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I cannot find any information on how, or if, an affair

affects a marriage if the...
I cannot find any information on how, or if, an affair affects a marriage if the spouse does NOT know. Does an affair affect the wife if she does NOT know her husband has been having an affair with another woman for 3 years? It appears to be a "good" marriage. Thank you for your input.
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Answered in 4 minutes by:
6/2/2012
Dr. Rossi
Dr. Rossi, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 4,627
Experience: PsyD, LPC, CHt
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Dr. Rossi :

Good Morning,

Dr. Rossi :

One can look at this existential question from different angles.

Dr. Rossi :

If the spouse does not know, that person is living a lie. Not one they've caused but one they are in because of the cheating partner.

Dr. Rossi :

While the spouse believes that their partner loves and respects them, the opposite is happening. Where there is love, trust and respect, cheating should not be taking place.

Dr. Rossi :

That to an extent hints that the other person is self serving- doing what they want without carrying about their partner. Keeping this behavior secretive or comming out and admitting it, is affecting the marriage.

Dr. Rossi :

Sooner or later, there would be subtle changes within the marriage. It would not function as a unit.

Dr. Rossi :

Deceit can make the person who is unaware of the cheating of their partner, believe that they're living in a harmonious marriage. This is conning.

Dr. Rossi :

If the cheating partner had withdrawn respect and affection (true love) the marriage is a lie (unless the two partners have a mutual understanding that their relationship is open)

Dr. Rossi :

The reason why you may have not found info/research on this is that if the behavior is secretive, it won't be possible to study it. The researchers would need a control group to compare their findings to and without these participants, there can't be a valid conclusion as to the effects of this behavior.

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Customer reply replied 5 years ago
This is generalized and basic. Is there any determination that emotional intimacy suffers? Can a man be emotionally intimate with more than one woman at the same time, or does one take from the other? I understand the circumstances of deceit and living a lie, but if the secret is kept - is any harm being done? Is there more propensity for the husband to withdraw and be distant? I am interested in specifics.

It's basic because there is lack of information from both parties (which, is something presented during face to face counseling) The secrecy can affect both partners. In this case, it is unknown what emotional and psychological effect it has on the one who has to keep a fake persona w. his spouse (stress, anxiety, mood changes, substance abuse, sociopathic tendencies, etc) I've opted out so other clinicians can give you specifics.

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Elliott, LPCC, NCC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 7,664
Experience: 35 years of experience as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a college professor.
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Seeking expert counseling is a sign of strength. A personal relationship with a caring professional is proven clinically effective.

Dear friend,

If the husband is truly in love with his wife, and he is not becoming distant or withdrawing in any manner, then it is as if the affair was not even happening. It seems, however, that this stance would be hard to maintain unless the man is so lacking in empathy and so superficial that he can do what he wants to do without any feelings, and his attentions and personality would all be well executed acting with no basis.

This kind of behavior would be typical of a narcissist, who is by definition sociiopathic and unable to feel empathy for others or to even care about their feelings, other than how their feelings would affect their interactions with him.

Dr. Rossi mentioned "conning" which is a feature of sociopathic behavior..

You talk about this woman as if she is a third party, and I assume it is not you, because, unlike the woman in your scenario, you ARE aware that he is cheating.

Secrets like these cannot remain hidden indefinitely, and once they are revealed, the relationship will be severely compromised. The entire extended relationship may come crashing down on all participants if this happens.

As long as this man can get away with this behavior, and as a narcissist it will not affect him emotionally, then he will continue, even for years.

I hope that this information helps.

Warm regards,

Elliott Sewell, LPCC, NCC, CCMHC
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Customer reply replied 5 years ago

Thank you for your input. I am the other woman. His wife and I have met and she's had suspicions her husband and I may be involved, but he's denied it and she hasn't pursued it. And the years pass.

She is controlling and insecure, but they otherwise seem to have a happy marriage. She's expressed jealousy of me because I'm considerably more attractive, and younger. I share that not to sound boastful, but because it's likely pertinent. I've encountered women threatened by me, as I am also educated and fiancially secure.

It's not my intention to cause anguish, which is why I've posed this question. Is it possible that I'm not "taking" away from her? Or more likely to do so, as the relationship endures? Please share your thoughts regarding that.

P.S. He and I work together and grew close, slowly over time. It's not just sex. He is not cold and without empathy. We've simply grown close, share the same profession, and develped love for one another. There are no expectations for this relationship to lead to marriage. It's not practical for numerous reasons.

Dear friend,

Thank you for your input. I suspected that you were the other woman. Now that I have heard more of the story, I see things in a different light.

Your friend is not a narcissist. I understand how you just fell into this relationship over time, and how you have real moral considerations over this relationship. Apart from concern about his wife's feelings and for protecting his marriage, you do not seem to be taking away from this woman.

Perhaps, without this outlet, their relationship may suffer. He has no reason to leave her and you are not pulling him away.

She is somewhat insecure, especially because you are more attractive than her and because you work with her husband. Your attractive and competent demeanor is threatening to some women, so it is not unusual for her to feel this way.

In terms of conventional morality you are taking away from this woman. However, in practical terms, it does not seem that you are. Ironically, your presence in his life might be the missing element that keeps his marriage running more smoothly.

If there seems to be no negative effects on any of the three of you, then some sort of balance is operating, and somehow this is managing to work. You do have misgivings, because you do not want to hurt his wife, but your departure from the scene might cause more damage than continuing as before.

As long as there seems to be no harm to her, the man, or you, then it is not causing a problem. I do not usually support triangles, but this one seems to be working in practical terms.

I wish you success and continued mutual happiness in this complex relationship.

Warm regards,

Elliott Sewell, LPCC, NCC, CCMHC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Elliott, LPCC, NCC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC, Psychotherapist
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