Ellyn Bader

Couples therapy with one partner who is stuck.
When two people get together, they date and spend time getting to know each other. For some, the “falling in love” is intense and the decision to become a couple is easy. For others, it is far more difficult as they thoughtfully consider differences in challenging areas such as religion, culture, social class, child-rearing, or where to live.

Then the two partners decide to marry or live together in a committed partnership, and that  decision draws a boundary around the “two of them” as a couple.

This decision, when done well, completes the initial bonding stage of a relationship and paves the way for a healthy, growth-promoting process of differentiation. In fact it is the clarity of the bonding/commitment that enables partners to initiate the challenging process of differentiation. The security of the bond provides a support for each partner's differentiation to unfold.

Most committed partnerships come with an expectation of sexual monogamy unless otherwise stated. Today many couples explore polyamory and open relationships, but the majority still live in monogamous partnerships. When one monogamous partner discovers that the other has had an affair, it is an assault on the bond. In fact, we define an affair as “one partner secretly violating an actual or implied expectation of the other's primacy.”

Usually the deception and dishonesty is much more disturbing than the actual sex. The commitment has been disrupted and the boundary has been violated. Now everything is open again. Inevitable questions surface such as:

  • Are we going to stay together or separate?
  • Will I ever be able to trust what you tell me again?
  • Are we a couple or aren't we?
  • Is this the end of the relationship?
  • Does the affair partner know more than I do?
  • Who else knew about the affair?
  • Will you continue to lie and keep secrets from me?

Also all the questions that existed before the couple formed arise again. This time the challenge is intensified because there are many more interdependencies, as well as possibly having children together. Each partner must re-decide whether they want to start over and reinvest.

The disruption of an affair is the violation of dreams, goals and decisions. The interdependency, family, teamwork and partnership are all potentially lost. What once seemed secure is no longer secure.

One partner has made a unilateral choice to put an end to what was previously an equilateral decision and joint commitment. This new decision has disrupted the attachment and the question, “Will it happen again?” becomes substantial. Or, “Will there be other unilateral decisions that affect me deeply in which I will not have a say?”

This decision to re-commit is only possible after deep soul searching, intense dialogue and the confrontation of issues such as narcissism, neediness, lie-inviting dynamics, or trauma.

So why do I say it can be valuable to obsess about the details of a partner's affair?

Obsessing about an affair and asking questions about the details of the affair potentially enables a new boundary to be constructed. When even small truths are revealed, the obsessing provides a pathway to work through and understand the story of the affair. It is through this process that each partner decides whether or not to recommit to the partnership.

When the partner who had an affair answers questions truthfully without evasiveness, it helps the other put an end to feeling suspicious or crazy. When the evasiveness continues, it signals that the feelings leading to the affair still exist and that the primacy of the committed partnership does not.

Honest dialogue also helps put an end to distortion and blown up fantasies. Often when a spouse has “cheated,” it is common to assume that the other was younger, better looking, sexier or more caring. Examining some of the details of the affair may bring to light that the other was human and indeed they were not perfect!

Asking questions also brings to light what is lost and what in reality there is to grieve. It helps to discuss the affair including such issues as:

  • How long did it last?
  • How did it start?
  • How many lies were told, and were they repetitive overt lies or lies of omission?
  • What created the conditions for secrecy to be necessary in the primary partnership?

By reviewing the details, the primary couple has an opportunity to re-create shared meaning. For most partners who feel betrayed by secrecy and deception, developing shared meaning is an essential building block for recommitting.

So, to sum up the value of obsessing about an affair:

  • Partners learn what is lost and what to grieve.
  • Partners create shared meaning and re-establish a boundary around themselves.
  • The betrayed spouse comes to understand that it is “not personal.”
  • The obsessing provides a way of working through the trauma and creates a way to put an end to the deception and feeling of craziness.
  • It stops projection and blown up distortions/ fantasies.

When obsessing about the details of an affair is not handled well, hostile, persecutory questioning and stagnated therapy may result.


Ellyn Bader, Ph.D., is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute and creator of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. Ellyn is widely recognized as an expert in couples therapy, and since 2006 she has led innovative online training programs for therapists. Professionals from around the world connect with her through internet, conference calls and blog discussions to study couples therapy.

Ellyn’s first book, "In Quest of the Mythical Mate," won the Clark Vincent Award by the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists for its outstanding contribution to the field of marital therapy and is now in its 18th printing. She has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including "The Today Show" and "CBS Early Morning News," and she has been quoted in many publications including "The New York Times," "The Oprah Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan."

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  1. After a partyI went to bed . My husband help other to the guest rooms then he went back to a friend room to see if she was ssettled in went over to her and laid her on the bed then proceeded to kiss her rub her body and eat her pussy.
    One week later she text him about 11 at night they began to sexting. Duri ing their chat he informed her that I would be out of town for two week and they could get togetherr. Her daughter came home found the text and she confronted my husbad. He just to her to go talk with her mom. Whrn I got home he pulled me aside to tell me most of it. He was with holding details. He also said he was planning on telling me. I dont know when it seems like he was cought and had to fess up because when he told me it was 16 days past already. I dont feel that I can trust him ever again he says it was only once . I think it only one that was caught. He want to make things up and change we have been together for 33 years and all I want to do is cheat on him and let him know how it feels .loveless

  2. After being in relationship with my husband for years, he broke up with me. I did everything within my reach to bring him back but all was in vain, I wanted him back so badly because of the love I had for him, I begged him with everything, I made promises but he refused. I explained my problem to my friend and she suggested that I should rather contact a spell caster that could help me cast a spell to bring him back , I had no choice than to try it. I messaged the spell caster, and he assured me there was no problem and that everything will be okay before three days. He cast the spell and surprisingly on the second day, my husband called me. I was so surprised, I answered the call and all he said was that he was so sorry for everything that had happened, That He wanted me to return to him. He also said he loved me so much. I was so happy and went to him that was how we started living together happily again, Contact Dr IYAYA Today the great Spell caster that can help you with any relationship issues, He prepared herbal medications and send it to me through DHL COURIER DELIVERY SERVICES and i took it as he instructed. 11days after, i went to the hospital to do a checkup, the result came out and i tested NEGATIVE. I’m sharing this with you, because i believe there’s someone out

  3. I found out 2 months ago my husband has been having an emotional and intimate affair with a co-worker for 4 months when I first found out he tried to down play the relationship and say they weren’t intimate and it was just conversations he lied about who she was and where she was from.. a month later she contacts me with more information regarding there relationship and that she was pregnant by him.. we have been together for 9 years 3 years married we also have a 10 year old daughter. He says he wants our marriage and wants to work things out but I don’t know if I can trust him again, after reading there messages how he said he loved her and wanted to be with her broke my heart and to deal with him possibly being the father to her child.. I don’t know how to start

  4. I have been with my husband 30 years he had an affair. It happened a little over a year ago but it led to me finding out he had multiple affairs over the years. I really only confronted him about the one but in honesty finding out was just to painful.

  5. I recently discovered that my husband of 42 years has been having an affair for 35 years, 18 of which was physical and the last 3 years emotional with the same woman, who was married to my cousin at the start of their affair. He has become distant, moody and has anger issues that I attributed to his medical condition. I had major surgery that required a week stay in the hospital and not once he visited me nor sent flowers. Yet I found out later that he sent her flowers a week after I was discharged and had been sending her for valentines, birthdays and Christmas since 2017! I know there were more but I am tired and hurt that I need to stop investigating. Getting the whole truth from him is like pulling teeth. I confronted him a week before my birthday and he angrily denied the affair. My friends organized a birthday party for me that he refused to attend and yet he travelled to see her on her birthday the prior year. A month after my surgery and a week after my second procedure, I confronted him again. At that time I had proof of the affair. I read their explicit messages, and heard them talking. He initially denied it by throwing his cell phone and tablet. His phone broke but admitted the affair when I started reading their messages. Didn’t apologize at first because he said he wasn’t ready yet but finally did. I don’t find him sincere because he keeps justifying his actions. He accuses me of being a saint, having a big ego and torturing him for not forgiving him when he said sorry. How can I when all memories of 35 years are now so tainted. I can’t erase the images of them together. I treated this woman and her kids with love and kindness. Numerous times she would just appear at my home and stay a few days to unwind. Me not knowing her real intentions! How can my husband reconnect with her at the time when I needed his love and support the most. He now insists the affair is over but when we talked about it he gets so combative. I took a 2 week break and before I left he said to me ‘enjoy in Hell’ and wished me karma for not accepting his apologies. I have told him that I will not be in their way anymore so just leave and be with her. He now says he never loved this woman and wants to stay with me. How could that be? You can’t be with her physically and emotionally for so long if there is no affection. It’s not like you can quit cold turkey in relationship. He is acting as if we are still a couple and I know in my heart we are not. He betrayed me and I asked him why he didn’t leave me when he started the affair. I was only 34 years old and our son was only 5 years old? I could have had a better life and now what does my future at almost 70 years holds? He is the most selfish man I’ve ever met and I rue the day I married him.

  6. I have been married for 20 years emotionally abused for 15 years. My husband has had one emotional affair and currently in a physical and emotional affair for 2 years. I followed him to her place of employment a few months ago. He comes home from work and showers right away. He leaves evidence in his boxers until he realized I knew now he wipes himself on the inside of his shirt. I have been in therapy for this for a year and the lack of communication between us is bad along with not wanting to talk about anything intense. Small talk only. Now he can’t even get an erection with me . I’m heartbroken beyond belief. We have four kids and they see how angry and sad I am. It’s not fair to these kids! I am trying to catch him and he knows it. Please help us.!! The pain is unbearable! God didn’t put me on this earth to be treated so horribly. I don’t want to love anymore!!!

    • Why haven’t you left his sorry butt? Please realize the following, which I had put to me by my therapist many years go, and I had a man set to inherit millions and a child on the spectrum: you have 2 choices. 1) go back to college and acquire a career that you can easily support yourself with while still married to him, or 2) don’t leave, reap the rewards of living lavishly without love. If you choose 2, you must realize it’s your choice and you’re not allowed to bitch and moan. Now, you do the same. One or the other.

  7. I keep looking for articles that cover what the role of obsessing about a spouse’s affair partner does – is there any positives to it or have a just gone into the zone of Post Infedility Stress Disorder. It will be three years from DDay this July so at just over 2.5 years. At time of discovery we had 13 year old son living w/us on autism spectrum, who, due to my actual hitting rock bottom (I should have been hospitalized but doctor kept diminishing my need for it) hit rock bottom himself and had suicidal ideation and had to be hospitalized himself. I will regret that for the rest of my life… that I couldn’t be the rock he was used to having in his mom. I’ve slowly climbed my way out of this hole but I still obsess. We also have a daughter, age 28 and now married, who was fighting cancer and is doing better now. The affair started before her cancer diagnosis and he just continued on with it thru it… go figure. Ironically, at that time, while he was cheating emotionally (and then physically – most emotional affairs eventually lead to this)… I felt the closest I had felt to him our whole marriage. Yes, the sex had diminished but I felt emotionally close as a team and helping our kids. He was my best friend. He’s not anymore. That’s the saddest part. We had lots of hysterical bonding sex post the discovery… tho’ I didn’t know he had not ended it w/her and if I did… I would NOT have done that. He eventually ended it 3 months later officially. We had to get STD testing (they never use condoms) at age 53 and 59… gross right? We did therapy w/3 different therapists but it doesn’t do much because I still grapple with who I am and what I want to do. I’m still in recovery mode, not rebuilding mode. He knows that now. Thankfully I joined Al Anon about a year after discovery (I”m adult daughter of now deceased alcoholic but sober… dad) and came to realize that a lot of my devastation is related to that identity ACOA. But he knew how much abandonment issues I had w/significant men and still chose to attack my worst achilles heel… loss of men. I know he didn’t do it to hurt that hurt but he did and I told him he had to know a tsunami wave of hurt was coming for me if he got discovered – which they did – by accident, by me when he lent me his phone w/her texts/sexexts scrolling across his screen.. he forgot to close their secret app… while we were on a sweet vk w/o our kids for the first time since our daughter’s diagnosis. You can’t make this up. Now almost 3 years later, my mom recently died and the obsessive thoughts are back about his affair partner. I used to obsess about my parents post their divorce when I was four and onward and I would obsess about siblings, my father’s second wife and more. So I come by this as long term coping mechanism to not think about myself and focus on others as both anxiety and self soothing. I miss my mom so much and I’m mourning her hard but the obsession also distracts me from my grief. I have multiple griefs going on… my daughter’s health, my son’s mental health, my marriage as I knew it ending and my mom’s recent death. I am still with my husband for now… mostly for my son as he is a good dad and my son adores both of his and due to his spectrum diagnosis a separation would be hard on him. Now he’s 16 and I do think he knows this still might happen. I won’t do it to him while he’s still in HS though.. he’s too vulnerable. My husband has to know I’m mostly here for that reason. I told him my sponsor said his affair confused me on a profound level and my own goals right now are sticking to my Al Anon program, and doing self care, and trying to figure out who and what I am and what kind of life I want inside or post the marriage. I can’t do marriage repair til I know myself a bit more. I married young post losing my brother to AIDS in 80s, got pregnant w/my now husband as dating couple, had a child (the daughter) w/in 9 months of meeting and the rest of history. Now I’m 56 and for first time.. really asking who I am besides wife and mom and daughter and sister. It’s terrifying. My gut is that I will be ending this marriage eventually as my husband is my biggest trigger to this pain of obsessing about her. I’m hoping, w/enough program and therapy, that I can let go of them both someday and just be me… not betrayed wife, not pathetic hurt wife and not staying in marriage (if I do stay) for “sake of kids and family” but because being married to him makes me very happy again. He’s not a bad person he just did something so bad I am still not sure I can come back from it and move on into later middle age/pre old age (he’s now 64 and I’m turning 57 soon) with this hanging over our heads. It will always be there to some degree but this level of obsession, has, in some ways gotten worse- not better. I feel like it’s my brain rebelling against staying so long when it knows my heart wants to go. I’ve worked my butt off trying to get better from this betrayal but it has been, bar none, worse than losing anyone to death. I can vouch for that. Death is clean, in the sense we all share it – like birth, and part of all our lives – we as humans all experience it at some point by losing loved ones and then dying ourselves – but betrayal is not part of every marriage and couple story. It’s so sad and isolating and I know his affair partner in TX will never get and can never get how much she helped damage me, our kids and our family by doing what she did with my husband. If you have any thoughts on long term obsession Ellyn … I’d welcome them. Thank you and peace to all going thru this nightmare. MM (March 2019)

  8. Just found out a month ago, that my husband of 7 years (together 8) had an affair for the past 2 years which only ended( he says) when the other woman’s boyfriend told me about.we have a 6 year old son and I am 4 months pregnant so just after our first baby scan I was told. My whole world broke. I don’t feel safe anymore and am scared to ever trust him or even dare to be happy again…he’s tried to reassure me , I have access to his phone, he even filed a harassment claim with the police to get her to stop contacting him as she was sending 40 emails a day at least and went so far to even send me an anonymous letter at my work place saying I shouldn’t believe his lies. He’s saying he was never going to leave me for her hence planing for the second child, he says he doesn’t know why he did what he did. They just connected, got drunk at a Christmas party, she came on to him and that’s how it started. He’s saying they didn’t meat as much every 4-6 weeks hence why I never found out, once or twice 2 times in a month when she’d moved in her own place for 3 months but then went back with her boyfriend and carried on the affair too. He even brought her in our house once when me and our son were out of the country…I can’t help obsessing over the sexual connection although he says it wasn’t very often I know he had issues with me at home and I’m sure is because he was with her. He’s saying he doesn’t think about her and is like he finally woke up. But I know they were emailing daily and it hurts me to know he loved someone else too. He’s 11 years older than me and 17 years older than her, though I’m much better looking so really can’t explain how he could forget he loved me and went on to do what he did for such a long time. He’s answered most of my questions just nothing seems to help me get a bit more positive about us and being pregnant is a worry that the unborn baby can be affected. Just hope anyone has some advice on how to get my mind off this all. Many thanks and sorry for the messy story.

  9. The stories here!! The trauma is so sad. My wife of 32 years old started hanging out with her work wife after a few months of working together. This girl was 23 years old
    Running around with such a young woman got her into trouble. After year of being around her, they started going to the gym. This is where she met a man a year younger than me. I’m 35, tall, tanned, fit as hell, muscular, I have a career, and I’ve been described as good looking and hot. This piece of work that she met was kicked out of the Army, works two dead end jobs, was divorced himself, an alcoholic, short, fat, prematurely balding, and ugly. Anyway, they started talking in the gym. Then it was phone calls and texts. Then it was her and her friend going over to his house. Then going out for drinks
    Then the next time she was at his house, they had sex. I was trying everything to woo her, but she was set with living like she was in her early twenties again. All while we had a nine year old daughter. Which she eventually moved out of the marital home and in with her 23 year old female friend. All after I had scheduled her a manicure and pedicure for her and my daughter for Mothers Day. And ordered her a sunflower dress (her favorite flower) to wear on that day. I did these things while abroad on business to make sure she still had a good mothers day. Then the next day she moved out and took our daughter with. Then fast forward a few weeks and I just thought she just fell out of love with me. Indecided to check the phone records. And this number popped up like crazy. I had my brother call it because I didn’t want them to know I found out or for him to hear my voice. But my brother had it on speaker. I will never forget that voice. She was swinging by the house that night so I could see Hannah off before another business trip. I asked her about the number and the guy that answered and she confessed to sleeping with him. Then come to find out, they were living in the same house that her friend was living in. With my daughter there. I don’t know what to do. She has since moved back in and told me a few details. But recovery has been a struggle. We went to a marraige counselor, but this counselor doesn’t seem to be sensitive to the betrayal that happened. My wife pretty much refuses to discuss the details or be truthful about questions I have. I have caught her in lies before and with stuff regarding this betrayal. She goes to individual therapy and says she wants to change. She has broke down to me multiple times about what she did to me. I just can’t seem to accept what happened and this shaky and unstructured recovery hasn’t helped. Oh, on a side note, minus being married and having a child, she did this very same thing to me before we were married; basically abandoned me, our home that we both had responsibilities to pay for, to go off and party and have sex with some dude. Any recommendations or thoughts on this?? I feel like even at 14 years together, 10 married, that she is just a lying, cheating, user.

  10. Allie,
    I am so sorry you had to go through any of this. Trust is something that needs to be earned over time. If it has been 10 years since the affair happened and you still do not trust him then why are you still with him. He should have proved to you in that first year he could be trusted again. If you are suspecting another affair and if the circumstances feel somewhat similar to what happened 10 years ago then your hunches are probably right. You deserve better and you deserve to be loved and respected by someone who will care for you. You just need to decide whether you stay or move on.
    Now I will share my experiences with an unfaithful wife. We were married only 10 months when I first caught my wife cheating. Before I did catch I knew something wasn’t right because she would not come home some nights. So I asked what was going on she just said she was staying at her cousins house but she did meet a really nice guy and that him and I would make great friends. So I brushed it off. Well the next weekend she went out again and didn’t come home. When she did come home I asked if she was having an affair and she confessed everything. She thought she loved him. My trust was shattered of course. But after about 6 months she earned my trust back because she proved to me that she did love me and only me. So fast forward 17 years. We have 4 beautiful kids. She is now a prominent member of our community and D.O.N. at a facility here. So she does the hiring and firing for her building. Well we know this younger male who is looking for a job. And his reputation is that he seeks out married women. He also has 5 kids with 3 women. We were both warned not to hire him numberous times. I pleaded with her not to hire him. So fast forward to March 2018 and things start feeling like 17 years ago. I look at the phone bill and one number kept popping up. Late night calls for hours on end. Checked her phone and everything was deleted. So I confronted her and it was the same stuff. You two would be great friends, he’s a super nice guy, blah blah blah. She wasn’t coming home at night, long hours at work. There is always an excuse. She has told me they just “kissed” but they have shared that they “love each other”. So my trust is shattered again and since this happened I have been approached by people saying they knew she had other affairs other than the 2 I know about. The difference this time is that I am not going to be stepped on and manipulated. She blamed me for her affairs. Saying I was the one cheating. I was faithful all 24 years that we were together. So I am moving ahead with a divorce. She can have him. I know I’m a better man, a better father, and a better person. And I now know I deserve someone who will love and respect me and only me.

  11. My husband had an affair 10 years ago and i still obsess over it. He continues to deny their were other affairs but I don’t believe him. How do you ever trust again? He continues to do shady stuff (posting ads on craigslist and printing out tumblr pics) and when I ask about it he tells me hard to believe stories . Any advice?

  12. I was married for forty years and my husband had an affair, five months emotional and three months physical before he got caught in the act by the OW’s boyfriend, that was five months ago and he is still lying to me, I decided to stay and work on my marriage but by god it is so hard, I never know what is a lie and what is the truth.

  13. The more sincere and committed the relationship from the faithful partner, the greater the agony , self-doubt and loss of self-esteem. Picking up the pieces will be difficult as it was a journey together in plans and dreams. The loss has to be grieved and integrated gradually for healing and going forward.

  14. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this article. My marriage ended over 30 years ago due to multiple affairs. We tried therapy but my ex refused to discuss the details of his affairs or answer my questions, many of which you noted in the article – how many affairs, when did they happen, who knew, etc. He and my friends would ask why I needed to know. I was unable to articulate well my reasons for needing to know, I just knew I did. Thank you for giving them to me now. It allows me to forgive myself for wanting to know.

  15. I would love to hear from others re advice with dealing with the spouse who broke the trust. I think it is easy to visualise or idealise the other person’s attractiveness however it is the spouse who declared this person more attractive, and that is hard to forgive. If denial persists, so does the lack of respect of truthfulness. This is what I am struggling with in terms of how and whether to stay within the marriage. Anger and resentment rot the fundamentals of our life and he won’t acknowledge or address our problems. The betrayals didn’t go so far as physical infidelity but a series of supposed emotional – professional ‘friendships” have undermined our marriage.

  16. In my work with couples often a key factor in the allure of the affair, especially for the male, is that the other person IS younger, more attractive, and the sex was better, although they wouldn’t admit this to their partner, even with the therapist present. How do you work with the couple when this is the case? In other words, what do you do when the fantasy is largely reality-based and, to some extent, it IS personal.

  17. Helpful article, however I would not call secrecy necessary:
    “What created the conditions for secrecy to be necessary in the primary partnership?”

    Perhaps rewording to say: “What created the conditions that led to the affair?”

  18. I have been a couple’s therapist for over thirty five years, and have endeavored to use your wise counsel in working with my clients over that span. I will never forget attending one of your presentations in MA and even when I was the cheated on party in my relationships, I was able to step back and use what I learned from you to dispassionately understand the conditions which gave rise to these events, and to deal with them. Thank you Dr. Bader.

  19. I am so grateful and so related to what you mentioned but my husband did not have a physical affair, as far as I know, and yet the devastation and sense of betrayal of the emotional affair (which he denies ‘in the name of platonic friendship’ that happened as a result of working very very long hours and building intimacy with those with whom he works) has been the thorn in my side….something that more than 2 years after he walked out on me and our children, continues, in waves, to create turmoil in my heart. My comment is to highlight the intense suffering and betrayal of emotional affairs, in our world where ‘friendship’ is casual and easy going. Workplaces are rife for affairs, but that includes not just physical affairs, but emotional affairs as well. There is a reason the ‘office spouse’ has come into existence, as an expression. The ‘real’ spouse ‘daring’ to challenge or question a friendship is accused of jealousy and the rest by the ‘cheating spouse’ because they are in denial. In my case, the emotional crisis resulted in my depression and anxiety spiralling out of control, and though I would never do this because I consider life to be sacred, I experienced regular panic attacks (for the first time in my life) and suicidal ideation because of the intolerable excruciatingly deep pain that had gripped my heart and turned my world upside down. Workplace relationships and the emotional affairs they cultivate eclipse time with family and time spent nurturing the family bond. The grass is greener in the field you water most. This one little saying, which I consider to be a gem, would do wonders at helping to avert the mid-life crisis epidemic that continues to sweep through societies all over the world and which sucks up those lives like a giant vacuum cleaner into a giant vortex before spitting them. Infidelity is not just a personal or couple issue. It is a society issue. Every time a colleague or friend turns a blind eye to flirting by married or committed partners with someone outside their bond, they also contribute to the infidelity. When a couple goes down (and there are children involved) everyone, including extended family and friends suffer. I’d love to see the public discourse broaden so that some of these troubling issues can be brought to light so that they can be healed. Thank you for the wonderful resources you offer. Please forgive me for offloading. Many good things are happening in my life, but the big hole that this has left in my heart, sits there as a reminder of the sadness and the loss of the love of my life.

    • I’m still reeling from an emotional affair betrayal that happened 5 years ago. My husband reconnected with a college sweetheart from 30 yrs ago. I still don’t know who contacted who in it. Life has gone on, I don’t think there’s been contact since, but my heart can’t seem to believe this, its me that can’t “get over” it. So I am in search of meaning, I still keep trying to understand why it happened, my part in this, and resolution.

    • Amanda:
      Give yourself credit for “off loading.’ If I may, imagine for a moment that you are home alone on a typical evening. When the door bell rings, you open the door and in comes someone you’ve never seen and without a word, starts walking through your house and going through your stuff. They might take some items of yours. Some of value and some not. And then they leave without saying a word. How safe do you think you’d feel in your home going forward? This is what being on your side of the affair is like. It is as if you have endured an emotional home invasion robbery. My experience is the impact is the same regardless of whether the affair involved intercourse or not. I am hopeful your partner is coming to understand the impact this event has had on you. As he grows in understanding, it can come to help you both heal. Stay courageous.

      • Thank you Paul. I do appreciate the imagery because that’s exactly what it felt like. I felt violated emotionally, psychologically and even physically (not knowing if there had been any physical contact, though denied). The other issue that affects infidelity and its resolution is the role of family in ‘helping’ by lending an ear. In my case, it was not made easier with in-laws who were also happy in the end to accept the ‘jealousy’ label and mental illness label (my father-in-law ‘diagnosed’ me as having bipolar after seeing me have a melt-down, even though he was a retired GP and not a psychiatrist or psychologist). This was better for them than owning the workaholic culture that permeates the whole family and any emotional infidelity that would bring ‘family shame’… It was easier than keeping their son/brother accountable to his family and to his covenant. am trying to keep my heart open but still have not forgiven them for taking his side when I reached out for help. They found it impossible to remain bipartisan to help me and to help save our marriage of 20+ years… I wonder if I was to ask them why they thought they knew better than me how to save my own marriage, whether they would be so quick this time round to give the same advice and support.
        I somehow doubt it… I can only hope they’ve learnt something from all of this pain, which is their pain as much as ours…

    • 5 years ago my spouse of 19 yrs had an emotional affair, possibly more (which he denies), with a nurse he worked with (half my age) who she was engaged to be married and lived with her fiancee. I was beyond devastated. My therapist called it Sanctuary Trauma. I obsessed and lost 20# (the infidelity diet). We are at the end of a bad divorce, and he acts like a victim. I am so thankful to not be with him anymore. The thousand lies he told me, I could never trust him again. He told me he didn’t know he was agreeing to fidelity when we married. He totally messed with my head.

    • I am so sorry you had to go through this nightmare. If it helps you to know, same here, says nothing sexual happened, I lost 21lbs lost on the infidelity diet. 5 days before his and my 25th wedding anniversary (how is that for a tacky cliche?) I needed some documents so I looked in his office bag that sat next to my desk for years and years. He was on a trip overseas. I don’t think I shall ever forget the shock of seeing love notes addressing him as “a 4ever rainbow to me” “my special, dear and wonderful friend,” truly brilliant, wonderfully kind, fabulously inspirational” you get the idea. She thanked him for gifts of jewelry (in her favorite color), chocolate ….. It has been 13+ months, the constant tummy upsets, hand shaking, extremities tingling and nausea have mostly subsided. The insomnia still reigns. I am not sure how it will all pan out. I do know that as painful as this is, I have learnt so much about myself. Mainly, that I am not half as bad as I was led to believe. That there was a lot of projection going on – he accused me of things he was doing to me and yet, I never saw or understood that. Stay strong. There is a light at the end of this tunnel. There has to be.