Ask Ellie: 'Work wife' not a threat to secure relationship

Advice columnist EllieDear Readers: Following are two entirely different uses of the triggering phrase “work wife” periodically used by letter-writers to this column:

I’ve been married for 24 years and for the past 10 of them I’ve known that my husband has a “work wife.”

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They’re both working for a large Real Estate Company before partnering in selling high-end properties. He’s the stronger financial voice and she’s skilled at lifestyle appeal.

This woman is divorced, has one young child, is younger than both my husband and me by 15 years, and very attractive. I like her immensely.

The first time my husband used the phrase “work wife” I was taken aback. He immediately explained that she was the person he could complain to over annoyances regarding their work that didn’t deserve to use up our couple and family time together.

Our family members are all working/studying from home — two late-teens and one college-age child. I’m a professional with a home office. My husband works in a separate room.

When we gather for dinner, we discuss current issues, what’s new regarding COVID, and our adjustment to this new mode of living. The kids often also want private talks over school or friend issues. My husband and I only talk about our work when it’s relevant to everyone’s interest.

The “work wife” phrase now only bothers me when people occasionally joke about my husband’s partnership.

Secure Wife

You and your husband have established a solid relationship based on the most important aspects of “family” — that is, trust and commitment to each member.

In essence, you are his “life wife” and share the roles that you’ve chosen together.

You have equal involvement in parenting your children, with both working to fulfill your own drive and goals while also sharing the financing of a home, kids’ education, and other needs.

Reader’s commentary regarding the woman who discovered after 21 years that her husband had been cheating for years, including with the “work-wife” he texted with daily (April 21):

My husband’s job requires him to be in constant contact via calls, texts and email with almost 400 employees. His phone never stops alerting him to calls and texts evenings, weekends and holidays even when we’ve been on holidays from work. I have never once thought he was cheating because of it.

I also have a job where I’m required to be in contact with my co-workers outside of work hours. Not as much as my husband, but still a lot, and more now given COVID and everyone trying to work from home as much as possible, which includes me. My husband has never accused me of cheating … but the girlfriends/wives of the men have.

I understand that it’s a red flag as we all know because it does happen. However, it should never just be assumed as fact. A woman has the deck stacked against her and is always assumed to be the villain when most of us are just trying to do the job we feel lucky to have and want to keep.

We all want women in the workplace and that they have the same equal access to jobs and pay … until a woman contacts a male co-worker and loses her job because it upset the male co-worker’s wife.

Think first, get the facts and don’t jump to conclusions. Most of us are just trying to do and keep our jobs, not steal your husband.

Dear Ellie: I’ve been in menopause for years, my feelings for sex have gone away. I can’t take estrogen because I’ve had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) mini-stroke and my sister had breast cancer.

I only feel like myself if I drink wine but I’m no drinker. I don’t have feelings to be affectionate.

Can anything help me without estrogen?

So Sad

Contact your doctor to discuss alternatives to hormone replacement therapy. Ask about natural remedies — such as widely-used black cohosh from a plant in the buttercup family, or red clover and flaxseed (available as supplements) and phytoestrogens from a plant-based diet.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you may be able to manage menopausal hot flashes by limiting caffeinated beverages and alcohol, and practicing relaxation techniques. There are also several non-hormone prescription medications that may help relieve hot flashes.

For vaginal dryness, a vaginal moisturizer or lubricant may help you be comfortable again with sex.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Both husband and wife need to separate their links to a work partner from their greater bond to their life partner.

Send relationship questions to

Follow @ellieadvice.

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