Work wives and work husbands are the latest trend in relationships: a *theoretically* platonic way in which two colleagues connect with and support each other in high-intensity work environments.
But why is it that it’s always a partner of the appealing sex? Why use such an endearing term? Isn’t it all a little suspicious? [Read: 10 ways two people can have a purely platonic friendship]
Signs that something’s up with your partner and the work spouse
One or two of the below signs shouldn’t be overly troubling, but more than a few might be cause to worry. These signs, though not definitive, may clue you in on whether or not your partner’s relationship with his or her work spouse is more than what it seems.
#1 Your partner suddenly starts spending more time at work. A lot more time at work. This is one of those things that can creep up on you – especially if your partner is usually a workaholic. However, if you slowly start seeing your partner’s workdays lengthen, it could mean something is awry.
Maybe their workload is increasing… but maybe they’re spending a little more time with their work partner than they should. And that means that they’re choosing time with their work spouse over time spent with you.
#2 Your partner’s phone becomes off limits. Does your partner snatch their phone away when you pick it up? Has your partner installed any “messaging apps” like Kik? It could be a way to hide their communications from you. They may assume that you won’t figure it out.
Another way that your partner may try to hide things from you is by setting it so that their text messages don’t show up as an alert. On iPhones and most Android phones, a text message will usually show the message itself. If the message alert box pops up with just “text message,” you know your partner set it to hide the message. It may be time to start asking some questions. [Read: 18 sneaky ways you can catch a cheating partner]
#3 Your partner has in-jokes with their work spouse that they can’t explain to you. Sometimes a joke is just a joke. But here’s the problem: “It’s just a joke” is an easy way to write off things that are massively inappropriate. It also means that they don’t value you enough to even try to explain something that they find funny.
Don’t buy the “it’s just a joke” excuse. Have your partner explain it to you. If you don’t get it, then you don’t get it. But at least you know that they’re willing to try rather than to just write you off.
#4 Your partner starts taking all of their lunches with their work spouse. The whole point of a work “spouse” is to have someone who has your back in a stressful work environment. Someone to vent to who understands. So taking a lunch break or two with them is fine.
But when all of your partner’s lunches are exclusively with their work spouse, it’s an entirely different situation. Aren’t their work hours enough to encompass whatever needs to be discussed? Why is the work spouse invading your partner’s lunch hour? Is that much time together even healthy? Your partner has some explaining to do.
#5 Your partner doesn’t want you to meet their work spouse. This is an obvious red flag – but it may not be for the reasons you think. It’s not just that they’re hiding you from the work spouse or vice versa. It’s that they’re hiding themselves from their work spouse.
When a person is attracted to someone, they present their “best self,” which is a sort of congratulatory fiction that makes them seem fantastic. They want to keep that fiction up and they don’t want you to see them acting more charming, witty and cultured than they ordinarily would. In short, you might catch on to the fact that your partner is acting completely different with their work spouse, and not in an entirely professional manner, to boot.
#6 Your partner stops mentioning you on Facebook. Some people don’t use Facebook a lot. That’s not a bad thing. But if your spouse’s Facebook activity has drastically changed in recent months, you should be worried. Did your spouse stop tagging you in photos? Instead of saying “out to dinner with the wife,” are they just saying “out to dinner?” An omission can still be a lie.
This is extremely common when a partner is feigning a bad relationship with their spouse. Your partner could be telling their work spouse that their marriage is falling apart or that they barely get time to see you. They could even be convincing the work spouse that you’re separated!
#7 Your partner and their work spouse have “their own friends.” Once your partner starts going out with their work spouse and not including you, usually because “it’s all people from work,” you’ve been cut out of a huge portion of their life. And it’s time to find out why.
It’s perfectly fine for someone to want to go out without their husband or wife sometimes. But there should be a standing invite open. If you want to go out with them and their friends, why should your partner prevent you from doing so?
If they’re reluctant to include you in their social life, your partner may be preventing a meeting between you and the work spouse *see #5*, he or she doesn’t want to include you in the circle of friends that includes the work spouse or something incredibly fishy is up! [Read: 10 types of friends you want to keep away from your partner]
#8 Your partner and their work spouse have more of a history than they initially let on. When “Kate from accounting” becomes “Kate from accounting… who I also went to high school with,” it’s a huge red flag. If your spouse omitted something big about their past history with this person, it’s because it’s important. Don’t buy that it’s “no big deal” or that it “slipped their mind.” This is never true.
After all, your partner is spending their entire day with this person. Their past history is bound to come up. The only reason a partner would fail to mention it is because they purposely omitted this information in the hope that you’ll never find out.
#9 Your partner starts taking an interest in new hobbies, music, movies and events that they were never interested in before. Do you remember the last time you started picking up new interests all of a sudden? It’s usually when you first start dating someone new. Picking up new interests is a way to bond with a new love interest. It’s a way for your spouse to seem more interesting to their new flame.
Now, if your wife suddenly takes up an interest in knitting because it calms her down, that’s one thing. But if your wife suddenly starts taking up an interest in EDM and then casually drops that her work spouse DJs as a hobby, that’s something else entirely. [Read: 18 signs your partner is having an emotional affair]
That means that your spouse is spending their time trying to become more interesting to another person.
#10 Your partner starts becoming enmeshed in their work spouse’s personal issues. Is their work spouse going through an unpleasant divorce? Dealing with problems with their kids? Dealing with a ton of debt?
This is a sign that their relationship has gone beyond the office and is now extending into day-to-day life. Why is that bad? Because that’s what you’re there for. Your spouse should be talking to you about their personal issues… and their “work spouse” should be talking to their husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend or family. Once it moves beyond a work relationship, there may be a degree of emotional investment involved. [Read: Emotional cheating and 10 things it can do to you]
#11 Your partner trash talks their work spouse incessantly. Do you feel OK about your partner’s work wife because he says she’s “fat?” Or maybe you’re OK with your partner’s work husband because he’s “incredibly stupid?”
Trash talking a work spouse is often used as a distancing mechanism. A partner may sense that they are getting too close to their work spouse and start using distancing language to indicate that they really don’t like that person all that much.
But obviously, you’re not stupid. If this person was really as unintelligent, irritating or unappealing as your partner says, why would they be spending so much of their free time with them? This is a huge red flag: the negativity is hiding something else that’s there.
#12 Your partner becomes suspicious of your work friends. If your partner is having an inappropriate relationship with their work spouse, they’ll magically become very suspicious and jealous of any of your colleagues. This is because they may think that you are doing what they are doing. Heightened jealousy is just another sign of cheating – in any situation.
It isn’t overly controlling behavior to ask your spouse to take a step away from someone that they are spending way too much time with. The entire concept of a “work husband” or “work wife” already toes the line of acceptability in a relationship. If your spouse doesn’t want to give up the comfort of their work partner for your comfort, something is already wrong.
[Read: 9 sure ways to know if you’re dating a cheater]
Though your partner’s relationship with the work spouse may seem completely platonic, you may still want to check for the telltale signs. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt, but don’t just brush a potential issue off when you start to see these signs being manifested by your partner!
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