Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My work spouse can kick your work spouse’s ass

For those of us who work under the crushing pain of corporate America, you have most likely come across a situation in which you were a member of a “work marriage.”  This person is handy when you want to share juicy work place gossip or talk in long tirades about the ills of your manager, the carpet in the conference room and the poorly executed holiday party.  There is an intimacy between the two work parties due to the high level of confidential information sharing which leads to a sense that “this is the person who understands me.”

I don’t know what work spouses say about our work culture?  Maybe for the young singles this is pre-training for real relationships?  Maybe it’s a mild form of cheating (if either party is hitched)?  Maybe it means we work too hard and need a beacon of hope/motivation to come to work every day (yes!)?

There are many downsides to this work arrangement.  One (obviously) is that at some point the urge to bone may tip the balance in favor of doing the (morally) wrong thing.  WARNING: hormones – not just for teenagers anymore.  Another is when you get to a spot in the “friendship” where you align yourself with this person so much you start to believe that it’s “Bob and I against the world” … this is a dangerous place where feelings develop and are hard to shake.  This leads to crying in the Starbucks bathroom before work every morning when Bob announces he’s engaged and you have to live with the crushing reality that Bob really didn’t see you as the only person in the world he could talk to. 

One of the toughest days in the life of a work wife is when you meet your work husband’s REAL WIFE.  For some reason you wish to know everything about them but none of the information means anything really.  If they’re EXACTLY like you, then what?  Your work husband just tends to attract similar kinds of women.  Is that comforting?  If she’s NOTHING like you, then what?  Are you just filling the void that the REAL WIFE isn’t providing?  But at the end of the day he married the REAL WIFE and you’re just the girl who can entertain him with supportive texts in a long meeting.  None of it means anything at all.  And in the end this also means that your relationship with this person means nothing at all.  Your work spouse relationship is the equivalent to a model home.  It looks and feels like a real home but it is just a display.  There can’t be a real “break up” or “divorce” in this situation because the foundation isn’t real. I imagine that this is why the work spouse relationship is so attractive to men – they can justify the ease of which they leave this relationship because on pure facts alone it isn’t real. 

So the real question is: are our spouses/significant others supposed to fill that work spouse void when they have no real context for what’s going on at your work and/or would be bored to tears by the minutia of your inner office politics?  And if not, what are our spouses supposed to do for us?  If we spend 75% of our time at work and our spouses are outside of that time, what the eff is their role in our lives?  

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