8 Smart People Do to Keep the ‘Work Spouse’ Relationship Professional

work spouses at the office

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Heather K Adams734
Content + Copy Writer
May 22, 2024 at 5:13AM UTC
The relationship you have with your best work pal is all about partnership and teamwork. S/he holds you down, builds you up and is there for you through thick and thin, from rainy Monday morning to Friday happy hour. You buckle down together to nail project deadlines and make sure you celebrate every quarterly milestone.
Sound like a marriage? There's a reason for that.

What's a work spouse all about?

Like a regular work friend only better, your work spouse is someone you have a fairly intimate (and usually platonic) daily relationship with. You work together closely more often than not and are probably equals in terms of job title. You inhabit the same sphere and are able to be completely emotionally honest with each other. This gets you through the Thursday doldrums and means you've got support through crappy projects, head colds and deadline woes as well.
Competition is a strong presence in many work environments, and that constant state of jockeying for positions is exhausting. So is working somewhere with other high-stress factors. Even if it's the best-for-you job in the world, having a spouse there to share it all with and offset those stressors can make every workday even better. Essentially, a work spouse is your boon 9-to-5 companion.

Why you need a work spouse.

For most of us, work is the place where we spend most of our waking hours, Monday through Friday, for most of our adulthood. It's literally where we spend a lot of our lives. And like the rest of life, our time at work can sometimes feel like a bit of a soap opera. Friends become enemies, "sure thing" promotions disappear... It's nice to have a degree of constancy through all of that.
Your work wife or husband is basically your best friend when you're on the clock. They're going to understand that environment better than your actual spouse, who may never even set foot inside your office. They can simply understand your professional situations better than anyone else in the world. And when things get stressful? A work spouse can save your sanity.
The potential for emotional support in a work spouse relationship is not to be underestimated. This is someone with whom you can be your more honest self, who supports your ambitions, understands your daily highs and lows and who just gets you. And don't we all dream of finding that?

8 tips for having a work spouse.

1. Make the friend zone clear.

Work spouse relationships work best when both of you're on the same level. Defining the platonic nature of your relationship may not ever be a thing you need to address outright. But if it is, the sooner that's clarified, the sooner you can focus on the friendship itself.

2. Know the limits.

You're probably not going to be bowling buddies with your work spouse. If you are, then they're moving into legitimate best friend territory. But if you've never texted outside of work or met up for a weekend lunch or outing, then your relationship is just for when you're on the clock. And that's okay.

3. Don't treat your work spouse like a therapist.

A little moaning and groaning about work is fine. You'll both do your share of venting, after all. But keep a lid on how many of your more personal problems you bombard your work spouse with. Remember, working together means they can't really get away from you if you start holding them captive with personal issues.

4. It's okay to be polygamous.

While you and your work spouse may have a solid partner vibe going, remember not to isolate yourselves from the rest of the office. Including other people in both your lunch plans and your in-jokes will help prevent your other coworkers from feeling left out or alienated. You don't want to help foster or create an environment of exclusivity in your workplace.

5. Got a crush? Tread carefully...

It's totally natural to fall a little bit in love with a friend, be they coworker or otherwise. There are all different kinds of love to fall into, but romantic feelings are the ones that can play havoc in an office environment — and potentially damage a perfectly lovely work-spouse relationship. You can't control your feelings, but you can respect boundaries. If you start developing heart-eyed emoji feelings for your work wife, think very carefully before you confess them.

6. Be a good spouse in return.

A good work spouse is someone who is always there to listen, understand you and support you. You want to make sure you're not tying the office knot with the biggest gossip or tea-maker in the building. But you also want to make sure you're showing up for your significant office other as much as they are for you. Don't let your relationship become unevenly balanced.

7. Include your other spouse.

You know, the one you actually married? They're a part of your life too, obviously, and they might start to get a bit jealous of your work spouse. If every story they hear about your job involves some mention of your professional significant other, your wife or husband could easily feel left out. So find a way to get the two together. Invite your real spouse to lunch on a workday, or have your work spouse over for dinner (if your relationship allows for it). Even if they can't meet, take your life partner's feelings into consideration and maybe curb how much you talk about your work spouse. 

8. Celebrate National Work Spouse Appreciation Day.

Okay, so that's not a thing. But if we can have National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day (no joke: January 3rd), then we should for sure take a day to celebrate our work spouses. Until then, remember that everyone likes to feel good, that compliments and small tokens of appreciation (you know your work spouse has a weakness for white cheddar popcorn, right?) are always welcome. Let your significant office other know how much you value their friendship, their memes and that spot-on impression they do of your boss. Because really, how much would your day suck without them?

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