I am happily married male, mid-thirties, Central Europe, two nice kids. With my wife, we have a great relationship and no big issues, just the normal ones (if she only didn't burn the meal that often :) ).

Couple of years ago, we moved to her birth town, which led to me losing literally all of my close friends (we make visits on a yearly basis, but the closeness of our friendships dissipated). The acquired loneliness troubled me quite a lot and it was basically my only big problem at that time. As an introvert, I don't need many friends, but I need at least a few really good ones.

The situation changed half a year ago when I stumbled over a woman who turned out to be very "compatible" with me. She is also married and has kids, so it all looked utterly innocent at the beginning. My wife likes her and I like her husband and we even meet together and all works well. My wife knows we are very close friends.

The problem is, that while she bravely fills my social needs, we are also getting closer and closer together. When she was desperate, it was me rather than her husband who helped her out of it (her husband is not into these things much) and same situation happened the other way: she helped me tremendously while my wife didn't really care or have time at the moment. We can talk about many things which our partners dislike discussing. We have a lot in common. These facts made us really very close friends and at some point I realized I fell in love with her. It looks like she might love me too.

What's clear:

  • Neither me, nor her want to change anything. We know we want to keep things and families as they are.
  • We are completely positive that there will never be anything physical between us (we both have quite traumatic experiences of being cheated on).
  • We both see our relationship as something very special and helpful and if possible, we'd like to maintain it.

My question is: What's the best way to discuss this relationship with my wife without ruining what we have?

My goal in this conversation is to get her opinion on that. Something like "stop it now, or I am leaving" or "I am fine with her as long as..." or "it's ok, I actually also have a similar friend".

Update: In some comments and answers there is this "How can you know there will never be anything physical between you two?" topic. I just know, that's not an issue. That was actually my mantra last couple of months: "It kinda feels like more than just a friendship, is it still OK? Well, we'll never touch each other, so it must be OK." But then thanks to placing my question here I realized, that emotional affair is exactly what I am going through. And they state that it can be as harmful to the marriage as the physical affair, which destroyed my "no touching, no problem" theory.

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    Qyburn what do you mean about a possibly romantic relationship when you mean nothing physical. Are you suggesting that you are worried this is emotional cheating or that you want her on an emotional level of a partner?
    – Philbo
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 14:31
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    Philbo sorry, I am not well versed in these terms. By romantic I meant that we possibly have feelings going beyond an ordinary friendship. I don't know if that's called emotional cheating, it might.
    – Qyburn
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 14:35

4 Answers 4


You want to maintain what is essentially love-affair with another woman, and maintain your marriage.

This may be difficult to achieve, unless your wife has actually indicated she would be ok with an open relationship.

Whether things are physical yet or not is somewhat arbitrary. If you are "in love" with this other woman, eventually it will become physical.

Imagine a hypothetical conversation...

"Honey, I'm in love with another woman. I intend to continue seeing this woman, but I also want to stay married to you."

Very few spouses would be OK with this.

You could perhaps imagine how you would feel if your wife announced to you that she was in love with another man.

As far as I see it, you have 3 choices...

  1. Continue the affair in secret.
  2. End the affair and re-commit to your marriage.
  3. End your marriage and pursue a relationship with the other woman.

You've stated that you're completely positive that the relationship will never be physical. Is that realistic though?

Prior to this relationship starting, would you have been "positive" you would never be in-love with anyone other than your wife?

Most wedding vows include words to that effect.

To answer your question directly. I don't believe you can discuss this with your wife, and not expect things to change radically for you as a result.

  • 6
    I see the difference between going physical and falling in love. The first can be controlled (although sometimes not easily), while the latter cannot. Therefore a promise to never cheat physically makes sense to me, but a promise to never fall it love again does not (like can you even influence it, unless you give up meeting people?).
    – Qyburn
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 7:49
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    Falling in love, or not, is a choice, just as much as a physical relationship. If you find you are attracted to another person, you actively choose to seperate yourself from that person. Loyal spouses make these choices all the time. Consider first and foremost what is best for your family, and particularly your children. This will help you to make better choices. Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 9:53
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    If you are "in love" with this other woman, eventually it will become physical. That is not a given. It's perfectly possible to not have a physical interaction. However, there is a more relevant consideration that this is still emotional infidelity. While not as strictly defined as its physical counterpart, it is still a form of cheating. OP (and his lover) seem to both interpret "cheating" as being inherently physical.
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 12:23
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    @Qyburn do you see how you've already slipped? You initially stated that there would never be anything physical but have now suggested that being physical is "sometimes not easily" controlled.You're already creating wiggle room to make a "mistake". Sorry if this seems like jumping down your throat over a sentence but the first thing you must do is watch your language and thoughts for allowing things like that to pass. You'll find barriers easier to hold up where you can convince yourself they're completely impassable.
    – Philbo
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 14:51
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    @Philbo Well, to be completely honest, I meant that generally, i.e. for other people. In my case, I am absolutely positive, there is no chance. Without going into further details, feel free to imagine I am an asexual.
    – Qyburn
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 20:32

It kind of sounds like you want to have some sort of polyamorous relationship, where you can maintain what you have with your wife and family, while being afforded the freedom to persue this other potentially romantic relationship with your friend.

While that's not impossible, it may be somewhat problematic...

You're probably not sure how your wife will react to such a request, and you're probably not sure how your friend will react to such a request, nor do you know how your friend's husband will react to such a request. These are some pretty big things to consider, long before you think about broaching the subject with conversations.

Another thing to put some serious thought into, is whether you're using this new friendship/relationship to fill gaps and meet needs that aren't being met within your marriage. From some pretty painful experience, I can tell you that using polyamory to fix broken relationships, or fill gaps, doesn't tend to work out well. The new relationship tends to shine a spotlight on the lesser points in your marriage, those gaps can begin to look like chasms, when you have a new basis of comparison. To put it lightly, if it looks like you're looking to fill gaps in your existing relationship, polyamory isn't a good way to do that. Fix your existing relationship first before considering adding additional partners.

After giving all of that a good long hard think, long after, really really think that stuff through... If you still think it's a good idea... Then you're ready to ask this question:

My question is: What's the best way to discuss this relationship with my wife without ruining what we have?

If you payed attention above, you'll probably want to work on those gaps in your marriage before discussing anything about other relationships. You may even find that after working on those gaps that you don't need to lean on outside relationships.

If you've worked out those gaps, and still feel the need to persue another relationship, then it's time to explore polyamory.

Take it slow. Do your research. There are a number of pretty good online resources for information about polyamory. https://www.morethantwo.com is one that helped me navigate this stuff once upon a time, lots of good articles, give it a read before moving forward.

Let’s assume I buy all this. How do I make it work?

It’s easier to answer the question “How can you make polyamory NOT work?” Which is, in fact, a question I’ve addressed here. And in a handy how-to guide in PDF format here, revised and updated in October 2014!

As with any relationship, making it succeed is more complicated than making it fail. One of the surest ways to make it fail is to lie. If you can’t be honest with your partner, and I mean about everything, then polyamory isn’t for you. If you can’t abide by the rules of a monogamous relationship, then poly isn’t for you. If you cheat, then poly isn’t for you.

Another good way not to make a poly relationship work is to browbeat your partner, or coerce your partner into accepting it. Poly relationships don’t work if one of the people involved only grudgingly accepts it; it has to be for the benefit of everyone.

I’m with you so far. No lying, no bullying; check. Now what?

Depends on you, and on the person you’re involved with. When in doubt, if you’re considering trying a polyamorous relationship, it’s best to go slowly. Make sure you and your partner feel secure in what you’re doing. Make sure you don’t get so carried away that you forget about your partner’s needs. This is a very easy mistake to make, even if you’re watching out for it!

Also, if you are already in a relationship, it is vitally important to make sure that relationship is solid and stable before you go experimenting with non-monogamy. A relationship that is not healthy to begin with will further erode if you try to change the foundation on which it is built.

So: No lying, no bullying. Remember to consider the feelings of your partners—ALL of them. Don’t forget that everyone has to be happy, or you can bet that nobody will be! Pay attention to your lovers. Don’t get distracted.

Get over the idea that polyamory gives you license to be promiscuous. It doesn’t. Being poly does not mean you sleep with anyone you want. It doesn’t mean that your life is an endless vista of wild orgies. Put aside those ideas before you even start; that is not what it’s about.

A poly relationship works only if everyone involved is happy. While you can’t expect someone to be everything for you, all the time (even in a monogamous relationship), there is absolutely no dishonor in telling your lover point-blank, “Look, I don’t think you’re spending enough time with me. You need to pay more attention to me.”

From the "Polyamory FAQ": https://www.morethantwo.com/polyamory.html

Once you've worked on your foundation (worked on any and all pre-existing problems in your marriage), done your research, and are still sure you want to move forward...

Then talk to your wife about the possibility of having a polyamorous relationship. Again, take it slow. Be willing to share what you've learned from your research, and give them time to think it through. There's no guarantee that your wife will respond well to the idea.

Non-monagamy, of any kind, is a hard deal breaker for some people. So be advised and warned that there's no honest, risk-free way to bring the subject up. If you really want to do this, you're going to have to accept that risk.

  • 4
    The question as it reads now (perhaps it was changed after your answer) makes it very explicit that the goal is not polyamory; however what is going on would be called emotional cheating by some. Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 19:43
  • 1
    @reinierpost Can you point to where it's very explicit that the goal is not polyamory? Perhaps it could be read implicitly, but I'm not seeing it explicitly.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 20:19
  • 1
    @apaul: The second bullet point, near the end, is "We are completely positive that there will never be anything physical between us (we both have quite traumatic experience of being cheated)". I'd say that rules out any intention of polyamory. Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 21:12
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    @DavidThornley ... Polyamory isn't strictly sexual. It often has more to do with romantic relationships than anything else.
    – apaul
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 2:23

In short: Just talk to your wife what this best friend really means to you and ask her what boundries she feels comfortable with. The way I understood it you still consider your relationship with your wife as more important than this new found interest. By having agreed with your wife on acceptable boundries it'll be easier for you to hold on to those and still enjoy the comfort of a really close friendship.

Let me tell you the situation I was/am in and what I did wrong at first so it becomes clear why I advise the above. (sorry if it turns out long, it's an interesting situation and can't really cut out certain parts).

My SO and I have been together for 10 years now and will get married in about month from now. Like you I have no intention of cheating on her and plan to live the rest of my life happy together. That doesn't mean it's all perfect though. With planning the wedding and now finalising buying (/building) our own house we're both under a lot of stress that we can't really get away from in each others company since there's this constant reminder of what we still need to do.

A couple of years ago at my job I got closer to my colleague, let's call her M. At the time it was mostly just interacting as normal colleagues with a bit of joking about flirting which I already did with other male colleagues as well, so this in itself didn't mean anything. Until at one point at a company party I had a nice evening together with her, and somewhere along the conversation I semi-jokingly asked her if I was her type... to which she confessed I was. This caused some tension between us at work, still nothing serious but we could both tell that the insinuation jokes might have some truth in them as well.

A few months ago when it was her birthday I jokingly said "aww, I'm a day too late, this was my one chance to give you kisses without socially getting into trouble" to which she started challenging me and we ended up in the hallway with me giving her 3 kisses (as is customary here in Belgium... for friends and family, normally not for colleagues). Shortly after that (with us talking more casually from that point on) I actually confessed my feelings to her as well, but added that I would never follow through on them since I'm not going to give up my monogamous mariage with my wife. Between us this feels comfortable since we can talk openly between us about our feelings, joke about the flirting and know that neither of us will actually follow through on doing anything that crosses the boundaries we set.

Up to this point I really didn't keep anything secret from my SO. She knows about the 3 kisses and knows that I get along really well with M. She likes my honesty and knows nothing serious is happening between M and me... until those couple of days she went out of the country for work. I knew M had broken up with her boyfriend around that time and was going to have a finalising conversation with him the weekend right before my SO was going away. At this point I made the mistake of inviting M to my house without telling my SO beforehand. I personally was convinced that I didn't do anything wrong. My good friend needed support and I could easily provide that while at the same time have a break from the stress from planning our marriage etc...

Since I'm a firm believer of not keeping secrets I did ofcourse tell my wife about inviting M over at our house when she was out (I kinda wanted to tell her beforehand already but she was under too much stress that she wouldn't be able to handle going away for her job). And boy was she unhappy about it. She didn't trust me for a while and me still messaging M on whatsapp a lot in the evenings didn't really help either. So I sat down with my SO and talked about what actually happened (nothing much, just a bit of cuddling while watching Disney movies) and what it meant to me (just being there for a friend that needed support). My SO had some trouble placing it but I think she did understand that my true intention was still to make our marriage work and nothing serious was ever going to happen between me and M.

It took some time to recover though. My SO from time to time asked me to show whatever M was sending me on Whatsapp to see what kind of attention we give each other. I happily gave her my phone anytime she asked and tried to give her at least the same attention. Things improved more after she finally told me that she thought I was giving M too much attention and needed to learn what more apropriate boundries were. I followed through and greatly reduced the frequency of messaging M. Instead showing my SO that she still means a lot more to me than M ever would.

It completely turned around for the better when M invited me and my SO along with some of her friends to Disney Land (Paris). My SO would finally actually meet M and see how we interact and at the same time get some time out from all the stress she was in as well. Since then my SO no longer asks me to see my Whatsapp messages and even better, suggested that not only M but M's friends that went with us to disney land should also be invited to our wedding (but jokingly added that I shouldn't dance too close to M then :p).

At least for me being (mostly) honest worked out for the best. Although I never explicitly told my SO that I might have (had) feelings for M, she must've realised it's more than just a friend. At the same time since we vaguely agreed on what she thinks are acceptable boundries between M and me she can trust me to not cross those. So our marriage will still continue as planned (with some extra great guests) and I expect us both to live happily ever after.

  • 1
    Credit to you for genuinely trying to respect your SO's feelings. I think though generally maintaining very close relationships with other women can still become a big problem after marriage, no matter how innocent your intentions. There will come times when you don't feel very close to your wife, and it may be all too easy to look to your friend to provide emotional and physical comfort. Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 11:26

My wife likes her and I like her husband and we even meet together and all works well. My wife knows we are very close friends.

These facts made us really very close friends and at some point I realized I fell in love with her. It looks like she might love me too.

  • Neither me, nor her want to change anything. We know we want to keep things and families as they are.

  • We are completely positive that there will never be anything physical between us.

On the surface: Assuming that you keep it that way, I fail to see the problem.

  • Your wife knows that you are close friends
  • You both don't want to leave your families
  • You are no going to to sleep with each other

No Problem that you love each other - I (male) have also female friends (for nearly 30Y now) who are as dear to me as my wife, but up to know we did not unwillingly fall on top of each other, have sex and run away.

Unless your statements in the question honestly should be:

  • Your wife believes that you are close friends, but actually you already know that you are more
  • You both don't dare to leave your families, but if you could do it risk-free you would, and your mortgages keep you from doing so
  • You feel obliged not to to sleep with each other, but actually you enjoy holding hands a little bit to much an had trouble defining the line between hugging and cuddling or cuddling and petting.

In that case

  • Maybe you should go to professional marriage counseling before/instead of trying to settle this topic alone and under moral aspects.

Otherwise: Think about the following potential outcomes with an open mind before talking to your wife, and what you think of it

  • Polyamory: Maybe your wife is open to polyamory, and maybe you are. If nobody is being lied to then its not cheating. I know people who are very happy in something like this (would not be the right thing for me)
  • Maybe you can actually agree that family wise everything stays the same to the outside and that its the business of your families, who has physical relationships with whom. I know people who are very happy in something like this, too (would not be the right thing for me)

If marriage counseling did not help to restore in your marriage whats missing, and you are monogamous, then you should settle that relationship or you marriage in one way or the other rather quickly, otherwise somebody is going to get seriously hurt.

  • 1
    Hi and welcome to IPS! Please take a minute to read our citation expectations. Answers on IPS need to include some backup in the form of either personal experience or references - could you explain why you think this advice will work, have you used this approach in a similar situation before, or is this something you've seen recommended by someone else? You might find How do I write a good answer? helpful too.
    – Ael
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 20:17

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