You Can Leave Even If it’s “Just” an Emotional Affair

When I think of emotional affairs, I think of Cannibal Cop, the New York police officer who got his rocks off on images of mutilated women and fantasies to kidnap, torture, cook, and eat women, including his wife.

Cannibal Cop kept dossiers on over a hundred women, using law enforcement databases to gather names, photos, dates of birth, height, weight and bra sizes. (The NY Daily News reported that. I’d like to know what law enforcement database records bra size???) Some of these women knew him, and he went to lunch with at least one of them, apparently to heighten his fantasy because he wrote to one of his fetish buddies: ““I love that she is asleep right now, not having the slightest clue of what we have planned. Her days are numbered. I’m glad you’re on board. She does look tasty doesn’t she?”


Although he was initially convicted, an appeals court eventually overturned that conviction, declaring his behavior nothing more than fantasy. His wife fled years ago with their young child and I wish them all the best in protecting themselves and recovering from this nightmare.


Back in February, CBS News asked Cannibal Cop if he would go back to visiting websites dedicated to his dark, disturbing fetish. His response—despite losing his wife, child, career and spending time in prison because of his proclivities—was: “I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I’m not interested in it right now, but if I wanted to, it’s not illegal.”


In other words, oh-hell-yeah. Because that’s the way—uh-huh, uh-huh—he likes it. That’s who he is and that’s what he does.


Obviously, Cannibal Cop is in another galaxy from your typical emotional cheater, but here’s why I always think of this case in connection to “fantasy affairs”: I’d leave his ass in a hot second even if I absolutely, one-hundred-percent knew he’d never do the things he whacks off to. Yes, mostly because I think he’s a sick freak and I’d be terrified to be within a thousand miles of him but also because his fantasies encroached on real life (dossiers, contact with the women, sharing his sexual desires with other people).


The Ex doesn’t want to kill and eat me … well, maybe he wants to kill me, I don’t really know because we don’t talk all that much, but I’m sure if he does it’s because of divorce anger and not some fucked-up sexual fantasy. But for years, I rationalized his emotional affairs because I had no proof he’d crossed the line physically and, therefore, hadn’t done anything really wrong. He, of course, pushed this line of reasoning, along with blaming me for his “need” to seek out other women.


But even if he kept his dick in his pants, his “fantasy affairs” encroached on real life. An emotional affair and a physical affair share a lot of the same deal-breaker behaviors: lying about who he was with and why, lying about his feelings for other women, confiding our marital problems to women to whom he was sexually attracted, stealing time from our marriage and family to pursue women who made him feel “special,” and gaslighting me into believing I was jealous, paranoid, and unsophisticated for having a problem with his “friendships.” And none of this includes the time I found him answering Craigslist sex ads while I was pregnant with our first child and the time I caught him hiring a hooker when I was pregnant with our second—he swore those were just “fantasy” and he’d never go through with it. When I found the sex ad he posted after we split up, he claimed that was just fantasy too. (That’s the way—uh-huh, uh-huh—he likes it…)


I wasted years second-guessing my feelings because I thought it would be irresponsible of me to break up our marriage—especially with two young children—over just a fantasy. But if, in a future relationship, my partner engages in any single one of these behaviors (let alone all of them over many years), I’m out the door. Because boundaries. Because someone who engages in these behaviors is a lying, cheating bastard unavailable for a relationship. Because even if no bodily fluids are swapped, this is betrayal. Because this is probably a physical affair(s) where no proof has yet been discovered. Because even emotional affairs destroy trust, and without trust, you’ve got nothing.


If you, like I did, endlessly argue with yourself about whether an emotional affair is as much of a marriage-ender as a physical affair: yes, quite possibly it is. We all deserve to be treated with respect and this is something cheaters of any stripe can’t offer. It’s rarely Just A Fantasy.


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