|Carrie Monthie loves mornings
spent with her husband. She and Dave read the newspaper and talk
baseball. Dave tells her what he and 4-month-old Patrick plan to do
that day. He promises to do Carrie's laundry, while she's at work.
years of marriage, Carrie, 28, is as crazy about Dave, 29, as she
ever was. He puts up with her bossy nature and listens well. He even
cooks and cleans. Dave is, simply put, the perfect husband.
When Carrie Monthie bursts through the office door at Troy's
Vanderheyden Hall, Jim Carkner greets her.
"Did you have your coffee yet?" Carkner, 33, asks. He gets her a
fresh cup. They talk baseball. Jim briefs her on the daily routines
of the Vanderheyden residents. They make lunch plans. Monthie
kvetches about work. He listens, says "uh huh" in all the right
After nearly two years of working together, Carkner is the best
work friend Monthie can imagine. In fact, Carkner is Monthie's work
husband, she says, and he, too, is perfect.
Monthie considers Carkner her "office spouse" (a year and
counting on this union). It's a connection that is common in many
Although some people consider such relationships emotional
adultery, this isn't about romance. An office spouse can be single
or married, straight or gay, and is, most importantly, uninterested
in an intimate relationship.
More than just a friend or colleague, an office spouse is the
person you talk to all day, who knows your romantic and familial
woes, who's there when you need a confidante, a pick-me-up or a
joke. He or she is the workplace comrade with whom you share looks,
laughs and, well, life.
"As Americans of both sexes spend more time than ever at work,
platonic office marriages evolve naturally through shared
responsibilities, experiences and goals," says Tory Johnson, the
workplace contributor on "Good Morning America." She's also the CEO
of the New York City-based recruiting firm Women For Hire. "You
watch each other's back. You root for each other's success. You
plan, plot and scheme together to get the job done."
Co-workers Michelle Manchester and Paula Davis root for one
another regularly. If Davis is down, Manchester tells jokes and acts
silly. When Manchester worries about finances, Davis talks it
through with her. The divorced women, and mothers of grown children,
have been "spouses" for 15 years, ever since Davis came to work at
Manchester's ABC Nursery School in Clifton Park.
It's a perfect relationship, they say, one with occasional
disagreements, but constant laughter. For years, parents of students
in the school have told them they seemed married.
They've got that simpatico, the rapport. And, like any good
marriage, they're big on communication and respect.
"Her strengths are my weaknesses, and my strengths are her
weaknesses," says Davis, who is good with money and can repair
anything; Manchester does not think about finances and she can't fix
"She's far more creative," Davis says of Manchester. "She sees
the business in the sense of making it the place that it is, where
I'm more the practical one. I look at the nuts and bolts and make it
Man and man
For Dan Frank, work just wouldn't be
the same without Joe Pickett. Frank realized Pickett was his office
husband after hearing the topic discussed on CNBC's "Squawk Box."
The Guilderland man came to work that morning, leaned over Pickett's
cube and declared them husband and, well, husband.
"I thought it was funny, considering he's a 30-year-old straight
guy and I'm a 44-year-old gay guy," says Pickett, who works on the
technology side of a local financial institution. "We've shared a
lot of information about our love lives and families over the
At one point in their six-year professional relationship, Frank
felt he needed a little queer eye to pick up his wardrobe, Pickett
recalls. So the men hit the mall.
Pickett's partner, Steve Sondrini doesn't mind the "other man."
In fact, Sondrini told Pickett that Frank is "cute." (Although
jealousy may worm around at work, jokes Pickett, from the "six other
women in the office who fawn over Dan," and don't get the coveted
Dave Monthie is jealousy free, too. He says his wife needs a
husband to take care of her at home and one to take care of her at
work, and Carkner is the perfect partner. Carkner, who is single,
makes decisions on where he and Monthie will go to lunch, he drives
when they go anywhere and has a great sense of direction -- just
like Monthie's home husband. But that's where the similarities end.
"He's friendly and outgoing and talks to anybody," says Dave
Monthie. "I'd rather keep to myself and not deal with anybody."
Yet Monthie loves them both.
While the corporate spouse concept works for Frank and Monthie,
some experts see potential danger.
"A spouse is a spouse is a spouse, and unless you acknowledge
that you have a mistress, you don't get to have an office spouse, a
gym spouse, a local coffee shop spouse, etc.," says April Masini,
author of "Think and Date Like a Man." "Relationships need
boundaries, if you want to live in a world that is peaceful and
devoid of chaos."
Since we spend 35 to 40 hours a week in the office, according to
the U.S. Department of Labor, it's not uncommon for deep friendships
to form and those deep friendships sometimes turn into attraction,
says Long Island's Debbie Mandel, a stress-management specialist and
author of "Turn On Your Inner Light." People see office spouses as a
safety net, someone who offers the comforts and perks of an at-home
spousal relationship, minus the nagging nuances that come along with
cohabitation. And minus the sex.
Which makes for a nice balance, at least for Monthie.
"It's never been inappropriate or weird," Carrie Monthie says of
her relationship with Carkner. "It's this really good friend who
reminds me a lot of my husband, in the sense that he's stable and
he's sane and he keeps me that way."
Kristi Gustafson can be reached at 454-5494 or by e-mail at