Are you OK with your husband's "work wife"?

Getty ImagesGetty ImagesMy husband has several wives. Me, of course. But he also has a wife who is his dietitian for the medical study he's involved in, and another who sits just a few feet away from him at the office -- his work wives.

There's no flirting involved; his dietitian is engaged, and his work wife has been happily married for years, with kids who are grown and out on their own. And though my husband and I work for the same company (and have since long before we were married), at the office, for the most part, we are married to each other but I am not his work spouse.

When it comes to work, we tend to operate independently -- and his having a work wife makes that a lot easier in many ways. When we both have to weigh in on a work-related issue, there's no assuming that he speaks for me or vice versa; we're both part of an office Facebook group, so for late-night work-related discussions he and I are often in the same room, on separate computers, posting nearly simultaneously, from separate accounts, on the same site. It's funny to describe, but it doesn't faze us -- or anyone we work with -- because we're not really thought of as a unit in the office.

CareerBuilder.com defines a work spouse as "a co-worker of the opposite sex with whom you have a close platonic relationship" (If you're wondering whether you've got a work spouse, you can ask yourself these seven questions). Their post points out that the relationship can mirror a real-life marriage in many ways, and that's the danger for many people, I suppose; there's a line that you can't cross with your work spouse, lest the relationship change from one of emotional support to one of emotional dependency. And the work-spouse relationship has been blamed for plenty of real-life spousal distress.

But there are more positives than negatives to the work-spouse scenario, in my book. For one, your work spouse can understand things your regular spouse might not be able to -- at least, not without an awful lot of back story, at which point your gripe with the coworker who leaves the mini-fridge open all the time seems silly or, more likely, just not worth the effort to explain. And if you're able to vent the small stuff easily, you're better able to focus on the things that are really important -- like your real-life relationship -- at home.

What do you think about the work-spouse relationship? Is it a good thing? A necessary evil? Totally inappropriate?

Lylah M. Alphonse writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and Work It, Mom!, and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat.