Can My Marriage Be Saved After an Emotional Affair?

My wife has been involved in an emotional affair for seven years. She is planning to move out this week to get space and figure out what she wants to do. She would leave me if he asked her to. I am starting therapy to try to deal with this and I would like to know if my marriage can be saved at this juncture. -Despondent Spouse
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Dear Despondent Spouse,

First, it would be important to get to the root of the emotional affair. Seven years is a long time to carry on an affair. I would seek to find out what she was getting out of the relationship with the other person. What are her expectations about marriage? Some people look for the excitement and intensity that comes from the infatuation and newness of an affair that cannot be sustained in marriage. If you can be open to hearing her needs and understanding what she was seeking, you can make some determination of what things you might be able to do now to save the marriage. Ask her what she needs to put her feet back in the marriage. There might be things required of her rather than you. Ask her if she is willing to go to counseling together. Let her know that even if she’s not sure she wants to save the marriage, at least a counselor can help the two of you figure out what happened and why, and how to go forward from here.

The marriage can be saved if:

  1. your wife is willing to cut off contact with this other person
  2. if she is willing to do the work of understanding why she has carried on this affair
  3. if she is willing to work at rebuilding trust in the marriage
  4. if you have the ability to feel safe again in the marriage
  5. the two of you together do the work of improving connection and communication.

Unfortunately, many of these things are not in your control, ie: what your wife is willing to do. This marriage could be saved if she were willing to join you in your commitment to work on it. Your wife needs to take ownership of her own choices, the affair is not your fault. But if you want to get her to turn back toward the marriage, it would be important for you to also take ownership of your choices that had a negative impact on her or the marriage (which does not mean taking blame for the affair).

All the best,

Dana Vince
Dana Vince, MA, LPC, MHSP, is a Knoxville, Tennessee-based marriage counselor specializing in infidelity and affair recovery.
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  • Lorne Chadwell

    Lorne Chadwell

    November 16th, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Total commitment is what is needed, through sickness, for poor’er, till death is what’s needed, not until it gets a little tough start looking for an easy way out, or enjoying someone else’s affections without getting caught, or including one’s self in questionable situations that requires denieabilities that melt away with the light of day…

  • Vanessa


    November 18th, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    ABSOLUTELY! Relationships are ALL about commitment. We need to look CLOSELY again, as a society and see how we have fallen into being SOOO damn desensitized about our level of commitment in a relationship when the going gets rough or how we feel the need to LEVERAGE ourselves away from our partners, off their generosity, love and devotion in the relationship. This era of ENTITLEMENT epecially in love relationships, will be our downfall because as with any foundation that is WEAK, IT WILL CRUMBLE!, eventually. We can no longer deny the necessary of recognizing this as a problem. Personally, my marriage has suffered from these issues and it has been devastating to learn that someone you love and have lived with for over thirty years would DISMISS the relationship, if it did not FEEL RIGHT or they are not longer “feeling me”, after investing years and they SELFISHFULLY have elevated their financial status. Our concept on the VALUE of commitment has changed.

  • Jennifer


    May 26th, 2016 at 9:44 PM

    I’m in the same boat. I moved out because we were struggling that I couldn’t get over his cheating two years prior. When I moved out we got pregnant and tried being together but at that point he started getting closer to another. We’ve been to counseling, he’s slept over, we’ve been together and then fought because things were strange with him. Well I find a voicemail from a nancy when I was 3 mos preggo just a few weeks ago and now I’m 6 mos. He said it was a random missed call. I tried to believe him and even confronted it in counseling and he still denied it. Two weeks later I show up at his house unexpected and he wouldn’t answer. I went back the next day and found he discarded a bag with Nancy’s junk mail and her used make up wipes, empty birth control pills package, used tampons. Yes, it was discarded trash and don’t judge me because I had proof! And she left junk mail with her address that matches her phone number from that voicemail. He denies it still. Said he wants me to treat him better to make him want me again but denies her at all cost. I even called her and she cursed me out and denied him. As far as I know her voicemail was 3 months old and this evidence I find was last week. He says he’ll work on us as a family if I never talk about it again. But I need answers! I need to know how far gone into her he really is. Any advice?

  • Ron


    May 29th, 2017 at 11:12 PM

    Hi Jennifer,
    I write to you as a well wisher and as someone who has been where your husband stands. There is no denying that he has cheated on you, but what is important here is that he is forsaking all of that to be with you. Forgivance will come eventually and will take time but use this time to get to really know him. Affairs usually start because of a void or sometimes just because the person wants some change in the monotony, in both of these cases the affair ends because the founding ground of this affair is volatile and very time bound. Sometimes moving out of the same place/city helps a lot to forget. If he doesnt want to give you answers, dont push him, he is going to come around in no time. Since its a year old post I dont know where your relationship stands at the moment, but I really hope that you guys are still together. xoxo

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on