What Does an Emotional Affair Look Like?
A few weeks ago, FamilyLife sent out the following personal testimony of the inner workings of an emotional affair. Don't know what one is? Not sure if you're moving towards one? Read the following first-hand account of what it might look and feel ike. And if this sounds familiar, you have one of two choices to make:
1) Write it off as insignificant...after all, this could never happen to you. Just keep telling yourself that. And good luck with how things turn out in the end.
2) Take drastic steps to remove any and all relationships that might bring harm to your marriage. It is absolutely worth it.
Read on to hear the story...
About 15 years into my marriage, my heart started turning cold toward my husband. He had an odd schedule at work, and then he spent most of his leisure hours volunteering at our church. When I tried to talk to him about spending less time at church and more with me and our children, he angrily shot back, "You're just trying to hold me back from doing God's work." He then began punishing me by turning his back to me in the bedroom.
Feeling lonely and rejected, I confided my misery to a friend who had called about an upcoming ministry project. My friend was kind and understanding. Unfortunately, no one had ever told me to guard my conversations with the opposite sex. The friend was a man and a very good-looking one at that.
We began talking more frequently. I thought the conversations were innocent, even though they now included discussions about the struggles in his marriage. Gradually, our phone relationship escalated to flirting, and his calls were the highlight of my week. Neither of us told our spouses.
At church, I noticed that he watched me a lot. I admit that I enjoyed the attention, the affirmative words, and the "high" I got with my schoolgirl crush. If someone had asked me if I was having an affair, however, I would have denied it. After all, there were no private lunches, there was no secret rendezvous, and there was no physical touch except for a public hug now and then or a slight touch of the hand. Everybody in our church hugged anyway so no one was the wiser ... or so I thought.
Our emotional affair rocked on for over a year until the day he said to me, "I think I'm in love with you." Honestly, I felt the same about him, but hearing the words jolted me into reality. I was so upset afterwards that I looked at myself in the mirror in shock and cried, "What have I done?"
I didn't like what I saw as the Holy Spirit replayed the ugly truth of my actions back to me. Had I been physically unfaithful to my husband? No. Had I committed adultery in my heart? Yes.
I plowed through days of agony before finally falling to my knees before God in surrender. One definition of relinquishment is "giving up title, releasing possession or control and yielding power." How could I do otherwise? I had been a Christian for 16 years. My body was not my own. I had been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), so it was no longer my will that counted but His (Luke 22:42).
I confessed to God that I felt nothing for my husband, but that vows are not made to be broken. I would rather be unhappy the rest of my life than bring reproach to God's name, embarrass my children, or break up my family or anyone else's. As the Holy Spirit strengthened me, I heard the words in my heart that Jesus spoke to Peter over and over (John 21:15-17): "Do you love Me?"
"Yes Lord, I love You, and I repent."
"Then trust Me," said the still, small voice.
With my hands shaking and my heart racing, I made the call to tell my friend it was over. "I can't do this anymore because the Lord has convicted me," I told him. "Please don't call me again." Being an honorable man, he had never pressed me into anything, and he didn't now. He graciously made it easy for me to say goodbye.
I didn't think I would have to tell my husband. We changed churches for other reasons and, frankly, I was afraid to confess. Meanwhile our new church had a positive effect on both of us and our relationship was slowly improving. We spent more time together and our intimacy returned.
Finally, when I felt comfortable and with the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we sat down together one evening and I confessed. I didn't want any secrets between us.
My husband had some questions and then he shocked me by saying, "I knew it all along. Do you think I was blind to the looks and banter between you two?" He couldn't really explain why he had not confronted me, but I was so touched by his grace and forgiveness. For the first time he, too, confessed that he shared the blame for neglecting me and our family. It was a holy moment I'll never forget. Neither will I forget the surprise birthday present he presented to me a couple of weeks later--a 14k gold ring with my birthstone in it.
I learned five important things from this experience:
First, there's nothing more important than my relationship with God. I had to acknowledge that I had drifted from Him. When I got into a crisis, I became distracted and compromised, which led to sin.
Second, the feelings of love for my husband are a direct result of my love and obedience to God. He rewards obedience. He would not have blessed my sin and disobedience. When I put Him back on the throne of my life, I started receiving everything I needed for life, love, and happiness.
Third, married women should not pour out their troubles to another man, or vice-versa. It's a trap of the enemy. Satan wants to derail lives and marriages. Don't let him!
Fourth, infatuation is not love. It is selfish and doesn't meet the criteria of righteous love in 1 Corinthians 13:5-6.
Finally, I chose to lead my heart instead of continuing to let it lead me. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick." I learned not to trust my heart for guidance or truth.
Now, many years later, my relationship with my husband continues to flourish. I never dreamed I could love him as much as I do. The Creator of marriage knows how to redeem it - for those who are willing to relinquish and lay down their own lives for the glory that is to come.