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Office Spouses Often Lead To Jealousy

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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(credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — Relationships are tricky business, not just at home, but at work too. They become even more muddled when they involve men and women. Many people now have what’s called an “Office Spouse.” This is an extremely close co-worker of the opposite sex.

When you consider all the offices in Boston, all the workers, and the number of hours spent behind a desk it’s no wonder many of us develop closer relationships with our co-workers. We spend more waking hours at the office than we do at home.

One businessman described an office spouse as “kind of your substitute wife at work.”

Clearly there are no vows between office spouses, but the bonds are real according to psychologist and relationship expert Charles Foster of the Chestnut Hill Institute. He says work environments bring together like minded people.

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports.

“You talk about your problems, and what’s going on, and you give advice to each other. You share your interests,” he added.

We spoke to a stay-at-home mom and she told us she doesn’t like the idea of the office spouse at all. “The thought of my husband having a personal relationship, especially with a woman at work is obviously very threatening,” she explained.

Dr. Foster says it’s not bad for men and women to be friends at work. It is important, however, to make sure don’t take the relationship too far and create a hazardous situation.

“If you are doing something with your quote, office spouse, that you wouldn’t feel totally comfortable telling your at home spouse, then you have crossed the line,” he explained.

That might include sharing too much information about your home life. “Most married people feel that there are certain things about your family life and your relationship that you can tell somebody, but they also feel there are certain things that you can’t go over the line and tell anybody else,’ said Dr. Foster.

Physical contact is also off limits. “You can’t do something like give each neck rubs if that wouldn’t be something you wouldn’t be totally comfortable going home and telling your spouse, “said Dr. Foster.

Don’t hide that work relationship from your at home spouse either. “That’s a recipe for disaster. It may work in the short run, but stuff is going to come out and it is going to come out and it is going to blow up in your face,” said Dr. Foster.

Some research has found that while both sexes of a real spouse can become jealous of an office spouse, women can actually be more troubled by emotional infidelity than by sexual infidelity.

One survey found that about a third of workers admit to having an office spouse.

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