Ask Single Dating Diva: My Husband Has a “Work Wife”, Is That Cheating?

I was discussing my posts this week about cheating with one of my colleagues (and good friend) and she asked me what about “work wives”? Is THAT cheating? How common is it that someone has a work spouse? Actually, it is not as uncommon as you might think. These types of engagements typically occur in places where long hours and stresses are a common part of the job. Apparently, almost 700 people in different work scenarios were surveyed and 32% say they have engaged in a “work spouse” relationship. What is a work spouse? Essentially, a it is someone that you work with who you are very close to, someone whom you can share your work life with, you have inside jokes, you care about each other’s well-being, and you spend a lot of your free work time together. This relationship is not a sexual one; it is a “marriage” in all intents and purposes EXCEPT for sex. It is completely platonic, or, it should be. Nevertheless, it gets you wondering, is it risky behavior?

My Husband Has a “Work Wife”, Is That Cheating?

work-wife

Dear Single Dating Diva,

My husband has a “work wife”. They have a close friendship. In fact, he also has a “work mistress” as well as other “work liaisons” he jokes around about. Although I am generally OK with it, sometimes it makes me uncomfortable. Is this normal behavior? Is having a “work wife” cheating?

Sincerely,

The REAL Wife

Dear Real Wife,

Thank you for your question; it is a very important one. The work spouse scenario often ends up in murky water territory. It is all about boundaries and walking a fine line between friendship and intimacy. By definition, a “work wife” is completely platonic and should not go beyond the work space. This relationship is definitely NOT a sexual one. It is not even emotional although there is a “caring” component but the way friends care for each other. There has to be a clear line.

Is it cheating? It depends what YOUR boundaries are and if your spouse is being honest with you or not. It seems that he shares everything with you, but it also seems like this arrangement makes you somewhat uncomfortable. It is important that you express any concerns you have with your husband. Openness is key. Just look out for some of the red flags.

Work Spouse Red Flags

How do you know when to sound the alarms? Well, it is when the work spouses

  • spend time alone outside of the work environment / work day
  • communicate online / on the phone / text outside of the work environment / work day
  • share very personal information about themselves and their marriage problems that they don’t share with their “real” spouse
  • keep secrets from their “real” spouse
  • talk about their work spouse a lot at home
  • blur the professional lines / boundaries
  • act in a way that causes other co-workers to question their relationship
  • develop more than friendly feelings and caring for each other
  • have sexual fantasies about each other

Signs That the Line Has Been Crossed

Affairs usually start out completely innocently as friendships. Then the casual engagement becomes emotional. Work relationships usually fulfil a need that both people have for companionship and understanding as well as prowess and ego. Although these relationships might start out as a friendship, as time goes on, these two people will get closer and start Ask-Single-Dating-Divasharing more intimate details about their lives. As they start doing that, it is very possible to see that person as your hero or only person that “gets” you. They are the person that you lean on. This is where feelings develop. This is where emotional affairs happen. Even if there is no physical sex. However, how do you know that it is happening? Well, you know that you have crossed a line when you develop romantic feelings, when you are hiding things from your real spouse and when you start having sexual thoughts. When this happens, you need to take a step back and re-focus.

If you are the “real” spouse, as I mentioned earlier, you need to communicate with your partner if you feel a line has been crossed and that you are uncomfortable with the relationships your spouse is having at work. Do not be unreasonable and do not attack, just calmly mention how their actions are making you feel and why.

Hope this helps!

Readers, what do you think? Do you have (or have you ever had) a work spouse? How did it happen? Did you ever cross the line? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Your Sister in Dating Bliss,

Single Dating Diva

Copyright Single Dating Diva

14 thoughts on “Ask Single Dating Diva: My Husband Has a “Work Wife”, Is That Cheating?

  1. Great post, Suzie.

    The “Work Spouse” is a really easy way to find yourself in as sticky situation, whether an escalation of intimacy, or when the other party tries to turn it into something more (awkward).

    With statistics about how many of us find our partners at the office, it only adds to the paranoia. But, as you point out, it all comes down to trust and respect of your “real” partner. If you’re queasy at the thought of your real partner having the same type of relationship at their office, you’re probably on dangerous ground. If you’re always paranoid (rather than periodically) that your partner is cheating, you probably need to take a closer look at your relationship.

    Cheers,

    T

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  2. OK, I’m confused….. I’m was starting to understand the “work wife” concept, but “work mistress”. Her husband has one of those also?, or is it the same person? When I was married, I had (and still have) a long time lady friend who lives in another state. Once every few months, we would talk on the phone and really enjoy our conversations – joking and laughing during the whole time. Years later, during my divorce, that friendship came up in question. I was asked by my wife (who I’m sure heard me on the phone) why I able to talk so freely with my friend, and enjoy the relationship so much. Good question, there was something missing in my marriage that I was enjoying with another woman. That I guess was a clue to how healthy my marriage was at the time. Yes, I still talked with my lady friend (of 40 years) and we enjoy our conversations very much still.

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    • Well Dan, what you have there is a great friendship and that’s not such a bad thing, but, you’re right you sought it out because something was missing. But, you never crossed the line, it didn’t turn into an affair.

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  3. I have been a work wife before! It was awesome… but ultimately the relationship started getting VERY flirting and ultimately crossed boundaries. I would say this whole type of relationship should have a yellow flag for caution. I wouldn’t be okay with it, personally. Unless I met this “work wife” and her and I also had a relationship (of some sort) of our own.

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  4. I’m glad I came across this. I walked in to my husband’s office today and his “work wife” was sitting there. He was eating lunch and they were talking. I smiled, we exchanged pleasantries, and then I experienced some real discomfort. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt uncomfortable popping in on my husband at work. Most of the time, if there is someone in his office, his coworker will politely excuse themselves so we can at least have a few moments alone. This time, she just sat there. It was incredibly awkward for me. I didn’t even feel like I could hug him, and we are a very affectionate couple. I left feeling nauseated.

    After leaving, I texted him: So that was awkward, sorry.

    Him: Not at all. Come in any time love!!!

    Me: Uh yeah, your “home” wife walking in on your “work wife” … Totally felt like I was interrupting.

    Him: Not at all. And I have lots of people I talk to.

    Me: Ok.

    Seriously though, I’m still feeling nauseated. I don’t know whether I should let it go or let him know how I’m feeling. Not sure there’s anything he could do about my unease even if I did tell him. What do you think?

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    • Thanks for sharing your experience Noel. I just think that you need to communicate with him how this makes you feel. Don’t be accusatory. It doesn’t sound like you have anything to worry about but he’s not taking your feelings into account. You need to calmly talk about it.

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    • I am having issues with my spouse’s “work wife” which is a phrase that I learned about after I was invited by his company on a business trip with him, his “work wife” and her real husband. The trip took place last Feb. 2014 right around Valentine’s day and I have not been able to let it go. I have done a great deal of research on the subject, we have been in couple’s counseling as a result, and he maintains that he is sorry about the way he and his “work wife” ignored me and her husband for 3 days.
      He said that he spoke with her and the other staff about the situation and says that he was completely wrong for allowing this to happen but I still can’t forget the what I saw with my own eyes and the way I felt. I witnessed the two of them completely absorbed with one another. They were laughing at each others jokes, she was whispering in his ear, and grabbing his knee whenever she laughed at his jokes. I kept looking over at her real husband and he seemed uncomfortable as well.
      There were other red flags as well that led up to the weekend. I often refer to her as his “work wife”,Sue, in front of him and he seems to resent the phrase. I have also told him that she still works with him and I don’t see what they are doing, saying, and their actions when I am not there. Until she leaves the company I will not be comfortable with the two of them working together. Of all the research I have done on the subject one thing I have noticed is that the real wives try to be supportive and hope there is nothing going on. However, the men that say that their wives have a”work spouse” are totally against the arrangement and all say that no good can come from it. I am a “real wife” that is on the side of the “real husbands” on this matter. I appreciate the men not trying to be politically correct and trying not to be supportive. I agree with real husband that no good can come from this arrangement.

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  5. I think my husband has a work wife — they wear the same colors to work everyday, they can’t get through 3 hours without texting each other when not at work and my husband had been emotionally disconnected from me since they started working together. She lived with us for 5 weeks while looking for a place to live when he relocated work and brought her with him and I felt like the third wheel the entire time…. Well really I still do…. How do I cope with this, I can’t stop thinking about it. They act flirty in front of me and he gets mad if I don’t want to hang out with her… What do I do???

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    • Thanks for sharing your experience. Your husband has definitely crossed the line in my opinion. You have every right to feel what you are feeling. His actions are unacceptable. You need to sit him down and calmly explain to him how you’re feeling in a non accusatory way and that you are his wife and need him. If he doesn’t stop then you need to make a choice about your next steps. If he is completely disregarding your feelings in all of this then he doesn’t value you. In the meantime, I think you might benefit by speaking with a professional about your distress and they can help you make a plan of action. Sorry again for your distress. I hope this helps.

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    • Hello H,
      My question is… Why are you still married to this very clueless jerk, who does not know what marriage is about. I was thinking WTF when you wrote about them wearing the same colors to work, and texting each other every 3 hours when NOT at work? BUT….. what really got me thinking was when you wrote “She lived with us for 5 weeks while looking for a place to live when he relocated work” I think you are enabling him in his actions. YES, as Suzie wrote – see a professional. Most married men, by doing what you husband has done, would be divorced by now, and probably married to his “work wife” and doing the same to her.

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  6. I lived in Japan for several years and that was where I first heard about the concept of a ‘work wife’. Understandable considering the long hours they spend in the office.

    Personally I think emotional closeness can be more dangerous than sexual attraction, so if the relationship extended beyond the office it would worry me.

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