“He had an affair with my best friend”

June 27, 2018 1:49 pm

This has to be the hardest of all affairs to come to terms with.  In the process of losing a partner you lose a friend.  A whole social circle are left wondering what they do.  Sadly it’s not uncommon.  When we know that most affairs start as opposite sex friendships and we consider the gender mix of our social circles, you can see how this is not a rare occurrence.  There is, of course, a very strong moral line that is crossed here and that hasn’t escaped most of our clients, but they commonly agree the pull was too strong.  We’re here to help them understand why.

Andy* explains “I’m not sure how or why I did it or indeed what I was actually thinking.  I love my wife, my kids, my life.  My wife’s best friend has always been good fun, attractive and my wife and I have always enjoyed spending time with her and her husband on holidays, weekends and nights out.  We’ve always talked a lot and I’ve always flirted a bit in jest.  I got excited about our conversations and it made me more and more attracted to her.  I knew there was something between us and I put it to one side for over two years.  But when she said a few things to me that made me think she was attracted too, I really struggled to stop myself.  One kiss wouldn’t hurt.  But of course it was more than that.  We were secretly seeing each other for over a year when we  were found out, really sadly, by her teenage daughter.  The fall out has been horrific and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone”

 “But we were friends”

It was very sad to see Lisa Armstrong going through this pain as she heard about Ant McPartlin moving on with someone she considered a friend, through social media.  Even if a marriage is in difficulty it’s very hard to see an ex with someone you trusted as a friend  As Lisa implied, you invited them into your home, fed them and may even feel that you somehow pushed your spouse into a relationship with them.  It’s not about the food you made or the drinks you shared but the time and effort you entrusted to this relationship.

Lisa talks about the “girl code”.  She implies it’s just not what girls do to each other.  But sadly it can be.  Just as we’re seeing girls “troll” each other on social media about they way they look, girls can be as equally ruthless in love.  Just last night on Love Island, Megan stabbed a supposed “friend” in the back without any remorse.

Whether it’s your childhood friend, school mum buddy, nanny, cleaner or work colleague, the pain is still magnified when someone you trusted hurts you in this way.

When does it become an affair?

As we heard from Andy above, these affairs brew over a long period of time.  Connections are made and feelings grow.  But when is the line actually crossed?  Does it have to be a physical act to constitute an affair?  Not necessarily.

Relationships are more than sex.  Confiding in someone, feeling vulnerable with them , relying on them, are all essential elements to any relationship.  Mimicking these non-physical sides to a relationship with someone else constitutes an emotional affair.  The problem is these non-physical affairs are harder to quantify or challenge.  When is a good friendship something more?

Generally women will engage more in emotional cheating and men physical cheating and interestingly each will find the opposite harder to forgive.  Men really struggle with a physical cheat and women with an emotional one.  Men can’t deal with a woman being more physically attracted  to another man and women know the investment in an emotional connection so find it harder to forgive.  People are always surprised to hear that from the clients we see, emotional cheating is generally harder to come back from than physical but because it has built up over time and a lot more has been invested into it, the connection is harder to pull away from.

“Should I be worried?”

Shelley* came to see us a few weeks ago.  She wonders if she is being silly even suspecting her husband of 7 years, but she wanted to talk it through.  Her husband and her best friend have run together most weeks for the past year. They both really enjoy it and at first she liked the fact that they got on so well and she’s never liked running so it was nice Steve* can run with someone they both know.  But now she’s worried.  Steve has become distant with her.  He doesn’t want to talk about everyday things anymore.  The only time he seems properly happy is before and after a run with her friend.  

We’ve talked about the endorphins of exercise and it may just be that the relationship is having a tough time and he enjoys the space running provides.  But we have also talked about the danger signs and what to look out for. 

 If you’re getting emotional support and attachment elsewhere you are losing the connection with your partner.  This can make you distant.  For men, this is usually when they are getting a connection elsewhere.  They rarely just become distant.  This isn’t to say Steve is definitely having an affair.  A new emotional connection can even be subconscious, so he may not even know he is using up more emotional energy with Shelley’s friend, even if this is at all the case.  Shelley and I are now working through family patterns and other reasons, very personal to her case, why Steve might becoming more distant and how she can approach this incredibly sensitive subject with him.

“When will I get over it?”

The bad news for Lisa Armstrong is something like this can take years to move on from, if at all.  Losing a partner through a marriage breakdown can be like a bereavement.  When the loss is to a friend it can take even longer to get over. 

Working through all the elements of the break up, the emotions and feelings, can help at every stage of this cycle that people unwillingly find themselves in.  The Affair Clinic counsels and offers therapy to those at any stage, whether it be shock, anger, depression or even acceptance.

*Names changed

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This post was written by Yvonne