I learned a couple of new terms the other day and they were new to me because I am self-employed and I work alone all day and I answer to only myself because I often talk to myself. I am a tough boss and a hard worker. I would give myself a raise and a bonus if I weren’t such a taskmaster. The new terms I learned were “Office Husband” and “Work Wife” and I want to know if you have one or not!

As I understand it, you can have an Office Husband and a Work Wife even if you are married in your private life, or if you are dating someone or even if you are single. There is no sexual relationship involved in Office Husbandry or Work Wifery — though there may be sexual tension or a shared, platonic, attraction — but the idea of the Office Husband or the Work Wife is to “become a couple” at work and to privately defend each other when questioned and to publicly stand up for each other when threatened.

I am told this gender dyad is created out of the necessity to coalesce shared interests, and the easiest way to achieve that relationship need for protection is to play the familiar Husband/Wife role. Many people do not realize or admit they have a second Wife or Husband at work — though everyone else around them does because to anger one is to make an enemy of both. You often share lunch with your Work Better Half.

You confide in intimate emails and even give each other gifts and you giggle at inside jokes that sicken the rest of the office. Your real wife or husband don’t know anything about the duplicate relationship you have at the office — and you know they can never know
— because the best quality time spent with your “spouse” is not found at home, but rather in the workplace, where you are forced to like each other enough to get along throughout the day.

Have you found an Office Husband or a Work Wife? Do you see these “Spousal Dyads” at work where you work?

34 Comments

  1. Nicola!
    As I understand it, The Office Affair is still alive and well.
    What I’m writing about is more a coalition of the willing to protect each other that reaches beyond friendship but not quite into The Affair.
    This dyad is found in the middle ground where everything is honorable and open though easily misunderstood by outsiders – including legal spouses and mates!

  2. David- That people are in love with what is around them, is the more accurate, though less widely held belief, as compared to the standard paradigm, of people being separate from their environment. People rationalize their positions and say they need jobs, military service, hermitages, incarceration etc., but the bottom line is that they are co-creating what is around them because they love it. They “dream,” their external environment in a very similar manner to the way the create their dreams at night, and day dreams in the day. In the sixties there was a popular song with the lyric “love the one you’re with,” and this is the fact. One can’t love what isn’t there, no matter what society states. One can love an idea, or philosophy, but this is most often trumped by the “3D reality” of what is physically around the individual. One can look at the individual as being at work for 8 hours in the day, but one can also see that time and space are just a belief system and that each instant a fixed frame in eternity.

  3. David,
    I’ve seen the “Spousal Dyad” in the office many times. Some men that I have worked with in the past even openly refer to their Work Wife as such to their colleagues! Similarly, some women that I have known would spend more time picking out a Christmas gift for their Office Husband than they would for their actual spouse.
    It is an interesting phenomenon, no doubt.

  4. Emily!
    Is this a new thing or has it always been around but just recently received the fun naming scheme?
    I have heard of people introducing others to their work spouse by saying, “This is my Office Wife” and such — it’s a curious thing! I guess it helps cover your back on both sides of the gender pool?
    Have you ever seen someone try to break up a dyad in order to replace one of the people in the work marriage?
    Have you ever found and Office Husband?

  5. David- We have all had “work mates” if sent to school for a start, but once i saw that the “now” is eternal and that we love what is around us i started my escape from the “Platonic paradigm.” It’s part of the reason i choose to home school our children, avoid the quotidian “system,” as much as possible. i believe i have been following this solipsistic belief system from before this life, and i consider myself fortunate that this has enabled me to be relatively free of the system- although all this could change at any moment.

  6. Hi David,
    I know there are virtual marriages in the chat rooms — at least when I was in the chat rooms back in the late 1990s people were getting “married” after they chatted for a while.
    The reality of the workplace is that people often spend more time at work than they do at home. If someone is at the office at 7:30 a.m. and doesn’t leave until 7:30 p.m. or so, that gives them a full 12 hours with their office mates. Add in commute time — let’s say the average drive time is 30 minutes. Get home, watch the TV, then fall asleep to wake up and go back to work means one gets to spend about 1 hour of conscious time with his real wife.
    12 hours for the office wife and 1 hour for the real wife.
    That’s how that kind of thing happens.
    I’ve never had a work wife. Having one wife is enough for me. 🙂

  7. Chris!
    How right you are! The modern life gives live and love in the workplace while the real dedication waits at home for the relationship to return.
    I can understand why people at work would pair off to protect each other from the brunt of the work and the loneliness of separation from their beloved.
    Like children cling to stuffed animals in times of need and lonesomeness, so too, do workers cling to each other and their pretend spouses when the real ones are unavailable.
    I’m glad you don’t have a Work Wife — but you didn’t tell us if you have an Office Husband or not!
    :mrgreen:

  8. David- After home schooling, the three oldest children got their GED, did 2 years at local community college, then transfered into U of Florida and graduated. The youngest of those three got a MBA after working for 10 years. The yougest begged to go to the local Public school so we let her go there. She too went to local community college, and then transfered into U of F and graduated. Oldest son had a 3.95 gradepoint average in college, and was ranked #1 chess player in Florida for 16 year olds.

  9. David,
    I am sure that as long as there have been desk jobs, there have been Office Husbands and Work Wives. I think the naming scheme is the only part that is new.
    I’ve never witnessed an attempt to break up an Office Marriage that I can recall. I’ve seen them wither away and the people involved become entangled with others, but I don’t know if that was directly due to the selfish efforts of someone else.
    I’ve never had an Office Husband, but I think I had something similar. I worked as a teller for several years and another teller and I did nothing but bicker and chatter all day. It was in a friendly enough way; we just liked to bust each other’s chops constantly. Anyway, our customers would always ask, “Are you guys married or something?” If he was gone, my customers would ask, “Where’s your husband?” But I wouldn’t say we were a united front that defended and protected each other like these Office Marriages seem to be.

  10. David- Living on a commune in Washington State, they socialized very well. It was like an extended family. When we moved to Florida, they had fewer friends but socialized well. When they got a little older the went to the local public school dances and started becomming friendly with the kids in public school. The youngest girl who demanded going to public school got into typical “mayhem socialization” of the outer world which we tried to keep her away from. After seeing the four kids experience what they did, i am much in favor of home schooling, both socially, educationally, and most of all by the unity and freedom they experienced, by being in a non-commercial, loving environment, where B.S. and rote learning was minimalized. They learned at their own rates when they were ready. Most important of all they were taught to perceive and be equal to adults. There was no separation between home and school. They lived in one, unified world. Looking back at it all, i can’t believe what good kids they were- till they became “rebellious teenagers,” and joined the outer world. LOL. The best way to have a great kid- is raise her/him to be a hippie. Almost all teenagers rebel.

  11. David- The homeschooling movement in this country, was miniscule until the hippie movement of the ’60’s. Once the ice was broken by the hippie avant garde many Religious fanatics, haters and other jetsome mooched off the ground work of the hippies and joined the home schooling movement, much to many people’s detriment.

  12. I home schooled my two youngest kids for 9 months after the local school here proved to be a disaster – one of the best experiences of my life. They look back on it fondly as well. They went on to go to a fee paying school and have turned out just grand.
    There are some very scary home schooling sites out there – quite frightening.

  13. fred —
    The commune sort of Homeschooling you describe seems to be the smartest way to manufacture kind and cogent minds. Too often Homeschooling now is based on faith and not scientific fact and there is little rigorous intellectual testing done all day on a daily basis.

  14. Nicola!
    That’s a fascinating fact about Homeschooling your children! That must have been a time of enormous bonding.
    Yes, in the USA, Homeschooling has been taken over by the Republican Party to remove public funds from the public schools by providing vouchers for religious Homeschooling efforts and that unfortunately often includes mandates of separation and in teaching fear and not love and hate instead of how to create an inclusive community.

  15. I cherish the memories and the opportunity that time gave me – might be an idea for a good blog post!
    Some of the sites I have seen are so full of hatred I personally do not feel they can be called religious. It must be particularly galling to know that the state educational system suffers because of it.
    In the UK we do not get vouchers – you are on your own – although in some areas you get help with materials and from local schools and libraries.

  16. Definitely an interesting blog post material, Nicola!
    There is a lot of hate hiding in religion in the USA, I fear. They use the “Good Book” to justify their hatred and punishments. It’s shocking, really.
    School Vouchers are a lousy idea. Leave the tax money in the public schools system. If you have a better idea, go out and do it on your own with your own resources and money. That’s the American Way, right? Let the market decide the value and settle the worth of the idea?

  17. Hi David,
    No “Office Husband” either. 🙂
    I don’t think too many people home school around here, but they’ll put their kid into another school if they think that will help with academic achievement.
    There was a story in the local paper about students attending schools outside of their districts in the hopes of getting a better education. Evidently, people are checking school rankings and sending their kids to the school that has better test scores, then using friends’ and family members’ addresses to enroll their kids in better schools.
    The Merrillville schools have been studying the need to build an addition to their high school because of an influx of students. The newspaper suggested 500 students might be improperly enrolled in the school district because their parents’ taxes are paid to another school district.
    The problem is getting so bad the school system has been sending investigators to follow students home, if they think they live outside of the district.

  18. School districting is fascinating. You should really work all this up into an article here on the politics of education! Like the neighborhood parking passes we previously discussed in Washington, D.C. –- “I’ll follow you home” plans seem quite an obvious way to keep the wrong people out of the “right” neighborhoods.
    In my hometown growing up you attended schools based on neighborhood districting –- so the “new money” part of town had new schools and the “old money” part of town had mansions and the rest of the city attended schools in metal buildings and concrete block.
    Now you can choose your high school. That forced all the high schools to specialize. One is a tech school; one is industrial; one is “arty” one is college prep and so on… and it’s fascinating how their specialty reflects the economic status of the neighborhood in which the schools are found so they still create a social and economic stratification: Tech is in an industrial park; Industrial is in blue collar factory neighborhood; arty is downtown; college prep is old money and so on…

  19. Yet again you blog is very topical and in advance of the UK press – certainly on the homeschooling front. A new report out this week on the increace in Homeschooling in the UK – and yes I blogged it !

  20. “Too often Homeschooling now is based on faith and not scientific fact and there is little rigorous intellectual testing done all day on a daily basis.”
    My wife and I blog extensively about homeschooling. We have many friends who homeschool.
    We know very few homeschoolers who teach a poor academic background. Most homeschooled children we know could explain basic scientific concepts better than some teachers.
    I know that teachers and the public education system pushes a perception that homeschoolers are a bunch of wackos, but I think if you personally met some local homeschoolers you would find out that most of them are better educated and more mature than children attending public schools.

  21. Complaining is comforting and the relationship with an ‘office husband/wife’ can be mutually exclusive in this regard.
    When someone spends two third of his/her time in the work place there is a fair amount of chance to fall in this trap – people find someone that they click with, start sharing small things, then personal details and so on…
    I think, to avoid this vicious circle one has to establish a strong support system out of their workplace.

  22. Well said, Katha!
    I think having someone you like and who likes you watching your back in the 12-hour workplace isn’t a bad idea. If you share interests and complimentary talents, that kind of dyad can be positive and powerful!

  23. I do have a Work Husband and in an odd twist of fate, my “real” husband works with us. But there’s no tension. I guess it is due to the fact that one of our close friends is my first “other” husband. There’s nothing sexual, but it is nice to have gentlemen who look out for me as much as my husband does. They also truthfully converse and gently criticize and patiently listen, so for me it isn’t about having someone who has my back when colleagues attack. I’ll never be as close to my “other” husbands as I am to the one I trothed myself to, so maybe they are more like boyfriends than husbands.
    I’m also the co-chair for the English department at our local public high school; I can defend myself just fine. I’m okay with homeschoolers since my pastor would like me to quit and teach a small group of young’ns, but I disagree that all teachers are out to damage students. I’m glad that Nikola, Fred, and Henry are involved in their children’s life, unfortunately many parents simply forget that their children are still physically, socially, and mentally children when they turn eleven or so. I would invite homeschoolers (and just because I haven’t seen it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening) to take in and homeschool these forgotten invisible children. Perhaps the perspective on public school will change. How are these children whose parents have forgotten they exist ever to learn that real parents don’t forget their children if the children who are loved and remembered are pulled out of their circle of contact?