The Emotional Affair: When Friendship Goes Too Far
- 2006 28 Nov
It begins innocently – You talk about the events of the day, your interests, share funny stories. Pretty soon you’re discussing the passions of your heart and confiding in each other about the problems in your marriages. What began as an innocent friendship with someone of the opposite sex has quickly become an emotional affair. And if you’re not careful, it could mushroom into a full-blown physical affair.
Of course, most of us have friends of the opposite sex and never stumble into an affair. But it can be easier than you think to cross the line in those kinds of friendships. That’s why you need appropriate boundaries with opposite-sex friends and you need to guard your heart – and the heart of your marriage!
We live in a culture that is largely hostile to biblical truth, moral purity and marital fidelity. Our hearts are continuously bombarded by temptations from our human nature, our culture, and the devil himself. Here are three things you can count on:
1. You have a marriage relationship that is worth guarding with your life.
2. Living in a world that is largely hostile to healthy marriages, your hearts will come under attack.
3. You cannot survive these attacks on your own. You and your spouse must stand together against your common foe. You must guard your heart and guard each other’s heart. And you need others to stand with you over the long haul – Christians who share your desire for a divorce-proof marriage.
Men: It can be especially easy for you to begin capturing another woman’s heart without even realizing it. You may think you’re just having an enjoyable conversation with a coworker, but it may be the only attention that woman has had all week. Before you know it, your conversations move from friendly chatter to intimate subjects. We’re not suggesting men can’t have friendships with other women, but we are warning it can be easier than you think to cross the line.
Think of it this way: If this woman invited you into her house and the two of you were along, would the topics and conversation stay the same as they do in public or with other people? And here’s a word of advice for you guys: Trust your wife’s instincts in this area. If your wife suggests another woman is behaving inappropriately, she is probably right. Most women have radar, an innate alertness to nonverbal communication and an ability to translate body language into emotional facts. Your wife probably is able to see these things clearly. Regard it as a gift from God that will keep you out of danger.
Women: you need to know that for you, as well as men, adultery begins in the heart. Be careful you are not lured away from your marriage by a man’s tenderness, openness, warmth, personality, and attentiveness. When you sense that someone else is captivating your heart, when this attraction results in increased disappointment or frustration toward your husband, or when you begin to dwell on or act out your fascination, it’s time to confront the threat.
Here are several practical tips that will help you guard your heart in your friendships.
1. Dismiss and replace tempting thoughts. Don’t allow any unwholesome thoughts to make a home in your mind. If those thoughts enter your mind, it’s time to look away or leave the room. If you can’t leave, shift your focus away from that person by thinking of your spouse. Start praying for your spouse and your kids. Wrong thoughts don’t easily coexist with sincere prayer.
2. Don’t gaze too long into the windows of the soul. Eye contact in a conversation is good. But if you catch a look that is too intense, too engaging, or makes you uncomfortable, avert your eyes and resist that gaze. A deep gaze can stir something in one or both of you, something you don’t want stirred up. Save that eye contact for one person: your spouse.
3. Don’t go out of your way to see or meet someone. Don’t take a different hallway back to your office just to encounter that attractive new employee. Don’t select a seat in church because it is near that person who loves to talk to you after the service. Don’t linger after a meeting hoping to be noticed by that certain person. And don’t meet with a tempting person privately, even if the purpose is legitimate. Invite your spouse to come along, meet with a larger group, or meet in a public place where you are never alone.
4. Be careful with physical touch. You may like to shake your friends’ hands or even sometimes give them a hug, and you may be very affectionate with your family. But no matter how affectionate you are at home, you need a different standard with members of the opposite sex. Here’s a helpful question to ask yourself: If your spouse, your children, your mother and Jesus were in the room watching you give that hug or pat, would they heartily approve? If not, don’t do it.
5. Keep conversation general. Many affairs are started or fueled when a man and woman who are not married to each other talk about their personal lives. Talk about the weather, work, the new pastor, the news, and the like. But if the other person starts sharing something of a personal nature – even if disguising it as a "prayer request" – redirect or terminate the conversation.
6. When all else fails, run for your moral life. If for some reason you find yourself in a compromising situation with someone of the opposite sex, immediately and physically remove yourself from that situation. You don’t have to explain or apologize. And don’t let the other person convince you it’s no big deal. Do what Joseph in the Old Testament did when Potipher’s wife attempted to seduce him: drop everything and run.
You can say no to the threats to your own marriage by guarding your heart, and standing strong for a godly marriage.
Portions of this article were adapted from "The Great Marriage Q&A Book," Copyright 2006 by Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg, all rights reserved. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.,www.tyndale.com. To order this resource or to find our more about Dr. Gary and Barb – Your Marriage Coaches, visit www.drgaryandbarb.com or call 1-888-608-COACH.
Married over 30 years, the parents of two adult daughters and four grandchildren, Dr. Gary and Barb Rosberg, your marriage coaches, have a unique blend of insight and wisdom that touch people of all ages. Together with Gary's 25,000 hours of counseling experience and Barbara's gift of encouragement and biblical teaching, they are equipping thousands of families across the nation through their interactive daily radio program, conferences, and marriage and family resources.