by Linda Dominique Grosvenor It must have been two years ago when I first heard the term “work spouse,” but I was familiar with the concept long before that. I knew it to mean the kind of woman or man who gets all of the perks and benefits that a spouse gets except, they only get them from 9-5 or whatever hours they both work. I mean, they can get anything from a muffin and a steaming hot cup of coffee dropped off at their desk every morning that their spouse doesn’t know that they’re buying for someone else, they get their dreams heard and get to vent about home or work life too or they can take it all the way to a lunchtime rendezvous at an out of the way restaurant or motel that really gives them a chance to get loose, let their hair down and get their sexual needs satiated until their toes curl.
Let’s face it, you spend more hours with the people that you work with than the person you’re married to and that’s how affairs start. To prevent the temptations that can come from co-workers you may have to work too closely with, you’ll have to set boundaries. Couples normally agree on these boundaries. Agreeing on the boundaries is one of the building blocks of a good marriage. However, because people don’t want to offend other people and make them feel like there is a lack of trust or an uneasiness with how they now have to operate, they may forgo setting up the boundaries at all, and so, they “wing it”. Before you know it months and years of working together “too closely” develops into something neither is willing to define or perhaps a joke is taken the wrong way–it’s too late to correct things–they’re touching you–you’re touching them–it’s an all out affair.
I remember discussing this with a girlfriend at length and telling her that my husband can pour his own coffee, because nobody and I mean, NOBODY needs to become that familiar with the way he likes anything in his life–except me. I’m the wife and there is only one–period! Incidentally on the relationship network my husband and I host, we began discussing this whole “work spouse” topic and it did get a bit heated because the general consensus was that whether you are married or single your co-worker’s affection doesn’t belong to you. It doesn’t. We can’t come to work in the hopes that someone you aren’t in a relationship with will make your day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new sweater, new hair cut or perfume–someone else’s is not there to flirt or flatter you.
When it comes to love and relationships many of us have falling apart relationships that are often disrespected because we are often found disrespecting the relationships of others and we wonder why happiness continues to elude us. How we behave with other people is normally the culprit.
One woman on our relationship website had a very real experience with a “work spouse” situation that could have destroyed her if it were not for her faith in God. She said, “When I read the topic and everyone’s thoughts, it brought back a painful memory from my first marriage. My ex-husband now has a child with one of his former co-workers that he swore up and down was nothing more than someone he worked with. The truth of the matter was that every time we had a problem, he would run to her for comfort. I strongly believe that if you are married, any emotional attachments that you have with someone else is cheating your spouse and yourself out of wonderful possibilities that you can have together. As far as the lunch goes, I personally believe that all relations with the opposite sex should be in an environment where there is no question as to what the situation is. If this means group lunches, then so be it. Linda talked about the way things look vs. what they actually are in her book, The Plural Thing: Spiritually Preparing for Your Soul Mate. This really helped my husband see my point. It’s really not about trust, we can totally trust one another, that doesn’t mean we put ourselves in questionable situations.”
We had a male member come out and be shockingly honest about how he made a mistake at work by giving his affections to a female co-worker too. He tried to make it right with his wife, but it was too late. He said, “All this summer my wife and I argued and could never get past the incident long enough to be civil towards one another. So after building up the courage and strength to walk away from my co-worker, I came home wearing my wedding band, kissed my wife and handed her 2 dozen roses and expressed that it was over and I needed to do right by her. It’s pretty much over for us [my wife and I] and I am hurting for two reasons: I didn’t live up to the standard God has set forth and hurt my family. Outside of my actions I have and will continue to be a good man. I just messed up big time.”
It would be a moot point if we lived in a society where we could take things at face value, but the fact of the matter is that even as an articulate man we know that some women will see your sparkling wedding band, hear you tell her “No,” and still see a green light to GO! People who don’t care about the covenant of marriage have 8 or more hours a day to attack your marriage by sending you emails, calling you to chat for no reason, stopping by your station to shoot the breeze–all while you are away from your spouse. That mean that you are standing alone to be the watchman of your marriage. You have to be on guard–you must be accountable. You must discern what these people are up to and make sure that nothing that your spouse would find disrespectful is said or done in their absence–not even in jest.
People have a way of putting on masks and facades and unless you can read minds you really have no idea what someone’s motive is. I’ve heard people say, “Well she’s married” or “We’re both married”, but in this society what does that mean? There are plenty of unhappy men and women who are seeking after a new kind of attention–yours. My husband and I are no different. Even with what we do with assisting people to learn to love better it’s still difficult to get people to understand that we have made it a rule to set boundaries and not sit and talk individually about relationships with people of the opposite sex. Just like my husband’s ear is not going to be inclined to hear a woman be it alone in a corner by the water cooler, on the phone or in a secluded cafe, I won’t do it with a man. It can get either one of us into trouble. Either the women speak with me and the men with my husband or they talk with us both together. If that doesn’t work for them then it won’t work, because we won’t and can’t compromise our marriage for what will make them feel comfortable–those are our boundaries because we want “our” marriage to last.
Lastly, our purpose at work is to work, friendliness and friendships may develop but we aren’t there to stroke egos. Women need to understand that their male co-workers aren’t there to make them feel pretty just because their husbands don’t at home and the same goes for the men. You shouldn’t be fishing for compliments at work. You stir up things and ignite fires that are dangerous to put out once they get started and do irreparable damage to not just the covenant of marriage but children and families as a whole. Clock in, put in your hours, clock out and bring the flattery and flirtation home for your spouse. Single people are no different, find single co-workers to have lunch with and let the married people work on creating a lasting marriage without making things more difficult for them. One day you’ll be in their shoes.
Linda Dominique Grosvenor is the author of The Plural Thing: Spiritually Preparing for Your Soul Mate (Feb 2010) that has been called, “unadulterated spiritual relationship guidance for modern times.” Her expertise on dating and relationship issues have been used in articles for publications such as Modern Bride, BlackandMarriedwithKids.com and MORE Magazine. She is a blissfully happy wife married to her soul mate Calvin and enjoys writing books that help assist people with having the best relationships of their lives. You can reach Linda at LindaDominiqueGrosvenor.com, on her discussion board at ThePluralThing.com or find her on facebook at http://Facebook.com/lindadominiquegrosvenor.