Emotional Affairs: The Silent Marriage Killers


Affairs have become an unbelievably common occurrence in marriages today.  It is no surprise that divorce rates are at their highest levels ever when we consider how far society has fallen in making affairs acceptable.  This point was recently driven home to me quite vividly as a friend of my wife’s recounted an experience she had.  She was with a group of four of her friends one day having a casual conversation together.  In the course of that conversation she discovered that she was the only one of the five that wasn’t having an affair.  Her friends talked as casually about their affairs as they would about their shopping lists; they were just normal parts of their lives.  My wife’s friend actually felt like the outsider because she herself was not also having an affair.  Imagine that… She felt like the outsider because she was the only one that was faithful to her spouse.  How sad this is.  I myself have been appalled to hear of people actually advising friends to have an affair as a means of “coping” with marriage.  To me, this has nothing to do with coping, but has everything to do with escaping and taking the route of instant gratification (aka: selfishness). 

It goes without saying that affairs are absolutely devastating to a marriage.  They inflict serious harm on the self-esteem of the offended spouse, cause feelings of bitterness and resentment, eliminate emotional intimacy, and obliterate trust.  All of these things are extremely difficult to recover from, and divorce does not solve the problem either.  The damage done lasts beyond the termination of the marriage.  Even remarrying a kind and loving individual does not erase the deep wounds of the affair.  The most surprising discovery made by those that have been offended in this way is that complete healing only occurs by working with the offender to overcome the damage, provided that person is willing to end the affair.  Even in this situation, recovery takes a great deal of time, effort and endurance.  Without question, a far better path is to prevent the affair from happening to begin with.

If we are to prevent the devastation of affairs from reaching our marriages, it is vitally important that we understand the reasons they occur.  Some of these reasons can be very surprising, given what many people believe about affairs.  One of the most common misconceptions about affairs is that they are all about sex.  Rarely is this true.  Affairs are much more about feeling accepted, loved, and validated than they are about sex.  Sex may definitely be a major part of the affair, but not for the reasons most people think.  Most people believe that sex is all about the physical sensation.  No one can deny that this is there, but there is another element that is far more important and far more impactful.  It is the fact that sex is an extremely powerful form of validation.  To many, it represents the ultimate display of acceptance.  For those who are struggling to feel loved, accepted and appreciated in their relationships, having a sexual relationship with another is a desperate attempt to fill this void. 

Obviously, sex is not the only means by which we can fulfill our needs for closeness, acceptance and appreciation.  In fact, for many, sex really doesn’t do much to fulfill these needs at all.  Simple companionship can be just as powerful.  This is where some of the greatest dangers lie in the world of affairs.  When individuals have a physical relationship outside of their marriages, there is no denying it is occuring.  A very clear line has been crossed.  However, for those who are having emotional affairs, those based more on companionship, this line is much more hazy. 

CoWorkersIn truth, emotional affairs are the most devious of all affairs.  They sneak in gradually over time and steadily grow in intensity.  They are easy to deny because there is no clear cut act that defines that they are occurring.  They are incredibly crafty as they convince you that it is “just a friendship.”  As the relationship grows, there is a steady drift away from the marital relationship.  This gradually peaks as the individual becomes numb to their spouse and shifts all their affections to the other. 

Another of the great dangers of emotional affairs is that they can be extremely difficult to end.  These affairs are not based on physical acts, but very real emotions.  Those in the midst of an emotional affair are convinced that they are in love with another, so falling out of love with them, without cause to stop loving them, seems impossible.  In addition, this other person has been, in whatever way, fulfilling the emotional needs that are most important to the offender, so ending this relationship is terrifying for them.  They are afraid if they do so, these needs will never be fulfilled. 

There is one last thing I’d like to say about emotional affairs.  They can occur even when couples are not having problems.  I was speaking with a man some time ago that was considering leaving his wife for another woman.  He explained that for all intents and purposes he had a good wife.  She treated him kindly, wasn’t a nag, took good care of him and their home and anything else he wanted.  His problem was that he just didn’t feel the same excitement around her as he did around this other woman.  There was nothing inherently wrong with his marriage, but in his mind the rush of a new relationship overshadowed any feelings that existed between he and his wife.

09CorvThe image that came to my mind as I was speaking to this man was that of two different cars.  The first was a brand new sports car.  It looks great.  It has all sorts of new gadgets and design features that are fresh and exciting.  You feel a rush as you drive it, and you don’t have to worry about doing any kind of serious maintenance.  It is truly a feel good, no worry car.

60corvThe second car is an old classic.  You bought it years ago when it too was a brand new sports car.  You had the same rush with this car at the time as you do with the brand new sports car.  The problem is that over time things started to go wrong with the car.  The standard routine maintenence was no longer enough to keep it up.  You had to start fixing things.  Eventually, you reached a point where you had to decide whether it was better to keep fixing things or to get rid of it and get a new one.  You decide to keep it for its sentimental value.  You continue to care for the car, fixing this or that as issues come up, but at the same time developing a great bond with it because of all the time and money you have invested in it.  You’ve come to know this car so well that you can sense the slightest problem through a minute change in the engine noise or the tiniest shimmy in the steering wheel, but you also know just how to drive it so that it performs at its peak.  You love this car.

There is no comparison between the true love of marriage forged over time and experience and the false love of infatuation that occurs in  affairs.  No matter how new and shiny these relationships may be in the beginning, all relationships reach a point where repairs are required.  Those who embark down the road of affairs expecting that sports car to always be new and exciting are in for great disappointment.  The day will come when they find their new relationship in need of serious repairs.  Anyone seeking a maintenance-free relationship is unknowingly setting themselves up for misery.  They will never find what they are looking for.  Happiness in marriage is not determined by the number of repairs we have to do.  It is determined by how much we invest ourselves in making those repairs. 

If we are to avoid the pain and misery of afffairs from entering our relationships it is imperative that we lock our hearts.  We cannot allow the draw of an exciting new maintenence-free relationship to distort the reality of the time-tested love we have with our spouses.  We must ensure that our energies are not invested in developing new relationships, but in enhancing those we already have.  Do not forget that no one is immune to affairs.  Many with high moral standards are surprised by how they gradually placed themselves in a position that was completely contrary to their values and the love they have for their companions.   The deceptions of affairs are real.  We must always be vigilant of our thoughts and feelings, or we too could find ourselves drifting down the wrong path.

There is so much happiness to be found in marriage and complete loyalty is an essential ingredient for discovering it.


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26 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow, Matt. This is a powerful article, and a message that so many (including myself sometimes) need to be constantly reminded of. I love this quote from your article:
    “We must ensure that our energies are not invested in developing new relationships, but in maintaining those we already have.”

    I know my life is so much simpler and happier when I’m focusing on the relationships in my own home. I can tell when I’m neglecting my relationship with Dave and I have to take a step back and say, “Okay, ‘rest of the world’, get out of my way while I focus on my husband.”

    And the cool thing is that when I feel close to Dave, I feel no need for validation from outside sources. That’s so powerful.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, Matt. Your language flows so well, you speak the truth, and your comparisons (ie. the sports cars) make your points very clear.

    Thanks so much for sharing! Keep ’em coming!

  2. Thanks for this – powerful reminder for us ‘marrieds’. It is easy to grow smug in the confidence that we would never sleep with another, whilst remaining vulnerable to the excitement of close confidement and flirtation with the opposite sex. It all serves to detract from our marriage commitment and we have to be ruthless in cutting ourselves off from situations before they are ever allowed to develop. All the best…

    • Thank you for your comment. Being “smug” in our confidence that we won’t fall into an affair is a very good way to put it.


  3. My husband of twenty odd years has a new BFF. They have gone on trips together and shared bank account info (we have a joint account) and have even bought each other matching Clatter Ring (that cost in the neighborhood of 900.00). and yet he could not get a matching cell phone with me thought it looked to cute. she has intruded into every aspect of our lives. even going so far as to call my son who is in the army her baby when he came home for a visit. I am ready to walk out, every time I bring up that this is way out of line he tells me I am over reacting and forcing him to give up a true friend, who has taught him what love and friendship is all about. Does any you have any advise for me? I feel alone and lonely.

    • Kris,

      It sounds like you are in an extremely difficult situation, and to be honest, a very dangerous one as well. Dangerous in the sense that your husband seems to be dancing in the flames right now, but not expecting to get burned. Friendships are a wonderful thing, but when it comes to a friendship between a man and a woman, it should be the wife and ONLY the wife that is teaching her husband what true love and friendship are all about. Marriage is the closest form of friendship.

      Knowing very little about your situation, I am going out on a limb a bit, but it appears that you and your husband may not be the best of friends right now. If your husband is feeling such a strong attachment to this other woman, and a need for her friendship for the reasons you expressed, he is most likely not feeling very close to you right now. It seems apparent that you could both use some strengthening in your relationship. Without question, given the information you have shared with me, your husband’s level of involvement with his “friend” has gone far beyond what is appropriate. If he does not see this as dangerous, then there is serious danger of this relationship moving even further. I highly recommend that you seek counseling with your husband ASAP. This can help you both to build your relationship, establish appropriate boundaries, and increase your happiness individually and as a couple.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences. I hope all will get resolved quickly.

      Good Luck!


  4. Matt,
    Are you still available? Do you have another site where I could get information?

    • Mark,

      I am still available and would be happy to provide you with any information I can. If you have any specific questions for me, I’ll do my best to answer them.


      • Matt, I apologize for not responding. I just remembered I had posted to you. I’ve read this post multiple times. I am looking for information on how to get over being a “victim” of an emotional affair. I have so many questions that torture me that I want answers to, but my wife can only say she’s sorry over and over again. It’s a vicious cycle. Is there something wrong with me that I can’t let it go? I see the text message dates and times and I think of all the events over the summer that I thought we were sharing together. It was all a lie. I keep wanting to know why… what she was thinking at the time.. etc. It is driving me crazy.

        Please understand, I am not innocent in all of this. I’ve been emotionally distant for our entire marriage. I’m and ACOA and a victim of abuse. I am the most compassionate person in the world to everybody except my wife. I’ve had a wall that I’ve realized is there to protect myself from losing the person I love most.

        It turned into a self fulfilling prophesy. I was distant to protect my heart and it ended up costing me the love of my wife in the end.

        We are trying to work through this and are committed to our marriage and our children.
        My wife says I’ll never forgive her in my heart, and I claim that I need everything out in the open and all my questions answered before I can fully move on.

        Wow, I didn’t mean to write all of this here.

        I really love your posts and was hoping that you had additional material available on the web.

        Thanks for your help,

      • Mark,

        I am very glad to hear that you and your wife are committed to working through this. Without question, affairs of any kind are extremely trying. Most people who have been in your place experience the same types of things you are; feeling like everything your spouse said or did with you was a lie, perpetually wondering “why?”, and feeling like if enough of your questions are answered, solace will finally come. While it is definitely understandable to have these types of reactions, they can also cause more harm than good if taken too far. Sometimes in the additional pressure spouses put on to have all their questions answered, or in expecting their spouses to somehow “make it up” to them, they end up intensifying the very issues that led to the affair. Keep in mind that your wife may be holding back certain information because she doesn’t want to hurt you anymore than she already has. It is, of course, also possible that she is trying to protect herself from further shame as well (which also causes her to distance herself from you). It is important for you to have a general understanding of the situation, but seeking too much detail rarely leads to anything positive. No matter how much you question why, it will probably never fully make sense to you. The truth is, by definition this must be the case. When a person does something wrong, they do so out of faulty logic (in this case, it is based in emotional logic, which is often the most skewed of all). So, because it is based in faulty logic, it will never fully make sense to any outsider. If we could all operate under clear logic at all times, we would probably never do anything wrong. At this point, one of the most helpful things for your relationship is set aside the “why’s” and put all the focus on the “what will make it beeter than it ever has been’s.”

        One thing that is very positive about your reaction is the fact that you are recognizing the role you also played in the distancing that took place in your marriage. By no means are you responsible for your wife going outside of marriage. Absolutely nothing justifies this decision. However, you did contribute to the environment necessary for this to take place. The fact that you are recognizing and taking responsibility for this is not only an extremely humble thing to do, it is also imperative to the success of your marriage. If you really want to know what will help your marriage to heal more than anything else, it can be summarized in this one wonderful line from the movie “Fireproof”: “I made the decision that I was going to love my wife whether she deserved it or not.” Simply stated, be the husband your wife needs you to be and the rest will take care of itself. I certainly recognize that this council requires both great faith and great patience to follow, but I promise you it works.

        I don’t know if you are a religious man, but I firmly believe that as you apply this principle God will not only soften your heart toward your wife, but he will also warm your wife’s heart toward you, particularly as you both turn to Him for the guidance and comfort you need. You might be wondering why a therapist is talking religion. The truth is, there is no way I could be effective in what I do without the guidance of Heavenly Father. Without question, the most incredible recoveries I have seen with any of my clients, regardless of the issue, has been in those cases where God was a central part of their focus. I’m saying these things now only because I sincerely hope for the best for you and your wife, and want to share those principles that are the most powerful.

        It may seem like a strange thing to say, but relationship tragedies can sometimes be the best things for marriages. For those marriages that are gradually dying a slow death, a good hard shock can get the heart beating again. I would be willing to bet that both you and your wife are putting more focus on the relationship now than you have in a long time. That doesn’t mean that all of your discussions are necessarily positive, but you are likely thinking much more about your relationship, which is a positive thing in itself.

        You have requested additional information that might help. Unfortunately, as all my focus lately has been on in person counseling, I really haven’t put much on paper. However, I want to recommend a couple of books that are absolutely fantastic. The first is Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Group. I can honestly say this was in the top three of my most life changing books I’ve read. It is fairly short and is written in a story format that is very easy to read. I highly recommend that both you and your wife read it as it will change the way you look at, feel toward, and behave toward others in a way that can only bring great rewards. The second book is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book will help you how to recognize the kind of love each other needs and how best to provide it.

        On a closing note, as you and your wife are working through things, don’t be afraid to seek out professional counseling if you’re feeling stuck. I’m all for couples doing their best to work through things before going to professionals, but you also want to be careful not to let things go too far before seeking the help. If you do seek help, be sure you find someone that shares your commitment to marriage and the other values you have. If a therapist doesn’t seem to be a good fit, don’t give up, just find another one. There are a lot of wonderful therapists out there, but it’s important to have one that is the best fit for you.

        I wish you all the best!


  5. I’m currently involved in an emotional affair but i want out i love my husband very much but he is a very simple man who is routine in his daily activitys and can at times be quite distant and cold the funniest thing is there is an undying attraction between me and this other person that’s crazy and obsessive but he is also very routine and can be quite cold and jealous please help me because i love my husband and don’t want to loose him at the same time I want to finish this obessive relationship with the other before it goes to far

    • Naima,

      It says a lot about you that you are seeking help to end this potentially devastating relationship. It’s not unusual for people to experience an unexpected and even unsolicited attraction to someone else, particularly if they feel their marriage has lost some of the spark it once had. The problem begins when you start comparing your spouse to others and, in a sense, provide yourself with justification for seeking out another relationship. Once this happens, you may begin investing more thoughts and emotions into other relationships than you do in your marriage. The stronger your feelings become for someone else, the more you will probably notice your feeling deteriorating toward your husband. It may become easier to find faults and maintain patience and forgiveness.

      From what you have written, it sounds as though the individual you are feeling the attraction to actually shares some of the same traits that your husband does. The “routineness and coldness” has probably become familiar to you as you have been married to your husband, so those traits are oddly comfortable for you (even though they aren’t things you enjoy). It’s natural for all of us to be drawn toward what we are familiar with, regardless of whether those things are good or bad. This is the same reason why it is very common for people who were abused as children to marry abusive spouses. It seems like one of the big differences that you may feel with this other individual is the spark of excitement we all get with a new relationship. This is what is known as the infatuation stage. At this stage of a relationship, things are new and exciting. You experience intense feelings (i.e. obsession) and emotions that you do not feel as consistently in a mature relationship. In fact, the changes we experience during the infatuation stage of a relationship actually causes a distinct change in our brain chemistry resulting in intensifying the “love drug” chemicals that cause not only those intense emotions, but also interfere in our ability to think clearly and logically. To put it simply, young love is mindless love.

      I am giving very short explanations of issues that entire novels have been written about. However, I would like to now turn to the solutions. First, there it is extremely important to recognize this new relationship for what it is, an infatuation. It does not have the time-tested refinement of a relationship that has gone through the bumps and bruises of time, trials, and seeing each other at all your best and worst times. In new relationships we deflate faults and inflate strengths, where we see things in a more even light in mature relationships (or even the reverse if your really in bad shape).

      Second, there is a simple principle that can go a long way in resolving these issues. It is simply this… Which seed will grow?… The answer, the one that is nourished. Right now it sounds like you may be doing more to nourish your new relationship than your marriage. Even the amount of time you spend thinking positively about a person determines which relationship you are nourishing. Make a conscious effort to point out to yourself every good thing your husband does, and then thank him for it as well. Even if they are simple things that don’t seem too significant. Remind yourself of the reasons why you fell in love with your husband. Remember that the fact that he is very routine probably also makes him very reliable. There are few traits a person possesses that do not have both an up side and a down side. You have your choice as to which way to look at those traits. If you are still feeling like you need more excitement in your relationship, ask your husband about what he thinks you can do to bring the spark back. Do not be afraid to seek out professional counseling before things get out of hand.

      Finally, and probably most importantly, lock your heart. Whether any of us want to admit it or not, love is a choice. We choose to allow ourselves to think of others as more than friends, we choose to allow ourselves to daydream about what might be, we choose to give the time and attention necessary to build a new relationship, we choose to open ourselves up to the possibility of falling in love with someone else. Begin now to consciously see this other man as nothing more than a friend, and define for him clearly that this is as far as things will ever go. Be wise in the time you spend with him, and the content of the conversations you have. End flirtatious behaviors, and demand that he do the same. Don’t have any more physical contact with him than you would with an acquaintance. This all might seem like a lot right now, but keep in mind that it is what is necessary if you are to enjoy the full fruits of your marital relationship and avoid the absolute devastation that comes with affairs and/or divorce. You can do it!

      I wish you all the best and commend you again for your desire to do the right thing.


      • Thankyou Matt for replying back to my email it was very enlightening I have to tell you I come from a very dysfunctionial family and I witnessed a lot of abuse growing up the ironic thing is the person I’m having this emotional affair with also comes from a very abusive household and showed signs of extreme jealousy when we first meet which I no this sounds sick but it made me happy at first I took it as well god he’s really into me but as time has passed I do realize its a passage to something familiar I do not want to relive again the person has admitted to me that they are extremely insecure and he’s also told me he feels like no one has ever loved him and enjoys the attention I give to him but as I stated before I really do love my husband he is the only normal stable non abusive relationship I’ve ever been in and i sincerely do not want to loose him I thankfully have never had any sexual relations with the other person because most of my friends have warned me to just not take it that far as of now I have no intentions of doing that because I no my husband would just leave but the intensity of this man is sending me over the edge I just don’t no how to cut him off I’ve begged him to let me go or to just say something to drive me away but I just get no response from the other person It’s so crazy I no because my husband lacks this extreme intensity I tend to just be passive about this situation and unfortunately it has continued there is some drug use involved not by me but by the other person he uses cocaine from time to time and that also bothers me but i still can’t seem to pull the plug but I’m trying he’s European so I often make excuses for him that really should not apply to anyone using drugs because i personally don’t like drugs I’ve told myself well he’s from anthor country so maybe he’s just more liberal but i no It’s just an excuse to let him indulge without making him upset the only thing I get from this is that he finds me extremely attractive and he gives me I guess some sort of attention other than that I’m not really happy about this situation It’s actually driving me insane please send me information or feed back on gaining a higher self esteem because I’m just not there with mine and please send me info on how to stop attracting I guess abusive men I would greatly appreciate that Matt I am currently having no contact with this person I’m trying but honestly its hard your forum as well as you are a blessing thanks a lot sincerely naima Thompson aguliar

      • Thankyou Matt for replying back to me so fast I have to tell you your advice was very enlightening i also must tell you that I come from a extremely dysfunctional family and a home of extreme physical abuse the person that I’m having an emotional affair has admitted to me that he to comes from an abusive home and has felt like no one has ever loved him he has admitted to me he enjoys the attention i give to him although I consider it to be a little obsessive on my part I’ve always been like a nurturing person since I was young I really don’t no why but he seems to enjoy it also I no this is so sick but I noticed that very early when our relationship was forming he was very jealous of other men being around me or talking to me I initially taught that was great but i realize that its not the extreme passion has turned into some sort of crazy jealousy that i don’t no where its coming from as i stated before i love my husband and don’t want to loose him he is really the only stable person I’ve none all my life he is the only non abusive man I’ve ever been in love with I don’t no if its the thrill of being wanted but my husband lacks this quality or allure that the other guy has and that as crazy as it seems has drawn me to such a person there is some cocaine use not on my part but on the other persons part but again I find myself making excuses for him like well he’s European which he is so he’s more liberal so its ok he says he doesn’t have a problem so i just go with it even though I no its wrong there has not been any sexual intimacy between us mainly because most of my friends have warned me to not go that far as they surely believe as i already no I would loose my husband for sure I have had opportunitys to go futher but i have stopped myself this person thinks I’m bueatiful Matt maybe because im mixed with Caribbean decent and he’s totally opposite a lot of people tell me this but i truely don’t believe it and my self esstem is in the hole I just don’t feel good about myself at this point Matt but at the same time I need reassurance from the other guy please send me feed back on how to not attract abusive men and please tell me how I got this far with this man without even doing much I just don’t no how this happened I’m currently having no contact with this person It’s the only way I can get him out of my love but the feelings are still there and i truely don’t no if he comes crawling if I would not honestly take him back your forum is a blessing for people like me and I Thankyou again sincerely naima Thompson aguliar

      • Naima,

        I wish I could give you a simple answer to your questions, but the truth is that in many cases it requires regular visits with a qualified counselor to really get to the heart of resolving those struggles. I’m afraid that email is really not an effective way to attack the problem. I really would recommend seeking out help from someone that can give you the in person attention that these difficult situations require. If finances are an issue, many clergy provide free counseling. Also, there are many counseling agencies that charge on a sliding scale. If finances are not an issue, please take this opportunity to put an end to the challenges that have probably been plaguing you your entire life in different ways. I sincerely wish you the very best, and have faith that your desires to repair your marriage and yourself will be fulfilled as you do your part.

        All the best,


  6. Hi Matt, Thank you for writing this article. A few years back my husband was having multiple emotional affairs among other things. He became very distant and emotional abusive to me. I found myself obsessing about the truth and this went on for several years until I found it hard to function in life. I was having a hard time getting out of bed and it devastated my career. After two years of searching for the truth I finally found some evidence and forced him to confess. Ultimately I asked him to leave and then after a few months, I let him back home and we decided to work on things. It’s been two years and it’s been a struggle to finally feel like myself again. I was just starting to feel like I could trust him again when we ran into a girl he worked with one day and I just knew something was between them. I tried really hard not to investigate because I know how incredibly stressful it is for me. Anyway the truth fell in my lap and I learned of their emotional affair. I confronted him and of course, we are back to where we were. He says because they are not having sex it doesn’t mean anything. He says they had a conversation about their friendship and how it was too hard for him to be friends and after that their friendship blossomed into constant contact and flirting. Anyway, he wants me to give him another chance and I figure if he has no idea still.. what the damaging effects of an emotional affair can have, for my health I need to move on.

    Just for other readers sake. For me these devastating emotional affairs are torture to the one you love at home. From all the stress, I now take medications for depression and panic attacks. Without notice I would go into a full blown panic attack at any time and for no reason, when it happened in my car one day, I knew I had to get on something. I am now allergic to everything and find little relief. At anytime my whole body will break out in hives and I’ve been to urgent care several times for this. I am now gluten intolerant and spent two years wondering why I was nauseous every day. Meanwhile I have been working really hard to care for our two children and have been helping them through the stress of seeing their mother fall to pieces over this.

    At this point I’d say if my husband loves me at all he’ll let me out of this marriage gracefully.

  7. Hi mark, am so happy I came across this but the sad thing is we the cheated on is the ones that gets to read this. We are the ones trying to find answers to why we going through pains. Well to start with, am from africa, a place where marriage counseling isn’t so known. We get to deal with dis situations ourselves. I just got to know about my husband’s emotional affiar which has turned fully into sexual too. We got married 5years ago and we have 3 kids. When I found out about it I decided to check the mistress up on facebook, I found out they’ve been spending so much time together by the pictures. The phone bills shows they talk to each other almost every 30mins. He spends money and time on this woman. Even on vals day, she was the 1st person my hubby called under my roof. He has been begging me to forgive him but he hasn’t ended the relationship. It’s been from 1 lie to the other. Am soo tired and frustrated and I still can’t believe that he can do dis to me. I even got to know that he buys the same things for us. I have tried my best to make it stop but it’s far from being over. How can he expect me to forgive him when he is still doing this. My problem now is I can’t stop searching and it’s destroying me. I look at the lady’s facebook everytime n’ I get to see more pictures uploaded. I think I need help cause this pain is becoming unbearable for me and it’s affecting my whole life including the kids. I don’t know what to do. I know I need to stop digging but I can’t bring myself to do it. Please how can you help me.

  8. Powerful article Matt – maybe too much so for me at this time – parts of this broke me into a cold sweat.

    My wife had an affair with a much younger man that started about nine months ago. It was her casual attitude towards it that bothered me more than anything.

    As I started getting suspicions something was wrong, I decided to confide to my hair stylist, if only to see if what I suspected might actually be true. She is a very religious woman who comes from a deeply religious family. She started telling me what regularly goes on at her salon – women having similar affairs. Some had become physical, some not.

    What was most bothersome was that they all seemed to have that same casual and cavalier attitude towards it. She told me that almost every one of these women would defend their affairs by saying the same things – almost word for word what my wife was saying.

    In essence, because they had been faithful for (however many years), they were entitled to this, especially since they were being validated in ways they felt they had not been before.

    She told me that she got downright scoffed at, either when she would suggest that the affair was wrong, or even that perhaps what they should do is to bring up the concerns of what they are not feeling (or getting) with their spouses. That was also me.

    I guess I am one of the lucky ones though. At some point, the man decided he didn’t want a future with a woman twice his age. And after she started running into the same realities (read arguments) with him that she had often tried to start with me, they separated.

    But not before I left my job and home and started a new life elsewhere. At some point, she found out where I went, asked to re-join me and begin a new life. And indeed she has – with a new and exciting career path, and a commitment to staying with me that I do believe is sincere.

    Meanwhile, I remain hurt – some days downright miserable. I have been unable to find work, and my wife refuses either to go through some necessary discussions about what happened or to go to some necessary joint counseling. In essence, she now wants to pretend like nothing ever happened.

    I guess what I am asking you is whether I can expect things to change further from here. I have committed to taking some steps to make sure she never again could feel what may have led her to do what she did in the first place. And yes, I have forgiven her.

    And I do understand that only a few months have passed. But I am as anxious as anyone to put this black chapter behind me.

    Thanks for listening – and again for the article.

    • Hi,Tom my name is naima having had an emotional affair I feel like I can offer you some sound and maybe good advice the love I feel for my husband is everlasting dont think that your wife dosent feel guilt or remorseful for her actions bc she does I’m no longer involved in my affair but I still feel the pain I’ve created in my marriage people do things out of impulse sometimes and a greater need for something that they are not getting on the surface my situation was more fated I come from an extremely dysfunctional family were alot of abuse took place my father is Muslim and my mother is American but my dad left my mom n she brought me up in what I believe to be a very neglectful dysfunctional h

      • Home I wittnessed alot of physical abuse in my home alot my husband on the other hand comes from a very loving stable family something I could not relate to at all I’m now just learning to understand and appreciate that kind of love in going through normal marriage problems with my husband I found myself being attracted to this other person I taught it was just a minor attraction that would go away but in meeting this person I found that my childhood had come back to haunt me this person to had been abused as a child and had wittnessed extreme abuse growing up we had a very karmaic but sick attraction to one anthor that has thankfully ended my point in telling you all of this is to let you no that maybe you should investigate further why your wife struck up this affair in the first place it’s not always undying love for this other person that leads you to them are there things you have neglected to understand about your wife that needs to be reconnized I can tell you that your wife loves and is still very much in love with you talk to her and find out the pain she’s masking and try not to have these feeling of mistrust I think your thinking to much about the actually betrayal rather than the actually reasoning behind the betrayal sometimes things are not always as they appear many of my friends taught I had the perfect life family based on how I look and the way I present myself not so please never judge a book by its cover and for any women to cheat on her spouse believe me most times it’s not for calculated reasons it’s probably for deep seated pains that have not come to the surface try to forgive and move on for your wife loves you and wants to be with you and only you I hope this helps lots of blessing to you 🙂

      • Unfortunately, Anima, you have hit on two things that you have found are very powerful. One is that connection people who come from dysfunctional families have towards each other – strange and curious, but very real, as you have learned.

        The other is how your feelings of self-worth from years ago color how you view both your husband and this person who has, shall we say, gotten on your radar.

        In my wife’s case, I have learned that she suffers from something called “attachment disorder” – and maybe “detachment disorder” is a better term. It means that her and her Mom never bonded the way a mother and daughter usually do. She was born right after both a stillborn and a miscarriage – to a Mom who by then was seriously depressed. Dad was never at home (except for the conception part), and relatives were coming into the home to feed the children.

        Whatever else it means, as an adult, it apparently leaves them highly susceptible to affairs. And like you, she found a man who was in a deeply troubling stage of life, who had a lifetime of dysfunction all his own. The prospect of “fixing one another” was almost like a drug for them. At one point, they had actually decided to leave on a (several week) “healing trip”. Considering the stage they were in then, I have no idea what made them finally decide not to do it. It surely would have ended my marriage if they had.

        I guess I have been blessed though on two fronts. First is what I said to you before – something you apparently share – that she did, at some point, choose to return to me. I must admit though that had he himself not broken it off, I have no idea where it would have ended up. And I have now had it admitted to me (by her) that far more took place than she originally admitted to before they finally did part company.

        But the other front is that, while most people of this diagnosis have been down this (affair) front many times, for my wife, this was a first. And while she still will not have the conversations she needs to have, or seek the counseling she needs to seek, she is still with me – and once in awhile seems to understand that there really are people out there who can – and will – genuinely care for and about her.

        I wish you the best. I’d like to think the last few months have allowed you to re-appreciate all your husband is and has been, rather than being focused on what he wasn’t or didn’t do. And remember – yours can still be a happy and fulfilling marriage, no matter where it has been.

  9. Having read this I believed it was very enlightening.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this informative article together.
    I once again find myself spending a significant
    amount of time both reading and commenting.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

  10. Many thanks for sharing this great web page.

  11. Hi Tom,
    This is my first time on this sight and I have to admit it is the most logical and insightful information I have read. I have been with my husband for 20 years and we have 3 kids together. It has really made me want to consider “how my husband is feeling” about his emotional affair, but I think I will need your guidance with this.

    Here is the scenario:
    He didn’t confess his emotional affair, I found out.
    He passed it off as “we were just friends, but I realize I crossed the line and I won’t talk to her ever again”.
    He deleted all their e-mails before I could see them.
    He lied about the phone calls to her.
    He lied about going to see her.
    He told me they e-mailed each other only a couple of times and it was no big deal.
    He lied in answer to every question I asked him.

    I found out he created a secret e-mail address for her.
    I found out the relationship was 6 years long and with his ex girlfriend from before me.
    I found out she never had his cell #, but did have his work #.
    I found out there were regular phone calls to her. 2-3 times a month and conversions lasting 30 minutes to an hour, I don’t know how often she called him.
    I found out he has seen her more than once.
    I found out the relationship consisted of general conversation, flirting, sexual reminiscing about their past, complaints of me in our marriage, allot of “wow, we really understand each other” crap and “hugs” at the end of e-mails. just all the typical emotional affair scenarios.

    Here are my questions.
    He is constantly professing his love to me, and says he was so stupid to do this to us. Can a person be “stupid” for 6 years?
    He admitted to asking himself at times in the 6 years if She is really what he wants, but always chose me. Do you think he loves her?
    He did say he was seeing “red flags” right from the beginning, Why couldn’t he stop?
    Is his relationship with her responsible for the changes in our marriage?
    Why is he trying to hide everything from me, instead of coming clean?
    Why does he get really mad and defensive when I ask him questions about his relationship?
    How do I know if he is worth the emotional battle of staying together?

    There is more, his behavior towards me after discovery day…but you can let me know if these details would be helpful.
    I am finally willing to look at things the way he feels them. I realize it will give me a better perspective about how I feel.
    Hope to hear from you soon

    • First of all, let me commend you for having the willingness to write about your travails on this site. And thanks even more for being willing to reach out to one of us. Indeed, your writing reminds me once again that we who have watched our spouses go through this have much we can share in terms of what to expect and ultimately what to do.

      There is the side of me that is shaking my head incredulously at what I was reading in your post. I say that because I have seen this episode played out over and over again (as I have gained more and more research into this topic). One of the things that REALLY has captured my attention is that virtually every couple I’ve seen who is going through this has been married between 20 and 30 years. I could comment more on that aspect, but instead will answer your questions one by one.

      +The “stupid for six years” question. I think you know the answer to that. As I see it, he has had no REAL motivation to change his behavior. And since he likes “having it both ways” he continues seeing her. I’ll say it this way. I have a cousin who is frequently pulled over by local police for speeding (near where he lives which isn’t close to where I live). He has learned that if he says to the cop, “I just had my head in my (rear),” he usually gets off. Trouble is, he then has NO motivation to change his behavior. Your husband is doing the same thing. And while I have no intention of blaming or shaming you, since you desire normalcy in your life and marriage, each time he says that (and whatever else), you so WANT to believe it. Both he and your husband need a much stronger lesson that there are terrible and lasting consequences for being that stupid.

      +Do I think he loves this woman? He loves the aspects of what he receives from her, that he gets in addition to what he receives from you. Most of these men that are doing this have no intention of leaving their marriage and spouse, or they would have done so long ago. But the woman in question (who must be OK just being that occasional extra), regardless of what has and has not happened, reaches him on various levels of emotion and feeling. What and why I can’t be completely sure based on what you have written. But he loves the idea of getting to keep his marriage and reputation but having an additional “play thing.”

      +The “red flags” question. On the assumption that he is telling you the truth that he has not actually been totally intimate with this woman (you know what I mean), still he knows that what he is doing is “playing with fire.” But in the interest of maximizing what he believes he can receive from two women, most men like this will go as far as they can while convincing themselves that as long as they don’t actually “do the deed”, they won’t – and don’t have to -stop. Still, doing what he is doing with someone who is not his wife still flashes something inside of him. That tells me there is still a conscience in there somewhere. That will be the key to getting this to end once and for all.

      +The “changes in marriage” and whether the relationship with her is the reason for that question. A marriage is and should be a constantly changing relationship. Each shared event in life changes who each of you are and hence changes your marital relationship. That is a normal part of each marriage. And yet, as some spouses see the newlywed quality of their marriage fall farther and farther behind them, they yearn for that which they once had. An affair allows you to have the enjoyment and fulfillment of a member of the opposite sex without the burden of the years of shared experiences. Sadly, what this means is that, whether or not the presence of this woman is responsible for changes in your marriage, this experience has now become a part of it. My marriage, as a comparison, will forever now be colored by the time my wife spent with a man twenty years younger than she is. The same will be true with yours. The good news is that a couple can grow from this in ways they may have never before seen possible.

      +Why is he hiding things? Very simply, because he still has things to hide. Make no mistake – when the relationship with her is truly over, he will feel so broken and so bad over what he did to your marriage that he will stop at nothing to regain your trust, including allowing you to have access to all things necessary to make sure you can feel assured that all contact with her really has ended and for good. It is obvious (and I think to both of us) that has not yet happened. As much as it pains me to say this, you must proceed on the assumption that absolutely nothing has changed in his relationship with her. Right now, he is still playing you, trying hard to hold on to both ends of his dream reality. That has to change.

      +Why does he get mad when you ask him questions? Because the little bit of conscience he has left in him knows he is still hiding things. When that is no longer the case, you will find that he will, fully, truthfully and tearfully answer all questions you have. For now, he must be treated as someone who is incapable of telling the truth. You must adopt a policy of giving him only the trust he can handle – and defensiveness like this shows he can’t handle any of it at this time.

      +The emotional battle of staying together question. Again, I am pained to say this, but the only way you are going to know this is to put it to the ultimate test. I am not one to ever suggest divorce, even to use as a threat. But I do suggest that you find ways to start emotionally moving on from him. This is when you start building a new life for yourself. Join a book club, a health club, a church, a support group, find a new hobby. Start investing all your life into your children. In short, prepare for life without him. Quite, quite often, these men will see this life and start feeling incredibly alone knowing they aren’t a part of it. At that time, you will then take the power back in terms of his actions. Because make no mistake – whether he is being intimate with her or not, you are still sharing much more of your life with another woman on his behalf. For a marriage to survive, that HAS TO STOP. But if you follow these steps, in short order, you will know whether he will be worth keeping or not – and to act accordingly.

      My heart bleeds for you! Keep us posted what is happening. Feel free to write anytime. All the best to you!

  12. This is the best writing on the subject of affairs. It is about feeling validated… And can become a drug-like addiction.

    • I know this is now quite an old post, April. But you are absolutely right. People both in and out of marriages – and, OK, in and out of affairs – are looking for that “validation” more than anything else. And sometimes it seems to be easier to get some level of it through an affair rather than working through the marital issues to get what one once got out of that marriage.

      The biggest question, of course, is whether both parties in a marriage will commit to doing what needs to be done – and on an on-going basis? Some affairs assume the answer has to be “no” – whether they assume it of their spouse, or take this route to avoid it themselves. And I will admit that I have seen too many broken marriages where the heart of the break-up was one person (usually much more than the other, though not always) just does not want to do … anything to fix a broken marriage.

      In my own case, even though my wife’s affair with a much-younger man supposedly ended about 22 months ago, she has still refused to take any steps to help strengthen a nearly-broken marriage. And I will admit, it is getting harder to be patient, to try to open doors for such rebuilding to take place, or even to care anymore.

      I still have no interest in taking “the affair route” my wife took. But I will admit that the prospect of validation seems to be becoming a distant memory in my life. I pray things are going better for you.

      All the best to you!

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