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Emotional affair affecting marriage

DEAR AMY: I'm a married man of several decades. For the most part we are quite happy.

Recently I discovered that my wife has been having an email/phone affair with an old boyfriend who has come back into her life. He lives in another state. There are consistent references stating "I love you," "You are the love of my life" and the occasional sexual innuendo in their emails. This has been going on for more than a decade. I was able to determine this by doing a search of emails she had put in the trash and never deleted. In one email exchange, they decided that this should be their secret. The emails occur four or five times a month. I don't know how often they phone each other. I'm afraid it is affecting our marriage. She has seemed more distant to me lately. I had one short affair many years ago, which was sexual in nature. I admitted it to my wife and she was great about it. She was deeply hurt but initiated counseling, and we worked our way through it and back to a good marriage. The nature of her affair is very different, but I believe the effect on our marriage can be just as damaging. I would appreciate any advice.

-- Adrift

DEAR ADRIFT: Well, you know the drill; you must repeat the process your wife initiated when you had an affair, and do what you can to understand, repair and forgive.

There is no question that an emotional affair can be very destructive and extremely challenging to recover from -- especially one of this long duration. Because of your own experience of infidelity, you may possess some insight about what your wife is seeking in this other relationship.

My instinct is that she might not have recovered from your infidelity to the extent that you think; she is either retaliating or was already engaged in this other relationship at the time you were unfaithful, which is why she was so "great" about it.

It's just a theory. Be honest about every emotion you are feeling. Talk with a counselor, and invite your wife to join you.

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