A work spouse is great. He provides support in an environment that can get competitive and hostile (and where you also spend most of your day). But between the coffee runs and inside jokes, the lines can get blurred fast.
Since you spend lots of time with him, you probably also let him in on your personal life. You most likely enjoy having him around because you guys share a lot in common. But while work spouses can be comforting, they can also be dangerous.
"People that work together in a specific industry are likely to have similar interests, characteristics, education background and goals in life, [and the similarities can also] promote attraction," says psychologist Cristina Gonzalez from Alliance Professional Counselling.
While you may find it harmless to text him about random things outside of work or even flirt with him from time to time, you could be setting yourself up for disaster if at least one of you is attached.
And if you find yourself eager to hang out with him time and again, or just want to do anything that will deepen the emotional connection in general, it's pretty obvious that you see him more than a colleague or friend.
The danger zone
Whether or not you've thought about getting in bed with him, if you know you shouldn't be doing certain things with your work spouse, you've probably gone too far with him and it's time to take a step back.
"The amount of time spent together allows intimacy to develop, making the emotional connection meaningful… and time is a basic factor to meeting one another's psychological needs," says Cristina. "If you work on the same projects, you share a common purpose, which can make the union very deep too."
Drawing the line
So how do you set boundaries once you feel that the emotional connection has gone too far? Besides spending less time with him (which means separate coffee breaks, lunches and post-work activities) and putting a stop to the exchange of personal information, Cristina also recommends introducing your work spouse to your partner to eliminate secrecy.
Distancing yourself from him can be hard to do. It may even feel like a breakup. But that's how you'll know that things did in fact go too far - and that "splitting up" with him will save you trouble in the long run.
If the both of you are single, it may seem like there's nothing wrong with being close to him. And there probably isn't… until one of you starts having more expectations of the other.
Unless you guys are on the same page (either looking to date or not at all), it's probably best to proceed with caution lest someone gets hurt.
This article was first published in CLEO Singapore