the labels we assign to affairs

By “Rose”

Lately I have been journaling a lot; suggested by my therapist, it really helps to get the emotions out. Sometimes I’ll write my spouse a nasty-gram but then don’t send it because the action of writing it helps me a lot.

What I have been thinking about lately is the labels we assign to affairs, whether they are emotional (EA), physical (PA), or a combination of most anything. Are these labels important, and if so, why?

Let’s start with the definitions of these affair types

On a podcast of Dear Sugars radio, starring Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild) and Steve Almond, a recent guest was Esther Perel. This is an episode I have listened to over and over, and whether you follow Esther or dislike her advice, this makes a lot of sense. Here is what she had to say about emotional affairs:

“Steve Almond: Since there are so many forms to which we ascribe the word infidelity — what do you think of as a useful definition for infidelity?

Esther Perel: The definition of infidelity keeps expanding. Is it a love affair? Is it paid sex? Is it a chatroom? Is it keeping your dating apps and your Tinder on when you are seeing somebody? Is it using porn? Where do we draw the line? For me, the constitutive element of an affair is the secrecy. It is the secrecy that leads to the lying, to the deception, to the duplicity. It is the structure of an affair — not the sexual or emotional behavior or what people actually are doing. It’s the fact that it’s not within the contract — spoken or unspoken, implicit or explicit — that they had with their partners. The same behaviors within an agreed-upon relationship have nothing to do with infidelity. They have to do with sexual freedom. The second element has to do with the fact that there is an emotional involvement, to one degree or another.  There can be very minimal involvement emotionally, or there can be a massive love affair. I do consider even going to prostitutes, or seeing a hooker or an escort, as having an emotional component, even if it’s not an emotion necessarily in the relationship. Even if you are paying in order to absolve yourself of any emotional involvement. That’s the paradox. And the third one, which is probably even more important than the second, is that there is a sexual alchemy. That doesn’t mean that you look at the sexual act. It means that you look at the sexualization of the interaction. The kiss that you have never given is just as powerful as hours of actual lovemaking.  The erotic isn’t just what is happening between people’s legs. It is also what’s happening in their erotic mind. It’s these elements, intersecting with each other — always in different ways, but always present — that constitute infidelity.” (Sugars, 2017)


And from the Gottman Institute:

”What is emotional infidelity?

Emotional infidelity takes many different forms. A lot of people argue about what constitutes an emotional affair. In the Gottman Method, we believe it starts when a person gets too close to someone other than his or her relationship partner. Often these relationships begin innocently enough, but they grow into something very dangerous. The signs of emotional infidelity are: confiding in; flirting; keeping the relationship secret from the partner; and sharing details about their personal life, especially negative details about the partner and the relationship. People who get involved in emotional affairs find themselves making negative comparisons between their partner and the “friend.” They see their “friend” as being funnier, more interesting, more attractive, easier to talk to, more interested in them, and more understanding. This begins The Cheater’s Cascade.

See also  Accepting the Past and My Emotional Affair

Social media can play a big role in the cascade toward emotional infidelity, especially in today’s day and age. Reconnecting with old high school and college friends or sweethearts can begin with a desire to “catch up.”  Unfortunately, all too often it moves way beyond that.  It can escalate very quickly.

Emotional affairs almost always involve secret keeping. When people try to hide the extent and the content of their conversations, they are on a slippery slope toward an emotional affair. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “How would I feel if I heard my partner having this kind of conversation with someone else?” If that would hurt, then a boundary is being crossed.

Almost all betrayals begin with emotional infidelity. Even if the betrayal never moves beyond the emotional betrayal to a physical relationship, the offense can be just as devastating and recovery can be just as difficult.” (Cole/Cole, 2015)


What do we see here as the common theme? Secrecy and deception. Now, if we look at physical affairs, we also have secrecy and deception with a little more; the emotion has escalated into not just attraction, but it has been acted upon. Whether it’s just a kiss, holding hands, hugging, oral sex, or full intercourse—these are all parts of physical affairs.

But where do we draw the line in our own heads about what it was that our spouse had with someone outside our marriage?  I got to thinking about this when I responded to a forum post here and said that a physical affair is where I would draw the line. I also got into a tiff with a responder who asked me “Well, how do you know what your H had wasn’t physical?” Good question. I don’t. Why does it matter so much?

My husband has had at least 3-4 affairs. I am not going to say EA or PA because now I’m just not sure. Let’s see what you think:

Affair #1

Husband was working late nights. I was home alone with a 2-year-old and a first-grader while he slept all day and then while he was gone at night. He felt “neglected” (because of the attention the kids demanded) and started hanging out at a bar with co-workers until late at night (he got off at 11 and closed down the bar).  He was flattered by the pretty barmaid paying attention to him, and one of his co-workers said, “She’s sweet on you.”

This went on for several months behind my back. One day I noticed a box of diapers missing from my son’s room and asked husband about it; he had no idea. A couple of weeks later, he came home late again and said he had something to tell me. I remember us standing in the kitchen and him telling me the story.

Apparently, she was a poor single mom who needed his help (this then becomes his MO for other affairs—white knight syndrome). He gave her the box of diapers. He helped her move. She started asking for money which we didn’t have, but he gave her some anyway.

So that night when he gave chase because she and her boyfriend/pimp were following him to extort him and blackmail him for money, he had to tell me. Police were involved. My first question was, “Did you sleep with her?” It took him a minute, but he hung his head and said “No.” To this day I am not sure. EA or PA?

Affair #2

Fast forward 25 years. (I wasn’t aware of anything that happened in between.) He began a driving school and was making great money at it. It was one student/one instructor the whole time.

Susie became his student because apparently at 35, she had never learned to drive. Well, being in this somewhat intimate situation all the time involves conversation, so he got to hear all about her abusive father, her abusive boyfriend, her abusive girlfriend, her alcohol and drug use…and she was a teacher at a local community college. This was just his type of damsel in distress.

See also  My Emotional Affair D-day Anniversary

After 2 months of lessons that ended in September, he started getting a whole lot of phone calls and texts. I remember we went to a Bruce Springsteen concert—and if you’ve been to one, you know they can last many hours! —and he was texting the whole time. It wasn’t even a thought in my head that there was an affair; he said it was his boss going through some kind of stress. This continued for a few months.

I started to get suspicious when, on Christmas Eve, he was downstairs “wrapping presents” all night. This is a big deal for our family because we eat and play poker and have great family time. But he was too busy “wrapping” to join us. On January 3, the home phone rang. We were both in the kitchen and he grabbed the phone and went outside to talk—for an hour. I was livid when he came back in and said, “What kind of calls do you have to take outside?” He spilled the beans. She “needed him” because of all this supposed abuse.

Before Christmas, he took her to coffee and went shopping with her. Now, her “abusive boyfriend” found out about my husband and was going to kill him. We had it out. I said he had put our family at risk and it needed to stop and NOW. He told me it started when her boyfriend beat her up at a bar and she called my husband to rescue her. When he got there, he said she pulled him and kissed him in front of her boyfriend. Husband didn’t stop the kiss.

So that evening, I followed him downstairs and made him write the no-contact letter from his email account and send it. I left the room for a minute, came back in, and he was writing her from an email account I didn’t know he had. I watched him set up a time to see her. I screamed and left the house. He then promised me it was over. But it lasted another year and a half.

He went underground and had her email and call him at his work email address and call his work phone. He said she threatened to go to the police with rape charges if he didn’t cooperate. Did he rape her? Was the kiss part of a PA? I will never know. So, EA or PA?

Affair #3

This one still boggles me, and I can’t even put a label on it.

He was unemployed and bored. I was working a huge number of hours. That’s the perfect scenario for him. He contacted a first cousin he hadn’t seen in 40 years who lived 3000 miles away, saying he wanted to get family information because she was older. Over that summer, he spoke with her on the phone for about 50 hours and emailed every day. I never suspected anything because—it was his cousin!! But he was acting weird. When I asked him how she was, he didn’t respond.

One day I walked into the office and saw him copying emails and making PDFs out of them. I didn’t ask but thought that was strange. So, since by that point I didn’t trust him at all, when he went out I took those PDFs, printed them, and after reading them I deleted them from his files. They were horrendously pornographic and obscene, including pictures of her naked breasts. He had put them in a “hidden” file where he keeps car information.

See also  After the Affair: Tough Love Brings Subtle Changes

So rather than telling him I knew about it, I started to ask him, for the next 4 weeks, what was up. Finally, he said, “She came on to me!” and that it had stopped. When asked why he thought he should save those emails for posterity, he said there was “family information” in them that he needed to save. Well, unless the size of his cousin’s breasts or what she was going to do to him that his frigid wife would not was “family information” …There’s more to this story, but…EA or PA?

Affair #4

He went out on a work injury last year and discovered Facebook as well as a former co-worker. He started messaging her privately. When I would walk by, he would shut the computer. I read all the messages. They were benign, but he talked about meeting her (she had moved a few hours away). She really didn’t seem interested. But he made himself out to be someone he totally was not. He lied about his education and his career (he didn’t have one) and pumped himself up a lot. I don’t know if he ever saw her. EA or PA?

lessons learned after infidelity

The Common Ingredients

Every one of these affairs involved secrecy. Every one involved a betrayal of our marriage and of me personally. Every one violated my trust to the point where it will never return. The Gottman article states that “Almost all betrayals begin with emotional infidelity. Even if the betrayal never moves beyond the emotional betrayal to a physical relationship, the offense can be just as devastating and recovery can be just as difficult.” (Cole/Cole, 2015) And the offenses were devastating, and I will never recover.

My point here is that as betrayed spouses, we just cannot get the truth very easily. When we try to box an affair into EA or PA (and there are many variations of those), we can drive ourselves batty.

The lines drawn for an EA are pretty gray sometimes. But if we look at the affair as secrecy, deception, and lies, that puts it more into perspective. This is not to say the betrayed spouse shouldn’t get tested for STIs or get counseling or see an attorney or any of the other necessary things to do.

I thought the line in the sand for me would be a PA, but I’ve changed my tune. All the secrecy and lies are the same, whether an EA or PA.

We all have our boundaries and the line that we will not allow to be crossed. We all must decide that for ourselves. Will you allow an EA? Will you allow a PA if the cheating spouse says, “It meant nothing”? Or will you simply not allow yourself to be deceived any longer? That’s not a decision anyone can make for you. But it is something to think about and important to discuss with your spouse.

(Thanks so much to “Rose” for sharing her experiences with us.  We love to share articles from our readers.  So if you’d  like to submit an article for us to possibly post on the blog, feel free to contact us about your ideas.)

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Inside the Mind of the Unfaithful
Understanding Why Cheaters Do What They Do

Doug talks with several ex-unfaithful persons who share their experiences, thoughts and feelings.  They answer the most asked questions betrayed spouses typically have for the cheater.



Cole, D., & Cole, C. (2015, March 13). #AskGottman: Affairs Answers – The Gottman Institute. Retrieved from

Dear Sugars. (2017, May 19). The Infidelity Episodes, Part 3: Esther Perel. Retrieved from



    46 replies to "EA or PA? The Labels We Assign to Affairs – Are They Really Important?"

    • TryingHard

      That was fantastic. Very very well said and excellent points.

      I’m very sorry if my comment upset you. It wasn’t my intention. The thing with writing comments anywhere is people don’t hear the intended tone or know the sentiment with which it is given. But it sounds like you are understanding what i was trying to say to you. And the truth is in what you wrote. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s a PA or an EA because the line should be the very betrayal not an act.

      No one can say “ well I’m in a better place than the next because x, y, or z didn’t happen”. Or at least he/she didn’t do “that”. No ones pain from infidelity is better or worse than the next persons. It’s all pain and all we, all of us here, are trying to do is heal from it and hopefully help others to heal and gain clarity through the pain of it all.

      For the record Rose you didn’t hurt my feelings in any way. I think i may have struck a nerve in my comment and striking nerves can hurt sometimes but maybe in this case my striking that nerve could have lead you to some clarity in your own situation. I wish you nothing but peace and healing. Great post. Thanks for doing this

      • .Rose

        Thanks TH, yep, it was you who got me thinking, so THANK YOU for that. I think at that time we were talking about “deal breakers” and I said a PA would be it for me. But I have definitely changed my tune. All the affairs were deal breakers. All were deceptions, and I have no doubt they would be in the future if I stuck around.

        • Darlene

          I’m confused on what label my husband’s affair would be put in… It has classic EA things like lots of texts sneaking and lying hiding her existence as a coworker, never even heard her name brought up in the 9 years she worked there. But there was 1st him showing his private parts 1st a picture then exposed himself to her at work and he claims she only touched it once. Then him going to her house trying to get her to flash her breasts and he actually tried to pull up her shirt. For the whole 6 months there was tons of texts every day even during vacations. Then she finally flashed her breasts which then had him giving her a massage and trying to reach around and feel them. He claims there was no sex contact such as oral or penitration. But the obsessive way he was pushing for sexual situations and after therapy admiting that it was going the direction of actual sex if he had not been caught. But I’m unsure what to label the affair as. His actions and explanations make it seem like he was the one doing all the sexual stuff ( can’t get answers if she encouraged the sexual persut. As for the EA she was definitely a willing participant in the Texting. I’m so confused I have even at 1 point told him he was a sexual predator and when he tried to pull her shirt up and she told him to go home was a sexual assault, but she excused his behavior from what he said?

          • Michele

            Same with my situation.
            Anyone who is texting a married man/woman and their spouse doesn’t fully know the details of this, is disrespecting the spouse and their marriage. I would love for them to change my mind on this, so I can sleep.
            My husband still works with his EA partner and it sucks. He thinks he’s remained loyal to me because nothing physical/sexual happened. How do I believe that? Oh, I lied about everything else, but not that? I disagree and so here we are. It was how much care and attention he devoted to her over the years and rarely mentioned her unless it was about her and everyone he works with. No mention of the thousands of text messages between the two of them that were personal and had nothing to do with work. He claims he needs her number for work. What? So they don’t have work phones/email for work-related correspondence? Really? In my work and every job I’ve ever had, I was never required to get my co-workers’ personal cell phone numbers. Nor have I ever texted a married man having never met his wife. I guess I’m in the minority. I respect other married women and how hard it is to stay married. Oh well, I guess that’s just me…
            I recently got the opportunity to sit in a bar for over an hour with 8 of my husband’s male co-workers. Many of which he’s mentioned over the years, but this was the first time he let me meet them and let these two worlds collide.
            Only me and the boss’s wife were the only two women at the table. The disrespectful woman in question was not invited to this gathering or if she was, she must have declined. Possibly because she feared I was there. What a horrible way to live.
            They talked about other male co-workers who weren’t there, sharing funny stories and even admiration, but not one man at our table mentioned my husband’s EA partner.
            The men teased my husband that this was the quietest they had ever seen him, and everyone laughed. This woman has worked with all these men for over 10 years and her name was never spoken. It’s like a work-code of silence or Bro-code. It took every bit of dignity and grace to not bring her name up. I know she bakes biscuits once a week for these men, and I know she has worked her way up from a hairdresser in a male-dominated field to a position equal to the men I was sitting with (which I actually admired about her until I found out how she was disrespecting me and my marriage). I also know she’s childless and divorced. Yet she didn’t get a respectful mention. If she’s so admired and respected in her male-dominated job why is she not mentioned? Ouch!
            At one point his co-workers teased me asking how I did it, and how I put up with my husband. We’ve been married for over 25 years. Of course, I laughed it off and said I’ve learned some skills over the years. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve heard this from other men who know my husband. I think they have all tried to clue me into what a disrespectful man he really is. That’s hard to sit with. I’m working hard on forgiving myself for trusting and believing he was the good man I hoped he would be. Really he’s a street angel and a devil behind my back. It hurts a lot. He’s a “nice guy” and his “white knight” instincts are strong when it comes to helping other women. Makes him feel like a true gentleman. A respectful man will never give more care and attention to another woman who isn’t his mother or his wife.
            I respect people who respect me when I’m not around to see it. Actions do speak louder than whatever words they’re saying to change your mind. Look at the evidence.

            • TryingHard

              Michelle–I’m married 48 years. Whenever someone asks me the secret to being married so long I reply “Because I don’t own a gun!!”

              And I don’t care how far up the corporate ladder the AP climbed she is no one to be admired for ANYTHING!

    • TryingHard

      Hi Rose

      I’m glad my comment got you to thinking and also to know that my intention was NOT to insult you. Because the fact is I DO know my h’s affair was physical, I DO know that it was long term, I DO know there were gifts and lots of money involved as well. If ANYTHING in life is a deal breaker it should be that. So when I read that a PA would have been someone’s deal breaker it got me to thinking WTF is wrong with me??? Why wouldn’t the very fact that my h had a long term PA/EA and I’m still here not be a deal breaker??? What the hell is wrong with me? Do I not value myself? Am I a pushover/doormat to people? So your comment got me thinking too.

      But also I get where you were coming from. LOL trust me I heard it a million times from friends and family asking why I didn’t kick him to the curb? Because well yes I too always thought the things he did would absolutely be deal breakers for me. I was positive they would be UNTIL I was actually and truly faced with it.

      I have a friend who found out her husband was having an affair. She found one burner phone and confiscated it, she found the second and did the the same, then the third….. In total she found five burner phones and you know what she says to me now? “So help me God if I find a sixth phone that will be the deal breaker. I will leave him” I’m a friend to her and I simply listen. She will get angry and rant and then she gets sad and cries and she needs a friend. Not judgement or advice but just someone who’s been there to listen.

      But I do wonder privately why would a sixth burner phone be the deal breaker for her? Why weren’t the 5 other burner phones deal breakers for her? And sadly the answer is, because she doesn’t want them to be. And if she finds a sixth I doubt she will tell me from embarrassment and I doubt she will leave and that’s ok too.

      And actually Rose I consider my H’s affair to have started the moment he gave his affair partner the time of day not when they actually checked into a hotel room to have sex. That day he chose to lie and deceive me and share with a stranger and not me was the beginning of his affair. That act was the first arrow. The rest was simply salt in the wound.

    • Rose

      Good observations TH. I think for me now it’s not so much a deal breaker as it is…I’m just exhausted from trying. I think his Facebook deception just pushed my boundary, and now I just don’t care anymore. My counselor helped me to get to this point. I think our boundaries are intensely personal, and we are the only ones who can make that decision. Your friend probably wasn’t to that point yet maybe.

    • Exercisegrace

      I always said that cheating would be a deal breaker for me, and yet here I am still married! We never really know until we know. I read a quote recently that said
      “The eyes only see what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”
      This is why I believed his lies. This is why I believe that anyone who says their affair was only an EA is either lying or they got caught quickly before they had time for it to turn into a physical affair.

      I told my husband that the cheating started with the first words texted that he KNEW he wouldn’t want me to see. The rest of it is just hurt piled upon hurt. The distinction in my mind is that a PA can harm us physically. It can bring disease and death to our bodies. Knowing that HPV can lie dormant in the body for years is frightening. My husband knew she had this and yet he lied for well over a year. His excuse? That I went to the doctor after discovery and if anything was wrong they should have found it then. The absolute nerve of our cheaters is appalling. The self-preservation is sickening beyond belief.

    • TheFirstWife

      Thank you Rose for a very well written article.

      I think one point I have realized is that initially I wanted all the A details. But a year down the road I realized it doesn’t matter whether EA or P.A. or whatever it was.

      It’s not important (to me). But it’s just a different perspective based on time frames.

      To some it’s important whether EA or P.A.

      For some people they can live with a drunken ONS. Others can tolerate an EA. I have seen some in this site that left two days after DDay and D. Obviously they had no tolerance for infidelity.

      I used to tell my H that if he ever felt he was no longer in love w/ me or did not want to be married – please don’t cheat. Come home and tell me and we will get through it.

      Instead he chose to be a coward and cheat. In fact the last time I said it to him before DDay he was already cheating.

      Oh well I tried.

    • TryingHard

      EG—-Truth!!! Yes i get STD tested every third year. As much as we eschew those triggers when i get my test results and it says “High Risk” and thank God it’s negative, well there i am again 7 years past DDay!!

    • remygrll

      This line really struck me: “The lines drawn for an EA are pretty gray sometimes. But if we look at the affair as secrecy, deception, and lies, that puts it more into perspective.”

      I’ve been churning it over and over in my mind for the past year+ since DD – was it physical? Did they have sex? Kiss? Touch? And yet I have to ask myself, does it matter if they did? My husband is adamant that it never became physical, but who really knows.

      I think from what I understand now, is that it doesn’t matter what kind of affair it was . . . it is the secrecy, the deception, and the lies that hurt the most and that I’m struggling to work through. We are still together, he is actually doing a great job of working on himself and our marriage with me, and I can see that he’s changed, become less selfish, more willing to acknowledge his role in everyday married life, but it still hurts. I’ve read enough, especially on this site, to know that the pain doesn’t go away in a day, a month, even a year and at about 14 months in, I still might have a long way to go. But this article made me consider that maybe it’s time to let that obsession over labels (EA or PA???) go and just acknowledge that his secrets and lies hurt me, they hurt our marriage, and we may never be able to fully recover. I mean I hope that our marriage can grow stronger, I KNOW that I’ve grown stronger, but it won’t be the same, you know?

      Anyway, all of that to say, thank you Rose. You’ve opened my eyes a little more and made me understand that labels really don’t matter, the hurt matters, and what comes after matters. I’m hopeful this new understanding will help me continue to move forward. I have the same hope for you and everyone else here.

      Cheers to our healing!

    • Exercisegrace

      TH…my doctor told me HPV is the worst STD (second only to HIV) that I could have been exposed to. Everything else is treatable but HPV you just have to live with and hope you don’t have the deadly strain. It breaks me apart when I think of how many women will die from a preventable cancer. All because their spouse lied to them about an EA vs. PA.

    • TryingHard

      EG–You and me both! AND I had to ask my doc for the HPV test as his primary STD panel only tested for Syphilis, Gonorrhea and HIV. I suggested he add the HPV as a routine test as most women are pretty unaware as to whether or not their husband is a cheater and having sex outside the marriage.

      I know Sarah P posted a very lengthy article about HPV and getting tested, but it’s certainly worth repeating. No matter you KNOW or don’t KNOW your cheater had sex or didn’t have sex, get the damn test!! Do NOT believe what they say. Take care of your own health. That’s MY public service announcement for the day 🙂

    • Hopeful

      Great job Rose!

      I do not think there is a difference between the EA or PA. Initially I did not really understand betrayal. I really only knew what society puts out there. As I have learned more about it I see that much of what I thought is not true. There are times I feel like if my husband had EA it would have been worse. My husband’s affair and the ow did not mean anything to him. That says something else but he was not emotionally connected to either of them. They could have been anyone. In the end any type of betrayal is horrible. Of course the possibilities of STD does make a PA more risky from a health perspective.

      In the end we each have to make our own decisions as to what we want our marriage/relationship to be. I have done a lot of thinking since dday. It has evolved over that time mostly my expectations have elevated. One thing I have learned since dday is to take listen more and really figure out what I want and need. It is easy for me to not put myself first. This is something I always work on.

    • TheFirstWife

      I think this point is something the cheaters don’t get.

      It doesn’t matter if EA or P.A. – it is still cheating!!

      They justify their behavior in their mind as “it’s not an A if there is no Sex”. Wrong wrong wrong!

      And to me – if you are sexting – it’s sex.

      • Hopeful

        Yes exactly. And I think anyone who cheats will justify anything in their mind. That is how they get by. They tell themselves whatever they need to so they do not feel like a horrible person.

        What is interesting is dday was bad but the second dday was way worse for me. And the only thing that came out was the affairs lasted longer than he initially stated. He had not been in contact with them and nothing like that was happening. There was not other news. But for me all it was about was the fact that he kept lying to me for those five months when he was supposed to be truthful and honest.

        It was such a hard place to be since I have always lived my life in a moralistic and transparent way. To be faced with someone who did not and then this person promised to be faithful and lied to your face every day for over ten years. It did not matter what he did. All difficult to process.

    • Shifting Impressions

      Really good post Rose!!! I agree, the lying and the deception are so difficult to deal with. That and the fact that he never considered what it would mean to break my trust. Trust between two people is a fragile and precious thing….he shattered that trust to a thousand little pieces. Even though we are slowly putting the pieces back together….it will never be quite the same.

      I also agree….the betrayal started with the first lie. And some of the most painful betrayal came from the continued minimizing and lying after d-day.

      • Nearly Normal

        Boy, that’s true! Trust is so hard to rebuild after the lies. I still wonder from time to time how many other EAs or PAs my wife had that she is afraid to talk about. And who knows? Maybe there was nothing else, but I will never be able to fully trust again. The damage is done, and the trust will never be the same, no matter how hard we try to rebuild it.

        I think that’s why this is such a good article, Rose. People try so hard to justify their A, but if it was really justifiable, then why the secrets and lies?

        Having said that, I don’t think I fully agree that Affairs are defined by the deception. If I lost my mind and had a one night stand without planning it, then immediately told my wife, then there was never any deception or lies. Yet it was still an A. An ongoing A certainly involves deception.

        Also, I think there are different lines that are crossed. An EA crosses a line, and when it turns into a PA it crosses another line, and so it is that much worse. So I think it does matter, to some extant whether it was an EA or PA or both. In the end, both are affairs, but it matters how far it went and how much damage was done.

        I don’t think I’m disagreeing with anything, just thinking with my keyboard.

        • Hopeful

          I would have to say in my opinion even someone who has a one night stand most likely has lied or moved boundaries in order to do that. I just do not think that happens to someone who is living a transparent life. I would say unless someone is drugged without knowledge that would be the only reason I would not feel there is deception.

          • Shifting Impressions

            I am with you on that one as well…these thing don’t “just happen”!!!

      • Rose

        SI, exactly. The deception in my case happened at least 4 times. It was purposeful, it was betrayal, and each and every time he got caught. He knew exactly what he was doing. There’s no going back at this point for me. Trust won’t ever come back.

        • Shifting Impressions

          So, what’s left….if there is no possibility of any trust?? What keeps you in the relationship?

          I don’t ask that harshly or with judgement… heart goes out to you. Is there anything you can salvadge in the relationship??

    • TryingHard

      NN–Worse how? LOL I get the “keyboard thinking” but when you say a PA is worse your statement implies that my pain/deception/situation is worse than say Linda’s when Doug had an EA. Pain is pain. Hurt is hurt. No one can say I suffered more than Linda or Linda suffered more than I. And it’s not a competition. I would never say to anyone suffering from betrayal that their pain is not as serious as my pain. If one had cancer would one compare their suffering of that cancer to someone else’s? I don’t think so. We all suffer and it is in how we handle any suffering that makes the difference. We come here to learn how to handle our suffering and hopefully help and learn from others.

      But I get what you are saying coming from a masculine POV. I’ve read many many times that men have a very hard time dealing with the actual physical component of affairs and for women it’s the emotional part. I’m so sorry your wife hurt you and betrayed you. And I hope you know that is all on her and you did nothing to cause it. She may or may not have been totally honest. None of us REALLY know for sure if we’ve gotten all the info and I’d pretty much bet we haven’t. It’s ok though. How much do we really have to know? Most of us have way enough info to either leave the marriage or try to work through it and then some of us are a work in progress. That’s where I put myself, work in progress 🙂 I’m not certain but I think if more stuff comes out of the woodwork regarding his affair what I will do. For now I have enough info.

      • Nearly Normal


        I’m not saying that a PA in itself is worse than an EA. But if it is both an EA and an PA, that is more than simply an EA (or simply a PA, for that matter). An EA may cause more pain than a PA. A one-night stand that was a big mistake may not hurt the spouse as much as an ongoing emotional relationship.

        I think I agree with everything you write, except I don’t think this is a matter of male POV. Certainly, an affair is an affair. But sometimes quantity or number of lines crossed matters. In the same way, I would argue that if a person did one thing that betrayed trust, and then felt bad, confessed, and stopped it, that is not as bad as if they kept going over and over again. Remorse matters.

        But again, the pain is the pain. Definitely not a competition. You’re definitely right.

        • Shifting Impressions

          I hear what you are saying….you are not comparing our different circumstances or our different levels of pain.

          Should I find out that the EAs my husband had were also PAs it would be just one more layer of pain for me…. It would mean that he had crossed one more line and that there was more deception than I thought. The same thing would happen if one were to find out a PA was also an EA.

    • TryingHard

      Hopeful–I agree. Personally I have never been so drunk as to not know where I am or whom I am with. I think that whole getting drunk and having a one night stand stuff only happens in movies. I’ve never heard of that happening in real life. Yeah if that happens it’s because you planned it.

      Matter of fact my H said something like that about his affair “well I wasn’t looking to have an affair”. WTH does that mean? Of course you did. That stuff doesn’t just happen by accident

      • Hopeful

        TH, I put 100% of the blame on my husband since he was the one married to me. He let his boundaries/walls down around other people/women. Saying that he was an easy target for these women. They both have to be very disturbed in their own ways to do what they did with zero promise or interest of anything in the future. And both of his affairs were sporadic. So just when he felt like it. All so odd. They would go sometimes up to a year without contact. All I know is the one ow tracked him for years finding out where my husband was, begging for his cell number. The night it happened was four years after she started tracking him when she got dropped off at a bar late at night with no cabs available. If I had to guess she planned this out and maybe tried it more than once. My husband has admitted to being drunk he was with each ow. I am sure he was sober when texting them but when they were together in person he was always drunk. Even through all of that he said he was screaming inside his head NO and STOP right before cheating. This is a deeper flaw. I agree movies and society sees these things in a different light. And based on how he acted for 10 years during the “affair years” he knew it was wrong.

        It is so messed up. At this point I can be proud of how I have handled myself during the “affair years” and post dday. And each day I expect him to live a transparent and authentic life focused on the priorities we have talked about. This is up to him now. I will not change who I am and if anything I have doubled down on what I believe in. So far so good.

    • Rose

      Saw a great quote tonight: “Pain is pain, babe. Just because one person’s problem is less traumatic than another’s doesn’t mean they are required to hurt less.”

    • Rose

      SI, thanks for asking. No I don’t think there is. I mean, if I threatened a D he’d beg and whine but its too little too late. This last February when I got pissed at him for his special Facebook friend, he said he’d stop. Well, he has stopped messaging her but still comments on her posts. He thinks he is pulling one over me but I “friended” her a while ago so he doesn’t know I see them. We are in serious debt (his fault), with tax and legal issues. There is no way to afford another residence so I just live in my office for now. Feeling a little lost.

      • Shifting Impressions

        I’m so sorry to hear that. I’m fortunate that our financial situation doesn’t effect my choice of whether I stay or go. Had I been in this situation years ago when my four children were still home, it would have been a very different story.

        I can imagine how difficult this must be for you. Is it possible to be separated and yet live in the same house? Are there still some things that you can do….just for you??

        Thinking of you…

    • TheFirstWife

      Rose. I hope mentally you live in a place with calm and peace.

      Doesn’t matter what it is. It is what is in your own mind.

      I find it works for me.

    • TryingHard

      Rose you can do this. Maybe try detaching emotionally from him? Doesn’t mean you have to be contrary or nasty To him. Simply not care what he does or with whom. I know you said one time he doesn’t work? Well I’d try to make it very uncomfortable and not have too much credit cards or cash. He should at least do something. Work at Home Depot or QT but something.

      I understand the whole finance thing and it stinks for sure. Hopefully you can get some good financial and legal advice and get away from him.

    • Rose

      TH, he takes care of his elderly mother 3 days a week and does stuff around the house the other days. He is on SS and awaiting a SSDI decision so that will give us a little more. I have detached. It’s hard but I try to let it roll off now.

    • Sarah P.

      Hi Rose,

      Great post! I am sorry to hear about why you cannot leave (due to the tax and legal issues.) I am sure you have consulted an attorney about what would happen if you divorced. If not, please get a free consultation.

      Had a great friend I have known for many years in a situation with tax issues. Her only fault was trusting her husband when he filed taxes. She never went over them because she trusted him. Well he didn’t file taxes for several years. She HAD to leave because confronting did not good. Just more lies. The financial Titanic sunk long ago and she has a little bit of back taxes to pay, but she is in excellent financial shape. Took attorneys to navigate the tax mess. But if she would have stayed she would have lost her house and everything else. Not a good place to be at 60. (She was turning 60). She never thought she could leave because how does one start untangling all that? Well, she hired an excellent attorney, worked double time, and trusted God.

      Rose do you still love your husband despite all this? No judgment here.

      Otherwise there is always a way out. I don’t know how bad your situation is, but my friend got out in the nick of time. If she wound have stayed, I shudder to think.

      By the way, I am not telling you to leave. I am just letting you know what my friend went through by choosing to trust the wrong person. Any normal person should be able to trust their spouse and trust that their spouse is telling the truth about finances and OW’s. It’s what we do. So please consider yourself first.


    • Rose

      I haven’t talked to a lawyer. I despise them. I’ve had a case pending for more than a year against a former employer and my lawyer withdrew. Now I am under the gun to find a new one. Not sure about you but I don’t have a spare $10,000 around for a retainer! So with all that is going on, no, I have not talked to one about my M. H decided he’d have a fall at work and get a nice settlement for that. Said we could live off our savings until that windfall. He lost, savings gone, credit cards maxed. I can’t work a second job because I travel a lot for this one. I also love my job! Hoping for a promotion. It doesn’t pay enough to cover bills. H is on SS now.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Are you saying he had a fall on purpose???

    • TheFirstWife

      Rose your H on SS disability explains so much – not as an excuse – but as to his state of mind.

      So sorry you have such difficulties.

    • Sarah P.


      I am so sorry for everything you are going through. I should have believed you when you said it’s complicated.

      Thank you for explaining your situation since I couldn’t get it through my thick head.

      As for attorneys… sigh. If your attorney dropped you out of the blue you can file a stern complaint with the state. Believe it or not, sometimes the state listens. And no one I know has 10k for a retainer and the retainers are steep. Especially these days.

      Back when I was going through the thing with my ex, I hired an attorney just to speak with my ex on my behalf to get the house sold. That attorney asked for no retainer and billed me $50/month. That kind of care and concern for others is gone from the legal field these days. Of course, this was someone near retirement, a Christian, and someone who worked for himself and had his finances set. He could pay it forward. These days … not a chance. Some still give free consults while top firms (in my state) want the enormous retainer before they even speak with you! It’s insane! How terrible for your attorney to drop your case!

      I am glad you get to travel for your job and that you love your job. I am keeping my fingers crossed that you will get that promotion. Sounds like you are in a corporate environment that deals with medical software. (If I remember correctly).

      I am retired from the software industry and am going to give you some advice if you don’t mind. The way to win the software corporate game as a newer employee is to give all and expect nothing and ask for nothing. It’s hard work at first, but it creates a solid reputation and puts you on the list for being fast-tracked. If you love your job, this will be easy to do. I am only telling you this because I want you to get that promotion to ease your financial burden.

      Any other corporate employees or former corporate employees out there to give some gems of advice to Rose? We want Rose to get that promotion! ????

      • Hopeful

        Rose, In the town where we live there is a non profit that offers legal services. Many times those types of options are offered with a sliding scale or for a part of what you receive if there is any money awarded. For me be armed with the correct information is critical. It is a confidence boost. It is based on facts. Also what about any friends or friends of friends. And it sounds like as in most if not all cases your husband is deceptive in many aspects of his life. After dday I felt it more important than ever to protect what I had earned in addition to protecting myself emotionally.

    • TryingHard

      I have a feeling part of the reason you don’t leave your h or pursue a divorce is becaus you care. It’s part of you. Your a nurse and I’m sure in your career you’ve cared for many odious patients and yet it was you job to continue to care for them. I’m certain you see your husbands injury and feel a certain need to continue the care you give regardless they way he treats you and that is admirable. It is so hard to change who we are at the core no matter what’s going on around us or how we are being treated. Sure we’d all like that perfect respectful relationship but i doubt many have that. You could leave if you really wanted to. Finances be damned, there’s a way. There’s always a way but you are staying for your iwn reasons that none of us really know and that’s ok. What i hope for you is to learn to carve out a life for yourself that brings you satisfaction and joy regardless what your h does because as you know we don’t and can’t ever control others. We can’t compare our marriages to others either. I’m terrible at fault looking at others relationships and wonder what the hell went wrong with mine. When I’m reality i have no clue what really goes on in their lives. It only looks good to me. I had a funny experience last week. My h and i were on a trip and a young woman looked at me and my h and said “you two have such a great relationship. I hope my h and i are that much in love when we are your age”. Bwahaha. No i didn’t laugh but i sure thought “if you only knew”.

      What I’m saying is you are making the best of your life. You are doing what you know how to do and what’s expected of you for your own reasons. I think we all might to that to one extent or another. The truck is keeping ourselves well loved regardless how others treat us. Your h wants to act the fool on FB that’s all on him not you. He wants to patronize his dick mother that’s all on him because he’s doing that for his own personal reasons too. What he can’t do is expect you to do the same for her. Personally I’d let him know somehow that you know he’s acting the fool on social media and embarrass him for it. I’d also keep tight reins on finances. Most times where there is emotional infidelity there’s also financial infidelity and you sure as heck shouldn’t be working so he can give it to some loser. You can open your own account in your name only and simply put the budgeted amount into a household account. You can run credit checks on him to see if he’s opening credit card accounts secretly. I’ve known people who have spouses die and find out they had racked up lots of credit card debt that was now theirs once the primary card holder died. So there’s lots you can do to protect yourself without getting divorced.

      I hope you take the comments I’ve made in the positive spirit with which i am stating them. None of this is easy but you are a smart cookie Rose. I know you will figure this out and what works best for you. Sometimes we can’t see the forest as all the trees keep getting in the way!! And of course there’s akways more than one way to skin a cat ????

      • Rose

        The attorney thing—if I don’t find a lawyer and lose the case, she is getting sued, not a slap on the hand. I already have a lawyer lined up for that. Amazing how willing they are to sue their colleagues. I really just want it to be over.
        TH: Thanks so much. You speak the truth! Yes of course I care about a man I’ve spent 35 years with. Just not sure who he was at the beginning because that’s sure not him now. My 31-year-old son lives with us and is on the spectrum; he’s a genius (really) and has 2 years to his degree. He moved back in with us 5 years ago. There are days I like him and others I cannot stand him. Either way, this is one issue. The other is of course finances. H can’t even get into a Google spreadsheet much less the bank. Not even kidding. I do have my own account. I ran through it trying to pay bills but not anymore. Another issue (excuse!) is my dogs. I love them more than I love my kids. Honestly! I would not be able to live without them so I’d have to figure that out. What I am saying is yeah, I have excuses. They suck. I do need to make a plan but I suppose I am not ready to. As far as finances: We have $200,000 equity in the house. The NW real estate prices are nuts. But to refi—well, suffice it to say the house isn’t worth what the paper shows. We have cabinets sitting here for the kitchen remodel…bought them 3 years ago. Bought flooring to replace the worn carpet—10 YEARS ago. H “hasn’t had time.” I reprimanded him for that last weekend. He’s had time to have affairs but not do what we need done. We don’t have the $5000 to pay property taxes next May and HAVE to either refi or sell, neither of which seems to be happening anytime soon. I do as much as I can between working full time, going to school, and trying to figure out things I don’t know how to do, like carpentry and plumbing, in order to get things done. I can’t afford to pay anyone to do it. So yes, I am feeling somedays like there is no way out, but I have to be hopeful.
        I think SI asked me (sorry if that wasn’t you) if he faked an injury? I wasn’t there but yes, I think that is true. And btw, thank you, yes I am making time for the things I want to do like kayaking and yoga. I have always been able to “zone out” pretty easily. I can go in my office and read all night if I want.

    • Rose

      Oh and I already publicly embarrassed him on FB when he talked about all the yoga he was doing. I called him out on it and said “Uh, you don’t go to yoga.” Then I UNFRIENDED HIM per my counselor so I didn’t have to see the BS anymore.

    • Fragments of Hope

      Thanks so much for this great post Rose. It brought a few things to mind. D-day was Jan 14 but the full story that finally emerged over the course of the marriage has been porn use (in 2004-06) (Up to 5000 euros squandered), inappropriate friendships (including Facebook flirtations and yes, those hour long phone calls I saw), the long EA where eventually he thought he would leave (me and four kids) and repeated contact after affair end, walks with ex and a kiss, financial deception, more porn and then another set of inappropriate friendships, coffees lunches right up to this time last year.

      I drew the line for my own mental health this time last year and he’s managed to get a really good counsellor, (we first went to marriage counselling but the counsellor was not very good). He sees his counsellor now once a week since about February. She’s identified a pattern of lack of true intimacy, poor dealing with stresses, a level of arrogance and the deception and is working with him on where it comes from and why he goes to all these destructive activities (despite his own declared desire to have a good family life). So now I see the affair within a whole of these activities that he used to try to fill the gap in himself. He was also big into the white knight thing. His main EA was a woman going through a difficult seperation, with six kids etc etc. He lent her money, helped her with finding a place to live, online shopping etc etc. He began to act like her husband. It sounds to me Rose that your husband is engaged in many of the childish/teenagerish bids for approval and good feeling from these women. There was an occasion during the affair fog where we were supposed to be decided whether to continue our then 16 year old marriage (bearing in mind we had four kids, one with Aspergers who’d had severe behavioural problems and was out of school eventually for two years.) On the exact day we were having this serious conversation he was texting kissing cats pics to his OW.

      I had an interesting conversation with him lately where he agreed that whether it was an EA or PA was really a matter of circumstance. He held hands in coffee shops but if she’d been a single woman with her own apartment and had invited him there, he would not have drawn the line.or stopped any physical side occuring. The affairs and other activities required action to organise but were always portrayed as passive in a way, explained away ‘he was feeling a certain way’, ‘one thing happened then another.’ My husband admits that it was mainly circumstance that made the difference between an EA and a PA. If he was getting what he wanted he would have crossed lines and made excuses in his mind later – a skill the deceiver is brilliant at. Everything can be justifed in their minds.

      For me, the common thread of my husbands various actions and the worst effect on me is the theft of reality. He claimed to be reconciling but at one point it turned out not to be true, we were well past the EA by 2017 but he was meeting one women in particular who was interested in him for lunch and others for coffee. He said he wasn’t looking at porn but on one random occasion I checked his computer I found he’d been browsing porn sites. The last few years since we were supposed to be reconciling have been stolen from me again because I could not make a true decision because he was hiding and lying, even when I pleaded with him for the truth. I’m now discovering how much I lost myself, my confidence and sense of safety in the world was shattered. I can’t live like that anymore and I’m trying to build myself up and see what I want. Yes he is still here. Yes I am still dubious and even though his work with the counsellor seems to have him engaged in real change, it will take a long time for him to stop those habits and it will be a long time before I can accept that he really is trying to stay on the right path.

    • Tired

      Whoa Rose! Amazing. Really good article.You really get to the crux of it. The thing about affairs is it all in the eye of the beholder. In other words, the person who has been lied to is the one who has to suffer. And how would we ever know if it was (only an EA) or a PA, For me, I believe what my husband tells me but there will always be some doubt. I am sure you are still working through this. But I do hope an end is in sight, and that you will find happiness,

      I will not put up with any more affairs however, even if they are “only “emotional, Once was enough for me, I think you have given this man enough chances. Good on you for doing a 180. If it doesn’t work this time leave him. He deserves it.

    • Rose

      Fragments of Hope, that white knight syndrome really gets some of these guys. H said they “neeeeeded me” and he was just helping. Of course all this “help” was behind my back. Now his mom is old and sick so he gets this “need” of his fulfilled by caring for her. I hate to think of the next damsel in distress that will neeeeeed him after his mother dies, but you can bet I will NOT be around for it if it happens!

    • Nicole

      How many people consider emotional affairs cheating?
      Approximately 60% of adults say they would consider it cheating if their partner entered into an emotional relationship with someone else. Only 18% said that it wasn’t the same thing as a physical affair. (Source:

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