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I’m a 25-year-old female. I’ve been married to my husband for two years, together for a total of four. I had an emotional affair, admitted it to my husband but downplayed it, and came clean about everything a month later. Suffice to say that my husband was furious. He doesn’t believe he can trust me (I don’t blame him) and mentioned divorce. I have cut off communication with the other guy and started therapy to deal with the issues that led me to the decision I made (crippling insecurity and a pathetic need for validation from the opposite sex). I know I screwed up, perhaps irreparably. I hate the thought of being such a young divorcée but here I am. I never thought I’d be one of those people.

More than anything I guess I’m looking for an opinion on whether you think we can push through this. Given your years of experience in this field I’m sure you could make an educated guess. To be honest I’m also looking for some encouragement from fellow readers who have been here. I acknowledge my major fuck up but don’t want to believe that I am the scum people will see me as if and when we separate. Besides apologizing profusely, giving him space, and promising not to let this happen again while taking steps to better myself, what can I do? This is killing me.

Young And Fucked Up

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I’m familiar with the term, of course, but what exactly do you mean by “emotional affair”? What happened? What did you actually do? — Dan

Thanks for writing back! Definitely checking this off my bucket list. The emotional affair was characterized by lots of texting, lingering a little too late at happy hours, and lots of lunches and coffee breaks (note that the last three always occurred in a group setting). We acknowledged that we were attracted to each other, though I knew I would never be able to actually date him due to his personality. He tried to get physical a few times but I made sure to avoid it. — YAFU

So you had a crush on someone and you were careful never to be alone with this guy, so as not to put yourself in a situation where you might actually cheat on your husband? And now your husband doesn’t think he can ever trust you again? Because… nothing happened? —Dan

Well, when you put it THAT way.... — YAFU

People in LTRs, even marriages, sometimes develop crushes on other people. We are not a naturally monogamous species. We can make monogamous commitments, of course, and we should honor our commitments. But it can be a struggle — which, if you think about it for split second, is something that kindasorta makes the making of a monogamous commitment kindasorta meaningful. (For some, not all.) Because monogamy isn't always easy*. (For some, not all.) But monogamous commitment or no, you're still going to find other people attractive. You're still going to develop the occasional crush on someone else. And crushes aren't choices — you didn’t volunteer to have a crush on that guy, you didn’t sign up for it, you didn’t choose it. It just was. And you ket yourself get a little carried away — the texting, the lunching, the lingering — and you let yourself enjoy the crush. But you didn’t cheat on your husband. (Ask your husband if he’s ever, in all the time you two have been together, had a crush on someone else, or flirted with someone else. If he says no, he’s lying.)

If your marriage can’t survive one or the other or both of you having what was, in the end, a no-actual-harm-done crush on someone else, your marriage isn’t going to last long and you might as well pull the plug now.

Don’t get me wrong, YAFU: We have to keep ourselves in check — whether our relationship is monogamous or non-monogamous — when we develop crushes on others (the monogamous) or the wrong others (the non-monogamous), lest we wind up putting ourselves in a position where we succumb to temptation. ("Succumb" is such a great word, what with both “suck” and “cum” in it.) In that aspect you were reckless. But you kept yourself in check, for which you deserve some credit.

YOU DID NOT CHEAT. — Dan

Thank you for the advice. Unfortunately that's all stuff that I acknowledge and believe... not so much my husband. I have acknowledged my wrongdoing but he seems to think that the next time this happens, I will actually fuck the guy. — YAFU

So he’s punishing you in advance? Just in case? — Dan

He's punishing me for gaslighting him (because I treated him like crap for a month, blamed it on my needing more from him, when really I was sulking because I couldn't have the other guy. Which is somewhat true. (I did need more from him but there was no point in arguing that.) He thinks I married too young (he is 30), didn't get all the fucking randos out of my system, and can't be trusted not to take it further next time. — YAFU

You two got together when you were 21 and he was 26. So I suspect your husband may be projecting — he married pretty young too, he may not have gotten fucking randos out of his system, and his histrionics over this non-affair may be the excuse he needs to end your marriage while playing the victim (which, in this circumstance, requires him to play up his victimization).

As for this:

...he seems to think that the next time this happens, I will actually fuck the guy.

Well, why shouldn't you next time? If you're going to be treated like you fucked the guy when you didn't... you might as well fuck the guy.

Anyway... I took a couple of painkillers for my shoulder while I was working on this and I should probably put my advice column down and back away slowly before I say type something I regret. But I'm going to leave you with this: sometimes people who've been cheated on — or nearly cheated on — refuse to let go of their anger while at the same time refusing to exit the relationship because not getting over it = the upper hand. If he's always mad about this, YAFU, and you're always having to apologize for it, he has complete control.

You did screw up — you should apologize and make amends and find a somewhat safer way to seek validation from the opposite sex. (Have you heard of Instagram?) But you can't stay in this marriage if your husband refuses to accept your apology and regards whatever amends you make as inadequate. If someone refuses to forgive you but stays with you... "this" isn't killing you, they are.

Finally, YAFU, you say you're in therapy to deal with your issues. If you're not in therapy together — if you're not seeing a couples counselor together because he refuses to — then you aren't to blame if (but not when) your marriage collapses.

Shit. I'm free associating now. Basically, and in conclusion, ask him if he can accept your apology. Give him some time and space to be angry, yes, but not endless time or boundless space. If he can't really forgive you, do yourself the favor of divorcing him. — Dan

* Non-monogamy isn't a always easy either, and a loving non-monogamous commitment is every bit as meaningful as a loving monogamous commitment. And it goes without saying that non-loving commitments, monogamous or otherwise, aren't worth shit.

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