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Ever have a work spouse?

Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 at 7:55 am

Tyrades! by Danny Tyree

You probably have quite a few co-workers with whom you exchange chitchat, banter and superficial observations on current events.

(“I fervently believe both Hamas and Putin could be nullified simply by … oooo…fresh Krispy Kremes! Never mind.”)

And then there are the “work spouses.” According to a 2006 survey, 32 percent of workers said they had an “office husband” or “office wife.” (That’s about one-third the number who viewed the HR department as their “office mother-in-law,” but that’s a column for another time.)

Researchers M. Chad McBride and Karla Mason Bergen defined work spouses as “a special platonic relationship with a work colleague characterized by a close emotional bond, high levels of disclosure and support and truth, honesty, loyalty and respect.”

Work spouses develop without the baggage that can attach to your actual marriage. It’s comforting to have someone who knows the pressures of the workplace culture and will always be in your corner — without chirping, “Hey, do you know what we can DO with this corner?”

It’s refreshing to share crazy hopes and dreams without hearing, “I HOPE you’re not wearing THAT in the company picnic potato sack race!”

It’s inspirational to witness the joy of someone who takes pride about a newly signed client or a finished-ahead-of-schedule project instead of what they left behind in the bathroom.

Mutually beneficial work relationships are something priceless, something to preserve. But there are several ways in which they can go awry.

For instance, they can stealthily evolve into something too closely resembling a traditional marriage.

Warning signs include: questions such as “Does this picket sign make my butt look big?”; mumbled responses such as “The quotation on the Smith contract was off by a factor of 10? An archbishop developed green spots from eating our new snack? Mmm hmm…that’s nice, dear”; and arguments such as “That wasn’t ME snoring during the Zoom meeting. That was YOU snoring during the Zoom meeting.”

Work spouse relationships are also threatened when flirtation gets involved and forbidden sexual tension rears its head. (Its head adorned with long flowing hair that wafts in the breeze in slow-motion and …ahem…where was I?)

You’re playing with fire when you find yourself venting a little too much about your real Significant Other’s shortcomings. Hopefully, your work spouse can nip it in the bud. (“Your spouse doesn’t understand you? Maybe if you quit cramming three Krispy Kremes into your mouth at one time, they COULD.”)

Me? I don’t technically have a work spouse relationship. Several ladies at work (including two whom I’ve worked with for 25 years) are great conversationalists and volunteer as sounding boards when I need advice on aging parents, homework-overwhelmed children or some such; but I try to ration my discussions and not overburden them. Their “in” trays must take priority. (“Invoices. Payroll. Hamas. Putin. And then AFTER lunch…”)

In closing, work spouses are a marvelous asset; but it can be awkward when your work spouse doesn’t realize they ARE a work spouse. If you act clingy enough, they may take extreme measures to get a little “me time.” Even if you work in a dangerous profession such as firefighter.

(“We got all the family members, pets, toys, family heirlooms and major appliances out safely. But maybe I need to rush back into the inferno to check for Bigfoot. Or ghosts. Gotta save the ghosts. Yeah, that’s the ticket!”)

©2024 Danny Tyree. Danny is a lifelong Middle Tennessean who has three books available on Amazon. He welcomes email at and visits to his X account @TyreeDanny.