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Avoiding Emotional Affairs: When Friendships with the Opposite Sex Go Too Far

By Dennis Rainey

Dear friend, pay close attention to this, my wisdom; listen very closely to the way I see it. Then you’ll acquire a taste for good sense; what I tell you will keep you out of trouble. The lips of a seductive woman are oh so sweet, her soft words are oh so smooth. But it won’t be long before she’s gravel in your mouth, a pain in your gut, a wound in your heart. She’s dancing down the perfumed path to Death; she’s headed straight for Hell and taking you with her. …

So, my friend, listen closely; don’t treat my words casually. Keep your distance from such a woman; absolutely stay out of her neighborhood. Proverbs 5:1-8, The Message

High school chemistry taught me a very valuable lesson: When certain substances come into close contact, they can form a chemical reaction. I proved that one day during my senior year of high school when I dropped a small jar full of pure sodium off a bridge into a river. The resulting chemical reaction of sodium and water created an underwater slight explosion and rattled the bridge!

What I’ve learned since then is that many people don’t respect the laws of chemistry any more than I did as a teenager. They mix volatile ingredients without giving much thought to the consequences. I’ve discovered that many married people don’t understand how easily a chemical reaction can occur with someone other than their spouse.

Don’t misunderstand me—I’m not just talking about sexual attraction, although the “chemistry” can start there. I’m referring to a reaction of two hearts, the chemistry of two souls.

This is emotional adultery—an intimacy with the opposite sex outside of marriage. Emotional adultery is unfaithfulness of the heart. When two people begin talking of intimate struggles, needs, doubts or feelings, they may be sharing their souls in a way that God intended exclusively for the marriage relationship. Emotional adultery is friendship with the opposite sex that has progressed too far.

An attraction develops

Let’s look at the typical scenario:

A busy young programmer arrives at work, still simmering over the argument about finances with his wife the night before. He finds it increasingly difficult to talk to her about anything without fighting. When he walks into the office, he sees a coworker who is always easy to talk to, and she always treats him with respect.

One night they end up working late on a project together. It’s innocent enough, but as they relax their guard during the late hours, they talk in ways they never did before about their lives, their struggles.

They stay and work late again, and he takes her home afterward. Nothing happens. Just a friendly, “Thanks for the ride,” and he drives away. But then they have lunch together, and soon they decide that they need to work projects over lunch at least once a week. Before long an attraction develops. The young executive knows his coworker is really interested in him—and vice versa.

Back home, perhaps his wife is pestering him to fix the pantry door and change her car’s oil. She reminds him of family decisions he must make, of a child that needs attention, and soon he feels he doesn’t need all the hassles. The responsibility of home feels heavy and restrictive; he’d rather have lunch with his new friend at work.

This man may not know it, but his friendship sliding down a slippery slope and an emotional affair. And almost inevitably, the emotional affair turns into a physical one.

Almost all sexual affairs begin with an emotional affair.

Of course, this scenario probably happens as often today with wives in the workplace.

Converging on a chemical reaction

And with the easy availability of the internet and social apps like Facebook, a new form of emotional adultery has surfaced. Men and women connect with old friends, classmates, and even former romantic partners. Their familiarity quickly leads to sharing intimate conversations. Their electronic liaisons have resulted in countless heartaches and even divorce.

You may be converging on a chemical reaction with another person when: