How Dr Phil Defines an Emotional “Affair of the Heart”

What’s the difference between an emotional affair or innocent friendship – and how to you tell? These signs of an “affair of the heart” are from Dr Phil McGraw. Here are the basics of emotional affairs, including what they are, why people commit emotional infidelity, and how to recover from emotional cheating.

According to Dr Phil, every problem in marriage can represent several other problems that you don’t see. “For every rat you see, there are 50 you don’t,” he says. For every sign of infidelity, there may be more signs that you’re missing.

On his episode about emotional cheating, Dr Phil featured a couple called Amanda and Randy. During their 11 years of marriage Amanda had five emotional affairs at work and with various men she met. Dr Phil dissected her reasons for seeking connection emotionally outside her marriage, and described how to protect intimate relationships from being damaged by emotional cheating.

It’s an emotional affair — not just an innocent friendship — when there are:

  • Long phone conversations, emails, and online discussions
  • Love letters
  • Meetings and conversations that are kept secret from the partner
  • Connections, confessions, and discussions that are kept secret

“A single moment can change us forever,” writes Shirley Glass in Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity. “After you learn that you’ve been betrayed, you think in terms of the time before and the time after. The private calamity of discovering that your partner has become someone you don’t recognize and has lied to you as if you were an enemy blows your secure world to pieces. You no longer trust your eyes to see, your brain to comprehend, or your heart to feel what is true.”

Reasons people have emotional affairs:

  • Infatuation addiction – they like the “tingly feeling” of meeting and connecting with someone new
  • Fear of intimacy – they don’t want to be vulnerable with their partner
  • Desire for new attractions and conquests
  • Attraction to power and exhilaration
  • Rebellion against the marriage or relationship
  • Emotional fixation at a teenage level (emotional immaturity)

To learn more, read Innocent Friendship or Emotional Affair? 4 Ways to Know.

The good news, Dr Phil says, is that an affair of the heart doesn’t have anything to do with the spouse. This is also the bad news, he says. An affair of the heart doesn’t have anything to do with the spouse, which means he or she is left out in the cold.

People who have emotional affairs have their own personal reasons, which have little to do with their partner or spouse. This doesn’t absolve the partner of all responsibility; it means that the partner may have little control over the reasons for seeking emotional connection outside the primary relationship or marriage.

How Dr Phil Defines an Emotional "Affair of the Heart"
An Emotional “Affair of the Heart” – Dr Phil

Tips for overcoming “affairs of the heart”:

  • Don’t discuss the affair in front of the children, family, or friends
  • Recognize that there is a point at which you have to let go of someone you love
  • Protect your children from toxic relationships
  • Acceptance on the part of the person having the emotional affair that he/she needs help
  • Decide what you want and make a commitment to doing it

Sometimes, one partner thinks the friendship is innocent – there’s nothing wrong with having lunch or coffee with his opposite-sex friend. All they do is talk, and neither are attracted to the other. And he may be right: the friendship is totally innocent.

But if the partner is upset or threatened by the friendship, Dr Phil says it has to end. We need to do all we can to help our partners feel supported, loved, and secure – even if that means letting go of innocent friendships.

If you know that you – or your partner – is involved in an affair of the heart, learn why it happened so you can prevent it from happening again. Read How Does an Innocent Friendship Turn Into an Emotional Affair?

Have you or your partner had an emotional affair? How did it affect your relationship? Your thoughts – big and little – are welcome below.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

45 thoughts on “How Dr Phil Defines an Emotional “Affair of the Heart””

  1. I’m sitting here still in shock and disbelief after discovering that my partner of 5 years has had an emotional affair with a ‘friend’ from work (for about 2 months now). Discovering the betrayal and the lying (especially when I asked him directly about it…and only admitting it when I provided proof..after which he got mad at me for snooping) is still breaking my heart. It’s like my/our ‘comfortable’ world (I thought) as we knew it, has ended…and I don’t know what to do…I’m so confused and hurting! He has agreed to go to counseling with me, but has also said that he loves me but it’s different…more like a friend…whereas with her it’s more romantic. She is 30 years younger, and he realized that it probably would not work now, so he has told her that they have to ‘end it’ (not what he had intended to do before I found out but more realistic in the long run) because he doesn’t want to give up the familiarity, comfort, and security of our life. But…I can tell that he is sort of partronizing me…for now…and has even said that it’s just human nature to cheat and so he can’t really promise anything down the in life…no one can. I’m just so confused! Am I crazy to want committment..or to think that committment is crucial AND a choice…even if we are just partners (not married). He thinks that there is a difference between couples who are married and have kids together and couples who are ‘just’ living together, even if it is/has been a very compatible-and-happy living together. Is he just giving himself an out? I know that I love him…and want to believe that he will truly try to commit to ‘us’ but I’m scared. This whole ordeal has been one of the most painful I have ever gone through….not to mention that I have been soley responsible for my mother for the last 10 months (she goes between nursing home and hospital) after she fell while walking her dog and developed a massive brain bleed and has lost all mental cognition and many subsequent infections. I just feel so alone and scared…and truly overwhelmed right now. I am going to counseling…individually…and next week as a couple…but I don’t even know what I want any more. I just want the pain to go away..and I’m even drawing at straws here by even posting on this site..but at least it’s something. If there is anyone who has any ideas, words of wisdom, advice, please, please let me know. Thanks!

  2. I was on a 3 year relationship with this guy. Everything was going well or so i thought. He started having his new ”friend” a coworker in his life. He did have a emotional affair with her and now its progressing. He left me without any warnigs, he never talked to me about his ”needs” per say because he was opening to her instead of me. He took me for granted and made makes me wonder how could he move on so fast? His family is in disbelief what its happening right now, they been together for atleats 2 weeks now. With his new love he cheated, lied, and hid her from his family, and some other stuff like now he has a temper now.
    The thing i cant process is why he couldnt communicate ?And why the sudden change in behaviour? And why he dint try to ”fix” the relationship he had with me, he ”was” in love with me?

    Im not getting back together with him at all, I guess im just left with confusion. Since he just broke up with me after cheating he chose the affair. Also i dont know if this has anything to do with, I am his first gilrfriend and his first serious relationship. Part of me believes he just trying to see whats out there, and that he just only prioritized his needs overall.

    If anyone has any positive comment please

    1. Mia, this sounds like immaturity, this is why maturity is such an important quality in a partner. A mature person is not lead by their emotions, which by their very nature are fleeting and irrational. A mature person knows why they value the person they are with, and they know a monogamous relationship requires equal sacrifice. Mature people have something they know must be protected, and they don’t cheat or mislead their partners. A mature relationship is one where both partners know instinctively that opposite sex friends are not to be sought or maintained. This is because sometimes… feelings just happen, and that’s why mature people don’t even toy with the possibility.

      Yes, maturity is rare, and we don’t see enough of it. You need to look for a partner who can bring out your feelings, but also has enough character to be worthy of your love. Don’t ever assume all men are perpetual teenagers driven by egoism and cheep thrills, or that strong confident men don’t come in mature packages. However even a mature man will someday disappoint you, this is inevitable since we’re imperfect creatures, but it’s how a man responds that informs you of his character.

      Earlier in life you only find boys, and yes some will cheat, though some have the capability of becoming a man. Unfortunately sometime this transformation happens on an unfortunate schedule, or with a different partner.

      As for what you do now, a perpetual girl doesn’t learn from this, and she chases the exact same type of boy. She will eventually announce that all men are cheaters. A women definitely has learned more about herself, and looks for love in different places, and knows what traits are worthy of her love.

  3. Took me for granted

    My now ex-girlfriend of 7 months (broke up 2 weeks ago) is having an emotional affair with someone she met right around thanksgiving at Jury duty ( still doing it due to a very long trial). I asked her about this guy and she tells me hes just a friend and they just go to lunch…I tell her thats kinda weird im just finding out but ok…she says the guy is married soo theres nothing to worry about…he talks about his wife frequently…. I didn’t want things to end but i started to feel betrayed and mad that she was being so selfish… Shes also my neighbor two houses away. She bought the house in April last year and I chased her down the street when she was going to get her mail. I have done anything she asked of me. She did tons of stuff for me too. We called ourselves the dream team. Early January i felt used and we broke up. I walked over and told her to come outside real quick and told her how i felt and that I feel like i lost her and we should separate. She looked happy we were separating and just agreed its probably best before things get worse….I was in TOTAL SHOCK she didnt look upset and looked relieved while I was choking back tears. A day goes by and I havent heard from her…I blocked her Facebook. I was soo hurt and mad and could not stop thinking about WHY??…I am still deeply in love with her even when i try to go back to my old self I cant…..I’m devastated and completely destroyed right now………Should I tell his wife about the emotional affair?

  4. Not so Black and White

    I’m sorry but there are other reasons why people do emotional cheating. One of them being they simply don’t want to be in the relationship anymore, or the relationship is unhealthy for them or their partner, OR the relationship is abusive and they have found someone else to take care of them (i.e. physical abuse). I know someone who left a physically abusive relationship to be with the guy she emotionally ‘cheated’ with, and they are now engaged.

    I still have residual guilt because I emotionally cheated on my ex with the partner I am with now.. my relationship with my ex had gotten to the point (and I was lying to myself about this) where I didn’t really care about talking to him anymore. He was angry and had substance abuse / psychological issues. All I did was talk to and confide in an old friend who exchanged numbers with me a few months earlier (nothing sexual).

    I am grateful that I found this man and that — even though it’s not the right way to find a new relationship or to leave an old one — I was able to connect with someone who is better suited to me. So emotional cheating really did lead to something positive for me. That’s why I’m saying that this case is not so black and white.

    I understand lots of people emotionally cheat in situations where they shouldn’t (i.e. a loving, caring partner who they connect with). But I find these reasons are too narrow to address the scope of the situations. I do agree that you should bring your relationship problems up with your spouse and not a ‘friend’ but when you feel like you’re being shut down every time you bring up an issue or feel emotionally ill at ease in your relationship (i.e. nervous or stressed around them) then sometimes there is no one to bring them up with.

  5. I just found out my husband has been having an emotional affair with a co-worker. We have a 2 year old and I’m 4.5 months pregnant. He says she’s just a friend and he didn’t mean to hurt me, and he wants us to work it out. However, I feel so betrayed and like I can’t trust anything he says. I told him last year I didn’t feel comfortable with her, and yet he continued in secret, sharing intimate details of our relationship with her and telling her how beautiful and important she is..”you don’t even know.” I want what’s best for my children, and ultimately happy mom is what’s best, right? Because I really don’t feel like I love him anymore (we had issues of his alcoholism before), after years of lies and betrayal. I guess therapy is the next best step, even if I can’t afford it, even if I don’t have anyone to watch my toddler.

  6. Hi I am really confused. I don’t know if I am having an emotional affair. This guy and I started being friends around the same time my boyfriend and I got together. No feelings nothing barely talk. Well in the last year we got closer. Yes I told my partner how close we were and how I told him a lot. I have had some really rough times and my partner kind of gets it but doesn’t. My partner does not feel threatned. We talked every day maybe for a month if that but it died down. I felt guilty because I was happy and of course we never fought because we weren’t around eacother a lot nor does him doing anytging bother me. I confessed to my boyfriend and I said I don’t know if it is emotional cheating and he said no not at all. I just don’t know. My friend said since I am talked to them like once a week it as bad. We stopped talking for almost year. I found out I might have cancer and we talked one and met up. I can’t stop feeling horrible. What do I do

  7. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for sharing your experience with emotional affair, Chris! It takes alot of courage to share what you’re going through, and I know your comments will help other women cope with “affairs of the heart.”

    May your relationship be blessed with joy and peace, and may the suspicion of emotional cheating be a thing of the past. I pray you and your boyfriend are able to move past this, learn from it, and use this experience to build a better, stronger, healthier relationship!

    What have you and he learned from this experience? If you have advice for other couples who are dealing with emotional affairs or “affairs of the heart”, I welcome your thoughts.


  8. I was dating a guy from another country, we had met in person but the rest was long distance. He was wonderful from the start, always writing to me every day and being lovely. He wanted a relationship with me but we eased into one over a few months. When I wanted to make the relationship official on fb for everyone to see, he didn’t want to and said it was because he had never been in a serious relationship before. I had to give him an ultimatum because many of my friends were telling me that it was suspicious. Finally, he agreed to make the relationship official.
    After a few months he moved to my country and I moved in with him. He was always talking to a female friend by Skype, every night sometimes, and she would hound him, calling him non stop and acting like she was desperate to talk to him.
    She had a boyfriend as well.
    I got suspicious and asked him what they talk about, he would get very defensive and say that I’m being jealous and asking too much. He once admitted that they talk about their sex lives, and relationships and just random things.
    I saw a comment she wrote to him that sounded very flirty so I stayed suspicious but tried to let him talk to her. He would always use the excuse that he missed home and he had given up a lot to come to be with me, and that I didn’t appreciate it – which wasn’t true on my part and I felt I showed him in many ways by giving back to him.
    One night he had sex with me and then wanted to go on Skype straight away because he had arranged to talk with the female friend. He was always saying it was she who wanted to talk to him and that he didn’t need to talk to her.
    I asked him to let me be in the room while he was on Skype with her. He said no because I would be looking jealous and suspicious.
    I let him go outside to talk.
    I looked up her profile on fb and saw that MY boyfriend had liked every one of her profile pictures for the last couple of months, all except the ones of her and her boyfriend. I knew that wasn’t normal since he didn’t even like all of mine.
    The next day, I confronted him, I said it wasn’t normal to talk to a female friend every night by video chat, and that they both were in relationships with other people so either she was flirting for his attention or was having problems in her own relationship and wanting his attention.
    He argued with me saying, “You don’t know her, she’s not like that.”
    I said, “I know females. And there’s no other reason she’d be wanting to talk to you every day like that unless something is up.”
    He got very mad at me and said, ” If you don’t trust me, why am I here?”
    I said, “What is it about her that makes you want to talk to her every day, even more than your family??”
    And he said, “I don’t know.”
    So I said, “Well that’s not a good answer.”
    And he said, “Deal with it.”
    So I said, “Well, it sucks to be you, having to sit by, waiting for her because she has a boyfriend. That’s what it seems like”
    And he said, “Oh yes, you know everything.” Sarcastically. But I knew he knew it was true.
    We fought some more and he decided to end it. He said things wouldn’t change, he was still going to be friends with her and I would still be jealous about girls.
    What hurts the most is that he CHOSE another girl, a “friend”, over me.
    And then, he must’ve talked to her about it and said why we had broken up, something happened between them, and she must’ve rejected him because they are no longer “friends” on fb and he wants me back.

  9. Sometimes the best way to figure out if you can save your marriage — or if you even want to be in this relationship anymore — is to go for individual counseling. There are so many things to think about, from “how can I start over?” to “will anyone ever love me again?” Those questions need to be worked through in a safe, private place with someone you trust.

    That said, however, the best way to pick up the pieces of your broken heart is to take it one step at a time. What is the first thing you need to take care of? Maybe it’s something practical, like finding a place to live. Maybe it’s calling a lawyer or womens’ help line and asking for help. Maybe it’s an emotional thing you need to do, such as start working on your self-confidence and self-image, so you can become whole again.

    My prayer for you, Brandy, is that you find peace with the future. May you trust God to take care of you, and know that He loves you more than any man could ever love you. May you give the broken pieces of your heart and life to Him, and find the peace that surpasses all understanding. I pray that you find wholeness and security and comfort…not in any man or woman, but in your Creator. I also pray you are open to accepting help from people, books, websites, and places that you wouldn’t normally think would be helpful. I will keep you in my prayers as you move forward in your life, from a place of security, love, and peace. May your journey be lighter and easier than you think — and may you take the first step right now by reaching out for help in a tangible way. May you find the right counselor, women’s help center, or help line to guide you as you start your journey towards healing and recovery…and a new life!. Amen.


  10. I know where to start, I’m 25. I gave up my school, moved away from family and got married. Gave up everything for a man I believed to be the world to me. I petitioned him for citizenship and soon after things changed or maybe I did. All we do is argue now. He’s even admitted to hating me but loves me. My friends and family say he just used me, even those of the same culture say so. But he claims he didn’t and that he loves me. His family and friends disrespected me by calling me names or trying to touch me. I know its over but can’t believe this is the man I married. He lied to me so hard core that I don’t know who he is anymore. Was this always what he was out for or does he love me at all. So I tested him, I said can you please list a few things to the reason why you love me. But all he said was I love all the physical aspects of you, which made me feel like wtf your just attracted to me and using me. So I started noticing myself seeking elsewhere for attention but never got physical. I am scared and hurt because before this man there was another who dropped me when I got diagnosed with cervical cancer. That man was my ex husband and then I remarried and married my husband of two years Ron. But I know I’m young but I’m broken. I have been destroyed and used and who is going to love me now? I am confused on what to do now… Where do I pick up the pieces to my broken life? Where to start?

  11. Where do I begin?Ive been married for 13years and am a recovering addict to opiates (painkillers)Ive been clean for 9 months and proud of it however my hubby is a truck driver only for 17months which he was out of state i have two daughters they are 9,10 back to my hubby he would be gone working 5 to 12 days which was fine however he always turned his cell phone off as soon as he was at home he came up with a pathetic lie about the battery being old to save it thats why he turned it off that raised questions with me so i guess about 2 months ago i looked threw his phone and found a number to a singlesline i confronted him he completely lost it got defensive shoved me grabbed me by the back of the neck and said he only did it to see if i was spying on him well i believed him or let him think i did well 3 weeks ago about midnight i came downstairs to get pepto and noticed his phone vibrating there was a text message a pic of some woman i didnt freak out i did but he didnt no or see it so i called this girl and had her convinced i knew her name and address and to be a women and tell me the truth thankfully she did she told me the name of the singlesline well i tried to call it but she didnt remember the mailbox number he had so i got online typed in the singlesline typed in his age,city and state we live in and wouldnt u no it he had a audio recording saying he was going to get a divorce talked about my kids etc so i saved this audio to my phone i text him y he is at work he literally denied it for the whole day on his ride home from work he called 30 times which i ignored so he finally came home and i played the audio he was so nice then claimed he did this 3 years ago idk exactly when it was so to make a long story short he apologized and i am working on my marriage but how do u really trust the one person who swore he would never hurt me and he hurt me worse than anyone has in m,y life im trying its very difficult he doesnt want to go to counseling he thinks the counselor will agree with me which is total bs he just doesnt want to open up about it if i bring it up he makes me feel like i am the one who did something wrong he gets mad and walks away how do i get over this my kids no something is wrong they told me they want me to be happy and not see me cry and to get a divorce cause they are sick of the fighting so i have became mute about this ive bought 400 worth of spyware to put on his cell and laptop and he got a driving job where is at home everynight i just dont what to do and i want to no how many women he talked to what they talked about etc im driving myself nuts plz help if you can in love and married but completely ALONE!:(

  12. I have also found that my partner has been having an emotional affair with someone he met at work. There are frequent calls and texts between them. He will leave the house when off from work for a few hours. He says there is no physical affair between them, just he needed to have the attention that was not provided with us. There is no problem with the physical part of our life, he is crazt attracted that way. He’s afraid I will go back to the person that did not meet his emotional needs, and is afraid to give up this woman.
    How do you think things will work or not work? He says he loves e, and is happy with the changes I have made. I just don’t know.

  13. Hi Connie .. i feel so sad reading your message .. i have been in a limbo state in my life my partner was having an emotional relationship has i thought in 2007 only a few months living together waiting for him to sell his house and our daughter being ill i finally felt releived that we could be happy . But a few months i was feeling abit concerned about our relationship . i realised there was a text but my partner put it under a mans name and there was a kiss on the end nothin intimate but the kiss on the end i got suspicious . I confronted him and he said it’s bob and it’s a mis type he made me believe every word and i said sorry .. i have suffered before and he knows that he is my third partner he is a caring man but can be firtatious . Then a few weeks after the phone rang when i was in bed hearing a womens voice i thought it might be family has he works with all men . i said who is it it’s a woman and he said shhhh .. stupid me i kept quiet he went to work and me puzzled why his he lying .. so then i confronted him yet again lies . after a few weeks i see a text ” good i’m glad she’s lucky to have you ” i question what that meant he said it wasn’t for him . i asked him to phone the num and he said no at first then he did but i couldn’thear what she was saying . so i grabbed the phone and said what was that text she said ok i’ll stop phoing and texting him then .. but for years now i still think there was something more . so i pretended to be my partner and text that works num and said happy new year 2012 . and she said happy new year . then she said who is it i said steve and i said i remember our kisses and cuddles and she said didn’t think you’d remember and she said it must have been 2005 i was engaged to him and found out he asked her to his house on valentines day he told her he had a g/f but we didn’t live together but what hurts they went to bed and he didn’t have respect and neither did she imagine what she must have thought about what he thought about me .. i look at what he did here and really no differnece but they had intimacy but he tells me they never did anything but just kiss has if it’s nothing . W hat i’m trying to say i think we women are kind caring and that’s what they like feel protected but they don’t really care what they put us though they look at us as weak i am still here feeling weak . i do feel i want him to see her and i want to feel like i’m not invisable and i want him to make her look as small has what i felt .. i hope you can be strong perhaps you ought to think about sepearating from one another if counselling doesn’t work .. did he say he would go to counselling or was it your idea . as me it’s been me trying but i feel has if i have lived a false life with a person i don’t know .. i wish you all the luck let me know how your getting on sue

  14. Dear Connie, I empathize with you. I am a single woman, never married and I am in a career where I see these types of problems. I hope your husbamd realizes how devoted you are to him and he needs to be careful to avoid any flirty behavior. Maybe couples counseling will help.

  15. My husband with me 15yrs all together the last 3yrs he got in touch with a childhood friend who he had many conversations with. When I approached him about the facebook messages txt messages and bbm’s and phone calls he kept saying were just friends I proceeded to ask him not to talk to her he said he wouldn’t stop. So I went ahead and wrote a letter to her husband. Now he’s upset and wants to press charges on me.. For making him aware of there affair

  16. Hi Connie. You are not crazy! Sounds like your situation is making you crazy…:( The things you want are what a person who wants a healthy relationship wants and well your guy doesn’t seem to be providing you with what you need. When someone is trying to hide something that usually when they get upset about snooping. And your gut lead you to what you needed to know about what he has been doing so, trust yourself. Your feelings are trying to tell you what u need to know to protect yourself. I wish you the best:)

  17. Hi,

    My husband was supposed to get married to this girl in 2008, but things didn’t work out and she got married to someone else in Feb 2009. Co-incidentally, my husband and I met for the first time on the day this girl got married. The same year, in Aug, we got married and have had a happy marriage. I had no problems with him keeping in touch with her as she was happily married too and they were good friends.
    Last week, my life was shattered, when I found messages on gtalk between my husband and this woman, talking about the time when they were together. My husband revealed that he still thinks about the time they made love and that he would never forget their first kiss. This devastated me and when I confronted him, he got mad at me and accused me of spying.
    A few days later, things quietened down and we said sorry to each other and it seems fine now. But, he ensures his laptop is never available for me to check on anything and he never leaves his gtalk logged in for me to see any of his chat messages, even by mistake.
    WHAT DO I DO? – Should I be upset and think about leaving? Should I forgive, forget and move on? We have a 17 month old little girl too :-(

  18. The response to persistance in emotional affairs needs to be looked at differently for different scenarios regarding husbands. If the husband has normally been a satisfactory partner, there are children and the wife hasn’t been prone to belittling him, exceedingly demanding and controlling over their family life style or overly neglectful in a physical demonstrations of affection, it’s best not to dump him. It’s then best to explain that if he doesn’t want to loose your respect and stretch your tolerance by forcing you to make adjustments to find an equilibrium where you can cope he’d be wiser to desist now. Give him an outline of the immaturity of those choosing to do an emotional affair that generally risks physical enactments later. Point out that those who need the ego boost of playing with a family man are very questionable. If he is choosing you he’d better not be caught doing this anymore or leave you with any signs in how he relates to you that this is happening as your feelings for him won’t be at their optimum or the children’s respect for him. Then tell him he is meant to be an adult so you don’t think it’s up to you to further plead or persuade or stop him. There isn’t anything that you can see you need to do more in getting him working it out. Nor can you realistically prevent him sneaking this indulgence- until it burns itself out- if he was to be that immature to need to persue it.

    These comments leave you with what power is possible since the horse has already bolted out of the stable, yet not off the ranch.

    Most men will persist for a bit(though don’t disclose this awareness to him), but you should still have numero uno role if he accepts he needs to hide this from you. This also makes it easier for him to return to the fold when it burns out. It means he won’t dare not do things with you and the family or overtly look glazed about another in your time. It means that you aren’t stupididly handing him over to the other creep. It means the other creep will be frazzled by his reduced availability. It means he was left with free choice in his behaviour and the knowledge you can fill in gaps he leaves and you look to have strengths and still standards. He is worried by what you may do to cope with less of him as you never tell him what it could be. It means if he ends up out of control and too disgusting in this affair you can get ready way ahead with a divorce lawyer, while having access to all the documents and information while together, without him knowing until you are ready to strike. Your lawyer costs are less when you’ve run the case and all he gets to do is respond. More likely the marriage will continue well since you’ve stopped feeling a victim and adjusted to sometimes husbands will have a spell of being a stupid boy and with your calm distancing a lot of the affairs magic will fizzle into dull repetition of the established banter and inevitable eventual conflicts over power with the creep and your husband. In the big picture you both have shared and invested more and no marriage hasn’t had periods of temporary wanderings mentally or emotionally or physically, but move on, still sharing more positives than gained by being divorced and even if lucky repartnering.

    For women with this situation and no children in the early years of a relationship, just go ASAP.

    For women with an abuser or continual alcoholic, even with kids go, before he tries to. Though prepare for divorce before confronting him to get the best deal.In this last scene you should have left before this affair happened if it’s him.
    If it’s you, it’s a good reminder of what you ought to have in a relationship. Yet never believe any such recent hero once you go. Your hero will be a victim reader procuring his next victim.
    Abused women and those dealing with an alcoholic aren’t at their best to attract a really good man untill they have left having recovered independantly.

  19. Hello

    My name is elina i reside in canada, I have been successfully married for 12year without issues, but just about few months ago I have been having serious difficulty and misunderstanding in my marriage and it almost leading to a divorce. I could not even tolerate it any more i have to take my kids with me and move out, but i sincerely love my husband to the fullness just dont know why he behaving strange lately.
    This continuos for about 8months and just two weeks ago he went for a divorce lette which i and my kids are not ready for because i love im so much.
    What do i do?

  20. Annika Akerlund-Wheble

    Sue Howard@ It sounds a bit like my husband as well, similiar thing, his mum looked after his little sister more and left him sleeping ruff etc. when his parents divorced. He also had a female-friend who’d cll me mental for stop phoning him and now when he ants to put his family first, she still phones him like a bunny-boiler. What hurts me, is that both me and my husband have issues, but him and his female-friend backstabbing me that’s uncalled for, so I told him to put his family first or else I’d leave, after all he nearly made his daughter loose her school-place when he couldn’t be bothered to sign a paper, having joint custody ovr our daughter when he went over to England to work and me being in Sweden.

  21. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Fragile,

    I am very sorry to hear about your marriage problems — my heart goes out to you both. It can be so difficult to know what to do or where to turn, or if your marriage is over or if it can’t be saved…I know how hard it is.

    The best general advice I have is to get marriage counseling to figure out how to overcome this emotional affair.

    I can’t give you personal or marriage advice, but I do encourage you to get strong and healthy emotionally, physically, spiritually, and even professionally. I know it seems hard or even impossible to get healthy and strong again, but it’s really important to move forward.

    Where and how do you start getting healthy? You try different things until you find what works for you. Maybe a marriage counseling program will help. Maybe you need to do something, such as changing your life — perhaps by moving to a different city, traveling, or getting individual counseling. Some people find physical spa treatments helpful, or alternative therapies such as reiki or energy healing.

    There are SO many ways to get healthy and move on! The trick is to find what works for you.

    I wrote an ebook to help people let go of unhealthy attachments — which you need to do even if you stay married! It’s called Letting Go of Someone You Love: 75 Ways to Heal a Broken Heart and Let Go of the Past

    Check it out; it may be just what you need to get strong and prepare for whatever is coming next. You may also find 80 Ways to Say “I Love You” helpful.

    I wish you all the best.


  22. I read most of the comments and I can partake in the pain so many feel from dealing
    with an emotional affair.
    I am convinced my wife of 15 years is having an emotional affair with a man she has met
    on line chatting about sports. The dialogue started some years ago and as chance would have it
    this man lived in a close by town and few miles from where we both work.
    I did not realize how deep the relationship was until about a year ago. We came back from
    a long vacation and the email craziness started peaking. She caught me trying to read the
    emails and understand what was going on and dismissed them as a lot of talk about his troubled
    marriage. Because of the closeness to work she would periodically stop by and drop off a tape
    or pick up a cd, etc. and one day I questioned her about dropping by his house knowing that
    this man soon will be divorced, etc.
    This was the first time I ever complained about anything she did and it was a clear message,
    I hoped, that I did not appreciate this relationship at all and felt our marriage would be threatened
    by it. The email relationship has continued over the last year with me complaining from time to time
    in many ways but being tolerant because I know it means a lot to her.
    He has been divorced for a few months and moved to his own place at least not close to where we work.
    Even before the divorce, not a very friendly one, he started
    dating various women and has been keeping her informed of most of what has been going on.
    During one of the “stable” relationships they managed to have us go out to dinner, which was
    enjoyable except for this ever present feeling I have that she is living an emotional parallel life.
    Most of their contact is by email and so many times I have noticed how the first thing she would do
    when getting out of bed, or getting home from somewhere, was to check the computer for new emails.
    The emailing had been mainly about sports but with the divorce and the dating the focus shifted to
    relationships, etc., On the emotional side, she claims that she feels needed
    as support for what he is going through and somehow this is a fulfillment for her.
    Deep inside I know that she has strong feelings for him and struggles with it I am sure.
    She recognizes that this relationship has an impact on us as a married couple and our family but she
    has a hard time to stop it or keep it to a minimum.
    Here comes the part that really scared me. A few weeks ago, she had bad news related to work in the evening and
    the next day she went to work while I had to work from home with the kids. Mid-morning I get an email
    announcing that she needed to vent and decided to accept an old invitation from him to meet for a drink.
    She was not calling for me to approve but to understand that she needed this. Needless to say, I was
    lost and frantic all day till I was able to get out for a run and she got home before I got back.
    My displeasure and sadness was plain to her and days later she said that after seeing the state I was in
    she would never do that again.
    In my biased view, of course, I have been a lot more open with my communication than ever
    and feel that she is the one keeping a lot inside, or at least not sharing it with me.
    I am not the best communicator but over the last few years I have made huge efforts to show my affection
    to her, how much I love her, lots of romance, etc. to the point that she feels guilty that she can not repay
    with the same level.
    Yet, she wants to continue this relationship and recently she uses only her phone and work computer for emails and
    tries to be less evident with the amount of email going on. I keep hoping that she comes to her senses and
    divert some of the emotional energy towards our marriage, rather than on someone I think she hopes she can
    be with.
    He is apparently in a stable relationship now and hard to tell for how long but I worry that the next step is around the corner,
    I can’t help it.
    She knows and said and that this is a strange and too close relationship and feeling guilty to some level about it but
    she does not foresee to ever just cutoff communications. I am still hoping one of these days this phase will be over and somehow
    she will cut it off and focus on us.
    Something was and is still missing in our marriage, for her at least, that motivates her need for some other contact and
    the struggle will be to fill that void for her, if she ever decides to move away from this relationship.
    I am not and will not ever consider leaving her and yet I feel every day that we could break apart forever.
    So, my struggle is about whether to confront her now with some ultimatum stand and possibly risk our marriage
    or work on our relationship and wait for things to get better sometime in the future.
    Sad, fragile, and hopeful I will have to endure but I am not sure for how long I can take the hurt !?


  23. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with emotional affairs! I really appreciate that you took the time to comment, and I wish you all the best in your marriage.

    Avoiding an “affair of the heart” is the best way to protect your marriage. Friendships can seem so innocent, but grow to threaten your love with your partner.

  24. I have just ended a 9 months emotional affair with Charlie last month. It was our both decision to finish our relationship due to we have to return back of our commitment to be loyal to our own partners. For your info, our relationship began from a friendship. Since we met each other, we felt that we were really match almost in everything, though we have very different character.We did not realise that we got closer and closer as it felt like a friend talk. We could spent hours to talk in phone or chat in the chat room in various topics and kept this relationship from others. But then we started to depend more and more each other. It really difficult not to think of him in most of my time.
    Until I found an article about emotional affair, I know that I cheat my husband already. I prayed and decided to end this relationship as I don’t want to destroy my marriage. To all readers, I just want to say: never try to have this kind of situation, it is so painfull and so tough to pass it. Whatever nice, care, good, he was just a stranger who pass by our boat, when he reach his destination, he’d said goodbye and leave good memories to remember. Then it will me and my husband continue our sailing to find our dreamland..

  25. Where to start, last april I found out that my boyfriend of 21 years has been talking, texting, emailing with this lady he works with for 2 years. I confronted him, he said she was a friend, a confident. I explained to him that what he was doing was emotionally cheating on me, he said no she was just a friend. Finally he agreed that maybe it was more, but said that it was mostly her that needed to talk, she was married with this guy that would verbally abuse her and he convinced her to leave him, which she did. He told me she needed him to go thru all that. I asked him to break it off with her in front of me, he refused and said he did not feel comfortable in doing that, but that he would break it off. I suffered panic attacks, could not sleep, eat or fonction at all. Finally got a bit better, but not able to trust him, keep on snooping to find out if its over. End of May I came upon an email exchange between the two of them that confirm that it was not over. I also found out that she was going to meet him on his business trip for one week. Also got a hold of cards that were going to be sent to him for their second anniversary. I was livid, I packed my bags and waited for him to come home and asked him to tell me the whole truth once and for all. He did not, I had to show him what I had for him to finally open up. He told me they had slept together the first time two years ago and have been communicating for the last two years, but mostly her needing to talk and her pushing. I told him that she was in love with him, he said probably and I have been leading her on by not telling her straight not to talk like that. I once again asked him to tell her in front of me it was over and he agreed. But the next day it did not happen, because apparently she found out that I knew because of the cards he was suppposed to received that I had access to her email, but she did not he told her when he called her that night that I knew and he told me a story about having to control the damage so he would talk to her. I was sure he was going to let her know that he would be talking to her the next day with me in the room. Anyway, I had to make get along with that and do my grieving all over again. I should tell you that he is a salesmen and leaves home on monday to come back on friday and she is a HR rep. I can not know what goes on while he is not home, have no way of checking his work computer, was lucky to see the last email on his phone, he got a new one (iphone) now with that he can contact her anyway he wants without me knowing. So he promised me it was over and that we would be spending a lot of time together during the summer, I am on holidays so I would travel with him. Which we did, we had a great month of July and things seem to be getting back to normal, I have not yet forgetten but on the way to forgiving. Until this weekend, I could not sleep one night and decided to check his phone, found an exchange of emails between with him participating fully in the conversation with things like ”God your beautiful” after she sent him a picture and him still smelling something that makes him think of her and saying ”I know it’s sick but I don’t care”. And later on during the night an email came in from her in the middle of the night because she lives on the east coast and we are on the west coast saying she was sorry he wasn’t with her, her mother would really love him and that she had a new date planned for them and she would talk to him later that day. I wait a few hours to wake him up and I ask him to take a look at his phone someone sent an email in the middle of the night and I knew it was her, to please read it to me. And then I asked him to show me his outbox and inbox on his phone, he did, he showed me the sent and inbox. There was nothing in the sent, so I took the phone and scrolled down to outbox, he said you are not going to do this again, give me the phone. I opened it and started to read some of the things that were written. He took the phone away when I asked him to explain and deleted all the messages before I could finish reading them, and said I would not misinterpret the messages. We started to argue and I started to panic, I walked out. I went for a walk, came back and he asked me to go for a ride, (kids home sleeping) he talked and said she was still pushing and he knew that the exchange of text and email of that weekend was wrong but he did not stop it. He said he sent her an email to ask her to stop it was causing trouble on the homefront. I actually looked at the email later and it said She has been reading my mail, don’t send anything for now. He says he is sorry for how this has affected me he did not mean to hurt me, he loves me and wants to be with me and the kids. But he is not sorry for meeting that person and having her in his life, he wishes she leaves closer to us with a companion and we could all be friends!!!! I am back to april, I am hurting so bad, I don’t know what to do….I don’t want to loose him and my family. I love him but everyday is such a struggle, I know it will take time for me to be able to trust him and trust the love he has for me. How many time can I go thru the samething i did this weekend. Someday I just want to pack up and go.

  26. 6 weeks ago I discovered my husband was having an emotional affair with a co-worker. One of his other co-workers actually tipped me off when he noticed they were very flirty & going on lunch dates together. When I first confronted my husband, he stated she was just a friend and absolutely nothing was going on.

    I started to notice things. His cellphone would always be hidden & when he used the bathroom or was in the shower, his cellphone would be with him. After sensing something still wasn’t right, I went online & pulled up his cellphone’s call log history. Over the last 3 months there were hundreds incoming & ongoing calls & text messages to an unfamiliar cellphone #. I called the # & wouldn’t you know it – I received that same co-workers voicemail. I left him that night.

    We’ve been talking & trying to reconcile since. He claims he’s no longer talking to her, but I don’t trust him. When we have gotten together to hang out, he’s still acting suspicious with his phone. He either leaves it in the car or if it’s with him, he places it face down on silent. He actually went & purchased a new phone claiming he was afraid I would shut his off & he needs it for work. I believe he got a new phone because I can’t go online & see if he’s still talking to this other woman.

    I’ve expressed that if he no longer wants to be married to me & wants to be with this other person, that he needs to let me go. He claims he never wanted to be with her & isn’t physically attracted to her. The only explanation he could give me was “he wishes he could talk to me the way he can talk to her.” He isn’t giving me the chance to show him I can be there emotionally for him by continuing his affair.

    I’m really lost & don’t know what to do at this point. I’ve seen a counselor but don’t feel I got much out of it. I don’t know if I should put blinders on & show my husband what a wonderful wife I am & that he doesn’t need this other person in his life or if I should try to move on not knowing if he’ll ever be able to stop having his emotional affair.

  27. I realize now after reading all of these posts and several other articles that I had an emotional affair with a coworker. It was difficult, but after ups/downs in both our professional and personal “relationship” over the past year, I had no choice but to quit my job. I miss my “friend” immensely and am going to counseling to work through my feelings and to move on in the best way possible. In many ways I have guilt, pain, sadness, etc. over this as I lost my friendship with him (he never wanted to speak to me again) as well as my profession (still lookng for work). Support from trusted friends, our pastor and counseling is immensely important for anyone going through this. I have an amazing husband too that I admited this to and still loves me and is determined to make our marriage work. I find comfort that I am not alone in this situation…but I am sad for those of us still working through the struggles with this type of situation.

  28. Having read the posts and the advise, I thought it may help to share my experience. Having endured a number of ego/emotional affairs that my husband had over many years, I decided that it was time to get to the root cause. What came out of it was the relationship my husband had with his mother was key to his behaviour. He had never strayed physically but needed constant praise and reasurrance, all lacking from his childhood. This is what drove him to seek out women like his mother and work on them to like him.
    It almost cost us our marriage and we have had to cut off all communications with a mutual female friend. She became obsessed with him after he had encouraged her for his own needs by tapping into her insecurities.
    It hasn’t been an easy journey and I have learnt a lot about myself along the way. What I will accept, what I am not responsible for, what I can change and what I can’t change. From feeling miserable and powerless, I now am stronger for what has happened, even the difficult and scary parts of it.
    It wasn’t easy for either of us. My husband couldn’t cope with the shame he felt believing himself to be very much in control, only to find he was driven and controlled by his needs.
    He now has a better understanding of who he is and how he was shaped by a parent who had not nurtured him.
    We still have a way to go, however, I hope that our story gives others some encouragement that it is possible for a relationship to survive and that even painful lessons are worth learning and can ultimately make us happier and healthier.

  29. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear ccfam,

    I’m so sorry to hear about how difficult things are in your life and marriage right now! It’s sad and heartbreaking, and it probably feels like the consequences of the affair will never end.

    I urge you to seek counseling. You need to talk to someone professional, someone who is experienced in helping spouses cope with physical or emotional affairs. I suggest you get individual counseling, and that you and your husband get marriage counseling.

    Overcoming an affair and saving your marriage IS possible! You CAN be happy again, but it takes alot of hard work and dedication.

    Here’s an article that might help:

    How to Save Your Marriage After Infidelity

    I wish you all the best, and encourage you to talk to a counselor as soon as possible. Let me know how it goes, and how you are.


  30. Hi I don’t no what’s wrong with me I need major help I am so confused about everything I feel like my life I made I so messed up.but then I turn and look at it like I’ve made my bed and now I have to lay in it. I have been married for 5 years I have lived with him for 8 we have 3 boys together. My husband had to go away to work to pay the bills that we made. I believe our life was perfect until 2 years ago when he went away. Our hearts beat as one you no.I have begged my husband to come back home. But he can’t because he is illegal right now and nobody with hire him. Then time passes again and things are still the same. Then I start getting real depressed I guess because of the loniness. And being a single parnet. And my husband pushes me away because he hurts from the seperation to I try to look for him when I’m down but when I call him he don’t really want to talk maybe only 10 minuts or so then he hangs up or he don’t answer my calls. Then 2 years of this pass I still feel the same and the depression hits me harder I felt like I was going to die. I couldn’t take it anymore. Then one day this guy came up to me and asked me why I’m like I am so I told him he said he could help me so I let him and then bout a month later I ended up sleeping with him but I still was all there in my head I no that isn’t an excuss but its true. I am not like this in 8 years I never thought bout another man I love my husband my husband is my world. I no I’m no the only one suffering here my babies are to and my husband. I told my husband that I had an affair and it just made things worse. I don’t talk to the guy anynmore I told him I need my family to come back together again I quite my job so I could be home with my kids and spend a lot more time with my husband but things are still the same. Is this going to get any better. What can I do. My husbands papers should be coming any time now but they take forever. How can we be happy again ?

  31. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Brian,

    I’m sorry to hear that your wife was emotionally involved with another man — that’s heartbreaking. It’s especially sad that she refuses to talk about it, because honesty can go far in reconnecting and saving your marriage.

    There’s no way I can say if she was falling for this guy, or why she was open to developing the relationship in the first place (which is perhaps more important).

    If you keep bringing him up and talking about the affair and her feelings, then you risk alienating her. And, you give her even more power. Instead, I suggest letting it go. I know that’s much easier said than done, and I know you haven’t brought it up constantly, but I think you need to start taking back your power in your marriage.

    You need to re-establish yourself as a healthy, happy, strong man. How do you do this? You could talk to a counselor, read books about overcoming emotional infidelity, read books about establishing a strong sense of self-identity apart from your marriage, and striving to live your best life. Not only will you feel better about yourself and your life, you’ll be MUCH more attractive to your wife!

    Remember that I don’t know all the nuances of your marriage and wife. The best way to get back on track is to talk to a counselor — either the two of you with a marriage counselor, or you alone with a therapist. You’re confused, hurt, and scared….and it’s hard to overcome those feelings without external support.

    Also — your wife may be confused, scared, and uncertain. She may not know why she was willing to engage in an emotional affair, and she may not know what to say to make things better.

    I wish you all the best as you work to save your marriage. Talk to a counselor; let me know how it goes.


  32. I don’t know what to do next. I am 45 and love my wife and kids. I can honestly say that i have been in love with my wife since the day i met her. A couple of week ago i was going thru my cell phn bill and noticed a charge of 35.00 for texting. I don’t have texting because i believe in voice communication. Anyway, i was angry & called the cell phn company they told me how to look at the detail of the texts. I found that my wifes phn had exchanged a total of 280 text messages with the number of a man i know. I could not believe my eyes. I had come to appreciate this man so much, he has taken our son camping and i trusted him wholeheartedly. I confronted my wife with the bill and she said it’s harmless, just texts to say good morning or hello. I went over the texts and it would be fine if it was one or two a day and if they were working together and it was job related or a project at church. But it’s none of the above. On the days the text messages were exchanged there are an average of 10 to 14 a day. On some days i counted as much as 37, 32, 28 20 and so on. They are as early as 7 am and as late as 11 pm. She has told me that i’m crazy and insane to think of this man in a negative way. I also found an excahnge of emails. He emailed her initially and said good morning. She responded by asking: “is this person BrightEyes”? He emailed her back asking her to ask him questions about him that only he would know. She asked about him and he responded, then she said she wanted to remain friends with him even though i was upset with the amount of the bill due to excessive texting. My heart feels like it’s been stepped on and feel that i am no longer in love , I love her but it’s not the same. I want to know so many things about what happened and why she has a nickname for this man. I want to ask her about the contents of the messages but feel she will lie about it because when i asked her about the emails she lied to my face and said i was going crazy. When i asked her about “bright eyes” then she knew i was aware of everything. She then said she needed to go out for a walk. When she came back i asked her several times that i wanted to talk to her about what’s going on. I felt as though i was begging for her to love me. I am devastated but i’m an adult and need to worry about my kids and their future and can’t let this ruin my life. She said she was sorry a bunch of times but every time she said it she will say that it was my fault that she needed to speak to another man during a time i was being horrible. I cannot for the life of me figure out when this horrible part happened. We just had an anniversary and i made a movie of our wedding pictures (mostly her pictures). I have told her jsut about every day that I am in love with her and actually think about her even when she’s next to me.She has truly been the owner of my heart for the last 28 yrs. You know, there’s a saying ” the person in the relationship who cares the least is the one with the power”. I feel as though she has the power. After all that has happened it seems that she is willing to just let it go. With all this info, do you think she was falling for this guy? During the past weeks i have truly come to understand if she has fallen out of love, it happens. It feels like this is just eating away the time i should be happy with my wife and kids. The last time i tried to speak to her she said she had already said ‘im sorry” and that i should forgive her and forget about it for my benefit. Since i first found out i have tried to speak to her about this 4 times. Every time she seems to step back and get defensive. I can’t continue to try to talk because i feel it just makes things worse. But i really need to tell her what i feel and how this has changed me. Am i wrong in asking about how she feelsabout this man? I want to know but at the same time i don’t want to regret knowing something that will only hurt me more.

  33. Thanks for your response.

    Although its hard to hear – I actually have been trying to let him go. I wrote him a letter telling him I was leaving about 2 weeks ago, however he happened to come home during me moving out. He didn’t want me to leave, so I stayed, but when he went right back to ignoring me, I left 2 days later. He then ended up telling me over the phone that it was over between us. He told me he needed me in his life, and still wanted to be friends. I told him I couldn’t do that, that it would be too hard for me. After arguing for 3 hours, I told him I had to go and not to contact me after this. A few hours later he realized he made a wrong decision and wrote me an email apologizing that it was over, that he needed and wanted me as his wife. And asked me to forgive him that he said that. He also said he would give counseling another chance (he only went once before and said he would never go back)

    It’s been almost 2 weeks since that has happened, and I am continuing to live at my brothers house. I went to talk to his sister, and she can kind of understand why I did what I did. She knows that I am sorry for hurting her brother and also sees that her brother needs help himself. However, she had emailed me a few days ago saying when she had talked to him – he told her it was over and that was his decision.

    Since then, I have seen him twice, and both times he told me he was coming to counseling and would be open minded about what the therapist has to say.

    We also hung out last night – he had told me before that we have to work on our friendship again and to build the trust back. So I inititated us hanging out – even if it was just watching tv. We both wanted to fool around – but we learned from past experiences that this wasn’t the best option for us right now.

    I am confused on why he would tell his sister it was over, but tell me he wanted to go to counseling and would be open minded about what the therapist would say.

    We go to counseling tomorrow and I must say I am scared to death with what he will say.

    Did I mention our 2 year anniversary is next week :(

  34. Kelly, I’m sorry that you’re having to go through this difficult time. Our stories have several similarities. I am also an ICU nurse, married to an alcoholic and am emotionally involved with a close male friend. I would like to ask you to take a step back and really look at the reason – the real reason – why you want your husband to stay in this marriage. I know that you love him, but sometimes love isn’t enough. It really doesn’t sound like either of you have been very happy. As nurses, we tend to want to “fix” the people in our lives who have problems. Even if your husband decides to stay in the marriage, please don’t think that you can change or fix him… he’s the only person who can do that. Please, ask yourself if you are willing to live the rest of your life with a husband who drinks too much, mismanages money, makes the effort to cohort with “beautiful news reporters” and have dinner with others, yet can’t even buy you a gift or a card? I’ve been in a situation similar to yours for 18 years and believe me, this is no way to live. I have wasted so many years… I think about all of the opportunities for a “life” that I have missed out on. Even though it may not be right, I can certainly understand why each of us turned to someone else. Don’t beat yourself up because of it. It’s over… forgive yourself.

    I wish you much success with counseling and great happiness in your life – with or without your husband.


  35. I’m sorry, Kelly, but I don’t have any advice for making your husband stay in your marriage. I don’t know if it’s possible to convince someone who wants to leave a marriage to stay….though I know some people say you can.

    Here’s the thing with making your husband stay in a marriage that he’s unhappy with: he hasn’t chosen it of his own volition, because he wants to. Even if you were successful in convincing him to stay, he’s not fully committed to your marriage. He might resent you, which could grow into bigger marriage problems down the road.

    Maybe the best thing to do right now is let him go. Give him freedom and space to get help, go to counseling, deal with his own issues. There’s nothing that makes a man (or woman) run faster than someone who is cloying, suffocating, or needy. Giving him the “hard sell” right now might make him run faster and farther away.

    So, I think I AM giving you advice on making your husband stay in your marriage! Step back, let him make his decision and live his life. That’s more attractive, loving, and appealing than pressuring him. He knows you want him back. He knows you want your marriage to work, and that you’re sorry about the emotional affair.

    You could even write him a letter that lets him go, in essence. Express your love, say you’ll still be there whenever he needs to talk, reassure him that you’re staying in your own counseling and that you’re willing to go to marriage counseling wtih him…and give him freedom.

    Ouch. But, it may be the healthiest thing you could do.

    Good luck, and let me know how it goes!


  36. I am a 26 year old female who is currently seperated from my husband after he found out about my emotional affair. When my husband and I started dating, I was the world to him – and he let me know it everyday either by word or by notes he would leave for me. At the time, I was finishing up college and he was an undercover narcotics officer. We always had a good time, however he would often get really intoxicated and do some pretty stupid things. But I thought we were young, and he would grow out of it.

    A few years later we were engaged, we bought a house and starting to plan our future. I had landed a full time job working in an ICU at a Children’s hospital and my husband was promoted to detective.
    He loved his job, and I was so happy for him. Except he was now becoming more involved with the job (late nights), the drinking was out of control (he would hardly ever tell me he was going out, and had female bartenders numbers in his phone), and finacially he was all over the place. Trying to talk to him or ask him questions just made him mad. And that was the last thing I wanted to do before our wedding, so I often would just keep quiet. I kept telling myself that after the wedding, things will be great.

    Well the wedding came and went, but things never got better. After a few nights of him going out and not telling me, a few drinking and driving incidents, the valentine’s day card with $$ in it so I could buy my own present, and the night that his parents had to pic him up from the bar because he was so drunk, and when he came home through the TV off the stand – I just about had it.

    Six months into the marriage, I had confided in a male friend (who had moved states away) the issues I was having with my husband. For me, it was knowing that I could talk to him and him not really knowing anyone I knew so I didn’t feel like I was airing my dirty laundry out for everyone to hear and judge. As would talk via email, he made me feel good about myself, and told me I didn’t deserve to be in a relationship like that. And I started to believe him. We would email back and forth often throughout the day, and at the time I really enjoyed it. Then the relationship started to turn into more emotions, and I went as far as telling him I loved him. After I did it, I felt horrible. I really didn’t mean it, but it was so nice having those things I longed for my husband to say that I got wrapped up. Almost immediately, I emailed him and told him that I loved him, but I was married, and although I am having issues with my husband, I couldn’t do this anymore. And that was that, I never talked to him again.

    I tried to improve my relationship with my husband – but it just wasn’t working. He had become so involved with working, that became his priority. I was often jealous of people taking him out to dinner, and young beautiful news reporters being “friends” with him so they can get the best news stories. I didn’t even get a card for our 1st anniversary (and we had talked about no gifts,just cards for our present)

    I had left my email open about a year after I had my “email relationship” and my husband found the last email I had wrote my friend. He confronted me on it, and I was completly honest with him. Telling him who he was, how it started, and my feeling around the situtation. We both cried and he swore he was going to try to be a better husband. About a month later, the politics of the police dept effected my husband from being transfered to the unit he wanted – which made him very angry. He then began to hate his job, and our house, and then he became very angry about the emails. He told me he tried to forget, but he can’t and he’s not sure if he wants to be married to me. We were fighting for almost a month when I caught him on the phone with another girl saying very inappropriate things. When I confronted him, he was very angry and told me it was none of my business and that she was “just a friend”. He also told me it was over between us, but then cried like a baby and told me I wasn’t suppose to hurt him like I did. I stayed, but after him going back to ignoring me I moved into my brothers.
    I had called him one morning because I had a pit on my stomach, and yet again he told me it was over. Hours later I had an email apologizing saying I was the love of his life and that he is sorry he told me it was over. And that he needs and want me as his wife. However, that happened over a week ago and we are still not together.
    I had started going to therapy when this all started happening – and to tell you the truth I never even knew what an emotional affair was until now. I am not the cheating type – and it actually shocked me that I ever crossed the line. My husband came to one session with me, but came with a chip on his shoulder and not wanting to put forth the effort. After he told me it was over for the 2nd time, he said he would try counseling one more time. However I am afraid he is going to end it with me there since he told his sister he made his final decision and he wants a divorce.
    I don’t want to end my marriage – I love my husband. And I know that the love we had in the beginning is a foundation I know we can re-build on. But I am starting to realize that he needs help before we can fix us. I am just afraid of him still telling me its over.
    Any advice on how I can make him stay with me? I admitted my wrong doings, but I want him to honeslty belive me when I say my feeling towards the other guy weren’t real.

  37. Laurie,
    Thanks so much for your kind response. The counseling started out as “couples” or “marriage” counseling a few days after the one incident of physical abuse in our marriage. My husband blew up and stormed out twenty minutes into the third session and vowed never to return. I should have left him then since the counseling was a condition of my agreeing to stay with him. I have continued with the same counselor and do find it helpful. My husband has no idea that I am still seeing the counselor, even though his insurance is paying for it. During the three years that I have been in counseling, in addition to my marital problems, my father passed away and a I suddenly lost my job and had difficulty finding another one. The counselor has helped me work through those losses as well.
    I was pleasantly surprised to find that my post motivated you to write “How to Stop Cheating on Your Partner.” I hope that the article is helpful to others. You are right, I didn’t ask how to stop cheating on my husband because my friendship with this man is so important to me and to him as well and I have no intention of changing anything about it. The one thing that I want to change right now is being married because my husband is sucking the life out of me.

  38. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Cindy, thank you so much for your kind words — you made my day!

    Regarding your question about transparency in relationships…that’s a tough one. On the one hand, you can’t be monitoring every email and text message that he gets. You’ll suffocate him, and you’ll feel like an overbearing, controlling mother bear or something. You can’t keep checking up on him — that’s too suspicious and distrustful.

    I don’t think healthy, strong, committed relationships include spyware systems, because spying means you don’t trust someone. And, if you don’t trust your partner, you can’t have a strong, healthy relationship.

    Cindy, do you trust him? It sounds like he was genuninely repentant and seriously wants to work things out with you! Though I don’t know all the details and I don’t know what’s going on in his mind, I suggest you consider taking him at his word.

    If he understands that he needs to maintain distance from other women in order to build a strong relationship with you, then you might have to just trust him. Like you said, you can’t monitor his work email or what happens at his home — and you monitoring him isn’t part of a strong relationship, anyway.

    What do you think about that?


  39. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    For everydaymatters — thanks for sharing your story! I’m sorry you’re unhappy in your marriage, and glad you’re seeing a counselor.

    Three years is a long time to be in counseling. Have you found it helpful? I’m a big fan of getting counseling — especially couples counseling when physical or emotional affairs are involved.

    I hope you find the courage to either leave your marriage or invite your husband into counseling with you, so you can rebuild your marriage.

    Also — your friend may not want you to know if he’s physically attracted to you, or if he wants to be more than friends. Maybe he doesn’t want to be a wedge in your marriage (though being so supportive to a married woman does cross a boundary).

    By the way, your story motivated me to write “How to Stop Cheating on Your Partner.” Here’s the link, in case you’re interested:

    I wish you all the best, and hope you find the courage to make changes in your life!

    All best,

  40. Thanks, Laurie. After my last comment, my bf came over and brought his computer. He went through all the contacts in his address book and cell phone. I learned that after his class reunion last summer, which I attended with him, he received an email from the woman he took to prom 25 plus years ago. He said they exchanged emails 3 times, and he had pictures of her on his computer with her two kids (but hadn’t saved the one with her husband). She’s very attractive. I told him I could understand one “hey, how’d you end up” email, but not 3 back and forth. I told him they are no longer high school kids…this is a married adult woman contacting a single adult man, and that can lead to nothing good to continue that. I am bothered that he saved her pictures, and not one with her husband. Again he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. Is this sharing of the computer information a valid start to recovery of the relationship, or do you think it’s just a thing to pacify me? He’s still on the honors system to report to me emails, texts and such to have “transparency,” so I’m not feeling like this is enough. He still doesn’t seem to “get it.” How do couples get to the point of transparency? Spy software? That still won’t solve the texting, phone calling problem because he has a company cell phone and I would never see the bills. He says he’s willing to do things to make me more comfortable with all the female communication, but I don’t know where to start. Also, we don’t live together so I’m not always around to see what mail he gets, etc.
    I believe in second chances, but I have been burned a few times already and don’t want to be a fool. I also don’t want to break up with an otherwise awesome man if he is reallly interested in fixing things but doesn’t know how. I noticed you mentioned immaturity as a reason….seems like a lot of this revolves around former classmates and people he met at concerts. I asked him why he hangs on to past connections and things from the past so hard that he’s willing to let a loving committed person in the here and now go. Is that because he’s emotionally immature maybe?
    You are amazing, love this site, and hope you know what a lifesaver you are. I hope you have a lot of pride and satisfaction for what you are doing for other women. You are truly a godsend in a world where so many of the dating advice sites try to tell you that you have to cater to the selfish needs of immature men (be that “cool” girlfriend who always meets his needs and never stresses him out with questions about where the relationship might go, etc.) Thank you for your insight!

  41. I ‘ve been married to an emotionally abusive (and once physically abusive) alcoholic for almost 18 years. I regret ever going out with him, let alone marrying him. I’ve been in counseling for three years, trying to find the courage to divorce him. Not that this excuses anything that I have done or am doing, but…

    I lost my job back several months ago, and my husband was less than supportive. In fact, he said some really cruel and hateful things to me during the three months that I was unemployed. A casual friend that I had known for about a year was there for me, and said all of the things to me that you might expect a spouse to say. He really helped boost my self esteem and confidence. He gave me pep talks before I went for interviews and called afterwards to find out how they went. My husband did none of this. My friend told me that he was proud of me.

    Over time, my friend and I have developed a very close friendship. We talk on the phone every day, sometimes more than once. We eat lunch or dinner together once or twice a week. I’ve been alone with him in his home many times, and there has never been any inappropriate physical contact between us. I really don’t think that he would cross that line because I am married. I also don’t think that he would respect me as much as he does if I crossed that line.

    I really do care about him alot and wish that I could have more than just friendship with him. The truth is, I don’t really think that he is attracted to me in “that” way. Maybe that is why he has pursued this friendship with me… because it’s safe to be in my company because I am married and not someone he is physically attracted to. I really value and appreciate his friendship and will probably have to accept that this is all that we will ever have together.

    The counselor that I have been seeing says that this is a form of infidelity or cheating, or whatever you want to call it. I frequently lie to my husband about where I am going or who I am talking to, but many times, he is so drunk that he passes out and has no idea that I have left home for hours or that I’m on the phone with another man.

    That’s my story…

  42. No, you’re definitely not insane to have a problem with your boyfriend having relationships with other women, Cindy. A healthy relationship doesn’t involve secret communications with other people of teh opposite sex! It is emotional cheating — and I’m not surprised he doesn’t see it. Why would he? He’s getting the best of both worlds.

    Is there hope for your relationship? It depends on what type of relationship you want, my friend.

    He’s not going to change, and he’ll keep texting other women, looking at pictures of them, and hiding his involvement with them from you. If you’re willing to live with his emotional affairs, then your relationship will proceed.

    If you stay with him, do not expect him to change or for this to go away on its own. And, keep in mind that when people open their hearts and minds to other people, they create connections and bonds that could lead them astray. In other words, he might one day decide that his friendships with other women my be worth pursuing as more than friendship.

    If you want a healthy relationship, then you might want to think about moving on. I recently wrote “7 Ways to Tell if Your Marriage is Over” (I know you’re not married, but the idea is the same!):

    You said the only thing you want is full disclosure and no more sneaking around. You DESERVE that from your boyfriend! That should be a given in any relationship — not something you have to fight for. You have every right to want it, and I hope you get it. I can’t see him being able to give it to you….but another man will. Don’t waste more time with someone who doesn’t respect you, who doesn’t show you he loves you (when men meet your needs, they’re showing their love).

    I’m sorry to have to say all this to you, Cindy, and I wish you all the best. Feel free to come back anytime, and let me know how you are.


  43. A friend told me about this Dr. Phil episode because for 18 months I have been dating a man who says he wants to be exclusive, and loves me, but is still in contact with many ex-girlfriends and has mostly female friends. I recently confronted him about some emailing he had been doing, and discovered he had 4 “pen pals” in other countries. He had pictures of one on his computer wearing a camisole with a sexy pose, and he said she was just asking for advice on a hair cut. He is still in touch with women he knew back in high school, and we have been in social situations with several of his ex-girlfriends. I shared the concept of emotional infidelity with him, and told him that if he would stop sneaking around and be fully transparent with his relationships I would be able to believe they were indeed friendships and not a way to still be “single.” (He has friends who know about me and I know of them, I don’t have an issue with those. It’s the ones who don’t know he’s in a relationship after 18 mos and are actively kept secret from me that are the issue.) His phone is on vibrate when I’m around, he sneaks to other rooms to text, and immediately deletes texts and phone calls when they are done. His computer is password protected. He used to get email on his Ipod, but when he discovered it was too easy for me to look there, he stopped that. We spend every night together, and although we do not live together, have been sleeping in the same bed, alternating homes for the last year. So this is a serious relationship to me and I have been very committed. Am I wrong to expect boundaries on his behavior even though we are not married? I have been in agony for the last year, thinking I was too jealous/sensitive/not “progressive” enough. Worried that I was “damaged goods” because I had been cheated on in my 2 marriages, and my bf kept saying he was paying for my ex’s actions.
    Showed him your article, and he doesn’t think it applies to him. But his definition of friend is very broad. He is in contact with women from his high school class (he’s 44), women he met at a bar he hung out with when he was first divorced 12 years ago, and women he knew when he was a Deadhead going to see shows. Plus this pen pal thing (and he had hooked up with someone he met on that pen pal site sexually in the past when she came over from England to meet him, but he says he’s no longer in contact with that particular one any more.) He says that’s to learn about culture, I think it’s just another way to hook up/keep a toe in the water. You can learn about culture at the library. Or make friends with MEN in another country. Regardless, it’s the secretive nature of the communications that I have an issue with. Just wondering if there is any hope for this relationship and if I am interpreting this too severely given that we are not married. He has said he only wants to date me, and I do believe that he has not been physically cheating. The fact that he doesn’t share his day with me or dreams, hopes, etc. but will do it with someone online nonetheless feels like a violation. He says I’m just trying to control him and have him made out to be some sort of monster, and he’s not. I told him I don’t understand why those connections are so important that he would let me walk away over it. And the only thing I want is full disclosure and for the sneaking around to text, call, email to stop. Thoughts? And thanks! I finally don’t feel like I’m insane in having a problem with all this.

  44. I caught my husband and neighbour passing gestures to each other over a period of time.I noticed him constantly staring in her direction.I confronted him after I had obsereved the situation carefully to make sure I knew they were being secretive.He went mad and accussed me of needing medical help, for spying on him.He cooled the contact with the neighbour for about a week after the confrontation.I started to ignore the neighbour.Then I felt bad with myself as he convinced me, he never had anything going with her.The moment I started speaking to her again they started their little emotional affair again.It was as though they had gained my trust as an acceptance to continue.I instantky cut her off from all conversation and confronted my husband again.He still denies any involvement.However,he has stopped talking to her and being in eye shot of her completely. We are now on week 2. She has not seen a glimps of my husband.She’s obviously very confussed.My husband feels I should still say Hi and raise a hand to her each day.I haven’t told him yet, this will not happen.I’m not going to give them a pathway to restart behind my back again.He said eventually he will raise his hand to say Hi when it’s all blown over.i’m very confussed as he denies an emotional affair so whats got to blow over?Is he guilty.I feel he’s lying to me.He’s twisted this to look like like she is the bad person and agreeing with me about my veiws on her.I am getting close to now laying my cards on the table and telling him the whole story as I see it.I know this affair of emotions started last summer.We went away for 6 months.On refection he made my life hell through drinking and picking fights every night.During this period she sprank to mind I did suspect he could have been missing her.I never said anything as things were bad enough.At this point I wasn’t sure.I had caught him staring and jumping to her every whim and I did confront him.I wasn’t to concerned then as I didn’t notice anything to intense.
    Within a few weeks of returning to our summer destination my suspisions were confirmed.I noticed the longer time he spent outside our apartment.I noticed her always on the balcony when he was about.Then I noticed the secret gestures.They don’t speak to often as they both speak duifferent languages.It’s better through gestures as her husband is alweays sleeping in the room next to the balcony,when their affair is running.I do know they comunicate sometimes.Amazing he’s learnt a little of her language and she of ours.Little key words have been learnt to get messages across.He’s mentioned things she has said in confidence to him. Only since I confronted him on the affair.Slowly he drops things out.I told him she shouldn’t be discussing her husband with him and running him down to another man.She constantly pleeds povety as her husband has run up creitd card bills.I told my husband that she has crossed a no go barrier and he allowed her to.By him feeling sorry for her stuck on a balcony all day with 2 babies while her husband works from mid day until 3am in the morning (he runs a bar).She told my husband last year her husband often has affairs with hoilday makers.I feel she wants to get even with her husband and started to manipulate my husband.I’m not saying he’s innocent by any means, as he could have instigated this emotional affair. Just from what info she had been feeding him with.He’s a man and could have thought she’s telling me something here.
    She never nurses her babies or shows affection.Totally out of carecheter one day she pick a little one up and statred smothering kisses all over him.Her eyes we fixed firmly on my husband down below her balcony while doing so.I Can’t see my husband but what ever he is gesturing to her sometimes she goes in to a fit of giggles and her tongue protrudes slightly.I’ve notice my husband does this gesture while sitting in front of me,my back is to hers across our balconies.The funny thing is they both seem mezmorized and not aware that other people are around.
    My husband as far as know has never done this across me in 30 years of marriage.However I did know one day he would.He’s weak minded and a lot of his friends have affairs behind their wives backs.I think he thinks he joined the boys & he can say something to them about what he’s been up to.I think he trusted his luck by making a pass at her initially to see if he could do it.She bit the cherry and demanded more as a woman does.I feel it went from there and he was enjoying it and getting very involved.They haven’t managed to touch each other yet or get close enough to smell each other.She was planning a BBQ for us to go to on her roof terrace.She approached our neighbours we are close to, a few weeks back.They don’t mix in her circle and have no intention of doing so.She wants them to go to her house.They refussed Un-be-knowns to them I feel she expected this to be a opening.If they accepted the invitation it would have been easy to call us over to her place.
    My emotions are all over the place some days I ok others I’m down and cry. For him to put some one above me is a thing I’m finding hard to accept.I have never accepted another mans advances towards me.I have always been offended that someone thinks they stand a chance against my husband.Why they possibly think I wouyld want to put my marriage at risk for them is unbeleivable.
    However,my husband is not playing the same rules as me.His selfishness has got the better of him.I’m at a cross roads as I’m not sure I can go on with this betrayal.I feel he’s invaded our special togetherness by opening up to someone else.