My Husband Said He Felt “Empty” So He Had An Affair. What Does This Even Mean?

By: Katie Lersch:  If I’m being honest, I’m not sure that any of my husband’s excuses for an affair were going to ring true for me, especially at first.  When you are dealing with the shock of an affair, you are defensive.  You are angry.  So when your husband starts will the defenses which indicate that something was missing in his life, it’s very easy to reject these outright.

Some of us will debate that anything was wrong.  And some of us will accept that something was wrong, but will stop short of believing that the flaw was any sort of excuse.  Sometimes, it is very hard to understand what he means when he gives you vague terms as excuses.  One such excuse is the description of feeling “empty.”

Someone might say: “I honestly could not believe it when I caught my husband having an affair. I never thought that he was the type and I thought that our marriage was good.  My husband has always been disappointed in friends who have cheated on their wives.  So I never could have anticipated this.  At first, he refused to talk about any aspect of the affair.  He would get angry and quiet.  His face would turn red.  I honestly think he’s a little bit embarrassed.  In the past week, I’ve been very clear about telling him that I expect answers.  And that if I don’t get them, our marriage might be over.  So finally be blurted out that he just felt ’empty’ and this his eyes got all teary.  I guess he thought I would feel pity for him, but honestly, all this confession did was to make me feel anger and a loss of respect.  What a cry baby.  What a whiner.  My life isn’t always great but you don’t see me going out and ruining my life and cheating on people.  What the heck does this even mean anyway – ’empty?’  How does one feel empty?  It’s just ridiculous to me.”

We all know the literal definition of empty.  The dictionary definition is “containing nothing.  Not filled or occupied.”  But the emotional definition of empty is a little more difficult to grasp.  When someone says they feel empty, it means that they feel flat.  They don’t feel fulfilled.  They feel as though their life lacks purpose.

Frankly, I’ve heard a lot of depressed people say that they feel empty.  Because when you are down emotionally, it is easy to focus on a feeling of lack.

Even if your husband is being completely honest with you (and I don’t know why he would lie about this, since it’s not exactly flattering,) it doesn’t excuse his cheating.  But it does indicate that he’s willing to open up.  And it does give you a starting point.

Unfortunately feeling empty isn’t a very specific complaint and addressing it isn’t going to be a quick fix.  You can’t just suddenly fill your husband’s emotional cup.  His lack is his own.  And no one else can fill him except for himself.  It must come from within him.

Common Reasons For Feeling ‘Empty:’ There are many reasons people feel empty.  Some are disappointed with how their life has turned out so far.  Others feel that they are lacking purpose so they don’t feel that they make a difference in this world.  Others feel like they are just treading water in their life without any real meaningful direction.  Identifying the feelings is something that your husband is going to need to do for himself because you can’t possibly know how he feels and what he is thinking.

Good counseling can help your husband identify what is lacking and help him formulate a plan to feel better.  Many people do not have the self knowledge or the ability to objectively look at themselves to see what is really happening.

The good news is that often, once the person finds their way again, they no longer have the need to seek out risky or dangerous behaviors in order to feel whole (or to feel anything for that matter.)

Feeling empty isn’t an excuse for cheating, but it is a route that many people will take.   Nothing in their life makes them feel alive or brings a flush to their face.  They get desperate to feel anything at all.  So the affair is an attempt to get them to feel, to get them engaged again.

Of course, the better option would have been for him to have sought that feeling at home.  Once more, I am not excusing his cheating.  I am just speculating as to what he might be trying to express.  And I want to stress that although it may be tempting to try and fix this for him, this isn’t something that anyone but him can and should address.

Certainly, you can support him.  You can encourage him to seek counseling or self help.  This is true even if you aren’t sure about your marriage.  Whether you are angry with him or not, he is an important person in your life, and I’m sure you want him to get help for this.  But you can not fill him or take away his emptiness.  Only he can do that.  And it’s important that he does.  Because you can not give someone something that you do not have.

You can not give another person love and stability when you yourself are not feeling that internally.  I hope that this article may have give you some insight on what your husband may have meant by feeling empty.  By no means is an excuse, but it may be an attempt to express why he acted.

When my husband first tried to explain his affair, I thought he was just speaking of empty excuses.  Later, I realized that his insights were actually very important because they needed to be addressed for the benefit of any future relationship between us.  Try to see this as a clue and not as an excuse.   There’s more about my own struggles and realizations on my blog at

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