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Friends with Benefits??? – A Dangerous Emotional Affair. How I Approach This Situation in Couples Counseling.

I recently got a letter from a woman about a relationship that her husband has with another woman.  

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Often times in my practice as a Marriage and Family counselor this situation has come up. Below is the email that I got from “Jane”*

Hello.  My husband has had this “friend” for almost three years now.  I caught him in so many lies about this female until it is ridiculous.  He has become VERY verbally abusive since he has been dealing with this female.  He is the textbook definition of a narcissist, denying that he has ever done anything wrong in spite of the fact that I showed him some of the text messages that I found that he sent to her saying that he loves her and wants a relationship with her (he has since gone to great lengths to keep me from seeing anything on his phone or the cell phone bill).  I also found proof that he has spent quite a bit of money on her, while I am working two jobs to pay household bills. My question is, how do you deal with a person like that?



Hi Jane,

I can see why you are concerned/upset about this “friend”.  When you read about “advice columns’ or a packaged programs on the internet they tell you exactly what to do. 

The most common response is draw the line or leave the relationship; however it’s not that simple. If it was, you would be doing that.  There is obviously something very wrong in your relationship, something missing between the two of you.  Your husband feels the need to go outside of the relationship for the “friendship” and that isn’t acceptable.

During in person marriage counseling, when a trained Couples Counselor can take into account what you are going through, the place to start is to get more information.

Three questions that I would ask in couples counseling:

First: What have you said to him?

This will help as we further explore what to do next.

Second: What are you prepared to do if he disregards your feelings?

Third: For the moment disregarding this situation what is the quality of your relationship?

These three questions are things for you to consider and also for you get professional counsel for, to help you through this difficult time.  

If this issue isn’t addressed things will just get worse.  I would be careful about involving friends or family at this time, because they are not professional and though they mean well, that’s likely to cause more problems than it will solve. 

There’s a more to be said, but there’s a lot in this answer for you to think about.

Here we are concerned that situation is an emotional affair.

If this is the case then it is really important that you seek professional Couples Counseling as soon as possible

In a future blog I will talk more about how I would deal with an emotional affair in marriage counseling.

Hint – emotional affairs are very dangerous to a relationship.  

Couples counseling must address where the relationship went wrong.

Let me know what you think, and we can go from there.  Have you had personal experience dealing with an emotional affair?

Dr. Marty.

* To my readers – If you were doing Marriage Counseling with this couple what would you tell this woman?

Disclaimer: Though examples of situations are real, in the interest of confidentiality, names and identifying information have been changed to protect the privacy of any individuals mentioned.

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