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Ryan LCSW, Mental Health
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 872
Experience:  Individual and Family Therapist
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Is this an affair, even if my husband never had sex, or was

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Is this an affair, even if my husband never had sex, or was never romantic? My husband had a female friend/work colleague whom he often texted at all hours - starting first thing nearly every morning, emailed, phoned, visited, and went out drinking. This was done for two years, keeping it secret behind my back, lying about where he was, omitting information, or that he had a friendship. When he was texting, he lied and said it was a mutual male friend who needed advice all the time. I know my husband works with men and women and I have never treated him with jealousy, suspicion, or punishment for knowing or befriending a woman. Also, what are reasonable boundaries for cross gender friendships in a marriage? I also think this friend behaved dishonestly and selfishly, and should have had better manners in a friendship with a married person.
Thanks for your question.

I'm sorry to hear about what you're going through with your husband. Typically in order for something to be considered an "affair" there has to be something physical or emotional going on. After what you've described, it did sound to me like there is a high likelihood that your husband was having an emotional affair even if there was nothing physical going on. Even if that is not the case, your husband has been continuously lying to you and betraying your trust, so whether or not this is technically considered an affair, the violation of your trust and the damage that something like that can cause is the same.

As far as boundaries for cross gender friendships, the most important thing is simply being honest and upfront about them. As long as your husband is honest, and you are comfortable with the decisions that he is making and who he is spending time with, then there's nothing wrong with him having friends of the opposite sex. Now that this has happen, it would be understandable if it took some time to build up that level of trust with you again before that happens. If this friend of his knew that he was deceiving you about their relationship together, then I agree that this person behaved dishonestly and selfishly.

As long as your husband genuinely wants to repair the problems that this has caused, that it a good sign if you are still willing to work on the relationship. I know you mentioned that you've been to individual counseling, and if you continue to struggle with these problems with your husband I would certainly recommend having him come with you for some couples counseling sections, or find a seperate marriage counselor. Regardless of whether you can call this an "affair" in the classic sense of the word, the breach of trust and issues that result from it are the same, and you have every right to feel the way that you do. I definitely wish you the best with all of this, and if there's anything else I can do to help just let me know.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
What would you consider promising signs that he genuinely wants to repair the relationship? I am asking the original question because he denies responsibility - or says the lying was wrong with a "yes....but....." with rationalizations, he deserves privacy (hence asking what are reasonable boundaries), we were just friends, etc. This has been tremendously disorienting, painful, and traumatizing for me. It feels identical to an affair to me. If it was an affair, I would have experienced all the same behaviors - sneaking around, lying about where he was, constant need to connect to the other person, sending "thinking about you" messages to the friend all the time. Furthermore, the fact that the deception was carried on for so long, repeatedly, for two years, makes me very uncomfortable. And about her not knowing this was sneaky, my friends call me on my home phone, at hours that my husband might answer. All my husband thinks we would gain from counseling is a third party telling us to treat each other well. He thinks he knows that without someone else saying it.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
The answer you posted feels just as nebulous and frustrating as the answers my husband is giving.....l feel like you are saying: maybe, based on the information given, it might be an affair....but it is definitely a violation of trust. I don't want to feel this way. Is there any way you could clarify? I feel very violated in a deep way, more than just being lied to, for instance, like the type of lies saying the dress i just bought cost $50 when it really cost $100.... I guess I was looking for stronger validation with more detailed support for what is reasonable to expect in a marriage, and whether my husbands behavior violates reasonable expectations for loyalty and protectection.
An affair involves a romantic and/or physical involvement. If that was occuring, then it was an affair. Even if it was not an affair in the classic sense of the word, your trust was still violated in a deep way, and you have every right to feel the way you do. It is also safe to say that his behavior violates reasonable expectations for loyalty, as well as the trust necessary to maintain a strong marriage.

I would consider a promising sign that he genuinely wants to repair the relationship to be an admission that this was completely inappropriate, and an agreement to be upfront and honest about the relationships he has with other people. There's really no justification for him to lie to you, and if he feels like he deserves privacy there are far more productive ways to discuss that with you, rather than to go behind your back. A promising sign would also be his willingness to go to counseling with you, because even if he feels that he knows what they are going to say, it is more about working together to make your relationship stronger. Truly if he knew what the counselor was going to say he would have never put himself in this position in the first place, so that means that there are some issues that need to be resolved.

Reasonable boundaries revolve around honesty. There are no set rules, it depends on what both people are comfortable with. In theory, he could have as many female friends as he wants so long as he is trustworthy and honest with you about the nature of their relationship together, and you are ok with this. To keep secrets from you and justify his lies only make him harder to trust and errodes the foundation of your relationship together.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your reply. I appreciate your point. However, an affair implies cheating. Cheating means dishonestly violating rules. Lying deprived me of an important vote to negotiate and agree to what the rules were.

You did help me with clarity that I believe by insisting that this was not an affair, it was an attempt to frame what happened as not that serious.

It was devastating to be deceived for so long, it made me feel extremely unimportant, like I did not matter, that I was not safe and couldn't count on my partner's integrity or character, and that he would make decisions that did not consider our partnership. It made me feel like I am involved with someone who cares so little for me that he is willing to harm me without conscience. There have been no life experiences that have made me feel more devalued and unloved than to be lied to repeatedly by my husband.

I don't doubt the devastating effect that this has had on you and your relationship together. I also agree that whether or not he considers this to be an affair, that doesn't take away from the seriousness of what has occurred. Based on your definition of an affair, I can certainly understand how you would see it that way, but the point remains the same that no matter what you call it, it has undermined the trust that you have in him in a very serious way. Unfortunately this leaves you in a very difficult position, especially if he is not taking full responsibility or doesn't see why this would be so destructive. However, the feelings that you've expressed are valid and understandable based on what happened.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
i have been doing some reading on adult attachments and it was helpful in regard to this question, both in identifying the problems, and providing some structured ideas to work on things.

I'm very glad to hear that has been helpful to you, and I do hope that things work out for the best. Hang in there,