Work Spouse: Why Your Co-Workers Affection Doesn’t Belong To You

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, 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, on her discussion board at or find her on facebook at

15 replies
  1. lanamolinespeaks
    lanamolinespeaks says:

    This is a dangerous game that far too many people indulge in. Anyone who is married should be careful to guard what is allowed in. When a relationship with someone else causes us to blur the lines, then it's a problem. In my home we have a rule. If the person of the opposite sex isn't a friend to both of us then we are not friends. We have "family friends" so everything is kept on the up and up.

  2. Pam
    Pam says:

    I think some people are making much to do about nothing. We are sexual beings and it is amazing how we run around for years with many different partners then say, "I do" and expect that someone will keep a vow of never again experiencing sex with anyone else. Come on, we sign all sorts of business and spiritual contracts. How many of us have never missed a house payment or missed a worship service. This is not the dark ages and people are a bit more liberated than in the past. Perhaps a little fun at work is just what your relationship needs.

    • Victory
      Victory says:

      huh??? Pam, I bet you wouldn't be saying that if the shoe was on the other foot. You will reap what you sow. Hope you're ready for it.

  3. Atomize
    Atomize says:

    This is deep! I had a "work wife", but I thought our pleasantries were just something that helped me to get through the day in an alien environment. I never saw it as something serious, but when in the office, we really connected. We were always gassing, joking, emailing one another, and going to lunch. When out of the office, my work wife didn't exist. One day she broke the news that she had found a new job and was leaving. I was horrified! It affected me so deeply that my wife noticed a difference in my behaviour. She went through my phone and found a quite personal text message I sent the day my work wife left. That was it!… End of marriage!

    • Nunya Bizness
      Nunya Bizness says:

      Wow…lesson learned.

    • Rain
      Rain says:

      wow! Sorry your marriage ended Atomize but it's so hard to trust again after any such thing happened…

      My husband and I are facing something similar and it has affected me to the point where I am scared to be seen with him at his work place etc. I wonder each time his phone rings if that smile is for her..or them, cause there are many. He is a nice guy but i don't believe that he is so stupid not to know that if you play with fire you won't get burned….

      He used to be the one warning me of these things, telling me what not to do etc..many times I disageed, thought he was overreacting, but now I am supposed to accept that he messed up? The only thing keeping us together is our son and my love for him but inside I am broken, torn. I feel defeated, used, stepped upon and deceived.

      I wish I could make it go away by thinking that I am reading too much into it, that I could make myself feel different by pretending it'll never happen again. I too want to walk away, but I am still here weathering the storm…I know now why women grow cold and selfish and lack vulnerability…I don't want to become that, but what am I supposed to do?

  4. The1Ms.HBIC
    The1Ms.HBIC says:

    Its definitely something that should be discussed with your spouse. I’ve seen it in my office.

  5. Sharlene
    Sharlene says:

    People who think this is a joke or too serious is the reason why divorce is rampant. Think about it. People used to respect marriage. Most affairs now start at work. It wouldn't surprise me if the women who are knocking this are single and after someone's husband.This article was soooo helpful.

    • Tomica
      Tomica says:

      Sharlene, the women who are doing this is often married and bored, so are the men…the now single, independent, career establishing, goal seeking women are so self defined that she sets herself above such an act..her ego is more important than a role in the hay…

      So though single women do this, do not exclude married women who seeks to boost her ego, or selfesteem…

  6. Cynthia
    Cynthia says:

    This is great information. It is a basic standard that used to be understood. Now that our society is off of its moral compass, we have people like one the readers below who doesn't see what the big deal is. The big deal is when men and women share emotional and intimate details of their lives; they are creating what is called soul ties. Men and women were created to naturally bond together. When all of the right elements are in place, affairs are born between people who probably would have never approached each other otherwise. You must have boundaries or you will find yourself saying, "I don't know, it just happened." Yeah okay, you know full well that those talks about your personal life, those long lunches, those excessive compliments, etc, etc created the foundation for the affair. Anything that you are doing with someone else that you are not or cannot discuss with your spouse is infidelity. People know what they are doing; “stop playing”

  7. Pat
    Pat says:

    Kudos for this!!!

  8. Octavia
    Octavia says:

    I think people get way too caught up with "stay away from the opposite sex!!!!" It's ridiculous. We're all grown and its just not that serious. If you love someone then you won't get caught up. Plain and simple.

    • Blessed One
      Blessed One says:

      You are just the kind of woman to look out for….SMH!

    • Tomica
      Tomica says:

      Strange, we are so caught up in staying away that in my opinion every 2 out of 5 cheaters are married! Why get married when the bachellor's lifestyle was a more suited one for you?ijs

  9. Mrs. M.
    Mrs. M. says:

    Wow!!!! I consider myself to be a trustworthy and loyal wife but I just realized in reading this that I might have a work husband…kinda sort of. This was so helpful to me…

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