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One Mom, Two Spouses (One Home Spouse, One Work Spouse)

My Coworker Friend, My Work Spouse

“Yep, that sounds good….um hmmm— yeah, that’s a great idea! You know I would marry you all over again,” I gush into the phone before hanging up. The person on the other line wasn’t my husband. He was standing behind me, actually. But, he wasn’t put off by my proclamations of bigamy. He knew I was talking to my work spouse.

Just what exactly is a work spouse, you ask? Why they’re the person who sits across from you at the conference table (or in our case, the kitchen table) and knows the punch line of your story before you get there. And, they laugh anyway. They’re the person with whom you can make NO eye contact, and yet, they know EXACTLY what you’re thinking. This is the person who “gets it.” Does it get any more perfect?

I remember the day I met my work spouse, Sue, like it was just yesterday. We were in the Denver airport. We talked about where we were from (both from the East Coast), we talked about our children, and we talked about, well, you know, all the things you talk about when you’re falling in love. It’s just that this time I was already married with three kids.

Doesn’t it always happen when you aren’t looking for it?

More Than “Just” My Work Friend

Like all great romances, ours started as a friendship. As the months and years passed, we fell into a comfortable rhythm. She finished my sentences; I ordered her coffee and almost got it right (so many checked boxes on that Starbucks cup—who could keep track?). We both loved words. We’d jot down misused and made-up words while attending various meetings. We loved our blended family (4 boys and 4 girls—even better than the Brady’s). We loved our “jobby.” We were even the same religion, so I was pretty sure my mother-in-law would approve. Sue and I could talk for hours, which was really like one long conversation interrupted 27 times throughout the day.

Our business grew, our love blossomed, and it was clear that this relationship was like a marriage—well, a marriage with the toilet seat down and a mutual love of yogurt and granola. Even our husbands were alike—both family guys, who shared a passion for fueling the Nevada economy. They even have the same fantasy, which doesn’t include either of us, together or separate (that’s an article for another time in another magazine).

We started to make plans…business plans. We talked about our future (projections) and what we wanted long-term (a salary). She gave me everything I wanted (great content); I gave her what she needed (assurance that people DO read her editor’s letter). We were poor, but happy.

As the years have passed, I wonder if I would have ever survived without my work spouse. It would be so, so lonely. This thought spurred me to pick up the phone, redial and hum a little “Wind Beneath My Wings” to Sue. All great marriages need affirmation, after all; my husband could wait.

Stephanie Schaeffer Silverman is publisher of Your Teen Magazine.

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