Mailbag: Repeated Emotional Affairs

Dear Divorce Minister,

My husband has had emotional affairs during our marriage and has physically cheated once during the dating time while in a serious committed relationship (which was disclosed to the me 9 years into our marriage). While he says he’s never crossed the line physically during the marriage, there has been a series of lies associated with the emotional affairs that have been verified, making it difficult for me to believe him.

We have been married for almost 12 years. About a year into the marriage,
my husband’s ex-girlfriend starting calling our house. She had recently
moved to the US. He said she didn’t know anyone and she felt lonely and
sad. I didn’t think much of it and he didn’t seem to be trying to hide it
at all. He eventually admitted he thought she was getting attached to him
and I told him it would be best to end the friendship and not lead her on
anymore.

Then about a year later, my husband went to a foreign country for
research. He was there for two months. While there, he met a girl who was
going through a rough time. She was a single mom who’s husband had just
left her. He spent time with her, walking with her after his soccer games
and spending time on her porch talking to her, although he says there were
people around during these times. The last night he was there she came and
offered him “something to remember her by” and she wanted to give it to him
in his room. He said he refused to let her in and she hung around for
about 45 minutes until he final convinced her to leave. He walked her to
the gate and then went to kiss her on the cheek (customary), and she turned
her head and their mouths met halfway across the lips. He said that was
all that happened.

Later, I found a letter from the girl. It was in Spanish. I asked my husband why he was saving it and he said it wasn’t important so I asked him to throw it away. He refused. I asked if he would read it to me and tell me what it said (I don’t speak Spanish). He refused and a fight ensued. He tore up the letter and threw it in the trash.

Six years later (8 years into the marriage), my husband came to me and told
me he has been messaging another ex-girlfriend on Facebook and that it’s
been going on for around about 4 or 5 weeks and that he let it go too far
and they ended up telling each other they want to be with each other and
that they are in love with each other. When she wanted to come see him, he
decided he didn’t want to be with her and so he decided to tell me.

However, at the same time, he decided to also confess that while we were
dating, he had had sex with another girl while doing research in another
foreign country.

I was devastated and hurt. I felt betrayed and that my trust was broken.
I had a hard time looking at him the same way. After some time, I finally
forgave him, and he promised it would never happen again. We reconciled.

But it didn’t really go away. My heart was still hurting but I felt I had
to forgive him for his sake, because he was sad about it. I had to
convince him to end communication with the ex-girlfriend. He did not want
to stop talking to her.

Three and half years later (11 years into the marriage), I found some
communications on his Facebook messenger. He had started communicating
with another girl he used to like. They had never actually dated, but on
Facebook they were confessing their past feelings for each other and how he
had wanted his parents to move to Florida so he could be with her (when he
was 16). The conversation was very flirtatious and I was hurt. I felt
that he was going down the same road again. I finally ended up telling him I had discovered the messages and initially he said he didn’t do anything wrong, but then he apologized and said he wouldn’t talk to this girl anymore.

Then, 3 months later, he went to Florida on a ministry trip during New Years. He called me on New Years Eve and said “I have something to tell you, but you’re not going to be happy about it”. He then told me that the girl he had been talking to had contacted him and wanted to hang out with him for New Years Eve and that her family was there so it was going to be fine. I felt frustrated and hurt because he had told me he wouldn’t talk to this other woman anymore, but I just ended up getting off the phone and didn’t say much. He went and spent time with the other girl. However, when he got back I mentioned that I did not want him to continue a friendship with her and he said “No, I wouldn’t do that”.

Then, 5 days later, I saw him on his phone and he kept smiling. I asked him what
he was doing and he kept dismissing it and saying “nothing”. Then another
5 days later, I logged onto his email account to check their Amazon Prime
order and saw that he had changed his Facebook password on New Years Eve
Day. I had had his other password and could access his account but had
rarely logged in.

I knew that my husband never likes to change passwords. And he had changed it on the day he was meeting up with this girl in Florida. I found it very suspicious. So I checked his Facebook account from his phone. I found out that he had never cut off communication with the girl from Florida. He wasn’t having long intimate emails with her but that he had kept in contact. She had come here in November and he had called her but she had missed the call. They didn’t meet.

Then, the day before New Years Eve, he had a text exchange with her and then deleted it. He then changed his password and initiated arrangements to meet up with her. The conversations were still flirtatious. Then, on that one night
that he had been smiling, I realized it was because he was talking to the
other girl on messenger. They were discussing how they felt and what they
were thinking when they were hanging out. It was a very flirtatious
conversation and at one point he said,

“Even though I told my wife, I was still wondering, ‘What if?'”
She said, “What if what?”
He said, “You know, I’ve never been around someone I used to like before,
so…..What if?…. You know, What if?”
She said, “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘What if'”.
He said, “Well, maybe we can come back to that later.”
He then went on to tell her what a great friend she was and that it was
hard to find friends like her. In opposition to what he had told me about
not continuing the friendship.

When I confronted him, he answered with several lies that were verified as untrue by the text messages. He has continued to lie and change the details of the stories to benefit himself. I feel I can no longer trust him and I feel crushed by these emotional relationships outside of our marriage. I feel the marriage commitment to “forsake all others” has been broken. He said he never had feelings for these women but I have seen from the messages that he was the pursuer and that he was instigating and pursuing the connection with these other women. In the past he had claimed that these other women had pursued him, but from the recent evidence, it appears that this is not the case.

I am not opposed to him having mutual, female, platonic friends. However, considering the inappropriate nature of the initial conversation with this recent girl, I felt that continuing this connection would be traveling the same path, especially since the conversation was not platonic but flirtatious. He also admitted at one point that he realized it was heading in the same direction as the previous problem with the ex girlfriend, but had still continued it when the girl from Florida contacted him. So, though he was convicted he was doing the same thing, he continued anyway.

We have been separated for almost 3 months now. He wants me to do couple’s counseling and I keep trying to get up the desire to do that but I am really scared of going back. I just can’t trust him. I don’t want to be hurt anymore. I have seen a Christian counselor who has told me I should consider divorce and that I should stay separated. However, my husband has a knack for changing the stories and making himself appear very innocent and so some are trying to tell me I’m over reacting, but if I’m able to talk to them, they can then see the details and reality of the situation.

It already hurts so much and it hurts even more for the Pastor and others
to act like I am the bad person for being hurt and not wanting to continue
getting hurt.

My pastor has been fairly understanding and kind, but he does desire that
we reconcile. However, I have had other spiritual leaders in the church,
rail on me about how I’m unwilling to do God’s will if I don’t back, even
if it happens again. Some even say, there is no reason at all for divorce,
that even with adultery, you should never end the marriage.

Any counsel is appreciated. Thank you so much!

-AM


Dear AM,

From what you wrote, it makes perfect sense that you do not trust your husband any longer. He is a serial cheater with a long history of lies and inappropriate relationships stretching over a decade in time. Plus, you have given him multiple second chances only for him to abuse your trust and cheat again.

I tend to agree with you that it is unlikely that all these relationships–that you know of–were “just” emotional affairs. He seems to understand that admitting to more would mean losing outside support in pressuring you into staying in the marriage.

Dealing with real consequences–like a divorce–for disrespecting and cheating on you does not seem to be something he wants.

The pattern I see in the stories about the Other Women is of a man who grooms the Other Woman, has a minimally emotional romantic fling, and then moves onto the next OW after her grows tired of that relationship using you as a home base in the meantime.

Your husband comes across as downright predatory when you put all these stories together!

It already hurts so much and it hurts even more for the Pastor and others to act like I am the bad person for being hurt and not wanting to continue getting hurt.

I would say not tolerating such abuse is more than simply not wanting to continue getting hurt. It is taking a godly stance against sin. 

You know enough to know that your husband continues to keep secrets about the Other Women (e.g. the letter in Spanish that he destroyed as opposed to translated for you). In my opinion, that means he has not repented of his infidelity.

Those secrets keep him bound to those women even if he is not seeing them anymore as they know something you do not as his wife.

God does not reconcile with us if we refuse to repent and turn to Him for forgiveness (e.g. I John 1:9, Hebrews 10:26-27, etc). By not reconciling with your husband, you are not doing anything less than what God does with us if we refuse to repent.

My pastor has been fairly understanding and kind, but he does desire that we reconcile.

Just because your pastor wants reconciliation does not mean you have to reconcile. He is not the one risking his well-being by staying married to a proven liar and cheater (By the way, this is a good time to remind you to get tested for STDs to be safe.)

However, I have had other spiritual leaders in the church, rail on me about how I’m unwilling to do God’s will if I don’t back, even if it happens again.

Was it against God’s will to divorce Israel over repeated infidelities (see Jeremiah 3:8)? Of course, not. If God can divorce over repeated infidelity, then I see no reason why we humanly cannot follow this example.

Some even say, there is no reason at all for divorce, that even with adultery, you should never end the marriage.

For you and your situation, I’d say arguing with Christians who hold this position is a waste of time and emotional energy. It is important to let go of the desire to have everyone agree with you and your decisions.

Response to these leaders:

“We fundamentally disagree on the matter of infidelity and divorce. Bible-believing Christians exist on both sides of this issue; I expect you to leave me alone to follow my convictions regarding what I believe is Biblical on this matter.” 

If they continue to push the issue, I would change the subject and/or walk away. It is not loving or–thereby–godly to keep pressing you to violate your conscience on these matters.

They can have their own convictions on the matter. That does not mean their convictions must be yours.

It is okay to disagree!

I hope that helps, AM. Dealing with infidelity is so hard and heart-wrenching! To have to do so over a decade with multiple episodes just amplifies the misery and suffering.

May God give you strength and His peace which passes all understanding!

-DM

 

1 thought on “Mailbag: Repeated Emotional Affairs”

  1. AM, Run and don’t look back! I could have written this letter. I lived this for over 20 years and eventually I FINALLY caught my now ex-husband out on a date with a newly divorced female “friend.” My ex is a predator just like your husband. You husband will never change! NEVER! Staying with him will just set you for more and more abuse. And yes, this is abuse. It’s emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse. I wish I would have found Divorce Ministers years ago!

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