My heart skipped a beat as he walked into the room. As usual, he engaged me in conversation by asking about my day and sharing about his. We could talk about anything, from light topics to in-depth questions. I enjoyed our conversations and realized I looked forward to them more than I should. Why? Because I was a married woman and this man was not my husband.
Emotional affair. I would never have guessed myself susceptible to fall into one. After all, I’m a believer married to a believer.
- That should be a recipe for success, right? Wrong.
- A safeguard against an affair, right? Wrong.
You see, even though I’m a Jesus girl through and through, my heart is still desperately wicked and prone to wander if I don’t keep a tight rein on it. Let’s put the spotlight on this sneaky enemy lurking in the shadows of one too many hearts.
The Making of an Emotional Affair
1. Emotional energy - Let’s start with a working definition:
“An emotional affair is when a person not only invests more of their emotional energy outside their marriage but also receives emotional support and companionship from the new relationship.”1
Blah. It hurts to read the above description and brings me to tears, but it was my reality. I was emotionally pouring more energy into & choosing to receive emotional support and companionship from this other man who was not my husband, whom I had promised to be faithful to mind, heart, and body as long as we both shall live. My emotions had strayed into forbidden territory. God, forgive me.
2. Subtle beginning. My emotional affair started so innocently. He’d sit down and look at me and engage me in conversation. He took an interest in me, and I allowed that interest to begin to woo my heart. My emotional tank began to be filled with this other man’s time, his attention, and his words rather than my husband’s. My heart was on a slippery slope sliding toward him rather than my man. Ugh! God, forgive me.
You see, this subtle beginning takes our feet from the stable path onto the slippery slope of being convinced:
- This other man understands me better than my spouse.
- This other man loves me more than my spouse does.
- This other man is my true soul mate, unlike my spouse.
These thoughts lead us into the danger zone because they are all lies from the father of lies, Satan, whose sole goal is to steal, kill, and destroy our marriages. Just like he whispered to Eve in the garden, he slithers discontentment into our hearts making us think the grass is greener on the other side. My sister, it isn’t. The “green grass on the other side” is filled with weeds, and moles, and bare spots just like your current relationship.
3. Danger Zone: By the grace of God, I heeded the waving red flag early on when God brought the issue to my mind, but that isn't always the case. We can become so connected with this other person emotionally that before we know it, we’ve entered the danger zone! We think about what it would be like to be in his embrace, to be kissed by him, and for scenes to unfold in our minds which should be reserved for our husbands. Too soon these thoughts lead to actions, and we are having sex with someone other than our spouse. God, forgive us! My friend, an emotional affair can be a gateway to a sexual affair. James 1:14-16 says it best:
14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.
15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.
So, how do we slam shut the gate before we slide down the slippery slope?
The Unraveling of an Emotional Affair
1. Name it - When I realized what was happening, it caught my breath. I wrestled with the thought and denied it. After all, I wasn’t physically attracted to this other man…yet. But, the Spirit was gentle and kept bringing it to my mind. My heartstrings were starting to connect with this other man. I was in the beginning stages of an emotional affair. Psalm 51:6. Blah.
2. Confess it - My heart's cry is, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours, Lord!” I had to confess the ugliness of my reality. I was becoming emotionally drawn to a man other than my husband. This was a sin. It broke God's heart, and therefore needed to break my heart, also. I had to confess my wayward thoughts to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. Psalm 32:5. The Lord, in all His kindness, forgave me.
3. Cripple it - Once I realized what was happening, I knew I had to ask for help before it went any further. I talked to my man, told him what was going on, and how he could help. If however, I wasn’t comfortable telling him, I would have found a trustworthy person to confide in and ask me questions regularly. Questions like: How’s your heart? How’s your thought life? How are you taking your thoughts captive and making them obedient to the Lord Jesus? 2 Corinthians 10:5 & James 5:16.
I love the saying, “The grass is greenest where you water it.” So true! So how do I water my own grass? I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade to keep my heart tethered to my Lord and to my man.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23
The Safeguards against an Emotional Affair
1. Label - All men who are not my husband I now give the label “my brother”. If I feel the slightest twinge in my wayward heart, I mentally say the phrase “He’s my brother” over and over again to get my heart and mind back into focus.
2. Leave - If I can’t keep my heart obedient, I leave the conversation, the room, even the area if need be. Like Joseph left Potiphar's house in a rush, I leave the scene with or without my jacket.
3. Learn - I have learned that I have to be very careful with what I watch and read. My romantic heart has a fondness for a good love story, but that sweet love story can turn my “real life” love story sour. Just like I can’t measure up to an airbrushed model on a magazine cover or a real life beauty, my man can’t measure up to the make-believe man on the screen or in the book or in the figments of my imagination. I’ve learned my triggers and turn off the TV or close the book if it causes discontentment in my heart toward my marriage.
4. Love - This one is huge, and I saved it for last. When I truly love the Lord with all my heart, mind, and strength, other areas of my life line up, including my contentment with my man just the way he is.
God's will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. 1 Thessalonians 4:3
So, how about you? If you’re married, are you taking your thoughts about other men who are not your husband captive? What tricks of the trade do you practice to guard your heart? If however, any of my story raises a red flag for you and you are caught in an emotional affair, I beg you to unravel the strings that have tied your heart to someone who is not your spouse. It is the right thing to do, to honor your Lord, to honor your vows, and to honor your integrity.
If you’re a precious single woman, the same slippery slope is ever before you. Do you have an accountability partner to ask you the hard questions and help keep your heart and mind pure? If not, pray for one. God, in His kindness, will provide one.
Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Confidante. Lover of dark chocolate, milky coffee, deep talks, lively laughter, and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.