By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TVBy Paula Ebben

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.

Comments (22)
  1. Janet says:

    A co-worker and I are office spouses and have been for about 10 years now. My husband and his wife know all about us. As a matter of fact all 4 of us kid about the relationship. We also socialize together outside of work. My husband can get jeolous from time to time but I don’t think his wife does. Niether of them has anything to worry about though. I think I would have gotten more out of the story if you had done in depth to interview with a couple that is a real life office couple and their spouses rather then the hypethical situations. It also would have been nice to have you interview co-workers to see what they think of the relationship within the office.

  2. Mike says:

    Just another example of how women should NOT be in the workplace. The woman’s emotional state of mind prohibits effective and sound work practices. “Office spouse”??? – Give me a break. Any type of emotional involvement does not belong in the office. You go to work, you do your job and you go home – PERIOD. You treat your co-workers respectfully and politely and leave it at that. Leave the emotional baggage out of the office.

    1. Susan M says:

      Takes two to tango.

    2. LMD says:

      What makes you think it is just the women who are emotional? Sometimes the men are worse.

  3. Carrie says:

    Mike. Welcome to the 20th century.

    1. Bill the Cat says:


      This is the 21st century.

  4. Pamela says:

    mike, I’ve seen men who should Not be in the workplace. I’ve seen men’s emotional state that effect the workplace. I worked with someone who probably had 5-10 office spouses who cated to women like a dog in heat. This man had a gambling addiction, went through a divorce, and caught him rummaging through my pocket book at my cubicle. He stole my pre-natal vitamins, probably thinking they were percocets. I waited a few minutes, and went into his office and to see if he would say anything. He said nothing . He started to tell me what assignments he wanted done for the day, and which calls were important for him to take. found out he had a drug/gambling addiction and owed over 200,000 dollars in gambling debt by a conversation i heard. I told him i caught him taking my vitamins and to return them. Could not believe he could do this to me when i was 4 months pregnant. he denied having them. I raised my voice and said give me my vitamins or i am reporting you. he said leave my office i would not. then he calls for one of his office spouses to remove me. No one was on my side. He lead these women on that the had money/power. but i found out by a real conversation about his addiction. I told him what i knew. I threatened to go to the police if he did not give me my pre-natal vitamins. he screamed at me and picked up a hard cover Law Book and threw it at me, and a heated argument pursued. So men can also be hazardous to the workplace. Women too

  5. Jane says:

    Wow, Mike… women should not be in the workplace? Stuck in the 1950s much? I know you posted that probably to get a rise out of people but seriously, plenty of men drag their emotions into the workplace just as much as women do. I work in an industry that is mostly men and I’ve seen it time and time again.
    We’re human beings, not robots…of course we’re going to find people in our workplace that we connect with in some way whether they’re the opposite sex or same sex. Being able to chat with that person if you have a work issue (one that they’ll probably be able to relate to) or even a personal issue can be a real source of comfort and make work enjoyable and tolerable.
    I have a good friend that I’ve worked with for about 5 yrs and we swap stories often…mostly work related frustrations and it’s been a source of stress relief for me over the years. I think it’s better to do that then to bring that stress home to my spouse…
    Of course there are instances where things can go too far and calling the person an “office spouse” just sounds weird to me but I definitely don’t think you can blame one gender or the other.

  6. Down and out says:

    My ex-wife has an office spouse who caused her to divorce me 2 years ago. She won’t admit it but I know its true. Be careful everyone, about these office spouses. There is probably more gon gon than you know.

  7. Denise says:

    I never even heard the term “office spouse” until I started working at my current job. One of the men here called me their office spouse – why because I’m a damn babysitter to all the men that can’t clean up after themselves. I understand the “office spouse” situation and don’t believe that if someone has a close relationship w/ a co-worker (man or woman) that it should threaten their Actual relationship – unless there is a problem already. Yes – I work w/ a couple that were married to others when we started out and are now involved w/ each other after they broke it off w/ their spouses. But there are still many of us that being a small company interact w/ each other w/ the examples you posted… Lucky for us none of us have insecure spouses I guess. And Mike… if my husband could afford to keep me home… I’ld be there! But apparently to many MEN aren’t making enough $$ so US WOMEN need to go to work! lol..

  8. Ellen says:

    No I don’t have an office spouse, Worked in manufacturing for over 30 years, and I can tell you I thought of my co-workers as an extension of my family and still do. Look you either have trust in your husband or wife or you don’t, so just put the cards on the table and tell them how you feel about close relationships of the opposite sex. Don’t be a drama Queen or King, just be low key about it and for God sakes try to pay attention, listen and by all means talk about his or hers work day. I mean what else can one do, but try to be there and once in awhile take your hubby or wife on a date night. Just like what you did before the kids came into the picture.

  9. CMR says:

    I have a new office spouse and he’s so cute. He’s so funny too. If I play my cards right, I just may get benefits.

  10. LJA says:

    What if your a guy, your married, heterosexual, and your work wife is a guy? Is that wrong?

    1. Susan M says:

      LOL! Maybe he could just be called a “friend”?

    2. CMR says:

      Good question LJA. Let me say this. True love is hard to find. Sometimes you think you’ve found true love and then you catch the early flight home from San Diego and a couple of new people jump out of your bathroom blindfolded like a god damn magic show ready to double team your girlfriend and it stops.

  11. Reezee says:

    I’m a firm believer in you don’t mix business with pleasure and I’m certainly well aware of the so called “office spouse”….. some people have the mentality that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and they lack family values! My ex (Chris) has one of these so-called “friends” JoAnn and as it always does, led to an affair and ripped our family apart. I will not stand for cheaters, therefore filed for Divorce. Once a cheat always a cheat. They belong together. And let me just say, I’ve worked in an office for many years and have had many offers, but chose not to cross that line. It doesn’t belong in the workplace.

  12. Bill the Cat says:

    I used to have an office spouse but she took a different job and left. It was truly innocent but we were friends and we thought alike, and her husband and I shared a couple hobbies so we had lots to talk about.

    She reported to me and we worked closely together a lot. My wife was really uncomfortable with it. Since we did nothing wrong I was always open about it but man- she didn’t like it at all. But, frankly, if I mention a woman’s name more than once, especially in a complimentary way, my wife begins to hate her without ever meeting her!

    While I was a real player before I got married, I have never strayed since taking the vows.

  13. KBJ says:

    I told my boss that our workplace time is a sexless marriage. I feel that way, we are friends and have worked together for 11 years.

  14. Fred G Wilson says:

    Why is it, if a woman spills all the couples secrets to another woman well that just fine, but if a man talks to another woman, then it cheating? That’s just a double standard.

  15. Joan Walker says:

    my husband and i were office spouses. married to other people. eventually we got together after moves and divorces, and it WORKS because we were friends first. was it romantic when we worked together? not at all.
    however, it DOES take two to tango and i have been an office spouse to a couple of men – they need a friend at work also, and they can say things to a woman the would NEVER say to another guy…..
    I had one guy i mentored who had not CLUE ONE about how to interact with women and i told him i would make him a better husband, and his wife said i did. it does go both ways.
    the guys get some input they don’t have to put their ego on the line for and the gal gets some input from the GUY SIDE she can’t get from the other gals. both can watch each others back.
    if you’re going to cheat, you are going to cheat, if you’re not, you’re not. the availability only accelerates the time, not the impetus.

  16. SB says:

    I am a divorced female and work very closely with a married man for a year now. When I first met him I thought he was divorced. He never even mentioned he had a wife. He rarely talks about her. I can tell things aren’t great. He has always been aperfect gentelman. He never so much as says you look nice today. He only compliments me in terms of telling me how much everyone enjoys working with me. The problem is, I can’t stop thinking about him. I often woder what it would be like if he wasn’t married and we could be together. Luckily having been through a divorce because of my spouse having several three affairs, I will NEVER act on my feelings. However, there are lots of people in my position who will. Don’t fool yourself into thinking a work spouse is not dangerous. We’re only human.

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