We are relational people. In his Theology of the Body, Blessed John Paul II talked about this and about our dependence upon each other for companionship, encouragement, confidence, and support.
With relationships come emotions, and so many of them: love, happiness, joy, fear, worry, insecurities, lack of self-confidence, just to name a few. With a flash of a glance or a negative comment we can be whorled into an emotion of happiness or sadness. Many times it is from those whom we are closest to that can make or break us the most. Big responsibility, eh?
In a marriage, we have the need to be accepted by our spouse and it is just as important as when we were children looking for approval from a parent. Why not? We live with this person, we were chosen by this person, we share so much with this person: the relationship depends on their approval and acceptance. At times these needs are not met at home.
So where do the acceptance and good feelings come from if not at home?
Everyday we go somewhere: work, school, the gym, church; where there are others that we know and have dealings with. Is this the place where the emotional support can come from? Is this the place where the feelings of acceptance and self-worth boosts can be possible? If so, this is where it starts on that slippery slope down a VERY dangerous path.
Recently, I've been reading about the sacrament of marriage and you know how one source can lead to another source and so on and so on? Well, I came across this article on Dr. James Dobson's website, Focus on the Family.com about something I had never heard of before: emotional affairs. Actually, I found a slew of information and sources concerning this devastating assault on marriage and the spousal relationship.
What seems so "innocent" can be very dangerous when dealing with someone of the opposite sex who's not a family relation. Because of the non-sexual nature of this relationship many think that they aren't cheating on their spouse, which is far from the truth!
Being on a friendly basis with a person of the opposite sex is not the problem, it's whether or not you have the ability to know when to flee at the moment way before you fall emotionally into battle, before you start realizing this feels wrong, begin to hide it from your spouse, and it becomes more difficult to go backwards to safety!
But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28
Many people believe that their marriages are strong enough to weather any threat, but friendships don't start out to ruin relationships. They can end up destroying them!
How many marriages around you are ending due to infidelity? Infidelity can be physical OR emotional, if the heart is equally unchaste!
It is very important to realize that there must be a set of boundaries that a married couple develops. Both must agree on them to ensure that in the dealings with the opposite sex there is no doubt that both spouses are secure in their fidelity.
Problems happen when we least expect and ensuring that there is a way to act, talk, and carry on business with persons of the opposite sex makes it easier for everyone to know their boundaries and feel secure that they are abided by.
It's when you begin to defend it as "just" a friendship that you need to take a second and a third look and then flee far from this person like the wind! The word "just" is the buzzword by the way. If you or your spouse use it to describe a friendship, the trouble is already there.
Suggestions of common boundaries are:
1. No traveling in a vehicle alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not a relative.
2. Third party safety: never let yourself be alone in a room with someone of the opposite sex not related to you. For one thing, appearances can be deceiving to others, so don't compromise reputations.
3. No meals together without a third person.
4. No flirting, even in jest! Compliments of someone's attire is one thing, but to compliment about the person's physical appearance can be sending out a signal that can be misinterpreted.
5. Be careful what you write in an email, on a Facebook timeline or chat, or in any social media place. Always reread the message and make sure your message is to the point on a business level and no social intonation, which can be very misconstrued.
6. Remind yourself daily of your marriage vows to your spouse. Too often we leave them at the altar and never look back. Read them, keep them in your wallet, take them out and remember why you married your spouse in the first place.
7. If you have children, don't forget them. Whether they are babies or have one foot out of the door, what we do as parents and as married adults makes a huge impact on them! I don't remember who said it, but it couldn't be more accurate: The greatest gift we can give our children is the love and fidelity we have and keep for our spouse.
These are just for starters. Make some of your own that will make sense to your life and KEEP them!
For example: one of my friends told me that she and her husband made a promise when they were married that they would not be caught in a room alone with a person of the opposite sex. Her husband really carries this one through; one time he came to the house to talk with my husband who was upstairs bathing the babies. We talked for a minute until he asked me if Doug was coming down soon and if not he would come back another time. You have to respect that!
Protect your marriage, don't take anything for granted, and make sure your friendships are completely disclosed to your spouse. If they're not or if you think you need to hide this "friendship" you are wrong! Stop now and flee from this slippery slope, IT IS NOT WORTH IT!
Copyright 2013 Ebeth Weidner
About the Author
Ebeth Weidner, a Master Catechist and cradle Catholic who considers herself a Catholic information junkie, writes from her heart about the faith and hope she finds in the Catholic Church. She is the author of “A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars” blog. She is the wife of a research science Professor and mom to 3 great young adults people living on the coastal side of North Carolina.