Let’s face it, it today’s work culture, there is a lot of opportunity for your husband to have female coworker friends. In fact, it’s almost impossible not to have opposite sex coworker friendships if you are in the workforce at all. Most office friendships remain platonic. In fact, there can be even close friendships at work that are completely innocent. But female coworker friends can also become “friends with benefits,” whether those benefits are social, emotional or physical.
None of us wants to hear the words, “She’s just a friend,” from our husband about a woman at work. “Just a friend” is a code phrase that causes concern for most wives. A female coworker flirting with my husband at work also creates angst and worry even if it’s innocent. We feel rightly threatened if we are seeing signs our husband has a crush on a coworker.
Workplace friendships often lead to affairs and, too often, to divorce. According to infidelity researcher Shirley Glass, “Infidelity is any emotional or sexual intimacy that violates trust.”
She also cited that “83% of affairs start in the workplace.”
Both men and women usually come to work looking and acting their best. With all the focus on positive workplace culture these days, coworkers are encouraged to be a good team players, to make sure the team functions well.
Research from Vault.com shows that many office affairs start at casual after-hours gatherings or at work-sponsored Happy Hour parties. There is usually alcohol at those parties. Coworkers let their guard down and as one woman said, “the first kiss from my coworker was at an office party.” (I think some of their research is skewed a bit as there were twice as many men respondents as women and it focused on a few specific kinds of workplace environments.)
It’s worrisome for any wife to see pictures on social media from these office parties and to suddenly see that your husband and the female coworker who is “just a friend,” are always standing a little too close together at after-hour gatherings.
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Signs Your Husband Is Too Close To A Coworker
Even though most of us don’t send our husbands off to work thinking they are going into a danger-zone, they definitely are! In spite of all of the rules in place about office romances, there are plenty of opportunities for your husband to go beyond the friendship boundaries at work.
He Has Lunch With Her
Often at work, many coworkers just grab a bite of lunch in the lunch room or at a busy, public place close by the office. When our husband and his female coworker start taking lunch hours that become a destination of their own with more privacy and closeness, it’s getting into dangerous territory. If our husband and his coworker skip lunch altogether and just go meet at some quiet secluded place that definitely is a red flag!
A woman in one of my support groups told this story that many of us can relate to: “I remember following my husband one day when he left the office around noon. His female coworker had already driven away. He finally saw me following him and pulled into a local Community College. When I drove up beside him in the car and asked where he was going, he said he was going to go buy tickets to a performance at the college. I asked him what the show was, and he couldn’t remember. I knew he was lying.”
Often, a husband who is having an unhealthy relationship with a female coworker also has to become a liar to keep up the charade that she is “just a friend.”
NOTE: (Don’t become your own Private Investigator! Most RADiCAL women do this on some level. It’s just so infuriating that our husband would lie to our face over and over again. But the whole P.I. role is embarrassing and usually heartbreaking – I speak from personal experience!)
He Talks About Her A Lot
At the beginning of a friendship with a female coworker, our husband may share little tidbits of information about her with us. Or he talks about his coworker a lot … about how good she is at her job or how she might be having trouble at home with her husband.
He may also talk to her about things you think he should be talking to you about. For example, when something stressful is going on at work, if your husband calls his female coworker to discuss it and doesn’t discuss it with you, that suggests his relationship with the female coworker may be going too far.
He Defends Her
When our husband defends a favorite coworker, more red flags go up … and they should! We are right to be wary when we hear our partner assert, “She’s a really nice person and we’re just friends.” He may say that her husband is abusive (Many of us have heard that). He defends her when she may not be doing her best at work or is being misunderstood by other coworkers.
Here’s something else to think about: Often other coworkers know what’s going on with your husband and his office “friend,” and they usually don’t like it, especially if they know you. Office romances are distracting and fodder for the office gossips. I think pretty much everyone in the office knew that my then husband and his female coworker were taking their friendship too far. They were disappointed about it. I believe it made their own work-days more complicated.
He Spends More Time At Work
Each workplace is different. There are often times when workers of any kind must go in early or stay late. Healthcare providers, veterinarians, first responders, dentists, pilots, etc have a built in excuse to see a coworker at odd hours.
Managers can say they need to stay late to finish an important project or meet a deadline. If our husband wants to get together with his female coworker, he can usually find a way to make that happen. At first we usually don’t suspect an affair is going on.
They Travel For Work Together
Most workplaces are hotbeds of employees all working together to reach company goals. Men and women are thrown together on projects, or they travel together to meet with clients or go to exotic places for team-building excursions.
Even going out of town or to another part of town for half-day conferences can be an excuse for our husband and his female coworker to be together … whether they show up at or stay for the conference or not. It can seem like innocent work-related business, but your husband traveling with a female coworker can lead to all kinds of temptations that are not good for your marriage.
They Call, Text Or Spend Time Outside Of Work
Increased communication may indicate that your husband and his female coworker are more than just friends. Your husband’s relationship with a female coworker starts including more and more texting and calling, and eventually they find ways to spend more and more in-person time together, too.
In my work with divorcing women over the years, most wives eventually find hundreds and hundreds of calls between their husband and his female coworker “friend.” If an actual affair is going on, they can’t seem to keep from talking all hours of the day and night. What’s normal for love-sick teenagers is sort of pathetic for adult coworkers with families of their own.
Another sign is that he is very protective of his phone and may go out in the yard or to the garage or into his home office to talk. Most wives are devastated when they find out there were even multiple calls during holidays and other special days when their family was all together.
They Have Inside Jokes
The trouble with inappropriate friendships with coworkers is that the “other” person – our husband’s coworker — knows a lot more about us than we know about them. Our husband usually tells her everything he doesn’t like about us (we didn’t like a gift he gave us; we are a stick in the mud; etc) and we know nothing about her.
Our husband and the female coworker that he is too close to also have couple secrets. They have inside code words and jokes either about us or about work or about things in general. Part of the allure of the affair is the secrecy they share, and the longer their relationship goes on, the more of these private connections they have.
They Have A History
When we are trying to decide if our husband is too friendly with a female coworker, we should find out if they have if they have a history that pre-dates their work relationship. Did they grow up in the same town? Did they go to high school or college together? Were their families friends? More red flags.
What To Do: Discuss It
It’s okay to have female friends at work, but our husband should definitely know what the line is that should not be crossed in a coworker friendship, and he should be diligent in staying within those boundaries. It’s easy for simple workplace acquaintances to slowly turn into something can destroy long, good marriages.
If you suspect in your heart that “my husband has a female coworker friend that is getting too close,” you need to sit down and have a serious talk about it. Tell him what you are worried about. Tell him what’s bothering you. Don’t let him make you think you’re crazy! How he responds to your worry tells a lot about how serious the office relationship is.
If you feel like you can’t talk the way you want to as a couple, find a counselor willing to let you talk together or alone in his/her office.
Talk about concrete worries you have. Use specific examples. If you already have proof that the relationship has gone too far, suggest solutions to address the situation so that you can feel comfortable. It’s a serious situation if you are worried that your husband’s friendship with any female coworker is damaging your relationship.
If your husband is already having an affair with someone at work and either won’t admit it or refuses to end it, and you are wondering where you go from here, sign up for a free conversation with me. If you feel like you may need to start thinking about separation or divorce, sign up for our FREE Divorce Recovery Crash Course – a series of helpful messages that come directly to your inbox.
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