Yep. Emotional affairs. They are real. They have real perpetrators and even more: real victims. Husbands, wives, fiancees, boyfriends and girlfriends. We all have the capacity to have an emotional affair. Would we recognize it for what it is, though? Would we recognize it before it’s too late?
I’ve been cheated on. Repeatedly. In fact, I believe I would be accurate saying that I have been cheated on by every male I have been in a serious relationship with, except Farm Boy. And maybe for him, it was because no one else would have him. What can I say…I had just come out of a relationship based on control and violence, I wanted a wimp. (sorry, Fred)
I’m a shit magnet: I already told you all that! But I’ve discovered that somehow, not fucking her makes it worse. Much worse.
I admit, I’m not a sexual being. I could take or leave sex and have always felt this way. When I got cheated on, I could justify it to myself that, well, I’m not big on sex and he is and he needed to satisfy some baser part of him; it was purely physical – it wasn’t about me.
I was very good at separating physicality and emotionality: I could remove myself from that equation and move forward. It was unemotional, somehow, and I could accept it without taking anything away from me as a person. My emotions were still intact. Ha! Live and learn.
Then there was The Hunk. The Hunk didn’t fuck her either. He had affairs with two women online. When I discovered the half-naked photos of him (he, who after 5 years together still would not undress in front of me and had to go HOME to take a SHIT!!!) and the seductive photos of them on MY computer…well, to say I ended our relationship is a mild way of putting it.
To be honest, I didn’t rant or rave. I didn’t scream, yell, throw dishes or really any reaction. In fact, I think it was my non-reaction that made him think I’d get over it the next day. After all, he hadn’t fucked her, had he? In his mind, he wasn’t unfaithful.
But in my mind, what he did was far worse than fucking another woman.
What he did was betray my trust, and betray me emotionally.
I know in my head (and possibly my heart) that most men equate sex with love. In The Hunk’s case, he was like me: “asexual”. During our relationship, I absolutely adored him and I felt incredibly passionate about him, but because the sex act didn’t do it for either of us, our relationship wasn’t built on great sex. So, it never occurred to me that our ‘wonderful’ relationship, built on mutual friendship, interest, values, intelligence and so on, could ever be victim of an affair. Neither of us cared about sex, so how could be possible it, right?
Finding those pictures on my desktop was a wake up call. I can’t describe the sensation. Physical. Very physical. I ended it quietly and immediately. He was shocked and I don’t know if I ever did explain the “why” to him. He’s a big boy, and a smart boy, though, I’m sure he figured it out eventually.
Perhaps it is this prior experience being emotionally cheated on that has made me so unable to understand how I let this happen; why I didn’t see it earlier for what it was.
An old friend, a woman, entered my husband’s life last Summer. She was going through emotional turmoil with her own husband. Apparently, she had found out her husband had been cheating on her for 10 years with the same woman. Man! That would beyond suck.
My husband is a nice guy. He is the kind of guy who hates to see someone in pain and likes to feel helpful. He wanted to provide emotional support to this old friend of his who was going through such a terrible time. She kept saying “are you sure your wife doesn’t mind?”. At first, I didn’t mind! I encouraged him to be there for his friend. I trusted him!
It was after about the tenth time she had said this, that I heard my warning bells going off. Did he really not see she was interested in him? But I kept quiet. After all: I trusted my husband!
Then her daughter called. In no uncertain terms, she advised him that he needed to STOP talking to her mother. She explained that her mother was “needy” and that he was taking on the role of “knight in shining armour” whether he intended to or not and her mother would get the wrong idea. After all, isn’t he a married man? How would his wife feel about this?
Okay! Now I’m listening and my warning system is freaking out. This was the proof that my intuition about her was right.
I’ve never asked my husband for a single thing during our 10 years. Truly. Other than to support me in my own decisions, nothing. I couldn’t stand idly by. I rationally explained my concerns, including the evidence provided by the woman’s daughter, and asked him to stop speaking to her for my sake. I stated clearly that it was clear SHE wanted more, even if his intentions were ‘pure’.
“There’s nothing going on”
“We’re just friends”
But, he said he would stop if it was bothering me. He didn’t.
He didn’t. He didn’t stop! He kept speaking to her. He kept texting her. He kept Facebooking her.
I found out.
I was confused.
I was angry.
I was scared.
I was HURT.
Why? Why is she so special that he won’t do this one thing for me??
When I confronted him, he just didn’t see what he was doing “wrong”. He really didn’t see the big deal. I tried to explain why I was bothered by this and ultimately said:
“I see her as a threat to our marriage.”
That should have been the end of it in my mind. It wasn’t the end for him. In fact, he continued to communicate with her for a whole year. The communications became more and more intimate. He started calling her ‘beautiful’ and ‘sexy’ when he wrote to her to “boost her self esteem”. He started asking her advice about us because he was worried we were getting a little rocky (really? I wonder why we were rocky?).
But he hid it.
He hid that he was still in touch with her. Intentionally.
And that was the crux of the problem.
In May, I discovered again (yes, I do see that I am writing “again!”) that he had not stopped. It dawned on me then, that whether he would allow those words or not: he was having an affair!
I had picked up his cell phone to text my step daughter that we would be a little late arriving. Right there. Front and centre: “Good morning beautiful! Heading to [daughter’s] for the day so I’ll have to talk to you later. Have a great day. XOXO”
Stunned. Shocked. I scrolled up.
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t….well, anything. I couldn’t think! I just couldn’t….ANYTHING! I was numb. Totally, completely numb.
Then the tears started to roll down my cheek. To see those words written to another woman….. But my children were in the car so I endured the pain as silently as I could. He’s not blind or deaf though and when he bugged to know what was up, I showed him what I saw on his phone; he knew immediately that he screwed up BIG TIME.
I just couldn’t figure out what it was about her that kept him “going back”. At least it was ‘going back’ in my mind. This man who said he was madly in love with me still…10 years later….madly in love with me. Then….why?
I found myself evolving….or devolving, really. Trust deteriorated rapidly. I found myself checking over his shoulder when he was on his phone. I tried to trip him up when clarifying his plans. If he said he was going to hockey I would ask another person about their schedule behind his back. I couldn’t make love without worrying he was thinking of her, so I just wouldn’t let him touch me. I would stalk him a little on Facebook and so on. I hated myself for it. That is not who I am. But at no point during this time, had I EVER spoken to this woman. Never! In spite of my more evil impulses to go directly to the source of the problem and “resolve” it, I haven’t.
I admit, I still don’t fully understand why he just couldn’t let her go and, trust me: I’ve tried! I think it is all this running around in my own head trying to understand it that is why I say this kind of affair is so much worse. I’ve spent more energy on this, more tears, more anger, more sadness and hurt and, and, and. As I said, in the past I simply dismissed the others as over-sexed assholes for cheating and ended the relationship. In this case, it wasn’t the sex act, but the emotional support he got from her. But that’s MY role in his life, not hers. She was stealing my place in his life.
But he didn’t fuck her! In the end, she had become his emotional affair; a term he had never heard of, let alone considered. He didn’t even see the transition from “helping my friend” to “crossing the line”.
I love my husband. More than I’ve ever loved another grown up. I love him dearly, but I do see him clearly: He’s a stubborn ass.
Even though she made him feel good about himself when talking to her. Even though she was very attentive and complimentary. Even though she would tell him he was right and I was wrong; it wasn’t that he wanted to be with her:
it’s that he didn’t want me to tell him he couldn’t!
Some might say I’m lucky. In my case, my husband’s emotional affair was because he is stubborn and not because he had real interest or a crush on another woman. He stubbornly wanted to prove to all of us that we didn’t know what we were talking about. That they were, as he always said: “just friends”.
In the midst of my emotional turmoil, I am rarely eloquent or literate. But I did manage to forward him a number of articles about emotional affairs. At the end of reading them, he was ashamed and truly remorseful. That was when our healing began. He understood and accepted responsibility for his emotional affair. He really had not intended things go as far as they did. He really had not intended to completely destroy the foundation of trust and friendship that we had built our marriage on…..but he did do that.
Counselling will help us to heal from this and rebuild trust.
Of all the articles, we read, the one thing I found to be the overriding sentiment: the cheater doesn’t think they cheated because there was no sex act.
In our case, it is true: he didn’t fuck her! But he did cheat; and he accepts responsibility for his own actions (and stupid stubbornness) now.
I’m not willing to allow my marriage to end after 10 years because my husband is a stubborn ass. He can be truly selfish and self-centred (can’t we all?) but I also truly believe he did not set out to hurt me. And it is only because of his intent that I am willing to try to work through this together. As one article said: “I’ve come to realize my love for him and our children is greater than my pride”. I guess I really am one of the lucky ones.
There is life after an emotional affair. Here are a few of the many, many articles on the subject that we, personally, found helpful: