My wife is having an emotional affair with her so-called "best friend's" husband, and now she says she's done with the marriage.
What do I do?
Here's how it all started...
I have been married for 8 years. During those 8 year I worked full time, probably a little too much and my wife is a stay at home mother. We have 2 daughters. During our relationship I have neglected her emotionally and she says that I am controlling and immature. Both are a little true, but not as much as she thinks.
Most of our problems started when my wife met another couple. She is now best friends with the wife, but has become very close friends with the husband.
Even though the wife is her supposed best friend, she spends far more time talking to and texting the husband. She says that he is only there for support, and she denies any physical affair. But she calls and texts him an inappropriate amount – we’re talking 1,500 texts and 20 hours of phone calls per month. She calls his wife and her so-called best friend about a quarter as much.
She now has told me she no longer wants to try and work on anything, filed for divorce, and tells me to just worry about the kids and be there for them. I'm lost and don't know whether to move on or wait for her to find herself.
I have given her space and began to work on my problems, as many as I know of.
Just looking for advice on what to do.
- Mr. Something’s Off Here
IN THIS RESPONSE, YOU'LL LEARN:
- What your wife did wrong to get herself into the emotional affair
- How to maintain transparency in a marriage
- Why your wife got into the emotional affair in the first place
- What you can do now that your wife is so deep in the emotional affair that she wants out of the marriage
Dear Mr. Something’s Off Here,
Let me start by giving you a hearty pat on the back, because your initial reaction here of giving her space and working on your own problems is actually a very good start.
I'm going to talk a bit more about why that's such a good idea below, but I just wanted to start by letting you know that your gut instinct for what to do is pretty close to spot-on.
The second thing to do is confirm what you suspect: your wife is definitely having an emotional affair.
No doubt about it. Whatever else might be happening in your marriage, that part is true.
However, because your wife is ‘best friends’ with his wife, I’m inclined to believe that she truly does not believe she is doing anything inappropriate. Or rather, her ongoing relationship with his wife allows her to tell herself that there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
I’m willing to bet that if this other man’s wife knew just how much her friend and her husband were talking, she wouldn’t be so chummy.
This brings me to an important point…
One of the things that most people don’t realize in our gender-neutral culture is that the rules for opposite gender friendships change when you get married. Here’s an excerpt from Manly Marriage Revival that explains this concept:
Opposite-Gender Friendships Have Rules
When You’re Married
The most common excuse an emotional cheater will give for the huge amount of time they’re spending talking to another man or woman is, “We’re just friends, what’s the big deal?”
They’ll make you feel stupid and close-minded for even asking the question.
This is something that not many married couples think about, because it’s counter-cultural. Most people think we’re entitled to have our own friends, male or female, even after getting married. We don’t need our spouse’s approval of our friends, right? “You don’t control me!” we say. We get to be friends with whoever we want, and talk to them whenever we want, however we want, right?
Not quite. At least, not if you care about maintaining a lifelong relationship!
My wife and I NEVER spend time alone with friends of the opposite sex without the other knowing about it.
Because the rules change when you’re married.
A married man can’t be “good friends” with a woman that’s not his wife, and a married woman can’t be “good friends” with a man that’s not her husband… At least not to the point that they spend substantial time alone. Not in the way that they could’ve been before getting married.
I actually tell my wife even when I’m just texting or emailing another woman.
For example, a couple weeks ago one of my wife’s friends asked me for help with her website. I made sure my wife knew every time I was emailing her, and I offered to let her read our emails back and forth if she wanted. My wife didn’t feel the need to do that because she trusts me, but the transparency is there, and that’s what’s important. And this is all without either one of us EVER having had an affair!
It’s not that my wife and I don’t trust each other... Just the opposite!
The fact that we keep everything transparent and above-board allows us to trust each other even more!
Surprise, surprise, this excerpt just so happens to be taken from the part of the course that discusses emotional affairs.
It All Comes Down to Transparency
I want you to pay attention to those last two sentences there, because that’s really the takeaway here:
It’s not that my wife and I don’t trust each other. Just the opposite – the fact that we keep everything transparent and above-board allows us to trust each other even more!
Transparency is just as important BEFORE an affair happens (to prevent it) as it is after.
A single man and a single woman can be close platonic friends, spend a lot of time together (whether that’s on the phone, texting, or in person), share anything and everything with each other, not have any feelings for each other, and that’s great!
I had close platonic female friends before I was married. You probably did too. Heck, my wife and I were close friends for years before we started dating.
But, the rules change when you get married.
What Are The Rules for Opposite-Gender Friends
When You're Married?
Once you’re married, you MUST make an effort to be transparent with the time you spend with your opposite-gendered friend because you need to maintain trust in a marriage. The consequences for not being transparent about opposite-gendered friends are much higher when you’re married, as this exact situation proves.
Again, it’s not that married men and women CAN’T be friends with the opposite sex; it’s that they need to follow a protocol when doing so. Generally, that means:
- You don’t talk to your opposite-gendered friends about anything you wouldn’t discuss in front of your spouse
- You are willing to be 100% transparent about any interaction you have with opposite-gendered friends if your spouse asks.
- You don’t allow yourself to let your opposite-gendered friends fill the emotional needs that should be met by your spouse.
We talk more about this kind of stuff in this article about the inner workings of an emotional affair, which I highly recommend reading if you haven’t already.
Okay, getting back to your question…That whole explanation was a really long way of saying, your wife IS having an emotional affair and her friendship has strayed too far. Even if she’s not looking to escalate the relationship, it has certainly entered into the realm of inappropriate.
What should you do about it?
What Should You DO Now That Your Wife
is Having an Emotional Affair?
You said that you didn’t know whether to move on or wait for her to find herself.
My answer is a little of both.
The sad truth is that a marriage cannot be fixed as long as one spouse is stuck in an affair. It doesn’t matter whether that affair is emotional or physical; it simply can’t happen. No change that you or your wife makes during an affair will be able to have a positive, lasting effect on the relationship as long as her heart belongs to another man. It’s like trying to attach Velcro to glass… It simply doesn’t stick.
So, what should you do?
The only thing you can do – focus on what you can control.
Because here’s the thing…You can’t force your wife to end the emotional affair.
In order for your wife to believe that she’s having an emotional affair, she needs to either realize it for herself or have a neutral/trusted third-party convince her, and right now, you are not a neutral/trusted third-party.
So, if you can't control your wife's emotional affair, what can you control?
No matter what, you can always control your thoughts, words and actions.
Right now, your goal is to make yourself into the best husband, father and leader that you can possibly be. Your goal is to make yourself into such a good husband that you can look yourself in the mirror and say, “I am a good husband; I am a good father; I KNOW that I will not fall back into those bad habits I’ve had throughout our marriage, and that if given the opportunity, I would make my wife happy for the rest of her life.”
Because here’s the thing:
It All Goes Back to Her Happiness
She's doing anything and everything to get it back
While it is absolutely true that your wife is having an emotional affair, and while there is never any excuse for infidelity, at the same time, your wife’s chief goal is to be happy.
The only reason she strayed in the first place is because she no longer felt that she could find that happiness in the marriage. So, she took matters into her own hands, and when this other man came along, she saw an opportunity to be happy and she took it.
In other words, the emotional affair isn’t about him at all; it’s all about her and her own quest for happiness.
Putting Yourself in a Win-Win Situation
So, to go back and answer your original question:
Should you move on, or should you stay and wait for her to realize what she’s doing?
You should move on, prepare yourself for the worse; take the direction of your life and the growth of yourself as a man into your own hands. And, in doing so, by TRULY letting go of the desire to control your wife, that is also your best chance of getting her to wake up and see what she’s doing.
There are no guarantees, but this puts you in as much of a win-win position as you can get into right now.
By focusing on yourself and mentally preparing yourself to move on and be happy without your wife, you simultaneously prepare yourself for the worst AND optimize your chances of getting the best, ie. your wife coming to her senses.
On that note, I’m going to wrap up with one other excerpt from Manly Marriage Revival. This piece of advice comes from a guy named Kurt whose wife had an affair. At one point, she was just as dead-set on divorce as your wife is now. Over the course of a year, he managed to turn things around. When I asked him if he had any advice for other men in a similar situation, this is what he said:
Kurt's Advice for Men Facing Infidelity
Men will have an affair/divorce/separate for any number of reasons; horny, bored, porn, midlife, neglected, ego and all of that.
Women typically only follow this course for one reason: neglect. They also find it very difficult to love more than one man, so you have to earn her affections back from someone else.
As men, we are fortunate that if we can use your philosophy, our wives will never feel neglected and therefore never stray. Or, if we have cocked it up already, we can use your tactics to change the trajectory of our marriage and win her heart back completely.
This is not true for women whose husbands stray.
The unfaithful husband will most likely love the other woman all of his life.
All that to say, men should never worry about whether or not she is on-board. We can change our marriages with or without her initial buy-in, and once she comes back, she'll be back for good as long as you don't let that neglect creep in again.
Whew! This ended up being a long one. Hope this helps, and I’ll wish you the best of luck as you continue coping with your wife’s emotional affair.
Much manly love,
KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR IF
YOUR WIFE IS HAVING AN EMOTIONAL AFFAIR
& WANTS DIVORCE
YES, YOU SHOULD MOVE ON
Let go of control over your wife, and start genuinely preparing for a life without her.
This is the crux of what it means to “let her go to get her back”. Your marriage cannot heal while she remains in the emotional affair, and you cannot force her to break out of it, so stop trying.
In doing so, you are also giving yourself the best chance of getting her back because you’ll relieve the pressure she feels from you right now.
STEP UP AS A FATHER
If your wife is that distant from the marriage, I’m willing to bet she’s also distanced herself from the family.
It’s up to you to step in and fill the gap.
WORK ON YOURSELF AS A MAN
If you’ve been emotionally neglectful and controlling in the past, it’s time to rid yourself of those bad habits.
Force yourself to grow into the man you know you are meant to be.
Get to a point where you can be happy with yourself regardless of what happens in your marriage.
MAKE YOURSELF HER BEST OPTION
Your goal is to make yourself into her indisputable best option; into the best husband you can be, not for her benefit, but for yours.
Then, either she sees you for what you are and you will work to make her happy for the rest of her life, or she doesn’t and that’s her loss.
Either way, you come out of it a better man.
With much manly love,
I'm Stephen, the guy behind Husband Help Haven. I'm not a marriage counselor or a lawyer, I'm just a guy on the Internet who has talked to a loooooot of men going through separation... Over 2,000 in the past 5 years. My goal is to give men the tools they need to save their marriage from separation. Read more here