Emotional Affair

Question

My male friend and I have both had marital problems for a while. We started to meet at lunch to be a source of Christian support for each other. However, somehow, something more happened. While we haven’t been physically intimate, we’ve confessed physical feelings for each and have even admitted to having fantasies of being together as a couple in the future. We find ourselves sneaking to meet, and lying to our spouses about it. Have we just let the attraction thing get out of control, and we can just now step back and make it go away? Is there any chance of maintaining our friendship on a platonic level, after having confessed such things to each other? How do we make this right in God’s eyes? Should we confess these feelings to our spouses, even though nothing physical occurred?

Answer

Your first big mistake was choosing to get “Christian support” by meeting one-on-one with someone of the opposite sex. Trust us when we say that is never a good idea. Never! In Proverbs 4:23 we are told, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” Meeting with an opposite sex person under the rationalization of Christian support is an almost guaranteed set-up for the trap you have fallen into.

You are in the middle of an emotional affair and unless you make a radical decision, the next step will be for it to become physical. In our experience, an emotional affair can be as damaging and difficult to stop as a physical one and the only way out is to break off the relationship immediately. Don’t kid yourself. You can’t merely step back, change the rules, and pursue a platonic relationship as if nothing has happened.

Should you confess your emotional affair to your spouses? You’ll get different answers from different people but our answer is that in most cases you need to tell your spouse. From what you’ve said, this emotional affair has involved dishonesty, deceit, duplicity, and deception. That needs to be confessed to God and to your spouse. It’s often helpful if this is done in the context of meeting with your pastor or a trained Christian counselor. Something is lacking in your marriage relationship and that needs to be identified and dealt with in ways that can free you to receive “Christian support” from your husband, same-sex friends, and some wise counselors.

Know that what you’ve done doesn’t change God’s love for you, his desire to bless you and help your marriage become all that it can be. You are still very precious in his sight. As you confess your mistakes (I John 1:9) you will be freed to experience the healing and hope that come from a clean and committed heart and have a fresh foundation to build on.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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