Emotional infidelity – My husband has been messaging my friend for 5 years

Dear Maj,

I think I’m going crazy. About 1 year ago, I found out that for 5 years, my husband has been messaging an acquaintance of ours who’s also my colleague. He’s “just” been writing things like “milf” (Maj’s words: to those of you who are unsure about what this means, the meaning of this little word is “Mother I’d like to Fuck”).

Additionally, he has been saying “good morning” and “good day”, “hello, I hope your day is lovely” and “goodnight, I hope your day has been nice”.

I worked out there was something wrong, when one morning at 5:30 am I heard him receive a text message. I asked him who messaged him that early and all he said was “oh, just someone saying hello.” I felt suspicious because he didn’t mention a name or anything.

For the 33 years I’ve been with my husband, I’ve never had suspicions of him cheating on me. To me, the cheating part is in the messages themselves. He doesn’t believe it to be cheating though and he has apologized profusely for ever hurting me.

He never even thought this would upset me. 

Emotional infidelity

 

There hasn’t been any physical contact and I do believe that to be true.

However, the thought of her well-being being that important to him, hurts me a lot.

The thought of having shared meals with her and her husband is simply unbearable.

She knows what he’s been saying and he knows what she’s been saying. I realize that during this period of time, our relationship wasn’t amazing but we’ve continued to have sex, so I just can’t wrap my head around why he felt the need to call her a “milf”.

He explains it by saying that he used it to “lived out a fantasy” and that watching porn wasn’t enough.

The fact that he’s called her a “milf” is bad enough but that he’s been messaging her that much is extremely painful.

I actually think I moved on from it all pretty quickly, but for the past 2-3 months I’ve been filled with jealousy and anger and this is leading to some uncomfortable arguments.

Why is this all coming back to me?

I really hope you can help me.

Kind regards,
A.

 

Emotional infidelity – My husband has been messaging my friend for 5 years

 

Dear A.,

Thank you so much for your e-mail. I completely understand why this has shaken you to your core – despite them not actually being physical.

There are so many types and shapes and sizes to infidelity. I’ve written about this in this guide: What is cheating? (not yet online in english - Being translated As we speak!) I’ll recommend you to have a read through this when it is online in the next couple of weeks.

What you’ve experienced is what we’d call emotional infidelity. There hasn’t been any physical contact and some people will even believe that it hasn’t got anything to do with infidelity.

However…

That’s their belief!

Your line has clearly been crossed and you telling me, that for 5 years your husband has been in daily contact with a friend of yours without ever telling you about it, he has been well aware that you wouldn’t be okay with this. He’s known full well that he was crossing the line.

Infidelity is infidelity!

Even though he doesn’t see it as infidelity, the fact that YOU do, is an important point.

Whatever it is you’re experiencing, no one can take that away from you. Your line has been crossed and because you feel this way, it’s really not up for debate. Your husband is upset that he has hurt you this way and you’re telling me that he had no idea he’d upset you this much.

And that’s the thing about infidelity; there’s no clear line.

Please, hear me out.

I haven’t worked with one single couple and infidelity without one partner saying how shocked they are HOW much pain and HOW much suffering they have caused their partner.

The infidelity and the sense of betrayal is actually so dire, that it’s very difficult to fully understand unless you’ve experienced it yourself. The cheating partner is often also pretty shocked with what they’ve done; perhaps your husband feels this way too?

I mean, looking back, perhaps he can see that is wasn’t actually okay to give another woman that much attention – for years even. He’s most likely paid more attention to her than to you during this time. His explanation to you is that it’s all been a part of his fantasy.

The fantasies you act on!

And yes, fantasies. That’s one thing. Actions are a whole other thing.

And in your case, he chose to put action behind these fantasies of his by being in dialogue with her three times a day, as well as telling her that she’s a “MILF”.

It’s absolutely utopia to think we can go through life without ever being fascinated or attracted to another human being. This is normal and very natural. We’re only human.

However, the important thing is how we choose to deal with it and whether we choose to actually act on these attractions etc.

Your husband chose to follow some of his impulses and that is the mess you’re attempting to clean up now.

You’re saying you don’t understand why he has kept in contact with her, since your sex life has been good throughout the entire time. I don’t know your husband, so you need to ask him this question. There is a difference, however, between sex with your partner and then the attention one might get from someone outside of the relationship whom you find attractive.

This type of energy can feel sort of like the energy we experience when we’re in love. This energy is something a lot of people strive for and miss and if they suddenly feel it, it can be very hard to ignore.

It might actually feel “easier” to tell yourself “it’s not infidelity if I only send a couple of text messages” just to keep this energy and the fire of it alive and burning just a tiny little bit every day.

Naturally, this isn’t an excuse to betray your partner.

Not at all.

But maybe the two of you can sit down and talk about whether it’s something like this that actually happened? What is he telling you?

What did having this daily contact with her give him?

Is it the attention he received from a “perhaps interested” woman, that’s been nice for him?

How has it enriched his daily life?

I recommend the two of you to have a talk about all of this to shed some light on the situation. Also, talk about how the two of you can create more of this together. Is there something you’re both missing? Something you can create more of?

Why is it all coming back to me?

I’d like to get back to your question now of why it’s all suddenly coming back to you; all these feelings of betrayal.

You tell me that you actually found yourself getting over it rather quickly and this tells me that you’ve had some mental strategies that have worked wonderfully for you.

It all coming back to you now isn’t uncommon at all. 

This applies to all types of infidelity: physical, long affaire or emotional infidelity which is what you’ve experienced. You can finally breathe and think: “Thank God, it’s FINALLY fading away.”

And then suddenly you find yourself having one week or several weeks where the betrayal is all you can think of and all the feelings from “back then” come rushing back and overwhelms you.

Emotional infidelity - recycled thoughts

But really, the more attention and focus you choose to give to these thoughts, the more they’ll grow. Basically, the more you think, wonder, speculate and the more you try to analyze your way to an ‘answer’, the worse it’ll be.

But Maj, does this mean that I should just ignore my thoughts and my emotions?

Yes and no!

No, because your thoughts provide you with important information about “open questions” or “un-shut boxes”. You need to get answers to finally close these boxes shut.

If you take a constructive look at your thoughts and work out whether it actually IS something you need an answer to; something that keeps popping up; something you don’t understand. THEN you need to enter a dialogue with your husband and you need to process the problem in order to move on and store away that box.

Yes, because a large part of these thoughts about this are guaranteed to be “recycled thoughts”.

Hear me out.

What I mean is, these thoughts are probably on repeat and they’re not actually helping you move on. The only thing they’re doing is upsetting you and making you feel really angry.

THESE are the thoughts I’ll tell you to remove your focus from; redirect your attention to something else, when you feel these bubbling up.

You need to practice consciously redirecting your focus.

As you can tell, there’s a difference between your thoughts and your attention. We can easily have tons of thoughts throughout the day that we don’t have the time to pay any attention to.

And I’m sure you know that strategy.

While I’m sitting here, answering your question, I can easily have thoughts of “Oh, I need to call so and so” or “I need to remember to get one of the kids new socks” etc., etc. but these are thoughts I don’t want to deal with right NOW because I want to keep my focus on you and your question.

This is why I don’t stop working and start writing out a grocery list right now.

I hope this makes sense.

Redirecting your focus can be really challenging when the thoughts are as persistent as they are but please do try and find a way to not pay attention to them. I’m sure you’ll find that you’ll feel better much quicker if you consciously choose NOT to pay attention to the “broken record thoughts”.

As I said, this isn’t about ignoring your thoughts and not paying any attention to them!

This is purely about you learning how to sort through them and that YOU decide which thoughts are worth paying attention to and take a closer look at – perhaps share with your husband – in order for you to move on in a healthy and constructive manner.

You could even compare your thoughts to an e-mail inbox.

Some emails are pretty important and require your attention.

But.. wow.

There’s a lot (a lot, a lot!) of spam in there as well.

All the spam e-mails do is cause trouble, so don’t even bother clicking on them to open them.

You told me that you’ve had long periods of time where you haven’t felt affected by the emotional infidelity and I’m positive that during these times, you haven’t paid attention to the thoughts when they came bubbling up.

When you’ve already had a period of time where you’ve felt fine, I don’t doubt for a second that you’ll feel absolutely fine again.

I really hope you found this helpful and that it’ll help you move on.

Love,
Maj Wismann – Couple’s Therapist and Clinical Sexologist with private clinic since 2006.

Maj Wismann on emotional infidelity 

 ****Have you been in a situation like this involving emotional infidelity? Have you experienced your partner cheating on you? Please share your experiences (and lessons) in the comments below. Remember, your comment might help someone else! And as always, thank you for sharing.

Please do remember that emotional infidelity is a very vulnerable topic, so please keep your words positive and loving. Thank you. Please remember to keep a nice tone. ALL negative comments will be deleted immediately. I wish to create a positive and supporting space where we can support each other, and I therefore have a zero-tolerance policy towards rudeness, condescension, negative inputs and disrespect.

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Henrik V Blunck

    Dear A
    I especially took notice of the one sentence: “The thought of having shared meals with her and her husband is simply unbearable.”
    This is important, because it also begs the question: What would her husband think if he knew your husband called his wife a MILF?
    It would have to be either a very tolerant and humorous guy or someone who had allowed an open relationship. And what would your husband think (and say!) if YOU were the object of another man’s attention in the same way?
    I can confirm that many os us are quite flirting when we are single, but I would never want to share focus and attention between several ladies. I personally have no issue with polyamory at all. In fact I endorse it when there is an urge for more sex for one partner than the other ‘needs’ – but that requires things to be clearly defined, and mutually agreed upon…
    Furthermore, when someone is turned on by getting compliments – as your husband apparently is – why not settle with installing Tinder, and having his fun there where nobody else is involved? Involving your friend in what he terms ‘a fantasy’ is highly disrespectful, and indeed unacceptable when it violates your sentiments…
    I really hope you work things out. You have a big challenge in front of you. Five years of mixed signals is a really shitty situation… Best of luck.

    Reply

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