To My Coworkers’ Wives: I’m Not the “Other Woman”
[UPDATE: March 30, 2017 — Mike Pence’s recent comments have brought this issue up again. As a woman in the workplace, I want to be #AtTheTable without anyone questioning my intentions or integrity. Not even Karen Pence.]
Dear coworkers’ wives:
As a woman in the corporate world, the majority of my daily interactions involve your husbands. A quick google search (as well as my own experience) tells me this is a problem for some of you. I’m a wife too, and I get it — if my husband had female coworkers, I might be just a tiny bit nervous. So here are 5 things I want you to know.
1. I’m not a threat.
The biggest thing I wish I could tell you is that I’m on your side. I am not the “other woman” trying to seduce your husband with my wily womanly ways. What I am interested in is developing meaningful friendships with my coworkers — not because I have a crush on your husband, but because it makes my work life much more bearable and because it’s part of my job.
So, yes. We talk a lot, eat lunch together, and collaborate on projects. I am obsessively careful about not being alone with him, but sometimes it happens. We might stay late at the office to finish a project. A group of us might drive to lunch in two cars and it just happens that I am the only one who goes with him. These interactions don’t mean I’m the antagonist in a dating game or reality show — I need you to know that just because I am female does not make me a flirt or a danger to your family.
2. Our company is 90% male.
And that’s an actual statistic, not an exaggeration. So if your husband comes home from work and you hear my name coming up again and again, it’s likely because there just aren’t that many other women around, not because we’re spending a suspicious about of time together. If he goes to lunch with a group of people that includes me everyday, that doesn’t mean we have a special bond or are having an emotional affair — it just means that we’re hungry and we need to eat.
And can I just mention here that my career depends on my relationships with my colleagues? It’s not like we can just avoid each other like middle-schoolers because of your insecurities. Sure, you’ll hear about the jokes we told over lunch. It might seem like it’s all fun and games, but that’s because he might not tell you about the actual work we do… because let’s face it, it’s pretty boring.
Being a woman in the workplace is hard enough already. Perpetuating the idea that women are inherently sexual and dangerous, and that our only role or contribution should be as companions to men, hurts all of us.
3. Yes, he talks about you.
All our conversations are peppered with references to our families. I know you by your first name. I probably know your kids’ names, too. The same works in reverse for my husband. He knows all of my coworkers’ names, knows that we are close, and feels comfortable with it because I am very transparent. If I have friends in my life, I want them to be his friends, too. His interest, involvement, and support in my professional life helps me to continue bonding with him and building our relationship even though we work apart.
Very occasionally, there have been times when I’ve been a safe person your husband can talk to. He has asked me to help him understand what you’re thinking when you had a disagreement. He has asked for my advice when he knows you’re having a hard time.
This, to me, demonstrates that he values his marriage and is concerned when you’re concerned. I have never questioned your relationship or tried to interfere — because again, I’m a professional colleague, not a minx. Ours is a uniquely insightful relationship — he gets answers and a woman’s perspective without turning to an internet stranger or your mother-in-law, then goes home to you to work things out. You’re welcome.
And trust me, I probably hear a lot more about you than you do about me. Your husband literally beams with pride when he tells me about the projects you’re taking on and the work you’re doing; constantly refers to you as his “beautiful wife”; and admires how dedicated you are to your family. In short — he cares about you, loves you, and is proud of you.
4. We spend a lot of time together — that’s why we’re friends.
I spend 1/3 of my day with your husband. After working hours, I try to be extremely respectful and conscious of family time. But if I comment on an Instagram post or send him a text, it’s because I genuinely care about my coworkers. They’re my friends. We get along. Sometimes we have projects that we need to coordinate on outside of work. Sometimes we just need to dish on what’s going on in the office.
My standard is to never say or do anything that either you or my husband would be uncomfortable reading, hearing, or knowing. So here’s what I can assure you: I have never, not once, had a remotely inappropriate conversation with him, either inside or outside of work.
5. I’m a professional.
That said, I’m not a spy. I’m not a source. Of course I would love to be friends with you! But please don’t ask me to report on his movements or only talk to me to get information about him. I always have it in my mind that our relationship, while friendly, is professional. Treating me like your personal private detective/marriage counselor undermines my ability to perform my job, not to mention taking huge steps backwards in redefining gender roles in the workplace.
I’m not just the token female trying her hand at being a career woman out of boredom or to get attention from married men. This is my real life. I met the same requirements as your husband to get this job and work hard to meet the same metrics he does.
All of us are ambitious, intelligent, and capable. We are coworkers and competitors. I am inspired by your husband and learn from him; I hope that I have done the same for him. Our professional success depends on that mutual respect.
As his wife, your trust and understanding of this helps all of us to achieve our goals. Like I said before — I’m on your side. I need you to be on my side, too.
Your Husband’s Female Coworker