Most business professionals—70 percent—have or have had a work spouse. These intimate, yet totally platonic relationships can help us cope with and manage stress in the workplace, whether we need to vent about a difficult boss or ask for an unfiltered opinion on a project.
How is a work wife or husband different from an office BFF? A work spouse typically knows you on an even deeper level than an office BFF—they know more about your personal and family life, not just your favorite work snacks. Relationship and friendship expert Dr. Melanie Ross Mills says we have different levels of intimacy in our work relationships. With an office BFF, we typically talk about topical subjects like the news, sports, and weather. With a work wife, the relationship is more intimate, leading us to discuss our emotions, struggles, fears, and anxieties on deeper issues. It's a gift anytime we have a friend that encourages us in the workplace and in life, so…
Here are 24 reasons to thank your work wife (or husband):
1. Being able to vent to someone that understands both your industry and workplace politics.
2. They know who all the “players” are within your workplace situations (they know all about that coworker who never emails back on time).
Read more: 80+ Totally Relatable Workplace Pet Peeves
3. You have a trustworthy advocate who will stand up for you when you’re treated unfairly.
4. You have a partner who will keep you on track and make sure you complete tasks on time because they aren’t afraid of being blunt with you.
5. You don’t have to worry about losing your train of thought in meetings—your work spouse will finish all of your sentences for you.
6. You can use humor and inside jokes to help each other cope with stress and blow off steam.
8. You have someone to be brutally honest about your appearance and tell you when there’s spinach in your teeth or dry shampoo residue in your hair.
9. You have someone to bounce ideas off of without fearing rejection.
10. They always know how to cheer you up when you’re having an off day.
11. You have a personal cheerleader to psych you up for big presentations.
12. If you have a lot going on at home, your work wife can take some responsibilities off your plate at work.
13. You have someone to text cringy memes to during awkward virtual company happy hours.
14. They’ll console you and remind you that you’re worthy when you miss out on that promotion.
15. And when you do land that promotion, they’ll be the first to congratulate you and celebrate.
Read more: 14 Creative Ways to Celebrate Small Wins
16. Having someone to proof your passive-aggressive emails before you hit send and ruin your career.
17. You always have a built-in coffee or lunch buddy.
18. You spend so much time together that they get to know your bad habits—and they actively try to help you improve on them.
19. They know the ins and outs of your personal life and are always willing to listen.
20. They keep you up to date on pop culture and celebrity gossip.
21. Before a 1:1, they’ll strategize with you and remind you of all your amazing accomplishments.
Read more: How to Have an Effective 1:1
22. When you forget to send a memo, they’ll cover for you.
23. If you work in different departments, you can help each other build and add to your skill sets.
24. You get the emotional support of a real spouse, without sharing a mortgage or raising children together.
Are there downsides to having a work spouse?
The average person stays at their job for 4.1 years. So, you’re probably not going to be work spouses…forever. It's also possible you and your spouse will change positions, causing an unbalance of power. Be wary of putting all of your eggs in one basket—a possessive work spouse could close you off from experiencing other positive workplace relationships. This type of dynamic could also cause you to miss out on being included in work and social activities and limit your brainstorming and productivity.
Ross Mills says, “It’s possible one can become possessive, controlling, or codependent if they are too needy and dependent on [their] work spouse. It’s possible alliances could form that aren’t healthy. Clear boundaries, mutual exchanges, trust, and respect are of great importance when we enter into any intimate relationship.”
Think about ways you can implement boundaries to prevent unhealthy relationships:
Don’t rely solely on your work spouse to meet all of your needs—build other relationships within the company and honor them (i.e. limit gossip, don’t share confidential information you’ve been entrusted with, etc.).
Keep honest, respectful, open lines of communication with your work wife or husband, and avoid passive-aggressive behavior.
Steer clear of any preferential treatment, especially if you are in a manager-direct report relationship.
Don’t be afraid to take a breather from the relationship if you feel it’s edging on becoming too close or beginning to blur the lines between a professional and romantic relationship.
About our source
Dr. Melanie Ross Mills is a relationship and friendship expert, certified temperament therapist, author, and public speaker. Ross Mills has been featured as a speaker on several national radio and news channels and is the creator of the Life Bonds™ brand which includes the books series (The Friendship Bond, The Couples Bond, The Identity Bond), Life Bonds™ Podcast, small groups, workshops, and media segments.