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Emotional infidelity

Community Member

My wife and I have been together for over 8 years, though only recently got married. Our relationship has been very strong over the years and on the surface it appears strong to this day.

Earlier this year she became friends with a man from the same social club we belong to. She had previously remarked about his good looks and she had also mentioned to me when he was drunk one night, how he thought she was very beautiful. Having had a very stable relationship up to this point, I had never felt threatened in any way.

My wife and this man continued to grow their friendship (always hanging out together at social club events and the like). One day I decided to do something I had never felt the urge to in the whole time we had been together, which was check the messages on her phone. There was a torrent of communication between them, flirty and familiar in nature but nothing sexual. I told her right away how I had breached her privacy and was sorry, but also asked her if she had feelings for this man. She said she didn’t and that they were just friends.

Months went by. Our marriage was seemingly healthy (regular sex, many dates, lots of fun), but something in my gut was telling me all wasn’t quite right. I decided to have a look at one of her social media accounts and saw hundreds of messages back and forth between the two of them - all hours of the night and day; all of them written when we were not in each other’s direct company. I’ve asked her about their friendship again, which only angers her and leads her to accuse me of being jealous and possessive. I did not tell her I had secretly accessed her messages. I know if I were engaging in a ‘friendship’ in the same way she is, she would be very upset. Indeed I have let so many of my friendships with female friends over the years wither away out of respect for my wife and her feeling of security within our relationship.

I am currently in an awful cycle of my wife telling me she loves me to my face, but concurrently having this secret intimate friendship with this other man. It’s been incredibly draining putting on a brave face when I know all the lies she’s telling me. I feel depressed and at the same time have no one to talk to, as I am so ashamed of breaching her privacy the way I have.

I feel I am a good man with many good qualities and I would rather my marriage end so I can try and move on, rather than live in this situation which I can only see ending in physical infidelity.

16 Replies 16

Thanks again everyone for your advice. I feel so awful lying to her by not admitting having accessed her messages. I feel awful as well, knowing she’s lying to me by keeping the nature of her friendship secret. FWIW, the man is not married, he’s single. In fact, he has been not been taking the bait with anything my wife sends his way. Any time she has sent him something suggestive, he has opted to play it with a straight bat. I believe him to be a stand-up guy. I do wonder, however, what he would think if his wife (were he married) was having a friendship in the exact same manner as he is with my wife.

I have decided to see a professional counsellor. As helpful as this forum has been, the nuances of this whole thing are too hard to express in the written form.

Community Member
Counselling is good. I’m in two minds about what is going on. On one hand I know I did the same thing in my marriage. Flirted excetera and it was all about my issues. Needing to feel beautiful and getting attention as well as getting a buzz that the depression stopped me from feeling. On the other hand I wouldn’t end my marriage but should have. In the end my husband had had enough and did the hard thing for us both and now we are both in better suiting relationships. My new partner gives me the attention I was craving and I no longer feel like I have to chase it. I’m not saying you don’t give her the attention she needs but I am wondering if you are really suited and or whether she has depression?

Community Member

I understand how traumatic this is for you. My spouse had an EA with a colleague that was supposedly brief but he continued to work with her. I have learnt that affairs are about entitlement, manipulation, power and control. Try not to pour out your feelings to her. At the moment she doesn't care and this will give her more power over you. She knows what she is doing is wrong. Talk to a counsellor and close friends or family. People you can trust. Spend time with other people. You are hurting and in shock and disbelief. Also feeling guilty about reading the messages. Try to spend time doing things you enjoy. This is difficult I know but it gets easier. This will take time. You need to begin to detach yourself emotionally from her. Also very hard to do. Try to not be needy or clingy. This gives her power over you. She is enjoying the secrecy and naughtiness of this inappropriate friendship. Try not to let her actions wind you up. This is what she wants. The best resource I found was Debra MacLeod Marriage SOS online courses. They are audio programs on infidelity and inappropriate friendships and managing emotions. Well worth the cost. You need to try to manage your emotions, detach to the point that you are ready to separate (do you really want to be a third wheel) and build a great life separate to your relationship with her. Also be kind to yourself. My husband did change jobs eventually. We are still not through it but I am building a great life for myself and feeling much stronger.

Community Member

Thanks Libby and Ulysses. I don't think she's depressed. That's a good point about not being too clingy or needy. I had thought about that course of action (separating myself) though I feared and still fear that by doing that it will only give her more cause to seek attention elsewhere. I will try and focus on myself a bit more. Be the best person and husband I can be. If my wife wants attention elsewhere - whatever that entails - me worrying about it is not going change whether she seeks that attention or not.

Hi Painting,

I've been going through a lot of relationship stress for similar reasons too, so I can relate very well to your feelings and thoughts about the situation.

I have a partner who attracts a lot of attention from the opposite sex too, who has poor boundaries where that is concerned. He's not a cheat, and not exactly a flirt either. But he gets extremely close emotionally to attractive women he meets, even randomly, and puts their need for attention before any of my needs. At times he has put himself in risky situations with them, developed a risky level of intimacy, whilst believing its all ok if there's no sex. At times he's been secretive. The women then usually start hating me and being possessive, then playing cruel games that hurt me deeply. Its been an awful pattern for years that leaves me feeling sick inside.

I can tell you that I've made a lot of mistakes dealing with it, not knowing how to communicate my feelings or stand my ground. My biggest mistake by far was scrambling around trying to be more valuable to my partner to compensate and feel safe. 15 years later, my self worth is shot, I feel sick of the mistrust, and feeling that I have to jump multiple hoops to have basic relationship security.

If I can suggest one thing, when your relationship issue is your partner's communication with the opposite sex, and its causing you to mistrust them or lose self worth, it really needs to be addressed. I wish I'd known how. All that other stuff- like trying to gain power in the relationship, or being a better and more desirable human- it just doesn't help because the issue is your partner's behavior, and the way it undermines the trust in your relationship.

What I feel about your situation is that at some point when you feel strong enough, you would be wise to discuss your wife's communication with the opposite sex. That's the real problem you face, and you can definitely come to some agreement about how she talks to men in private, and the time spent doing so. Just don't ignore it for too long, trust is the foundation of your relationship.

Anyway all the best, just keep trying!

Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear Painting -with a wave to Bindi-QLD~

I think Bindi-QLD has painted a pretty clear picture of what needs to be done and why. It may be an uncomfortable thing to do, telling your wife you've looked at her private messages, however I would suspect the whole thing will get worse if you don't.

You can't address her behavior until you do so, and I agree it really needs to be sorted and boundaries set.

As Bindi says trust has to be there, lack of it is corrosive.


Community Member

Hi Croix, and a wave to you back!. Thank you for reading my post, it has been a very painful and confusing part of my life.

I most definitely agree with you. We hit a major crisis point this year , and repairing and deepening our trust in one another has been a major talking point for us. Its very painful, soul searching work. Its hard to gain proper perspective when you feel hurt and worthless. Some things that have been working for us include figuring out some boundaries and agreeing to transparency surrounding private communication (especially with the opposite sex).

We've also experienced a lot of detachment from one another over the years, his from me, then me from him. That is so hard to recognise because it happens so slowly. That part will take a little time to figure out, its more like a collection of subtle behaviours, than any one thing you can nail down. It feels like a lonliness inside, but you don't know why. We both became very good at distracting ourselves from that feeling.

What we both really aim for is that kind of trust where you know `My partner always has my back'. That they will be loyal when you are not there; that they will take as much care with their private communication, as they would if you were there. I do believe its possible, and that is what we are trying to accomplish.

I wish the best for Painting as well. Trust comes in stages for long term relationships, but I believe it is something worth striving for.