A few years ago, a good friend of mine wanted my take on a relationship that she would only describe as “kinda weird.” Shortly after her family was reassigned to a new duty station, her husband’s unit was sent on a six-month mission to yet another country. Although she was used to being separated from him for months at time, this deployment was particularly hard for her emotionally.
To distract herself, she decided to start hanging out more with some of her coworkers. One particular day she agreed to have lunch with a new male coworker. These lunches soon turned into a couple of drinks after work and then dinners a couples of times a week.
She noticed that he began to fill a void that she didn’t even realize was there. She found herself looking forward to going to work in the mornings and would offer to work late if her new friend was working late as well. He even jokingly started referring to her as his “work wife.” While she felt that the reference was innocent enough, she knew that this new title and friendship was not something she should share with her husband or anyone outside of her workplace.
She soon found herself sharing her frustrations and anxieties with this male coworker instead of her husband. The closer she got to this coworker, the more resentful she became toward her husband — so resentful that she would not answer his calls if she was out with her new friend.
During their last dinner, she found herself fantasizing about what it would be like to be with him sexually. These new thoughts scared her. While she knew she would never betray her husband or dishonor her marriage by acting out on these thoughts and feelings, she still couldn’t stop herself from having them. But she was also certain that she did not want to end her new friendship.
Emotional Affair Signs
My friend was caught up in an emotional affair. An emotional affair is when an individual (consciously or unconsciously) invests more of their emotional energy outside their marriage. This usually occurs because one or both parties’ emotional needs are being met by the support and companionship that centers around this new relationship (or friendship).
Yes, emotional affairs start off innocent enough, but before long, three things become evident:
- You begin to share intimate information with each other.
- You begin to feel the need to keep this relationship a secret from your spouse, family, and friends.
- You begin to feel sexually attracted to one another.
Before we go any further into this topic, let me make two points clear: You are not a bad person nor does this mean that your marriage is in trouble. So, please, take a deep breath and allow that to sink in for a minute. God created us for connection! It brings Him great joy when His children come together and form beautiful, healthy, and loving relationships.
Still on the fence? Pop Quiz!
- Are you experiencing repetitive hostility and conflict in your marriage?
- Do you feel an emotional distance from your spouse?
- Do you find it difficult to talk with your spouse?
- Are you sharing more with your friend than you are with your spouse?
- Do you think your friend understands you better than your spouse?
- Are you sexually attracted to your friend?
- Is the phrase, “We’re just friends” your rationalization for your close friendship?
- Does your spouse know about your friendship or is your friendship a secret?
- Do you look forward to being with your friend more than being with your spouse?
- When you talk to your spouse about your day, do you never seem to mention your interactions with this friend?
If you answer “yes” to more than 3 of these questions below, you are courting with the difficulties an emotional affair can have in your marriage.
Warning Signs of Emotional Infidelity
Here are some additional warning signs that you may be having an emotional affair:
- You are withdrawing from your spouse.
- You are preoccupied and daydream about your friend more and more.
- You are not interested in being intimate with your spouse, either emotionally or sexually.
- The amount of time you and your spouse spend together is less.
- When confronted about the apparent emotional affair, you respond, “We are just friends.”
- You find yourself anticipating when you can communicate or be with your friend again. Alone time together is important to you.
- You are sharing your thoughts, feelings, and problems with your friend instead of your spouse.
- You find reasons to give your friend personal gifts.
- Your friend seems to understand you better than your spouse does.
- You are keeping your friendship a secret from your spouse.
Emotional Infidelity and the Bible
Okay, so if you’re still reading this, let’s take another deep breath and consider some of the following thoughts and truths from God’s Word:
1. Temptation is not a sin.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us an account of how even Jesus was tempted. The story of the Temptation of Christ also give us a clear example of how to the devil tries to tempt us and how we can best handle these temptations.
The enemy loves to tempt us when he thinks we are in our most vulnerable moments sadness, fear, loneliness, etc. Jesus was on a 40-day fast in the middle of the desert when the enemy tried Him.
My friend was on physical fast from her husband and in the middle of her own emotional desert when the enemy tried to tempt her. Feeling attracted to someone is not sin what we do with those feelings will be the determining factor. When we find ourselves being tempted, we have to use God’s Word to stop the enemy in his tracks and fight against his temptations.
“And Jesus was led by the Spirt into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” – Matthew 4:1
2. Temptation does not mean that there’s something wrong with you, your spouse, or your marriage.
I truly believe that God lets us choose our spouse, and that it is then up to us to become the best spouse we can be.
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” – 1 Peter 3:7
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” – Hebrews 13:4
3. Temptation meets us on our mental battlefield.
Believe me. I get it. You just want this horrible reality that you are attracted to this person to go away. You want these thoughts to just go away.
Let us not forget that we do have control over our thoughts. We get to choose whether or not we entertain these unwanted thoughts.
We really do get to choose what we think about. In God’s Word, He said that we can take every thought captive. If a thought enters your mind and you know that it is wrong, replace it with something else. Pray! Speak God’s Word out loud! Sing a worship song! Phone a friend! We may not have control over thoughts that enter into our mind, but do have control over the thoughts we choose to entertain.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5
4. Temptation can be contained.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. The concept of boundaries is rooted in the nature of God Himself. God limits what He will and will not allow to enter into His sacred space.
He opposes sin and allows us to endure the consequences of our behaviors. God guards His house and will not allow evil things to go on there. His opens and closes His gates as He deems fit as should we.
Your heart and your marriage are your sacred space treat them as such. Set up boundaries to guard your heart and protect your marriage. I would encourage anyone who is tempted by an emotional affair to set up some specific boundaries in order to prevent finding yourself in a compromising situation.
- No textingEven if you think you have a legitimate reason to do so, such as something “critical” to your big business meeting. Work can and should be handled at work. Yes, there may be special circumstances where you have to get in touch with someone from work. But in the midst of an emotional affair, it’s best to maintain this boundary.
- No friending on Facebook or other social mediaThis will help keep conversations from crossing personal boundaries. There’s no reason why this particular coworker needs to read your quote of the day or needs to know that you and your cousin Larry are celebrating your 8-year Friendiversary. Just saying . . . .
- No meeting outside of workNo quick lunches, no drinks after work, no dinners. Even in a group setting, this is a bad idea. Avoid opening any avenues or windows in which the enemy can enter in with opportunistic temptations.
“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?” – Job 38:8
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23
5. Nurture your marriage instead of the temptation.
In the midst of these temptations, dedicate yourself and your attention to loving your spouse even more. Find strength and hope in the fact that you are concerned about whether or not you are in an emotional affair. This tells me that the love you have for your spouse is greater than the temptations of the enemy. And the fact that you are still reading this article gives me further hope that you are already suited up for this fight.
“Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” – 1 Corinthians 7:5
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love, But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:20
Christian Counseling for Emotional Infidelity
I am confident that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is standing with us in the fires of our temptations and that He will not allow us to be burned. I know that if we keep our hearts, minds, and eyes on Him we can resist any temptation the enemy throws our way.
If you would like me to walk alongside you during this challenging and confusing time, please feel free to contact me. As your counselor we can navigate these waters together.
In addition, I offer you this prayer:
“Father God, I believe that temptation is not a sin but that yielding to temptation certainly is so I pray that You would help me not to yield to temptation whether they are temptations of the body or of the mind keep me pure in thought, word, and deed, for Lord, I want to follow You and I want to live my life in a way that is pleasing in Your eyes.
Heavenly Father, I believe that no temptation comes to any of us that is not common to all men and that by Your grace You will always provide an escape. Help me not to be tempted and give me the eyes to see and grasp hold of the escapes from temptation that You, in Your grace, will provide.
Lord, You know the areas of my vulnerabilities and You know when and how I will be tempted today and in the days that lie ahead. And Lord, while I know that I must make the choice not to succumb to temptation, I do ask that you would prompt me to flee temptation, and to walk in the light of the glorious gospel of truth.
In Jesus’ Name I pray,
“Convo”, Courtesy of Christina Morillo, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Friends”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Stressed”, Courtesy of Kat Jayne, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Extracurricular”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License