Your work wife could be the reason you're lonely.

Work wives.

Many of us have one. Some of us even have a few.

They're the friends you make in the workplace that are your 'ride or die' connections in your specific work environment. You go to one another when there's a drama, to have a little gossip or even for a laugh or some escapism.

They might even be people you feel comfortable airing your life frustrations with.

But according to some experts, our work wives might be making us lonelier than ever.

MM Confessions: Why I last cried at work. Post continues below. 

Video via Mamamia. 

The friendship recession.

According to US statistics, an increasing number of adults say they have few to no close friends.

And like a lot of social learnings from the US, this often eventually translates to Australian society sooner rather than later. Compared with four decades ago, Australians have almost half as many friends, and we catch up with our mates only about half as often. 

The pandemic has some explaining to do in this arena. Following on from lockdowns and a drop in face-to-face versus digital connections, it turns out we haven't seen a vast improvement in rates of loneliness post-pandemic.

So how does this relate to work wives? Well, it appears that more of us are relying on our mates at work to fill this close friendship gap than ever before. But it's not as successful a bandaid as we might've assumed.


Is my work wife making me lonely?

Simon Wegman is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Deep Well Psychology, a diversity-positive telehealth only psychology practice. 

"There are two ingredients necessary for friendship, and they are continuous, unplanned interaction and shared vulnerability," he tells Mamamia

"In the workplace, we have the first ingredient readily available, given how much time we spend working. With this in mind, it doesn't require much effort on our part to build a decent connection with colleagues. But for a lasting and meaningful friendship to take place, it takes more than just time spent together."

According to the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, it takes more than 50 hours to build just a casual friendship – you can only imagine the sheer number of hours it would take for a close friendship. It also takes far more than just small talk.

"In the workplace, there are fewer opportunities to have shared vulnerability and have those deep and meaningful conversations [that are] necessary. With this in mind, it may not be as close a friendship as you might think it is. Rather, it's a connection built on convenience."

Simon notes there is a key factor in whether your work wife relationship is adding value or not, and that's whether or not there is shared vulnerability.

"If there isn't that level of closeness outside of work and you never catch up or speak about life away from the workplace, you might be putting all your eggs in one basket. And if you're not making time for each other outside of the workplace, that's an indication the friendship might not actually survive if one of you were to change jobs."


On the other hand, though, plenty of research shows that workplace connections are really important for our mental health. Some of the funniest moments of the day come from watercooler chat, and it can be really gratifying to have had a good conversation with work mates. 

And in this epidemic of loneliness facing every day Aussies, we need all the good times we can get.

As far as the impact of loneliness on our physical health, one report found evidence to suggest it can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. What a healthy and strong friendship provides can help alleviate feelings of loneliness, not only boosting our mood, but also keeping us sane in the process.

We just need to make sure our friendship circle isn't exclusively work friends, Simon tells Mamamia. And if you are someone who thinks they may need to prioritise making some new friends outside of work, remember, it takes active effort.

"Nowadays there are lots of meetups you can join in on, whether it's a general making-friends activity, a book club, a mother's group in your local area, or more. It's about taking a leap of faith and putting yourself out there to get the results you're after," notes Simon.

This doesn't mean you have to break up with your work wife. In fact, we implore you not to. 

Just be sure not to make the workplace your entire life or your only avenue for making lasting friends.

Feature Image: Stan.

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