The Office Spouse: Rules of Engagement

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He knows your birthday, your favorite food, worst fear, and deepest, darkest secret. No, it’s not your husband, the man you promised to love and cherish until the day you die. It’s your office spouse — a phrase coined to describe the new relationship phenomenon that’s developed as Americans work longer, harder, and in closer proximity with colleagues of the opposite dream of cheating on your loved one to whom you are legally bound, you do work closely with someone of the opposite sex all day long, Monday through Friday, in many cases upwards of 60, 70, or even 80 hours a week. You do lunch, you talk about your life and family, and you stick together through the good times and the bad, in sickness and in health. You share your thoughts, hopes, and ambitious shoulder to cry on, it can be risky. So ask yourself, is an office spouse worth it?

“If your spouse has an affair, it will be the worst experience of your life,” says Harley. “You want to take extraordinary precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen to you, because nothing will compare to it. So look at the conditions that make an affair possible: most affairs take place on the job, and among really close friends at work.”

It’s a risk-benefit scenario, so if your marriage is important to you, you might want to give serious consideration to keeping your office relationships professional.

“The idea of an office spouse is a huge danger — you would not want your husband to have an office spouse,” says Harley.

While an office spouse poses a threat, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the relationship can remain platonic.

“We are considering a survey about whether or not these relationships turn into affairs,” says Vault.com’s Oldman. “It’s a phenomenon to look at because it makes sense that an affair would be the next step. Still, that’s not always the case, and a healthy office spouse situation is between people who would never let it get there — who understand the line and stay far from it.”