Work Husband Culture Has Got To Go

Sure, it sounds like nothing more than a workplace joke – a silly way to connect with coworkers and make working together more fun. But is it really a good idea to go down the path of having a "work husband"?

By Keelia Clarkson4 min read
NBC Universal Television/The Office

Some of us are lucky enough to not only love what we do for a living, but to also set our own hours…some of us. Many don’t get the luxury of finding total fulfillment through their occupation, and working any time other than 9-5 is out of the question. There’s no doubt about it – work can be something of a grind, day in and day out, all year long.

This is where some of us start to get creative. How can we make our working hours a little less draining, monotonous, or laborious and perhaps a little more fun, fresh, and exciting? What is there to do in order to make work more bearable, considering the fact that we spend the vast majority of our time there? Often enough, bored workers will resort to the one thing that always ups the ante and makes things more interesting: romance.

Didn’t Jim and Pam from The Office make it look so cute, swoon-worthy, and entertaining? Not only did they end up falling in love and getting married, but they also made each other’s work days at a drab paper distribution office all the more tolerable in the process. From their inside jokes about coworkers to their ridiculous pranks on Dwight to their totally not subtle stolen glances, they were the epitome of workplace romance.

And so, even if our ultimate goal isn’t to find a real-life husband, it’s not uncommon to search for a Jim or a Pam in the office, someone who can be our "work husband" – a coworker we have an especially close, fun, sweet relationship with, that goes far beyond your basic coworker connection. With a work husband, there’s always plenty of laughing, getting lunch together, and of course, flirting.

It sounds harmless enough (it’s just a little crush, right?), but is it really wise to have a work husband? Are there any potential complications that might come about? Is there any chance that our desire for a little bit of workplace excitement might cause a lot more trouble than it’s worth?

Here’s why it’s really unwise to foster this kind of relationship with a coworker, even if your intention is to keep things light and enjoyable more than anything else.

Workplace Romances Are Always Tricky

It worked out really well for Jim and Pam, but they also weren’t real people, working in a real office, starting a real relationship. Their story was fictional. While there are certainly real-life romances that started at work and grew into something wonderful, workplace romances are always tricky, and sometimes confusing for everyone involved – even a flirtationship that hasn’t bloomed into anything more than little winks and inside jokes and surprise lattes. Sorry to be such a Toby, but it’s just the truth!

There’s a reason why HR departments require employees to disclose their romantic relationship with their colleagues (and there’s an even better reason why some workplaces don’t permit relationships at all, especially between bosses and their employees). Dana Chang Dikas, an employment-law attorney, shared, “Policies…can (and, in most cases, should) prohibit relationships between supervisors and subordinates, which can be breeding grounds for claims of sexual harassment or favoritism, divulgence of confidential company information, gossip, and other workplace disruptions. … Workplace romances can adversely affect employee morale and productivity by distracting the romantic partners and their co-workers. … They also may lead to conflict and claims of disparate treatment or sexual harassment.”

Blurring the Lines Is Never Advisable

But what if your work husband and you aren’t actually pursuing a full-fledged romantic relationship, so HR worries don’t feel all that relevant to your situation? What if you’re just looking for ways to spice up your working hours and add some enjoyment to the place where you spend the majority of your time each week?

Having a work husband still quickly complicates the workplace, strips away professionalism, and adds a layer of underlying emotion where there probably shouldn’t be one. This only serves to blur the lines, making for a workplace that begins to function less and less like a place of professional business and more and more like a place of personal business. You’ll be switching between your work mindset and your play mindset, which is bound to create confusion for you, your work husband, and even your other coworkers.

One of You Might Catch Real Feelings

Sure, right now, the extent of your relationship with your work husband is that of light flirting, coy smiles, little jokes, and nothing more, but who’s to say it will stay that way forever, never at all becoming more complicated? What if this is just the beginning of a more complicated relationship?

One of you might end up actually falling for the other one, far beyond a silly work husband level of crush. And if the depth of feeling isn’t mutual between you two, this easily creates all kinds of drama, awkwardness, and unprofessionalism. Suddenly, every little touch, smile, and email becomes all the more weighty. Not to mention, it begs a few questions: Is it a passing crush that should (or even could) be ignored? Should one (or both) of you find a different job? Will this affect your or his ability to work effectively?

It Could Complicate Future Relationships

For however long you’re both at the same job, once you cross a certain threshold of intimacy, there’s no going back. Whether you send suggestive emojis in your emails to one another, meet up for drinks after work from time to time, or have cute pet names you call each other, a professional boundary has been crossed – which means that as long as you’re coworkers, it will be a challenge to begin dating anyone else without your new boyfriend getting jealous.

And he wouldn’t be wrong to be uncomfortable with your having a work husband, either. You might tell yourself that your interactions with your coworker are meaningless, but we’re willing to bet that it wouldn’t feel so innocuous if it was your boyfriend who had a “work wife.” 

Fostering this kind of relationship with a coworker might solve the “issue” of feeling bored at work, but there’s no doubt that it will wreak havoc on other areas of your life – to the point where you might end up losing a chance with another guy who’d rather not get involved in a love triangle.

If You’re Already Taken, It’s Definitely Not Okay

If a brand new boyfriend would feel jealous of your flirty relationship with a coworker, how do you think a long-term boyfriend or even an actual husband would feel? Again, you might convince yourself that there’s nothing insidious going on if all you’re doing with your work husband is using nicknames or “jokingly” holding hands or surprising each other with little gifts, but every action taken with your coworker is an action taken against your real partner.

If the relationship you’re currently in is one you would like to last, there are no two ways about it – a work husband will only create distance, breed jealousy, and foster distrust. It’s not cute, funny, or sweet to refer to another man as a “husband” when there is another man who has already committed himself to you.

You Might End Up Comparing Your "Work Husband” to Your Real One

The issue with having a work husband when you’re already taken doesn’t end with how it will affect your partner. It extends all the way to how it affects you in your relationship with your partner. With your boyfriend or husband, you see the highs and the lows, his best qualities and his imperfections. But with your coworker, you only see the parts of him that he lets you see.

And before long, it’s too easy for you to compare your husband’s flawed, interior appearance, with your work husband’s cheery, exterior appearance. Maybe your husband will go through a rough time, or your relationship with him will shift, or you’ll feel less intimate with him than you used to. Enter: your work husband, who recently got a haircut that looks really good on him, who said he “thought of you” as he hands you a chocolate croissant, who lets you vent to him, who you suddenly feel emotionally closer to than your own husband – which is exactly how workplace affairs begin.

Closing Thoughts

Having a work husband is all fun and games, until it’s not. Whether it ends up interfering with the workplace’s professionalism, has a negative effect on your relationships outside of work, or sets the foundation for what becomes an unrequited crush for one of you, there are too many potential complications for the temporary “fun” of a flirtationship with your coworker to be worth it.

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