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The Work Spouse

Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor’s Social Penetration Theory provides for a deeper analysis on how relational closeness develops. A multi-layered onion model is used to depict the personality structure of an individual. Each layer constitutes perspectives and beliefs about oneself, other individuals, and the world (Griffin 114). Self-disclosure, the process by which we “peel back the layers,” is a gradual process that is motivated by what we perceive as the outcome of an interaction. The depth, level of intimacy, and breadth, the extent of self-disclosed areas, are essential to forming an intimate relationship. Communication privacy management, explaining the ways individuals manage the tension between privacy and disclosure, contributes to the overall outcome of relational closeness. The Social Penetration process can be applied to the concept of ‘work spouses’ to explain the high level of intimacy one would deem equivalent to a married spouse. In the article “Signs You Might Have a ‘Work Spouse,’” Patty Lewis and Tom Bristler shared information about their close relationship in the workplace. Lewis revealed that she shared information with Bristler from psychological to emotional perspectives. This reflects the different layers and areas of the onion that forms the personality structure. Her self-disclosure or vulnerability is like a wedge that is drawn into the onion in multiple areas. Lewis and Bristler’s self-disclosure process was presumably gradual because it’s highly unlikely that they would quickly share deep, personal information with a colleague. The depth and breadth of self-disclosure were equally important to forming their close relationship. Not only did Lewis and Bristler share information about their wor... ... middle of paper ... ...enetration. The area and degree of information the parties shared paired with a cost-benefit motivational factor produced an intimate relationship not commonly seen in the work environment. Privacy coordination also played a role in Lewis’ relational closeness with her husband and colleague. Lewis and Bristler’s or any ‘work spouse’ relationship may be the result of social penetration. Works Cited Griffin, Emory A. "Semiotics of Roland Barthes." A First Look at Communication Theory. Seventh Ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009. Print. Dorsett, Katherine. "Signs You Might Have a 'Work Spouse' - CNN.com." CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 16 Feb. 2011. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. .
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