Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some Monogamists Have a Second Spouse

Jayne Keedle’s article, “Work Life: Polygamy in the Workplace,” talks about the cultural reality of having an “office spouse.” The use of “polygamy” is tongue in cheek; most such relationships aren’t sexual. But some polyamorists maintain that not all polyamorous relationships are sexual, so perhaps there is some unintended truth to referring to these workplace relationships as polygamous in the case of someone who has a parter.

Certainly, our schedule of long hours, late nights, and working weekends meant we often spent more time together than we did with our significant others, but were we being inappropriately intimate when we huddled together over his computer to look at layouts? Were people reading too much into the fact that we liked to spend lunch hours doing the New York Magazine crossword puzzle together?

The term "office spouse" has been in the vernacular for a number of years now (it was famously used to describe President George W. Bush's relationship with Condoleezza Rice), but its definition remains somewhat nebulous. Dr. Jacqueline Olds, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who has studied the phenomenon, defines a work spouse as "a person at work with whom you have a special relationship in which you share confidences, loyalties, experiences and a degree of honesty and openness."

The article cities statistics about such relationships and goes into the potential problems and the potential benefits. Certainly, many people have close relationships with multiple people; an actual spouse, a coworker, a best friend, a sibling. For others, their spouse is their best friend, and sometimes their coworker, and even their sibling or parent.
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