This article was originally published on Nurturing Marriage. It has been republished here with permission.
Your fellow colleagues are your clan, your tribe, your posse of sorts. You spend a lot of time together, collaborating on projects and working to boost the bottom line. You dine together, sit side-by-side five days a week, and even travel together from time to time. The workplace, while positive in so many ways, also seems to provide an ideal setting for close friendships, even romance, to blossom.
We've all heard of "the workplace affair," and popular media isn't afraid to glamorize and celebrate it. However, you are better than that, and your marriage is worth more than all the glamour that a "workplace affair" could ever offer you. So, take these few precautions to keep your workplace interactions appropriate, and your spouse and your marriage will be thanking you for years to come.
1. Keep workplace relationships professional
Do: Maintain healthy friendships with your co-workers. Talk to your associate, Rob, who sits right next to you. Ask your senior, Sam, about her weekend. Enjoy interacting with the people you work with. Decide on workplace boundaries that make sense to both you and your spouse, and then commit to those boundaries. Keep all your relationships in the workplace professional.
Don't: Become emotionally or physically attached to Rob or Sam. You know that guy you were assigned on the new project with? He sits in the cubicle next to you, smells like a hunk, and winks at you all the time. So what? You can remain professional. Don't tease him, laugh at all his jokes, or text or email him about things that aren't work-related. Don't dress up or smell nice, simply with the thought of attracting his attention. Be careful not to let your eyes, or your thoughts, wander. Also, if you feel like a co-worker is acting inappropriately toward you, don't be afraid to talk to your boss about it.
2. As often as possible, avoid being alone with a co-worker of the opposite sex
Do: If you have to travel or dine out, try to make sure there is always a third person involved. It may not always be feasible, but it is smart, and a third wheel is a great way to keep things safe and fun. Just be smart.
Don't: Schedule trips or lunch dates specifically with a certain person, or "just because." You shouldn't be dining alone with that guy from the office just because you enjoy each other's company and consider each other friends. If you are traveling, don't make plans to do all kinds of exciting touristy things, outside of work demands, without ensuring you can have more people with you.
Do: Keep your hands and heart to yourself. Smile. Have fun. Be real. Be honest. Be friendly. Remember that affairs often start innocently. Watch yourself. Be careful not to make flirtatious comments with that male or female associate who sits next to you. Remember the messages you're sending — whether intentional or not.
Don't: Flirt. Squeeze her shoulders as you look over her computer. Touch his arm as you talk and laugh about something. We know you think he has a great smile, and he is always complimenting you and making you laugh, but you're married and you don't need to flirt back.
4. Avoid being too personal or open
Do: Avoid sharing too much. Instead of telling your associate every thing going on in your life and in your head, keep your conversations professional and positive. You don't have to hide your life, but just remember that emotional intimacy with your spouse means that you keep a lot of things just between the two of you. Do, however, let your co-workers see and hear you talking about your spouse, praising your spouse and calling your spouse on the phone.
Don't: It's easy to open up to the girl sitting next to you and vent about something at home. She listens to you, encourages you, and makes you feel like a million bucks. However, she also doesn't live with you and isn't married to you. So, please avoid sharing personal thoughts and feelings about life, challenges at home, or other struggles you may be having with her, or other female colleagues. Instead, turn to your spouse, a religious leader or a trusted counselor instead.
5. Remember your spouse!
Do: Stay in contact with your spouse throughout the day. Keep a picture of your spouse close by — either on your desk, in your wallet, or on your phone. Call your husband on your lunch break to check in and share an inside joke with him. Text your wife throughout the day, and let her know you are thinking about her. And finally, when you come home, be happy, positive and excited to see your sweetheart and find out about his or her day.
Don't: Forget that your spouse even exists while you are out to lunch with a gal from the office, or on a trip to Italy with your male colleague. A good rule of thumb is this: Don't do or say anything you wouldn't do or say if your spouse was watching and listening. Don't give your co-worker more face-time, text-time, or attention than you give your spouse (i.e. don't go all out to celebrate your co-worker's birthday if you haven't done the same thing for your spouse!).
These five tips are simple ideas to help you be aware of the dangers that can come from relationships that become too casual in the workplace. Obviously, you should enjoy your work, but then you should go home and enjoy your spouse even more! This kind of wisdom and loyalty contribute to a deep sense of security, love and happiness in marriage.
Aaron & April are the founders of Nurturing Marriage, a website dedicated to strengthening marriages. They enjoy playing football with their two little boys, watching sports, eating cereal late at night, and going out for frozen yogurt.