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Posted on 10/02/2017

An Emotional Affair: A Couple Rebuilds Broken Trust

An Emotional Affair: A Couple Rebuilds Broken Trust

Brenda and Tim had been married for ten years, had flourishing professional lives and had started their relationship with a solid foundation of mutual respect and caring. They had no children, deciding instead to put their time and energy into their respective careers. In the beginning of their relationship, they were mutually supportive of each other’s long hours and traveling that happened weekly. But after ten years of working on her career, Brenda felt completely disconnected from Tim. She felt that Tim was more of a roommate than her lover, even though they were under the same roof. One morning, Brenda had a real awakening as to what was really going on in the relationship- she found a text from Tim to a co-worker that was intimate and sexual.

With a heavy heart, she confronted Tim, and he agreed that he and Brenda had lost their connection and that he was attracted to someone else. Tim said that Brenda could not even hold an engaging conversation with him and that he was tired of feeling alone. They discussed their lack of emotional and sexual intimacy and the excitement that they used to feel about each other. That morning, Brenda and Tim both confessed to having thoughts of straying outside of the marriage to feel loved and desired again, thinking that their partner had completely lost interest in both themselves and their relationship.

This couple had several issues that needed to be addressed- and needs that were going unfulfilled. In the early stages of their relationship, Brenda and Tim had put every ounce of their energy into their careers and professions, which they had both agreed that they wanted to do. The results were that they had thriving, demanding careers that they loved, but had let the relationship slip to the point of severe neglect. At night when they came home, it was a quick dinner together while discussing the day’s work activities, then right back to the computer and phone to finish up for the day. This left very little time or energy for the relationship, or their own needs. Their individual needs of affection, companionship and physical touch were completely unmet, making their relationship ripe for an affair.
When Brenda and Tim came into my office for the first time, they looked pretty weary. They were relieved that neither one of them had entered into an affair but were saddened at how close they had come to doing just that. We worked together on voicing their fears, frustrations, and dreams as a couple. What developed was a new understanding of themselves, of each other and of what their ideas for the relationship moving forward would be.
The results were spectacular. I helped them identify and communicate their needs to each other, focusing on the physical touch (Brenda’s need) and the need for excitement and newness (Tim’s need). They identified these two needs as the most important to help them reconnect. Other needs that were considered were Tim’s need to not have to talk about things all of the time, and Brenda’s for routine and structure. Combining all of this, the homework assignment was to find an activity that they would both enjoy and that they would willingly do together. The result was this- after researching and discussing together what they wanted, Brenda and Tim went out and bought a motorcycle together. They were now taking trips every Friday and Saturday evening when they got home from work. This was a great result that satisfied all of their needs:

• Tim’s need for excitement and newness
• Brenda’s need for physical touch (she had to hang on Tim’s back for long periods of time!)
• Tim’s need for “quiet time”, by not having to talk while riding the cycle
• Brenda’s need for routine and structure- by having a schedule that they could count on a weekly basis.
• Most importantly, their combined need of spending some quality time together so that they could re-connect
As a result of the therapy process, Brenda and Tim are still together and enjoying many other activities that they have found that help them reconnect consistently. Being aware of how to talk with each other, identify what their primary needs are and negotiate conflict has kept this couple together for the long haul.

All information is disguised in several ways for maximum confidentiality.  Submitted by marriage friendly therapist Kelly Chicas, LPCC, NCC, CRS.

[updated 6/29/2017] Originally published 6/4/2012

If your once passionate relationship now feels more like you’re roommates, all counselors listed on Marriage Friendly Therapists have the experience and specialized training to help you regain that intimacy. Begin the search for expert guidance in your area.

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