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7 Signs You’re Having an Emotional Affair with a “Work Spouse”

office affair

Do you have an “office spouse?”

Are you currently involved in a monogamous relationship but joke with your friends about having a “work spouse?”

If so, you aren’t alone. A survey conducted in 2007 indicated that 23% of employees referred to a coworker as their office spouse. While people may snicker when talking about their “work husband” or “work wife,” it’s not always a laughing matter.

That’s because some situations cross the line and transform into emotional affairs. Over the course of time, this can spell real trouble, particularly if you are married.

What follows are seven signs you may be having an emotional affair with your work spouse. Some of these may seem like common sense. Others might cause you to pause and reflect. Read them all in context. FYI: This list includes the “biggies” and is not meant to be exhaustive.

How many of these apply to your situation?

1. You discuss deeply private things

You disclose personal details about your relationship/marriage, including sexual material to your office spouse. As part of this sign, you may also talk about a lack of emotional support or intimacy.

2. You are OK being dumped by your partner

In your mind, you entertain the idea of your partner dumping you because you know you have a work spouse waiting in the wings. You may have even shared these thoughts with your office spouse; a person who encourages the idea of a split.

3. Your work spouse is highly flirtatious

At work, your “office wife” or “office husband” makes comments or gestures to you in private that are sexually suggestive. You eagerly mirror similar comments back.

4. You share “good news” with your work spouse first

When something good happens in your life and you want to share, the first person you tell is your work spouse. While you could tell your romantic partner this information, you opt to tell your office spouse instead.

5. You are super protective of your work spouse

When others criticize your office spouse, you become highly defensive. Even when he or she has made a major mistake, you go out of your way to minimize the damage. In short, you’ve always got this person’s back.

6. You become jealous when a coworker gets “too close”

This one is simple – you don’t like it when your work spouse interacts with another coworker in ways that suggest closeness. In turn, you become envious and begin to badmouth that individual.

7. You don’t think of it as “cheating”

Because you aren’t having physical relations with your work spouse, you have told yourself, “I’m not cheating.” But at the same time, you also recognize the emotional bond with your office spouse is stronger than that of your partner.

Questions to reflect on

If one or two of these traits strikes a chord of familiarity, that’s probably no big deal. After all, most people get their emotional needs met from a variety of sources.

That said, if the majority of signs listed above apply to you, consider this an opportunity to get real about your situation.

Ask yourself:

  • Why is my work spouse meeting my emotional needs and not my partner?
  • Will the relationship with my office spouse jeopardize my job and/or marriage?
  • Can I envision a scenario where the relationship with my work spouse escalates into something physical?

In closing, it is important to bear in mind that workplace relationships are rarely a “secret.” According to polling, 47% of people can sense infidelity on the part of a colleague.

Translation – the relationship with your work spouse is not as private as you may think.

Main photo credit: Deposit Photos

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7 Signs You’re Having an Emotional Affair with a “Work Spouse”

John D. Moore, PhD

Described as folksy and down to earth, Dr. John Moore infuses current events and pop culture into his posts as a way of communicating wider points on issues related to wellness and goal attainment. His work has been featured in nationally syndicated media, including Cosmo, Men's Fitness and CBS Market Watch. He is a consultant to a number of Fortune 500 companies and institutions of Higher Learning. Dr. Moore is author of Confusing Love with Obsessionand Editor in Chief at: Guy Counseling.

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APA Reference
Moore, J. (2018). 7 Signs You’re Having an Emotional Affair with a “Work Spouse”. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Apr 2018
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