• Thu, Jan 19 2012

Managing Men: How To Divorce Your Work Husband

Oh the “Work Husband.” It’s a dubious title that I’ve never been quite comfortable with. After all, I’ve worked very closely with men at my office. My office neighbor, partner-in-crime, venting buddy and right-hand-man happens to be… a man. We talk about our families, our jobs, our customers. We make sure the other one remembered to take a lunch. I consider this co-worker and I to be very close, but I just don’t  know about this whole “Work Husband” label. After all, I have a real husband at home. I’m not sure how he would feel about my bestowing that honorable title on someone else. But no matter what you call it, there is one aspect of marriage that seems to hold true for both real life and the office, breaking up is hard to do. In fact, I would argue that divorcing your work husband can be just as emotional, uncomfortable and possibly expensive as ending an honest-to-goodness marital union. [tagbox tag= "managing men"]
I will make a huge exception for those who have children when they split, because that’s obviously a whole different situation. That being said, please consider the parallels between a real break-up and a work split.

  • Most of the office is forced to pick sides, making everyone around you miserable.
  • You start to question every project you’ve ever worked on together, because suddenly you don’t trust their judgment on anything.
  • Normally there’s some hurt feelings and it makes running in to each other in the hallway completely tense and stressful.
  • If one of you cheated, get prepared for war.
Even in the office world, people get possessive. When you start to lean on a co-worker to help solve your problems or support you when things are going wrong, it’s only natural for those jealous feelings to creep up. After all, this person is your rock. You’d hate to find out that they haven’t been returning your emails because they’ve been busy supporting a new office paramour. Vice verse, if a man goes to someone else for advice, their Work Wife might start to wonder why their input is no longer good enough. It’s a blow to ego.
Office relationships are always complicated, because they bring together personalities and business. But if you’re looking to end a partnership, it might help to approach it in the same way as a real divorce.
  • Be honest. You need to explain what’s happened and how you’re feeling. Just like it’s difficult to walk around your house and ignore your spouse, that water-cooler is going to get pretty awkward if you never come forward with your point of view and problem. The best way to move on after a split is make sure that you’ve said your piece when it ends.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk business. Do you have any joint projects? Were they helping you with a proposal? Do they know your work secrets? You need to talk about these things and how they will work going forward. Considering it a process of dividing your assets. Everyone should get an equal share of the responsibilities, but you need to have a conversation about who is taking what.
  • Take a little time to grieve. You don’t have to pretend like everything is fine and dandy the day after your split. If you’ve gotten in to a major fight with someone who you had a close relationship with, you have every right to take a little time apart before moving on.
  • Keep it private. None of your Facebook friends want to get involved in your break-up and none of your co-workers want to listen to your personal work spouse drama. It’s a relationship between two people and it can stay that way, even when it ends.
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  • Malewisco

    Dear Lindsay,

    You “don’t know how your real husband would react?”. I know that’s just an expression, but oh, yes you do.

    I have a main concern with your narrative: if this gentleman isn’t really your “work-husband”, then why Why even use the word “divorce?”

    If you don’t want the label (and it sounds like you don’t) don’t ACCEPT it (even in your mind!)

    There is NOTHING natural about being possessive about a co-worker, especially if you are MARRIED. A co-worker is not a plaything, Lindsay. Not only are you unwittingly creating problems for your own marriage, you are potentially interfering with your co-worker’s marriage (if he is married) or his potential to marry (if he’s single).

    Think about it. If your husband felt “possessive” of an attractive lady office-mate who suddenly came to her senses and realized she would retain all affections for her real husband (while being equally cordial with all fellow workers), and your man had a hard time dealing with his “loss”, and was showing withdrawal symptoms would you be in any way “sympathetic?”

    That’s what I thought.

    Someone who is confident in their abilities doesn’t have that sense of worth waver with what an office-mate thought yesterday versus next week. Someone who is getting overly attached, on the other hand, DOES have that attachment reflect in unhealthy ways like that.

    As a guy, I can attest to having attractive female workmates who are extremely attractive, and we all like to have friends, and it makes the work more enjoyable. But we must be honest with ourselves, Lindsay. Where any of them seem to be getting into territory with me that could be potentially insensitive to their status as married women (unintended or not), the smart thing is to remind all of us what our relationship is, (and is not).

    There can be no “split” if we were never together. Any man who is sincere will tell you, or any woman who wants honesty that being friends with a single lady is MUCH DIFFERENT from being friends with a married one. This is hard to accept for ladies who were naturally friendly people before they got married, and I surely sympathize, but it is what it is. As a guy, you do not have to walk on eggshells with her, don’t get me wrong, but you should respect her status, even if she appears to take it for granted every once in a while. Think of it as practice for when YOU are married, and find yourself with attractive married ladies.

    Come on. At least be honest with yourself. Just because everybody seems to be doing something does not make it okay. These things have real, lasting consequences on a marriage, and its not like keeping a relationship together is easy as it is.

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