High Price of Emotional Infidelity – MM #84

workplace romance - AdobeStock_91473945 copy“Flirting is fun and usually begins in innocence. It’s a hard habit to break, even after marriage. Yet it causes jealousy. Worse, it puts us into situations we never intended to fall into, and it creates misunderstandings that can lead to infidelity.” (Jerry Jenkins)

Whether it’s intentional or not, flirting with someone other than your spouse is a form of emotional infidelity.

It’s a serious relationship matter, especially to the offended spouse. That’s why we’re approaching this subject by sharing a portion of a TV program titled, You’re Not the Person I Married, aired December 5, 2002 on the Dr Phil Show (which you can find more information about concerning this particular program and additional information, by following the provided “Show Archives” link to DrPhil.com).

In this show one of the couples, Joe and Karmen, were battling over his flirting with other women and the emotional affairs he later developed with several of them. To Joe, it was all innocent fun, because as he said, “there was no sex involved.” But Karmen felt hurt and betrayed.

They set up that segment of the program, showing a tape of both Joe and Karmen explaining their “sides” on the issue.

Karmen said:

“I was in love with Joe, and he swore that he’d be faithful to me when we got married. Joe’s been involved with several women over the years, and he says they’re just emotional affairs. But they bother me just the same. I’m suspicious of everything that Joe says to me. And I’m constantly checking up on him.”

To that Joe responds:

“I never thought I would really be able to give up the attention I want from other women. The flirtations with women I have, they’re just romantic. There’s no sex involved.” And “when I tell the truth” (to Karmen when questioned by her) she”gets hurt, so I sometimes have to lie to save her feelings. To be honest, I never thought we’d be married as long as we are now. I think the kids right now have a lot to do with us still being together.”

They then, show a segment where Karmen’s sitting with her son who was crying telling his mom “it’s all my fault” for the problems they’re having. After the video, Dr Phil asks, “Joe, you just saw the toll this has taken on your son. So how much fun is that flirting now?” to which Joe replied, “It’s not fun at all.”

Karmen said,

“He didn’t know that was going to be on there, but I wanted him to see how bad he’s hurting our son without him even realizing it. My son came to me and said, ‘It’s my fault Dad’s unhappy with life because Dad told me he wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for us and he’s unhappy being here.’ I said, ‘Joel, he was trying to let you know how much he loves you; that even though he’s not happy with himself, he’s here for you, that he loves you.’ But, of course, my son didn’t take it that way.”

Dr Phil addressing Joe, said,

“You say, ‘I got married, knowing I wouldn’t want to give up the affection of other women. I’m having emotional affairs, but nothing physical.’ You know, just color me cynical, but I don’t believe that. I’m not saying you are or you aren’t —I have no evidence. I can’t prove one way or the other —all I know is what you say, and just one guy to another, I don’t believe that for a split second. But —that’s your position. And then you go say this to your children? Do you feel any responsibility to the health and welfare of this family as it relates to your choices?”

Joe replied, “I never knew my choices would really affect the family the way they have. I have, in the past, thought sometimes, it’s better we should just split up, however.” Dr Phil said, “Well, that’s one option, that’s true, to just say, ‘You know, I’ll just go —and y’all make your own way.’ Joe then admitted, “You know, I like what I have. You know, I love Karmen; I love the kids. I don’t want to give that up either.”

When Dr Phil asked Karmen if she felt betrayed by these emotional affairs, she said, “They hurt just the same as if he was out having a physical affair.” Dr. McGraw said, “Well, you are betrayed.” Then turned to Joe and asked him if it truly was a betrayal to which Joe affirmed that they were.


Phil then said to him, “Let me tell you, anytime you turn away from instead of towards your partner to meet emotional needs, physical needs, needs that are appropriate to a committed, intimate relationship, that’s a betrayal. So you have these needs, and you’re turning away from your wife to meet those needs. What do you expect her to do about that?”

Joe replied, “Well, I know I lost her trust. And I know it will be hard to regain it. But all I can do is say I’m sorry. The feeling I was looking for was that new relationship feeling. We’ve been married 14 years, and, you know, I miss that feeling.

Dr Phil then said, “So you thought, ‘I’ll just go get it somewhere else. And I’ll let my children pick up the tab for that immaturity. I’ll let my wife pick up the tab for that immaturity. Plus, I’ll let our family go down in flames, so I can get a rush every 30 days?'”

Joe said, “I never really looked at it that way. Honestly, I didn’t think it affected them a lot of times. I guess really it was, ‘What they don’t know don’t hurt’.”

Giving Up Wants

Dr Phil then replied, “You said, ‘When I got married, I knew I wasn’t going to give up my want for these other women. I didn’t think we would stay married very long.’ So I guess you just thought you’d just bring some kids in the world. Then you’d just leave them in your wake as you went to the next conquest. ‘What they don’t know doesn’t hurt them.’ Are you rethinking that as you sit here now?”

Joe said, “Oh, definitely, yes.” Dr Phil then said, “That’s a good thing because this is about wake-up calls. I’m not trying to beat you up. I’m trying to wake you up and get you to realize what you’re doing here.”

Joe acknowledged that he now saw his behavior in a different light and that he had been wrong but he wasn’t able to make a firm promise to stop for fear that if he failed he’d hurt his wife again with another “broken promise.” He did say he “wanted to” stop flirting and seeing other women.

At that point, Dr Phil said:

“Listen, I understand. Isn’t it all fun when you’re falling in love and everything is new and fresh and all that? That’s all fun just like riding a roller-coaster is great fun for some people. But the truth is, as we mature, we realize that love doesn’t get old; it just transforms.

You know, at first, you’re up all night talking and you’re doing all of this stuff and everybody gets all excited and everything. And I always hear them say, ‘Oh, we’re like soul mates. She knows me so well, she can finish my sentences.’ Then two years later, it’s, like, ‘Hey quit interrupting.’ OK? You know we get that evolution, but we label it as negative when really it’s just a change.”

“I don’t stay up all night talking to my wife because I want to go to sleep. But you know what? It may not be exactly the same; it’s better, but different. If you mature enough to allow that to happen, what you find out is —in exchange for some of the exhilaration in the unknown, you have comfort, you have security —you have a soft place to fall. And when you put effort and energy into it, you can create that exhilaration at the right time along the way.

But in the meantime, you mature into nurturing what’s there, learning to label that the same way you label the others. There’s a big difference between falling in love and being in love.”

Wake Up Call

We appreciate how Dr Phil tried to bring a wake up call to Karmen and Joe. Plus, he gives it to all married couples who will listen who feel flirtations aren’t harmful. What may seem to be “innocent” flirting in the eyes of one spouse, can spiral into all sorts of problems with a lot of innocent people to getting hurt. That’s not what marriage partnership is supposed to involve.

It comes down to the fact that marriage is designed to be entered into by grown-ups —those who are willing to act as mature adults, who vow to join together in exclusive partnership with each other and with God as a “chord of three strands.” It’s a relationship that is to be honored as sacred and protected by both partners so no one outside the marriage has the opportunity to divide what God has joined together.” (See Mark 10:7-9)

You might find it helpful to follow something that author Jerry Jenkins discovered and shared in his book, Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It (which we highly recommend).

He wrote,

“I enjoy having fun and being funny, and my mind tends to find humor in words and unusual combinations of ideas. For this reason I could easily flirt with anyone I thought was receptive. Much flirting is funny. If someone says something flirtatious with me, my first impulse is to expand on it. I want to play with it, and see how quick and funny I can be. But I resist that. It isn’t fair. It’s mental and emotional unfaithfulness. I would be exercising a portion of my brain and soul reserved for my exclusive lover —my spouse.”

Jerry knows, and so should we, that this isn’t what we should be doing. It’s not God’s way and it shouldn’t be our way either. Think about it, isn’t that what marriage is supposed to be? Exclusive? If not, why marry?

We need to consider what God’s word says about our actions:

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Hebrews 13:4)

The flirtatious spouse might not think that he or she is being “sexually immoral” because he/she isn’t actually going through a physical, sexual act with another person. However, the Word of God says,

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person —such a man is an idolater —has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.(Ephesians 5:3-5)

Also, it is written:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.(Matthew 5:27-29)

We beg you to save your flirting for your spouse. Invest your energies in your marriage instead of with someone else. You could find your relationship so much better, feeling newer and revived. And as a result you, your spouse, your children, and your God will be blessed.

Jerry Jenkins has a suggestion in his book that is a good one:

“If you want to flirt, flirt with your wife. She may not look, feel, or sound the way she did when you first flirted with her years ago, but she still wants you to flirt with her. Try it. Wink at her across the room. Blow her a kiss no one else sees. Play footsie with her under the table. Give her a squeeze, a pinch, a tickle no one else notices.”

He continues this thought by saying,

“Wouldn’t you like to be flirted with by someone who loves you, someone who can tease you about what she might do with you later and then deliver?”

You may think someone else might enjoy your flirtations more than your spouse. But when you took your marriage vows, you promised exclusivity with your marriage partner. So instead, try flirting with your spouse —you may like it! And it may just help to keep your romance alive. It sure has for us as we’ve flirted with each other throughout our 45+ year marriage.

Cindy and Steve Wright

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Filed under: Emotional & Physical Affair Marriage Messages

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97 responses to “High Price of Emotional Infidelity – MM #84

  1. (SOUTH AFRICA)  I never knew how much flirting was destroying my wife. I did this more than once and I have developed an excuse for it. As much as I feel my reason for doing this was valid, after seeing her cry and the hurt she is going through right now I regret all my foolishness and destroying my family, in the process.

    I have been married for 15 years this year Dec 2012, and we have 3 beautiful children together.

    Our marriage suffers from a lack of sex and I have many times discussed this concern with my wife. And for a moment things will be fine and then they go back to worse. She claims she does not like sex as much I do.

    During the months or weeks where she decides no sex, I get very frustrated and even stop functioning well. Most of the time I even regret the fact that I do not have an affair somewhere else. But I know this cannot be the solution, so I do not go out there to start an affair.

    I have been caught by my wife flirting and even using sexual words to whoever I flirt with, and I have tried to explain my side of the story, but to no vain.

    Today after finding out about this blog, and reading the stories of all that have been affected by this behavior, I now know how I have hurt my wife and I am sorry and ask God to forgive me of this. Even though I might not convince my wife to forgive me and to trust me again, I know she wants me out of the house and I cannot fight her on that. I have wronged her and humiliated her through actions.

    I still love her and I wanna be with my family, but she wants me out as she believes that I have done no good in her life ever since we met her. I am not going force her to stay married to me.

    Please HELP!!! I do not want lose her and my children. I regret my sin even though it was never physical, but I have now learnt that it hurts more….

  2. (ZIMBABWE)  Just going through the comments from other people has made me realise that I am not alone in the battle of emotional and physical infidelity. I used to cry, and beg a lot for my huuby to change but nothing happened and as I write now my hubby is having another emotional relationship at work, which he has promised to “work on” and put a stop to.

    What I find encouraging though is that I am now mature and able to find counsel from the Lord about this infidelity issue.. it’s amazing how for all these years I have been able to forgive my spouse over and over again for both the emotional and physical cheating. What I now need is the power and will to forgive the other women that have caused so much stress for me over the years. I have been married for over 20 years and I have been cheated since day one.

    Once again I thank the Lord for giving me the strength to pull through as this infidelity issue has made me look up and turn to him on a daily basis.

  3. (USA)  I have been in a relationship with my fiancee for about 4 years. We have a daughter and have had ups and downs. He had a porn addiction and everytime he claimed he was sorry and would change, but never did. Found out he was still looking at it in counseling just last month. And he has flirted with two women (that I know of) and lied to me about them in the beginning of course, which made me watch my back. He made flirty jokes to make them laugh all the time and told them they looked better than his boss… And how it would be funny if he sneaked into where she was and dressed up like that guy who got charged for 40 counts of molestation with young boys…

    Anyway he texted photos of places and smoked with these women too and all the time telling me they know I’m married and committed. But he was enjoying all the attention and swears he will change. Has anyone known a man to change that had this behavior as a steady trend? I’m leaving with the kids in June and I just don’t want to leave my children’s dad if he really can change. But I think the porn addiction is influencing the flirting too but I don’t know for sure. Good question for doctors or anyone?

    Can psychological porn addiction be linked to the flirtatious craving from other women when they are committed Thanks, Tiffany

  4. (SOUTH-AFRICA) Hi all, I’m 30 years old, been married for 5 years with 2 beautiful kids. Here is my take on this dscussion: my husband does not give me any emotional support and does not care for any emotional needs that I might have. I find it very hard not to invest my emotions in another man, who is so willing to listen! What to do?

  5. (USA) I would like to know what some of your thoughts are on staying in a marriage when one of the partners continually has emotional affairs? I’ve been with my husband for 9 years (married for 7). He has had emotional affairs (he says they never became physical, but I have no way to prove this) with co-workers, friends, people he met on the Internet, members of our church, etc. We have separated twice, living apart for about a year each time as I refused to accept this behavior and he didn’t want to change. It would take him a few months of living on his own to come back, crying and begging me to take him back. Because I love him and am Christian (divorce is frowned upon), I gave him another chance (twice!). I truly forgave him and gave it my all to start again. And, yes, we’ve had counseling from our pastors and a licensed psychologist.

    I just found out that he has been private messaging his boss’s wife, telling her how pretty she is, she looks too young to be her age, and how much he likes talking to her. When I first saw the messages, he ripped his phone out of my hand, saying I should trust him so therefore I didn’t need to see the conversation. I also found out he opened an account a 2 weeks ago on match.com where it says he is “currently separated”. He says he just wanted the attention, although he admits that our relationship has never been better than it was before I discovered all of this a few days ago!

    I told him since the last incident (3 years ago) that if it happened again, it was over. I would not put up with this and the hurt it causes. I don’t know what to do because I’m so invested in this relationship, but I keep thinking I deserve better. There must be something better than this too. I’m not happy in our relationship because there is no trust, and I don’t even respect him anymore. I don’t think this is what God wants for me either. It will be so hard to let go of all the hopes and plans we had, but I just think as painful as recovering from a divorce will be, I will be better for it. I don’t want to have children with someone like this –imagine the example he would set for them.

  6. (USA) Will, I do not know where to start. My husband was talking to a female friend for a year before I found out and to top it off it was right after I went back to work after I had a hysterectomy. It was a hard time for us both. He thought it was all fine. I was accusing him of being with other women and I am deeply sorry for that. I found out Sept 2011 he was talking to her when we went to church. He grew up around her and she was coming to my house for Avon every two weeks for over 20 years but stopped coming.

    I looked on his cell phone for two months. They were talking 5 times a day and I didn’t find out the rest. I could not find her number again until he told me that she called from one of the homes she cleans up once a week. She called at lunch. Before I found out she was acting very strange. I asked my husband why was she acting that way to me and he said she may be jealous. I asked him, of what? He said it was because I have a lot of weight. I said, well, she has too and then he said it’s maybe we have a new home. I said, she has a nice home too. All this came out and there’s lots more with all the lies he told me before I found out.

    Sorry if this is so scattered around. We both belonged to the church for 30 years. She was giving me some petty bad looks. It was a shock. We live where my husband grew up so there’s no one for me to talk to. He said that there was nothing to it, just talk. Then why the lies and hiding? He said that I would have gotten upset. Why do it then?

  7. (USA) These comments have been an eye opener. I too allow myself to engage in flirtation/inappropriate conversations. God allowed me to be exposed to my wife of 10+ yrs & she was devastated! Initially I couldn’t fully grasp just how much I truly hurt my wife. After stepping back, separating & repenting to God, I can see clearly the hurt my actions have caused. Reading the testimonials of so many injured women (and men) it puts my wife’s feelings into an even clearer perspective.

    I love my wife. I do not want to divorce. However, it is not entirely up to me. I have repeated & turned away. I’m now in counseling to learn just what triggered these behaviors initially, so I can safeguard my heart. Seeing how my actions have hurt the person I love so much pains me. But I know that God will get the glory out of my situation. How a marriage can be repaired & flourish if God is kept central in it. My prayer is that someone is encouraged by these words.

    Also remember that we cannot trust our heart to guide our actions in “innocent” conversations/relationships. Jeremiah 17:9 speaks how the heart is wicked & cannot be trusted. Trust in God & do not lean on our own understanding and in ALL your ways acknowledge Him. To God be the glory.

  8. (SOUTH AFRICA) When I read your articles on emotional infidelity, I was shocked how innocent is this subtle and deceptive monster. Wolf in a sheep’s skin. I shared your articles with my wife and we have been growing in our marriage. My wife became my priority and have invested my life on her.

  9. My husband is a Pastor. He has never been overly affectionate, and can be rude and hurtful to me at times. We’re hosting a couple for a few days that will eventually be working with us and the church. The wife of the couple is a beautiful woman. I’ve noticed the past few days that whenever we’re all together my husband seems to belitle me. He will make comments to me, and act impatient with me. I’m a little afraid of the future. They are a sweet couple, but I also notice she sits next to my husband at the dinner table instead of her husband sitting there, and therefore she holds his hand (me too) when we pray. I suspect she enjoys deep down, the looks and admiration of men in general. Her husband adores her and she is very likeable, am I just being jealous or am I suspecting a potential problem?

    1. She was “feeding” off him. Ask yourself if you enjoy receiving adoration from a man you’ve observed being indifferent, cutting/cruel or unappreciative to his bride, in her presence or not.

      Me neither, makes me want to reduce him to his true level for all to see, but I don’t. IMO, anotherGod-fearing man would reach him without the “bite” yet deliver eye-opening to him and brotherhood as a boost up. Emotional vampires need a tangible hobby/craft or should become a community volunteer for. Their necessary dose of selfworth. Ultimately, the source of the problem is your husband’s shallow relationship with GOD (he either doesn’t know his Creator or is wicked enough to turn away from his Word and messages, thus becoming his own god).

  10. This is a great topic. My now-ex husband was a flirt and had a number of lady friends who he would continue to see ALONE in their own homes, even after our marriage, some of them I had never met. He had the habit of contacting them at short notice on his cellphone if he happened to be in the area so I didn’t always know about the meetings until after they had happened. Most of them were single ladies. He saw nothing wrong in spending all day on his own doing leisure activities on a Saturday and then want to spend Saturday evening with a lady at her place.

    I think the ladies were just as much to blame as he was as they knew he had a wife at home. It was a very selfish way to act as some of the ladies were single-again and I wonder how they would have reacted had their husbands acted the same way as he did. He used to convince me that they were just platonic friendships. I knew some were with ex-girlfriends (he wouldn’t say which ones were exes!). I couldn’t trust him. It upset me a lot but he would manipulate me into being the one who was in the wrong as he used to tell me that I didn’t trust him!

  11. I found this thread while googling. I must say that my husband was/is also flirtatious and had rekindled with his ex girlfriends. Who knows what else? When this was brought up the blame was shifted on me for snooping and we have been fighting on and off for 5 months now. I am tired and finally called his dad after a bitter fight and told everything to him. I have been emotionally, physically faithful to him at every juncture of this relationship. We have been together for 2 yrs in total. We dated for a year and then married last year.

    He has a daughter who is 11 yrs. He is so possessive over his daughter and forgets quality time with me. He hardly does things for me. He says that I demand to go out on dates and be romantic -I’am clingy and needy. It hurts a lot when he says mean things to me. He lies a lot to me. I am so fed up and I just want to leave so that we both can be at peace. I really do not know what to do…

    1. I am so sorry I too am going through something like you with my wife and she too called me bad for snooping also! I believe it is their way of turning the blame around! I no longer have trust in my wife and I am starting to pull away because she has left me broken hearted and having no trust at all!

    1. If you follow the link in this message, you will see that Joe realized his flirting was wrong and that he ruined his marriage. His wife decided it was “too late” to try to repair things. Here’s what they say at the end of the “follow-up” the web site gives: “Joe and Karmen have decided to stay in the same house until their children are out of school for the summer. At that time, Joe will move out.” Sad, so sad indeed. It never had to go in this direction, if the wedding vows would have been honored.

  12. My wife had an emotional affair and it turned out to be a scammer! She lost a lot of money and feels empty inside and is on another chat room talking to another guy telling me it means nothing and he is married. But it has left me having with no trust in her and left me feeling angry and empty inside!