flickr/Hernán Piñera

Emotional cheating can carry different emotional weights for people— for some it’s a gateway to physical cheating while others are just seeking emotional support that their partner isn’t giving them.

According to, signs of emotional cheating can include sudden secretiveness and an increased interest in technology and social media. In response to the question, “What ruined your marriage?” on Quora, user Jack O’Hara responded with just such a story:

My ex-wife and I shared an office. This one fateful day I happened to look over to the window to see the snow and saw she was felling a boss in Final Fantasy XI.

“I wish I were in your arms”

That was what she had just typed and sent to someone. He replied with a kiss, or something to that effect. I don’t quite remember the next few minutes. I do remember taking deep breaths and feeling my chest tighten. I calmly waited for her to finish her boss fight.

“Could you press ‘f’, please?”, I said. The ‘f’ key opened the chat history.


“Just press ‘f’… now press tab. Again. And Again”

She saw what I saw, wrapped her arms around me and sighed heavily, almost begging for forgiveness without saying a word.

“Um… what’s that about?” I was angry, confused and I felt light-headed.

“I don’t know. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a bit of fun”

I excused myself and went to bed, it was still light outside and I hardly slept that night. The next day I asked her again what was going on and she sighed heavily, frowned as if holding back a cry and repeated that it meant nothing. She was sad, but it felt like she was sad to have been caught more than sorry.

“I want you to think about what I’ve just seen… how that would make you feel, and how it could make me feel. How it could be taken.”

She sighed again.


We didn’t talk for the rest of the day until I approached her. The same conversation happened again and I ended with “I want you to think about whether you want to be married, and what this [the messaging] is. If you want time, I’ll give you time, but I want to know this week.” It was Tuesday, we didn’t speak for two days after that.

Those two days were long. I went over a great many things a great many times. I wrote down all of my questions – who is he? how long have you been flirting / messaging? who else knows? do you love him? have you exchanged pictures? talked on the phone? etc… ending with “do you want to be with me / do you want to be married?”

These may seem silly, but being emotionally cheated on is not something I was prepared for. I didn’t know what I wanted to know.

She summoned for me to talk on the Thursday evening. She was in our bedroom with the light low, looking away from the door. We went over my questions – they had been messaging for a few months, our mutual friends (at least 3 of them) knew and supported her decision, they had exchanged pictures, they had talked on the phone

“Do you want to be married?”

Again, she sighed. “…no”

“Right”, I said. “I’ll set up the futon in the office. I’ll move your desk in to here. I’m keeping the house – I paid the deposit, I pay the mortgage, I pay our bills. You can stay in this room while the divorce is sorted but after that I’ll pay for your flights – assuming you’re going back to America – and you can keep whatever savings are in America. I don’t want you to leave the country before the divorce is signed so it can get done quicker.”

The signature part of the divorce took around 3 1/2 months to complete. Every night I could see the light in the bedroom on until the early morning. My digital camera went missing and I found it in the bedroom when I went to get some clothes. I took it back and a few days later there was a transaction for £99 – to buy a new camera. She wasn’t done sending pictures and video calling this guy.

I started taking sleeping aids, but I woke up a few times with the feeling that my feet were missing. This stopped happening after I stopped taking the pills. I struggled to sleep properly for months. I graduated to drinking over a litre of Red Bull a day to try and stay awake. I was miserable.

£2,000 later and the divorce was final – there was a moment where I thought I’d lose everything – the court wanted to see more evidence for why she was not getting a share of the house because they felt the agreement was unfair, despite her signing it without duress, in the presence of a solicitor.

I ordered her flights and she left without saying goodbye. I boxed up her things and shipped them to her. After she left we exchanged two text messages

“You didn’t leave your keys”

“I’ll post them”

A few months later I got an email from her. The last communication.

“You haven’t transferred me my salary yet” – part of the agreement was that, on the divorce being final, she would receive her final salary (which was paid in to our joint account after she left).
We never spoke about why she decided to have this emotional affair, although through mutual friends – the kind that tell you things you don’t ask or care to know – I know she went to meet the guy and had a relationship. I do not know whether it amounted to anything.

Happy ending: I found new love and got married to my wonderful wife in June of this year. We have the most amazing son – he is only 21 months but he is everything to me.

This post originally appeared on Read Jack O’Hara‘s answer to What ruined your marriage? on Quora

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