Dear Coleen,

I’m hoping for some advice on my marriage, as I feel very guilty about forming friendships with other men that my husband knows nothing about.

We’re both in our mid-40s, have been married for 12 years and have one daughter. I’ve always worked from home, even before the pandemic, while my husband goes into an office. I’ve got to know our local area and the people really well and have made lots of connections.

Over the past few years, I’ve become close to several men and the ­relationships have all been very flirtatious and we’ve connected over social media and messaged each other.

First, it was a trainer at the gym, then one of the dads from school, then a much younger guy who works in a local ­restaurant, and there have been more.

Nothing sexual has happened with any of them, although I did kiss one a few times and know it would have gone further if I hadn’t stopped it.

I always stop things before they cross a line into sex, but then I go looking for someone else. I can see that it’s a pattern and I’d love to know what you think I should do.

Coleen says

It sounds as if you have a very strong need to feel desired, get attention from other men, and to know that guys still want you.

That’s all coming from ­somewhere and maybe the roots are in your past or it’s because you’re craving something you’re not getting from your husband. Is he not making you feel attractive and wanted?

So you need to think about what’s driving this pattern. If it’s something that’s lacking in your husband and your marriage, then you need to address it with him and work through it.

If it’s something from your childhood or teenage years – maybe you had to fight for attention or felt overlooked – then counselling would be a good place to start. I suspect it’s coming from a place of insecurity. You’re still fighting for ­attention when you don’t have to.

However, you’re fooling yourself if you think it’s not damaging your marriage or you’re not really doing anything wrong because sex isn’t involved.

Becoming emotionally intimate with these men is still cheating and the lies and secrecy are damaging.

So think about your motivation and if you still don’t understand why you’re doing it, then try therapy.