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The Affair You Don't Know You're Having

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WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

By Heather Johnson Durocher

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An e-mail here, a smile there. Maybe that "innocent" friendship with your guy friend isn't so innocent after all....

I'll call him John.

The first time we met, he actually struck me as a bit arrogant. He irritated me enough that I mentioned him to my husband in a "Can you believe this guy?" kind of way. But I interacted with John only occasionally, always through work and mostly over e-mail, so it wasn't a huge deal. He's just one of those people who gets under my skin, I told myself.

But a little over a year into our working relationship, something changed. One day, John let down his guard with me and I responded, I suppose in part because I couldn't help but be curious about his mostly hidden soft side. Our conversations turned to easy banter and later — I have a hard time admitting this even now — flirtation. Our e-mails, which could number several in one day, never included outright expressions of affection toward each other. Instead, our notes were mostly business peppered with friendly sparring. We shared a similar sense of humor. I felt that he got me.

I told myself I wasn't doing anything wrong. I had to talk with this guy for work, after all. And couldn't I have a friend who happened to be male? I also told my husband about him, even sharing when we'd meet for coffee or lunch (always scheduled with the intention of discussing business). My husband, busy with a demanding job, trusted me completely.

In the midst of working part-time and caring for a preschooler, a toddler, and, later, a new baby, e-mailing and talking with John felt like an innocent escape. I never would have said at the time that I was in a bad marriage — my husband and I got along well; we just didn't have a lot of quality alone time together — and I had no intention of crossing any physical line. But I increasingly found myself sharing more and more of my hopes and dreams with John instead of just with my husband. I anticipated my regular interactions with John in a way that was all too consuming. And it was John — not my husband — who was beginning to fill a key emotional need in my life. I was, in fact, unknowingly cheating on my husband; I was having an emotional affair.

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