How does an affair start?

Happy24-7March 9, 2012

I know I'm treading on dangerous ground. We're both married (23 years for me; 19 for him), both in our early 40's and both have had very stable marriages. We became friends when we served together on a local government committee. What started out as innocent enough flirting and teasing has progressed to more intimate remarks and suggestive innuendo. There's been no physical contact and to be honest I think we'd both refrain from that realizing the seriousness of two marriages/families being affected.

I've never been tempted to cheat on my husband and have always appreciated him and how much he loves me, but I find myself more and more thinking about this other man and wondering what it would be like. The attention is both flattering and exciting. For that reason, I seem powerless to tell him we need to stop. Plus, I keep telling myself that since there's been no physical contact (I don't count a greeting hug), it's probably ok.

I've always thought emotional affairs were just buzz words for people who wouldn't admit to a sexual affair, but now I think I may be having an emotional affair and I'm liking it too much to stop.

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When you get into the intimate remarks and suggestive innuendo the affair is beginning IMO. Mainly because from there it's a slippery slope. If you can't tell him you need to stop, I would strongly suggest you withdraw from the committee and cease contact.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 3:41AM
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Colleenoz, I know you're right and your advice is exactly what I tell myself everyday that I don't hear from him but then on the days that I do talk to him, I'm back to the old mindset of thinking it's ok because we're just talking.

My term on the committee is over, but he has one more year. I'm still interested in the committee's work and that's the reason (excuse) that we continue calling, texting and emailing each other. We're seldom actually together which is another reason I keep telling myself I'm safe.

Thanks for your response and sound advice.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 8:38AM
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You are rationalizing. Some would argue an emotional affair is actually more serious than a purely sexual one, as it can involve deeper intimacies and ultimately cut you off from your spouse.

You really need to go NC (no contact) before this relationship moves past the point of no return.

If possible, consider individual counseling to help you resolve the issues that made you susceptible. Marriage counseling may also be in order but working on yourself first may put you in a better position to handle the immediate challenges.

Good luck. At least you're asking, so you do recognize the potential devastation for your family.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 2:49PM
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Readinglady, I've heard that emotional affairs can be more hurtful and harder for the other spouse to accept/forgive. I guess I always thought if my husband slept with someone else, it would devastate me but now I'm realizing that if I knew he were feeling what I'm feeling after a phone call, it would probably almost kill me. This makes me realize that I do have a conscious yet when I'm in the presence of or in the midst of conversations with the "other man" I'm feeling anything but guilt.

I am indeed rationalizing. I want to have my cake and eat it, too. Having never been in this position before, and since I consider him a friend, I don't know how to tell him to stop calling.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 4:59PM
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"The thought preceeds the deed" - get control of your mind and emotions. Do this now before you get hurt and do damage to the others involved.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 11:47PM
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The idea is just a symptom of the lack of intimacy in your own marriage. Do you think this could be the case ?

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 12:51AM
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you are obviously a lovely person,i think you are just enjoying the attention that men still find you attractive at fourty something,you can flirt ,but dont do anything else ,it really is not worth it,especially as you have a nice husband ,and there isnt many of them.x

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 4:20AM
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You ask "How does an affair start?"

You have provided the answer.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 6:07AM
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Scarlett2001, your statement is just what I needed. I was trying to come up with something not too Dr. Phil-like that I could use to make my point short and sweet. Everything we're doing right now seems to be pre-deed talk, so it's time to end it.

Popi, far from it. As I stated in my original post, I've never been tempted to cheat on my husband and I just KNOW in my heart that my love for him and and what we share (not just a sexual enthusiasm but a deep and true appreciation of and respect for each other and our children) would keep me from going further. Knowing all this, though, just confuses me even more: why do I fantasize about this other man and why do I behave like I do around him?

Tracystoke, thank you. I am a nice person with a wonderful husband and lovely children. I have been blessed. Men do like me; in fact, I've always had more male friends than female friends. I'm the only girl child in my family of five siblings. I guess for this reason, I'm comfortable around men and can dish out and take back. I've always been a flirt (a friendly flirt) and my husband has always been secure enough to know that's just me and a little "sassy talk" as he calls it is all I do. I just don't know why or how my sassy talk took on a whole new level.

JCM01, I know I provided the answer. Sadly, I know.

Thanks to all of you for good advice. I truly do value your opinions and didn't post my question hoping for validation. I know I'm heading into dark waters if I don't turn this thing around.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 8:40AM
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The likelihood that you will turn it around on your own is very low. I find it has been easier to help people get off meth.

I suggest you tell your husband and the two of you work as a team to fight the infidelity dragon.

You're likely not to do that, either. I'm probably talking to a wall.

However, if you want to ensure that you don't complicate things further, that iis what I suggest,

you are having an affair. That's what you are doing. It's a betrayal of trust. Most men leave when they find out it was sexual. However, its still an affair. The "secret" is the problematic piece that makes this feel so illicit and exciting. If you want to save yourself, bust the secret.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 7:29PM
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Amyfiddler, wow you're blunt! You're not talking to a wall; I've read and reread every sentence of this thread at least a dozen times. This forum is the only place I've sought advice. I haven't talked to any of my four brothers to whom I am very close, two of their wives who are like sisters, or my number 2 bff as my friend calls herself. My husband is my number 1 best friend. In the beginning I did tell him some of the stuff that was said because as I said earlier he knows I'm flirty and it's always been harmless. He wasn't threatened and in fact, like me, thought it was funny. But I will NOT be telling him that it went too far and we crossed the line. He has done nothing wrong and I won't have him feeling betrayed because of some stupid phone conversations and emails that got out of control.

As I told myself today, I have a marriage that is envied by many in our circle of friends and I will not ruin what we've worked 23 years to build together for what would probably not last and would end up destroying two families.

I appreciate your taking the time to weigh in but I don't appreciate your predictions that my likelihood of getting this under control is low. Now, if I may be so presumptuous I find that of all the people who responded your post sounds the most like you've been there--either as the betrayer or the betrayed. If that's the case, I hope things worked out for you.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 10:41PM
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You've already said you can't stop seeing this guy. Unless you do you will not get this affair under control. Everything everyone has said so far you've come back with what is essentially a "yes, but..." answer.
Just say, "I'm sorry but I can't see you any more." And _don't_.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 11:34AM
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I don't want to start back peddling here; I don't think that accomplishes much. In my original post I said "I seem powerless to stop" and "I'm liking it too much to stop," But I did not say "I CAN'T stop seeing him." What I meant was equivalent to something like "this book is so good, I don't want it to end." Or "the movie was terrible yet I was powerless to walk out of the theater."

I admit to being confused but I must be dense too because neither do I see where I've said, "yes but..." If you care to elaborate, I'd be interested in seeing what you mean. I believe as the thread went on and after being able to share my fears and get back opinions/advice (and some judgements, which is ok; I expected no less) from objective responders I realized more and more how dangerous this is and how quickly it needs to stop.

Hope that clarifies things.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 12:43PM
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I'm late to this but I'm tossing in my two cents anyway.

Candidates and temptations are around us all the time. Always have been; always will be. Short of living in isolation, the circumstance simply can't be avoided. Marriage is not and cannot be a declaration of isolation. 1/2 the people in anyone's personal and/or professional life are of the opposite sex. And, unless one is devoid of imagination, fantasies of involvement are quite inevitable. It's been the stuff of literature for centuries and movies for generations. Common as nails. Natural as rain.

However, I do think marriage is a declaration of voluntary fidelity in behavior; a promise to decline to act upon these ubiquitous attractions in favor of the original vow. The stuff of which families are made. What has been described is only "dangerous" if you allow it to be. The fantasy part is normal. If you're saying you can't control your behavior, that's a different issue, but I'm not getting that from what you wrote. You're both decades along in creating your own families. I suspect they're both deserving of exclusionary focus notwithstanding the emergent fantasy you apparently share.

It appears to me both of you instinctively know this. I encourage you both to keep that perspective. And I encourage you both to allow those around you to see that you are keeping it.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 1:17PM
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Thank you, Asolo. Late or not, I'm glad you responded. What you said is very well stated and was well received.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 4:29PM
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Well OK then...Good luck with all that.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 5:06PM
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What started out as innocent enough flirting and teasing has progressed to more intimate remarks and suggestive innuendo.

That sounds like things have moved a bit beyond mere fantasy.

The OP must have had some inkling of prospective risk or she wouldn't have posed the question.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 5:37PM
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"Yes, but" statements:
"I am indeed rationalizing. I want to have my cake and eat it, too. Having never been in this position before, and since I consider him a friend, I don't know how to tell him to stop calling. " You're saying, Yes I know this is dangerous but I'm enjoying it and want it to continue. Yes, but he's a friend and I can't say "don't call".

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 10:04PM
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From your post: Everything everyone has said so far you've come back with what is essentially a "yes, but..." answer.

Seriously, Colleenoz? Everything everyone ...? You substantiate your statement with my reply to ONE post and apply that to everyone?

Further, the reply to which you refer and then go on to expound on what I said vs. what I meant was in agreement with Readinglady's assessment of my rationalizing. Yes, I was/am rationalizing which I believe only underscores how confusing all this is to me.

We can agree to disagree but let's also agree to attack fairly, ok??

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 10:26PM
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You're having an affair. It hurts your marriage whether you tell your husband or not. That's just truth, it's not a judgement call.

Anyone can find themselves in your situation - anyone.

If you choose not to end it, then you choose to continue it, and if you choose to continue it, do you think it will just fade away on its own? I don't believe it will. It's too addictive. You have to be drastic with these types of things or they will grow like cancer.

I believe a part of you knows this to be true, or you would not have come here to talk about it.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 10:53PM
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Call it what you want. Just the word, "affair," (to me anyway) implies a physical, sexual connection. There has been none of that. Is it an "emotional affair?" I suppose so, by all definitions. Is that just as dangerous as a sexual affair? Most likely. Was it fun? Yes, honestly it was! Was it worth it? In a word, NO!!

Thank you for your advice but please go back and read what I've written. I have repeatedly stated that it needs to end. And it will. No where have I indicated that I will continue my relationship; no where have I indicated that I will simply sit back and wait for it to fade away on its own. Admitting that I don't know how to end it does not mean that I WON'T end it.

Please don't assume to know me well enough to decide that I'm doing wrong by not telling my husband, so we can fight "the infidelity dragon" (your words) together. First of all, it's not a dragon. At the most, it started out as a bumble bee buzzing around my head and now it's more like a pit bull, but certainly not a dragon. And second of all, I simply will NOT let my stupidity hurt my husband. I know myself well enough and I know our relationship well enough to know that eventually I will tell him but I also know this is not the time.

Obviously, I came here seeking advice from objective, anonymous persons because obviously I was concerned and confused (and frankly, embarrassed to the point of not being able to talk with anyone I know). Of course, before I wrote the first sentence I knew this thing had to end. But also before I wrote the first sentence, I knew we had gone as far as we'd go. In other words, talking is all we've done and all we'll do. Repeating myself again, but we both have too much to risk to let this continue another day.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 11:44PM
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Apparently I'm not as concerned as everyone else seems to be.

Seems to me you know what's needed and are acting upon it.

Tell the husband? Absolutely not! Lunacy to consider.

Counseling? Vast overkill.

From what you've written to date, I'm not worried about you at all. Seems to me you're healthy as can be.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 12:17AM
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Oh, thank you thank you thank you, Asolo!!! A really close friend is actually a pastoral counselor and I almost can't wait to get past my embarrassment and self loathing and talk to her off the record. I have a feeling she'll tell me to forgive myself and move on.

Thanks for your kind and assuring words.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 12:28AM
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Well, take it from a man who has been on the OP's husband's side of the fence not once but twice...BIG problem here. I don't really care what you classify it (affair, inappropriate behavior, whatever....), the fact that she has gone down this path is a big indication that there are major issues in the relationship.

Women generally stray for reasons more linked to attention, not just physical stuff. Women that are happy and fulfilled in their marriages generally have no need to go down this path. Due to differences in our ideas on what marriages were all about, my ex went down this path twice, 3 years apart. The first one turned into a 9 month physical affair...after months of this stuff (flirting, etc). The second one didn't turn into a physical affair until after I found out she was up to it again and said "screw it I'm out of here". Then it immediately turned into an affair (although I guess you can't technically call it an affair when I told her I was done, but it would have whether I found out or not).

I'm not saying you are necessarily headed down the path my ex took, just saying unless you really cut it out and pull a total refocusing on your marriage, it likely will. Almost all the divorces that I am aware of among friends and coworkers that were initialized by the wife straying started like this. The kid's soccer coach, a teacher in the same school, etc. Starts with just "opening up" to them...then becomes subtle flirting, then more open flirting, sexual innuendos, etc. Same story over and over and over....

If you really value you marriage, you really need to step back and think about everything and be prepared for some major work. Sweep it under the rug as "no big deal", and I can almost guarantee your marriage will fail in the long run.

Also, I find it odd that someone who is struggling with her emmotions like this chooses a screen name of "happy24-7"......odd choice.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 1:59PM
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Re: my screen name. Sorry you see it as an odd choice. Try not to analyze every little thing--you'll drive yourself crazy. Happy was my dog's name when I was a teenager and I had to choose a number to go with it.

I'm sorry you've been hurt and sorry that you haven't been able to move past it. I could read the residual resentment in your post. I was reminded of that old expression: "Hurt me once, shame on you; hurt me twice, shame on me." Sounds like it was for the best that you threw in the towel after the second time. I hope you've been able to find someone else and I hope there were no children involved.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 7:27PM
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I agree with the majority are on very dangerous ground. FYI...there are thousands of affairs that never get to a sexual level and you are right there. You have already crossed one line that you should not have. If you really love and value your husband and life..walk away now. Put that energy into your husband and marriage.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 8:41PM
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Wow, Im just in awe. March 3rd I didn't even know what an Emotional Affair was. March 4th I find out my wife has been involved with a coworker for the past 18 months. What a mess. All that time, all the emotion to him not me. My last 8 days have been a blur. Do yourself a favour just be prepared for any heartbreak you can inflict on your husband and yourself. Enjoy your flurting now the price may be steep.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 9:52PM
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"Happy was my dog's name when I was a teenager and I had to choose a number to go with it. "

Sorry, I guess I made an assumption there and we all know where that gets us.

"I hope you've been able to find someone else and I hope there were no children involved."

Yes I have, and unfortunately yes there were....and that's where the bitterness comes from. If it was just me, I'm a big boy I could look past it and move on. But to bust up a family when my kids were still in elementary school, no I will never, ever forgive her for that.

And let me second what sirkenneth is "emotional affair" can be just as devastating, if not more, to a man than a physical affair. I told my ex right from the start, when I found out about her first affair, that if it was one of those "nights out with the girls and you wound up in the back of a van with some dude you met", I would be so much more able to move past it than an affair that had "feelings" attached to it.

My ex's second affair, when I found out about it, had not progressed past the txts/phone calls/talking phase. But because we had already been through it, it hurt way, way more than the first one.

Hope you find hapiness in either your marriage, or if that is not what you want, in your future life. Just go into it all being honest with yourself. My ex never did that. She strung me along for almost 4 years....time that I will never get back.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 11:17PM
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CAH33, good advice; thanks.

Sirkenneth, I'm sorry you've been so hurt. I don't ever want my husband to have to write something like you've written. I don't know your whole story, but please don't blame yourself. In my case, my husband is totally blameless. I hope the two of you can work together and move forward.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 11:27PM
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Mkroopy, I'm glad you've found someone else more deserving of the nice person you seem to be. You went through a really rough patch and you're right when you say it's time you'll never get back but I hope for your wife's sake, your children's sake, and your peace of mind, you can put the past behind you and enjoy life. It sounds like your first wife was pretty messed up and I would suspect that even now she's still miserably searching for something.

As for your last paragraph, I'm choosing marriage and family!! Even though my (insert name here for whatever we're calling it) didn't go on very long and I didn't commit all my emotions to him, it's gone on long enough to scare the hell out of me and make me realize how quickly and easily one misstep can change the whole course.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 12:04AM
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I wish you luck. It made me think of something that happened during the time my ex was in the middle of her first affair, and how she had a chance to completely end it and turn her focus on the marriage without me ever knowing...unfortunately she didn't, and we wound up where we are.

Probably after she was 6 months into her affair, (of which I was completely oblivious...duh...I realized 2 things from all this, I am very trusting, and she is an amazing liar), shortly after my mother died I started noticing that were were really just going thru the day to day crap, deal with the kids and had totally drifted apart. At one point I wrote her this long letter, telling her that I realize I had become too focused on work (worked long hours so she could be a stay at home which is what she wanted), fixing up the house, etc....that I needed to put more of my focus on her and the family....sure I was guilty of this, but hey I am sure many if not most guys supporting a family can say the same thing.

I told her at one point in the letter that I realized she had become distant, like she was not connected with me anymore, that we rarely had anything to talk about, other than kids, etc...even when I started to try. I made a point of telling her (and I honestly meant it at the time...what a sucker I was), that "..I don't think you are having an affair or anything like that, because I know you are way too good a person for that".

She gets a letter that said that from her husband...who on top of providing for her and the family very well and being a good dad, was also saying to her that he had realized that he needed to work on things and was willing to do so....and what does she do? End the affair and give the marriage her best effort? No...she continues with the affair like she never read the letter...only to be found out several months later, since at that point I had started to actually notice things.

If you are serious about fixing your marriage, take this whole thing as a wake-up call, end whatever you have going with this dude, completely, don't leave him on the back burner or anything, and really dive into trying to re-establish a connection with your husband. My ex had that chance, I would have never know about the affair if she ended it then...and you know what, if it resulted in her putting her focus on the marriage and fixing things, well sometimes what you don't know doesn't hurt you I guess.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 2:57PM
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How to tell him?

"I don't want to damage the 'what is' by continuing to toy with the 'what if' -- so our flirtation has to end. It's been wonderful, but I love and value my husband and family to much to do this to him. I wish you the best. Goodbye."

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 8:14PM
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So have you gone NC yet or what?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:38PM
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All I can say is, get out of it while you can. But yourself in your husbands shoes and think of how he would feel if he knew. This will lead up to nothing good. If you are unhappy with your marriage, then end it. Don't juggle two things at once.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 6:37PM
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I realize I'm very late and the OP has probably already made a decision. If she continued the affair we'll not likely find out what that decision was... She probably won't be back here. But here goes anyways....

Emotional affairs are not made up, they are real. I was not in a relationship, but my friend�s girl fell for me and I fell for her pretty hard. At first it was purely emotional, but the connection was strong. A friend of mine also had this experience. A woman at work would compliment him all the time, tell him how creative, smart, etc he was. That�s huge to a man, men love the ego stroke, especially because women don�t dole out compliments all too often. His wife discovered this emotional affair, which is what it was, before it got to sex, but it was definitely moving that way. Luckily it didn�t get there.

You�ll probably make all sorts of justifications and tell yourself that it�s ok, and that whatever activity you�re doing with him is purely work related. But just being close to someone you have such strong feelings for can lead to disaster. Eventually, it will lead to kissing, and after that, you probably won�t be able to turn back. You�ll tell yourself your happy marriage is over, and that you may as well throw it completely away and engage in coitus with this man.

If you care anything for your hubby, back off, sever all ties with this man. IT�S NOT SAFE, NO MATTER WHAT YOU MAY THINK. You�re interested in this guy and that is dangerous. Remember, these amazing feelings you have for him aren�t forever, and will fade within several years. What then? You would have thrown away a great marriage and happy life for nothing.

I also tend to agree with readinglady that an emotional affair is more serious.

You don�t know how to tell him to stop calling? You have to tell him, but don�t tell him in person, and if you can, avoid telling him you�re having feelings for him. If he�s into you too, that will just fan the flames. If you�re telling him in person, he may decide to win you over with a spontaneous kiss, and there it all goes� I�d write a letter explaining how you feel, maybe that it�s inappropriate or something. Seems cold, but it might be the best way to keep your marriage intact.

"The idea is just a symptom of the lack of intimacy in your own marriage. Do you think this could be the case ?"

Seems like it could be, but that�s happening in my marriage and a discussion about our issues has made me realize what was missing. Now I�m trying to bring the intimacy back.

"why do I fantasize about this other man and why do I behave like I do around him?"

Because the grass is always greener, and good marriage or not, we always like someone crushing on us, it...

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 10:31PM
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Well, I'm really late to this conversation but I have to say I agree 100% with Amy. You need to tell your husband, because you have issues in your marriage that you need to work on AS A TEAM. Your emotional affair is a symptom of the disease. The fact that you got so defensive in response to Amy's post speaks volumes. So before you get all hot and bothered, step back and really think honestly about what you are doing.

But another thing Amy said is also true. Probably speaking to a wall.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 5:09PM
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