I am not talking about your fiancé or fiancée. I am talking to that special someone in your office. That is your work spouse. You know who I mean.
My favorite terms for it, thank you ever-inspiring and ever-witty Daily Mail: Work Wife and Cubi Hubby. And I'm going to talk about Socrates and his legendary wife Xanthippe to make the point. Because Socrates didn't have an office wife, to the best of our knowledge, and I think things might have turned out a lot different for him, if he had.
Office spouses have a special relationship, whose rules are as strict as any marriage vows. According to WebMD, He knows your birthday, your favorite food, worst fear and deepest, darkest secret. I know a lot of guys who totally do not know those things about their actual wives. But maybe it's just the company I keep.
The article, like much of the advice to be found on these tricky relationships, recommends the obvious. Keep it Platonic. By Plato, of course, we really mean Socrates. And Socrates got a drink of poison at his office party, for corrupting the morals of the young. So we need to talk about how helpful an office spouse can be when dealing with office politics.
Perhaps if Socrates had had an office-wife it would have gone different for him. But he was known for hanging about the square and showing up in yesterday's outfits without even showering and speaking his mind, sometimes quite rudely, and for having a really tough marriage to Xanthippe. How tough? Socrates is reported to have said, As I intended to associate with all kinds of people, I thought nothing they could do would disturb me, once I had accustomed myself to bear the disposition of Xanthippe. Quite the Henny Youngman, he was.
She was well-known for having a razor-sharp tongue and worse temper. And allegedly once dumped a bucket of water on him. After that he supposedly said, After thunder, comes rain. Again, Drummer, please...Ba-ding!
But of course, it's inevitable that he would feel that way. Again, I quote approximately, he said, By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.
So what does Socrates' marital situation and untimely demise have to do with an office spouse, and proposing on New Year's?
Nothing and everything. After all, if I was giving advice to the greatest philosopher the Western World ever produced (All you Aristotle fans, fuggedaboudit), I would humbly suggest that he could have really used an office wife. Someone to mellow his harsh extremes, who knew his eccentricities and found a way to help him achieve balance in his interactions with The Boss, which in his case was the Athenian assembly. There he is making his impassioned apology in the Apology, as the dialog is known, telling them he would rather die than be wicked like those who are condemning him.
If he had an office-wife to run that by before putting it in an email to his boss, what are the odds she would have said, Soc, honey. That may be true, but it's also what we call a resignation memo. Send that and you might as well just pack your desk up ahead of time. Now delete it and try again. Say something nice about what they are doing, so they feel validated, then tell them they should really see it your way, then tell them what a great job they are doing. OK? A more team-building approach and he might have avoided the cocktail and maybe he would have lived to fight another day.
I am not recommending that we live wicked lives. But Socrates wasn't really helping his case, or those who he left behind, either.
Such an office relationship does something similar to a real-life one. It creates a connection to a larger community and the welfare of a larger community, namely your colleagues and coworkers. It's the same way that real marriages (or real partnering) can do that for a real community in the real world. There is something healthy about forming an alliance with a coworker; it seems to be easier to make a larger team out of pairs. Maybe pairs begin the process of reaching out that creates a community out of lone, competitive individuals.
Never before in my work life have I seen so much pressure in the workplace, brought on by the struggling economy, if nothing else. It's done quite the number in 2011, this ever-downsizing, resizing, roiling workplace.
As a resolution for 2012, I'm going to make an extra effort to reach out, to find that perfect office someone. Or would that be office perfect someone? No matter, I don't want to end up as Socrates, and I don't want my coworkers to, either.
After Socrates' death in 399 BCE, to make inexcusably short work of one of the most deeply studied of all time periods in history, came a time when Athenian democracy began to slip away. It might have been a time when Team Athens could have really used Socrates' help, had he had an office wife to help him deal with the politics.