October 27, 2016

Work is increasingly demanding for most of us, and it’s likely that your boss asks more of you, often requiring you to learn new skills and multitask. Since it fills so much of our time, a positive and supportive work environment can make all the difference, which means that getting along with coworkers is essential. It’s common for men and women to work together for eight-plus hours a day, which has led to the concept of the “work spouse.” A work spouse is a colleague with whom one works closely and relies on.  The prevalence of work spouse-type relationships underscores how much time all of us spend at work: it also reflects increasing equity and cooperation in the contemporary workplace.

But can a close work relationship presents a threat to your marriage? Here are some suggestions to avoid potential conflicts: 

1. Pick a Different Term

Remember that the person you share your life with has gone through a lot to earn that spot. For this reason, the title of “spouse” should be reserved just for him or her. Instead of using the term “work spouse,” refer to your colleague as your buddy or friend. 

2. Honor the Teamwork

If you and your work companion are a great team, there’s no harm in honoring that, but do so an appropriate way. Make sure he or she knows you value your professional relationship. You can show your gratitude by making sure supervisors are aware of how hard your teammate works and how much he or she contributes.  

3. Respect Boundaries

Keep clear boundaries between work and the rest of your life. It’s unrealistic to expect people to never talk about their families or personal lives, but there has to be a clear limit to how much you share. If you are fighting with your spouse, for example, those details, as well as any sexual history, need to remain private. 

4. Leave Work at Work

While it’s totally fine to share snippets about your day with family and friends, if you find yourself talking about work constantly, particularly about your work spouse, you should stop and think about why you are dwelling on this relationship. Chances are your loved ones are wondering the same thing.

5. Listen to Your Real Spouse

If your spouse is uncomfortable about how close you and your coworker are, don’t brush off these concerns. Ask what’s makes him or her feel uneasy, and listen carefully to the response. Your intentions may be entirely honorable and innocent but your spouse may have picked up on something that you haven’t. Or your spouse may be focusing on your coworker because he or she feels neglected, which could be a signal to take more time off, or to schedule a vacation together. What ever the cause of the concern, it’s important to talk about it openly and non-defensively. Make sure your marriage is your top priority, and do everything you can to protect and nourish it.

At the end of the day, it’s essential to maintain clear boundaries and keep communication open so issues can be addressed head-on at work and at home!