Work Spouses Can Strain Marriages

Infidelity is one of the classic causes of marital problems, but close platonic relationships at the office, also known as “work spouse” relationships, can also estrange actual spouses and lead to divorce.

According to CNN, a survey found that 11 percent of workers had work spouses. In addition, 20 percent of the workers surveyed admitted that their real spouse was jealous of their counterpart at work.

A career coach told CNN that it is characteristic for workers to confide heavily in a work spouse and to share personal details that the worker does not share with other colleagues. It is also common for the worker to spend a lot of time with the work spouse.

One worker stated that her husband had mixed feelings about her work spouse. The worker’s husband acknowledges that the relationship benefits her career, but the worker admitted that she relied on her work spouse on at least one occasion when she felt that should have turned to her husband first.

Work spouse relationships can also cause professional and marital problems if spouses and coworkers perceive that something inappropriate is going on. If one work spouse is in a superior position, the close relationship with the subordinate can lead to a perception that he or she exploits the relationship to advance in the company.

There are ways to keep work spouse relationships professional and avoid professional and marital problems. The career coach suggested that workers take three steps:

• Clearly communicate with your work spouse what the relationship means to you and provide clear boundaries between the issues that are work-related and personal issues.

• Do not do or say anything to your work spouse that would make your spouse feel uncomfortable.

• Keep the physical contact professional and appropriate for your work environment’s culture.

Source: CNN, “Signs you might have a work spouse,” Katherine Dorsett, 2/16/11