By Farhan Shah
You’ve just been given a dressing down by your boss. You walk back to your desk, still smarting from your metaphorical wounds, and launch your office communication software to rant to your closest office colleague.
On other days, you go out for lunch with said colleague and talk shop about work, life, and anything under the sun. To the other people around you, both of you are joined at the hip for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and till the next career move drives the two of you apart. Essentially, the both of you are office spouses.
But what exactly is the definition of an office spouse? Although many people disagree on the exact parameters, it is widely agreed that an office spouse is someone of the opposite gender whom you share a close relationship with, who understands your whims and pet peeves, and who is usually the first person you turn to if something good or bad happens at work.
The term was first coined in Faith Baldwin’s 1930 novel The Office Wife but the office spouse phenomenon has only been gaining steam over the past decade as more and more workers start spending longer hours in the office and less time at home. Naturally, they start forming deeper relationships with the people they spend the most time with.
In a recent poll conducted by JobsCentral about office spouses, 47% of respondents admitted that they either already had an office spouse or were on their way to walking down the office aisle, albeit without the ring and wedding vows. The remaining 53% do not have an office spouse, nor do they intend to be joining hands in holy matrimony at the office altar at all.
However, is having an office spouse good for you or does it just spell danger in the long run?
According to Bernadette Toh, a 27-year-old publishing executive, it is best to avoid becoming office spouses with anyone else “if you’re married because you’ll be putting yourself in a vulnerable position.”
28-year-old Johnson Tay echoes Bernadette’s sentiments and adds, “I would keep relationships with colleagues of the opposite gender at the professional level so as to avoid any misconceptions or unwanted assumptions.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum however is 23-year-old Emma Tan. She says, “Having an office spouse comes in helpful when you’re looking for emotional support.”
Nur’ain Ismail, also 23, believes it’s because sharing the same office environment means that your office spouse will understand the responsibilities of your job and can therefore empathize better with you. However, she cautions, “There’s a thin line between pure platonic friendship and one that meddles with affairs of the heart.”
At the end of the day, 21-year-old IT programmer Kimberly feels that everyone has the right to choose whoever they want to have a close relationship with, so long as they are prepared to handle the possible fallout.
So how do you ensure you avoid any misunderstanding between your office spouse, your actual spouse or significant other, and your other colleagues in the office?
Tell your real spouse/significant other about your office spouse and vice-versa
The foundation of any relationship is trust, so by telling your real spouse or significant other about who you’re close to in the office, your partner will understand that it’s because you share the same office environment. This also ensures that the trust is still intact. Similarly, telling your office spouse about your real spouse subtly sends the signal that you appreciate what you have with him or her in the office but your heart belongs to someone else.
Let your real spouse/significant other meet your office spouse
It’s always more reassuring if you can put a face to the person that your spouse is close to in the office. Let both your actual spouse and your office spouse meet each other so as to set their hearts at ease. Who knows, they may even hit it off and become good friends!
Demarcate the boundaries clearly
Have a mutual understanding of the lines that shouldn’t be crossed in an office spouse relationship. It could be disastrous if one party’s expectations of the relationship are vastly different than the other person. If your spouse starts getting a bit too close for comfort, tell him or her exactly that. When an office relationship becomes too upsetting or detrimental for one party, then perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the status of the office relationship.
Keep the relationship clear and open
Make sure you’re not permanently welded at the hip by doing things only with each other. Go out for lunches with other colleagues and if you happen to work in the same project groups, remember to ask for opinions and input from other colleagues as well. This ensures that your relationship doesn’t become the next hot water-cooler topic.
What is your take on office spouses? Share with us your opinion in the comments box below!
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