March 31, 2011 at 3:36 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
Affairs are clear no-nos. Sleep with a person other than your spouse and you are pretty indisputably in the wrong. But what about unconsummated relationships? Does an affair of the heart equal an affair of the flesh? Or, in plain terms, if you fall for someone else but you never get it on, are you still a cheater?
This week’s Can This Marriage couple, Larry and Liz, are dealing with that very issue. Larry, a partner in his family’s contracting business, has been married to Liz, a stay-at-home mom of three boys, for 10 years. He chose their anniversary dinner as the venue to tell his blindsided wife about his emotional affair.
Liz’s turn She should have seen this coming. Larry’s been spending all his time at the office or the gym, getting fit for his new love, and they haven’t had sex in ages. Liz gained significant weight with each pregnancy, so she’s not surprised her husband isn’t attracted to her anymore, but it’s not as if he couldn’t have guessed she’d put on some pounds: They met at a Weight Watchers meeting. In the early years of their dating, they worked out together and kept each other in check. Now, Larry works out with the other woman – a receptionist at his office who’s fitter and younger than Liz. Larry tried to sleep with the coworker, but she turned him down, saying she didn’t think of him that way. What hurts Liz the most is that Larry seems to think it’s okay since he didn’t physically cheat.
Larry’s turn He told Liz about the relationship at their anniversary dinner because he loves her too much to lie to her, and wanted to make it clear he’s refocusing on their marriage and forgetting about the other woman. He misread the situation with his coworker and would have slept with her if he could have, but doesn’t think he really cheated since nothing physical happened. He’s attracted to the woman because she’s good-looking, motivates him to work on himself and is upbeat and funny – the opposite of what Liz has become, in his eyes. He thought if he told Liz about the affair that she’d take the hint and go back to working out with him, both to shape up and spend time together, but it backfired. He’s sorry he was a jerk and wants his wife back.
The counselor’s turn While men are devastated by sexual infidelity, women tend to be more hurt by emotional affairs, which was the case with Liz. Her self-esteem had always been low and she was overwhelmed with caring for her three young boys, so she coped by nagging and criticizing Larry and letting her weight balloon. Larry didn’t set out to hurt Liz, but he was vulnerable to a caring woman who reminded him of what his wife used to be like. They started by working on communication, ending the accusatory statements and sharing their feelings honestly. Liz wanted to lose weight and Larry wanted to help her, so they started working together, having date nights and going to the gym. Liz eventually appreciated that Larry was honest with her and forgave his transgression, and as their marriage improved, she lost weight and felt better about herself. They’re continuing to work together, as they did when they were first dating, and are falling back in love.
What do you think: Is an emotional affair the same as a physical one? Is any intimate relationship outside of marriage cheating?
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