What a meaty letter, Jeanne!  I hope Three and others in similar situations take your advice to “ask, How have we all participated?  What was [my part in all this]?  How did [my spouse] participate in this creation?  And, [how did the outside party] participate in creating this situation?”  

Jeanne is right, Three.  This doesn’t have to be the end of the world.   This could be a “spectacular invitation from a loving Heavenly Father to embrace the prayer of the upper room and really embrace oneness — oneness with each other and oneness with our Savior in the apprenticeship of a lifetime — an eternal lifetime as co-creators with God.”  It won’t be easy to fix, but the situation may not be irreparable.

In response to the emotional infidelity issue I have a few thoughts.  It is easy to feel like a victim and accuse the spouse of wrongdoing, but a deeper question could be and perhaps should be addressed with loving kindness.  “What is it in our relationship that I am not providing for you?”  

This is not an excuse for one to stray, but is often a warning sign that something is not quite right in your own relationship.  If the spouse is looking elsewhere, yelling, pouting and accusations will help the partner justify why he or she is turning elsewhere, but by taking with you a caring understanding heart as you communicate, the relationship can be renewed and even be taken to a higher level than before.  Emotional infidelity is only a step, because sexual relations are the most comforting when shared with someone with whom you are emotionally bonded.  Fix the gap and pull him back into your care.

Concerned Member

You make a good point, Concerned.  Even though the issue may seem to be black-and-white to the person who is being wronged, people almost never decide ahead of time, “I’m going to go out and look for someone to get attached to and destroy my family in the process.”  Instead, he or she justifies his actions because he perceives there is something missing in his marital relationship.  If you can find out what that thing is and address it, it may not be too late to save the marriage.

Our next letter proves that it’s not always the man who is involved in these relationships.  (On second thought, I guess that just about half the participants have to be women!)

After graduating from college, my wife and I moved to a new state to take a job.  Four months later I was devastated to be laid off from my dream job. Fortunately, I found a better job in another city that paid more and had more opportunities.  
But the “hidden blessing” was that having to move brought to light that my wife had started an emotional affair with a man she met at the YMCA while I was at work. He begged her to leave me. So, I have always been thankful to have been “laid off” as the Lord knows what needs to happen in our lives better than we do!  
My advice to others dealing with emotional betrayals is to absolutely stay on the Lord’s path of safety by doing the basics of prayer, scripture study, church and temple attendance and service.  Let the Lord defend you from what is often beyond your control.

Staying Close to the Lord

Thanks for telling your story, Staying.  It’s yet another affirmation that sometimes the “disasters” in our lives have silver linings.

Our last letter today echoes the sentiment that the emotional affair is only the symptom, and the wise spouse will look instead for the cause:
I am an avid Dr Laura listener.  Unless Three’s husband is a creep, there was already a relationship problem before his inifidelity, and the infidelity is a symptom.  I’d suggest read Dr Laura’s book The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands and doing serious soul-searching as to how well the relationship has been nurtured.  This is extra important because it is impossible to change someone else; we can really only work on ourselves.  

Clearly this husband has stepped off the deep end, and the bigger picture is why he has done it.  What is he getting from this friend that he was not getting at home?  Did he feel unappreciated?  Are the kids always coming first and he comes in second?  Does he feel that unconditional love and acceptance that is so much easier to give during a dating period and hard to sustain over years?  How deep and honest has the relationship been?
None of what is happening can be excused.

  The husband is definitely out of line, but now that it has happened if it can be a springboard in to a future better relationship then something good will come out of it and it will not just be unmitigated tragedy.  I am sure he is at fault as well, but as Three has no control over his end, she can only look at herself.  

I do not write this with the intention of blaming the wife, only of looking at what she can do to make changes

If the husband had written the response would be the same, that he needs to look at himself.
There are also good books written for LDS audiences.  One of them is, And They Were Not Ashamed by Laura M. Brotherson.  I have not read it, but   I hear it is good.  Professional counseling would also be appropriate.  The fact that the relationship may not be physical yet indicates that on some level the husband is controlling himself and wants a good marriage back.
Hopeful in California

I like your last line, Hopeful.  There is hope for Three — and as a previous letter indicated, there can even be hope if the relationship has progressed to physical intimacy.  

Speaking of books, Readers, Hopeful also pointed me to a work of fiction by LDS author Shannon Hale — The Actor and the Housewife.  Although I have only read the first few chapters, the portion I have read shows how people can slip into inappropriate relationships without any intention of doing wrong.  Although the book is funny, I suspect it is going to be a worthwhile fictional treatment of a serious subject.  Devotees of “chick lit” may want to pick it up.

That’s it for today.  If you have something to say that hasn’t been said, drop a letter to [email protected].   Put something in the subject line to let me know your letter isn’t spam.  I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Until next time — Kathy

“Marriage resembles a pair of shears, so joined that they cannot be separated, often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes in between them.”

Sydney Smith