Q&A: I've discovered my partner is having an emotional affair

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: I've recently found out my FIFO partner has had an emotional affair. I believe strongly he has had physical affairs before. We have been married for a long time and have children, and I am at a loss.

A: I'm really sorry to hear that things have been difficult for you with your partner. I assume that by "emotional affair" you mean that your partner has turned to someone else to share his emotions, and to give and receive emotional support. Many people find emotional affairs as hard to cope with as physical affairs, because they can be even more intimate. I’m sorry that this has happened to you.

I definitely think that the first step should be for you to seek some personal counselling for yourself – to talk through what you have found out, and why you think he has had affairs in that past. Counselling can also help you to work out what you want to do next.

I firmly believe that couples can overcome an episode of infidelity if they work very hard together on understanding what happened. (Here’s a previous column: Dealing with the betrayal of infidelity.) Unfortunately, I don’t see that the outcome is as positive when there has been more than one case of infidelity in a long-term relationship.

Of course, people choose to stay in a relationship for all sorts of reasons, and some choose to stay even knowing that their partner is unfaithful. If you do decide to continue with the relationship it would be a good idea to have an open discussion with your partner about how this might work for you two. Again, counselling will help you to clarify your thoughts and feelings about this.

Whatever happens, please make sure that you take good care of yourself in the meantime, and have a chat with your GP if your sleeping and eating are affected by the stress you’re currently under.  

To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.

Angie Willcocks is a registered psychologist with a private practice in Adelaide – for details about Skype consultations please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She’s an expert in tackling issues such as depression, anxiety, postnatal depression, child sleep routines and relationship difficulties. She has a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Psychology and a Masters of Counselling Psychology. She is also the co-author of The Sensible Sleep Solution: a guide to sleep in your baby’s first year, which can be ordered from her website www.angiewillcocks.com.