Are Emotional Affairs Cheating? If Affairs Happen Once, Are They Destined to Happen Again? Is it Ever Possible to Move on from the Hurt and Mistrust?

Question:

I have spent the past 10 months reading any and all relationship books in an attempt to understand my marriage and my husband and myself, too.

Quick summary: Been married 20 years, have 3 kids. First marriage for both. First 19 years I considered to be wonderful and nothing he did or said told me he felt any different. No major issues for either of us. Both seemed to be happy with our marriage and definitely with our family.

11 months ago, out of the blue, he decided he wasn’t happy, began a ‘friendship’ with a co-worker and proceeded to spend the next 10 months following his own agenda in order to ‘find happiness’. I am 99.99999% certain that it never became sexual in nature, but that hasn’t eased the pain of knowing he had feelings for, and put another woman ahead of me in his life.

Through his behavior and actions, I know he is ‘finished’ with his need for her and appears ready to put it all behind him and continue where we left off 11 months ago.

I am having a hard time with just picking up where we left off as if nothing happened.

Are emotional affairs cheating? Do these emotional affairs constitute infidelity?

Do you think this was a 1 time deal or if it happens once is it destined to happen again?

I won’t go into great details, as this is quite long, but I have changed during this ordeal….for the better. I have owned up to what I was doing wrong in our relationship, to what might have caused him to turn to someone else, etc. I have totally changed how I treat him, etc., and he notices and appreciates those changes.

The one thing getting in my way is the fact that I haven’t been able to move on from the hurt and mistrust.

Is it ever possible?

Answer:

I understand how you feel. I was there once.

I had been married for 18 years to a wonderful man whom I absolutely adored, when one day he came home, told me he was having an affair, and moved out. I felt as if I went from great marriage to “zero” marriage in an instant. Chaos ensued in our once role model family.

Two weeks later, my husband came home and we began the painful work of rebuilding. For months I wondered if it would ever be feasible to have a single day of happiness again in my life. Today I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. We have rebuilt our marriage and our family. My husband describes it like this: He says our marriage before was like looking at the Grand Canyon on a top-of-the-line, large, flat screen, plasma TV. (I guess it’s a manly analogy.) His point is we had a good marriage before. Today he says our marriage is like standing at the edge of the cliff at the Grand Canyon. There’s just no comparison … and we never knew marriages could be this amazing.

The exciting thing is, we’ve learned it’s all about the skills, which means any couple can have a great marriage if they are willing to learn how. So yes, without a doubt, you can get past the pain and mistrust, but it will take some time and it won’t necessarily be easy, but the rewards will be more than worth it.

After I healed my marriage, I decided to write the book that I wish I would’ve had at the time. Like you one of the first things I did, when I found out about my husband’s affair was to head down to the local bookstore to find a book to help me survive. I found 2, bought both and they were helpful, but I remember thinking “Don’t give me this how-to theory crap by some psychologist who learned this in school. Give me the true life story of a woman who lived through this. Is there anyone?” (Sorry, I was in a really bad mood back then.)

So I wrote the book I couldn’t find at the time.

Yes, an emotional affair is infidelity, and equally devastating because as you say, it’s the fact that he put another woman ahead of you in his life. An affair is any stealing of intimacy that belongs in the marriage and giving it to another, whether emotional of physical.

A major offense has taken place in your marriage, and you will actually never be the same again. That would be impossible. There are only 2 options from here. You will either be better or worse, not the same. Where you go from here is actually your decision, and I can already hear that you are making the decision to become better. Good for you.

Affairs are not destined to happen just because they’ve happened once. We are all able to make decisions about our future and change if we choose to. However you cannot just pick up where you left off.

Suppose your husband had stabbed you in the arm. Then he realized he made a mistake, so he says “I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again.” And say you decide to forgive him right then and there. Is that enough? Do you just move on? My goodness no! Your arm is bleeding profusely. Standing there saying words isn’t enough. He needs to get you to a hospital. You are wounded. You need to be stitched up … and once that happens, you’ll need to be extra careful and protect the wound so it can heal properly. Emotional wounds are no different.

There are 3 key ingredients to healing from affairs:

1. Absolutely no contact with the 3rd party.

2. Hours and hours of discussion between you and your husband so you both can discover why, what are the real reasons this affair took place, and what is going to be different in the future to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. If you don’t discover and deal with the root causes of the affair it is likely to happen again.

3. It takes patience on both your parts.

You may find this article  helpful. It’s a discussion I had with my husband one Saturday morning over coffee. What he was saying I found so helpful, I asked him for permission to record it.

One of the reasons why I’m completely healed today, (and really, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been) is “because I get it. I get it how my husband could love me and still end up having an affair.” But it took me quite a while to “get it.”

Some people say forgive and forget. Well I can tell you right now … you are never going to forget an affair. To me that’s like saying “oh forget that your child was shot.” I mean my memory is working perfectly. I remember everything about my husband’s affair, clearly … but I have absolutely no pain associated with that memory anymore.

I trust my husband 100% again based on his proven behavior over time.

It’s great that you have owned up to your part in what might have been better in your relationship before the affair. A willingness to take responsibility for what you could do better is an important part in the healing journey.

At the same time, you want to be careful with this: “I have owned up to what I was doing wrong in our relationship, to what might have caused him to turn to someone else”

Many people believe that an affair means there must’ve been something wrong in the marriage. This is not true. Affairs can happen in marriages without problems too. Sure a troubled marriage contributes to vulnerability to affairs, but marriages don’t have to have any troubles for affairs to take place. Sometimes affairs happen because of the enticement of an adoring 3rd party. It strokes our ego when someone is paying attention to us.

There are no perfect people and no perfect marriages. Because people believe that affairs only happen if there is something wrong in the marriage, they always go looking for the marriage problems. Since there are no perfect marriages they are always successful in finding something that could’ve been better, and many times this gets blamed as the cause of the affair, and the real root cause is missed, making the couple vulnerable to future affairs because they still haven’t dealt with the core issue.

You might get a kick out of reading my husband’s own comments about this in response to some of the things that were said, when we appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show last year.

Yes, it’s more than possible to move beyond the hurt and mistrust.

I called my book “My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.Boy would I ever have been mad at you if you’d ever told me that I would one day write a book and give it that title back then. “Became” is a key word. Here’s an article that explains my title.

To everyone who reads this: May this difficult time in your relationship, also lead you to more joy, peace, love and happiness than you ever imagined possible.

Sincerely,

Anne Bercht

©Copyright 2005 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.