• Mon, Mar 17 - 5:00 pm ET

Your Work Husband Is Ruining Your Marriage

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Have you heard of a work husband before? Maybe you have one. For me, a work husband brings me back to the adorable pre-romance of Jim and Pam on The Office: Opposite sex office best friends that spend all of their time together without any strings attached. Well, spoiler alert—Jim and Pam ended up married with two kids, which puts the whole notion of the “work husband” to shame.

I’ve heard many a married woman joke about her work husband, both online and in real life. Currently, my husband and I work together at home, so it’s technically impossible for me to have a work husband. My work husband is my real husband and my real husband is my work husband, and it works out just fine.

I personally am anti-work husband. I’m very proud of the honesty that my husband and I have in our relationship. The only reason that I can be so proud of it is because I have had to work really, really hard to be honest. Like, we are honest about everything—whether it’s pleasant or not.

We have also both agreed that, yes, emotional affairs do count. When you look at what characterizes a work husband, it screams “emotional affair” to me. Even the semblance of an emotional affair is a huge no-no in my book.

Does your work husband bring you breakfast? Do you share inside jokes? Are you comfortable enough to point out if there is food in his teeth? Do you immediately get together after meetings to talk about what went down? And most importantly…Does your work husband know how you like your coffee?

While a work husband sounds cute, I don’t like it. If I ever work in a real office again (and I have worked in the real world before), I’m going to run away from a potential work spouse like my pants are on fire. If I wouldn’t do it in front of my husband, I’m not going to do it at work.

(Image: StockLite/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
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  • Kelly

    The whole work husband, work wife thing just sounds like a friend to me and I’m pro-friend.

    I have friends in front of my husband too though so I guess that would make it ok for me.

  • Larkin

    “Does your work husband bring you breakfast? Do you share inside jokes? Are you comfortable enough to point out if there is food in his teeth? Do you immediately get together after meetings to talk about what went down?”

    I have lady work friends with whom I do these exact things, and there’s nothing questionable about it. The particular things that you called out don’t necessarily seem all too concerning to me. Usually, in my experience, you KNOW when something crosses the line. Do you feel a need to lie to your husband about this guy, or downplay how close you really are? Do your other coworkers or friends give you the side-eye when you’re interacting with him or talking about him? Do you text, call, or message each other a lot outside of work? Having some inside jokes, bitching about meetings, and occasionally bringing each other coffee (though I admit it might be weird if your work husband gets you, and only you, coffee/breakfast on a regular basis) is just what coworkers do… but that other stuff implies something else is going on.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Those came from the Internet criteria for a work husband, but I agree with your guidelines too!

    • Alicia Kiner

      When I was working, I became very close friends with a male co-worker. He actually became one of my best friends. I was at his wedding. We have sons that are a few months apart in age. He and my husband became just as close. His wife and my husband don’t get along, because they’re just oil and water. But other people in our building assumed that he and I were involved romantically, and rumors started. We never were. I can’t speak for him, but I never had any interest in him as anything other than being his friend. I don’t know if the rumors ever got back to his wife, but he went to a different company, and then I left to work in a different building. Later, I went to work with the company she worked for with her help. We no longer worked together, but we (he, my husband, and I) spent a lot of time together online playing World of Warcraft in the evenings. Eventually, she started picking at him to stop spending time with us (where we’d get both families together). Now we barely speak. I still don’t know if she felt threatened by me specifically, or the friendship he and I had. But I do know, my husband never did. Because, I was always 100% open and honest with him about it. I never hid a thing from him. If I had, it would be different

    • Andrea

      On my 1st job I had a work husband. He was married, and I was engaged. I had to leave that job because I was moving back to where my husband lived and the co-workers all joked about how hard that “divorce” was going to be.

      He left that job about a year later and we kept in touch sporadically through FB.

  • CMJ

    I would say dishonesty can definitely ruin a marriage – not necessarily the work spouse.

  • SisterWife41

    Right there with all of you on this. My Work Husband and our respective spouses and kids are all very good friends – in fact, I consider his wife to be one of my closest friends. We jokingly call each other Sister Wives. And never once was there even a HINT of anything inappropriate when we worked together 5 years ago. So I gotta say – I don’t know if the experience you describe is indicative of everyone’s experience with a work spouse. It certainly wasn’t mine.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Love the user name. :)

  • Allie

    I agree – work husband/work wife is a dangerous road to go down. One step away from cheating. My husband and I joke that about one of his coworkers (male) who I call his “work husband” b/c they work on a lot of projects together and vent and text, etc. They are actually really good buddies but we find it fun to make fun of the whole “work husband” idea this way. The other guy knows about this joke and plays right into it. Hysterical.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Now the work bromance is just adorable.

    • Allie

      Bromance! :) Love it! Can’t wait for him to get home to tell him we have a new term for it!

    • Bethany Ramos

      Yay!

  • Lee

    I have a really good friend male friend who used to sit 3 feet away from me at work but he is pretty much my best mommy friend. We exchange recipes, tips on kid issues, talk about house remodeling crap, etc. We are both married with children and I really don’t think it is an issue. My husband knows him and is okay with it. I get very little adult interaction outside of work with my husband working and almost opposite schedule so it would suck if my husband did have a problem with it.

  • Metsy

    Nope, I’m work bi and have a work wife.

    • Kitsune

      I too have a work wife and she is awesome. Though we were already close before we started working for the same company so I don’t know if it counts.

  • Justme

    I guess I had a “work husband” for the past few years…but I just called him a good friend. We coached cross country and PE together during a time when I was pregnant and raising a toddler and he was divorcing his wife and then venturing out into the dating world. He gave me a guys perspective on marriage, family and parenthood while I kept him away from the crazy girls and steered him towards his new bride. We spent many hours throughout the school year just shooting the shit and talking about parenthood and what makes a good marriage.

    Just because we don’t share the same gender doesn’t make our friendship any more suspect than two women or two men sharing common interests and perspectives on life.

  • Taxes Make Kittens Cry

    Beth, I think you need an internet husband.

    how YOU doin’?

    • Bethany Ramos

      You’d be my first choice. ;)

    • Taxes Make Kittens Cry

      OK, but no prenup

  • momma425

    While I wouldn’t describe my
    male coworker friend as a “work husband”- we do know each other quite well as
    we sit right next to each other. He
    knows how I take my coffee, and I know how he likes his. He knows I hate eggs, and makes fun of me
    about it; I know he has jack in the box every single morning for breakfast. We joke, we laugh, we have inside jokes (none
    of which are inappropriate). He does not
    bring me breakfast or buy me things, and I don’t do that for him either. If he had food in his teeth, I wouldn’t stick
    my finger in there, but I would definitely point it out. He has given me TB tests before (I’m a nurse-
    we need yearly TB tests, and we get them done at work), and I have taken his
    cholesterol before (we got a new machine and needed to be trained on it. Nurses practice on each other). He is 45, has a long term girlfriend- I am married. Neither of us are Jim and Pam kind of “friends.”

    My husband and I also consider
    emotional affairs as cheating- but that doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to have
    friends or talk to people. Our general
    rule of thumb when it comes to cheating is: “If you feel like you need to hide
    it, and wouldn’t do it with your spouse right next to you, it is cheating.”

    I don’t flirt with my male
    coworkers, or behave in a way that is inappropriate, or in a way that I would
    not appreciate my husband seeing. My
    husband and I are extremely honest with each other, and he knows about my male
    coworkers and doesn’t have any problem with them. He has even met my desk-mate. On the flip side- I have met and know his
    female coworkers. He doesn’t behave
    inappropriately with any of them either.
    My husband and I both have access to each other’s e-mails, facebook
    logins, and phones. We very much live by
    the policy, “those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.”

  • http://www.benwhoski.com/ Benwhoski

    I’ve never really understood the concept of an emotional affair. I’ve never been able to discern the line between a normal friendship (which is what all of the things listed above sound like to me) and where it becomes an “emotional affair”. I wouldn’t find any of these behaviors unusual between myself and a female friend, so why would I find any of them suspect with a male friend?

    In fairness, it’s possible my being poly may have a lot to do with my outlook on such things, but my difficulty in understanding this concept long predates me even knowing polyamory was an option that existed. The idea that close friendships with members of [preferred gender] were inherently a threat to established, committed relationships has never made sense to me.

    I do agree to a degree with “If you wouldn’t do it in front of your partner, don’t do it elsewhere”. Anytime that someone feels the need to actively hide their behavior, there’s probably something unhealthy going on (note: this doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong with the behavior, sometimes this is a warning sign that there is something wrong with the relationship dynamic). But I find it odd that anyone would think meeting up with a coworker after work to vent about work drama, or your coworker knowing your coffee preferences would fall into that category in any healthy relationship.

  • Imalia

    This is utter bullshit. If, as a woman, I have a female friend who brings me breakfast, knows how I like my coffee and get together for post-meeting re-plays, that’s fine right, I’m allowed my female bestie and she’s allowed to do all those things. We can have lunch and gossip and point out the food in each other’s teeth. No deception, nothing wrong AT ALL.

    But if it’s a dude it’s suddenly an emotional affair? Talk about being insecure in your oh so perfect marriage. I bet you’re also one of those women who threaten to stab another woman in the face with a fork for daring to glance in your prescious husbands general direction. Cause everyone knows anytime a man and woman are in the same space, the only thing either of them are thinking about is all the possible sexy times, both physical and emotional that can and clearly will at some point be taking place.

    • Bethany Ramos
    • Allie

      Ha ha ha!!! My thoughts exactly, Bethany! This lady’s all sorts of crazy, huh??

    • Bethany Ramos

      It was all that came to mind – lol!

    • Valerie

      Brick killed a guy!

    • Bethany Ramos

      Haha so much this!

    • EX

      I love you even more now Bethany.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Love right back!

    • CMJ

      I saw this post right before I left for spin class and was coming to post this gif. :) Thanks for taking care of it.

  • Andrea

    My husband has a work wife and it does not bother me ONE BIT.
    One of my clients (I’m an accountant) calls me and the other lady that works for him his work wives. It does not bother my husband (or his wife) ONE BIT.

    It’s not an emotional affair at all.

    • Pat

      mmm hmmmm….keep telling yourself that…..
      those capital letters spell “defensive” to me…

    • Andrea

      those “quotes” spell “bitch” to me

    • Guest

      They really are quotes…

    • Kelly

      She didn’t say they weren’t quotes. They spell bitch to me too. Calling someone defensive and saying she should just keep telling herself she has a good marriage is a pretty high level of bitchiness.

  • Kay_Sue

    *raises hand*

    My husband has a work boyfriend. Should I be worried?

    • Bethany Ramos

      BROMANCE!

    • Kay_Sue

      Ever since my husband moved to first shift, and his work boyfriend stayed on weekends, every time I catch them texting during the weekend, I have to tease him mercilessly. “Hey! It’s my time! WB knows that!” ;)

    • Valerie

      Gah so does mine. The guy makes him chili and pasta all the time and brings it for his lunch.

    • Kay_Sue

      I’d actually be super chill with that. His Work Boyfriend convinces him to go out to eat even when I pack his lunch….Work Boyfriend thinks money grows on trees, apparently. ;)

    • Valerie

      Lol. Oh I’m fine with it. I just roll my eyes because their bromance is a bit nauseating.

    • EX

      Haha. So does mine, but he’s moving away. I hope to offer a shoulder for him to cry on.

    • Kay_Sue

      You’ll have to be his rock.

  • EX

    I hate the term “work husband.” I have had both male and female coworkers with whom I became good friends. I do think that to be opposite sex friends (assuming both are straight) you have to be careful of boundaries – for example, I never complain to my male friends about my husband and I don’t tolerate any complaints about his spouse (I’ll change the subject). Beyond that, I just make sure that I don’t do anything I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling my husband about. I have a male coworker now that I’m very close with. We go out to lunch regularly, sometimes with a group, sometimes alone. My husband and I have also been out with him and his wife and we’ve all met each other’s kids. We have a very brother-sister type relationship and my husband is not at all threatened by it. I suppose some might call him my “work husband” but I just call him a friend.

  • Valerie

    I would never say I have a work husband but I have friendships with guys at work who know those kinds of things about me. We are all together a lot- they would have to have their heads up their asses to not know most of those things. :-) My company is largely male so unless I want to be friendless I don’t really have many options. I never text or talk to them at all outside of work but at work, yeah, we are all fairly close.

    And for what it’s worth, when I hear the phrase work husband or wife I just think it’s a person you are comfy enough with to burp in front of, bicker or fight with or nag at. Like you would with a spouse-no pretension, ya know? I’ve never really thought of it in a romantic way.

  • EmmaFromÉire

    My work husbands (check that plural) are all gay, so I think I might be safe.

  • PennyCentury

    I dunno. I do think the work spouse is an effective yet sexless way of managing office life. I often fall into the same practical patterns with my office hubsands that I do with my husband-husband in terms of running the house; ie, the unromantic stuff. At my last job, I was trying to help my work husband work more vegetables into his diet. Not sexy.

  • Melissa

    General rule that’s probably good to follow: If I’m not comfortable with my spouse doing something, then I shouldn’t do it either. If a person is totally fine with their spouse having a platonic work life partner, then I suppose they can have one too with no guilt or problems. But I’d be annoyed if some work lady was bringing my husband breakfast and sharing inside jokes with him (just him and only him, not a mixed group of office friends–that’s different), so I wouldn’t do it myself.

    • Bethany Ramos

      HLP! I completely agree.

  • AP

    I’ve always nipped any insinuations about “work husband” right in the bud. I don’t allow jokes like that to be made about male friends. I keep the lines clear, I’m always super nice and supportive to their significant others, and I make sure my husband has ample opportunity to be included in social events and conversations we’ve had. (Though I won’t betray a strict confidence. I’ll share the topic of discussion, but not all the details if I feel they were not intended to be shared.)

  • Formerworkgf

    I was someone else’s work wife/gf for about a year. It was completely above board. But we had inside jokes, gossiped after meetings, and hung out when our shifts overlapped (as well as using the interoffice IM for chatting when bored). He never brought me breakfast, but we traded favorite movies. He had a long term girlfriend, I was single. We were simply good friends. There was never an issue. Part of it was that we set some unspoken but mutual boundaries- we never spoke ill of girlfriend (who I met and liked) or their relationship. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having someone of the opposite gender who you’re close to at work. Hell, in the field I’m going to, I’ll be working with mostly men. If I can’t be close to any of them, I’m just not going to have friends at work. I already know I can’t be with someone who’s going to be jealous of my my male friends. I’m going to be around men all day long for work. Friendship will happen.
    And my former work spouse? We’re still close. And still just friends.

    • Guest

      The funny thing about the breakfast is that my Dad used to bring his officematelady breakfast everyday their entire like 28 years of working together. If he couldn’t bring it one of the other guys in the office would. They would all eat breakfast together each morning. She was one of his only true friends in his adult life and I’m glad they had such a good thing going (obvi no hanky panky or anything).

  • ChickenKira

    By the ‘work husband’ definition, my work husband is a woman 40 years my senior. But that’s cool.

    • Guest

      This exactly. I had several work Moms and work husbands and work friends. All knew the things I liked and we all talked about stuff after meetings. I’m getting what you’re saying about not doing the Jim & Pam thing but I don’t think that is how most people behave IRL.

  • March

    Hi, Sanctimommy!

  • Lillith272

    I have a work husband and him and my actual husband get along great. They’re on a boys’ weekend at the moment. My work husband is just someone I get along with really well and work on all projects together. I don’t see how this is an issue.