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."
Is it unloving or selfish to set a boundary? Are Christians ever called to walk away from a relationship that’s no longer safe or sustainable? Lysa TerKeurst deeply understands these hard questions in the midst of relational struggles.