My girlfriend (we’ve lived together for 10 years) is really close to this guy she works with. When I confronted her about cheating, she said they are just friends, and that he is her “work husband.” I’ve asked her for years to marry me, but she won’t. Do you think she is involved with this guy?
Yes and no. Obviously, she has an emotional connection with this man, but that doesn’t mean their relationship is a threat. A “work spouse” is a co-worker who is invested in your career but is not a part of your life outside the office. Work spouses are committed to helping each other advance in their chosen professions. The pair tends to be within a few years of each other in age and at similar places in their careers. The relationship is closest to peer mentoring; each person alternates the coaching role in order to guide the other safely through office politics.
If the idea of a work spouse bothers you, investigate why. Do you question whether adults can have friendships outside of their primary relationship? Here’s the reality: It’s rare but possible. Platonic friendships do exist between adults who might be partners if one or both are not already committed. But, honestly, what many people call a “platonic friendship” is a cover for an attraction in embryo.
Another question: Do you trust your partner to be mature enough to respect appropriate boundaries regarding emotional intimacy? It’s true, work-spouse relationships can be gateways into affairs. However, that doesn’t happen if the work spouses maintain the devotion to their romantic partners. After all, anyone who is intent on having an affair will do so. An affair is not about opportunity. Affairs result from an attachment to dishonesty. People who are dissatisfied with themselves and their current relationships but lack the backbone to admit it and change are at risk for an affair. Does that situation fit your girlfriend?
Your girlfriend’s unwillingness to wed does mean that she struggles with trust and commitment. That is a greater threat to your future and long-term happiness together than a work spouse. If marriage is the lifestyle choice you desire, accept that she is not the woman for you. As painful as it may become, either ditch your dream of marriage or dump your girlfriend. Find a woman capable of saying yes when invited to share your life.
I made the list of qualities I want in a soul mate, but I have not met any man remotely close to what I am looking for. What am I doing wrong?
I was attending a training given by Carolyn Curtis, executive director of the Relationship Skills Center, when she described her process, years prior, of listing qualities she wanted in a husband. Carolyn tucked the list in a drawer and forgot it. Much later, while moving, she discovered her list. Now married, she showed it to her husband. “You wrote this after you met me,” he said. She assured him that the list was written long before their first date. He couldn’t believe it. “This describes me perfectly,” he said. After that, one of Carolyn’s friends, intent on finding a soul mate, concocted a list. It didn’t work. Carolyn looked at her friend’s list and said, “You have qualities here that are in conflict with each other.” With this in mind, review your list. And reconsider your thoughts, too. Believing that you did something wrong perpetuates inner conflict. What if you did everything right and it’s just time to be patient? You are worth waiting for, right? So, is your soul mate worth waiting for, too?
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The California Museum hosts Creating Freedom: The Art & Poetry of Domestic Violence Survivors. It’s a stunning testament to our human will to thrive despite all obstacles. In “Broken and Beautiful,” Lacie Carlisle writes, “You and only you have the power to create your reality, piece by piece.” Can you live that truth?