Question: "How can married Christians avoid emotional affairs?"
Answer: An emotional affair occurs when a married person shares emotional intimacy and support with an individual other than his/her spouse. Becoming emotionally intimate with someone other than one’s spouse can have a chilling effect on the marriage relationship; plus, emotional intimacy often progresses to physical intimacy, bringing devastation. Many people deny the seriousness of an emotional affair, but such affairs are not harmless and can destroy marriages and families.
Marital partners should share problems, feelings, and needs with one another and determine the boundaries of what can be shared outside the marriage and to whom. Having friendships outside of the marriage is a healthy thing, but a reliance on outsiders to meet emotional needs can become a temptation, especially when spouses spend much time apart. Co-workers and others with whom we spend large blocks of time can become a substitute for the emotional support of a spouse. Work relations and friendships need to have proper boundaries to ensure they do not become inappropriate.
There are warning signs that an innocent friendship could be leading to an emotional affair. When we start to feel a need to hide aspects of a relationship, we are crossing a line into inappropriate territory. Emotional distance between spouses or an increase in the number of arguments may indicate one spouse is turning to another person for closeness. Intimacy requires closeness, and that cannot happen if a spouse gives his/her closeness to someone outside the marriage.
Christians should guard against the temptation to lean on someone other than the spouse God has given to them. Here are some wise choices:
1. Do not spend time alone with anyone of the opposite gender, especially someone you are attracted to.
2. Do not spend more time with another person than you do with your spouse.
3. Do not share intimate details of your life with anyone before sharing it with your spouse.
4. Live transparently. Do everything as if your spouse were present.
5. Devote personal time to prayer and Bible study. Ask God to put a hedge around your marriage (Job 1:10).
6. Maintain a pure thought life. Do not entertain fantasies about other people.
7. Plan time with your spouse on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis and use those times to build emotional closeness.
All of these choices will help Christians to identify weak areas and avoid the temptation of an emotional affair.
Christian priorities put marriage and family second only to the Lord. God is the only one who can fully meet our needs, and He is the first priority. God designed marriage to unite two people into one (Genesis 2:24). He wants them to grow together and let nothing separate them (Matthew 19:6). Married partners must value their relationship the way the Lord does and work on ways to strengthen it and build closeness. The Lord also forbids adultery or lusting for a person outside of marriage (Proverbs 6:25; Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:28). People who go outside the Lord’s design to meet their needs sin against God and potentially ruin their relationships (Proverbs 6:32; 1 Corinthians 6:9–20).
Many in the world believe that married partners need “space” to the point of leading separate lives to have a healthy relationship. In no way does the Bible advocate codependency. However, a marriage is by definition a life lived and planned together; it is interdependency. Those who do not understand God’s plan for marriage may think it is unhealthy to share everything with one person, but that is what makes marriage different from any other relationship. It is a blessed union between two people and mirrors that of Christ and His church.
Sharing intimacy with someone other than a spouse, whether the intimacy is physical or emotional, is sin and a violation of trust.