It's easier than ever to have what some might call an "emotional affair." Perhaps these things used to belong strictly to the province of a good friend or coworker -- but now, given technology, it can be pretty much anyone. Doesn't matter if they live in another city or country. Doesn't matter if you've even met that person. It's easy to find someone online, and begin the onslaught of emails, text messages, and IMs that lead to ... something. It's not physical. But it's not innocent either. One woman describes her devastation and struggle with finding out about her "perfect" husband's "affair" that wasn't quite an affair.
In her 40s, Lucy Hawkins describes what she felt like was the perfect husband and marriage -- she calls her spouse, "dependable, loving and the least likely man in our circle of friends to betray his wife." But then some instinct made her check her husband's phone.
When she discovered he had password protected it, her suspicions grew. So she tried password upon password until she finally got in -- and there discovered a series of texts with someone named Lorna. The texts were numerous, flirtatious, and always ended in a string of "xxx" kisses. They would write things like "Sweet dreams" and "We have a deep connection."
Yet the texts were never obvertly sexual. There was no talk of what they wanted to do to each other, or what they had done to each other, no dirty words, and no naked photos. Just a lot of baby talk.
When Lucy confronted her husband, he eventually admitted that he'd met Lorna at a work conference in Boston. (The couple live in the U.K.) To Lucy's mortification, Lorna is an attractive 26-year-old woman -- almost half her age. But Lucy's husband swears up and down that he never slept with Lorna -- and Lucy, given that she can find no evidence that they did, and their messages never mention any sexual trysts -- believes him.
So -- eventually -- after a lot of fighting, sleeping in separate rooms, and password giving over -- Lucy decided not to throw their marriage away, and forgives him.
I wouldn't even say this was really an emotional affair. It doesn't sound like Lorna and Lucy's husband discussed anything of any consequence. He said he was just a stupid guy lapping up a young woman's attentions -- and that sounds about right. But that doesn't make it any less hurtful.
I think this type of affair IS a form of cheating. And, unfortunately, a lot of spouses wouldn't see it that way. Confront a partner over something like this and his or her attitude might be, "Oh, it was just harmless flirting." "We never slept together or even met, so what's the big deal?" "I was just bored and having a little fun. I wouldn't care if you did it," etc.
Yet the trust has been betrayed just as it is in a physical affair. In fact, I think a lot of women would prefer their husband have a meaningless one night stand rather than a long drawn-out emotional affair, sharing tender words and deepest thoughts. I say if you want to divorce over it -- that's your business. Only YOU know what you can live with.
For a marriage to be repaired after something like this, I think it first takes the person who conducted the emotional affair to admit that this WAS cheating -- whether there was sex or not.
Do you consider flirty messages an affair? Would you divorce your husband over this?
Image via Julia.Lamb.Fear/Flickr