Before we move into talking about healthy emotional intimacy I want to spend time discussing emotional affairs. I received the following a while back but hope you still find it helpful today.
I received the following email from the east coast this week. I want to share it with you because I feel it is so well written. She describes how emotional affairs begin, her conflicted feelings of shame, sadness and aliveness over the relationship, the passionate feelings that have been awakened, her love for her husband, her desire for him to claim her, fight for her, and for her marriage to grow. My response is at the end.
I need help. I realize now that I am in an emotional affair that is very close to becoming physical. I am so ashamed of myself and sad about my actions. I have talked to my husband about this in reserved detail and asked for his help. He is supportive but doesn't demand anything from me. Because I go to school with the other man, I have no choice but to see him three more times before graduation. It is very difficult for me to see him. My feelings feel very deep. However, I realize that I may be giving those feelings more value than they really have.
A little background - I have been married for 17 years. For the past 23 months I have been in an adult studies bachelor degree completion program. The same group of students meets once a week for two years. I sit next to a man who has become my dear friend. Early in our school program, we met for dinner with our spouses and believed that we would all be great friends. This man and I continued to email and talk about school and life. We often spoke of how fortunate we were to meet since we get along so well. We have supported each other through a difficult curriculum and also some difficult life situations. We have a strong bond that has been evident since the beginning of the class.
One night, a situation occured in class that caused my friend to defend me to another student. I was overwhelmed by his strong defense of me. I felt suddenly very aware of my feelings for him. We talked that night and admitted our feelings for each other. We were both blown away by the fact that we felt the same way.
A week later, I realized how close I was to ruining my marriage and I confided in my husband that I was worried about our marriage. I admitted to having strong feelings for my friend and said that I wanted to make sure I didn't do anything to damage our marriage. My husband took it well and supported me. He didn't get upset and he didn't get mad. He was okay. I cried and admitted that I was very tempted by this man and that I felt very connected to him. My husband said he understood and that he was glad I told him. He was still okay.
My emotional affair has not stopped. In fact, it has gotten more serious. We have kissed and expressed our feelings for each other. We are worried about our relationship for ourselves and our spouses. We feel guilty and torn because we are so happy together.
I went to my husband again today and said that I need his help to keep from doing something to damage our marriage. He was again supportive and kind but he didn't show much emotion. I know that I cannot expect him to keep me faithful, but I am desperate for him to wake up and recognize that he has a responsibility to the success of our marriage. Simply being a faithful husband isn't enough. I want him to claim me as his wife. I want him to see our marriage as something worth protecting. He continues to be a loving and kind husband, but he does not love me passionately and protectively which is how I need to be loved.
I am so ashamed of my behavior. I am so sad that I have betrayed my husband. But I don't want to stop feeling passionately loved. I have talked to my husband about this need three or four times over the course of our marriage. He says he understands my needs, but he doesn't have it in him to react differently to me.
I don't know what to do. Should I tell him that some physical contact has occurred to see if that jars him into awareness of the situation? Or is that mean spirited and cruel?
It seems that I am using this friend to get a reaction out of my husband. But I don't think that's true. I believe my feelings for my friend are genuine, but untimely. I am sad that I will never be loved passionately by my husband. I don't know what to do. I want my marriage to last, I love my husband. But I am pretending to be someone I am not. I am pretending to be satisfied with a warm, friendly love when I really need a deep, connected, passionate love. I feel that way about my friend.
I believe I met someone who has reached the real me, the passionate me. Now that I have these feelings, I do not want to go back to pretending to be okay. I AM NOT OKAY!
Now that I have said all that, I will also tell you that I do not want to get a divorce. I do not want to lose my husband. I want to feel passionately loved by him. I just don't know if he has it in him to love me that way. I don't have it in me to keep pretending to be okay.
Please help me. I am so sad and confused.
Here is my response,
Dear East Coast,