God has given the previous three stages that we’ve discussed (attention, attraction, and affection) for both single and married women to enjoy in a wide variety of appropriate relationships, but we must be keenly discerning about this stage. While physical arousal is easy to detect, emotional arousal can be trickier to recognize and even more difficult to control. Emotional arousal occurs when we are stirred romantically by someone, and it usually precedes most sexual activity because our heart determines the direction of our mind and body.
If you are single and hoping to develop a serious relationship with an interested, available man, emotional arousal and attachment is a natural, appropriate part of the courtship process. As you progress toward the altar, you will more than likely become deliriously excited at the thought of becoming this man’s bride. There is no sin in being emotionally aroused by the man you hope to commit your life to.
But if you are married, feelings of arousal and attachment toward another man are sure signs that you had better stop before you crash.
…How can you tell the difference between attraction or affection and emotional arousal and attachment toward a man? Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to evaluate whether or not as a married woman you are on dangerous ground:
~ Do you think of this man often (several times each day) even though he is not around?
~ Do you select your daily attire based on whether you will see this person?
~ Do you go out of your way to run into him, hoping he’ll notice you?
~ Do you look for excuses to call him so you can hear his voice?
~ Do you find reasons to e-mail him, eagerly anticipating his response?
~ Do you wonder if he feels any attraction toward you?
~ Do you want to talk or spend time alone with this person, out of earshot or eyesight of anyone else?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you need to stop and run in the opposite direction from this relationship until your emotions are more stable. If your feelings for this man have not been communicated to him and there is no intimacy in your relationship, you may still be able to avoid further damage by refraining from these behaviors and thought patterns. However, once feelings are communicated to this person and similar feelings are reciprocated, you’ve just crossed the line into an emotional affair.
If you are single and emotionally involved with a married man, or if you are married and emotionally involved with a man other than your husband, I recommend you do three things:
First, ask forgiveness. An emotional affair may not be as big a deal as a physical affair in the world’s eyes, but all sin is equal in God’s eyes. As you are praying for forgiveness, also ask God to reveal whether you should confess your sin to your spouse. As terrifying as this thought may be, don’t let fear convince you that keeping it secret is the best thing for your marriage. (Chapter 10 ofEvery Woman’s Battle will explain the benefits of confessing to your husband and give you the courage to do so.)
Next, pray for God’s divine protection, not just over your body, but over your heart, mind, and mouth as well. Continue to pray anytime you are feeling weak or vulnerable, but make sure this person doesn’t become the focus of your prayers. Instead, focus on your relationship with God, seeking to grow personally and spiritually. Pray for your other relationships with family and friends. Focus on your present blessings, and this potential burden won’t look so large.
Third, avoid any unnecessary contact with this person. The same way that you might have gone out of your way to cross this person’s path, now go out of your way to stay out of his path. Take the long way to the restroom if the direct way passes by his office. Drive a different route so you don’t pass by his house. Check your caller ID and let your answering machine screen your messages. If you are married, chances are he won’t leave a message. Avoid talking privately or being alone with this person at all costs. If you have photographs displayed of this person, put them away or destroy them if they don’t mean anything to anyone else. Remember, actions speak louder than words. When you refuse to remain in the presence of temptation, it loses its hold on you.
Finally, seek a trusted friend or counselor to hold you accountable through this season of temptation. You may choose to confide in your husband. I always run to Greg when I’m facing sexual or emotional temptation because he has a vested interest in keeping me lifted up in prayer. I also have a few female accountability relationships. If the thought of getting this honest with another woman makes you a little nervous, read chapter 3 of Every Woman’s Battle. If you don’t have a husband or a friend that you can lean on during this time of trial, it would be wise to seek professional counsel. Don’t assume that your problem isn’t big enough to warrant taking the time to do so. Talk about it before it gets any bigger. Whether it is with your husband, a friend, or a counselor, if you know you are going to have to answer to someone else about your thoughts, words, and actions, you’ll try harder to limit them to things you wouldn’t be embarrassed to admit. Getting real and honest with yourself and with someone who can keep you from falling into the pit of compromise is the best lifeline available.
My experience has been that if you starve your desire to be emotionally intimate with a man, it eventually dies. The more you control your appetite for forbidden fruit, the more dignity and satisfaction you will feel about yourself and your ability to be a woman of sexual and emotional integrity.
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Excerpted from Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved. Published by WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO 80921. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.