Adapted from a recent online discussion.
To start, try backing away from 'emotional affair' incrementally
Question Mark: How do I go about ending an "emotional affair"? I don't even know whether the other person involved would classify it as such, but I know my husband would, so I feel I should get out. However, the guy is a longtime friend and has done nothing wrong, so I feel strange about a formal "breakup."
Carolyn: Pull away. Reveal less. Invest more in your husband, consciously. You can do these to nudge yourself toward balance. If it turns out you can't get balance by increments, then you're going to need to say something like: "I'm coming to believe the amount of my time and myself that I share with you is unfair to my husband."
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Anonymous: For Question Mark: For what it's worth, it is very likely your husband knows you have a relationship that detracts from your marriage. Unrequited love/like has a way of creating a loneliness that others pick up on. In addition to trying to pull back from the person who is your current distraction, try being honest with your husband by saying something like, "I know I've been distant, and I really want to try to reconnect."
I think you will find it easier to put this "emotional affair" behind you if you have a real purpose in front of you: rebuilding your marriage with help from the necessary parties.
Carolyn: Well said. If it has gone this far, and it's hard both to pull away from the friend and pull the spouse in closer, then that points to an underlying problem that needs more attention than just resolving to exchange fewer e-mails with the friend.
One more thing: The longtime friend may have "done nothing wrong," but, when it comes to doling out fairness, he is third in line here, with Husband first and Question Mark second (since the marriage itself is a priority). A lot of friends get cut loose this way, which is unfortunate, but they're not the ones with the vows.
Don't worry about being a turnoff when pain is involved
Bootyville: I am having difficulty approaching the topic of sex with my man. Recently after a rather "athletic" encounter, I mentioned that, at times, things were less than comfortable. The response I got was "sometimes things need to hurt to feel good." I try to be very vocal and encouraging when we are doing things I like, but I am still frequently trying to set limits to what is pleasurable for me. We communicate well on other things, I just don't know how to approach this without it being a huge turnoff.
Carolyn: Please consider worrying less about being a turnoff and worry more about taking care of yourself. "It doesn't make me feel good to hurt. It just hurts. Please don't do that again."
At best this guy is obtuse — which means he could hurt you unwittingly — and at worst he likes to cause pain.
I'll say it again: Please, please take care of yourself, and don't be afraid of the consequences of doing so, because the consequences of not taking care of yourself are always going to be worse.