I’ve been married for five years. In that time, my wife has had what I consider two text message emotional affairs with men. I know physical cheating has not happened and am pretty sure she’d not act out the texting fantasies. But the communication with the men is very sexually graphic. She’s also received sexually explicit pictures and videos from at least one of the men. I’ve tried to communicate with my wife explaining that I fear her “friendship” with the latest man has perhaps become too close. She absolutely denies that there is anything inappropriate being communicated and says that I’m being too insecure. She claims she considers the latest man as a girlfriend, since she has very few female friends she can relate to. My wife was sexually abused as a young teenager over a long period of time. Has that sexual abuse impacted her ability to recognize when boundaries with friends of the opposite sex are being crossed? Or, is my wife just a compulsive cheater that I have no hope in trying to work out our problems with? I deeply love her and don’t want give up on her, especially if this is due to her sexual abuse. But I can’t continue in the relationship if all I can look forward to is a new emotional affair every few years. At this time, I don’t think I would have any luck in trying to suggest counseling for us/her. I am planning on locating a therapist that specializes in childhood sexual abuse that I can see on a regular basis though, just so I can try to understand her behavior.
I’m a little confused how you know the explicitness of her communication with these men if she is denying that they are sexual and is considering them as “girlfriends.” Either you have been snooping or her denial is very, very high. Either way, you have a problem.
I’m glad that you are looking for a therapist to help you understand the effects of her abuse and hope that this will eventually lead to some marital sessions as well. Sexual abuse can have dramatic effects and if it occurred over a long period of time like you describe, it can be worse. So yes, it could have affected her ability to understand and put up healthy boundaries with others. In addition to seeking therapy, I would suggest that you do some reading on loving someone who has been sexually abused. There are several good books written by therapists available.
In the meantime, it is appropriate for you to communicate with her about your own boundaries and what you are and are not comfortable with regarding her relationship with others. We all need friends outside of our primary relationship but our spouse should clearly come first.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts
Holly Counts, Psy.D.
Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.
APA Reference Counts, H. (2018). Emotional Affairs. Psych Central.
Retrieved on September 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2015/10/15/emotional-affairs/
Last updated: 8 May 2018 Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.