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Dear Chump Lady, Should I confront him about his emotional affair?

Dear Chump Lady,

I have evidence that my husband of 12 years is having an emotional affair. I’ve been “laying low,” following your advice for about 6 weeks and collecting evidence. I saw an attorney this week. So far I can find no evidence of a physical affair. There are lots of texts and emails with this tennis partner of his, but no I love yous, can’t wait to see yous, etc. I’m really confused. She seems to use him as a free handyman (fix my wiring, clean my gutters) also. It’s been going on for almost a year as far as I can tell.

I can’t find this answer on your blog: I need to confront him about this person and why he has a relationship with her. There is TONS wrong with it, even if they are not screwing. Do I confront him and just listen to what he says in order to decide how to proceed next? Or do I just tell him to move out so that we can have time to discuss it and see what he will do? His moving out will be very confusing to our 11 and 8 year old daughters. If he moves out, I will lose access to his texts and emails (which I currently have and that he doesn’t hide in any way).

This is the most difficult conversation I will have to have and I am petrified and it is killing my health and my career. It has to happen soon or I will need medical attention from the stress. So I can’t lay low and collect evidence much longer. I need to take action and I want to do things right and he needs to know how serious this is to me.

Also, I want to keep my investigation methods to myself.



Dear Jill,

I think you’re putting the cart before the horse here, Jill. I’m all for throwing the bums out, lawyering up, protecting yourself after infidelity. BUT — I advise those things a) after you KNOW about a physical affair or an “emotional affair” that has a clear sexual component (sexting, pictures, etc.) and b) if the cheater is completely uncooperative, and c) without remorse.

Unless you’re leaving out some pertinent details, you’ve got a man who spends way too much time with his tennis partner. I think you absolutely owe it to yourself and to your daughters to try and work this out before you go with the nuclear option — divorce lawyers and asking him to move out.

So this is what you do — you confront him. You tell him how devastating his emotional affair is to you, to the point you’ve considered separation and divorce. You demand marriage counseling. You demand transparency — the phone stays open, he shares his passwords, etc. You ask that he make you and your daughters a priority in his life. If he has time to clean another woman’s gutters, he has time to take his daughters skating, or to the birthday party, or shopping. You all deserve to be the number one priority in his life, not Ms. Helpless Tennis Idiot there.

Then, Jill — this is the important part — you watch what he DOES. You’ve made yourself vulnerable. You’ve expressed your hurt and upset. Watch what he does with that. Does he get defensive? Does he minimize his involvement with her? Is he reluctant to be transparent with you? Does he agree to counseling? Will he dump his tennis partner? Will he quit tennis? Will he shift his priorities and his free time away from her and back to his family?

Give him that chance, Jill, before you talk divorce. You know I’m not a big unicorn believer, but assuming this is truly an emotional affair and not a physical one — I absolutely believe you’ve got a shot here at fixing this before it goes further. And you owe it to yourself and your kids to at least give him a chance to straighten up and fly right. An emotional affair is absolutely a betrayal, but IMO it’s a criminal misdemeanor compared to the felony offense of a physical affair.

I think it is absolutely terrific that you are so strong and so ready to impose consequences. You’re way ahead of most chumps there. But I also can’t help but read your letter as a “fuck it, I’m dumping you” response to being hurt. You don’t WANT that conversation. You don’t WANT to give him that chance to reconcile, because you’re so deeply afraid of being rejected further. You fear he won’t do the work. He won’t make you and your girls a priority. He won’t step up. And you’ll get your hopes crushed.

Never giving him that chance is a powerful way of hitting him first. “I’m outta here!” goads him into the pick me dance. But I don’t think chumps should use the manipulation tactics of cheaters. Don’t be that person. Be honest. Tell him what you NEED from him. Be specific. And see what he does with that information.

If he fucks it up, if he takes his EA underground, if he’s not sorry, if he acts like it’s a big burden to be married to you, if he refuses to give her up — then yes, pull out the big guns. You’re nobody’s consolation prize.

For me, physical affairs and cake eating are much more clear cut situations to advise on. Emotional affairs, not so much. I know in my first marriage, before I experienced infidelity, I had poor boundaries. I had lunch with male coworkers, I had a writing instructor who used to tell me his marital woes, I hung out a lot with friends more than my husband (that was mutual, he didn’t much ever want to hang out with me either). In short, I did a lot of things that I can look back on now and see would be upsetting to anyone married to me. I didn’t cross those boundaries, but I absolutely lacked awareness. I was seeking kibbles from people who were not my husband. That did not help my marriage.

He could be that clueless person. Or not. He could also be the sort of person who does want to step outside his marriage physically and is being aided and abetted by his tennis partner. He may not lack awareness. I don’t know a lot of men that will invest a year’s time in a woman unless he hopes to get laid, or is, in fact, getting laid. The problem with emotional affairs is that they sometimes turn out to be the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Cheaters cop to an emotional affair because that’s all you have evidence of, but in fact, it’s already physical. You see this kind of nonsense all the time. Oh, they spent time together in a hotel — but it was only emotional!

Look, Jill, you know enough to know that what is going on is completely unacceptable to you. So speak up. You’ll never what kind of person he is, sorry or not sorry, unless you confront him. So have that difficult conversation right away. Know what your boundaries are and how you will enforce them. That’s all you can do. Let us know how it goes. ((Hugs))


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  • I truly believe if you catch these EA’s early enough you can snap a spouse out of it. It all starts out innocently enough, at first it’s just being flattered by the attention, then gets to a tipping point where affections get transferred from the spouse to the OM/OW. I figure it’s best to know one way or the other rather than live in fear for months on end.

  • My H has been having an EA for over a year and 1/2. They have possibly even had sex once or twice but I know they haven’t seen each other in almost a year even though the OW is only 100 miles away. However his “emotional affair” has a clear sexual component he lies about it even though he knowns I know about her, . I have waited it out not wanting to throw 23 yrs of marriage away on something so stupid but sadly will be doing so soon. I put the ultimatum to my H if he wanted our marriage the OW had to go. The “secret” cell phone still exists and they still talk or text daily. Reading your letter it sounds like you will only be satisfied if he finds a new tennis partner ( a man pls!) and stops seeing her. I think that is reasonable.

    • Somebody I knew once told me this when I was unclear on my own boundaries and doing a poor job of even having good boundaries:

      “There is a BIG difference between an ultimatum and a clear boundary:

      1. Ultimatum are all about trying to get somebody else to do something you want them to do. They are about controlling somebody else.

      2. Boundaries are about what you are willing to allow in your own life (and this includes your own behavior toward others). You aren’t trying to control anybody else. They will do what they will do, but you will protect yourself however you must.”

      In short, know your own values, know what is and is not acceptable, communicate these things when you must, and give up the idea that you can persuade somebody else to do the right thing. Just deal with the cards you are dealt.

  • I agree with CL – tell him how you feel, demand transparency, and see what he does next. If he drops the tennis partner and refocuses on your marriage 100%, you may have a chance. If not, you already have “Plan B” in place. You’re MILES AHEAD of 99% of us here.

  • Jill,

    I wouldn’t be surprised if turns out that your husband is having a physical affair; however, I agree with CL that you need more info before you deploy the nuclear option.

    In my case, my cheating ex-wife (when outed by our then 12-year-old son) admitted to an affair she claimed was several years in the past and an emotional involvement with someone she claimed she’d never met in person but with whom she felt an attraction to. My first instinct was to divorce, but my mom (married 50+ years now to my not-easy-to-live-with dad) told me I should try to reconcile if the only physical affair was years in the past and she was truly remorseful and would work to make things right. So I tried. I mean, I really, really tried. Committed fully, despite the pain. You will not be surprised to find out that (spoiler alert!) the affair she claimed was many years in the past had continued long after she claimed, the “emotional affair” turned out to be a full-blown (pun intended) physical affair, and there were other affairs to boot.

    But you know what? I’m glad I tried. I’m glad I was a chump-to-the-bone, if only for a couple of weeks. Because when I finally did file for divorce (upon learning that she was continuing a physical affair even while we ere in “reconciliation”) I did it knowing I had done everything in my power to same my marriage and my sons’ family. Which was a huge relief, and which made it easier to hold fast to my decision, to explain to my kids (in age appropriate terms) what happened, and even eventually to start a new life. I know I wasn’t a perfect husband in my first marriage, but also know that my ex-wife’s cheating and the end of that marriage were caused by her and were beyond my ability to prevent. I’m not broken. I’m not a bad spouse. I was just duped and swindled.

    I pray your marriage can be saved. But if it can’t, I would hope that you find the peace and decisiveness that I found by going a little further even when I felt I couldn’t take another step.

    • Nomar, I did the exact same thing. I found out my ex was having an emotional affair 5 years ago (while on a surprise trip I planned for him to Las Vegas). At the time I was 99.9% sure it was strictly emotional so I decided to work on my marriage. At the time I had 2 little girls (ages 5 and 2) and didn’t want to blow apart our family over an “emotional” affair. We lived apart 5 months, counseled separately and together and eventually got back together in what HE termed a “stronger than ever” marriage.

      Fast forward 2 years. I receive an email from a total stranger alerting me to my EX’s now PHYSICAL affair. I got my facts straight and confronted him. He (after much hesitation) finally admitted it and I threw him out. Initially I was upset that I had wasted another 2 years on such a dirtbag. It hurt me that I had told him the first time that a physical affair was a dealbreaker for me, yet he didn’t care. In reality though, I know I did the right thing. I can sleep at night and tell my girls that I did everything I could to save our family. When our girls eventually question us on what happened, he wants to tell them we “just don’t love each other anymore”. I refuse to lie. There’s a lesson in this and I want my girls to know that when you get married and take vows you need to mean them. I did everything I could to keep those vows. HOWEVER, I want my girls to also know that despite how hard you try, you can’t control other people’s actions and it is NOT ok to be treated like a piece of dirt. No man will treat me that way and they shouldn’t allow it either. I too wasnt’ perfect, but I know in my heart of hearts that I am a good person with morals and integrity. He can’t say the same. So, despite hanging in there and being hurt a second time, I’m glad I did too as it allowed me to know with 100% certainty that I’ve made the right decisions along the way.

      • Wow. Two YEARS! I can’t even imagine. I thought I was going to have a heart attack from the stress after only two WEEKS. My hat’s off to you!

        But, yeah, I think it’s a blessing to be able to leave the marriage knowing you did all you could, that you didn’t bury a body with a faint heartbeat. I was in a bad marriage for 22+ years and worried that I modeled so much dysfunction that it will make it hard for my boys to make good marriages themselves. That worry was blunted, though, by: 1) modeling boundaries in the divorce, teaching them that love doesn’t just end, that it is a living thing that takes care and feeding, and that can be hurt or destroyed by selfish and deceitful choices; and 2) by (happily) finding a new relationship in which I can model to my sons (and my stepson) a reciprocal, respectful, honest marriage that grows stronger and fuller over time.

    • Totally agree! I’m such a chump that I asked for 52 dates (1 date/week) for an anniversary gift…our anniversary being a week before I found out about his cheating. Of course, I was embarrassed at my naivete (and mortified that he was probably laughing at me behind my back), but as you said…at least I fought til the end.

      I have peace about it.

  • Jill, I am confused by your letter. You say he doesn’t hide his emails and texts in any way. It also sounds like you have met the tennis partner. Does he also talk on the phone with her while you are around? Is this correct? Because if it is then she may really be a good friend to him. Some of my best friends over the years have been of the opposite sex, there was no affair with them. We don’t get ALL our needs met by our spouse, friends are important to us all.

    To me an emotional affair has one big red flag, the person is hidden from the spouse. A friend of your spouse is also a friend of your marriage/relationship. That doesn’t mean you both have a close relationship with the other spouse’s friend, it does mean you have met the friend and at least sometimes socialize with your spouse’s friend in groups or parties or whatever. It means sometimes you pick up the phone and yell at your spouse, hey hon your best friends on the phone. Because you know that friend, that friend is not hidden from you.

    My ex tried to tell me his OW was just a friend, I said I was fine with that, but not with the secrecy, that it is normal to introduce any one you become friends with to your spouse. I suggested we all have lunch together so I could get to know this great new friend. His answer was NO you cannot meet her.

    If he’s hiding the communication and he’s visiting her without you, without even telling you, red flag. If he’s doing all the communication with your full knowledge and you’ve met her, then talking to him about how it makes you feel and working that out sounds like a plan. I hope it’s the latter. (jedi hugs)

    • I meant to add; If you are normally a non jealous type and your intuition is telling you that something is wrong then hire a PI for a few weeks before you talk to your husband. Because if they are having an affair it will go deeper under ground after you talk. Of course if you do that, and it turns out his tennis partner really is just a good friend, then you have to tell him what you did and that will destroy his trust in you. Catch 22

        • I can only speak to how I would feel if my partner distrusted me so much they hired a PI to watch me before exploring the situation with me first. I would never trust him again. I only added that possibility because by the time I got a PI my ex had gotten very covert. He was alert to the fact I could use his adultery to ensure he would not get alimony from me (I live in a fault state). AND he destroyed a lot of evidence I thought he had no access to. I bluffed and he settled so in the end it didn’t matter.

  • I agree with Chump Lady ask questions first.
    However in my situation he was so good at what he did.
    I literally had no clue. he was a good liar with a passel of alibis.
    He had a whole other life happening during business hours.
    And I never knew.
    All those on sites during the day that prevented him from getting his paperwork done. So he had to do it at home.
    All a bunch of shit!
    The hard working guy was working on several others during the day.
    So ask questions.
    And dig a little deeper. He may be making it look innocent on purpose.
    So if you question him, you are the crazy one.
    Not him.

  • Sorry but I disagree with the comments about the significance of “hidden” relationships with AP vs those that are “open” and pertain to AP who is also a mutual friend, acquaintance, co-worker, etc. My STBX did not hide his second AP to the point where I honestly believed she was “just a client’s wife” who needed some help of the clean her gutters sort since her husband worked a lot. The kicker? Apparently, she was so well versed in adultery, it was directly her idea to present themselves as such: just friends (with benefits!) They would have codes for certain things while texting each other openly, it was quite well organized and premeditated. NEVER underestimate him. Some cheaters are just that clever.

      • So nasty. But cheaters love the excitement of nastiness and getting away with their lies. My ex used to say he was “smoking cigars” when he hung out with a male, married friend of ours. Turns out “smoking cigars” REALLY meant giving each other blow jobs. So yeah, never discount the possibility of cheaters using code phrases right to their spouse’s face. I totally fell for it, really believed ex was getting together with the married guy for a cigar.

        • Just like Jesus, right Glad? I swear, my potty mouth is nothing compared the the blasphemy of these pervs running for cover to a church sanctuary and naming dropping Jesus every chance they get. That’s what I call taking the Lord’s name in vain.

    • I should add that if they’re speaking in code in front of you, then behind your back they’re watching you watch them, and getting their rocks off on what a dupe you are.

      After my ex moved out to get his head straight, (yeah right) he came home for weekends to do chores and get caught up etc. One day he came up to me and said “I just got this weird text — it says ‘not divorced yet, still have to sell horse trailer’ Do you have any idea what that’s about?” Hell, not me! It’s your phone number. “Must be a wrong number” he said.

      When I finally plumbed the depths of his duplicity, of his long range planning to screw me over, it took my breath away, and I went nuclear with rage. I can still draw on that emotion if I need too, even though Meh is pretty much my attitude generally.

      • Oh Chumpalicious, your ex and mine sound like evil twins. Mine played those sick games as well. Must have been so much fun. My ex introduced his AP’s to me and our children as co-workers who became family friends. The AP’s are best friends and as it turned out had individual affairs as well as group sex with my ex for over 15 years.

        At one point, my ex and his AP’s went through this elaborate ruse of pretending that the (younger) AP was engaged to a man named Bill (my ex’s name), who was the same age as my ex, and who had a “crazy” ex-wife. At get-togethers, it became a running joke that the AP’s “Bill” always had one emergency or another and could never attend. After D-Day, my then-19 year old daughter realized that her father was the AP’s fiancé “Bill,” and that this was just a fun game for them. How about gas lighting not only me but also my children?!? Sick fucks.

        • So yes, whenever I start to feel sorry for him (say when I find out he supposedly spent Thanksgiving alone), I think back to these gas lighting extravaganza’s they so enjoyed, and the rage brings me home.

          • Sick AND Twisted, Kelly. Mine made pretexts to introduce the kids to his AP also — she was his Girl Friday employee and went everywhere with him. Gosh, just like a member of the family or something. Had her cell phone number on the kids phones like best buds. Still makes me sick. And pissed. They must have really rocked to the fact that I signed her paychecks.

            Fortunately, that ruse worked against them with the kids once the jig was up and she got pregnant (before he filed for divorce) and delivered their half sibling (before the divorce was over). Teenagers get mortified by adults acting more like teenagers than they do. They had no shame. NONE. It’s the kind of sick, twisted fun of a kid who likes pulling the legs of grasshoppers. It’s the kind of smutty sexuality of a boy who likes to peek through keyholes at his sisters in the bathroom. It still makes my skin crawl to contemplate how long I shared a bed with him.

            • Yes, Chumpalicious, it does work against them with older children. Our two oldest S24 and D20 have seen their father for dinner in a restaurant only twice in over 1 1/2 years since D-Day. Our youngest, S13, refuses to see him at all.

    • “Apparently, she was so well versed in adultery, it was directly her idea to present themselves as such: just friends. . . .”

      This is not uncommon. The frequency with which cheaters find affair partners IN THEIR WEDDING PARTY is astounding. Ask me how I know.

      • You all had the experience so I’ll believe you, I guess I feel like I’d notice if there was sexual tension if I was around the friend but I see your point. If they are truly that deceitful and really get off on the whole secrecy thing I’m sure it would be possible for them to act like they were totally not interested in each other. I feel horrible for those who were betrayed not only by their spouse but at the same time by a friend.

        • I kinda feel it’s the duty of every chump, when they hear a fellow chump say, “Oh, I’m pretty sure I would’ve noticed if my spouse did x, y, or z,” to pipe up and say, “Uh, not so fast, maybe not.” We are, after all, chumps. And we are to spackle what the ancient Egyptians were to pyramids.

          • nomar, I actually said I feel like I’d noticed BUT “I see your point” to heartbroken. After the deceit I experienced I can well believe it could happen to me too. after all trusting chumps are trusting…sigh.

        • I so relate. In my case

          Happened to me over and over, I just didn’t know it.
          These were “girls” I actually helped quite a lot. Shoulder to cry on. Clothing. Food.
          I try not to think about it but you all sharing has helped me so much so I have to put my 2 cents in. My daughters called them my “skinny girls”.
          We worked in a industry (fishing) where there were a lot of down and out people.
          My family was very people oriented.
          My father’s greatest achievement was being proclaimed “Sidewalk Mayor” (he was actually the REAL Mayor at one point but Sidewalk Mayor meant more to him)

          What I’m trying to say is that it took CL and the rest of you to tell me over and OVER again that I couldn’t SEE or UNDERSTAND these things because my mind just didn’t work that way. My instincts knew, but I refused to acknowledge them.

          Keep us posted I would so love to be proved wrong about unicorns!


    • I agree heartbroken, my ex was stone-cold, as were his AP’s (2 best friends and his co-workers). He brought them to our home after they became “family friends”, we visited with each others’ families and children, visited on vacations, etc., and this went on literally 15 years. No– sometimes what they are portraying as “friends” and “co-workers”, is so much more, and in a way to me that is almost sicker. I will never fail to enforce healthy boundaries again. As my IC told me after D-Day (he has been a MC for many years and seen it all): “No, Kelly, married adult men and women should not want to become close ‘friends’ and spend their free time and energy on friends of the opposite sex, it is a recipe for disaster…or a warning.” I thought I was being mature that I was confident enough for my ex to have female friends. Instead, in my case, it was a warning to me that they were more than friends and I should have paid attention much earlier.

  • My ex had poor boundaries with the women he worked with. His involvement and friendship with them was incredibly painful to me. With one of his emotional affairs I threatened to leave if he didn’t stop and his behavior got better for awhile. He also got better at hiding his activities. He fell in love with his last EA partner and left as soon as our kids were grown. She was also married. Please don’t put up with this kind of behavior because it can definitely lead to more. It’s incredibly painful to you even if it’s not physical. It would be a good idea for you to speak to a counselor before you confront him. It might help you articulate your feelings about the EA to him and be clear on your boundaries. Most of all don’t let him diminish your feelings about the situation by telling you that you’re being overly sensitive. What he is doing is wrong if it hurts you.

  • I have trouble understanding your sentence about your having poor boundaries in your first marriage. I think having lunch with male coworkers is totally OK, especially if it sometimes happens in groups and sometimes just the two of you – if it is the company cafeteria. Naturally going to secret lunches a long way from the office.

    But in my marriage, I never felt any jealousy. I was naive enough to think that since I am committed and trustworthy, my husband was, too. And now my husband has a PA with a coworker with whom they shared the office and went to lunch for 5 years.

    But I still see no harm in continuing to have lunch with my married male coworkers – since there is nothing flirtatious or sexual there.

    • Socializing in a group, okay. It if was my boss and it was a work lunch, okay. But to hang out socially with a guy, for lunch, or after work, or whatever — I wouldn’t do it now. At the time, it was innocent, but enough of that kind of attention, IMO, can lead to EAs.

      I never felt jealously either, in my marriages. My first husband rarely wanted to do *anything* together, but would travel by himself (I did too), or just announce he was doing X, and I rolled with it. It made for separate lives. My second marriage, I was way too much the “cool GF/wife.” Hanging out with women friends, lunches, “helping them move,” etc, etc. I rolled with. That happened now — I’d be suspicious. I was really chumpy.

      I’m not saying be joined at the hip. But when it gets lopsided, like the Other World is the primary world and the married world is this small, unpleasant country you sometimes visit? Yeah, you’re in trouble.

      • CL, I think this is too black/white for me “But to hang out socially with a guy, for lunch, or after work, or whatever — I wouldn’t do it now. At the time, it was innocent, but enough of that kind of attention, IMO, can lead to EAs.”

        My BFF is a lesbian, I don’t generally swing that way but hey, she is attracted to women. You saying she shouldn’t hang with me or talk to me regularly because it could lead to EA and alienate her spouse? Because seriously, I do NOT believe the gender of your friends is the issue. IMO, it’s having integrity, honesty and boundaries. If I take this comment to it’s logical conclusion then gay men should not hang out with other men and gay women should not hang out with other women and of course hetero people should only have friends of the same sex. I hope this is not what you meant.

        The rest of what you say makes sense, when your friend relationships are stronger than your spouse relationship (sharing with them things you don’t share with spouse, etc) something is seriously missing in the primary. And when you do solo things way more often then couple things that’s not so cool. It seems to me if you are not all that into X activity that your spouse likes, usually you do it anyway and they reciprocate that. OTH, there is balance – you should have fulfilling life interests that are not contingent on your spouse sharing them. You going to drag your spouse to a drawing class? Nope. And spouse won’t insist you learn to weld either :). And you will make friends who share those interests when you do them, their gender is unimportant. I hope I’m making sense here, I’m not diving deep into explanations.

        • Dat, I actually personally know two women who considered themselves heterosexual, had never really been attracted to women, who ended up having EA w/other women, leading to the the end of their marriages. These relationships started out truly just as friendships, but the emotional intensity ratcheted up …. Because they both had integrity, both left their marriages before getting further involved, but it’s risky anyway.

          I think more than gender is the risk of so much emotional intimacy that is going to your friend and NOT to your spouse, too much time spent together, and that relationship becoming our emotional focus.

          But because I KNOW it can be hard to be monogamous in the long-term, I stay quite far away from people I find particularly attractive, whatever their gender! They may be amazing people, but I can find somebody else to be friends with.

          • KarenE, I totally agree same gender can end up in this situation, that was the point of my post, that CL seems to be precluding friendships based on gender and it makes no sense to me (this might be a good topic for CL to open up on a new post).

            I think we have to agree to disagree on staying away from people we find attractive, but maybe we aren’t talking about the same thing. The people I am most attracted to for friendship are awesome people in my eyes and it is entirely possible that at some point I’ll think they are really attractive, it has nothing to do with looks. I know this because it’s happened to me, but I have this thing where I don’t act on it. I have boundaries and I know when that happens to step back, to not let that get out of hand. Boundaries are not just for what you allow others to do, they are also about what you do. I’ve been there where I think my friend is really hot and I stepped it back, in fact the post below about my coworker was one of those times. I’m not very good at expressing this so I’ll let Captain Awkward do it for me:

      • My ex had a standing, weekly coffee date with a female coworker. They seemed closer than was necessary for work. I was VERY uncomfortable about it, and told him so many times. He would scoff, and say she knew he was married and “would never cheat on his wife.” I was somewhat friendly with this woman as well, went to her wedding and parties at her house.

        Anyway, a year ago, she moved into my apt complex. We spoke briefly, and I told her that I was now divorced, and that my ex had been a serial cheater. When I told her he was a cheater, she said she wasn’t really surprised. She then went out of her way to never speak to me again. I have never known for sure if anything physical went on between her and my ex, but the fact that she avoided me after our talk makes me think that there was. This wasn’t either of the two married coworkers I KNOW he was having affairs with, this was a different woman.

        If I’m ever in a true, committed relationship again, I definitely am not going to be comfortable with a man who spends considerable time alone with a female friend or coworker. It’s asking for trouble, IMHO.

      • I agree 100% with CL on this. We are all human. Even well-meaning humans are exceptionally good at rationalizing things to themselves. “It’s just a lunch so it’s ok. I’m just helping with some house maintenance, being a good friend. I won’t tell my spouse because it’s innocent and they’ll get upset. As long as she doesn’t know, it won’t hurt her.” And feelings develop. Then Before they know it, they are in over their heads, maybe even falling in love. Better not to put one’s self into a situation where one could mess up.

        I speak not from my own experience but from closely observing my dad (cheater), exH (cheater), and the human race. Of course, like anything I’m sure there are exceptions. But overall, people are weak, emotional beings. We are at our worst when we overestimate ourselves and then try to justify our failings.

    • I agree with you, and with male friendships if it starts to get flirtatious there are easy ways to draw boundaries. I had one male coworker who I went to lunch with a lot, when he started getting over the boundary with flirting I wasn’t sure if I was mistaken or what. So I steered the conversation to his family. When he kept doing it I asked if he would drop by the house for lunch or dinner with his family to meet my husband. That put an end to the lunches because he wanted something more and I made it clear there wouldn’t be any such thing.

      • WEll-handled. That’s what I always did as well. I think I just talked about my husband and kids as a part of my life and it was pretty clear that my family was very important and that was that.

        • thanks Nord, the fact is I was also getting a interest in him beyond the friendship a little bit myself, that’s why I shut it down. And that was odd for me because I don’t normally have pants feelings for anyone except my spouse. I put it down to the fact my ex (then husband) had cut me off from sex for a year by that point. Even then all my sex fantasies were about my ex, but I still cut that attraction off at the root quick.

          • Funny, I had something similar in my life. Sex was waning, ex wouldn’t talk about it and I was talking with a male friend a lot more than I normally would. I never talked about my relationship because that, to me, would have been disrespectful, but I was getting a bit keen so dialed it back, as I believed one should in such situations. I’m do not believe you will get married and never be attracted to another. It’s how you handle and who you are.

            Funny how I had such strong borders about that yet let my ex push mine so hard. Also, funny that I felt it wrong to discuss my marriage problems with anyone else yet ex was spreading his ‘unhappiness’ to every woman he knew….except me.

        • I had a situation something like that also–a dad at my kids’ school wanted to be “just friends” so we could go out to dinner. I didn’t want any part of it, so I told my husband, who was happy to introduce himself to this guy. Of course, the irony is that only a few months later my husband would begin an affair, and didn’t ask for my input or intervention. Just one of the myriad ways I was a chump, a mega-chump…

    • I agree with just me. I have to have lunch meetings with men and women and I don’t think that should be a problem. It’s more about me knowing my boundaries – and I know them well and I know how to handle anyone stepping over the line. My ex didn’t cheat because he had lunch with female colleagues, he cheated because every woman he met was seemingly a mark. If it wasn’t someone at work it was someone in my social circle or whatever.

  • I found the ‘Not Just Friends’ book really helpful w/understanding when a friendship slips into an EA. I agree that hiding the friendship, keeping the spouse and the friend apart, or lying about or ‘not mentioning’ how often you see the person or how much time you spend together is a big sign things have gone over the line.

    But you can have a ‘friendship’ that looks fine from the outside, but is still inappropriate and undermines your relationship w/your life partner. That happens when you start to feel more emotionally connected to your friend than your spouse, when you tell your friend things you don’t tell your spouse, when you talk to your friend about problems in your marriage and it’s NOT about how to resolve them, when you want to connect w/your friend more than w/your spouse when something important happens ….

    And from a close friendship to an EA to a physical affair is a VERY slippery slope, starts moving fast and very hard to stop! People often don’t intend to go down that road …. And that’s why one of the ways I make sure I stay monogamous is by not having friendships w/people I find even a bit attractive – ever!!

    So I agree that seeing how your husband reacts and how he behaves in the long-term is going to be the big determinant of whether there’s a future for your marriage or not. Although it couldn’t really hurt to try to confirm whether really only an EA, before asking him about it ….

    • This whole conversation is very interesting. I’m sure people have different tolerances for ‘closeness’ with someone outside the marriage, so we all have to navigate our way through it as it happens. IMO, when it needs to change, is when one of you feels put out or hurt. The problem I ended up having was a large double standard on his part. I couldn’t even mention a guy, or that I worked with one, or my H would become unglued! He had, over many years, tons of women he would take places, work with, take to fancy ‘business’ dinners, and ‘fix their faucets’ on many weekends. Oy vey! It looks so obvious in print now, but I really tried to express my displeasure as it was happening, and looking back it seems that he groomed me for Chumpdom.
      I think a really tight marriage wouldn’t include spending lots of time with someone else and getting comfort from them. Shouldn’t that come from your spouse? Why go to somebody else? This is how my marriage eventually ended, because they fell in love and he tried to eat cake for three years. Obviously we had different ideas about togetherness, and it became too confusing to me so I filed. I think it would have happened sooner or later, because he wasn’t ever contented with only me, even though I’m awesome! It’s his broken head, is what I think.

      • Your xH felt entitled to get his cake from anywhere and everywhere. And it was your job to supply ONLY him with cake, and not threaten that supply by ever mentioning another male, who would be his competition for your affection. Jealousy is a red flag for cheating. It was in my case, one I missed. xH fretted about me spending time at work with high-achieving men. *sigh*

        • I know, well now I know about the jealousy. When I was younger and not wise, I thought it was flattering! Oooooh, he really loves me!

    • “But you can have a ‘friendship’ that looks fine from the outside, but is still inappropriate and undermines your relationship w/your life partner”

      It’s funny because I also think that you can have one that might look slightly inappropriate from the outside but is actually completely within normal boundaries. I actually had I guess what they term a “work husband” at my job I held for about 3 years up until I left to have my first child. People from the outside probably thought we were flirting… and maybe we were? what is the definition of flirting?… but I know we really only talked about things like work, football, movies, hobbies, nothing really personal at all. And we were barely in touch outside of work. So, yes, even if there was laughing and smiling and we did hang out at work a lot, there were no inappropriate topics and definitely no touching. I think we did go to lunch alone like one time and I will say that was the only time where I thought possibly I shouldn’t be doing that and it didn’t happen again.

      I say this because really, from the outside you can never really tell what’s going on. That’s the thing that freaks me out the most. How will I know when to trust? I know that nothing would have happened in my case because I know I would never have let it. If I ever felt him being inappropriate it would have actually weirded me out and I would have pulled back. I know this because I was freakishly weird about being hit on. Is it strange that I never enjoyed the ego boost of being blatantly hit on? When I was married it did just make me feel uncomfortable. Though, honestly, it didn’t happen that much either 🙂

      I think all these cheaters, and everyone, really, knows when they start crossing the line. You can’t police or control another’s behavior and someone either knows in their heart not to cross certain lines (or to at least go running back if they do accidentally cross a small one) and other people also know when they’ve crossed them and decide they like the feeling and go further. So, I do know that the moment I find out a guy is hiding contact with someone that is a BIG red flag… because they know what they are doing is wrong. I also worry that if someone is willing to do that… what they know is wrong… that it is inevitable that it will go further and further and you cannot stop it. Or if you do find out and stop it once, it will just happen again eventually and go further then (know this one from experience).

      That being said, you gotta try… probably with a therapist for guidance and to hold everyone accountable. I *hope* something like this can be a wake up call if the potential cheater is willing to do the work as well as you to address problems in the marriage and try to improve the relationship.

  • The way I see it emotional affairs are even more dangerous to a marriage than extramarital sex without any emotional attachment. And, if not terminated often lead to a full blown sexual/emotional connection that will destroy a marriage in record time. And, yes, these things can happen in good marriages when people think such behavior is totally innocent and participate in it and/or tolerate it. Emotional affairs are often the beginning of the end. And, you wouldn’t be her asking these questions if your gut was not telling you this.

    CL has given you excellent advice. Your husband needs to know how disturbing this relationship is to you. And your reasons why it is disturbing to you. Most men don’t understand why women become disturbed in this situation. Men seem to believe that if sex hasn’t happened there is no big deal. WRONG!!

    Dr. Shirley Glass (who is dead now) was an expert on infidelity and how it happens. She wrote a book entitled, “Not Just Friends”…you may want to read it.

    Your husband may (and most likely will) react by saying that you are being insecure, jealous, and controlling. You need to respond to him that strong emotional attachments and too much time spend with a woman other than a wife is a slippery slope and tempting fate in the strongest way–a situation which if continued doesn’t have any positive outcome for his marriage and family –that you are being precisely the opposite of “controlling” because you are acting responsibly by according him the opportunity to take stock, weigh his values, and control his own behavior with respect to what should be his legitimate priorities.

    If you go for marriage counseling you don’t need one of these modern, “anything goes” counselors who may derail your efforts to persuade him to prioritize your marriage and family. You need someone with old fashioned values who will tell the man straight out that he is tempting fate in the worst way, and that he needs to learn to communicate effectively with you about his emotional and physical needs…or he could very well “bring down the house”…literally.

    I hope you take CL’s advice and do all you can do to nip this in the bud. There is no good outcome for your marriage if he continues to behave in this manner.

    Best of luck!

    • I used to say to my 1st long-term partner, that I’d be WAY more upset if he were having heart-to-heart lunches w/another woman, holding her hand and staring into her eyes, but no sex, than if he had a fast f**k w/someone he didn’t know and wouldn’t see again. I still think like that, although now my tolerance for any kind of cheating is in the negative numbers!

  • I’ve long held the belief that people of the opposite sex (assuming they are heterosexual) cannot spend a lot of alone time together and be “just friends.” I’ve been ridiculed for this belief, but I’m not backing down from it. I know I’m right.

    xH used to spend a lot of alone time with female co-workers, and would hide it from me, or, if I found out and wanted to join them, would tell me I was not invited. It annoyed me; he was very open about the fact that he was infatuated with these women (and, in one case, very attached to a young male co-worker, as well, perhaps someone he idolized or wished to be more like.) I begged him not to treat me like he did, to no avail. I never believed any of these women would return his affection, that he was making an ass of himself. Who knows?

    I work with married men I find very attractive, even if not initially physically. I enjoy their company immensely. I have a very clear boundary–I do not spend alone time with them, or limit it strictly to necessity only, and often turn the conversation to their wives and children, and how honorable they are for being good husbands and fathers. I refuse to have anything in common with the whore who wedged herself into my family (with xH’s full support.)

    I believe that emotional intimacy outside a marriage, with someone unrelated, IS always a threat to a marriage. I completely agree with CL’s advice here, though I am more skeptical of the letter writer’s husband’s story.

    I have (had?) a once-dear friend who engaged in an emotional relationship with her now-boyfriend, who left his wife for my friend. She insists they were not physically intimate until he moved out of the family home. I say she is the catalyst in the breakdown of that marriage. I hate it when she posts pictures of his kids with her and their father on FB, as I know this must be incredibly painful to the ex-wife. The dumb boyfriend, who all the other friends now adore, just bragged on FB about how much money he has spent on my friend for Christmas–and he has 4 kids and an ex-wife! I am absolutely appalled that they flaunt their relationship. They have bought all the cliches, that “The marriage was over anyway,” and, “It takes two,” and, “Well, if a man’s not happy…” and it makes me just sick. I am considering ending my friendship in one fell-swoop comment on her FB page. I would like to remind her that those kids have a mother who spent Thanksgiving without her own children, through no fault of her own. My (ex?) friend’s glee is another mother’s despair. All caused by an emotional affair.

    Most of us are here because emotional affairs became physical, and were concealed. (Others are here because their spouses fuck indiscriminately, I understand.)

    Emotional affairs are the gateway to the end of a marriage. And, as others have posted, it truly is the stolen emotional intimacy that is the most painful part of an affair–at least for me (all wrapped up in stolen time and money, and risk of STD’s, etc.) But, like several have commented, it’s possible the husband is truly clueless and would be devastated to know that he has caused his wife pain. I doubt it. I think he chooses to spend time with a woman who is not his wife (nor is his mother or sister or aunt or grandma…daughter…) If he’s not sexless, he’s at least thinking about his platonic friend sexually. Believe it. It’s amazing how passion can lead to pathetic rationalization, and then stupidity and lies. I’m just not buying it. Might not be too late to rescue things, so it’s certainly worth the effort.

    • Stephanie, you have articulated this truth so well. perhaps if more people understood this, fewer would start down that “slippery slope”… 🙁

    • I agree with Stephanie and CL on this one. It is best to draw a bright line around this, and then just don’t cross it. But I used to be of a different mind set. I used to think that this kind of thinking was old fashioned, less-evolved, maybe even sexist. But now that I have seen infidelity up close and personal, I stay clear of anything with even a whif of it. You don’t have to have a full-blown affair or even a deep emotional connection with your opposite sex friend to cause pain and stress in your primary relationship. And it feels really good to me to honor my partner in this way.

      • Add me to this list. I used to think it was extremely sexist or old-fashioned to say that men and women couldn’t be “just friends.” And I am certain that there ARE platonic male/female friendships out there. But as a general rule, I do believe it is playing with fire when a straight man and woman (and I’m sure it’s the same for two gay men or two gay women) spend significant time alone together and share confidences about their personal lives. One or both are likely to develop romantic feelings in this situation, and it could very, very easily slide into EA and then PA.

        I have no problem when the two people see each other in a group, or always in the presence of their spouses. But time spend just the two of them, or texting, emailing, phone calls or Facebook messages……. fueling the fire.

        In the future, if I am involved with a man who spends significant time with a woman he claims is “just a friend,” I’m taking that as a waving red flag. And if he downplays my feelings as my being “too sensitive,” “just jealous,” “nothing would ever happen” etc, well, I hope I will be smart enough to walk away.

    • Yes! What got me was your comment about the childrens mother spending thanksgiving on her own through no fault of her own. Absolutely criminal. 3 cheers for no fault? I think not!

    • Stephanie, I agree with you. Emotional affairs are a dangerous gateway. My xH felt as though he had conducted himself with integrity because he (claimed he) had not yet poked his dick in her. He might as well have because it all hurt like a m*****f***** anyway. He betrayed my love and trust. This was the devastation for me. He was living a life much like a single man’s with the benefits of a married man while his married wife was completely in the dark, naively trusting because he had shown himself to be trustworthy in the past. I would never accept this level of betrayal from a friend much less a spouse. Emotional affairs are an eviscerating betrayal.

    • YES, it is the stolen emotional intimacy that is the most painful part of this and it will take time to heal. He was not clueless, he knew it was wrong but he was still doing it. I haven’t rec’d a good reply as to how he thought it would end or end up. I don’t know how long he was going to keep going down the path. I hope he is off the path and running the other direction. Time will tell. Right now he says that our marriage is the most important thing and he is willing to do anything to save it and prevent future incidences. I hope his actions back up these words. Thanks for your kind reply.

  • I agree with CL and the others who said that you should approach him about how you feel first. It may be that he’s just not aware that he’s making you uncomfortable. If he’s not trying to hide his interactions with her at all, I’d guess it’s just that.

    How he reacts to you telling him your feelings will be the main indicator of whether or not you need to worry further. If he gets really defensive about it, then I’d worry. If he’s receptive to how you feel, then I wouldn’t. He may not need to completely cut off contact with her, but just be aware of how she makes you feel and stay within boundaries that you two can agree to set.

    • There are some men however that will hear your concerns “rationally,” appear to do all the right things, and then take their affairs deep underground. My ex was never jealous of me, and appeared to make all the right moves, but in the end it just prolonged my D-Day by 15 years. Jill needs to follow her gut (and not the spackle). I would not hesitate to hire a p.i. next time around, rather than waste any more decades of my life.

      • I agree Kelly, but one of the ways he’d have to demonstrate that “sorry” beyond saying the right things, is not have so much margin to his life that he’s free for tennis and “handy man” activities. (cough)

        IMO, he should quit tennis, period. Or teach the game to his kids, if it means that much to him. But OW cannot be a fixture in his life any more.

        In my experience, yes, they can take it underground, but they cannot sustain “remorse.” Eyes open, no spackle, totally.

  • Also, Jill, one thing that could be going on, is that the tennis partner is showering him with attention (and her motive could very well be to pull him towards herself). He lets you see his phone, and be aware of all the texts and calls, so you realize they are constantly in contact. This sounds strange, and the OW in my case did this too. It’s like a type of love-bombing, it’s attention-bombing, and some people just eat that up. Of course they know it’s inappropriate, and they don’t care. If a spouse is already having some doubts, or unsatisfied with the life (that THEY made with you), this kind of thing can push them right over the edge. I know my X loved all the excessive attention from her, morning, noon and night. I saw what was starting to happen, but I wasn’t able to stop it.
    You really need to talk to him and figure this out together, see if he has any ideas why she would be phoning/texting so much!

    • I saw it happening too and felt like I couldn’t do anything to stop it. At least my attempts to talk to him, to express how much it hurt me, etc. didn’t stop it. He usually acted exasperated that I was so “jealous and overly-sensitive” and became even more distant. The emotional intimacy he had with his coworker definitely sucked the life out of our marriage, although he would never admit it.

      • What a mind-fuck–total gas-lighting to make YOU feel as though YOU were the one with the problem, instead of saying that he was sorry and would do whatever it took to make you comfortable.

  • This article made a lot of sense in my case.

    My husband ended up having a sexual affair with one co-worker and an emotional affair with another (at the same time). I was never jealous of these women because they were just “friends.”. After d-day he had no problem ending the physical relationship, but refused to give up the emotional one because after all they were “just friends” and had never done anything. I’m sure, though, the only reason they hadn’t was because she wasn’t interested in going there (yet).

    If I was you, I would not talk to my husband until I’d done some snooping. Put a voice recorder under the seat of his car and listen to the conversations they have when you’re not listening. (And I see no reason to ever tell your husband about this.).

  • I always trusted my ex, and he always related to and socialized with other women. I had NO idea that he was having an affair….but try to catch it. You need evidence before you make any moves.

  • Shocked by chump ladys advice to stay in a marriage for the kids, because emotional affairs are as bad as pa. Wow. Hope u are not going soft.

    This is the only place ive seen with zero tolerance for cheating.

    Emotional affairs can be worse tham pa.

    • illwill Cl did not say that all she said was before you blow up the relationship make sure you have your info right. to give him a chance. After rereading the letter however I am beginning to think Jill is on to something. “She seems to use him as a free handyman (fix my wiring, clean my gutters) ” that really sounds like code to me!

    • It’s all about Jill’s boundaries. If cleaning another woman’s gutters is a deal breaker for her, fine, divorce him. To me, that’s pretty hasty and thin soup for a divorce.

      I stand by my advice. Have the conversation and see what he does. Keep her eyes open, don’t spackle, and see what he does.

      I’ve written about this before. I do think EAs are damaging. I do think in the majority of cases EAs are really PAs you haven’t discovered yet. But I do ALSO think there is a slippery slope. Jill doesn’t know where he is on that slope. I say, find out. I do NOT put EAs in the same category as a physical affair, especially a long-term affair with cake eating.

      I am skeptical about reconciliation, yes. I set a very high bar for cheaters who want to demonstrate remorse. I advise divorce because most cheaters, IMO, don’t do the hard work and cannot sustain it, and chumps take abuse for years.

      That is VERY different than advising someone to divorce right out of the gate. You’ve been disrespected! Call the lawyer!

      Most everyone who writes here tried reconciliation. I don’t fault any chump for trying, especially when you have kids. But there comes a point when you have to stop trying and face facts — this person isn’t sorry. They aren’t doing the work. Then, YES, lay that burden down.

      Jill hasn’t even BEGUN that journey. I think to advise divorce would be totally premature.

      • H was spending an increasing amount of timw with the married coworker for past 3 years. I suspected nothinh. i was fine with them engagibg in high-adrenaline sports in group settibg ehile I took care of the kids and his hunting dog. I had my hobbies. I was sad we could not do things just the two of us because of child care issues. I thought it was temporary.
        I feel very sad and betrayed by the fact he traded me for a hobby partner. They continue the sporys now that I and her ex take care of the 5 kids among us.
        I thought we had a modern well functioning team work marriahe. I guess to him I was just a household apoliance he disgarded after 19 years.

  • Read it three times. She clearly said, to her emotional affairs are not on the same level as pa. And that she owes it to her children to try. But even without the confrontation he is still having a ea. And you are dreaming if you really thank he does not know that. He does. Unless he is in the bull sh!t fog.

    So, what did i miss?

    Do any of you ever disagree with chump lady? Perhaps the fact that she admits she also was sort of indirectly in a ea at one time is tainting her advice.

    • Illwill,

      I’ve spelled out my advice several times. I’m not saying rug sweep the EA. I’m saying confront and see what he does. It sounds like you don’t believe in reconciliation under any circumstances, whatsoever. This is where we disagree. I am highly skeptical of reconciliation. I believe it shouldn’t be the default setting, especially after a physical affair. But in an EA, such as this, where she has zero evidence that it has any sexual component, no I love yous have been exchanged — yeah, IMO — I wouldn’t hit the eject button so soon. You are glossing over the fact that I *did* say if he so much as minimizes the EA, refuses to dump her, redirect his attention, etc. — yes, lawyer away.

      But IMO, she shouldn’t do that without asserting herself first and confronting him.

      As for your comment that my advice is “tainted” because I had an EA — you’re insulting. I said I had poor boundaries in my former marriages. That is NOT the same thing as saying I had an EA — unless you consider my art classes, a child, and traveling with a 63 year old woman an EA. I had no “special someone” I was devoting all my attentions to at the exclusion of my spouse.

      We have plenty of disagreement on this board, Illwill. Most people chose to do it civilly.

  • illwill,

    I don’t always agree with CL, and I disagree with her about the level of danger to a marriage produced by an emotional affair.

    Dr. Frank Pittman described it best in his book, “Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy” (probably the best book ever on infidelity). He stated that infidelity is NOT just having sex with a person outside the primary relationship. Infidelity is the violation of any of the TERMS and CONDITIONS that are part of the primary relationship.

    If one is behaving in any manner that s/he would feel awkward or embarrassed for the primary partner to witness, that person has crossed the line and is betraying the primary relationship. And the lies and secret keeping (the factors that actually destroy relationships) are going to follow in short order.

    To me, an emotional affair is just another form of cake eating. That cake may not be frosted with physical sex, but it is still “cake” any way you slice it.

    It is an entitlement issue, and even worse a stupidity issue. Anyone who thinks that s/he is so “in control” and “so competent” that it won’t ever go any further is the very one whose foot is going to slide at some point. It is arrogant to believe that we are not flawed or human enough to end up screwing ourselves over when we persist in openly courting disaster.

    I do agree with CL that the original poster needs to ascertain to the greatest extent possible the depth and scope of her husband’s relationship with this other woman before going off half cocked and dropping the divorce bomb. There is the possibility that her husband is an naive doofus who is being suckered along by a predatory flirt.

    HOWEVER, in her shoes, if my H showed any resistance at all to understanding the reasons behind my concerns and/or refused to terminate the relationship, then I’d probably force him to the choice. There would be no middle ground here. Life is too short to waste with someone who (once informed of your concerns) continues to behave in a way that makes you feel insecure and not good enough.

    • Notyou, we are in agreement. I DO think EAs are very damaging. If that’s your deal breaker, and you want to push the eject button without a “this upsets me greatly” conversation, that is the poster’s choice. She asked my advice. And IMO, before I did that, I’d want to know how he reacts.

      My guess is that he won’t react well. He’ll do everything I outlined — minimize, deny, refuse to end it with the tennis partner, etc. THEN yes, pull out the big guns.

      But to me, I’d rather give him that chance and leave knowing I honestly asserted myself.

      • When I approached my wife about the phone bill. I told her it was inappropriate to be in contact with another man that frequently. I knew she was cheating and tried to handle it with dignity. That’s when I gave her the ultimatum. Stop contact or we divorce. She came up with some bullshit excuse of why she should keep contact.

        If your spouse truely loves and respects you they will do as you wish. I suggest Jill does just that. Tell him she thinks that friendship is inapropriate and he should end it. If he balks then push him down that slippery slope.

  • I agree with CLhere. I will even go farther. I think it possible that the husband may be clueless with poor boundaries. At this point a conversation might be useful.

    I say this because STBX started his affair by feeling sorry for OW and wanting to help out a friend with a hard luck story. I did caution him, but he pooh poohed my concerns about the lack of boundaries. If I had known then what I know now, I would have been more insistent on setting the boundaries that I want for me.

    That said, I would suggest taking some precautionary steps to investigate further. The voice activated recorder is a good idea. Also, put a hardware key logger on his computer. Hire a PI for when he goes to clean her gutters. Track the vehicle. Got a joint account? Go online and go through the payments. If you love life has diminished, that’s a huge red flag.

    Assuming nothing turns up, it is fair to make time to talk about what it is about this friendship that makes you uncomfortable. Do aspects of what they do for each other seem to infringe on what spouses do? Here I am talking about the little things involved in taking care of each other. Maybe see a therapist to help you plan what to say.

    If he blows you off, then perhaps get a post-nup with an infidelity clause.

    This prepares you for all eventualities.

    Best of luck!

  • Im not against reconciling. Sometimes. I am against the idea that a ea is not as bad as a pa. It is. Or that she needs to stay for the kids. And if i insulted you i do apologize. Ill leave it there.

    • Illwill, I agree (and so does CL) that an EA is extremely damaging. However, I think I could have recovered after an EA, especially if there were no sexting or related exchanges. Right now, it looks as if the OP’s husband lacks boundaries, and may not see that he is starting to spend inappropriate time with the tennis partner.

      If OP had found any kind of romantic exchanges, I would not hold my breath for any kind of reconciliation.

  • The disturbing part of the tennis-loving husband is he hasn’t shared the details of his tennis-partner relationship with his spouse. This tennis-partner relationship is already underground. How could he go to the tennis partner’s place and do “handy man” work without sharing these acts with his primary relationship? His silence on his activities beyond tennis with this woman is a very, very, very bad sign. I would not approach the conversation with the words emotional affair or physical affair. I wouldn’t make this distinction. Jill, you are not required to put descriptors around this tennis-partner relationship. You know enough. What he’s doing, behind your back, by not sharing explicitly with you what he does with this woman off the tennis court, can be a breach of your marriage contract, if absolute transparency regarding activities with other women is one of your boundary (it’s certainly one of mine now). You have the right to see his lack of complete transparency about his actions off the court with this woman as infidelity to your relationship with him. So what if his texts are available to you. That’s not transparency in a marriage. He should have told you directly he was going to a woman’s residence. Yes. For the sake of your health, confront him immediately. His dishonest behavior is appalling and has no place in a healthy, marital relationship. He should quit this tennis partner relationship at once. I’m sure there are plenty of men he could play tennis with.

  • “I’m sure there are plenty of men he could play tennis with.”

    Exactly Preya. Healthy boundaries are vital.

    And there’s one thing we haven’t mentioned to Jill, at least not that I recall. Her gut instinct! We all have sworn to never ignore our instincts again. And hers are screaming something is very very wrong. I hope it is not, but she must assume it is and investigate from there.

    Jill, after thinking about how smooth my ex was when confronted (about my concerns re 2 of his female co-workers 15 years before D-Day), how “transparent” he appeared to be, how “innocent” the contact seemed (for work), the changes he assured me would be made (and that appeared to have been made), his patience with my constant concerns and questions, how “sorry” he was he upset me, etc., my gut was still SCREAMING something was wrong but I had no proof. I say now I wish I had hired a p.i., used a voice recorder, etc. Maybe you should think about investigating fully before you confront. Because after you do, if he is having an affair and is really really good at deceit, he may appear to make all the right moves but just take it way underground.

    • Kelly, what you suggest is important, but has to be balanced with Jill’s health. She mentions clearly she is at the end of her rope on investigation. Jill, for the sake of your health and your children’s well being, you should see a primary care physician and explain whatever it is you are experiencing. I couldn’t sleep at all for three nights straight after anger set in. If you’ve seen an attorney, I would say anger has already set in for you, which is great. For me, anger had so much unhealthy adrenaline with it, I had to get some anti-depressant help. Stress negatively impacts nearly every system within the body. You should not lose your health or your career over your husband’s bad behavior. I took 20 mg Celexa (Citalopram) for a year, that’s a low dose. It allowed me the sleep and calm I needed for high functioning at work, at home, and with the mess my husband created. Jill, I have never been a drug pusher, but what you are going through is one of the toughest experiences in life.

      I expressed transparency around engagement with other women is certainly a boundary of mine now. The word “now” is not accurate. This has always been a boundary for me. I broke off a 3.5 year relationship when a boyfriend went out twice after work as a group of four, two men, two women. It was not the act of going out, it was the cover up, the not telling me the next day how he spent his evening, and not mentioning this for over a month. He was sad about the break-up, but he moved on. That told me everything. Jill, if your husband loves you the way you deserve to be loved, he will fight with every bone in his body to make this right. That’s what my husband of 34 years did. Anything short of that, kick him out. Also, you can kick him out while he’s beginning the effort to start fighting hard, while he’s unfogging his head. You don’t have to watch that process. My husband immediately stopped all contact, but I kicked him out while the weird stage was going on where his brain was trying to come back to reality and get out of the fantasy and didn’t allow his presence in my life until he was well on the way to recovery from the mess he’d made. You are in charge here, Jill. He is a mess. Keep that last idea very straight in your mind. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. You have every right to anything you need.

  • Well, I cannot tell you all how grateful I am for ALL of your comments and encouragement. I have to say that Chump Lady was right on with her advice. She read between the lines of my inquiry – that I wanted to protect myself from being hurt before I even knew how he would react.

    SO, here is the update. I confronted him – in a good, private setting while I was calm and while telling myself to really listen to what he had to say and what was not being said. He admitted the inappropriate friendship, admitted to being wrong about it, and was relieved to finally be discussing it with me and have it out in the open. He apologized for hurting me, for betraying me, for hurting our family, and for potentially wrecking our marriage. He agreed without hesitation to completely end the friendship and to not play tennis with her or on a team that she is on ever again. He answered every single question I asked. He denied any physical relationship including sex, hugging, holding hands, anything. He agreed to talk for several more hours that night. He found me awake early the next morning and encouraged more talking. He is remorseful.

    His reasons for the relationship are (in no particular order): he needed a friend/support while I was not really being that for him (a little true), she seemed to be a person who needed help and support, their personalities “clicked,” and “I don’t really know.”

    So now I will observe his actions and see how things go over time. We have some work to do to resolve the problems in our marriage that led him down that path. One major issue is his lack of appropriate friendships. We plan to work on that. Another issue is the things I did to contribute to the problems in our marriage. My contributions are NOT EQUAL and he agrees, but nonetheless, I have made mistakes in communicating my needs and my expectations and in being angry about where we live geographically, so I will be working on those.

    We have resolved to support and love each other and try to make our marriage impenetrable to others and to this type of intrusion. It feels like a fresh start. I don’t want to always be a chump or be fooled, so I am continuing cautiously, but right now it feels pretty good. I hope the work that we do to explore this problem, what led to it, and what was missing from our relationship will prevent it from happening ever again. Time will tell.

    I’m SO grateful for this forum. It took me from coward to empowerment on this topic. I can’t thank you enough.

      • Checking for messages and tracking his whereabouts will be hard habits to break. I haven’t stopped yet, and don’t plan to anytime soon! I also have a plan for a private investigator should any red flags arise, so I’m ready to take action if needed. This is definitely not a “we’re ok now” situation. It will take a long time to fully repair the damage and trust, and I expect immediate and consistent results now and long into the future. Thanks!

  • IMO, most EA’s don’t stay there for long. Someone will try to push the envelope, or someone will try to end it foreseeing where it is going. Most men especially will want to move it to the next level if they sense the woman is up for it. Once people that are “open” to such a relationship (EA) they are usually open to the rest too. I am not saying to not be hoping for the best, but I would be prepared for the worst too.
    Maybe I am strange, but I have my mind made up against infidelity, and am very sensitive to any spark of attraction & immediately start the back up as in making sure I return no interest. I have no problem with doing it and consider it what I agreed to & want. I can think someone is talented, smart, funny or special without taking it to the bedroom in my mind. In fact, I like not to sexualize my appreciation for others. (Although I do consider myself a sexual person)
    I also think that if you are not convinced you are a good person, lover, worker, whatever, no one else will be able to convince you anyway in or out of the bedroom.

  • Married 32 years. Big year for us big promotion for my husband,move to another state, giving up family ,friends and my job. Casually looked at his Company IPAD where left open were hundreds of emails with her. I actually was not sure if she was a woman. Nothing sexual about them at all though she did end every email with kisses. Confronted him,he came clean immediately. But he insists it was not physical just spending time together and talking. He travels frequently for work to the same country where she lived. I am devastated. Can’t seem to get past it. He called her told her he loves his wife and cannot see or be in touch with her. I don’t believe it was not physical. She sent him pictures of herself. God awful looking. He claims he told her he was married and in love w his wife right from the beginning. He says she had a boyfriend. Who knows what is true? But still why did he do this? He wants to move forward but if he can’t understand why he did this how do I know it won’t happen again. And the depth of my anger is scary. I should mention that in 2008 I again found an email unknown to me with hundreds of emails written to many different women. After reading through them it was obvious most were friends or casual acquaintances. All wrong as I knew nothing about any of them. But in their midst their were four women he had one night stands with. We have been together since high school and I always thought we would grow old together. Not really sure I see that happening anymore. How could he hurt me like that again? And what makes me think it won’t happen again.

  • Married 32 years. Big year for us big promotion for my husband,move to another state, giving up family ,friends and my job. Casually looked at his Company IPAD where left open were hundreds of emails with her. I actually was not sure if she was a woman. Nothing sexual about them at all though she did end every email with kisses. Confronted him,he came clean immediately. But he insists it was not physical just spending time together and talking. He travels frequently for work to the same country where she lived. I am devastated. Can’t seem to get past it. He called her told her he loves his wife and cannot see or be in touch with her. I don’t believe it was not physical. She sent him pictures of herself. God awful looking. He claims he told her he was married and in love w his wife right from the beginning. He says she had a boyfriend. Who knows what is true? But still why did he do this? He wants to move forward but if he can’t understand why he did this how do I know it won’t happen again. And the depth of my anger is scary. I should mention that in 2008 I again found an email unknown to me with hundreds of emails written to many different women. After reading through them it was obvious most were friends or casual acquaintances. All wrong as I knew nothing about any of them. But in their midst their were four women he had one night stands with. We have been together since high school and I always thought we would grow old together. Not really sure I see that happening anymore. How could he hurt me like that again? And what makes me think it won’t happen again.

  • My wife was “Jill,” except she didn’t take CL’s advice.

    What my Jill pieced together was that I had just come back from a trip with my family that included a soon-to-be OW, where upon returning my dad commented to everyone in the room, “I tell ya, GetGrilled has really met his MATCH with [OW]!”

    I know he meant it innocently, because it was clear we got along so great. I doubt my wife took it that way, but she said nothing. I, on the other hand, stupidly took it as validation for always being thrilled to be around OW. “Wow, even my dad can see OW and I are meant for each other!”

    I went back to see the OW the next week, but there never was any physical. Not initially during the trip, not when I went back, not even after I actually did fall for the OW emotionally. I was that unicorn who texted and “dated” the OW for several months afterwards without any hope of sex or even reciprocated interest. I did express the interest and she bluntly shut me down. So yeah, I even lied to the OW by pretending to just accept platonic friendship while secretly wanting more–everything, actually. Can ya say, “dysfunctional?” Me, then.

    But that first trip back, my wife stayed mute. A week later we had an argument where I declared I didn’t “know” if she would be in my future. At that moment I thought I had “decided” to (somehow) leave my wife (for what, I don’t know). I voiced none of that specifically however, because I literally did not know WTF I was doing, only that I was miserable and had been for a long time.

    6 mos. later at Xmas, I left the family celebration to go out on a date with OW. It was a level of insanity and disrespect and abuse to my wife of a sort that repulses me still. I was pissed at the time. Pissed at my sister, who always seemed to be butting in on my dates (it didn’t help that my sister and OW were best friends, dumbass) and just generally feeling waaaay too entitled to give a shit what anyone else thought about it.

    She stopped me as I was running out the door and asked if anything was going on with OW. My answer was bullshit half-truth, that OW would never let anything happen. True enough, but when my wife asked, “No, asshole, what about YOU,” … I punted/lied. At that moment she knew (for real) my intentions. However, I didn’t enjoy any of it then, and don’t ever want to be that asshole ever again.

    So that EA soon withered to nothing of course, but by then my wife had decided what was in her best interest was to find a one night stand and then a long term affair of her own. Both of which today she still happily engages in. Zero denial, zero remorse, zero excuses, despite of course taking it all underground now. I love seeing the clusterfuckery of being completely at ease with your actions while keeping them hidden.

    Funny, all this time of stonewalling and I thought she really had become asexual. “Oops.”

    She has now admitted she “loves me but is not in love with me,” and that she “doesn’t see our future paths ever crossing again.” Thanks for being such a sweetheart about what’s best for you, hon. I guess you learned it from me, at least that’s your excuse.

    I think I’ll frame those two phrases, and put ’em on a plaque with the divorce papers. I know I’m quite useful to you around your house and fixing your cars, but I “just don’t see our paths ever crossing again.”

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