I was reading an online article about work relationships, when a comment caught my eye. The commenter, bookbug273, wrote: “I have a ‘work husband’, and my real husband has a ‘work wife’! We tease each other about it, but it’s all totally OK.”
That’s when I realised: there was a name for my husband’s friendship with his co-worker, Kimberly. She was his ‘work wife’. And I was definitely not cool with it.
The phrase ‘work wife’ made complete sense to me. After all, she was Matt’s closest friend at work, the one who understood all of the issues he had with his boss and the corporate structure. And their closeness was making me uncomfortable and jealous.
That night, when Matt got home, I said, “Kim’s your work wife, isn’t she?”
He grinned. “Yeah! I guess you’re right. She is!”
That was not the response I wanted. A denial would have been preferable. To have Matt so comfortable with acknowledging his intimacy with Kim – even if it was just as a friend – was unnerving.
Is 'work wife' on this list of breakup reasons? (Post continues after video.)
Three years ago, when Matt told me that he was training a new woman named Kim at his office, I didn’t bat an eyelid.
I’d forgotten about it, until Matt came home from work one day and said, “Guess what! Kim and I found out that we went to primary school together!”
I didn’t see what the big deal was. People cross paths all the time. But Matt was oddly excited that he and Kim had been at the same school, even though she was a few years older than him.
After that, Matt managed to weave in little facts about Kim into many of our after-work conversations. Kim used to ride horses, he said. Kim had grown up just two suburbs away from him. Their parents had holiday homes in neighbouring beachside towns. She had also been an exchange student in Europe. Both of them had parents who were medical professionals.
Naturally, I worried that Matt was having an affair, and I confronted him about it.
“Me? With Kim?!” he laughed. “She’s married! And her husband’s a really nice guy!”
As if that would make a difference.
I began to make excuses to visit Matt at work. I had a meeting in his business park one day, and stopped by the office so that we could have lunch together.
“You have to meet Kim,” he told me excitedly. “You’ll love her.”
I was shocked when I met her, because she was nothing like what I expected. I was thinking of all of the famous, sexy and alluring Kims…Kim Kardashian, Kimberley Davies.
But Matt’s Kim was nothing like that. She was seemed very sensible, even plain. Although I felt unbelievably shallow, I still felt relieved that she was not a sexual threat. And Matt was right: she was nice.
My sense of relief was temporary, though, when I started to notice that Matt was listening to Kim more than he was listening to me. (Post continues after gallery.)
Matt had been having troubles with his boss, Angus, and it was bothering him. He was considering calling a meeting to confront Angus. I warned against it.
“Just be nice, and be positive,” I suggested. “You’re a great worker. If you keep working hard, Angus is bound to notice eventually.”
“I don’t think that’ll work,” grumbled Matt.
A few weeks later, Matt seemed to be in a better mood. I asked him what had made him so happy.
“I just had a really great chat with Kim, and she made me realise that I’ve just got to keep being myself at work. You know, being optimistic and friendly. Angus will notice me eventually, she says.”
I exploded when I heard this.
“That’s exactly what I said!” I cried. “I told you that ages ago. Why didn’t you take my advice then?”
“I know you said it,” Matt explained. “It just helped that Kim said it, too. She’s like you. I’m so lucky to have two smart women in my life.”
There was no way that I could agree with him. Kim and I were not alike at all. In fact, it was our differences that caused me the most concern.
There were things that Kim had in common with Matt that I could never have.
Like Matt, she was from a wealthy family. They both swapped stories about holidaying in the Maldives and skiing at luxury resorts, whereas I’d barely been on a plane before. Kim was naturally at ease and calm, while I was taking medication to manage my ever-increasing anxiety.
She was the perfect match for my husband.
The final straw was the day that Matt told me that Kim hadn’t been at work, because she had laryngitis.
“She couldn’t call in sick, and no-one knew where she was. So all day, people were asking me, ‘Where’s Kim? Is she OK?’”
“Wait a second,” I asked him. “They asked you? Why didn’t they ask someone else?”
Matt looked embarrassed.
“Well, I guess I’m her closest friend at work.”
I knew why they asked him. It’s because Kim is his work wife, and everyone knew it. And then, Matt said something which angered me even more.
“Kim says hi, by the way. She likes you. She’s always asking after you.”
It’s impossible to compete with someone who is perfect. Someone who is just so sweet and thoughtful that she’ll say hello to me, even though we’ve only met once. And even though I hated her.
I’ve asked Matt to try to distance himself from Kim, but he doesn’t think that there’s anything to worry about. As far as he’s concerned, he and Kim are just friends. But for me, that’s the whole problem. She’s his friend, and a better friend to him than I could ever be.
What do you think? Is it wrong to have a 'work wife' or 'work husband'?