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Wanted: Office spouse

Marketplace Staff Jun 14, 2006


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Most of us spend at least 40 hours a week in our offices. We all know how political the workplace can be, but what about familial? After all, some of us spend more time with co-workers than we do with our own families. The Financial Times’ Lucy Kellaway says that’s why it’s important to choose your office spouse carefully.

LUCY KELLAWAY: In two and a half decades of working life I have been through six spouses.

The first had fair hair and rosy cheeks and used to giggle like a girl. Since then there have been five other spouses, the most recent of whom lasted nearly five years, which was a record for me. Alas that is now more or less over as he’s moved to a new job and I am learning to cope on my own again.

The office spouse is someone you see every day and spend more waking time with than with your actual spouse. They are your default position for a sandwich at lunch. They are your colleague of choice for a gossip, for confidences and for laughing at the corporate video. They are someone to ask for advice and give advice to in return.

In my experience these relationships can be glorious — but they can be dangerous too. The most obvious problem is that they spill over into a real affair. Office jobs are quite, and so to add an element of safe flirtation seems all to the good. A little sexual tension is great. A lot is catastrophic.

Another problem is when the office spouse is one’s superior. One of my spouses was above me in the pecking order and I felt outrage when he tried to pull rank. How dare he?

Your office spouse can also destabilizes matters at home. Though actually if your home spouse is insanely jealous of what is happening at work, this isn’t a problem with the office husband, it’s more a problem with your real one.

Managed properly, though, these can be perfect relationships: There is no washing-up to squabble over, and many common enemies to unite against.

Which is why I am now eagerly in the market for a new spouse.

I am not looking for the handsome non-smoker of the lonely hearts column. My spouse can look like the back of a bus. I do not mind smokers (as they have to do that in the cold anyway). I am not at all fussy about age, anything in the 22 to 65 bracket would be fine.

However, he must be funny and must laugh at my jokes. He must be prepared to walk to the slightly further away sandwich bar rather than go to the near one. He must be on roughly the same level as me and must have the same attitude towards authority.

He must always take my side. And if he could also fix my computer when it freezes, why, then I will take him, for better and for worse, in the office, as long as we both should work there.

Lucy Kellaway is the management columnist for the Financial Times and comes to us by special arrangement with that newspaper.

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