Emotional Affairs–The Dangers are Real

'157/365 I am...Cute' photo (c) 2009, Rachel Carter - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Today’s post is a guest post from Marsha Rozalski, author of Godly Whispers: A 90-Day Devotional to Help You Recover from Your Spouse’s Affair

“People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.”
(Proverbs 10:9, NLT)

Last year I had a Christian woman tell me she found her “soul mate.” I was more than intrigued since I knew she’d been married over 20 years. There were warning bells going off and I felt my stomach drop as she told me her story. I knew she was falling into an emotional affair and she was heading down a very slippery slope that never has a happy ending.

Her church hired a new choir director and, as all affairs do, it started out very innocently. He would compliment her on her voice, giving her praise and attention every practice. His words stirred up feelings inside her of loneliness and longing for affection. Feelings she didn’t even realize she had. If she’d only realized she was feeling lonely and ignored by her husband she could have talked with him about her feelings. But instead of turning to her husband, she turned to the new choir director.

She started staying behind after everyone left so she could talk with him. Over these “chats” he told her his marriage was not doing well and she in turn did the same. Before either of them realized it, feelings of attraction started stirring in their hearts. She told me how much she enjoyed their chats, that he understood her and that they had a “real” connection. She then told me she just knew he was meant to be her true “soul mate.”

This “soul mate” idea can do a lot of damage. When you pledge yourself before God to someone in marriage, you become soul mates.

“A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
(Mark 10:7-9, NLT)

Christians seem more likely to get mixed up in emotional affairsThey feel it isn’t sin if there’s no touching involved. An affair is not defined by whether you have sex with the other person, but rather the secrecy involved and the fact that a spouse is being betrayed. Think about it: would you be hurt if your spouse had a “secret friend” that he or she shared their deepest secrets with that you knew nothing about?

Years ago, I remember a woman that started an emotional affair with another man she felt she had more in common with than her own husband. I guess the children they shared didn’t count. She became so entangled with this man that she left her husband for him. They didn’t last a year. Today she’s alone and the children are shuffled between both of them. Many times we find ourselves suffering from the “greener grass syndrome.”

We need to learn to be very honest with ourselves and God. Even thinking about and wanting to have an affair is sin.

“‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.”
Matthew 5:28 (The Message)

Know this; an emotional affair is only the beginning of a physical affair.

This issue isn’t only for those who are married. I’ve known singles–both men and women–who struggled with falling for someone who’s married. We must all learn to guard our hearts against developing inappropriate friendships with the opposite sex. If you’re in a “friendship” with someone of the opposite sex that isn’t appropriate, I strongly urge you to end it now. You must stop feeding this addiction and run away from this sin. Do everything possible to make this happen including changing your email address, phone numbers and daily routines.

Always guard your heart and avoid inappropriate friendships with those of the opposite sex. Never speak of your marital problems or personal issues with someone of the opposite sex, save that for your same sex friends or a counselor. Have someone keep you accountable and ask how you are doing every now and then with your friendships. If you are married, take the time and effort to invest in your marriage. After all, your husband is your only true soul mate.

You can find Marsha’s book here:  Godly Whispers

Also here are a couple of articles I have written on emotional affairs that may help you, too:

Comments

  1. The grass is always greener where you water it. It is so, so important to place strong protections around your marriage and to guard your heart, especially when things aren’t going so well and when your spouse isn’t showing you the love you need. It’s not worth it to jeopardize your marriage, and it is so incredibly worth it to stick things out with your spouse and work to make things better. Trust me!

    I made up a little song one day, for no reason, but it fits a lot of situations…. “Don’t do it – it won’t get you very far. Don’t do it – all it will do is harm. It’s plain to see, even to me. Don’t do it – it won’t get you very far.” …..It’s better when you can hear the tune. Kind of.

  2. Where you find substance in another person (emotional affair) is most likely where there is lack in your marriage and you need to talk about it.

    When my baby was born, I had this weird (call it hormonal) crush on the pediatrician. I felt like a silly school girl (in an embarrassing way, not a cutesy wootsy way). Of course, I didn’t flirt with him or hang around. I left as quickly as possible, confused as to why I felt butterflies around him. Other than the obvious strange, post partum hormones, it was probably because here was this man taking great care of my baby, to the point of helping me save my baby’s life (he was a preemie). My husband, on the other hand, was clueless, stressed out, frustrated with the interruption of a baby and being completely helpless to do anything for the baby, would lash out at times. I would sit in the living room with a screaming baby in the wee hours of the morning crying my eyes out because I didn’t know what to do and hubby was yelling out the bedroom door to shut that kid up! He was also unsaved at that point. Now, he is saved and an AMAZING father who’s very patient and understanding with babies.

    So, where I felt butterflies for this man who cared so much for my baby is where I was lacking with my husband.

    I was at a friend’s child’s birthday party and a divorced father was there who paid me some positive attention after just having a baby. Let’s be honest, girls, there aren’t many men who pay attention to a woman when she’s just had a baby. Hubby and I were a bit distant and disconnected at that point and the compliments, affection and attraction was limited between us. Anyhow, my inner flame lit up like lightening in the night sky when he paid positive attention to not only my, but my baby. As soon as I recognized it, I backed off, though. But there again, I found substance in his behavior towards me because hubby and I were lacking in that very thing. Of course, as I said, in both cases I fled FAST and we resolved it.

    So, what I’m saying is that if you find yourself falling for or becoming attracted to someone other than your spouse, think about where you find substance with that person and realize that is where your marriage may be lacking. Talk to your spouse, maybe go to counseling if it isn’t easily remedied between the two of you, and even if your spouse does nothing to remedy it, give it to the Lord instead of going down that slippery slope into an emotional affair.

  3. I just posted this on my FB author page, because I firmly believe this is a topic that needs to be out in the open within the church. I’m a writer, and I definitely weave this struggle/theme into my novels. Glad to see you’re talking about it!
    Heather Day Gilbert recently posted…Classy Quotes Wednesday–GATSBYMy Profile

    • Thanks, Heather! And I think it’s sad how many emotional affairs actually begin in church.

      • And in those church based emotional affairs often they begin with sharing prayer requests with the opposite sex. When my husband joined an online “Christian Book Club” eleven years ago, I wasn’t very concerned. We had been married over 20 years then. Two years ago I found out that it was more about sharing “prayer requests” and that they were encouraged to “protect the privacy of the group” with a what is said here stays here policy. The other members are predominately women and most of them are divorced. After finding out that his relationship with one of them had escalated to phone sex and cybersex, I also discovered that he had been secretly writing to at least three of them. He was calling these same three very personal nicknames and was openly flirting in the group. Some of the nicknames are of fairy tale or well known comic book characters. The violent (women beating up women) videos he hid on the computer also had women in costumes depicting these same characters.
        After discovery, two of them have aggressively pursued private communication with him, texting, Facebook messaging, emails, and calls when I am at work. The attitude from both my husband and these women is that because they are “Christians” they are entitled to any communication that they want. Also, any effort to discuss how this makes me feel is met with name-calling “judgemental”, “b*%@#”, etc . And being told at full volume that these communications and friendships are none of my business. And these are all online. We have been married 35 years. I cannot even begin to express how devastating these last two years have been. And to add to the humiliation he has refused physical intimacy for over 12 years. I tried taking us to a pastor, who said I needed to forgive him( and he assumed my husband apologized and fully committed to recovery). I asked for counseling and he refused to spend “his” money. Trying to talk further just led to threats of being locked out of the house and having my things smashed.

  4. An affair is not defined by whether you have sex with the other person, but rather the secrecy involved and the fact that a spouse is being betrayed. LOVE IT!!!
    I think this sentence can go for those who look at images on-line or read “harmless” books.
    Thank you for sharing and be blessed:)

  5. I saw it on Heather’s FB oage, re-tweeted it and I’ll post it on my FB page too.
    Great article Sheila!!

  6. cornflake girl says:

    This is so true. I am currently going through this at the minute with my husband and a girl from our church. He started helping out around her house with jobs she needed doing. ( she’s a single parent), but gradually he was spending more time there than with us. It came to a head about 5 weeks ago when I was sure he was planning to leave and we spend most a week talking and crying. He said he didn’t mean to hurt me and wants to work through it. I am finding it so hard to forgive at the minute and would appreciate any prayers. PLEASE if you ever find yourself wanting to spend more time with someone other than your partner, stop it immediately and work on your relationship. Everyone only ends up deeply hurt.

    • Oh, girl, that is so sad. I’m so sorry that you’re hurt. It’s wonderful that your husband wants to work it through and stay with you, but it doesn’t stop the hurt. I pray that you both will be able to walk through this and emerge at the other side totally in love with each other again.

    • living in blurred lines says:

      Oh dear! I personally think your pastor needs to know about this. I had to do this concerning my husband and our babysitter who attends our church. Hubby was getting too cuddly with her and stroking his ego by paying her attention to the point where friends, family and her parents became uncomfortable. Hubby just figured I was jealous (darn right I was!) because in his mind he wouldn’t consider sleeping with her, but he enjoyed the daddy/non sexual sugar daddy role. After she, her mother and I discussed what to.do, I went to our pastor to make him aware of the situation. Hubby just didn’t see anything wrong with his behavior. His I love you, I’m not going to sleep with her idea made him think that was good enough and any concern on my part was childish, insecure jealousy, which of course it wasn’t. He was passing the buck. I’m glad your husband is working through this with you and seems repentant. My husband still seems clueless that his behavior was inappropriate.
      living in blurred lines recently posted…New Themes: Gridspace and AsceticaMy Profile

  7. I have a unique take on emotional affairs. I firmly believe in everything stated in this post but I also believe that as a remarried former widow, to allow myself to wallow on the death of my first husband and to go there mentally, yearning for him in an intimate way, is also a form of emotional adultery and it is very, very dangerous for those whose spouses have died and then they remarry, not quite over their grieving process of the deceased spouse. Just something to keep in mind when thinking through emotional adultery. ANY person, dead or alive, that takes intimate feelings away from you marriage is a slippery slope to be on and probably not something that should be entertained.

    • Oh, Jessica, thank you for that note. And I can just imagine how difficult a balance that must be after losing someone you love so much. I’m glad that God brought you someone else into your life!

    • Liz Fenstemaker says:

      Excellent point Jessica! I would add that that includes former boyfriends… I know many women struggle with the,” if only…..” ~ there was a reason it didn’t work out, but when we glamorize them in our minds we forget that!

  8. This happened to me though my story is somewhat different. Yes, it was in a church setting. I was in denial about it for twenty years, but when I came out of denial about it I found it quite hard emotionally and I had to find forgiveness (for myself even though I didn’t do anything wrong, and for the person who instigated the emotional affair) and try and move on.

    The church it happened in with me was a very conservative and exclusive type church – but therein lay some of the danger: and churches do not have written over them “Risk of Emotional and Spiritual Abuse” – if it had I would never have set foot over the threshold.

    When I became a member of this church the “Recording Brother” (he was the “leader” of this particular church) became emotionally attached to me in a strong way. I did not want this but did not know how to navigate it. He was married (I was single) and he was 41 years older than me, and he had been in a very unhappy marriage for decades (he confided in me), was terminally ill with prostate cancer (he eventually died after a couple of years) and he had no children because his wife had a fear of childbirth and refused to have children.

    He was desperately lonely and ill, but I always felt he should have tried to reconcile with his wife and overcome whatever their problems were. He told me his wife had had an emotional affair herself with someone in the church years ago.

    He started by wanting a “hug” (in the car park at church when it was dark and there was no-one around). . The relationship never turned sexual (well he was a lot older than me anyway) – but he did want physical affection and this was in the form of a hug – often at the end of his drive as he saw me off each week after choir rehearsal.

    However I knew it was all wrong. But I didn’t know how to reject a dying man and I just didn’t know how to navigate this strange relationship. He posed himself as a “spiritual father” but really he wanted a “spiritual wife” and he often spoke about the “completeness” one feels in a male/female relationship.

    He started to slip me notes in the meeting behind his wifes back and also requesting to see me alone arranging a date, time and place – this was in the days before mobiles (all he did was talk when we met – and he wanted his “hug”. He told me how he hadn’t wanted to marry his wife, his grief on the night before their wedding knowing he was making a terrible mistake but he hadn’t got the courage to call it off, and how he felt he had lied to God during his wedding vows.

    But I hated all the secrecy – it made me quite ill and I well remember spending a whole Saturday afternoon just crying and crying but I didn’t know what to do I was so confused. I had recently re-committed my life to the Lord after a decade of being back-slidden and I was just so disappointed I was having to negotiate such a strange relationship which I knew was wrong, yet I didn’t know what to do: I felt shame even though I didn’t do anything wrong. His wife knew he was attached to me, but I always tried to be sisterly and after he died I was a great help to her a like the daughter she never had.

    Looking back, I have now drawn a line under it and moved on, and if I were to see him face to face I would acquit him – his pain must have been intense. But he really really should have sought comfort in his marriage and made the effort to overcome the difficulties there. He should not have done what he did to me. He also was quite controlling (though he meant it for good but was blind to it ) – telling me what I could and could not do (the chruch was very “legalistic”) and like a fool I “obeyed”, but I so wanted to please the Lord, and be a good church member. I feel so angry about my own gullability now because the things he told me I should and shouldn’t do were of no consequence to God (eg such as I couldn’t apply for a job with the police; he made me give up my choir and join the church one; and so on).

    I think looking back I should have had stronger boundaries and just tried to politely ignore him and tell him nicely he was wrong. But I was a bit clueless because there was nothing sexual about the relationship some of it seemed OK, yet oddly enough all the time I was in this strange “relationship” I did not feel “available” for a relationship with Christian men my own age because I knew he would feel rejected. It was all rather weird.

    I now see what happened to me as emotional and spiritual abuse, even though the pertpetrator was one of the nicest and godliest men in some ways – he really did love God, but he was so lonely and blinded by his own desperate needs.

    Any men reading this – all I can say is, do not mess with women’s emotions on this (and vice versa). And Christian women do NOT need “spiritual fathers” – however thinly veiled it might be.

    • You bring up an excellent point. I think all of us need to be vigilant and watch what’s happening to those around us in our churches, so that we can spot when things like this happen to those who are vulnerable. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Liz Fenstemaker says:

      Anon, Your story makes me wonder if you suffered abuse as a child -often times those who have been wounded as children lack healthy boundaries, can tend to be people-pleasers & often are further abused as adults due to lack of healthy boundaries & the people-pleasing. I come from a background of deep childhood wounding & as I am working through Dr Paul Hegstrom’s videos, it finally all makes sense. My husband & I will begin attending his Life Skills International classes this week. I think his research, materials, classes would be of benefit to you, also. He is a believer, it is all taught from a Biblical perspective, is backed up by neuroscience research & the program has been around for over 20 yrs: http://www.lifeskillsintl.org/

  9. Boundaries!

    My husband had a full-blown affair. We were in recovery when he fell into a compromising situation which blossomed into an emotional affair with another woman, and it almost became physical before he woke up and put a stop to it. In later counseling we determined that he never did have proper boundaries in place. Even before the full-blown affair, he was actively involved in an inappropriate friendship with an ex-girlfriend, so it was clear that lack of proper boundaries had been going on for a long time. Now, neither of us will be really alone with a member of the opposite sex….and we are VERY careful with our Facebook accounts.

    I know I certainly have to be careful. I relate to the feelings for a doctor comments above, because just recently, a new doctor I saw about an upcoming surgery started chatting with me as we discovered things we have in common, and I realized how attractive he was and…I had to stop my own brain from thinking on it. I had to try and rein in the conversation as I felt us starting to “click.” It can happen that quickly if we don’t have those boundaries in place.

    I’ve learned that I should never put my trust in myself or even fully in my husband. My trust is in the Lord.

    This has been a really, really painful lesson for my husband and me. We’ve been putting the pieces back together and have a lot of hope for the future. Our kids mean the world to us, and we want them (and us!) to have the most awesome life possible. Boundaries might be work sometimes, but they are worth it.

    • Yes boundaries are so important and I see that’s where – if I am to apportion any blame at all to myself – I failed myself. However I would say this, in my case it was all subtle in some ways and it is this that was difficult. Because of the age gap and him posing as a “spiritual father” it veiled what was going on underneath,though in my spirit I sensed something wrong, but he was an authority figure in the church and because the church was legalistic and I was a compliant person wanting to please God and “those that have the rule over you” it was deceptive also. The church was also very male dominated – almost patriarchal. I went along with that kind of theology at the time, but it has been coming to terms with this awful experience twenty years on I am now totally against male-led churches and patriarchal systems, as I see how damaging they can be when things like this happen. This would not have happened to me in an egalitarian church.

  10. You are dead on. Emotional affairs are the start of physical affairs. Mine started out so innocent I didn’t even know it was happening. It stayed that way for a year before turning physical. I’m just now healing from it and marriage is healing as well. It is so dangerous! Thank you for writing this .
    http://lovingwhenithurts.blogspot.com

  11. After seeing this article on FB, I referenced it on my own blog (http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/)

    From a guy’s perspective, emotional infidelity is a half-step short or actual physical adultery – if even that far removed.

    The excuse that’s so often used is “…but we’re SOULMATES”. Yeah. That’s great. Put a pseudo-divine imprimatur on your adultery, and that somehow makes it OK? God brought you together? Frankly, even the word ‘soulmates’ makes me want to puke.

    It’s a sham,. Marriage is a promise between two people to love and honor one another, through good times and bad, sickness and health. No where is it said that two people who live intimately together will always ‘connect’ in a ‘soulful’ way.

    But – we can connect in a mutually-supportive way, and use that mutual support – and respect – as a way to build an intimacy far more durable than any promised by the ‘soulmate-New-Age-horses***’.

    Beyond that, if you’re involved in that sort of relationship, you, or your partner, or both of you, are USERS. You’re using the situation to assuage your ‘needs’, while retaining the ability to bolt back behind the fence of your marriage (which you expect to be there for you).

    In the end, there’s no excuse. You need to talk to someone privately about problems in your marriage, talk to a pastor, priest, or counselor.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Transparent SoulmatesMy Profile

  12. Heartbroken says:

    Came across this article this morning. I discovered last night that my husband of 9 years,father of my two children, my best friend( or so I thought) was having an emotional affair with a woman he knew in high school and recently reconnected through fb. They were exchanging very raunchy messages and I love you’s. I discovered by looking at his call history that he called her while he went to the store ” to do me a favor and grocery shop for me”. Even texted her after and said he couldn’t think of a lie to tell me so they could talk longer. Found out that he sends her pictures of our children on our family days out. Right there under my nose this whole time. The only saving grace is that she lives 3 states away. But I’m horribly embarrassed bc we come from a small town. She is bound to know some of my friends or family members. My husband claims to be very remorseful but it’s so hard to believe him when he told this woman that he loved her. I caught him about 5 years ago in a similar situation with random women online and discovered he watched a lot of porn. Those were all purely sexual. Which almost hurt less. I thought he had learned his lesson the first time. Now I don’t know where to go from here. We are both Christians and I can’t imagine my life without him but how can I be happy when I feel like I’m 2nd rate to him–even though he insists I’m not. We are considering counseling. But i feel incredibly embarrassed and almost shameful that I was foolish enough to let this happen again. :0(

    • I’m so sorry that you’re going through this! That is so heartbreaking.

      Let me just say, though, that if your husband has a pattern of behaviour like this, it is more than likely something lacking and hurting in him, not in you. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, figure out a plan to move forward. And for that I really think you need to talk to a counselor or at least a Christian mentor who can talk with you and pray with you. This is a serious thing, and you can’t just sweep it under the rug. You need to deal with it and you need to put new boundaries in place in your marriage.

      I would insist on counseling with your husband, and if he won’t agree, then at least go yourself so that you can talk this out. But find a Christian counselor who at least shares your values!

      Many blessings and prayers,
      Sheila.

  13. Heartbroken says:

    Thank you for the advice. He Is very much so willing to go to counseling. We are going to give that a try. Good news is that we have been talking a lot these past few days and have reconnected emotionally and physically.

  14. I am surprised that so many affairs start in a church. Unfortunately, I had it happen to me. I am still embarrassed and disappointed but extremely grateful and humbled that my husband forgives me and loves me like he does. It was stupid and I should have been smarter and more firm on my boundaries. It has ruined a friendship between us and the couple and caused us to completely change churches and jobs/responsibilities. It has brought my husband and I much closer and made me aware of my boundaries and weaknesses. It has also made us work on our physical, emotional and mental health of our marriage.

    All in all, we are better for it. Our marriage is renewed and I will not disrespect or dishonor my husband again. I pray every day that He keeps my thoughts and heart guarded. And we pray for the other couple, that we can forgive and that they can realize how they are traveling down a slippery slope. Thank you for this article and insight.

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