The Emotional Affair : It IS a thing

Grief has been the hardest things to wrestle with in my strange emotional connection. I do not think I have experienced so much heartache in decades. Not even my divorce was so full of sorrow and helplessness. I know that I was gutted when my first boyfriend decided to marry his childhood sweetheart and long-time fiancee. But even then I found the strength to quit my home country and turn my attention to other projects.

My past relationships have played themselves out somehow, and have been completed so I managed eventually to deal with my grief. I now realize that I probably fortified myself with the shields of anger (in the case of my divorce) and guilt (in the case of my first boyfriend). Strangely those emotions were helpful in the short-term outcome for my sadness. Some counterpoint to concentrate upon other than the sadness and sorrow. Here on the other hand, the overwhelming emotion is plain unfiltered grief.

This weekend was particularly hard on me as I pondered again what I largely consider an unresolved relationship. It was never a love-and-leave situation, not in the traditional sense. We shared coffee and an intense emotional connection, that was it.  I could not understand why giving this up was harder and more excruciatingly painful to me than the breakdown of my marriage or leaving the first man I loved. I did not understand my endless weeping over a love that lived only in my mind. Fortunately there are writings about this online and elsewhere, and it appears that physical relationships are sometimes easier to process and get over than pure emotional ones. You see an emotional affair is a thing, and it takes courage and a lot of pain to get over it. The emotional affair has all the hallmarks of addiction. Its unresolved physical aspect makes it live on in the heart and mind, fed by imagination and fantasy, and the constant sad refrain of “What if?”. It is also a form of betrayal to the spouse. As I read on a website: What would hurt a spouse more, what their cheating partner does with his genitals or what he does with his heart?

Although I was the unattached party, I felt instinctively from the start that there was something not quite right in the connection. He,  who should be the older and the wiser, was the first to venture into the murky water of emotions. He flirted shamelessly, made sexual innuendos, and even once or twice made subtle hints to emotional estrangement from his wife. It is true that he always spoke in praise of her endless understanding and patience, yet there were those subtle references to incompatibility, lack of conversation and his long ventures on activities that exclude her. When quizzed about it one day he denied making such hints, saying he is “usually very careful”. This leads me to suspect that he has tread these murky waters of emotional affairs before. Yes, I have seen all these danger signs yet my connection to him was so strong and intoxicating that I ignored them and went along. I never started our endless text conversations, and I would have never ventured into this territory if he did not lead me there. My aversion to this did not come from prior knowledge it was just sound instinct.

The sad thing about these connections is that once the line of friendship is crossed, there is no going back to it. I tried once to reset the content of our conversation. I told him that he should always imagine his wife at the table with us, but we kept slipping back to the forbidden territory. In the end I could not take it. The meetings kept building me up emotionally to anticipate a conclusion that never came, like a piece of music that keeps gathering up in sound while the ear eagerly awaits its final movement, then abruptly ends leaving the audience in confusion.  Finally, I decided to bring my own conclusion to the piece. I have always known that this will end some day. The only question was not if, but when, and whether we end it before or after physical consummation.

I must admit here that I wanted to have him to myself for once. To steal or borrow him briefly from his life as I always told him. I was only stopped by the impracticality and difficulty of the task. Because for me, it has to be planned, somewhere out of town, not my place, nor his. Not in car, or in any place that will make the experience feel rushed and cheap. Ironically, my conservative nature came to my rescue and I made the sin so difficult to accomplish that it became easier to abandon the thought altogether. Can you imagine me waiting with baited breath for all the time it will take for all these conditions to be fulfilled? I think hell would freeze over first.

The easier way turned out to be like this:  Send a short message on his birthday, one that wished him light in his life and lightness on his shoulder in the next decades (it was a decade birthday for him). The same day I claimed that I already had lunch when he suggested we meet for lunch. He then sent me a message that he was off for  a few days. See you next week he said. I responded: OK. enjoy. That was it. I thought that I would need to reject more lunch invitations but I think he understood the inevitability of my position. It has been a few weeks since that day, and I caved in only once. I texted him a book recommendation over one weekend. He knew that I was saddened by our affair and asked how I was. I responded that I am getting there although still sad. I have fought the urge to text him a hundred times since that day and I am sure I will continue to do so. I do not think he will text me again.

I have no doubt that what I felt for the man was real. I loved him truly and completely.  For him, maybe it was an emotional affair, or a planned physical affair that went wrong. I do believe that there were genuine feelings from his side too. He was however wrong by assuming that the affair did not involve cheating, because he (we?) did cheat. I never met his wife and now I am glad I did not. I feel a bit guilty towards her even now, and if we had ever met I have a feeling that she would have known how I felt about her husband.

I am hoping that this will be my final reckoning with this unplanned and unfulfilled love affair. I forgive the man, even though he was unfair to me by pulling me into his orbit, with words he does not mean. And I forgive him for looking at me with eyes that meant what he did not say. I forgive myself for falling for him and responding to his intensity with an intensity of my own. I will work through completing my grief process at losing him and hopefully one day I will meet him quite by chance and feel nothing. For now I will continue to avoid him. Fortunately we do not move in the same constellations, and we do not work in the same place. It will always remain a mystery to me why I fell for him, it was perhaps my perception, and my intuition of his feelings. He taught me how intense love could be. One day I will be able to take a chance on love again.

My failure this time was not my misinterpretation of the danger signs. I saw them very clearly earlier on. I just misjudged my capacity for love, and overestimated my immunity to its pain.

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