Q: “I have caught my husband in three emotional affairs in the past two years. One was with a high school friend he reconnected with on Facebook. The second was with someone at work. The third one was with someone he met at a Dollar General store! What in the world is he thinking? We have three children who would be devastated if their parents split up. I’m a good wife. I work, keep the house clean, do everything for the kids, and manage all the finances. And yes, we have a decent sex life. It’s not great, but I keep him satisfied. I’m at my wits’ end with how to continue to manage and monitor his phone and affairs. Why can’t men just be satisfied with what they have?”
A: Satisfied and gratified look different from two sets of lenses. I agree with you: there is cause for concern. After all, who wouldn’t be satisfied with a wife who cleans the house, washes clothes, and prepares meals, is a career-minded woman and the mother of his children, who still has sex with him, and who manages all the money and three kids? So, why isn’t he satisfied?
Whether he finds a relationship in a Dollar General or Neiman Marcus, he’s seeking. Whether it’s a face-to-face or Facebook encounter, he’s searching. The answer is obvious — there is something lacking in his relationship with you. The reasons behind the answer are less conspicuous but are why the two of you need to have serious discussions regarding where you go from here. Here’s my 1-2-3 plan to help you get started.
- Evaluate. Discuss how you got to the place you are in your marriage. I would, however, definitely assess your sex life. Is the fact you have “decent” sex enough? Is it simply sex or do you make love? Does passion accompany your efforts? Is it fulfilling to both of you, or are you simply filling a need? Are you connecting on an emotional level? Is there heartfelt conversation between the two of you, or is it more casual chitchat? Have your emotional and physical intimacy become somewhat stale? Do you have date nights? Go on weekend rendezvouses (without the kids)? Do you laugh? Flirt? Have common interests? If you argue, what are the patterns surrounding your disagreements? If you don’t argue, are you both settling for humdrum? Does he feel valued in the home? Do you praise one another for little and big accomplishments? Since you seem to carry much of the burden of responsibility, are you resentful? Do you respect one another? These and many more questions should be addressed to properly assess the state of your union.
- Eliminate. Once you identify the problems that have wedged themselves between the two of you, it’s time to begin to delete them from your relationship. To consider fixing them immediately would be unreasonable and setting yourselves up for a frustrating failure. Day by day, attack one or multiple issues. But here’s the key: attack the problems, not each other. Nothing is ever resolved when insults, criticisms, and/or complaints are lodged against a person, let alone someone you are in an intimate relationship with. Tackle the tough stuff. You’ll find the little things will take care of themselves. Eliminating sources of irritations will help you both remember the times you were crazy about one another.
- Elevate. There is a way out and up. Emotional affairs are damaging, as God views those adulterous as well. However, they are sometimes more quickly forgiven and healed by the offended spouse. You have managed to intercept three incidents. I would strongly urge you both to do what you can to work through this, but don’t discount the significance of counseling. You must raise the bar of love. Obviously, both of you have needs that are not being fulfilled. Discuss them openly and honestly with this end result in mind: each of you will be the one who meets those needs for the other. When needs are met, your marriage will be elevated. You’ll rediscover the reasons you fell in love and created three children together — three children whose lives will forever be disrupted should you divorce.
Resolve to resolve. If you don’t approach this situation with a mindset for resolution, you’ll find yourselves back at square one — him seeking satisfaction and you monitoring action. That is no way to live or love in any marriage.
Have you dealt with emotional affairs in your marriage? How did you handle the situation? Find out what to do when your husband does this.