‘I Spend More Time With My Work Partner Than My Real One’

“A work wife is just someone you flirt with with at work. Totally harmless, totally normal. I have two work husbands, three work ex-boyfriends, one work stalker and one work dog. You should get a work husband! Just be careful.”-Happy Endings, ABC

With all the time we spend at work today, the office really can become a second home. If our second home had several computers, cubicles, fluorescent lighting, bathroom stalls and erratic temperature control. And in some cases, depending on our jobs, the people we work with truly become our family. If you have a job or run a business where you are working intimately with one person, you may actually spend more time with him or her than your real life partner. We talked to some people about this and what effect it had on their personal relationships.

According to a survey from Captivate Network, 65% of workers have or previously had a work spouse. According to Linda Young, Ph.D., a Houston-based psychologist and relationship therapist who consults with companies on workplace dynamics:

“It’s your number one ally and advisor at work—the person you can laugh with or be stressed out with, have politically incorrect conversations with, and give honest opinions to.”

And despite the long hours that work spouses spend in close quarters, studies show that most of the time nothing salacious is going on. Only 8% of workers said they crossed the line with their work husband or wife, according to the survey.

Joe Parsons told The Grindstone:

“I have owned a small, successful mortgage company in the San Francisco Bay Area for about fifteen years. For the last ten years, I have worked with a partner, who is a very close friend in addition to being my ‘work wife.’ I definitely spend more time with Cindie (and in many respects have a better relationship) than I do with my ‘regular’ wife of 43 years.

Working together–especially in our industry–is very much like being in combat together. Sharing the same specific goals, dealing with the same kinds of obstacles, disappointments and victories definitely creates a very strong bond.

Operating our business together requires focus, dedication and effective communication. Those elements are necessary for a good marriage as well, but the goals we have in business are more specific and identifiable than overall life goals. The reason our relationship is so healthy is that we don’t have to live together. If we have conflict with each other, we have at a minimum 10 hours or so to cool off and come back in the morning to meet our shared objectives. It has also been quite a lot easier to establish ground rules for resolving conflict with Cindie than with my wife. It is very hard (if not impossible) to overcome certain habits and behaviors that likely have taken decades to establish.

I typically spend more time with Cindie during the week than I do with my wife. We work a 40-plus hour week, and most of that is dealing together with clients face to face or on the phone. Fortunately, we enjoy each other’s company and put up with each other’s foibles!

I suppose there was a time when my wife had some jealous feelings about my partner, who is an unusually attractive woman. She (my wife) has come to realize that Cindie does not pose a threat to our relationship.”

Fletcher Findley, an attorney in a Seattle estate planning law firm he helped found, said his close relationship with his business partner does sometimes add tension to his relationship with his girlfriend.

“After starting the law firm, my business partner and I went from seeing each other once or twice a week to every day in the office to spending 40-50 hours a week together, sometimes more. This is about on par with the amount of time I see my girlfriend, and depending on the weekends I sometimes find myself spending substantially more time with my partner than with my girlfriend.

Overall my experience with this arrangement has been a very positive one. My partner and my girlfriend get along well, and having such a close relationship with my partner actually removes some of the pressure from my relationship with my girlfriend.

However, in past instances of tension between us, my girlfriend has placed some negative focus on my business partner. For example, if I went to happy hour with him before coming home, or helped him work on his house on the weekend, she expressed feeling that I was using him as an excuse to get away from her, and after one of the incidents she would be a little colder towards him.”

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    • Lastango

      Seems dicey. I can see how it would have special appeal for someone who deliberately “settled” — like the guy who wrote that his excitement and energy in life come from his work and his colleagues, not from his wife. I suppose we can assume he loves his wife (he didn’t say), but she’s definately not the center of his universe, and he has no incentive to fix that by drawing closer to her or discovering ways to deepen their intimacy and reliance on each other.