Mary was a stay-at-home Mom of three little children.  Walter, her husband, was a “Type A” entrepreneur for whom a 70+ hour work week was the norm.

Because he was making loads of money, Walter decided he wanted a bigger, better house.  Mary would gladly have settled for their current house and more Walter.  She reported, “When he’s home, he’s not really home.  He’s emailing, texting and thinking about business.”

Once the architect delivered the plans, Walter hired a general contractor.  Mary became the de facto project manager since, observed Walter, “She had plenty of time on her hands.”

It turned out that “Joe” the contractor was not only competent but had a tender heart and knew how to listen.  Old enough to be Mary’s father, he seemed wise and gentle. “As the homebuilding project moved forward,” Mary reflected, “there were many weeks when I spent more time with Joe than with Walter.  I felt safe and began unburdening my heart to him – that the big new house was not my idea, that I dreamt of finishing my college degree, that I was lonely.”   For project management purposes, Mary and Joe called and texted each other a lot.  When the project was completed, they kept calling and texting each other a lot.  And meeting for coffee, or lunch.

When Walter discovered text and phone messages not pertaining to the building of the house, and not platonic, at least on Joe’s part, he confronted Mary.

Now it was the opening hour of Walter and Mary’s MAKE IT OR BREAK IT retreat.  Livid with righteous indignation, he was convinced that his resentment was justifiable.  He insisted, “You may be naïve enough to think that you and Joe are ‘just friends’ but trust me, Joe doesn’t. Take the blinders off and read his texts again, Mary.”  She believed that her relationship with Joe was friendship and justifiable in light of Walter’s preoccupation with work and lack of attention to her needs.  “I swear to God,” Mary said, “we’ve never even kissed.  Yes, Joe has held me when I’ve fallen apart.  We’ve become good friends.  That’s all. Even if you’re right about Joe, the affair, if you insist on calling it that, was just emotional! ”

No, nothing ever happened between the sheets.  But an emotional affair can be as compelling and destructive as a sexual affair.  We’ve seen it.

— Laura and John

NEXT: WHEN THE VOW BREAKS, Part III:  My Husband No Longer Believes in God