My Spouse Regrets His Emotional Affair. Does This Mean That It Won’t Turn Into A Physical Affair?

By: Katie Lersch: Many people believe that an emotional affair is not as damaging as a physical one. But, wives who have dealt with husbands who have cheated emotionally might stage a good argument that this is not the case. In fact, a very common excuse that a man who has been physically cheating on his wife will give you is: “it was only the sex. It didn’t mean anything to me.” Men say this because they know that an emotional connection with someone else can hurt a wife more than a physical connection. That is why many wives whose husbands are cheating emotionally don’t take this lightly. They know that they are dealing with a serious problem. But they can also worry that this will eventually lead to a physical affair.

A wife might say: “I knew that something was wrong with my husband. We used to put our children to bed and then talk for hours about our future, about current events, and then we would just spend some quiet time together. This was the favorite part of my day. Well, this stopped about two months ago. And that was about the same time that my husband started staying late for work and taking work-related phone calls. So I assumed that he was likely cheating. And I was right, but not in the way that I thought. He finally admitted that he had ‘become close’ with a woman at work. He admits that they have been talking on the phone and texting. He admits that she has had problems at work – about which she has confided in him. He admits that they have inside jokes and nicknames for one another. I told him that this sounds like an emotional affair and he didn’t deny it.  Later, he eventually said that I was right. However, he stressed that he deeply regrets what he has done. Because he knows that their relationship is inappropriate and can not go any further. And now he says that it is going to be very awkward at work. He keeps saying that he doesn’t want to lose our marriage. But every time that he is home late for even a very valid reason, I panic. Because I think that the affair is still going on and now is physical instead of just emotional. One of our mutual friends says that I am reading too much into it. She says that he didn’t technically cheat and because he has regret, he won’t cross the line. Is she right? Do men who regret an emotional affair stop with that so that the affair doesn’t turn physical?”

Why Regret Isn’t Always Enough: I wish that I could give you an enthusiastic yes here. I wish I could tell you that a man who regrets an emotional affair will never have a physical one. I really wish that I could tell you all of these things. But I can’t. Some men do end things and don’t ever cross the line. And some men just can’t help themselves. Even if they didn’t mean for the physical affair to happen, it does.

I often have men tell me things like: “I had no intention of crossing that line and cheating. But in the moment, I just wasn’t thinking. Time almost stood still and before I knew it, I was cheating on my wife. I honestly don’t know what came over me.”

What Is Necessary On Top Of Regret: Although regret is encouraging, it isn’t always enough. What you need in addition to regret is commitment and safeguards. Because the thing is, a man can have remorse. He can regret his actions thus far. But, when he gets in the vicinity of the other woman, circumstances might present themselves that make it very difficult for him to resist and so he doesn’t. And then he’s in a situation where he never intended to cheat but he has.

I know that this is a tough situation because people can’t always leave their jobs. But I think it’s important that he avoids her to the extent that he can. And in the instances that he can not avoid her, he must approach her in a very different way. Instead of being friendly, his demeanor should be respectful but off limits.

Regret helps with this. But commitment is needed also. And people often overestimate themselves. They will tell themselves that they can withstand the temptation, but it only takes an instant when they can’t to lead to physical cheating. That’s why it’s vital that he understands that he must do everything in his power to be in her presence as little as possible. If he does have to be in her presence for work, then he should make sure that other people are around.

And it goes without saying that he should no longer see her, talk to her, or interact in anyway outside of work or on a professional basis. Because this is what will keep the affair from turning physical. If the opportunity never presents itself, then neither one of them can act on it.

So yes, you do want to see regret.  But in my experience and opinion, it isn’t always enough.  You have to change the level of commitment and the level of opportunity.  You can read more about my own recovery on my blog at

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