Historically, "work spouse" is a phrase, mostly in American English, referring to a co-worker,: "They are platonic, close, opposite-sex couplings, with no romantic strings attached"; "A recent workplace survey found that 32 percent of workers say they have an 'office husband' or 'office wife.' '(It's) really hitting its stride this year,' said Mark Oldman, co-founder of Vault Inc. The career information company published the survey results in January" with whom one shares a special relationship, having bonds similar to those of a marriage. Early references suggest that a work spouse may not just be a co-worker, but can also be someone in a similar field who the individual works closely with from a partnering company. A work spouse has been defined as “a special, platonic friendship with a work colleague characterized by a close emotional bond, high levels of disclosure and support, and mutual trust, honesty, loyalty, and respect”. A "work spouse" is also referred to as "workplace spouse", "work wife", or "office husband", "work husband", or "wusband".

Social documentation

In one 2006 survey, 32% of workers said they had an "office husband" or "office wife". A CNN Money article characterizes the relationship as having the "immediate intimacy f marriagewithout commitment." One source characterizes the relationships as "platonic, close, opposite-sex couplings, with no strings attached." The phrase is, however, sometimes used for same-sex relationships.

Sociological and psychological implications

With so many of the quality hours of a day spent at work, having someone there who has an intuitive understanding of the pressures, personalities, interactions, and underlying narratives of the workplace society can add safety and comfort to what can otherwise be an alienating environment. "Work marriage" appears to be a genuinely caring relationship fostered by the propinquity effect and associated with love-like feelings and possibly limerence. Some "work spouses" admit that sexual attraction between them is present, is rarely acted upon, and "channeled" into a productive collaboration. This new social relationship is unique to the social milieu of the late 20th and early 21st century; and as a result the sociological and psychological implications this new social relationship poses to Western society's traditional notions of love, marriage, and friendship have not yet been fully explored.

Historical uses

The phrase "office wife" was common during the 1930s, popularized by Faith Baldwin's 1930 novel ''The Office Wife'' and its 1930 movie adaptation. But the concept, if not the exact phrase, is much older: a 1933 ''New York Times'' article says: "Office wife" carried the connotation of subordinance or subservience. As feminism began to take hold in the 1980s, it became common to hear that "Many secretaries resent the 'office wife' syndrome," referring to being asked to do such things as paying personal bills for a boss, picking up everything from dry cleaning, or dusting the office. "I'm getting paid as a secretary," said one secretary. "I'm not a personal servant."

Modern usage

According to Timothy Noah, writing in ''Slate'', "The terms 'work wife,' 'work husband,' and 'work marriage' entered the national lexicon in 1987, when the writer David Owen wrote an ''Atlantic'' essay describing a particular platonic intimacy that frequently arises between male and female employees working in close proximity." An executive coach and workplace adviser noted that as of 2005, "The workplace spouse is a relatively new concept ... Many people don't know what to make of it yet. It is only within the last 25 years that men and women have become peers in the workplace ... This new camaraderie, coupled with long hours spent at work, has caused a fundamental shift in the way people conduct business and interact with one another."Jackson, Kate M. (2005), "It's a Marriage of Sorts: 'Workplace spouses' Share Office Goals, Long Hours, and a Need for Boundaries. Often times this office marriage can lead to a sense of comfort that is not received from the home life. Frequently, the two can engage in such activities that may only be approved of in actual marriages. This has led to many divorces that support the increasing divorce rates in America." ''The Boston Globe'', October 23, 2005, p. G1; quotes "executive coach and workplace advisor" Dory Hollander; online at


Male–female television news co-anchors are sometimes referred to as "TV spouses" for the way they work together and present themselves side by side. "I've known Don for 14 years," said Minneapolis anchor Amelia Santaniello of her co-anchor. "We like to joke he was my first TV husband." Miami anchor Pam Giganti called her co-anchor "my partner and my TV husband for the past eight years." Anchor Mark Bradshaw writes, "I've gone through many 'TV wives'. I can't even remember all their names. Bad husband." Actress Ana Gasteyer refers to actor Chris Parnell as her "wusband," or work husband, whom she has played the wife of in The Groundlings, in ''Saturday Night Live'' sketches, and on ''Suburgatory'': "I have my husband, Charlie, and then Chris Parnell ... He's my work husband, my 'wusband.'"

See also

* Emotional affair


{{DEFAULTSORT:Work Spouse Category:Interpersonal relationships Category:English-language idioms Category:Workplace