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Here's What It Actually Means To Have A Work Wife

Hint: There's nothing shady or sexual about it.

When your workdays are filled with fluorescent lighting and too many meetings, a ~work spouse~ can make all the difference in how much you like your job.

To some people, the idea of a "work husband" or "work wife" sounds shady AF. But the term doesn't actually mean anything sexual; it just means...your person. The one you know is going to psych you up right before your yearly review, let you vent openly about office frustrations, have the same reaction as you do when a co-worker says something ridiculous, and save some of the free food in the break room because you're on a phone call when it's set out. And even though it's all platonic, there's still an undeniable friend chemistry that makes your bond a little extra special.

We talked to some of BuzzFeed's most committed work husbands and work wives about what makes their relationship so important.

Matt & Krutika

Tell me about your office union.

Matt Ortile: We first met in 2013, when we were in our Chelsea offices. I was a fellow that summer and she was fellowship alum. But we didn't really start hanging out until 2015, when we started sitting together on the school bus (the F train) after work, and I started sending her my terrible jokes on Slack.

Krutika Mallikarjuna: ACTUALLY—

MO: Wow, put a quarter in the Actually Jar.

KM: Bitch, you know that's only for men, my words are gospel. Feel blessed.

MO: Fair.

KM: We were work acquaintances, and I had a low-key talent crush on him from afar — I really loved all the essays he was writing about love and books and loneliness. It resonated with one of my four feelings. But I'd say we actually started hanging out and trusting each other enough to edit each other's writing around the time Matt accidentally found me in my fake office. It's a little abandoned nook that I hide in when I need to write without any distractions, but he wormed his way in there, just like he wormed his way into my cold, blackened heart. And after he became a permanent installation there, we kept getting lunches, taking the subway home together, and generally making everyone envious of our true work love.

MO: That crowded F train was privy to all of our deepest and cackliest conversations. The 23rd/6th F-M stop was our wedding venue; West 4th, our honeymoon.

KM: We both have different, but distinctly evil, Disney-villain laughs. I think we were probably office married the first time we both laughed loud enough at something to disrupt other people in the office. That probably counts as a legal witness to an official office wedding, right?

MO: I met her family once! We text each other a lot (WHEN SHE REMEMBERS TO REPLY). And we watch a lot of the same shows, consume much of the same shit content on the internet. She's been a great cheerleader — like, she knows the choreography to cheer you on, but decides that there's a better routine to cheer you up that you haven't thought of, then does exactly that. Love you, Kroot.

KM: I spoke to Matt on the phone once. Like for a good 30 minutes. Just about life and how messy we got the night before. The only other people that merit this kind of engagement are my mother, my roommate, and my platonic soulmate.

How do you define an office marriage?

MO: Office love is the unconditional acceptance of how extra both of you are; in our case, I am more extra, surprising no one. You both can cry about the littlest things, but also about the big, serious things. You both can laugh about things that will make sense to no one else. And you will both keep each other in check at the office holiday party — and when you get too messy, you'll pull the other from the person they're scream-crying to at the bar and put them in a cab home. (I've yet to do this for Krutika. She has done this for me twice.)

KM: I've lifted Matt Ortile Dirty Dancing–style twice in this office. It's the most. There is no other indicator of true office love.

Do you have IRL romantic relationships? If so, what do they think of your work spouse?

MO: I have weird non-relationship relationships here and there. Krutika keeps me grounded and brings me back to earth every time I start fantasizing about my many possible wedding announcements in the New York Times.

KM: Same, I'm low-key dating a couple people, no one serious enough to introduce to Matt, BUT HE KNOWS ALL THEIR BUSINESS (with me anyway). That's just the way it is when I need someone to remind not to give up on people as whole.

What do you love about each other?

MO: I love that there are so many things that I don't have to explain to her: what it's like to work in our office, what it's like to be a person of color, what it's like to juggle multiple minority cards. She just GETS. IT. And at the same time, she can tell me what I don't want to hear, but when she says it, I accept it because I know she has my best interests at heart.

KM: SAME SAME SAME. What I love most about Matt is that he always puts things in perspective for me without making me feel like I should just "get over it" or that I'm complaining over nothing. Confiding in someone who has NEVER made me feel like my thoughts/emotions are invalid is a rare gift, and to find that in someone who can remind you that there are truly bigger and better things out there to conquer than the small shit you're sweating right now is honestly a godsend. Between the two of us we're too loud/brown/queer/foreign/feminine in a society that's inherently stacked against us, and sharing that emotional burden with him has made me a genuinely happier and mentally healthier person.

MO: When you can spend just five minutes with someone and instantly laugh a laugh that reaffirms your existence and that you want to be happy, you've found a friend for life.

KM: To crib a Tumblr text post I saw once: Some people are soulmates, and some people are saltmates. It's that moment in Slack where both of you type 👀 👀 👀 at the same time and neither of you has to explain what you're talking about. I'm honestly #blessed to say that Matt is IRL and ID(igital)L saltmate.

Kaye & Alanna

Tell me about your office union.

Kaye Toal: I think I just thought Alanna was so cool that I immediately started bouncing around her like an overzealous puppy. That is my entire memory of it. I was just enthusiastic and needy at her until it forged a bond. Her fantastic hair had something to do with it, and also, just the Vibe. Y'all know the Vibe. Friends-Vibe is real.

Alanna Bennett: I was being walked around the office on my first day. I was introduced to Kaye and she just stood out as this person I should do everything in my power to be friends with. That turned out to be a good instinct.

KT: When we rode the train together or hung out or were riffing, we had such great ideas, and sort of fed off one another's energy; the number of times she has made me cry with laughter on public transportation is really sort of embarrassing in its own right. The first time it happened, I was like, ah yes, this is a woman who loves to laugh. And that was that.

AB: One day Kaye started texting me outside of work — just, like, telling me about her day, and I responded in kind, and we went from there. Soon she was the first person I'd talk to when I woke up and the last person I'd talk to before I went to sleep. And we just worked really well together at work, too; brainstorming new cool things to do for our jobs just came really naturally and certainly made my introduction to the company really fun.

KT: I definitely do that thing where, when I want to be friends with somebody, I text them and talk to them a lot, and Alanna was the recipient of a small thunderstorm of communication for a while — which she returned! It was magical. It has yet to cease.

AB: I spent Thanksgiving (and a beach weekend last summer) at Kaye's family's house. I think, by TV romance rules, that means we're endgame.

KT: She did spend Thanksgiving with me! We see each other pretty dang often outside of work; we go to coffee shops and write together, or to the movies so we can talk shit together afterward (or, you know, praise whatever movie it was). I haven't met her family, but I've met most of her friends from college, which is basically the same thing, right?

How do you define an office marriage?

KT: They're the person you share every insane link you come across with, and the person you shadily drop screenshots to when something wack happens or you get a ridiculous email. Someone whose friendship you would treasure anyway, but also the only reason you don't hate your job on the worst days, and a big part of the reason your love your job on the best ones.

AB: The person you go to when you need to procrastinate, when you need inspiration, or when you just need to go cry in a corner. Someone who'll see you as more than a cog in the machine. If you're lucky (like I was) you get to have someone who's going to support you and love you in your struggles and triumphs inside and outside of work.

Do you have IRL romantic relationships? If so, what do they think of your work spouse?

KT: I do, and actually, we met because he was a fan of a web series called Heartcanons that Alanna and I did together; he had an internet crush on me, and then I turned up in his OkCupid results, and now here we are. You could say it's all her fault. Obviously, he thinks she's great, because it's impossible not to. But she was here first, so she has dibs.

AB: I do not!

What do you love about each other?

KT: Alanna is tenacious and smart, a combination that makes her a force of nature. She also thinks about things on like four levels at once, which is fun to watch happen and to hear if she chooses to process them out loud. One of the things I love most about our friendship is that while we're aligned on everything that's Very Important, we disagree pretty often, but rarely in damaging or hurtful ways; it's more like, we have different opinions about a character (James Potter) or a movie or book, and wrangling about those has given us some of our best ideas.

AB: She's really vivacious, and intelligent, and I think we balance each other and listen to each other really well. We're not perfect, but I think we saw common ground with each other and made our best efforts to communicate and see each other for who we were.

Hannah & Aaron

Tell me about your office union.

Aaron Edwards: Hannah started at BuzzFeed about six months after I did, and on her first week we asked someone to take this insufferable photo of us. This is all to say that we were already friends before we were co-workers.

Hannah Giorgis: Gonna be more insufferable here and say that wasn't even just the first week — it was my first day. Eww. But yes, Aaron and I were friends before I came to BuzzFeed, and he was one of the people who helped talk me through the decision to come work here.

AE: We unintentionally wore matching outfits one day (close to what we have on in these pictures). It's all been downhill from there.

HG: Then there was this moment, when Aaron channeled the spirits of both Audre Lorde and Nicki Minaj to speak directly into my spirit. It was like being subtweeted IRL. I felt exposed.

"Beyoncé's music makes me hornier than Macklemore at Afropunk." - thirst gawd/poet laureate @aaronmedwards

How do you define an office marriage?

AE: Some people are apprehensive about being colleagues with people they're already friends with, but Hannah and I have a good balance. She's someone I feel comfortable coming to with issues in my personal and professional life, and we have this mutual love and respect for each other that makes those conversations honest, nonintrusive, and, above all, constructive. Not going to lie, though: It helps that we're on different teams. There's enough covert desk-twerking happening in our respective parts of the newsroom.

HG: Definitely. I love Aaron, but it would probably not be a good idea for our desks to be right next to each other — both for our productivity levels and the building's structural integrity. I appreciate that we're able to discuss our personal and professional lives, and having the shared context of working for the same company makes it easier to support each other. It means knowing there's someone who can understand both your goals and the climate in which you want to achieve them.

Do you have IRL romantic relationships? If so, what do they think of your work spouse?

HG: I do. He's met Aaron (and adores him)! He asks me about Aaron often, and laughs at our various shenanigans.

AE: OMG, this just makes me wanna see him now. He came to BuzzFeed's holiday party! I, on the other hand, am incredibly single, but Hannah has approved of, counseled against, or offered general guidance on pretty much any date I've been on (by my own doing, not hers).

What do you love about each other?

HG: Aaron is brilliant, driven, kind, and hilarious. We understand each other intuitively, partly because our backgrounds overlap a bit, and I find that we rarely have explain things to one another. I know that when Aaron answers a question, he's given tremendous thought to it. Our friendship is always lighthearted, but not frivolous. I really appreciate how we're able to help one another navigate both day-to-day things and the Big Questions in our lives.

AE: Where to begin? There are few people in my life who can meet a person and almost immediately see them beyond the surface. When I met Hannah, I felt seen, heard, and known. We communicate in side-glances, smirks, tweets, and text stanzas. But we also have incredibly refreshing conversations that make me feel quite #blessed to occupy a similar space as her. Oh, and I have all the alerts set up for whenever Hannah publishes words on the internet. From navigating gender identity at an all-male HBCU to critiquing the reaction to Ebola in the U.S., she's one of the most gifted intersectional culture writers I know.

HG: We have a group chat with our friend Doreen that's named after a particularly notable line from the Zola story, and it's probably my favorite thing on my phone. It's where all three of us joke, vent, and plot everything, including various weekend shenanigans. Our shared interests include rum, oxtail, Iyanla Vanzant memes, and well-timed twerks. It's a little embarrassing how often we send each other the same link or text or Slack message at the exact same time.

AE: The collective sigh we all share after taking the first bite of jerk chicken on a weekend dinner is one of the most cathartic, important moments of my week. It's in those moments where I feel my safest, my most at home.

Anne-Helen & Jenna

Tell me about your office union.

Jenna Weiss-Berman: I followed Annie's amazing writing before I started working at BuzzFeed, and it made me say to myself, "Huh, smart people work there. I wonder if I could work there!" I was super nervous to talk to Annie when we first met in person but she's like the nicest person in the world and we quickly clicked.

Anne-Helen Petersen: Our co-worker Julia came up to me at an after-work drinks and said, "This is Jenna, she's obsessed with you." Which was flattering, but not ENTIRELY true. I have a distinct memory of us in the old-old office, like two offices ago, talking about how to use Twitter — I had to teach her what a retweet was. But I also quickly learned that I'd known her through her work, especially with the Longform Podcast, for some time. We both discovered we were radical feminists but also really into dogs and Paul Newman and the history of Brooklyn?

Jenna: Also, at BuzzFeed people in their thirties are lovingly referred to as "the olds" because it's mostly a bunch of children working here, so I was psyched to meet another old.

AHP: I knew she was the one when she drove me in her real-life car (this is a big deal in Brooklyn) to see the Christmas lights display in Dyker Heights (also a big deal in Brooklyn) and we talked about weird Brooklyn history. Or when she volunteered to be the guinea pig to test whether Trunk Club actually could dress a woman who describes her style as "retired literary Mainer."

JWB: Yeah, that night I took people see the Christmas lights, I made a bunch of appetizers and snacks for them beforehand. I acted like I had just "whipped it up" but I had sort of been working on it all day. They were the cool kids and I wanted to impress them!

AHP: Our texting relationship is a lot of us updating each other on our whereabouts (we both travel a lot, for work and for fun) and talking about how great Peggy Olson is (both the character and my puppy, who is named for said character). I went to Jenna's wedding, which was the most fashionable event of my life, and met her family, which was a tremendous, weepy pleasure. For her wedding present, I gave her a circular saw. I swear it was on her registry.

JWB: I don't think Annie knows this, but my mom and I often read her articles and discuss them. She was very excited when she finally met Annie at my wedding — my mom and Annie are the only two people I know who could talk dirt on Clark Gable for hours.

How do you define a work spouse?

AHP: The first person you want to talk to when things get weird or awesome.

JWB: Exactly.

Do you have IRL romantic relationships? If so, what do they think of your work spouse?

AHP: We each do, and my IRL boyfriend thinks that Jenna is a high priestess of cool.

JWB: My wife thinks Annie is my very best co-worker. Annie and her guy were at our wedding, which was super fun.

What do you two love about each other?

AHP: I love when Jenna comes over to my desk with a vague overarching pop culture question that is a few months behind the times. "What is going on with Don Draper?" is something she legit asked me last month. I also love her thoughtfulness, her savvy with money (she is a great financial adviser), her brutal honesty, her sleepy hat hair, her love of Bonnie Raitt, and her refusal to put up with other people's shit.

JWB: Speaking of Bonnie Raitt, we are going together to see her perform next month in Albany, New York. And speaking of things I love about Annie, she is one of the kindest people I know, and also she has an amazing puppy. But more importantly, she can tell you everything about pop culture and the history of celebrity gossip, and she has really eye-opening takes on things. I knew pretty quickly that Annie was going to be my work wife. I actually kind of knew before I'd even met her, just from reading her articles. Annie's always been the person I want to talk to about everything at work, and isn't that how people feel about their wives?

Ryan & Cates

Tell me about your office union.

Cates Holderness: Back in the olden days of BuzzFeed — circa 2012 — I was the community editor and Ryan was hired as our first comment moderator.

Ryan Broderick: When I was hired, I was put next to Cates and I had no idea what I was doing. So she pretty much explained everything that was happening and who everyone was.

CH: We've been married since almost day one, when we bonded over our mutual love of weird stuff on the internet.

RB: Yeah, I mean, when you have personalities as messed up as ours, your pool of potential office friends gets pretty small. I can't remember how it went originally, but I'd like to imagine we both ran out of small talk and said "So...do you like 4chan?" to each other at the same time and then freaked out. After that, we pretty much became the token weirdos in the office. Like the day we had to explain to McKay Coppins, on BuzzFeed's politics team, what furries were. And it feels like every other day I learn some new dumb thing we have in common! I don't even think we started talking about anime until 2014.

CH: Before Ryan moved to London, we hung out a decent amount outside of work. I've gotten to know his parents (I helped them organize surprise visits on Ryan's birthdays, which I fully expect Ryan will never forgive me for). Things have been harder since Ryan moved, but we're still active in our work Slack rooms and on Twitter, as well as through DMs. I took a trip to London in November, and the best part about it was getting to hang out with Ryan while I was there. I miss his stupid face.

RB: Lots of shit memes get sent back and forth. The other day, she sent me a thing about hoverboard porn and I sent her a video of Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z, lip-synching Phil Collins. Lots of stupid crap like that.

Here's one really good and embarrassing Ryan/Cates story: The day Cates posted "The Dress" was so bittersweet. I had to watch from London as she destroyed the internet. But I got a member of her team to pull me up on FaceTime that evening so I could watch the office surprise her with a cake. Then they brought her over to the monitor where I was so I could tell her how proud of her I was. People still make fun of us for this, her sitting in New York crying and me sitting in a pub in London crying. It was all very dumb and wonderful.

How do you define an office marriage?

CH: A work spouse is someone you can go to with all of the joy and frustration you feel at work. They're there for you when something great happens, and they also support you when you're having a tough time.

RB: Yeah, exactly! And I think at any job there can be lots of bullshit and a work spouse is someone that helps you sort through the bullshit. It's someone you can trust and you can play things back with. It's someone you can plan and scheme with too. But also, maybe the simplest definition might be someone you know you can sit with at lunch.

Do you have IRL romantic relationships? If so, what do they think of your work spouse?

CH: LMAO no, but I dated Ryan's former roommate for a while.

RB: Ugh, that was so weird. Cates was ALWAYS over the apartment. One time I was playing Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" on a ukulele at like 9 in the morning on a Saturday (2012 was a weird year, OK?) and I didn't think anyone was home. And then my roommate's door swings open and it's a very hungover Cates. She comes running at me with a knife and tells me that if I don't stop she's going to cut all the strings on my ukulele. And then she was going to kill me.

What do you two love about each other?

CH: Ryan's meme trash, just like me. But more sincerely, Ryan's a kind, loving, supportive person who always encourages others do to their best. He's funny, he's sweet, and we both share a pretty messed-up sense of humor.

RB: Cates is human garbage. But she's also hilarious and mega-talented. And she looks out for me. She keeps me grounded and I think I do the same for her. Some days she's the big sister and some days I'm ALMOST the big brother, maybe, haha. I think there's been an understanding ever since that we have each other's backs.