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Switch to Forum Live View Emotional Affairs...Don't mind me, I'm just venting...
5 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2009 - 12:20PM #1
Cesmom
Posts: 4,584

I think the term “emotional affair” sometimes does more harm than good.


The problem with terms like “emotional affair” is that they can be manipulated for the benefit of the overly jealous spouse.


My best friend is an extremely jealous woman.  It’s an area where I can actually sympathize with her husband because I’ve had to deal with my share of over-jealousy from my own husband, but not nearly to the extreme that exists in their situation.


She is in the middle of an emotional crisis right now…exasperated by the fact that she suffers from depression and other mental health issues.  If some things don't change, I could see her marriage deteriorating to the point of divorce.  I’m trying my best to be the supportive friend, but am having such a difficult time understanding her point of view.  I’ve tried to be firm and straight with her in an attempt to get her to see reason and stop the self-destructive path she is on.  I think that she is on the verge of alienating her very devoted husband to the point of no return.


I’m not sure if I just need to vent here or if someone might actually be able to offer me some advice that I can pass on to her in an attempt to help their situation.  I am at a loss. 


Here is their situation…


Her husband has a friendship with a woman he works with.  He didn’t tell his wife that he was friends with a woman from work.  Personally, I wouldn’t have mentioned it either, based on her history of proving to be completely incapable of rational discussion on the topic of jealousy.  My friend found out they were communicating by hacking into her husband’s email and IM accounts. 


From everything I have seen, I cannot find anything inappropriate about their friendship.  I cannot find where they talk to each other excessively.  I cannot find where they talk to each other about any inappropriately close, personal things.  I cannot find where he talks to her significantly more than he talks to any of his male co-workers and/or friends.  From all appearances to me, it seems like a typical casual friendship between two co-workers.


To hear her tell the story, he is having a ‘relationship’ with this other woman.  Having known her for the last 20 years, I know that she doesn’t always look at the whole picture…I know what questions to ask to dig a little deeper into the situation.  When I ask enough questions, I find that it really in no way resembles a ‘relationship’, but more a typical friendship between two people, regardless of gender.


She’s discussed the situation one on one with their marriage counselor who said it sounds like he is having an emotional affair.  The counselor made that statement based on the information she was being given, which was a very slanted and inaccurate view of the situation.  Now, my friend has demanded that her husband completely stop talking to this woman because she labels it as an affair.  She says their trust has been completely broken and it’s completely his fault.


He has agreed to stop talking to the woman, but says that he is embarrassed by the entire situation.  He feels like his wife is acting crazy about the whole thing, and he has a point, IMHO.  He’s afraid that word will get around this small company about this situation, and that it will damage his professional reputation.  He feels like he is being penalized for something he didn’t even do.  If he questions whether it is legitimate for his wife to be demanding that he not speak to a co-worker, she uses that to fuel her suspicions and say that if he has a problem not talking to this woman, it must mean that she is more important to him than their marriage. 


I tried to explain to her that I don’t think the woman is important to him at all.  I think that his freedom is important to him and feeling respected and trusted by his wife is important to him and feeling like he can act ‘normal’ around all of his co-workers and have casual friendships without being paranoid about his wife’s reaction is important to him. 


She doesn’t get it at all.  She says that she feels betrayed that this has been going on for months…I said WHAT has been going on for months?  You act like they are involved.  They are not involved.  What is inappropriate about them being friends? 


Of course, now that the ‘emotional affair’ card has been played, he’s in a no-win situation.  He must discontinue talking to this woman or be seen as the ‘cheating spouse’, and to make matters worse, he knows that his wife holds all the cards, and any friendship with any member of the opposite sex, no matter how casual it may be, will forever be off-limits and labeled as another ‘emotional affair.’  But, if he digs his heels in and says, no, I don’t think I should have to stop talking to her because I don’t think you should control who I talk to, that’s just more ammo to prove that she's right and he’s really having an emotional affair.  I think what is going to happen is that he's going to give in and, at the same time, resent her for controlling him in this way, and it will eventually be one of the things that ends their marriage.


Sometimes terms that were intended to help end up being abused and misused so that one half of the partnership can manipulate their way into getting what they want. 


I agree that people who are married shouldn’t have friendships with others of the opposite sex where they are sharing intimate details of their lives or making a greater emotional investment in that person than they are in their marriage.  BUT, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to have friends of both genders.  This term is over-used to manipulate. 


In this case, giving her the term 'emotional affair' to play with almost seems equivalent to giving a child a bottle of pills.  You can't expect it to be used responsibly, and it's only going to lead to bad things in the end.


 

Our need to learn should always outweigh our need to be right

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren't so busy denying them.
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5 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2009 - 12:37PM #2
appy20
Posts: 10,165

I agree with you 100%.  As opposed as I am to infidelity, I am equally opposed to falsely accusing someone of something that they did not do.  It is very unfair to constantly accuse someone of something they did not do.  His wife needs therapy.  Let a counselor hash it out for them. 


 

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5 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2009 - 12:43PM #3
IreneAdler
Posts: 2,849

Ya know, you’ve exactly nailed on the head the problem I have with some therapy.  That is, the taking of one side of the story and dispensing advice/counsel.  Probably a true test of the quality of the counselor – if they are told one side and do not pass judgment until the other side of the story can be related (accurately) then they probably have some integrity.  Otherwise, run.


 Yeah, giving her the term “emotional affair’ was rather irresponsible.


 Would it be fair to suggest that the relationship betw. you and the wife also be an emotional “connection” (you stated that you are giving her emotional support)?  Can that be construed to be same as “emotional affair”? I point this out as you and she are discussing details of her personal life, unlike the husband and female co-worker/friend.  One situation is acceptable and the other not? Is that solely because of gender? See, if I were the husband, this apparent double standard would trouble me.


 Does the counsel in this narrative have a working definition of ‘friend’? Does it preclude opposite-gendered ‘friends’? Why?


  Actually, what you've written is a very illuminating post.  Really gotta vet a potential counselor before working with them.


Irene.

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5 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2009 - 1:13PM #4
Tmarie64
Posts: 5,277
Ummmm... I have male friends at work.  My husband has female friends at work.  We do not email or im our work friends. 
Why is he emailing a "work friend"?  If she's not important to him why is he hiding emails?  Evidence of hiding...His wife had to "hack" his email, meaning (to me) that she does not have his password.
Sorry, but it sounds like an emotional affair to me too.
James Thurber - "It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers."
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5 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2009 - 1:22PM #5
Cesmom
Posts: 4,584

Nov 24, 2009 -- 1:13PM, Tmarie64 wrote:

Ummmm... I have male friends at work.  My husband has female friends at work.  We do not email or im our work friends.   Why is he emailing a "work friend"?  If she's not important to him why is he hiding emails?  Evidence of hiding...His wife had to "hack" his email, meaning (to me) that she does not have his password. Sorry, but it sounds like an emotional affair to me too.



He's not but it is a perfect example of how the term can be manipulated and used to control. 


People have conversations by email and IM all the time.  Are you saying that's inappropriate?  What sort of conversations do you find appropriate?  In person conversations only?  What about the telephone?  Is that inappropriate?  I'm not sure how the method in which someone communicates would automatically make it inappropriate.


My husband doesn't have my email password.  Does getting married mean that you no longer have ANY right to ANY sense of individual privacy or autonomy?  That's it...you no longer exist as an individual?  Makes no sense to me.

Our need to learn should always outweigh our need to be right

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren't so busy denying them.
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5 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2009 - 2:06PM #6
SatanicStalker
Posts: 719

I'd have to agree with Cesmom. There is such a thing as an emotional affair, that does qualify as an "affair" just as much as any other type of affair, but the term does seem easy to misapply, being as subjective as it is. 


I too think that people, even married people, should be able to have privacy in things such as email accounts. I think the only times that married couples should share their email passwords is if they both want to (keyword: both) or one of them has been caught in the past abusing the trust of the other through a separate, private email. 


I don't have my boyfriend's email password (granted we are not married, but we have been together longer than most of our married friends). I could probably guess, but I don't see why I would bother. If there was something in his email that I wanted to see for some reason, I would just ask him. 


I don't have any particular advice for dealing with the jealous friend other than what you have already been doing, trying to talk rationally and point out a lack of inappropriateness. Some people just don't use reason as their primary problem-solving tool, and I've never figured out how to get a point across to such people. 


My condolences to her husband. 


~Stalker

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5 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2009 - 2:07PM #7
ArnieBeeGut
Posts: 1,407

This is why I believe that therapists' training does not adequately prepare them for dealing with relationship conflicts. I agree that the term "emotioanl affair" adds needless fuel to the conflict - actually more like throwing gasoline on a fire. It is not helpful, and indeed may be very harmful.

The couple needs to learn to communicate better, specifically about their respective needs and wishes.

It is reasonable for a spouse to expect that interactions with members of the opposite gender be above-board, and understandable that concealment be deemed unacceptable. However, it is not reasonable to immediately assume that the relationship is an inappropriate one. It may be that the husband already knows her well enough to know she would be upset, perhaps even irrational about it, and so wanted to avoid a conflict. The "emotional affair" angle feeds the wife's anxiety and serves as a stumbling-stone to improving the relationship. This is a classic pattern - to demand honesty, and then to punish severely when told.

It is still possible that there is something about the husband's relationship with the woman that could be harmful to the marriage, even if there is not "affair" of some kind or another. For example, he may share certain things with this woman that really should be shared with his wife, or he may be getting emotional support from this woman that would be better given by his wife. In other words, does this relationship have the effect of decreasing intimacy with his wife? If so, then regardless of the label, it is not beneficial to the marriage.

Ironically, the wife by her reaction is pushing him away, and the result may be that an even closer emotional bond may form as a result with an otherwise platonic relationship. Even men are not made of stone and have emotional needs!

Every relationhip has a challenging balancing act between the people as indiduals and the two as a couple. Where that balance is achieved of course varies.

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5 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2009 - 2:31PM #8
Cesmom
Posts: 4,584

Thanks all for the feedback.  They are currently seeing a marriage counselor, and she has started seeing an individual therapist as well.  I just worry because she tells me about some of her therapy appointments, and she's like, my counselor says A, B, C...and my reaction is, well, did you tell your counselor X, Y and Z?  And usually the answer is NO.  So, it just feels like she's manipulating the whole situation so she can hear what she wants to hear.  I know she is trying.  It's hard to watch these two, both of whom I've known for over 20 years, going through this.  Each one of them feels like they are carrying the lion's share of the load.  Each one of them feels like they are the one making all of the sacrifices.  I just don't see positive things coming down the pipe for them.


He did agree to not talk to the female friend, which was probably the right thing to do under the circumstances.  I just think it's going to have long-term effects on their relationship.  It's one more resentment in the back of his mind about how he can't control his own life because he has to walk on eggshells to make sure he doesn't upset her.  I hope they can find some common ground on this one before it's too late.

Our need to learn should always outweigh our need to be right

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren't so busy denying them.
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5 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2009 - 2:35PM #9
Cesmom
Posts: 4,584

Nov 24, 2009 -- 2:07PM, ArnieBeeGut wrote:


It may be that the husband already knows her well enough to know she would be upset, perhaps even irrational about it, and so wanted to avoid a conflict.




It is funny that you should say that.


Over the years, he's made this statement several times - I've even heard him say it ... he says:


You know, I don't even feel like I can have normal interactions with anyone of the opposite sex at work because you will freak out about it and assume the worst and become insanely jealous about the whole thing.


He's made this statement several times before he ever met this female friend, so I know it's a topic that has been under his skin for quite some time.

Our need to learn should always outweigh our need to be right

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren't so busy denying them.
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5 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2009 - 3:50PM #10
Tmarie64
Posts: 5,277
I find it inappropriate for a married couple to feel they have to hide passwords from each other. 
I find it inappropriate for a married person to email and im with an opposite sex "work friend" unless it's about work. 
I've seen "work friends" become more than that, then families are destroyed, then they get not-so-friendly and work becomes difficult and miserable for EVERY one, not just the "friends". 
Why is it a woman he's emailing?  Are there no guys?  Why does he need to email her?  What could really be so so important that they MUST keep in touch after hours?

I think you're telling one side of this story, and if you don't want to hear anything that may support HER, then, perhaps you shouldn't have posted it.  I think, being on the outside looking in, you should be willing to consider ALL sides, or not bring the subject up at all.  I also think that because of your history of abusive relationships you are immediately faulting her.  Are you in their bedroom?  Do you know how he treats her?  Did you read the emails and ims?
Your view is clouded by the very history you mention.
James Thurber - "It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers."
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