Workplace (aka "fake") spouses -- a lot of hype, but here's how to avoid problems.


This February ("Valentine's Month"), there was a lot in the news about "workplace spouses." Last week, I was interviewed about this by Denis and Shelli of WSBT radio in South Bend, Indiana.

My own opinion is that the "workplace spouse" phenomenon is an overhyped way to put a new spin on the very old problem of sexual attraction in the workplace. (Sexual harassment and workplace dating are so '90's.)

What is a workplace spouse? The news accounts define it as a closer-than-normal relationship between two co-workers. But for the term to have any real meaning, it has to apply to co-workers who at least have the possibility of becoming sexually attracted to each other. For example, two heterosexual girlfriends who spend a lot of time together and talk about everything may be BFFs, but they are never going to be faux "spouses."

I have long held the view that extramarital affairs at work are the number one cause of sexual harassment lawsuits against men. They have an affair, she wants to get married, he chickens out, and she's angry and wants revenge. I'm not saying that every sexual harassment complaint fits this scenario (by no means!), but just about every lawsuit I've been involved in did. Because workplace "spouse" relationships can lead to extramarital affairs, folks need to be very careful not to let these relationships escalate.

How can you have a close friendship with a co-worker without letting it destroy your marriage or your career? Here are a few tips:

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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