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How to keep boundaries with your “work husband

We’ve all had a “work husband” from time to time. He’s the guy at the office that you click with like a best friend. Only he’s a guy. And he’s hot. Here are a few tips to make sure that your work husband doesn’t accidentally drift into something more serious.

Male and female friends at work

What is a work husband?

As though we needed one more source of interpersonal confusion, the term “work husband” recently entered the American lexicon to describe a special kind of relationship with a member of the opposite sex. A work husband is an office friend with whom you can banter, develop professionally, share ideas and pass the work week. According to a Vault survey, an astounding 32 percent of workers admit to having a “work spouse” relationship with a coworker of the opposite sex. The relationship is respectful and engaging, without any sex or commitment to one another. Sounds pretty good, right?

The dilemma is that friendships with work husbands have been known to veer into romantic relationships. This, of course, poses a problem if the work spouse(s) is married.

Staying in the friend zone

There’s no reason to say that all work husband relationships are a bad idea. The trick is to allow your relationship to resemble 30 Rocks Liz Lemon & Jack Donaghy rather than The Office‘s Jim and Pam. You don’t want to go down the path of a budding romance when there will be collateral damage from an affair. So how can you ensure that your relationship stays respectful and platonic, rather than escalating into an inappropriate fling?

  • Never create a secret life. If you’re married, your spouse should know about your work husband. Discuss aspects of your friendship with other co-workers so that you build a relationship that is out in the open. Make sure you mention your spouse, and also ask about your work husband’s spouse. If you feel the need to hide anything about your work husband from your spouse, you’ve already gone too far.
  • Stay away from oversharing. Don’t complain about your home life to your work husband. Try to keep things warm, but impersonal. The door will open for more emotional exchanges if you disclose that you’re unhappy with your spouse.
  • Define it. Discuss the closeness of your friendship with him. View it as a “define the relationship” discussion that clearly announces to both parties that things must remain in the friend zone.
  • Avoid after-hours chatting. Just say no to one-on-one happy hours, dinners, texting or calling once you both head home from work. Don’t drink when you’re with him, or else you might blur your judgment. You really shouldn’t even have his phone number stored in your personal phone.
  • Underestimate yourself. A work husband is one area in your life where you don’t need to believe in yourself. If you’re attracted to him and the conditions are right — you had a fight with your spouse and now you’re disclosing your pain to him over a margarita — anything can happen. Take the necessary precautions to make sure you don’t end up in a situation that’s hard to leave.

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