The Other Man

Lauren Young

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I cheat on my husband with someone from work.

Well, it's not exactly cheating, and it's not exactly a secret, either. When I came home from my first day at BusinessWeek in October of 2003, my husband Jon didn’t want to know if my new boss was nice or whether I had a good workspace. His main concern: Did I find myself a new work husband? And he wasn’t surprised at all when I told him I was already hitched to a lovely man named Fred.

I latched on to Fred within the first 15 minutes on the job, and our marriage was cemented during a fire drill. Later that day, Fred even took me on a tour of the office, introducing me to many of my new co-workers. Alas, you may be a bit disappointed to know that my relationship with Fred is strictly platonic. However, he does play an important role in my life.

While the job of work husband isn’t too taxing, it requires an extensive commitment (just like a real marriage). Fred’s main job is to provide snacks when I’m hungry as well as chocolate when I’m not dieting. He also listens to me vent about anything and everything work and family related. Fred has an extensive supply of aspirin, ibuprofen and antacids, which I raid on a regular basis.

The best thing about work husbands is that you can have many of them. And when you change jobs, you don’t have to break up. Last week I went out (on a school night!) with Tom, my ex-work husband. He’s currently a writer at the Wall Street Journal, and we have “dated” for more than 10 years. We are both fans of the Grateful Dead, and we went to see Phil Lesh, the Dead’s former bass player. We were out well past bedtime while our spouses were at home with our kids.

Work is a parallel universe where we recreate many of the same relationships we have outside of the office. (I've heard colleagues who work so closely together slip up and call each other "Honey" or "Dear.") At this point, I have a work brother, several work sisters, as well as a work mom. These work relationships help me get through the day.

That doesn’t mean that work relationships are perfect. Like any relationship, there is stress and tension. Since I returned from maternity leave, I’m only in the office four days a week, which means I don’t have as much time for my current work husband as I used to.

But Fred, you are still my No. 1 work spouse.

Do you have a work wife or work husband? What role do they play in your life?

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