Can A Woman Have An Emotional Affair Out Of Revenge And Not Realize It?

By: Katie Lerch: I get a decent amount of correspondence about revenge after an affair.  Sometimes, the faithful spouse wants to (or is considering) doing something to get revenge.  Other times, they are feeling the urge to want revenge but they are trying desperately to resist that urge because they know that it is not really going to help anything.

Other times, I hear from the cheating spouse who is scared of revenge or who thinks that they might be seeing vengeful behavior (even if their spouse denies this.)  Here is an example.  A husband might say: “I really can not effectively tell you how sorry I am that I cheated on my wife.  I really don’t know what I was thinking.  And in fact I probably wasn’t thinking clearly at all.  I believe that my children are the only reason that my wife did not leave me.  But although she’s still here, at times she looks at me with pure hatred.  Her opinion of me has obviously changed.  Where she used to respect me, now she acts as if I have low morals and am just a jerk.  She doesn’t really listen when I talk and half the time she rolls her eyes at me and doesn’t even try to engage me with conversation.  For the past three weeks, she has been spending a lot of time with a male co worker.  I didn’t say anything at first because she gets mad at me so easily.  Plus I thought it would hypocritical of me to insinuate that I don’t want her to have male friends when I am the one who had an affair.  But last night we were spending time with our kids and the guy called. So I lost patience and asked her about it.  She said that it was her job to train the guy at work and that they had become ‘close.’  She says he makes her laugh and feel good in a way she hasn’t for a long time.  I got flustered and asked her if she thought that the relationship had crossed a line and had become an emotional affair.  She got very angry.  She said that the last thing she would do is start up an affair considering how my affair pretty much ruined our lives.  She said that she was not that stupid.  But now I’m wondering if perhaps she’s started an emotional affair for revenge without even knowing it.  Is that possible?”

Anything is possible.  As a spouse who has been cheated on, I can tell you that there is a vulnerability there.  Being cheated on makes you doubt yourself.  It makes you wonder if anyone will ever find you attractive again.  It makes you wonder if everyone is going to see you as damaged.  So when a man show interest in you, allows you to confide in him, and boosts your confidence, this can feel like a relief.  It can feel as if it’s just what the doctor ordered.  And if your spouse gets jealous and insecure, well, perhaps he deserves it.

At the same time, I am only speaking for myself when I say that although I would have welcomed any attention, I would have never made my situation worse by actually cheating.  Our family life was so broken at the time that there was no way that I was going to add to my problems by adding another infidelity into the mix.  I was not in any state to be in any sort of romantic relationship.

I’m not saying that this is how your wife feels.  I can’t possibly know that.  However, I also can tell you that plenty of women have men friends at work, with there being nothing inappropriate about it.  Adults are capable of having friends of the opposite sex without cheating.  So your wife having a relationship with a male coworker doesn’t necessarily mean that you have anything to worry about.

Rather than accuse your wife of something that might not be true and making her feel defensive, I would place my focus on your marriage and your relationship with her rather than placing your focus on her relationship with him.  Because if you can work through the issues and strengthen your marriage, then you will have more confidence that you have nothing to worry about.  And your wife won’t have the need to get her emotional needs met elsewhere.

She may not even be consciously trying to do anything inappropriate.  She may just be finding relief in having someone to interact with.  And it may be nothing to worry about.  But, if it gives you a bad feeling, there is nothing wrong with trying to bump up your attempts to improve your marriage and to strengthen your intimacy as quickly as you can.  The sooner she is getting her emotional needs met by you, the sooner she will no longer need to get it from someone else, assuming that’s what is happening right now. That said, it’s possible that you are very sensitive about something that is innocent due to the affair.

So many issues that crop after the affair lessen or disappear once healing takes place.  Hopefully, that will be the case here.  I don’t think you ever go wrong with placing your focus on healing.  Much of the time, after you are successful, everything else falls into place.  At least that was true in my case.   You can read more about that on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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