It remains one of my life's little ironies that my husband and I sought marriage counselling because of my emotional affair, though I'd never heard that term before...and certainly didn't think it applied to me. I also had no idea of my husband's unemotional but highly physical affair(s) at that point. I simply knew that I'd met someone who had me swooning like a lovestruck teen...something that signalled danger to my marriage and my family. So off to counselling we went. Of course, my schoolgirl crush paled in comparison to news of my husband's double life: years of sex addiction.
Still, emotional affairs are dangerous – and controversial. I had always subscribed to the "doesn't matter where you get your appetite as long as you eat at home" school of thought. (And yes, I know that's a rather crude way of putting it. I have the sense of humor of a 17-year-old boy.)
I often had small crushes on men in my life. They lasted a week or two then faded away when I noticed something unappealing, like hair growing out of his ears, a predilection for mass-market paperbacks, a lack of appreciation for my sophomoric wit... These mind-flings were harmless, I thought. It was my husband to whom I made love. My husband whose ear hair didn't bother me in the least. My husband whom I fell asleep beside and woke up huddled next to.
So...harmless, right? Not so fast.
Anyone whose spouse has been involved in an emotional affair -- defined as "meaningful attachments with people other than your partner in ways that prevent your partner from having that deep emotional intimacy with you."
And that last bit (emphasis mine) is, of course, the problem.
It seems harmless, so we carry on. And, if we were honest with ourselves (though we rarely are), we'd admit that we love the attention, the new-ness, the excitement of another person finding us interesting, attractive, worthy of time and attention...especially (but not always) if our own marriage was becoming a bit musty.
I now see how easily these fun little flirtations cross the line into threat. When we're thinking about someone who's not our spouse, when we're dedicating a lot of time and energy to someone who's not our spouse, even the best marriages can suffer.
I can look back and see that an aspect of the crushes I developed were a response to the emotional absence of my husband...who was, ahem, busy with his own issues.
But the fact that I never acted on them has given me one less regret. One less mess to clean up.
Emotional affair: Innocent...or guilty?
I know how I feel now,with the bitter taste of experience. What about you?