If you’re dealing with a spouse who you strongly suspect or know had an emotional affair, it is very frustrating when they will not acknowledge or admit it. And the most typical or common denial that you will hear is that the two of them were “just” close friends. A husband might say this as if she were just a buddy with whom he’d watch or attend a sporting event. And no matter how much you try to get him to see that having this sort of relationship with another woman is wrong and inappropriate, he will often cling tightly to his “just friends” excuse.
A wife might say: “my husband does not understand why I am so angry by his emotional affair. Honestly, I feel every bit as hurt as I might if I walked in and saw my husband in bed with the other woman. I didn’t. Instead, I found all these emails and texts between them where they are discussing the most intimate details of their lives. My husband would tell her the problems with our marriage. She would tell him what one of her kids did. They will complain about their mothers and how they are not appreciated at work. Frankly, it is almost like reading a conversation between two women. But at the end, one of them will sign off with how much they love each other. I do have to admit that at no point in any of the correspondence do they make any indication of physical contact. There is nothing like: ‘I can’t wait to have your hands on me,’ or anything like that. But they do clearly look forward to seeing each other and getting together. And they clearly lean and one another emotionally. My husband was obviously panicked when I found this correspondence. By the guilty look on his face and the way that he got all flustered when I confronted him, it’s obvious that somewhere deep down, he knows that he was wrong. He’s even asked me who I’ve told. But when it comes right down to it, he continues to say that they are just friends and that it was no affair. He admits that he considers her his best friend and says he wishes she were a man. I told him that your wife is supposed to be your best friend and his response is that he feels that he can talk to her about anything because there is nothing romantic between them. He says it’s harmless. But that is not how it feels to me. He says I should not worry about but I am VERY worried about it. How do I make him see that this was an affair and that it was extremely inappropriate?”
Well, you have to understand that right now, he is probably in denial. And he is motivated by the wish to make you believe that he didn’t do anything horribly wrong. If he can make you believe that she is just a friend and you don’t have a romantic rival, then the hope is that you can just go on as if nothing major has happened.
Ironically, he may well believe this. Many people do truly believe that no affair has occurred if there was no sex. What they don’t understand is that very often, these “close friendships” lead to sex and they lead to a relationship that threatens a marriage. Most experts will tell you that when you get your emotional needs met by someone other than your spouse, then that is a serious problem. And it’s an even bigger problem if the person meeting your emotional needs is a person of the opposite sex with whom you are spending time and energy that other wise would be spent on your spouse.
Another big tip off that something is wrong is when your spouse is interacting with this “close friend” in secret. Most of the time, the husband is not texting, emailing and talking to this woman “friend” right in front of his wife. Even if he tells himself that there is nothing inappropriate, he still does most of his communicating in private. Why? Because he knows that his wife is going to be hurt and upset. Deep in his heart, he knows that it’s wrong and that he is going to have a lot of explaining to do if his wife discovers the full extent of the relationship.
Men typically don’t understand the full consequences of this until they are able to get some distance. Initially, they are too close to it to see it for what it really is. Sometimes, it takes a counselor to tell him that the relationship is inappropriate and to ask that he ends the relationship or the intensity of it.
If you are resistant to counseling, then you can try this on your own by telling him that you are not accusing him of lying about the relationship, but are insisting that it is still inappropriate because the emotional investment he was making with her was the emotional investment he should have been making with you. And you can stress that this makes you very uncomfortable and is negatively affecting your marriage and putting it at risk.
If he’s unwilling to alter the relationship, then that gives you important information as to just how much she matters to him. Pointing this out to him may or may not be effective. And often, he’s emotionally attached and so he believes it is in his interest not to see reality when it comes to her.
I wish I could tell you that a “just friends” relationship with another woman is nothing to worry about it. But I get too much correspondence concerning physical affairs that started on an emotional level. These relationships can be harder to overcome because there is now both a physical and an emotional bond and he comes to believe that he is dependent on her on many different levels. That’s why it’s best to address it before it goes any further and crosses any other lines.