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Work Husband & Wife: 49 Work Spouse Signs You’re Too Close & Rules to Follow

Work husbands and work wives are a natural setup at work. But don’t let your platonic office spouse accidentally have negative effects on your real romantic relationship.

work husband work wife work spouse

Work husbands and wives are seen in almost every office: a *theoretically* platonic relationship 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?

Now, in theory, it’s a flawless idea. You have someone who acts as a spouse at work, and then when the working day is done, you go home to your actual wife or husband. What could possibly go wrong?

In fact, a survey in 2020 reported that 25 percent of workers had a work spouse at some point in time: 44% were men, and half of them were women.

You see, it can be dangerous. But then again, it can be great! 

Who honestly likes going to work every day, seeing the same people, listening to the same drama? This is where having a work husband or wife comes in handy. But what exactly is a work wife or work husband? [Read: How two people can have a purely platonic friendship]

What is a work-husband or work-wife relationship?

Basically, a work spouse is a deep friendship with an office mate.

Having a work spouse can be lots of fun, as they can brighten up an otherwise dull day in the office. A work spouse is someone who works with you and with whom you have a close relationship. They’re usually of the opposite or preferred sex.

The relationship isn’t sexual or romantic, though can get flirty at times. They act more like your favorite person in the office who you rely on and spend most of your time with. [Read: The good and bad of hooking up with someone in the workplace]

Lots of people have a work husband or wife because we spend so much time with the same group of people day in and day out. At work, we find those we build camaraderie with best and gravitate towards them. People spend, on average, around 40 hours a week at work. 

Forming close friendships and bonds makes a real difference to the enjoyment of being at work, makes the time pass more quickly, and generally makes you feel more positive and motivated in your job.

When close friendships form between members of the opposite sex, especially ones who see each other every day, things can become a little confusing. It’s important to understand what’s okay and what’s not, especially in the workplace, and even more so if your real spouse is waiting for you at home! [Read: How to make friends who want to stay platonic]

How to know if you have a work spouse

If any of you have seen The Office, you already know a work spouse is very tricky. Sure, you have someone to rely on in the office, someone to confide in. They’re your emotional and professional rock—you’re a team. 

But when does this one work relationship become too much? This partnership you have has the possibility of becoming more intense, more… romantic.

Of course, sometimes it actually works out for the best, but, in many cases, it doesn’t. But before we even get into that, what are the signs you have a work wife or work husband? Well, you’re about to find out now. The signs are subtle, but they’re there. [Read: 18 emotional affair signs you probably never noticed]

1. You’re together… a lot

At work, you’re two peas in a pod. Whether there’s a conference, lunch, or hang-out, you guys are by each other’s side. 

In fact, when people don’t see you two together, they usually end up asking where the other person is. Everyone in the office sees you two as one—which may not be the best thing if you’re already in a relationship.

2. You spend a lot of time together outside of the office

For some work husbands and wives, their relationship only extends to the 9-5 office hours, which is fine. In fact, it’s a good boundary to have if you worry about someone developing feelings. [Read: How to keep flirting at work harmless and fun]

But some workplace spouses can actually spend a large amount of time together outside of the office as well.

3. You gossip together

You can’t trust anyone else when it comes to sharing gossip. But with your work wife or work husband, you have no problem coming to their cubicle during the day for a quick chat to tell them what just happened.

If you can spill the beans and not have to worry about anyone finding out, well, you have yourself a work husband or wife.

4. They’re the first person you go to

Whether you’re having a bad day at work, just received a promotion, or had a fight with another coworker, they’re the first person you vent to or ask for advice. Sure, you could tell someone else, but why would you? What’s really important is that they’re the one who hears the good news.

5. You share secrets with each other

Well, it wouldn’t be much of a wife/husband dynamic if you didn’t share secrets with each other, right? In order to build a strong relationship, you both need to be trustworthy. [Read: How to be friends without crossing the platonic line]

You’ve probably told your work spouse secrets that you wouldn‘t dream of telling anyone else in the office and vice versa.

6. You have no problem being honest with them

You can’t be completely honest with everyone, especially at work. Are you going to tell your boss that they look fat in those pants? Or that your co-worker is too much of a gossip? No, you’re only going to share those things with your work spouse.

But seriously, you have no problem telling your work husband or wife that they’re being annoying today or that you didn’t like what they said to you earlier today. You can be real with them. [Read: An insight into a rare relationship – platonic friends]

7. You have each other’s backs

This is what a real relationship comes down to. Do you have their backs, and do they have yours? If you can’t rely on this person to support you through thick and thin at work. 

Well, they’re just like all the other colleagues in the office. What makes a work wife or work husband is the fact that you know you can rely on them no matter what.

8. At work parties, you hang out with them

At your office Christmas party or at happy hour, instead of mingling with your other co-workers, you stick close to this person. In fact, if they don’t go, you usually bail on work events as well. It wouldn’t be the same without them! [TheTalko.com: Signs you’re madly in love with your coworker]

9. They’re on your mind outside of work

If something funny happens on the weekend, you want to text them and tell them. They’re on your mind all the time. 

Though it sounds nice, this is usually a red flag that you’re developing feelings. If you’re single, fine. But if you’re in a relationship, this isn’t good. [Read: Signs you’re emotionally attached and falling hard for someone]

10. You don’t want them to meet your actual spouse

You like your work husband or wife, and you love your real-life spouse, but you don‘t want them to ever meet. These are two worlds that you want to keep separated. But if that‘s the case, then you need to be asking yourself why. It sounds like you’re catching feelings.

11. You talk about them a lot

They could actually just be a hilarious person, so you have to talk about them. But if you’re constantly talking about them in conversation, it’s a clear sign that you’re developing feelings for them.

Think about it. You don’t talk about people that you’re not interested in. [Read: Pros and cons of banging a coworker in the office]

12. Your teamwork is on a whole other level

There’s a reason why you two are each other’s work husband or wife; you make a great team. Of course, you should use this to your benefit as your boss loves the work results.

The reason why you two work so well together is you both actually enjoy each other’s companies and work off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. [Read: Important habits you need to be independent]

13. You speak your own language

At work, you two basically communicate in your own private language. Maybe it’s through eye glances, jokes, or memes, but the point is you two are vibing. Not to mention your co-workers probably hate it, but who cares about them anyways?

Benefits of having a work husband or work wife

Having a work spouse isn’t inherently good or bad. It just depends on the individuals involved. So, let’s talk about some of the advantages of having a work husband or wife.

1. The feeling of companionship at work

A lot of people see their coworkers more often than their own family. And if you don’t have people you are close to at work, it can feel isolating and lonely.

So, when you have a work spouse, you always have someone as an outlet, especially whenever you need to vent about work-related problems. It will also feel less stressful if someone who can relate to those problems validates your feelings and provides emotional support. [Read: 16 signs of sexual tension between coworkers that can’t be hidden]

2. You have someone to collaborate with

Unless you are an extreme introvert, most people like to work with others and not be alone. And when you have a work spouse, you get to do just that! You can work on a project together and not have to take on the workload all by yourself, thus helping you get that work-life balance.

3. You can help maximize work productivity

When you are working on similar things, you can brainstorm together and assign tasks according to each other’s specific talents. For example, maybe one of you is better at writing and the other at running the numbers. You can maximize your work productivity together.

4. Boosts confidence at work

It always feels good to be a part of a team, right? So, having a work husband or wife can make you feel a lot more confident when you are at work.

You have someone who has your back and will always be your cheerleader when you need it. [Read: How to build self-confidence – 16 ways to realize you’re worth it]

Cons of an office spouse

Just like with anything in life, nothing is always good or always bad. So, there are also some disadvantages to having a work spouse. Here are some of them.

1. Jealousy in the workplace

If your work spouse tends to be popular with everyone, then other people could be jealous that you are so close to them. Whether it’s because someone has a romantic interest in your work spouse or they just wish they could hang out with them more, there could be jealousy that happens because of your connection to each other.

2. Competition with other coworkers

If some coworkers don’t have the same type of relationship with another person as you do with your work spouse, that could foster competition. Or even if they do, they – along with their own work spouse – might be competitive with you and yours. [Read: What to do when a relationship with a coworker ends]

3. Can cause problems between you and your romantic partner

This is the most obvious and dangerous disadvantage to having a work husband or wife. Either of your real romantic partners or spouses might get jealous of the connection that the two of you have. It might take away time and emotional energy from your real partner, and that can cause problems in your relationship.

Work husband-wife rules you must follow

While a work spouse is great fun, it’s important to consider learning those unwritten work spouse rules that both parties should stick to and ensure the friendship is a lasting and successful one and that everyone remains on the same page.

A friendship at work that turns sour can be extremely distressing and make life very difficult for you. It turns what was a fun and pleasant atmosphere into somewhere you just don’t want to be!

Learning the work spouse rules and sticking to them makes sure this doesn’t happen for you. [Read: How to recognize the signs of jealousy in someone and guide them out]

First, identify whether you might have a work husband or wife. Usually, a work spouse is someone you depend upon, whether that’s for important advice or sharing coffee! 

You spend your breaks with them, confide in them, spend time outside work with them, share jokes just the two of you get, be really honest with them, and they know loads about your personal life too.

Sound familiar? Then, you probably have a work husband or wife! So, what exactly are these work spouse rules you should stick to? Let’s take a look at them. [Read: Relationship rules – 30 must-know tips to live your best life]

1. Make sure you are clear from the outset

If you feel yourself getting close to someone of the opposite sex at work, that’s fine. But making sure you are clear about what kind of friendship you look for ensures you are both on the same page from the outset. 

If you aren’t or you hide the fact you are already in a relationship, this leads to confusion, misread signals, and hurt feelings. [Read: Crucial steps for setting healthy boundaries]

2. Don’t shut out your co-workers

Try not to be too exclusive with your work husband or wife. While it’s fine to get on better with some people than others, if you don’t make an effort to talk to any of your other colleagues and spend every minute of the workday with your work spouse, you’ll soon become the subject of office gossip. Perhaps you will miss out on having a more fulfilling social life too.

3. Set boundaries and stick to them

You know what kind of behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. What your partner at home tolerates and what they would be hurt or angered by is only something you know. 

Set clear boundaries and make sure you keep them. It’s a good idea to communicate these to your work spouse as well. Try and do this early on so there is no confusion. [Read: How to handle a coworker crush like an adult]

4. Keep it light, and don’t bring them into complicated home life situations

You shouldn’t really bring too much of your personal life into the workplace, no matter how close you feel to your work husband or wife. If you end up telling them every last detail about your real relationship, this could be crossing a line.

There is nothing wrong with bonding, but try to keep it light and fun. Have other friends outside work to rely on for the deep and meaningful stuff.

5. Don’t spend too much time alone

If you and your work spouse always sneak off together, you set tongues wagging. It’s much better to socialize as a group too!

6. Don’t flirt

A work husband or wife is a friend. It’s important to recognize that and not blur the lines. It can be nice to get the attention of someone other than your partner, but by flirting with your work spouse, you give off signals you shouldn’t. It potentially leads to somewhere pretty dangerous. [Read: How to have a perfectly platonic relationship]

7. Talk about your real partner and introduce them to one another

If your work spouse and your partner know each other, this makes life easier and also keeps those boundaries really clear.

8. If feelings develop, create some distance

Spending so much time with a person who you really like can lead to feelings developing which can be very confusing. If you feel as though you developed feelings like sexual attraction or something much deeper for your work husband or wife, give yourself a breather. Remember that your loyalty should be with your real spouse and not with your male or female co-worker.

9. Don’t talk too much about your work spouse at home

It’s pretty annoying for your real partner to hear you bang on about how great someone else is all the time. So, try and keep your praise to a minimum! [Read: 18 signs you’re emotionally attached to your work spouse and don’t know it]

10. Avoid alcohol

It’s fine to enjoy some after-work drinks from time to time, but getting really drunk together could lead to crossing the line. Then, there is no going back!

11. Keep your relationship drama free

A work husband or wife shouldn’t be someone you have a big dramatic relationship with, nor should it be too intense even when you have some disagreements at times. Keep drama out of your working friendships. [Read: Platonic rules to just be friends minus the drama]

12. Make sure your relationship develops for the right reasons

If you find yourself getting really close to someone at work, it is a good idea to just check in with yourself and make sure it’s just because you enjoy their company and they make your working days a bit more fun. 

If it’s because things aren’t right in your relationship at home, then you need to address this. Don’t use your work spouse as a way of fixing things or gaining some relief.

By following the tips above, you make sure you keep a healthy work-spouse relationship while not affecting your real relationship back home. [Read: Platonic friends – how to be platonic friends without sexual drama]

Signs that your partner might be cheating on you with their work husband or wife

Maybe it’s not you who has the work spouse, but rather your own spouse that does. If that’s true, you might be a little *or a lot* uncomfortable with the situation. What if they get too close to each other? What are the signs that you should be concerned about? 

One or two of the below signs shouldn’t be overly troubling, but more than a few might be a reason to worry. These signs, though not definitive, may clue you in on whether or not your partner’s relationship with his or her work husband or wife is more than what it seems.

1. Your partner suddenly starts spending long hours 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. [Read: Signs your partner’s coworker is too close for comfort]

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 husband or wife 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 Snapchat? 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” when it didn’t before, 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 husband or wife that they can’t even 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 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. [Read: Opposite sex friendships – 24 rules, boundaries, and where we go wrong]

But when all of your partner’s lunches are exclusively with their office husband or wife, 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 husband or wife

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 husband or wife. [Read: Emotional cheating vs. friendship – the point when a line is crossed]

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 around 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. [Read: Social media and relationships – the good, the bad, and the ugly]

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 your 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 husband or wife 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. [Read: Tips to be good friends with your coworkers]

It’s perfectly fine for someone to want to go out and leave their wife or husband at home 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: Types of friends you want to keep away from your partner]

8. Your partner and their work husband or wife 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. [Read: Sure ways to know if you’re dating a cheater]

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 husband or wife’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 the things it can do to you]

11. Your partner trash talks their work husband or wife incessantly

Do you feel okay 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. [Read: 22 practical ways to save your relationship when it’s falling apart]

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: How to deal with jealousy in a relationship and learn to overcome it]

What to do when your real husband or wife feels insecure about your work spouse

If you are the one who has a work spouse, your real partner might be very insecure about their counterpart. If you show any of the signs we just discussed, then it’s time that you make it right with your real romantic partner. Here are some things you can do to make them feel better.

1. Introduce them to one another

One of the reasons your real partner might be jealous is because they have never met your work husband or wife. They might feel like you are keeping them a secret, and for good reason. So, if you introduce the two of them, then they will probably feel comfortable enough and even get along with one another.

2. Give them reassurance 

Talk to your partner about your work spouse. If you don’t, their imagination might run wild and think that you are having an affair. So, give them reassurance that this isn’t true. Let them know how much you love them and that you aren’t going anywhere. [Read: Attachment styles theory – 4 types and 19 signs and ways you attach to others]

3. Spend less time with your work spouse

You might not mean to spend so much time with your work husband or wife, but maybe you do accidentally. So, be mindful of how much time and attention you are taking away from your real romantic partner. Spend more time with them and less time with your work spouse.

4. Prioritize your partner over your work husband or wife

Sure, work is important. But it shouldn’t be so important that it takes over your personal time. So, if you find that you are talking to or seeing your work spouse outside of normal work hours, stop doing that. Make your real partner your top priority, and let them know through your actions.

5. Establish boundaries with your work spouse

This one is very important. Set up rules for both of you to follow. For example, there should be certain times that they can and can’t text or call you – like after 8:00 p.m. 

Or you can’t go out together after work and only hang out at lunchtime. Whatever both of you see as reasonable, those are the boundaries you should set and follow.

[Read: Ways to keep flirting at work harmlessly innocent and fun]

There is no problem with having a work husband or wife. In fact, there can be lots of benefits. But if it’s not kept completely platonic, then you and our work spouse might need to take a step back and follow our rules. 

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...