Emotional Adultery: Hope and Help!

Dr. Lucy Ann MollFor Those Giving Help, For Those Seeking HopeLeave a Comment

Emotional adultery: Isn’t it easy in the Internet age to virtually meet a man other than your husband and make an emotional attachment? Texting an old boyfriend from high school or chatting via Facebook with a cute guy from Australia, or the next town over, seems safe and fun — and deliciously tempting.

I can quick-count three married friends who’ve flirted by text or chatted privately online with a guy. They dipped a toe in the murky pool of emotional attachment. They looked forward to texting and online chatting.

What’s the best plan when you have an emotional attachment to a man who’s not your husband?

a) Continue the friendship. It’s no big deal.

b) Tell yourself you’re the worst person on the planet and drink your sorrows away.

c) Fight for your marriage because the man you always wanted is the one you already have. It’s worth it.

It Happens So. . .Easily

The bible uses the word adultery to describe this attachment. Doesn’t adultery sound harsh when two people haven’t had sex with each other? What’s your opinion? Jesus called it as he saw it.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

While men are visually wired to gaze at a forbidden beauty and lust, we women are far more likely to commit emotional adultery when a guy makes us feel special, valued, or desired. . .and lust. Happily married women aren’t exempt, are they?

The whole thing usually begins innocently. . .

a funny text

silly cat or dog photos 

a little online flirting

inside jokes

then day dreaming about him

and, yes, a realization that you ran a red light and it’s time to pull over and get busted but you don’t want to stop because it really is innocent — right?


In their book Surprised by the Healer, Juli Slattery and Linda Dillow write,

“Sexuality is a powerful force. It draws us into relationships, compels us to risk being vulnerable, and is a key component of our identities as men and women. Within marriage sexual intimacy is the most sacred experience to people can share. However, sexuality can also be a devastating force for harm. There in so betrayal like an intimate betrayal. No shame as deep as sexual shame.”

Paula’s Story

Paula Friedrichsen, an author who I interviewed for one of my podcasts a while back, said it happened to her and nearly killed her marriage. She became emotionally attached to a man. . .who also was her pastor. Her experience was in person, not online. Her story shows how easy a woman — when vulnerable in some way — can fall into emotional adultery. Out of this experience she wrote The Man You Always Wanted Is the One You Already Have (Multnomah Publishers).

Her inappropriate relationship began the usual way, innocently.

She and her husband moved to a city where he began a new job. She found a church and went alone. Her husband was not yet a Christian. She jumped into helping out at church and soon became friends with the pastor and his wife.

Among her vulnerabilities:

a move to a new city,

a new church,

lack of spending time with old friends,


Then one thing led to another.

“I became romantically, though thankfully not sexually, involved with my then-pastor,” Paula admits. She adored his attention and having deep conversations with a mature Christian. Sure, guilt niggled her conscience. She rationalized that since they were not physically intimate, the relationship was above board. The late night phone calls began and the lunches — she kept these secret from her husband.

But people at church began to notice. Eventually leadership called them out. “(Our relationship) resulted in the church’s devastation and a great deal of harm to both of our marriages.”

Help After Emotional Adultery

Jesus redeems marriages and heals sexual brokenness. One of the names God uses for himself is Jehovah Rapha–the Lord, our Healer. Rapha means “to heal, make healthy.” It refers to physical. emotional, or spiritual healing.

Do you desire sexual healing? In the Bible, God declares that there is healing for your deepest hurts. He brings truth into are lives and invites us to exchange Satan’s lies — emotional adultery isn’t so bad. . .his attention makes me a better person. . .why can’t my husband be more him like — for God’s truth.

I have a popular handout to give you. All you need to do is ask for it here. This handout shows you how to practically believe God’s wonderful truth about you and about him, and stop believing lies.

It’s an important step toward freedom. You’ll begin to believe the truth and act on the truth. . .no matter how you feel.

  • Do you want God to use the difficult lessons you’ve learned about relationships and sexuality?
  • Do you hope for him to redeem your broken story?

You can share Paula’s insight: “It’s only as I am found in Christ that I can be content in my relationship with my husband.”

Question: Have you experienced a similar struggle? How did you fare?

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