work wife

Woman Overhears Fiancé’s Coworkers Joking About His “Work Wife” And Sparks A Debate About Work Spouses

We all know the terms “work wife” and “work husband” are dumb and evoke all kinds of gender stereotypes. If you’re working with someone you like as a person and you have a productive working relationship, why not just call them a friend?

One Redditor recently had a blow-up with her fiancé over the term “work wife” and requested a favor from him that honestly seems a bit silly.

But her post provided lots of fodder for folks to discuss, including what’s appropriate for a workplace friendship, how jealousy can threaten a relationship, and how working from home together during our current crisis can cause drama.

“My fiancé Mark works closely with a woman—Megan. They both have similar responsibilities and need to work together as a team. I’ve never had any problems with this. They don’t really interact outside of work,” the OP starts. 

“We have been working from home the last several weeks. I happened to be in the living room with him yesterday while his office had their weekly zoom meeting. During that meeting, people began talking about what they wanted to do when everyone returned to the office. I could hear someone say that my fiancé and Megan must really miss each other. Several other people began referring to them as ‘work wife’ and ‘work husband.’ Then someone suggested that my fiancé and Megan should ‘renew their vows’ when everyone is back in the office.” 

The OP explains that Mark just played along and joked that they “would registered at Office Depot.” This did not make the OP happy at all, and she left the room crying. 

“I confronted him after the call and said I felt humiliated. Our wedding was supposed to be in September but we’ve had to postpone it and it’s not clear when it will be safe to reschedule. And here he is talking about renewing his vows with someone from work?” 

Mark told the OP that it was just a work joke. Then he showed her a joke article that his office was sharing about how working from home is ruining work wife relationships. The OP said the term “work wife” is “offensive and humiliating because I’m supposed to be his wife.” 

Putting off your wedding is tough. I can understand how the OP would be upset and maybe project that disappointment on the situation at Mark’s work. But the next thing she does is perhaps not that understandable and a little controlling. 

“I demanded that at his next meeting he needed to publicly apologize to his office and tell them that he will NOT be ‘renewing his vows’ with Megan because he is ENGAGED to marry someone else. I said he also needs to tell his office that they need to stop calling him and Megan work spouses.” 

“He says he can’t do that because it will be embarrassing and hurt his reputation at work with his colleagues. I said ‘oh, is it hard to feel embarrassed? I would never know what that’s like.’ He called me an asshole.” 

How should the OP navigate this situation?

Redditors had some suggestions but mostly agreed that while the title of a “work spouse” is dumb, the OP overreacted and should not have made demands. They also agreed that the two need to communicate more about what’s really the issue—which might be the OP’s insecurity

“I think the whole ‘work wife’ thing is disrespectful and silly, but you did overreact to what was obviously a joke. He’s not literally going to be renewing his vows with anyone or registering at Office Depot. And forcing him to tell everyone that they ‘need to stop calling him and Megan work spouses’ is going to make a mountain out of a molehill, and give everyone the impression that you’re a difficult person. Just ask him to stop joking about it,” said WebbieVanderquack.

“The idea of a “work spouse” is so profoundly dumb, just say you’re friends. But walking out in tears over the joke is such an over reaction, and him releasing a statement to his office is ridiculous. If someone raises it again he shouldn’t play along, but he can move conversation on or say he doesn’t like the term politely whilst still remaining chill,” agreed keeponyrmeanside.

“He shouldn’t have laughed it off as a joke when he saw that your feelings were being hurt. But your insistence that he should clarify at their next meeting is a bit of an overreaction, especially since you know that they basically don’t interact out of work. He can deal about this more calmly, and can easily get them to stop without being all in their faces about it,”said thebookthiefstardis.

“This is weird, overkill, and embarrassing. Also, doing this type of thing at a meeting could get your fiance in trouble with HR or something. Don’t make him do this,” said jessica11k. “I am completely on your side that the ‘work wife’ thing is weird as fuck. Common, yes, but also deeply confusing and often damaging/offensive to the ACTUAL wife/relationship. I think you were totally in-bounds to put an end to this. I simply think you did it wrong…My boyfriend has a close friend who he called his “work wife” once. I told him that it made me feel insecure, and he stopped. That was the end of it. I don’t understand why you couldn’t have just told your fiance that you didn’t want him calling her his work wife anymore.”

“YTA for demanding anything. Just explain how much it upsets you and makes you uncomfortable and ask that he work to temper that language. Meaning if it comes up again he could say something like ‘oh man I’m already planning one wedding!’ Or ‘One wife is enough everyone!’ So people start to get the hint to ease things, without anyone feeling embarrassed,” explained QuitaQuites.

What do you think? Are the terms “work wife” and “work husband” threatening? Inappropriate? Did the OP overstep her boundaries by making demands on her fiancé? 

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Patricia Grisafi

Patricia Grisafi, PhD, is a freelance writer and educator. Her work has appeared in Salon, Vice, Bitch, Bustle, Broadly, The Establishment, and elsewhere. She is passionate about pit bull rescue, cursed objects, and designer sunglasses.