Signs Your ‘Work Spouse’ Is Trouble
We are all familiar with the concept of the ‘work spouse’ – the colleague (of the opposite sex) you socialise with, get coffees with and confide in. Theoretically this is harmless. In practice your relationship with your work wife or work husband can turn into a low rent, real-life reboot of Fatal Attraction.
Work is, for many, existential purgatory and is the only escape many people have from domestic hell (which is probably worse than purgatory). To combat the threatened onset of existential terror people form a bond with someone at work. These relationships will often form based on mutual dislike of things like crap clients/customers, demanding bosses or infuriating colleagues. All good so far.
Signs it’s going pear shaped are:
The conversation turns personal.
If your work spouse wants to swap funny stories and moan about others at the office, fine. When they start confiding in you about personal matters, particularly their romantic relationship(s), it’s time to move the family rabbit to a safe house. And disconnect the gas-top stove.
If they’re confiding in you about their relationships they are indicating there is a void in their life and that you may be the person to fill it.
They want to socialise outside of work.
There is nothing wrong with socialising occasionally where you work. That said, you often spend more time with your colleagues than your family. If your work spouse sees you most days and still hasn’t had enough then it’s possible they want more. Who can stand seeing the same person seven days a week (romantic partner aside, but that’s the point)?
The physical contact escalates.
Beyond shaking hands and accidental collisions physical contact should generally be avoided at work. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid and there’s nothing wrong with a hug when someone is leaving the company or a kiss on the cheek when they’re going on holidays. When the touching escalates to lingering hugs, hand touching or groping then it’s time to seek a work divorce before you get sent to the HR co-ordinator’s office.
People start gossiping.
If people start gossiping about you and your work spouse and speculating the two of you are responsible for the broken cot in the sick bay, it’s time to pour liquid nitrogen on the work relationship. People love to gossip and it doesn’t take any more than a man and woman spending time together to start a rumour but it’ll usually only catch on when there’s a reason. If people are gossiping about you then whether you know it or not it may have gone too far.
If HR has told you to scale it back, it’s gone way too far.
They message you constantly out of work.
Most office jobs have work email and internal messaging to communicate with colleagues. Using this occasionally at work to communicate with your work spouse is fine. If they want to get in touch after hours and there’s a good reason this is also fine. They may, for example, have left their pass at work. They may want to meet for a coffee before work (ok occasionally). If they message you all the way through the Bachelor speculating over which of the contestants is going to be given the heave-ho that night they’re going a bit far. Bad sign.
The proposition you.
People can do things they regret when drunk. That said, if your work spouse propositions you, even if they are profoundly embarrassed when they’ve sobered up, cull and start documenting every interaction with them in the event they go full-psycho on you and try to get you sacked following the rejection.
For some more tips on workplace romance read How To Identify Single Men In The Workplace.