Am I overreacting in calling it an emotional affair?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My husband of almost five years has a part-time job at night in a restaurant as security. He told me about a woman who had been through a lot recently and how he felt for her. He wanted to get her an inspirational book to maybe help her. I was okay with it, until he said that he wouldn’t have told me about this if the woman was pretty. That made me realize that maybe he was caring too much and that this was more than just helping out. I got upset and told him to back up and accused him of having an emotional affair. He got upset and said I was selfish. I told him that he was overstepping boundaries. He tells me I am insecure because my last relationship ended in an affair. Am I wrong?

A: This is a tough one because there is just enough information to validate both your reactions and your husband’s. But one thing is certain. Something is not okay between the two of you and needs to be addressed. On the good news side, he told you and asked your permission. On the other news side, when you said no he balked. The fact this situation has come to light so early (couples usually don’t come for therapy until the wheels have fallen off) is a good thing. I would seize the opportunity to see q couples counselor. Each of you may be having unexpressed needs from the other that would be helpful if identified. A skilled couples counselor can help you sort that through.

Because of your past it would be natural for you to be sensitive to the overture of your husband to another woman. But your sensitivity doesn’t mean he can dismiss it, nor does it give you absolute control over his interactions with women. There needs to be a discussion with a skilled third party present to understand the underlying issues and strike a balance.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Aug 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Am I overreacting in calling it an emotional affair?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/08/13/am-i-overreacting-in-calling-it-an-emotional-affair/