My wife is having an emotional affair

Two years ago (we’ve now been married 20 years with two kids, 14 and 11) my wife entered into an emotional affair with an older man at work. He’s now 60 and been married 35 years, she’s 44. I’m 45. He had given her cards and notes about how hot, sexy and fun she was, how he enjoyed flirting with her and being around her, and that he wanted to hold her close and kiss her.

They began trading text messages, even during our family vacation to Florida. One of his notes said our family’s vacation would be like a “trial separation” for them. I confronted her after he sent her a text after her company’s party where he said “Even though I wasn’t with you, I enjoyed being around you tonight.” She said they had become close, had lots of talk and met for lunch several times, but they were “just friends.” She never admitted to the notes and cards (which I found out about two months ago) though I knew about the text messaging traffic at the time (two years ago).

I told her we needed to get into marriage counseling. Our relationship became very strained nine months before that, where she basically shut me out and the emotional walls went up. I know why that happened and stopped my behavior that caused it but the walls are still there.

We went a few times to counseling together but later she stopped going. I apologized sincerely for the invasion of privacy and she said it cleared a major obstacle for us to move forward, but two days later she said she needed “space.” I asked her what I could do or not do that would help give her space but she said, "I don’t know." She later said she felt like she was “coerced” into going to counseling. I made no threats or ultimatums.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. I found an e-mail she wrote to him (again snooping) where she said he was her best friend, she loved and adored him, and said she enjoyed looking at pictures of his handsome face, their hot kisses, being physically close and liked being “his toy.” She said she looked forward to being with him, but admitted that though it was just fantasy, it was nice.

There was no mention of sex, and I do not believe that line had been crossed, though my wife and I have not been intimate in 18 months. I finally confronted her. She initially said they were “just friends” but when I told her about the details in the note I asked her if it was true. She said she never sent to note. I asked her again if it was true. She finally said “yes.” I told her the situation was ‘not acceptable’ and that I do not trust her. She later went on to say that there were a lot of things in our past that she felt were unacceptable (going back to when we were first married) but she was not assertive enough to say so.

She said she and this other man have a connection and felt like we have never had connection during our whole marriage. I apologized again for the privacy invasion and she said "neither one of us are right in this."

Our marriage has been far from perfect and I recognize my contributions to it and am working to be a better person. I still go to individual therapy. We do not have any history of physical abuse, prior infidelity nor drug or booze problems. I was diagnosed with depression a year ago and am getting better with meds.

She says she can’t relate to depression. We have always had difficulty in discussing relational and intimate issues but I’ve gotten much better at identifying and expressing my feelings assertively and with the help of my therapist, feel confident and secure in discussing such things.

I have initiated all of our relationship discussions in the past two years, and she gets very emotional in talking about it and they only last 10–15 minutes. I do not want a divorce, but the current situation is not acceptable. I am the primary breadwinner and divorce would seriously affect the family’s standard of living. She says our personalities are not compatible (she’s outgoing, fun and extroverted—I tend to be more quiet and introspective and serious) but I’m working on lightening up.

So my question is—how do I get beyond this impasse?


Compatibility is important in a romantic relationship. Ideally, couples think alike, share the same goals, and have a deep emotional connection. Relationships work best when spouses make each other feel understood (see healthy relationships).

When a partner does not feel a close connection to a spouse, he or she often forms a connection with someone else. Most of these connections are emotional in nature. Although such emotional connections can be upsetting, they are often a symptom, not the cause of problems in a relationship.

Sometimes the most obvious explanation is the best explanation. It might just be as simple as this—you and your wife are not compatible as partners. This is something you should explore with your therapist.

Finally, your wife’s reluctance to work things out is not a good sign either. Relationships require two people treating each other with love and respect. While it takes two people to make a relationship work, it only takes one person to make a relationship fail.

All the work in the world will not save your marriage, if your wife is not willing to try as well.

If the problem is a lack of compatibility, there is little you can do to turn things around.

We wish we had better advice to offer.

 emails | snooping | troubled relationship

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