December 9, 2010

"How to get a workplace spouse to fill in the gaps in your marriage."

Penelope Trunk talks about why you might want to develop a relationship like this — not for sex! — and gives 5 rules:
1. Identify a relationship with a high chance for success....

2. Talk about a taboo topic.

Once a girl starts talking about sex, then the boy starts talking about sex....

3. Blur the normal boundaries between co-workers....

4. Ask for what you want....

5. Find a good balance between the official relationship and the unofficial relationship....
I smell trouble. Lots of trouble. Whatever happened to friends? Trunk tells us she has a husband who wants sex but is "sick of talking" to her. She wants someone to talk to and asserts that "when workplace spouse relationships do cross the line into the sex department, the relationship goes bad." But you can't neatly control relationships, and they do "go bad" — in many unpredictable ways.

62 comments:

Meade said...

"But you can't neatly control relationships, and they do "go bad" — in many unpredictable ways."

Oh I'd say the ways they go bad are pretty darn predictable.

Scott M said...

Doesn't it really end with deciding whether or not your spouse is your best friend? If not, that singular issue is going to dovetail and tint every other problem your relationship has.

I was lucky in that my wife and I had to give up our best friends by default. I went into radio and we moved away from home. We only had each other for five years.

donttread2010 said...

Kryptonite alert!

Pastafarian said...

My "workplace spouse" is my wife. We've been married for 12 years and we've worked together for about 14.

And I'm not "sick of talking" to her.

I'd say this Penelope is looking for a replacement, and rationalizing.

c3 said...

Sixty-five percent of people in the white-collar world have workplace spouses

I would wager that 50 years ago that percentage was much lower. Furthermore, I would wager that percentage is directly proportional to the percentage of women in the workplace.

So, IMHO, this is advise for women in the workplace.

Big Mike said...

... they do "go bad" — in many unpredictable ways.

What Meade said. You need to listen to him, ma'am.

LordSomber said...

I tend to go all "Gordon Ramsay" at work and always end up making my workplace spouses cry. It's like a rite of passage.

The less I speak, the better.

rdkraus said...

The Farmer needs a divorce lawyer.

Yesterday.

ricpic said...

Calling all gays.

Triangle Man said...

It's either a simple friendship, or Penelope is getting something from Paul that she should be getting from the Farmer.

David said...

The are precisely the same instructions you should follow if you want to fuck a co-worker.

Coketown said...

Trunk, for God's sake! Just do what normal women do and befriend a gay man. Holy shit.

yashu said...

Wow. How sad to be married to someone who is "sick of talking" to you (or married to someone who you're sick of talking to).

CJinPA said...

I didn't know it, but turns out my "workplace spouse" is my boss. She was informed of that fact by her husband, who also works with us and came to the realization.

Trooper York said...

Well at least Meade doesn't have to worry since all of those law professors are fanooks.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Titus said...

There are no friends at work anymore.

Everyone is scared shitless in today's work world that they are going to get the ax and don't have time for friends.

I have never ever had friends at work. I barely say hi to people and "how's was your weekend"-fuggataboutit.

Titus said...

And I am not a democrat Meade-sorry. I am much more complex than that.

Now make me a vegan, fat free, gluton free meal with special berries NOW. Can't be more than 500 calories total and I measure.

ironrailsironweights said...

2. Talk about a taboo topic.

Once a girl starts talking about sex, then the boy starts talking about sex....


I can think of an even more taboo topic. Though it's related to sex.

Peter

Methadras said...

How soon before a sexual harassment suit ensues?

Lem said...

That is a recipe for disaster.. I think even Chip would agree.

Methadras said...

Coketown said...

Trunk, for God's sake! Just do what normal women do and befriend a gay man. Holy shit.


She doesn't want the title of fag-hag to be used on her.

Freeman Hunt said...

If my spouse were wanting to talk about ideas of this quality, I'd be sick of talking to him too.

Freeman Hunt said...

This is how people start affairs. Anyone who has ever witnessed two coworkers begin an affair knows that this is what it looks like.

There is one spouse. There is no room for any other.

You can have as many friends as you'd like, but sidekick spouses,never.

Scott M said...

My sister-in-law claims she had an "emotional" affair with someone that never got physical. She doesn't consider it cheating because of that last part.

I disagree.

AJ Lynch said...

Her name freaks me out.

Coketown said...

Methadras: Ha! Awesome. But it's weird she's cool with people calling her idiot, retard, and moron, but fag-hag might get under the skin.

chickelit said...

There's junk in that Trunk.

Lgbpop said...

What is it about women and metrosexuals that all they want to do is talk about everything? I said "good morning" to my wife when I brought her coffee in bed this morning, and haven't said a word since - it's not polite to interrupt!!

BJM said...

@Pasta

I'd say this Penelope is looking for a replacement, and rationalizing.

My take too...Trunk has one foot out of the marital door.

Working with your spouse definitely has rewards. However it can be difficult to turn business off at the end of the day.

edutcher said...

Isn't this the nut who wants Christmas banned in the workplace?

Why would anybody listen to her about anything?

Synova said...

They go bad and *then* the sex happens.

It's unfair to expect a spouse to be able to meet all the emotional needs of another human being. We need a network of friends and family to help out (particularly if children are involved.)

But going to someone who is sexually *possible* (even if on the other side of the world) and developing a *romantic* relationship (even if you don't plan to have sex) is a recipe for more than disaster. Why not just get divorced now and get it over with? You're planning on doing all of the "fun" socializing and support stuff with this other person, leaving all of the nasty day-to-day burdens of life to your spouse and then expect to *feel* romantic and just have the fun sex part in between the bill paying?

Stupid beyond measure.

Or is the "work spouse" going to nag you about bills, do your laundry, pick up the kids, do budgeting, deal with your mother....

No?

Really?

traditionalguy said...

Conversation is 90% good listening skills. So the "work spouse" must listen to her expressing herself. That will create a love between people. But when the rules are known and the spouses' trust one another, then there is no need for jealousy of the other spouse for having friends that they talk to.The Greeks long ago separated the LOVE word into eros, philia, storge and agape. We need to catch up to the Greeks.

Scott M said...

Wouldn't working out the house combined with polygamy just solve the whole issue?

shirley elizabeth said...

I couldn't finish he whole list because it disgusted me.

I wonder what she would write about if she put as much effort into her marriage as she does trying to fill the gaps.

Kirk Parker said...

BJM,

Not if you're wearing business socks.

Kirk Parker said...

Meade,

You're the anti-Tolstoy (and quite correct, too.)

Kirk Parker said...

Freeman,

Yes indeed, and what's wrong with having some friends anyway?

When I first heard the phrase "non-sexual affair", I thought it was just bogus, but when I realized it was talking about sharing all kinds of non-physical intimacies with someone else, that you aren't sharing with your spouse, for sure that's a problem.

OTOH, it's not hard to imagine that Trunk wants to spend waaaaay to much time worrying over "relationship" stuff, instead of just being a spouse, and who needs that? Poor farmer...

Paul Zrimsek said...

"In his company she had that curious sensation which most married people know of being with someone whom (for the final but wholly mysterious reason) one could never have married but who is nevertheless more of one's own world than the person one has married in fact." -- C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

Just Lurking said...

I glanced at her blog. This woman sounds emotionally retarded. No wonder her husband is sick of talking to her. Any adult would be. She comes across as a manipulative, game-playing little girl. ( I bet she thinks she is just adorable, too.)

Her game could easily get out of hand, and end up hurting people, like her hapless "office spouse" and his family. If I were him I'd get a restraining order against her.

Be said...

Penelope Trunk has Aspbergers, doesn't she?

Taken from this standpoint what she's saying kind of makes sense.

Kirk Parker said...

Paul Z.,

Nice, and to think that some people were just dissing That Hideous Strengh in the other thread...

Penny said...

Ridiculous. Office friendships have been around forever, and yes, sometimes your friend at work is of the opposite sex, but to call it an "office romance" or the other party as the "office spouse" is just plain yarn.

That said, Trunk does know how to knit, and humorously at that.

Just Lurking said...

Penelope Trunk has Aspbergers, doesn't she?

Really? I guess I called it right.
(Albeit in a very politically incorrect way. If that's the case, I take back what I said about her thinking she is adorable.)

somefeller said...

No, Just Lurking, I suspect you had it right the first time when you said she probably thinks she's just adorable. From what I've seen of her website, I get that vibe. I also wonder if in her case the Asperger's diagnosis is just yet another example of the medicalization of characteristics that people in previous eras had other words for. Like freak, for example.

Penny said...

You mean she isn't an entertainer, of sorts?

Christopher said...

My sister-in-law claims she had an "emotional" affair with someone that never got physical. She doesn't consider it cheating because of that last part.

I disagree.


There was a movie in the 1980's, kind of a trifle, that was about an affair between two married people, starring Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. "Falling In Love." At one point De Niro confesses to his wife about all the time he's been spending with Streep, saying, "But we've never slept together." His wife's response: "That makes it worse."

Depends, but yeah.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Penelope Trunk talks about why you might want to develop a relationship like this — not for sex!

Just what I need. Another spouse to not have sex with.

Allison said...

Trunk is a sociopath, but is unaware of it. And that is why she can't just have friends, like other people do.

Even vaguely normal people do not have "workplace spouse"s. Such people would have humiliating, dead ended career paths, and sexual harassment lawsuits. The rest of the world knows that work is for work, and work friendships seldom become more than that, but unless your spouse and their spouse all get along and socialize together, you're headed for divorce.

deborah said...

Freeman:
"If my spouse were wanting to talk about ideas of this quality, I'd be sick of talking to him too."

I haven't read the link, but last year became interested in Penelope and the Farmer. JAL suggested I follow up on the story. Yuk, from what I've read so far, in this thread.

I did read at the time that she painted rooms in the farm house bright colors, but I wasn't sure if his parents still lived there. There were pics and the colors were fugly.

Give it up, Farmer, you've been barking up the wrong tree. But he should have been smart enough to know better. But I could be completely off base.

deborah said...

Oh, me.

Methadras said...

Synova said...

Stupid beyond measure.


It is isn't it. Heaping leads of emotional expectations on someone who may not be able to fulfill those needs only to go out and seek them somewhere else, keep them at an arms length of distance, call them your faux spouse, and everything is lalalala.

Methadras said...

Be said...

Penelope Trunk has Aspbergers, doesn't she?


Oh, you mean that newfangled syndrome that basically whitewashes the real meaning of social ineptitude?

wv = cratch = trunk

deborah said...

I can't say about Asperger's with regard to people like Trunk and Tyler Cowen (whom I love), but I know of two different families who have two boys. The oldest in each has what I would call Asperger's. Not really swift on social cues, socially awkward, etc. Both of the younger boys are 'standard' autistic, but in different degrees. One will talk, and went to regular high school, etc. The other lives in a kind of dreamworld, in a way. At family functions (he's my cousin's boy), he wanders around, but will interact, laugh, ask for things in sign or rudimentary language. My cousin is a personal hero of mine for her goodness and patience.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

I am remarkably fortunate, being married to my best friend. What started as merely a collegial association gradually developped into friendship. There were letters, and then more letters, until we both suddenly understood we were in love.

That was over 20 years ago, and the years have been as rich as they have been challenging. Amongst other things, we run a business together. Two businesses in the same location, actually: ornamental greenhouses and certified-organic vegetables. Remember the old Wrigley's Doublemint adverts?

So, the main point. There is no relationship more challenging that to be married business owners working together.

Business, to succeed has to be highly conditional, particularly on performance. If I mess up in the business, Margit has to put it right, and vice versa. At those times we have to ignore our deep love and kick each other's bottoms. If we don't ... the business(es) won't survive.

Marriage, OTOH, to succeed has to be high UN-conditional, full of overlooking errors, ignoring foibles, and generally managing your annoyance with having to deal with another person who sometimes farts in your face.

I can tell you from long experience, when you're both married and in business together it is overwhelmingly a wonderful journey ... working side-by-side with your best friend, day after day, to achieve a common goal.

If, however, you somehow land on the wrong side of that 'conditionality' line, either in business or marriage, the result is usually not particularly good.

OTOH, I've long since lost track of the number of times we've fired each other from the business in the afternoon and shared -- partly in consequence -- a deeply passionate encounter that evening.

Oh, and BTW, if you're not familiar with her work, I'd cut Penelope Trunk some slack. By her own admission she's not entirely right in the head, and is probably rational enough to understand why her husband gets tired of "talking" with her. In other posts she has praised the man (and his patience) to the skies.

The deeper issue she touches is very real -- why is it that so many men are terrified of true intimacy ... those deep and ongoing conversation about the stuff in life that really matters.


On a lighter note, but along the same theme: WV = prevag, a verb meaning to enjoy the doorway garden before going in.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...
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Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...
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Lyle said...

If you start talking about sex and have any alone time... it's going to lead to sex. That's all I'm going to say.

That woman doesn't know what she's talking about. Surprise!

deborah said...

Bart:
"The deeper issue she touches is very real -- why is it that so many men are terrified of true intimacy ... those deep and ongoing conversation about the stuff in life that really matters."

I don't think some men are terrified, just bored stiff or not interested, or they 'get it,' but don't see the point of going into the obvious. Something like that.

If you will, please give and example of a 'deeper issue.'

craig said...

Men are neither terrified, uninterested, nor bored: they're rationally avoiding a minefield. Why would one submit to discussing existential issues with one's wife, when modern western women are conditioned to automatically attack all male perspectives as "wrong"? It's like a Catholic being invited to a dinner party by Ian Paisley; the best outcome one can hope for is indigestion.

deborah said...

Who said anything about existential matters?

Your attack seems automatic, by the way.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Deborah -- first of all, I have no idea why my comments posted three times. Obviously some internal Blogger hiccough.

The "deeper issue" is that of why so many men are either uninterested, incompetent, or scared shitless of talking about the real things in life.

That even applies to conversations amongst men alone. They'll avoid talking about how hard it is to have lost that job, or the rebellious 15-year-old, or the wife who's always demanding more money, yet insisting he spend more time at home.

Believe me, if they won't talk about it "guy to guy" they won't talk about it at home ... yet this is the stuff of life. Marriage is where were supposed to address, this, guiding and comforting each other.

Men are much too often Missing-in-Action in that regard, though I can tell you (from now long-past personal experience) that some women are also terrified of any genuine intimacy.

Absent that intimacy the relationship most commonly remains shallow and unsustainable.

deborah said...

Bart, thanks for your thoughtful answer.