and they can offer constructive advice for how to handle a tricky situation. They’re a safe space to bounce off ideas and get suggestions.
Work spouses allow you to experience single — or married — life vicariously. For a work marriage to be successful, there can be no true sexual chemistry. Maybe a little harmless flirting, but that’s it. As Seth Stevenson of GQ points out, work marriages function best when one spouse is married — or in a long-term, committed relationship — and one is not. Part of the fun of a work spouse is to hear about, if you’re married, the constant romantic ups-and-downs of dating life. You get to feel wise and a bit superior, even if you’re probably just as clueless as anyone.
Work spouses are a safe place to complain constantly about colleagues, or anyone. In my experience, it’s probably best if you and your work spouse occupy the same level in the workplace hierarchy. You need to be free to bitch about your boss and mock your underlings.
Work spouses are a great way to try to understand the opposite sex, but you don’t have to live with the consequences. Your work spouses’ habits can just be funny quirks. So he doesn’t ever clean up his messy desk? And he doesn’t wash his own dishes? It doesn’t matter to you. You don’t actually have to go home with him. But you can ask him lots of questions about things that guys do that you don’t understand, and it won’t seem like you’re nagging.
Work spouses are also an ideal way to make same-gender friendships. How? If your work spouse is married, chances are you’ll end up getting to know his real husband or wife. And most likely, if you share the same sense of humor and similar tastes in entertainment with your work spouse, then you’re likely to have a lot in common with the real spouse. Some of my best girlfriends started out as the wives of male colleagues.
An office spouse gives you a boost of self-confidence. This person only sees one version of you: the work version, the 9 to 5 version, maybe even the best version. Your office spouse probably treats you like you’re always together, always showered, wearing clean clothes. They don’t see you when you’re sick on the bathroom floor with a stomach virus, or shrieking about why the laundry isn’t folded.
As David Owen in the Atlantic magazine, one of the first to popularize the idea of a work spouse, wrote about an “office wife”:
For example, your work wife would never ask you why you don’t just put your dishes right into the dishwasher instead of leaving them in the sink—she doesn’t know you do it! Also, she would never wedge your car between two others in the parking lot at Bradlees, sign you up to be the pie auctioneer at a church bazaar, or grab hold of your stomach and ask, “What’s this? Blubber?” She knows you only as you appear between nine and five: recently bathed, fully dressed, largely awake, and in control of your life.
Did any of you have a “work spouse” or have one now? Would Jim from “The Office” work for you too? What about if you work from home?
And, do bloggers have “work spouses”??
Thanks to Finish The Sentence Friday!
Love the idea of a work spouse. I definitely think there is a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate relationships with them though. Could make me nervous!
Yes, it definitely has to be completely platonic! And it doesn’t work if your spouse feels uncomfortable with it.
Janine Huldie says
Never knew there was even a name for this, but have had my fair share of these in my past at college and at jobs, too. Good to know that this is a fairly normal occurrence and thanks for sharing more about this here Jessica.
What a creative post!!! I love this because I, too, have had a few work husbands in my day and now that I work remotely from home, it’s more difficult to “get hitched!” I’ve found my man, but I think he’s cheating on me because he’s one of the few male species in our department. Small price to pay for never having met him… 😉
I wondered if someone would mention “blog spouses”! Are they the same as in real life?
Hear, hear. I had a couple of “work spouses” when I was a lawyer, and they were invaluable. Now I have a “running wife” and I heart her. We get each other. Too bad she just moved away — but we’ll make the long-distance thing work.
It’s tough to make the long-distance work spouse thing work, but if the feelings are strong enough, the love and relationship will endure!
Stephanie @ Mommy, for real. says
I really liked this. However, I am sad to say, as a self-employed woman who contracts at several facilities, I am an island. I have NO colleagues, coworkers, or any possibility of a work spouse. To be honest, I kind of feel ripped off. And my husband, running the crew of a Parks Dept that is primarily men, and working alongside of other Dept heads who are primarily men, has no opportunity for a work wife. I kinda think he needs one. 😉
You’re not completely an island! I think that bloggers sort of already get “work spouses.” You get the witty banter, funny asides, gossiping. It’s all just online.
What does it mean if all your “work husbands” have been gay? I’m glad the real hubby isn’t!!
Apparently, work spouses don’t have anything to do with sexual orientation. You can have a gay or straight one. Same benefits!
Kristi Campbell says
I’ve had a couple of amazing work husbands over the years. I’m still friends with the two that come to mind still. It does make a difference and what a great take on FTSF!
I agree – work spouses are great and help make a job so much more enjoyable! I’ve had a few over the years and everything you say about the benefits of one are true!
I feel gipped. I’ve always owned my own business (well for 18 years) and ALL of my employees have always been women. That being said, being “involved” with the boss is never a good idea anyway. Also, I’d like to be a “hag” that would be fun too.
If you’re the boss, it’s hard to have a work spouse. Your work husband would have to be someone who is equal in status to you. What’s a “hag”? That does sound like fun!
Love this and I totally agree. I definitely have one right now and he gets my moods and the office politics and he can bring me to tears with our inside jokes. Hopefully I do the same for him. I of course have some great gal pals too in the office, but my “work spouse” brings something different to the table. Women can get petty and complain about things, but the vibe is just different with a guy. Great post!
Yes, that’s definitely what it is. You just feel less competitive with guys. I also never let myself get really whiny with a work spouse either.
Totally love this! I know exactly what you mean…right now, though, I would happily take an extra wife! 😉
Oh, that’s a great point too. My real husband and I both need a “wife”! This one doesn’t always do such a great job meeting the basic job requirements.
Lisa Newlin says
I don’t have a work husband, as I try to get in and out of there quickly with little social interaction. However, my job isn’t one where I’m in the office much. If it was, I suspect I would have a work husband. Sometimes it’s nice to complain to someone who truly understands your work environment and the crap you deal with.
I’m sure my husband would appreciate if I had a work husband. It would probably change the dinner conversation at our house, as I would have already gotten out all of my complaints while still at work.
It’s really an exercise in efficiency.
blue eyez says
Love this article.
i have been with my current work husband for 2 years now. its a type of relationship that everyone should experience. i know he has my back 100% just like i have his. its nice to know that there is someone around that you can fully count on and a shoulder to cry on when needed. we tell eachother how it is, even if the other one isnt going to like it. we are both married with kids, so that topic comes up alot. its nice to have someone of the opposite sex explain the other side of things. i can say it has really helped my marriage at home alot. a work husband is someone you can talk to about anything, even about things i would never even say to my best girlfriend (who will usually just tell u what u want to hear). have a toast to work spouses!!! cant live without mine. ( and no its not a sexual relationship what-so-ever!!)