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Thu, Dec 26, 2013
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"Meet my work husband"
by Sasha Gonzales

Angeline*, 34, doesn't know what she would do without her colleague Dave*. He's her cheerleader at work, cheering her up when she's having a bad day and listening whenever she needs to vent about a project. They're practically inseparable - they work closely and have lunch together on most days. " I look forward to seeing him every weekday morning. He makes me laugh," shares the corporate communications manager.

Dave is Angeline's office husband - co-worker of the opposite sex she's extremely close to. They've got a special bond, are loyal to each other and care about how the other on is doing at work. It's like a marriage - but without the romance and sex.

"They've been rumours at work that we might be sleeping together, but that's not true," say Angeline. She has a long-time boyfriend and Dave, who is 37, has been married for three years.

"He's devoted to his wife and wouldn't dream of messing up my relationship either." She draws the line at meeting with Dave on weekends and never shares personal information about her relationship or family with him. When they are together, they mostly discuss work and trivial matters like food, movies, music and television shows.

A straw poll of 30 Singaporean women revealed that, like Angeline, 12 of them had an office spouse - and all said it was nothing to feel guilty about.

Having a work husband is a phenomenon that's been widely spotted in the last decade, especially in the US. No surprises here - with our 24/7 work culture, we're spending more time with our colleagues and developing stronger relationships with them.

A lot has been said about how a relationship like this can turn into an affair. But if you know how to draw the line, an office spouse can be your strongest ally in the boardroom, as these women tell us.

"He makes sure I don't lose it at work"

Knowing you've got a friend at work can chase away your Monday blues.

Leslie*, 39, a marketing manager, frequently pops by her colleague Joel's desk, even though he works at the other end of the office and in a different department. The two became friends after realising that they lived in the same condominium. Since then, they've travelled to work together in the mornings. "We're both married and our spouses know that we share a cab to work every day. But they're okay with it because they know there's nothing more going on," says Leslie.

Besides picking his brain on work projects - "He's a very smart man and I like bouncing ideas off him" - Leslie likes how Joel listens to her whenever she needs to complain and keeps her mood check. "Whenever I want to vent my frustration about my boss or colleagues, I call him, text him or go to his office. "

Spending time with Joel helps Leslie recharge and get ready to take on any challenge, and it doesn't hurt that he has an infectious positive attitude and loves to crack jokes.

"He really lifts my spirits. There are many others in my department whom I could talk to about my work problems, but I don't trust them to keep things to themselves. With Joel, it's different. We trust each other; it's like he's family."

In the same way, staff writer Geraldine*, 29, shares a special bond with Michael*, a 36-year-old senior editor at her company. They grew close a couple of years back when they were both frequently working late.

They realised they shared plenty in common, including their love for tennis and paintball.

These days, they sit close to each other in the office and lunch together sometimes with other colleagues.

Michael also knows that Geraldine is gunning to be an editor in the next couple of years and give her career advice on how to get noticed, such as being the first to volunteer for extra projects and regularly pitching ideas to her editor instead of waiting to be asked.

He even reads her story drafts and gives her pointers on how to improve them.

"He's like a very close older brother. And to him, I'm a kid sister," she says, "I'm not attached, but Michael has a girlfriend, whom I've met. There is no jealousy on her part".

"We're boardroom allies"

By her own admission Simone Tan, 33, doesn't work in the most supportive environment. "Everyone is just out to make it for themselves," says the video editor.

"There isn't much camaraderie. My team is small, but we're close. A few of my teammates don't get along and there's a great deal of jealousy going around."

"That's why she is grateful for her office hubby Jerry*. "We joined the company at the same time, so we've been through a lot together, from budget cuts to company crises. I can always count on him to side with me at work."

They work under a demanding boss, so they back each other up at team meetings and while working on projects. Sometimes, they even cover for each other.

"Once, I was sick for a week and couldn't finish a project I was halfway through. Jerry finished it for me and let me take the credit. I've done the same for him."

And because Jerry is closer to a few of their supervisors, he sometimes makes request to them on Simone's behalf, like when she needed a part-time assistant for a project, "He suggested they let me hire someone for a short period. They agreed," she explains.

Unlike Jerry, who socialises with the bosses more often, Simone is not as close to them. She feels they would not have agreed so readily if she had put in the request herself. "Jerry always tells me, 'if you need me to speak to the guys about anything, just let me know."

"He helped me get a raise"

Matilda Wu, 30, says that her office husband Stephen* is more than just caring and understanding - he has been a driving force in her career.

After she received a bad work appraisal one year, the sale executive felt discouraged and was close to calling it quits. Her close female colleagues even suggested that she wouldn't go far in the company and encouraged her to find a better job.

But after Matilda confided Stephen, a more senior sales executive, he urged her not to give up. Stephen believed in Matilda so much that he helped her draw up a list of career goals for the nect year, and checked with her sales target.

"He would send me motivational quotes from famous authors and treat me to lunch whenever I achieved a goal," she says.

Matilda initially suspected that Stephen fancied her. But these fears faded once she realised that he never made a move or took advantage of the fact that they were close.

On her part, she kept the relationship professional, never suggesting that they hang out after work. Whenever he bought her lunch, she would return the favour so that she wouldn't feel like she owed him.

That said, Matilda feels Stephen was motivated by good intentions: " He wanted me to stay on the team because he could see me potential. He also told me that it made him feel good to be able to help me advance in my career."

With is encouragements, Matilda started to believe in herself and saw her work performance improve.

She persisted with her work goals where she would have previously given up, and found new ways to pitch for sales. At her next appraisal, she got an excellent review and a raise.

For this, she has Stephen to thank. "He gave me such a self-esteem boost. He really just wanted me to do well and expected nothing in return," she says.



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