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For the women who need us most

I’m Werking On My…

I’m Werking On My…

All work, no play? – The reality of having a ‘work husband’
By Ellie Pierce

Everyone has their own ways of trying to find excitement in their daily routine to make their work day more enjoyable. For some, this involves having a ‘work husband’. Someone to look forward to seeing and to have a ‘harmless flirt’ with.

We’ve all heard the term ‘work husband’/ ‘work wife’ but can this actually improve our work life? Or is it harmful? What about when romantic partners are involved? 

Werk spoke to Bethany Nicole who is a relationship expert, love astrologer and author of ‘Apologies I Never Got’. 

Why do people even have a ‘work wife’/ ‘work husband’?

“The work environment can become its own ecosystem so it’s kind of hard to explain it to someone who’s not in it with you. This means you can really create these deep bonds between colleagues and sometimes they almost mimic a little bit of like trauma bonds.

“Sometimes even your romantic partner doesn’t fully understand because they’re not in it. So, people can really form these bonds because they feel this connection to someone who understands on a very clear level and they can get support from that person, both emotionally or just even in the workplace in general.”

What are the positives of having a work partner?

“Having someone that you can look forward to seeing and, obviously, having people you get along with at work creates such a healthy environment for you. You want to be there, you want to spend more time there. If you hate the place and everyone you work with, you’re just doing the bare minimum so you can kind of get out of that environment. So there’s definitely some beneficial aspects to it.”

When do things start to go wrong?

“These fun, little partnerships can also be harmful. They can impact your work environment and your work life, and then they can be harmful to your actual intimate relationships. There are dynamics that come into play in a co-working situation that are not at play with other people, like your friends outside of the office. That includes things like finances, which can cause jealousies or insecurities. It can turn into a you versus them mentality, if somebody’s up for promotion or reprimanded. So as much as we want to think we can have this trusting relationship with coworkers, at the end of the day, we have to recognise their actual role in our lives, which is a co worker.

“I’ve seen examples of people who have confided in their coworkers and told them really personal things. Then something happens and they kind of flip and share that information or tell a boss about it. That affects the person really negatively. Even if you just have a falling out with your work wife or husband, now all that information could be shared. That really can affect your ability to make money and your work environment in general. It can even get your boss involved. It’s just not the best arena for that. You really want to be careful about what you say because it can easily get shared. The good rule of thumb is that you really shouldn’t share anything with them that you’re not comfortable putting in a work email.

“It can also get kind of tricky with things like happy hours or whatever, where there’s Christmas parties, where there’s a lot of alcohol. You can see lines blurred very easily. Ultimately, the risk is just so high”

Can you have a ‘work husband’ if you have a romantic partner at home? 

“If you have a work partner, you have to be aware of how your intimate partner feels about it. Sometimes, the intimate partner is actually expressing some discomfort and the person says ‘well, nothing physical is going on, so what’s the problem?’. But you can be entrenched in this sort of emotional area that creates a wedge or does make somebody feel like the third wheel. So I think you have to be really aware of that. I know it’s like a fun term and everything, but I just have seen it lead to so many issues. 

“It’s not just about a physical affair, you can also be entangled or using somebody to get certain needs met in an inappropriate way that isn’t just physical or sexual.There’s a lot of layers to a relationship, energetic and otherwise, and so you can be kind of using somebody else as a proxy to get those needs, which pushes your partner kind of out of that equation. I see a lot of people saying ‘there’s just something weird about their relationship, or there’s just something inappropriate but I know that they’re not like physically sleeping together. There’s just something so weird about it.’ It’s just really about communicating with your partner.

“That’s the problem with allowing it to get to that level, because then if either one of you starts dating, you have to push the other one back out to make space for this new partner. That actually is where you can see a lot of the retaliation or the people getting jealous or angry. They don’t really have a reason for it because you weren’t maybe in a physical relationship but they just suddenly feel like you’ve had to remove them from your inner circle.”

“Another negative is that it can really slip into an emotional affair where you’re really going to this person for comfort, validation, assurance. That can really harm your intimate partnership as they feel almost like a third wheel in their own relationship, they feel really out of the loop.”

Can having a work husband affect your actual love life? 

“If you’re all entangled with a work person emotionally, you’re not actively energetically open to bring anything else in because you basically have a partner that’s filling all of the needs except for this one. I’ll have clients that are like ‘I just keep bringing in these people who want hookups or flings and I don’t know what it is’. It’s because you have a work husband who’s taking up your entire emotional space. It’s like all you’ve left open is the door to physicality.”

The workplace is constantly changing. People come and go. People get partners.What impact might this have if you ‘break up’ with your work spouse? 

“It can sometimes feel like a real breakup. You might have even become a little bit codependent on them in the work environment. And now you’re having to recalibrate that and show up in a different way. And people experience it as a breakup because it’s just something or someone that was meeting a need for you and creating validation, or safety or whatever it is and now that’s gone” 

It’s like a friendship breakup. Someone you confided in, spent a lot of time with, someone you’d look forward to seeing. Of course, it’s going to hurt when that changes. 

Despite the fact that having a ‘fake’ relationship at work can make it more fun and add a little excitement to the office (and probably a bit of gossip after the work night out), you have to consider the negatives it can come with. 

For more on office relationships check out our story on workplace romances and how they can sometimes be successful!