EMOTIONAL AFFAIRS

Nine out of ten affairs begin with an emotional attraction. It usually happens when a need that a spouse is not meeting begins to be met by another person of the opposite sex.

I once read somewhere that it may be far easier to have an emotional affair than you may realize. When you find yourself connecting with another person of the opposite sex as a substitute, you’ve started traveling a road that too often ends in adultery and divorce.

When these things are taking place, with someone of the opposite sex, it should be a huge warning …
  • You begin to talk about problems you are having with your spouse.
  • You find it easier to unwind and relax with someone other than your spouse.
  • You’re dishonest with your spouse about things dealing with a person of the opposite sex.
  • You’ve got a need you feel your mate isn’t meeting and someone else begins to fill that need.
  • You rationalize that this new relationship okay, because they are a Christian or “just a friend” and they are helping you through a difficult time.
  • You look forward to being with this person more than with your own mate.
  • You hide your friendship from your mate.

So, how do you keep this from happening?

  • Guard Your Heart. Put a fence around your heart that protects that sacred ground that’s reserved only for your spouse. Share only your deepest feelings, needs and difficulties with each other, not with friends of the opposite sex.
  • Know the power of your eyes. The eyes are the window to your heart. Pull the shades down if you sense someone is pausing a little too long in front of your window.
  • Don’t hide things from your spouse. One strategy of the enemy is to isolate you from your spouse, by keeping secrets from your mate.
  • Get rid of any emotional attractions that have already begun. A friendship with the opposite sex that meets the needs your mate should be meeting must be ended quickly. It may be painful, but it won’t be as painful as dealing with the wreckage caused by a sinful relationship.
  • Never be ashamed to ask for counseling or outside help. One of the best thing that can happen in a your marriage is when you come to an impasse, you seek outside help from a reliable source.

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
43 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Anonymous says:

    great and important post, Trey
    especially for bloggers. we only see the good/best of other bloggers and often compare that to our spouses, whom we know better–flaws and all. and it seems more innocent since we can’t see/touch the other person. We let our guard down if a person of the opposite sex is hundreds of miles away, but as Jesus says, it starts in the heart.

    there was a good article about this in Leadership Magazine a year ago. I think if the attraction grows, you really have to confess it to a spouse and mature Christian. keeping it in is dangerous.

    I have a friend who preaches who started being attracted (physically/emotionally) to one of the ladies of his congregation.

    it’s scary stuff.

    brian

  2. Monalea says:

    This is a good post. I wish more of the 20’s and 30’s group could grasp this. Too many times I hear the younger marrieds saying, “I like him, but I’m just not in love with him anymore.” Marriage takes a lot of work.

    Once I told someone, marriage takes to much work. She replied, “You must not be married to the right person because marriage does not take a lot of work.” After a week of pondering her words it dawned on me, she had been married and divorced 4 times.

  3. TREY MORGAN says:

    Brian – Excellent point about the blogging world. Excellent.

    Monalea – I agree it’s a bigger issue with the 20’s and 30’s, but I counseled with a couple a few years ago that were in their late 50’s dealing with this. Interesting!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I would be interested in seeing demographics and stats, not to place blame, but I have heard that more affairs occur among people in their 40s and 50s.
    maybe because they have been married and are worn down by temptation and complacency, I don’t know

    but the problem of course, knows no age group.

    brian

  5. jel says:

    do your know this is what the preacher was talking about in church yesterday!

  6. TREY MORGAN says:

    On Mother’s Day, Jel?

  7. lisa leichner says:

    A good reminder for anyone and everyone, Trey. Thanks for this. I admit to occasionally comparing my husband to my blogger friends and wishing he would be more … everything. I thank God that those people are the very people that would remind me to not do that and focus instead on our marriage and making it better. It started out rocky, but our marriage has been better than ever the past few months. I especially appreciate all the great posts I’ve read by both men and women encouraging me to work hard at my relationship. I was amazed by Monalea’s comment — that someone would say that! Too many people these days get tied to the “wrong” person; I’m living proof that two “wrongs” can work together to make it VERY “right.” Thanks, Trey. Cyber-hugs to everyone. I enjoy this community and am constantly uplifted by being here.

  8. DJG says:

    I think this is the topic that our small groups need to focus on….once it has escalated to a physical relationship the damage is already done. The sheer rush of someone to think you are special when it seems no one has in a long time is a potent thing. I used to tell the teenage girls that I taught to have already made up their mind to do the right thing before they got in a situation where it would be tested…..I think that is just as true of us as adults. And we need to learn to be friends without being “secret” friends….that will take the danger out of most situations.

  9. Don says:

    trey-
    First of all [in defense of jel] It’s THE LORD’S DAY. I don’t preach a “Mother’s Day” sermon every Mother’s Day or a sermon about trees every Arbor Day.

    ———–
    But to your post…. excellent point. Great point. I would like you to answer a question for me, if you would. I know you used the word “affair” but from your post I could not understand-
    ‘If you do get involved in such a relationship (and you’re married) do you consider it adultery?’

    One thing I have noticed in my ministry is that MORE women than men get involved in these “Emotional Affairs”. They don’t seem to understand how much it affects their marriages- emotionally and physically. Some how the lack of a physical element tends to make women not “count” it as an affair. But the fact is when a woman is “emotionally” content that usually means physically also.

    I really hope I didn’t go too far… but you brought it up. If I did just delete it and I won’t be bothered by it. :)

  10. Anonymous says:

    don brings up a good point about the difference in the sexes (stereotypes save a lot of time).

    seriously,
    I wonder how many men cheat because of power, physical pleasure that’s lacking at home (prob own fault), etc. and how many women cheat because for emotional reasons…

    any psychologists out there

  11. TREY MORGAN says:

    Don,

    I actually preached on Arbor Day yesterday. :) Actually I didn’t preach on mom’s either.

    I didn’t know jel was one of your members. Cool

    As for the “afair” -vs- “adultery” I debated the title of the post. Wasn’t sure if “adultry” or “affair” would be the best title. Most people in the world would relate to the “affair” title and not the “adultery” title.

    As for the hard question: Yes, I do believe you can commit emotional adultery. Emotional infidelity occurs when we think intimately about and crave emotional intimacy from someone other than our spouse.

    Before you know it, you are sharing the deepest intimate details of your marriage. What’s the harm in this? The harm comes in the separation that has now occurred between you and your spouse. You have crossed a marital boundary. God has commanded us to be faithful to our spouses. Emotional infidelity is adultery (Matthew 5:28).

  12. Monalea says:

    Lisa,
    My marriage started out very rocky at first also. Daryl and I are very opposite. But I’m glad we weathered the storm, it has been worth it after 27 1/2 years. It has helped to count my blessing in Daryl.

    Monalea

  13. TREY MORGAN says:

    Lisa … you are exactly right. It is easy to get caught up comparing one person to another. And it IS nice to get encouragment from others. Thanks for sharing that with us.

  14. That Girl says:

    I mentioned to Donna yesterday how weird it was that we get a sermon about mothers on Mother’s Day but nothing about the resurection on Easter.

    About a year before I found out about my ex-husband’s affair, he asked me what I considered to be an affair. I laughed because I thought it was cute that he wanted to tell me about a girl at work that he’d been talking to a lot… yup, it wasn’t so cute a year later when he left.

  15. jel says:

    Trey,
    I’m not a member of Don’s church,
    if that’s what you are taking about , We have never met in person.

    and yes, the preacher at the church that I go to, did talk about some of what you are taking about here!

  16. lisa leichner says:

    Our regular preacher normally does preach about moms on Mother’s Day, but yesterday our campus minister was preaching and did not — though he did tie it in with mothers because he talked about compassion, which he thinks mothers have in abundance.

    That’s funny that you got confused and thought Janice goes to Don’s church. (o;

  17. lisa leichner says:

    I’m pretty sure that anonymous comment in the middle up there was from Brian. I guess he still can’t figure out how to use “Other.”

    Yeah, that “adultery” Jesus was talking about in Matthew — I guess it’s not just for the men. We women tend to look for emotional support, and we’ll get it from wherever we can. It’s a dangerous game, though, to go looking for it from a man other than your spouse.

  18. The Preacher's Household: says:

    Trey,

    I appreciate this post.I too have a question. I understand the secret thing. Would you weigh in on the ability to have a female friend if male and married or male if female and married.

    I can give you two example in our lives that I don’t have a problem with but maybe I’m just rationalizing. Kathy has dear fiend who is a missionary. I will never be able to take the spot in her heart that is part of their relationship. I have a female friend who I have know about 14-15 years. We talk and have a good friendship. She helps me work through thoughts and such sometimes. Kathy knows my friend and I hers but the place of each friend is a unique one.

    When we married nearly 13 years ago we committed to be best friends. She has a female friend she has known most all her life. She was Kathy’s best friend until we married. Again, there is a unique relationship. I don’t feel threatened by this friend or others. We know where their place is in our lives.

    Any thoughts?

  19. The Preacher's Household: says:

    I think the emotional side can be a slippery slope. It is a sin you commit inside your own head with out any physical proof. However, the consequences can be seen in numerous ways. I think you have great points and a great explanation of the problem.

    I do want to bring up that I think ministers (counselors) have special difficulties with this. It is your job to be friendly, personallable, and counsel people about their marriage problems. I think women attach themselves to ministers making it an one sided emotional affair. Sometimes it becomes 2 sided because the minister does not follow points like you made. I remember having a crush on an unmarried college TA of mine who went into seminary. Some people have the ability to relate that brings you close to them.

    We were watching a Dick Van Dyke show last night where his neighbor Roger was meeting with a marriage counsel in a restraunt. The episode was about how they were going to talk to him about the perceived other woman. Even if we do not have an emotional attachment that goes out of bounds, we need to remember what it might look like to others. If you are in the ministry, this could be especially damaging.
    Kathy

  20. brian says:

    yeah, that was me talking about psychologists and sexism

    one of my best friends in high school was a girl, and I had a couple of close female friends in colleg that I never dated. we aren’t in touch as much now so I have nothing to say….so that was just a waste of typing I guess.

    brian

    that girl,
    I was just thinking also today that we can set aside one day a year to honor mothers but can’t do the same for the birth of Jesus in some churches. oh well….

    Don
    I keep trying to come up with a St Patricks Day sermon, too. Would drunkenness be the only way to tie in Scripture with that holiday??

    Lisa, I used other this time.
    on some blogs that doesn’t work

  21. Don says:

    trey-
    Arbor Day? The Tree Wise Men?… sorry.

    People, people, people we live in an age that wants to define “sex” and what “is” is… doesn’t that tell us how far we should go.

  22. TREY MORGAN says:

    That Girl – Ouch. Sorry about that. Nothing funny now, hua? I ran across a blog this morning that had 10 signs your spouse is cheating. One of them was what you mentioned.

    James and Kathy – Personally, I feel that a friendship with the opposite sex is okay as long as:
    1 – It is just a friendship.
    2 – Your spouse has no problems or issues with it.
    3 – There are no secrets.

    Did I miss any?

  23. TREY MORGAN says:

    As for sermon topics, I knew a preacher that wanted to preach a sermon called, “Get your but out of the woulds.” It was a play on words that he thought might get some attention. I think his idea was people always say, “Well I would, But…”

    Don’t know if he ever preached it.

  24. Don says:

    the preacher’s household-

    The fact that you feel you might be rationalizing, may be telling you something. I’m a fairly normal male and I would have to do some “rationalizing” if my wife had a good friend who was male. And that whole predates “us” thing would make me “rationalize” even more(you said you’ve been married for 12+ years but known your friend for 14+).

    You brought this up as a general question, so if I am stepping beyond just ignore me. Question: How does his wife feel about their relationship? And how does her husband feel about your relationship with your friend?

    And this coming from a husband, “I will never be able to take the spot in her heart that is part of their relationship.” Hmmmmm

    That married and having a “friend” of the opposite sex… Nah. Not a good idea. IMO

  25. Don says:

    Brian-
    How about- “Chasing the Serpents Out of Your Gardens” – St Paddy???

  26. Mommysmart says:

    Wow, this is a tough one. I see so many couples walking on thin ice on this one. It is an area that needs our constant attention. I think that it is our responsibility to our spouse to help guard them from this, too. Your tips on avoiding this are good.

  27. Neva says:

    Hi guys–
    Had to work all day so I am just now checking out my favorite blogs.
    Two things—in the OT, God accused His people of being adulterous–it had nothing to do with sex but instead with covenant keeping. If Ned became so emotionally attached to another woman that she took my place, even if they’d never met in person, I would consider it adultery and would consider it breaking covenant. I would be devastated and I am sure it would take a huge toll on our marriage.
    Secondly, I believe one can have good Christian friends of the opposite sex. Especially if those friends encourage you to love your husband, work on your marriage, etc. They must be good for you.
    There are many people in the world who are good people they just arent good for you/me. A good friend, regardless of the sex, wants to see us get to heaven and they would not do anything to prevent that. These friends are difficult to find—and are truly gifts. I agree with your three criteria, no secrets, spouse cannot have a problem with and it is just friendship—also that you never spend more time with the friend than you do your spouse–you never ever cross the emotional line that puts your friend in that place in your heart where God intends your spouse to be. Never compare the two.
    If our relationships are honest, our friend will also be watchful, cautious and respectful of your marriage and theirs.

    ALTWIT–sorry this is so long and rambling.
    peace
    neva

  28. Di says:

    Someone wanted to hear from a psychologist, so I will quote one. “Di, it is hard for a man and woman to have a friendship, sex gets in the way.” Now she did mean a close friendship and not a casual one.

    It think the key is to measure any friendships against your friendship with your spouse. And then if the marriage doesn’t measure up, do whatever it takes to get it there. As long as the focus is on the marriage and becoming best friends or maintaining that relationship then all is good.

    However, it took a long time before my husband would agree to work on ours. We have been married 27 years. (You have a half of a year on us Monolea.) We are now in therapy and have been on and off for 5 years. It is the best thing we have ever done for our marriage. We take breaks but when something new arises we pick up the phone and call for an appointment.

    Prior to his being willing to work on our relationship it was very hard because I couldn’t be open with him and I needed someone to be open with. Just recently we broke through into some new areas we can comfortable share with each other. I have some dear female friends but no longer are they my best friends. My husband is.

    And by the way Trey – I am in my 50’s and he in his 60’s and an affair is equally as tempting now -if not more than when we were your young age!! Kids! :-)

  29. Di says:

    I decided that I really should go ahead and add “Been there done that,!” Why not be upfront and honest?

    About 6 years ago our marriage was falling apart. What you said about the eyes applies, Trey. I connected with a guy at the university where I was taking classes. We were both emotionally starved. Physical lines were crossed as well. After a few months of fighting the sex dynamic and trying to maintain a friendship, I fell apart. That is when I told my husband and we got help.

    Affairs are not just for the young and gorgeous. I was overweight and in my late 40’s. It started with the emotional need. Someone wanted me in more ways than one.

    My husband was wise enough to know that my affair was as much about his responsibility as mine. I had been begging him to get help on several issues that had strained our marriage for years and he wouldn’t. He was terrified to look at the truth about himself but losing our marriage was scarier so he went to therapy with me. It saved us.

    Now he is my best friend. There is no one I would rather be with or talk with. In our case the affair was not the end but the beginning which says a lot for God’s hand in our marriage and both of our committments to God and each other.

    If you don’t think you can fall in the trap – you’re wrong. Nurture your marriage. Water it and fertilize it daily and get help if you need it. We discovered it doesn’t have to be something major wrong to work it out best with a counselor. And sometimes the little things turn out a lot bigger than we thought.

    Ok, so do you still respect me?

    Di

  30. TREY MORGAN says:

    Di,

    I always appreciate you openness and honesty. You’re always willing to share from the depths of your heart.

    I’m know it’s not easy sharing struggles and past failures. Please know I’m so glad that you sought out help and things have worked out.

    I pray for you.

  31. NB says:

    I think another thing that helps keep any type of affair from happening is discussing the boundaries early on in the marriage (or even before).

    I have been fortunate to not have had to experience this type of problem in my marriage… (we’ve had plenty of others)…but we set the boundaries concerning opposite sex friendships early on. It has prevented a lot of misunderstandings and the development of situations that could have the potential to lead to problems down the road.

  32. The Preacher's Household: says:

    Di, I respect your honesty and the solution you came to. May God continue to bless your friendship with your husband.

    Don, I wish James would have chosen his words a little differently. Randy was a dear college friend that became close like a brother. He walked my Mom down the aisle at our wedding at her request and she supports him on the mission field. He was unmarried the last I heard from him which was a couple of years ago. The thought of a romantic relationship with him makes me want to hurl and I’m pretty certain he feels the same.

    What James meant was that people are going to have special places in our hearts past, present, and future. We haven’t seen Monalea in years and she holds a special place that no one can deny or replace because our relationship with her is a treasured gift from God. I thank God that Neva and James are good friends because she is my marriage’s best cheerleader. I think Mr. Neva would have spoken up long ago if he felt any different.

    All of you blogging buddies are working on a place in my heart that I am very thankful for.
    Kathy

  33. The Preacher's Household: says:

    To all concerned:

    I was not speaking of rationalizing in a serious way. I was being humorous. Although I was curious to see other people’s perimeters of friendships with the opposite sex. There are several of you who have known me for some time. But we don’t alway share what we think. The subject may never have come up.

    I think some of the relationships I had in mind are more like family. I think it is a crock to hear a person say they love their children all the same. That is not true. I love my children dearly and it would be unfair to all parties to expect me to love them the same. They each have a special part of my heart.

    Kathy mentioned Neva. Sometimes our relationship is that of a brother and sister. Kathy says I try to play big brother. I did warn her about watching out who she picked as a husband for her second time around. I have known Ned almost as long as I have know Neva. They are both good friends. To expect that the relationship with one will be the same as the other is unnecessary and a waste of good resources. We each relate about different things. The Coopers have healthy boundaries to say this is what this friendship is. As Kathy mentioned her friend is much like a brother.

    I agree with the perimeters that were mentioned in general terms for all friendships. Kathy and I both encourage a limited number of friendships some are with people of the opposite sex.

    I will mention one exclusion to the list mentioned. The secret thing is one thing that Kathy and I have discussed a couple of times. In general terms I think this is important. But, it is not always a good idea to tell everything you know to your spouse. In particular in ministry there are time when it is inappropriate. A male friend may tell me something in confidence. Kathy’s childhood best friend may tell her something in confidence. We tend to ask if we can share that with our spouse if it is something we might pray about. But it is not always appropriate to share. I understand this is a slippery slope.

    As a counselor there are time I have someone else to share with, an adviser if you will. My wife should not be that person. I am not trying to keep secrets from her but confidentiality. They are not my secrets to share.

    Again, secrets are not a good thing if they lead to an isolation from your spouse. but the ones I think are different are not yours but the other persons. I may be opening a can of worms. Kathy and I talked about alot more than I am mentioning here.

    altwit :)

    James

  34. Di says:

    James and Kathy,

    Life is gray. And with gray we always have to swim in the deep end of the pool – it takes more wisdom and skill. When we try to live in black and white, we end up living outside of God’s grace and in the law. That is why we have the Holy Spiirt to guide us- he knows we need the life guard!

    Would you consider checking out my blog and making some comments from the role of pastor? Much fits with this conversation.

    Di
    http://prodigaldaughter-di.blogspot.com

  35. TREY MORGAN says:

    Kathy & James, I understand where you’re coming from and I’m glad you brought up the subject. It’s something that needed to be talked about.

    As for not telling my wife everything in counseling and dealing with people… No, I don’t tell my wife everything. I feel there are areas that I need to protect her from. Things that don’t have to do with me and her, but things that would hurt her if she knew about others.

    Make sense?

  36. The Preacher's Household: says:

    James felt he wrote long enough, but that is something we talked about.

    Another example, and I know this is in a different direction, is venting or talking about something that might hurt the spouse if it is not thought through and it may should not be said. My best (girl) friend’s first husband died of colon cancer at age 34 – she was still in her 20’s. She was his main caretaker and support. That is way too much even for the most spiritual. She would often talk to me when she was frustrated because it would do no good to yell/ vent… to him. He could not handle it. Once it was out, she could talk to him in a civilized, encouraging way.

    Not everyone has a critically ill spouse but they may need to yell/vent about finances, personality disorders, child rearing… before they can successfully have the discussion peaceably with their spouse.

    I am simply thankful that James has more than one of these people – one just happens to be an incredibly Godly female. I think this is what people did before shrinks…

    Again, I know I took this in a different direction. This is more relatable to me than an emotional affair – maybe you could do a post in this direction.:)
    Kathy

  37. Chris says:

    GREAT POST, Trey…

  38. Chris says:

    Di,

    You are not the only one who has been there and done that. I too have walked this line and know full well how a seemingly harmless friendship can become so much more. What most people don’t realize is that “emotional affairs” are so much deeper than merely “physical ones.”

    Trey, one objection I hear alot is that there is nothing wrong with platonic friendships. And, I agree WHEN certain boundaries and understood and respected. I think it is dangerous, if not wrong, for married people to develop close friendships with someone of the opposite sex whenever that friendship doesn’t include the spouse(s). What do you think?

    Also, do you think it is possible for platonic friendships to exist today? LOL

  39. TREY MORGAN says:

    Chris,

    Good question. Not sure I have a real good answer except in an answer above.

    I do know this … If I have any relationship that I consider a better relationship than the relationship with my wife … something is wrong.

    My wife should be my best friend. I want to do something with her more than I want to do something with anyone else. That doesn’t mean that I have no relationships outside of my marriage, but it means that my wife IS my best friend.

    Make sense?

    :)

    Good to see you Chris

  40. Chris says:

    Yes, that makes great sense, Trey.

    I realize that people can be friends, but my question focused more on newly formed friendships, not ones from childhood. Newly formed friendship, whether work or church initiated, need to involve the spouse, period.

    Something to think about…

    Good to be back,

  41. TREY MORGAN says:

    Chris … I agree. I think you are a wise man.

  42. Cherie Burbach says:

    Thanks for writing about this. I get many people that write me about this subject and I am glad to see you are discussing it here. You make some great points, especially about a friendship that suddenly means more than the friendship you have with your wife.

    This is a subject that many couples are struggling with, but as the pastor in our church says, do you consistently walk on the edge, or in the middle – far from the edge? The point is that we all need to know the boundaries so we can stay far enough away from them so that we never have to hurt our spouse by getting too close to something inappropriate.

    Keep up the great discussion.

  43. awannabe says:

    I find a lot of information on the internet about emotional affairs not written on those who have actually experienced on.

    Like addictions, they are shameful to talk about. But people should talk about it, even if it is anonymously.
    They could help others who’ve been trough it by sharing their stories ;-I

About Me

Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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