Avoiding Emotional Adultery

Avoiding Emotional Adultery 

Adultery isn't just physical; it starts in the mind. Learn how to recognize when friendships with the opposite sex have gone too far.

by Dennis Rainey
High school chemistry taught me a very valuable lesson: When certain substances come into close contact, they can form a chemical reaction. I proved that one day during my senior year of high school when I dropped a jar full of pure sodium off a bridge into a river and nearly blew up the bridge!

What I've learned since then is that many people don't respect the laws of chemistry any more than I did as a teenager. They mix volatile ingredients without giving much thought to the consequences. I've discovered that many married people don't understand that a chemical reaction can occur with someone other than their mates.

Don't misunderstand me—I'm not just talking about sexual attraction. I'm referring to a reaction of two hearts, the chemistry of two souls.

This is emotional adultery—an intimacy with the opposite sex outside of marriage. Emotional adultery is unfaithfulness of the heart. When two people begin talking of intimate struggles, doubts or feelings, they may be sharing their souls in a way that God intended exclusively for the marriage relationship. Emotional adultery is friendship with the opposite sex that has progressed too far.

I have looked into the eyes of many men and women who have fallen into full-fledged adultery, and what I saw made me nauseous. As I've talked with them, I've discovered that, in most cases, the adulterous relationships started as a casual relationship at work, school, even church.

A husband talks with a female co-worker over coffee and shares some struggles he's experiencing with his wife or kids. She tells of similar problems, and soon the emotions ricochet so rapidly that their hearts ignite and ultimately become fused as one. To those who have experienced it, this bonding seems too real to deny.

You may be converging on a chemical reaction with another person when:
  • You've got a need you feel your mate isn't meeting—a need for attention, approval, or affection.
  • You find it easier to unwind with someone other than your spouse by dissecting the day's difficulties over lunch, coffee, a ride home … or through e-mail correspondence on the Internet.
  • You begin to talk about problems you're having with your spouse.
  • You rationalize the "rightness" of this relationship by saying that surely it must be God's will to talk openly and honestly with a fellow Christian.
  • You look forward to being with this person.
  • You wonder what you'd do if you didn't have this friend to talk with.
  • You hide the relationship from your mate.

When you find yourself connecting with another person as a substitute, you've started traveling a road that ends too often in adultery and divorce. But how do you protect yourself to keep this from occurring?

First, know your boundaries. Put fences around your heart to protect sacred ground, reserved only for your spouse. Barbara and I are careful to share our deepest feelings, needs, and difficulties only with each other.

Second, realize the power of your eyes. As it has been said, your eyes are the windows to your soul. Pull the shades down if you sense someone is pausing a little too long in front of your windows.

I realize that good eye contact is necessary for effective conversation, but there's a deep type of look that must be reserved for your spouse. Frankly, I don't trust myself.

Some women may think I'm insecure because I don't hold eye contact very long, but I don't trust my sinful nature. I've seen what has happened to others, and I know it could happen to me.

Third, extinguish chemical reactions that have already begun. If a friendship with the opposite sex meets needs that only your mate should be meeting, end it quickly. To stop a chemical reaction, one of the elements must be removed. It may be a painful loss at first, but it isn't nearly as painful as temptation that has given birth to sin.

Years ago, Ruth Senter wrote an incredibly candid article about her friendship with a Christian man she met in a graduate school class. Her struggle and godly response to this temptation were graphically etched in a letter that ended the relationship: "Friendship is always going somewhere unless it's dead," she wrote. "You and I both know where ours is going. When a relationship threatens the stability of commitments we've made to the people we value the most, it can no longer be."

Fourth, beware of isolation in your marriage. One strategy of the enemy is to isolate you from your spouse, especially by tempting you to keep secrets from your mate. Barbara and I both realize the danger of isolation to our marriage. We work hard at bringing things out into the open and discussing them.

Finally, never stop courting your mate. One of the most liberating thoughts I've ever had in my marriage relationship is that I will never stop competing for Barbara's love. As a result of that commitment, I stay much more creative in how I communicate with her emotionally and sexually.

I am well aware that if I start taking her for granted, someone else could walk into her life and catch her at a weak point. My constant goal is to strengthen her and let her know that she is still the woman I decided to carry off to the castle in 1972.

Many people who commit adultery express surprise that it happened; they talk as if they were carried along by an irresistible force of nature. But remember that nobody falls off a cliff if they're standing 40 feet away. Instead, they inch closer and closer to the abyss until they find themselves in danger.

You need to make your marriage relationship such a priority that you don't come anywhere near the edge.

Wishing He Were Your Husband 

When you're caught in emotional adultery, these four steps will help guide your heart back to your spouse.

by Sabrina Beasley
Pam is a faithful follower of Christ and very active in her church, so when she discovered her husband’s pornography addiction, she felt betrayed. It wasn’t long until a male Christian friend at work caught Pam’s attention. He was a family man, seemed to have his life together, and there was something about their personalities that just “clicked.” The more time she spent with him, the more she wished he was her husband, instead.

“We have the same ideas about life,” she said. “And there was something about his demeanor that I found lacking in my husband—he already had my respect, where my husband had lost it.”

This connection or attraction is called “emotional adultery.” A woman may not be cheating on her spouse in a physical way, but her emotion and mental devotion has been violated. That connection is so dangerous it can make a godly woman like Pam wish someone else was her husband.

Emotional adultery is an issue of the heart as much as physical lust is for a man. The Bible calls this coveting, and the Ten Commandments condemns it: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” [or in this case, husband] (Exodus 20:17). It may come in the form of long conversations, a look in the eyes or body language, a sense of warmth or belonging, a trust or confidence that makes you want to talk to him and share personal feelings. If any of these things occur, then you are in danger of emotional adultery.

If you’re thinking of a man right now and you’re wondering if you’re in danger of an emotional affair with him, then you probably are. We women know when we’ve made a connection, and if that’s the case, it’s time to stop. A “friendship” like this one could result in an actual physical affair.

How to Stop the Connection

If you are involved in an emotional relationship with someone other than your spouse, you must get out of it. 2 Timothy 2:22 tells us to “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Even if you’re unsure whether the relationship is inappropriate or not, it’s better to sacrifice the friendship than it is to endanger your marriage.

Here are four steps to help you get out of the relationship:

First, break all ties. The first and most important thing you must do is sever the friendship. There is no way around this. I have heard people express that they can still be friends with a person while maintaining a distance, but that is almost impossible. The safest thing to do is to stop speaking to this person altogether.

If you attend the same church and find that you still see each other too much during church activities, change places of worship. If he is part of your daily activities, such as jogging or meeting during breaks at work, then stop participating in those activities. If you can’t stop these activities, then change the times that you take part in them. Go jogging in the morning instead of the afternoon or take breaks at 2 and 4 o’clock, instead of 3 and 5. If he is part of the PTA meetings, then get as far away from him as possible and don’t make eye contact. Pretend that he isn’t there.

Cutting off the relationship will be the most difficult part of the healing. You will feel like you’re being hateful or a “snob.” But it’s better to appear to be a harsh person than to sin in your marriage. You may very well hurt your friend’s feelings, but it’s the sacrifice you must make to do the right thing.

Second, guard your heart and mind. Hollywood and media have a way of making us unhappy with real life. The hero of the romantic comedy may seem perfect and make you wonder why your husband doesn’t measure up. Then you become unsatisfied with your imperfect husband.

Judy Starr is a Christian author who was involved in an emotional affair. In her book Enticement of the Forbidden, she says, “We must take care to not engage in anything that draws our thoughts and hearts away from the Lord and from our husbands. By guarding what we see and hear, we keep impurity out and strengthen the walls around our marriage.”

This action is comparable to a man who looks at pornography. When a man views pornography, he sees a woman who is physically unreal. But in his mind he may compare her image to his wife, and a real woman cannot compete with imagined perfection. It’s the same with characters in television shows, movies, and books. No man in real life (not even your new friend) can compete with a movie-maker’s imagination. If you don’t want your husband to compare you to Playboy models, what makes you think he wants to be compared to Hollywood’s leading men?

Third, look beyond your husband’s faults into the man that he is. No one is perfect. Romans 3:23 assures us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Your husband will fail and disappoint you at times. But that’s why God has given us grace. How much grace have you given your husband for his shortcomings? How much grace do you expect from him for your shortcomings?

Start looking for the things that you love about your husband. Why did you fall in love with him in the first place? In what ways has he been good to you? Start trying to build the same friendship with him that you had with your male friend. Plan dates, share your dreams, and confide in him.

You will find that if you look beyond his faults you will find a dear friend, and this disconnection that caused you to move beyond your marriage for love, will begin to disappear.

Fourth, find a trustworthy female accountability partner. You need a good girlfriend with whom you can be brutally honest. James 5:16a says, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” Confess your feelings for the other man, and give your accountability partner permission to question your actions and hold you to God’s Word.

The Rest of the Story

It wasn’t long until my friend, Pam, realized that her newfound connection was a temptation from Satan. At one point, the two of them ended up on a business trip together and were often left alone in the car, but Pam chose to do the right thing.

Each time they were forced to spend time together, Pam made a concerted effort to keep from making eye contact. She turned cold in their communications, and prayed that God would help her combat this temptation.

Eventually Pam took an opportunity to leave her job, and she began to purposefully look at her spouse in a new light. “I’m really glad that God brought me out of that temptation,” Pam says. “Now when I look at my husband, I don’t feel the pain that I used to feel. I realize that God is working on him just like He’s working on me, and I’m glad that God has us together.”
These articles came from www.familylife.com
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1 / 1000 comments
Dec 15, 2010  ( 1 comment )  
Kathy Carr (kathy)
Very good article about the need to keep up fences and boundaries.
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