Dear Fiona: My wife had an 'emotional' affair

Columnist and counsellor Fiona Caine asks a hurt husband to consider how he really feels.

The problem
“My wife and I have been married for over 16 years, and together for just shy of 19 years as I write this. After a friend of ours died in a car wreck, my wife started to go and ‘console’ her husband, sometimes falling asleep at his residence.

Read: Divorce after decades of marriage is on the rise

“As I became suspicious, they both said it was all in my head, as I had also had a bad head injury in an accident in 2019. Anyway, to keep him ‘busy’ and on track to open his business back up, they began going to dinners, drinking, and he would show up at our house while I was at work.

“I told my wife how I felt and got my own bank account to place my payroll cheques into it – and although she’s admitted to having ‘only’ an emotional affair, we are getting a divorce. I do not trust her; I have seen many ‘red flags’ that I’d been oblivious to over the years, along with finding the credit card usage had risen to 88 per cent usage in 15 months. She’s mad that I filed for divorce and wants my pension, as I am a retired police officer. Not that I’m old enough to draw my pension yet, and I’m working three jobs to deal with the financial mess she chose to put us in.

Read: Two-thirds of Aussies say money causes most relationship conflict

“My question is pretty simple, am I wrong to want a divorce? She’s ‘cheated’ on me before and at 50 years old, I have my clothing in two laundry baskets and sleep on the floor in the room where I grew up, as it’s not as hard as the bed! Meanwhile she’s in the marital home with a bed, couch, chair and can sleep wherever she wants to.”

Fiona says
“If your relationship with your wife has broken down irrevocably, then there is no point in the two of you staying married. If all she wants you for is your pension, then that’s no basis for a marriage at all. The fact that you ask, though, makes me wonder if you still have strong feelings for her – in which case let’s look at what’s happened.

“You say she claims her relationship with this man was ‘only’ emotional, but the tie between them was strong enough for her to sleep over at his home. She amassed debts on your joint account – perhaps from all those dinners and drinking sessions. She’s left you with those debts to deal with and isn’t, apparently, doing anything to help resolve the financial issues. All in all, she hasn’t shown much love and care for you.

“What might have started out as an admirable attempt to console someone who was suddenly widowed has definitely morphed into a relationship, even if it’s not a physical one. She clearly wants to spend more time with him than she does with you, so why would you not want a divorce? I don’t think you’re wrong to want one at all, under the circumstances you describe.

Read: Golden rules of an amicable divorce

“You could, presumably, sort out the financial affairs, sell the marital home and take your share of the proceeds to make a fresh start – with a proper home of your own once more. If that’s what you want to do! If it’s not – if you still love and care for your wife – then I’d encourage you to see whether counselling would help to mend the huge rifts that have developed between you. It’s certainly not too late to try, as long as both of you are willing to do so.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

What advice would you give in this situation? Do you think an emotional affair is just as bad as a physical one? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

– With PA

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Written by Fiona Caine

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