Am I having an emotional affair?

Annoyed with your partner? Having trouble on apps? Dealing with a crush? A breakup? What's on your mind? Send a letter to [email protected] or fill out this form.

Dear Meredith,

My husband and I have three kids in elementary school. Our marriage is solid in some areas: kids, finances, taking care of the house, and we are good friends. But in the physical aspect, it is lacking. And while it was good when we first got together, it has fallen off quite a bit, much to his dismay.

It hasn't bothered me that much to be honest. Between kids, working full time, and some of my own health issues, it is what it is. But we've had a lot of discussions about the lack of physical intimacy. I will admit I'm not as physically attracted to him as I once was.

Three years ago, I met a guy who has kids the same age as mine. Thinking back to the early days, there was something about him that was intriguing and interesting, but I didn’t think much of it because I'm married. I kind of pushed it down and was friendly when I saw him, but nothing else.

We started talking to each other in person when we saw each other, and started messaging when COVID started. It was really nice to have a new friend to talk to during a weird time. In the last two years, our families have gotten closer and become good friends. We've done activities together outside, kid sports, and kid birthday parties. I'm closer to him than his wife, but his wife and I get along fine. I like her. The guy and my husband get along well too. We all have a lot in common.

The guy and I text quite a bit – not every day, but a few times a week. Looking at my text app over the last year, we have sent more than 1500 text messages to each other. My husband is OK with the friendship, but I don't think he realizes how much we talk though. Is this an emotional affair? I've read about them. We don't bash our spouses to one another. We talk about our kids, our mutual friends, planning activities. As far as flirting goes, it's been pretty limited over text. A few comments here or there. When we are in person talking, he sometimes stares into my eyes and it's like wow, that feels good. Physically, we keep our hands to ourselves, but we do have a tendency to stand near each other. Sometimes I catch him looking at me.

Obviously, I like him. I don't know how he feels about me. I know he likes me as a friend. We are both married, with kids, live in the same town, and hang around the same people. If anything did happen, it would be scandalous. I totally get that. By the way, I don't feel guilty about liking him at all – it feels very natural and normal, which is kind of scary and liberating at the same time. Just friends? Emotional affair? I feel like we are somewhere in the middle. Is this all in my head? What to do? Do I come clean? Or just let it naturally progress and see what happens? I want to be around him and talk to him! I'm sure there will be many thoughts about this!

– What to do?

You're thinking about this man a lot, and that's part of the issue. You've devoted so much time to him, some of which could be used to work on your relationship with your husband. You could send five less texts and take a 15-minute walk with your spouse. Instead of going back and forth with this man, you could get into bed with your partner for a half hour, tell each other a bunch of stuff about your days, and see where things go. Crushes happen, even during great marriages. But you can choose where to set boundaries and how to make sure you're still connecting with the person you love. I'm on team "talk to your husband about improving emotional and physical intimacy." Therapy might help, but really, quality time is the most important thing. Do the two of you have time to have fun? Try to make it happen.

I suspect, based on your last paragraph, that you need help figuring out where to set boundaries in your platonic relationship. I like that you say away from saying bad things about spouses. The rest of it sounds fine. This is more of a mindset issue. You ask whether things should naturally progress, and my answer to that is ... no? Progress to what? The status quo is the desired final form of this relationship. Your friendship – the one you share with your partners and families – is end game here. You love spending time with each other, but that doesn't mean you'd work as a couple. It’s easily to be smitten with someone when you don't have to pay bills and watch three kids with them.

Carve out time to be relaxed and engaged with your husband. You mention the house, the kids, finances, etc. There should be moments outside of the to-do list where you can be more than friends. If that seems impossible based on schedules, ask people in your community (maybe even the crush friend) to take a kid for a sleepover. Go to your community for help. You need a beat to connect with the person you married, to look into his eyes and notice things. If you don't see anything you like, that's another issue, but you're not there yet.

– Meredith

Readers? How can the LW unscramble this?