the emotional affairLast week I responded to a reader with a comment that getting over the fact that Doug couldn’t love me was more painful than the emotional affair, and several people replied, so I felt a need to write a post about my experience.

When I first found out about Doug’s affair he voiced confusion about what to do and told me that he didn’t have loving feelings for me.  He couldn’t put is finger on it but said I was attractive, he enjoyed my company, cared for me, but he didn’t love me anymore.  Those were the most difficult words a spouse could hear.

I didn’t understand because even though he had lied and betrayed me I still loved him very much and wanted to save our marriage

I couldn’t understand how he could have such strong feelings for someone he knew only a short time compared to his wife, who had been by his side for the last thirty years.

The words that he couldn’t love me were devastating.  I believed that I wasn’t good enough to be loved or unable to effectively give love to my husband.  I started to question my physical self, thinking I wasn’t pretty  enough, my body wasn’t good enough, maybe I wasn’t successful enough, or too successful, or maybe I just needed to change my personality.

In the end I truly believed I was worthless.  So worthless that at times I didn’t want to live and thought about ending my life.  Thankfully my children were there to remind me that I was important to them, and even though Doug didn’t love me, they loved me very much.

See also  Getting Them to Let Go of the Affair

I would ask Doug daily or weekly for input about his feelings toward me, which usually came with the same answer, “I am trying but the feelings are just not there yet.” And I would walk away degraded and hopeless and wonder what I could do differently to make him love me again.

I tried everything and something deep inside of me kept me going without giving up.

Sometimes he would tell me that the reason he couldn’t love me because I was questioning him too much about Tanya and the affair, and if I would back off maybe he could get those feelings back.  I would try to control myself and not bring up the subject but then something would happen and I would blow it.  Doug would become upset and I would hate myself for losing my self control.  Now I can see why my self esteem suffered so much during this time.

Ironically, about a month or so after Doug had ended his emotional affair with Tanya he announced that his feelings for me were returning and he was falling in love with me again. I thought when I finally heard those words that everything would be OK. 

This was the day I had been hoping and praying for.  But you know what?  I didn’t feel a thing.  At that point I had been so hurt and defeated that I wasn’t sure I even cared.  I almost felt that if he had waited a little longer I would have told him that it was too late.  I had learned to love myself more than I needed for him to love me.

See also  Why I Tolerated More After the Emotional Affair

I believe that those feelings of numbness and pain stayed with me for a very long time and I would go back over the affair constantly trying to figure out why he couldn’t love me. 

After much soul searching and research I finally realized that it wasn’t about me.  I wasn’t unlovable or worthless. I learned to love myself again and in turn figured out that even though I wasn’t perfect, I was a good wife and a good person.

I am sure that some of you who have been hurt by an emotional affair are experiencing the same kind of helplessness and feelings of worthlessness that I did.  I want you to know that it is possible for you to eventually come to terms with this and move on with your marriage. 

In the next post I would like to explain how I came to grips with feeling unloved and how I rationalized the pain.


    27 replies to "The Emotional Affair Made Me Feel Worthless"

    • ruth

      You know Linda when you write things like this I feel you are looking into my soul. I am not good at expressing my feelings on paper. When I read how you feel or felt its exactly how I feel and you express it so well.
      Thank you, Thank you

      • Linda

        Ruth, Thank you for the kind words, however my posts are a team effort. Obviously I write with pure emotion, then Doug comes along and turns into something meaningful. Without him it would sound a lot like a woman bitching and complaining. I always tell everyone his name belongs next to mine on my Masters Degree, he proofed all my papers, gave me suggestions and encouraged me along the way.

      • Kate

        I agree completely, so many of Linda’s posts sound like they were stolen from my brain too!

        This post is one that I hope I can get my husband to read. I think it would be good for him to see/hear what goes thru my mind and Linda has put that into words so perfectly.

        I’m still hoping that he will start to see that tiny spark of feelings again, maybe I’ll be hoping forever, but I am holding out for that…

    • Broken

      Same here, it’s like she’s a mind reader!

    • Broken

      Linda.. Ruth… I felt worthless and sometimes still do. My H was willing to risk everything for this woman, me the kids, his job. For me? He never risked anything. He put her first and she definitely didn’t deserve it. I’m his wife, I gave him my life the day we got married. I was and still am a committed wife, I gave birth to his children, I took care of him and them, and put myself last, and I got nothing in return. So yeah most of the time I still feel worthless. It’s like for some reason he thinks I don’t deserve to be admired, loved and flattered. But she does! He must be mentally unstable I think 🙂

    • Broken

      I was just thinking of something a lot of guys have told me, that men like “variety”, so maybe it’s not that Tanya or my OW was more special, funny, pretty or smart, but just someone different. Maybe they weren’t so exciting and fun to be with… just someone new. I can understand this concept. It makes sense, imagine a man paying attention to me and having fun with me, and it’s not my H, the same man I have known all these years. It still pisses me off that he could find anyone more fun or interesting than me, but come to think of it now, I bet there are a whole bunch of men that I would find a whole lot more interesting than my H.

    • Jeffrey Murrah


      I am glad that you shared this. Since so much self-worth is tied up in the marriage relationship, disruptions like cheating are devastating. The devastation is long lasting, with emotional fallout that often lasts for years, long after the affair is over.

      • Linda

        Jeffrey, Thanks for the comment. Do you think that lack of self-worth due to the relationship in the marriage can be a cause of an affair?

        • Jeffrey Murrah


          You ask a good question. I think that when people want to have an affair, they will often use any excuse they find to justify why they are doing what they are doing. Low self-worth is often used as an excuse for them to seek the answer of ‘an affair’. The affair will not fix low self-worth. If that was the case prostitutes would be the happiest, most well-adjusted people on earth with no self-worth issues.

          I do think affairs often expose self-worth issues. The affair throws things into chaos and when the relationship is in chaos mode, many issues come to the surface.

    • ruth

      Saturday I used our debit card and over drafted by 3 dollars. My H take care of that checking account I take care of everthing else. I had assumed there was enough money in there to cover my purchase I was wrong. When I got home I had told him to deduct the amount and OMG he went off the deep end start saying things like you can spy on me everywhere else but you dont spy to see how much is in the checking account or call me from the store to see whats in there? All I could think of to say was why are you bringing up my spying unless you want to get a hold of her again and cant figure out a way so I cant see? I saw the meaness that I did when he was still involved with her? I felt so so bad how he belittled me and treated me like a child. I started to think of all the things I read on hear and decided I would not take that anymore. When he calmed down he started to say how sorry he was. I would not except it. I started to understand that no matter what I do I am being compared. The feelings I felt went right back to me feeling worthless as a human being. No matter how I said I was sorry for the 3 dollar mistake he just looked at me and said sorry doesnt help. I left the room and never said another word. Since then he keeps telling me how bad he feels for how he acted. You see the first thing I thought about was I bet he wouldn’t have acted that way with her. She got all the respect and I still dont have any.

      • Linda

        Ruth, You should feel proud that you stood up to him and didn’t take his belittling. I remember a time when Doug treated me poorly and I told him that I do not deserve this kind of treatment. I also told him that I am sure he never spoke to Tanya that way. I could tell by his reaction that he agreed with me. An affair never has the opportunity to be exposed to overdrafts, carpools and dirty dishes. I often wondered if Tanya had been in my place for the last ten years, with the stress and constant running around if she would have continued to be the perfect companion, always fun and happy, or would she had an affair on Doug like she did on her current husband. Sometimes life is not easy and up until the affair I felt Doug and I did a pretty good job at handling things. I guess I was wrong.

    • Rushan

      All the things you’ve written about also still goes and went through my head all the time. Except for one thing Idon’t have kids of my own and so Icouldn’t think that my children still love me. alkthough his kids usually tells me they love me blood is thicker than water and in the end they would have chosen him and not me. the grandchildren also loves me very much but they would have gone with their parents. My hubby’s ex did the same to him what he did to me, but she went furtherand divorced him and married the other guy. I saw myself as useless and worthless but then my brother told me you are beautiful, you can such a lot of things and you helped me coping with cancer, and our sister coping with her disease. You have such a lot of talent don’t let it go to waste. After that I told my husband he can go to her if he want to because I am ready to cope on my own I don’t need him to make a living and I don’t know if I still love him. It was about 2 days later that he told me he still loves me and he told her he wants to end the affair. If they really ended it I won’t know but I know he istrying his best to make me believe he is in love with me again. I told him a few days ago how c ertain things trigger my thoughts about last year and he said he understand it but I must forgive and forget. He aleady has done it. so now I am going on trying to forgive and forget, but it is very difficult. All your posts on this blog and the comments help me tremendously tocope with everything thank you very much Doug Linda and everyone else.

    • Jenny

      My husband never told me he didn’t love me after I found out about his emotional affair. He told me that the love he felt for me was the reason the affair didn’t go farther, but I still question what his feelings were for me that he let it go as far as it did. I don’t doubt that I deserve to be loved, but I do doubt that what I see as my best qualities are things he appreciates in me. Recently I asked him to write a letter telling me why he loved me. He wrote a letter that said what he felt for me was deeper than what you feel for someone when you first fall in love and how there were too many reasons to list. And although I agreed that what we had was deeper than initial infatuation, I was disappointed by the letter because he wasn’t able to pinpoint one thing about me that he loved. He got mad at me when I told him this and told me he had really poured his heart into that letter. We had yet another fight, but I was trying to point out to him that I needed him to see the person he had fallen in love with in the first place because I was starting to lose sight of her myself. Plus, I won’t lie, I was feeling down and needed an ego boost. He said that no matter what he did he felt like I wouldn’t feel like it was enough because in my heart I hadn’t forgiven him. I realized that might be part of it. I think I was trying to lead him to words he could say that would make me feel better, but the truth is I’m not sure those words exist. He did eventually write another letter that gave reasons why he loved me. It was very nice and I read it sometimes when I’m having a bad day. But the thing that helps me the most is knowing that this wasn’t about me, something he has told me from the beginning, but it has taken me a while to actually believe.

      • Doug

        Jenny, excellent post. The writing a “why I love you” letter is a good idea. I doubt that in many affair situations that an affair is ever about the victim. And I bet in the majority of situations, the cheating spouse still really loves his/her spouse deep down.

    • Jenny


      I think you’re right the cheating spouse really does love his/her spouse deep down, but in some ways that makes it harder. I still have trouble grasping how my husband could lie, hide things from me and discuss feelings with another person all the while knowing that he loved me. He knew that what he was doing would hurt me. That is why he went to such lengths to hide it. I am troubled by the hurt he was willing to cause for to his own selfish need to feel excited, flattered and admired. He has also said that he has never questioned that I love him. This would be easier to understand if lack of love were the issue. Although it is harder to understand, it does help my self worth knowing that it didn’t happen because I was unlovable.

      • Doug

        You’re absolutely right. In this regards, affairs make no sense. Why I hurt Linda for those very same reasons causes a lot of guilt for me.

    • Jenny

      I’m glad that you admit your mistakes and selfishness, but guilt can be a slippery slope. At first I wanted my husband to feel guilty. I almost fed off of his guilt as proof of his love, but after a little (or more like a lot) of soul searching I started to question if this is really what I wanted him to feel when he looked at me. I decided it wasn’t. I don’t want him to remember everything he has done to hurt me when he thinks of me. I want him to recognize me for who I am good and bad and for that to be enough to stay committed to our life together. I want him to see me as a warm, optimistic, quirky, talented, emotional, joyful, temperamental, honest, procrastinating woman who loves him and he loves in return. I’ve always felt that I could be my true self around him and that is one of the things that I’ve felt his emotional affair has taken away from me. Part of the reason was because I was guarding myself to keep from getting hurt further, but the other reason is because I wanted him to feel guilty for what he had taken from me. I wanted him to feel what it was like to have me withdraw from him. Just recently I have come to realize that my need to wallow in his guilt was costing me something I had always held dearly and that is joy for life. I have every right to feel sad, depressed and betrayed. I can stay there if I want. He will feel guilty and I will feel justified, but I won’t be happy.

      • Linda

        Jenny, Your comment hit very close to home, at times I believe I made Doug feel guilty because I wanted him to prove his love. I know that I will bring up the affair when I am feeling insecure, thinking it will make me feel better, when actually it makes me feel worse. I had the same conversation with myself that you mentioned, I tell myself that for Doug to love me he needs to see a person that is lovable, someone who he fell in love with many years ago, and that person is not someone who is resentful, sad and emotional. I totally agree that since his affair I have lost who I am. I spent so much time trying to be the person I thought Doug wanted me to be that I am not sure if my actions are there to please him or this is who I really am.

        I know I have made some changes, but I believe the changes were for me. I have learned to be lazy, let things go and not worry when everything is not perfect. I feel this change has carried over to my marriage, I am more relaxed, have more time to spend with Doug and time to take care of myself, therefore making me a happier, less stressed person.

        I also realized that I too was afraid of being hurt so I always kept up a barrier, never letting myself fully commit to our relationship. I never allowed myself to except that Doug really loved me and wanted our marriage to work. I was afraid if I did and began to trust him he would hurt me again.

        I have come to the conclusion if this is the way I want to live, then I might as well live alone, at some point I have to forget the past and enjoy what we have. . It is a struggle not to wallow in pain, feel sorry for myself and make Doug feel guilty but everyday gets easier. I believe it became a habit for me, and reading about some of our readers comments just breaks my heart and I feel their pain and my pain all over again. I am trying not to compare their relationship to ours, which is difficult because every situation seems to follow the same script. I hope by being positive myself I can help their situation in a more positive way.

    • Jenny


      Your feelings seem almost like a mirror to my own and I think we have come to a very similar conclusion. I was also getting into the habit of being the victim, throwing my pity parties, wanting my husband to see my pain. I’m not really beating myself up about it because at the time it was what I needed to do, but I eventually looked at myself and thought “I don’t really like this person I’m becoming”.

      That was when I let anger take over for a little bit. I was mad that my husband had turned me into this person I didn’t like. I had gotten angry at my husband since finding out about his emotional affair, but after we would have a fight I always seemed to end up comforting him. He would tell me how he felt he had been going through depression, didn’t want me to see his weakness, felt like a failure..ect. I don’t doubt that these things were true, but it seemed that I always ended up feeling sorry for him and not letting my anger out.

      Really looking in the mirror and seeing who I was becoming gave me the courage to tell him the things I should have been saying all along. I was tired of hearing apologies laced with “but”…..”I lied to you, but I did it because I didn’t want to hurt you”, “What I did was wrong, but I didn’t have sex with her”…ect. Every apology seemed to come with an excuse and I was tired of it.

      I’ve never been a person who is comfortable with my anger. It makes me feel out of control, mean and bad. I’m not saying I wouldn’t ever get mad at my husband in the past. I would, but I’d always end up apologizing for it. I let myself get mad with no apologies. I let him know that there were no excuses for what he had done. Every person who makes mistakes has reasons for them. Reasons are something we learn from, excuses are something we feel justify our actions.

      I finally got the no excuse apology I was looking for and that has helped me move on.

      • melissa

        Jenny, you are so right. That ‘no excuse apology’ is what I am looking for but I’m not getting it and I’m going mad with sadness, anger, disappointment and hurt. I heard my husband apologise to the other woman once (one of the few times I was around when she phoned) because he had not answered one of her texts and he was literally on his knees apologising (‘I’m sorry, I did not want to hurt your feelings, should have called blah blah’). That’s when I realised something was definitely going awry, why was this woman phoning? Why was he so contrite and apologetic? I did not get it but then, at the time, I did not know they had been communicating and seeing each other in secret for the last six years.

        And, Linda, yes, I understand totally about your wanting to make Doug feel guilty. At the moment, I want to see guilt but all I’m getting is still ‘I’m innocent, I’ve done nothing’. I just want to scream at times.

    • Jenny

      I didn’t get to finish my thoughts because my Mom came over. It is funny that she still doesn’t know anything about what has happened. I’ve only told one person and that is a close friend who’s husband had an affair 5 years ago. I think having to keep everything a secret has been one of the many things that has been so difficult about this for me.

      Any way, what I wanted to say was that letting that anger out helped me get over the constant self pity which was keeping my husband in the guilt trap. I wouldn’t say that I have completely healed. I still have bad days. I let myself have them, but I don’t let myself stay there. We have a choice every day when we wake up what kind of life we want to have. Some days it is easier than others to choose to be happy, but the choice is always there.

      • HarrieB

        Jenny – you sound as though you are at a similar stage to me, and have got to it by a similar, though not identical, route. I too hated who I had become, and I felt so bitter at my H and the OW for putting me there. Finally I felt I had ground to a halt as far as recovery or moving on was concerned. I despaired that I was ever going to leave the pretty miserable place I had reached. I finally let rip with the anger and it did shock my H. Unfortunately I subsequently slumped into a deep depression and then used the “begging” card, which I had promised myself I would NEVER use. Whatever, the combination of both of these extremes of emotion finally gave him the kick he needed and I finally got that all important apology without excuses. In turn that gave me the shove I required to really move forward in recovery. I do find that most days are happier now than they used to be, and, whilst I still have the odd low time, the seemingly hopeless black days seem to be a thing of the past for me now – thank goodness…and, I have emerged feeling more in control, stronger, and – although our marriage is so much better now, I feel almost “whatever will be, will be” now. I’m human and have made mistakes, but I know I am not to blame for the EA. This moral high ground is a pretty comfortable, and comforting, place to be, I must say!!

        • HarrieB

          Oh, and I forgot to say. I agree about keeping the thing a secret…wretched. and I wondered why I was being so loyal and discreet under the circumstances. But there we are!

    • Jenny

      HarrieB, “whatever will be will be” is a very good way to describe the place I’m in now. I’m confident in my ability to handle whatever happens. I love my husband and think we have the potential to have a great marriage. I know now that he can hurt me, but he doesn’t have the power to devastate me. I’ve told him he would be stupid to let me go….and you know what? He would be.

      • HarrieB

        Jenny – absolutely! Well done you! I quite agree. I feel the same about everything (including my H!). The added complication for me is that he still works with the OW, and all the “experts” say it cannot work. Yet even that is no longer tearing me apart as it used to. We are in a much better place now and, as you say, I am much more confident about our marriage – and, there will be no more chances for him now. I no longer feel like a helpless victim. I am stronger and wiser. I love my H and we have the makings of a great marriage too, but if he takes a risk and messes up again…well, next time (if there is a next time) I shall be ready for it. I can face anything now! All the best and good luck!

    • fiora

      Linda, When you spoke of wanting to end your life, it brought tears to my eyes. I haven’t felt this depressed since long ago when I found out my first husband had been cheating on me–a sex addict. I thought that was the worst pain a person could feel. After 12 years of trying to work it out with him, my current partner came to my emotional rescue, truly, by bringing me my sense of being lovable, beautiful, sexy, and creatively interesting. He saw those things in me and what had gone to absolute numbness in me came alive again. Now, he’s the one who has found more interest in another woman than in me–all the things he found in me, he now finds more easily with her. I am devastated, because those things are still within me, but I have been forced into being the only financial support for our family, as he simply does not move to help in that direction. So my stress about money, my full-time job, my coming home exhausted and needing rejuvenation before being able to BE that beautiful, spiritual person he fell in love with…all of that is directly a consequence of his refusal to take on the responsibilities of our life, and now he’s attracted emotionally more powerfully to a woman who is the female equivalent of his behavior in her own marriage, while mirroring strongly–in a younger, more beautiful body–those things he once sought me out for. I’m devastated! Did I say that yet?
      I’ve had feelings of wishing I were just dead…but I have my children, as you say, and I also have many, many years of being a counselor dealing with suicidal people. I’m not a danger to myself, but I’m so down and so hurt by this, I don’t know how to ever feel joy again.

      What can I do?

    • Dontknowwhattodo

      Linda, I am truly thankful to this site and your posts. It like live-saver to me from the D-Day (about 1 months ago). Upon my discovery, my husband had to end his EA, somewhat PA with hand-holding, hug and kisses (which lasts about 6 months with about 4 months of no-contact in between). He said he is not in love with me anymore about a month before D-Day until now. For me, after a lot of changes in my emotions, I feel like I just want to stay alone, I even don’t want to talk to him. I guess I am afraid of being refused emotionally. We are like roommates like now, keep running our life but have no “quality” time together.
      What did you do from the day Doug told you he didn’t in love with you to the day he said he had feelings for you? I feel like I am lost and dont know what to do. I really want to get back “our” feelings, not just him.

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