Theology

according to my church, I'm committing adultery

affair

Today’s guest post is from Kay.

I’m a young woman and a devoted Christian. I have been faithfully married to the same man for over six years. We have a child. We are very much in love.

So imagine my shock when I discovered, last Sunday, that I’m in the throes of adultery.

Like many pastors around the country, my pastor chose the month of February to preach a sermon series on marriage. It started out really well. The first message was on the roles outlined by Ephesians 5—usually a sticky topic, but one he handled brilliantly. The second sermon was flat-out gold, describing the different kinds of communication in marriage. I went home ready to put the principles I learned into practice.

Then came “Affair-Proofing Your Marriage.”

My pastor began by reading a definition of adultery:

“Adultery defined…is taking the most sacred expressions of intimacy in marriage and giving them to someone other than your spouse.”

Now, let me be clear, this is not a Webster’s definition. Nearly all dictionaries, ancient and modern, define adultery as “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.” I suppose if we consider sex to be the most sacred expression of intimacy in marriage, then the first definition makes sense. But then he continued:

“You can have an affair without having sex. You can have an affair on an emotional level. Affairs happen in our feelings and thoughts long before they become physical.”

He then went on to describe how one can know whether they are engaged in an emotional affair:

  • Meetings and conversations with the other person are kept secret.
  • You say and do things with the other person that you wouldn’t say or do in front of your spouse.
  • You arrange private talk time with them.
  • You share things with them that you wouldn’t share with your spouse.

I was able to check three of the four boxes. Why? Because I’m currently seeing a therapist.

I am a victim of childhood sex abuse. I was molested by my father at a young age. I thought I had prayed through the worst of it, but something occurred recently to reopen my wounds. A few months ago, my ability to continue coping with the pain failed and I very nearly experienced a full mental breakdown. I entered therapy on the verge of suicide. Through the tender care of my therapist (and the support of my husband and friends), I’m gradually recovering my life. But at a price.

See, I’m experiencing a phenomenon in therapy common to most victims of childhood abuse, called ‘Erotic Transference.’ It basically refers to an attraction—often romantic or sexual—that develops towards one’s therapist. Many times, these feelings are unwelcome, painful and humiliating, and are completely unrelated to the therapist’s age, physical attractiveness, or even gender. The feelings often have little to do with what’s happening in the present; instead, they are indicative of unmet needs in the past. The best way of dealing with the transference is, of course, to talk it out in therapy and use the feelings as a way to connect to and resolve past issues.

Yet, according to my pastor’s sermon, by having these feelings, I’m being disloyal to my spouse. Aside from God, my spouse should be the only one hearing my deepest thoughts and meeting my emotional needs. The way I should be dealing with these feelings is to a) confess the feelings to my husband, b) cut off all contact with my therapist, and c) maybe find a new therapist.

The problem is, finding a new therapist won’t solve the problem of my ’emotional adultery,’ even if the therapist were female. Such is the nature of therapy and the nature of my wound. The transference will just come up again. And again. Until it is fully dealt with. So if I follow my pastor’s teaching to its logical conclusion, I shouldn’t go to therapy at all. And I most certainly shouldn’t discuss these feelings with my therapist, even if it can aid in my healing. That’s, supposedly, wildly inappropriate.

According to my church, only two people are approved for meeting my emotional needs: God and my spouse. Whatever one can’t meet, the other will. Funny how not a single scripture was quoted to back this up.

The problem with doctrine like this is that it allows no room for genuinely hurting people to get help. I had walked into service that morning finally at peace after wrestling all week with emotions of terrifying intensity, only to be made to feel ashamed of it all. I could just imagine how many other people might have been sitting there that morning, in the same situation, listening to those words and making a decision that might negatively impact their health and vitality for years to come. I know the Bible calls us to high standards of love and holiness in marriage. I’ll be the first to defend that. But this is the danger when the Evangelical Church decides to redefine words for its own benefit.

Pastors: Stop. Think. There is a wasteland of hurting hearts all around you, and real consequences to what you choose to teach.

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  • I’m not saying emotional affairs don’t happen. I’m not even saying that they don’t sometimes lead to physical affairs. What I will say is that expecting your spouse to meet all of your emotional needs puts an unfair burden on your spouse, a burden he or she cannot possibly fulfill. It is, simply put, co-dependence. You are seeing your therapist with the full knowledge and approval of your spouse precisely for the reason that he is not equipped to handle or heal your wound.

    *hugs*

    • Yep. My two best friends hear stuff I wouldn’t tell my wife. And if we were in the same city still, I’d schedule private time to hang with them (not always, my wife and they get along fine). I’m not having an emotional affair with either of them.

      • And as long as your spouse is comfortable with that and you agree about it I see nothing wrong with having those friends to confide in.

  • I’m hoping… and guessing, with your recent posts about your relationship with your pastor, that you’ve brought this up to him. Because- the problem isn’t with the teaching- it’s with the lack of acknowledgement of certain, special, circumstances.

    Before my marriage dissolved, I had to break off a friendship for the reasons listed. I realized that the “emotional affair” was affecting my marriage. My husband’s actual affair is what ended it- but that’s another story. It IS important for married couples to recognize the potential damage they can cause to their marriages when they take intimacy elsewhere- my husband made the opposite choice I made- he started his “affair” online long before it got physical, and rather than recognizing it and stopping the behaviors, he pursued it to its logical conclusion.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t have friends, even very close friends, of the opposite sex, not at all. My ex had several female friends before this, with no problems. I continue to have some very good male friends, some of whom are married. But…. There are boundaries. I know that anything I say to one of my guy friends is something they might repeat to their spouse… and I’m ok with that, because that’s the nature of marriage. I wouldn’t want them to keep secrets from their spouse. I’m sure every little convo doesn’t get repeated and analyzed- that would be weird- but neither would I say anything to them I wouldn’t say in front of their wives.

    With all that said, however, your context is not the same as the average married person who needs a reminder to set and keep boundaries around their marital commitment. Obviously your relationship with your therapist is a very different context, and a “safe” one, when it comes to talking about adultery, because no ethical therapist is going to try to turn that broken emotional response into some kind of relationship- Quite the opposite, s/he is going to help you learn to acknowledge and work through those feelings.

    It would be wise for your pastor, and anyone who teaches on this topic, to expand beyond the paradigm of the “normal, healthy” relationship and touch upon the exceptions to the “rule”. Until we start acknowledging the walking wounded among us, it will continue to be difficult for them to achieve healing.

    Take care of you. ((hugs))
    Mary

    • Hi Mary– this is the first guest post I’ve had from Kay.

      Also, I know you mean the best, but comments that spend almost the length of the post reiterating what Kay is trying to say could be hurtful… isn’t helpful. I don’t think you’ve crossed any lines in any way, but I just wanted you to be aware. 🙂

      • Oh geez… I thought this was from you… I was referring to the comments you’ve made in the past about the convos you’re having with your church. My apologies to Kay.

        It’s hurtful to say that the teaching does apply to *most* people in a helpful way? I hope I was clear that I understand completely that it doesn’t apply to her situation, and that I get where she’s coming from, and that’s why I think pastors need education in this kind of thing… I probably do ramble on, as you know I’m prone to do that. 🙁

        Well, if that’s the case, again, I apologize. I certainly don’t mean to belittle anyone’s experience, especially having “been there and done that” myself.
        🙁

        • I think the point of this post is that people– especially in spiritual leadership positions– need to evaluate how what seems like a “good” rule-of-thumb may, in fact, be totally wrong in some cases.

          The argument Kay was making wasn’t that pastors can’t give advice to married people, just that the advice given in that sermon completely ignored how that would affect at least one person– but probably more.

          We need to have nuance. We need to be aware that what seems like perfectly innocent advice might, in fact, be horribly damaging. If a teaching can only apply to “most” people (and I would argue that in a world where 1 in 7 wives are being raped and 1 in 5 women are being abused, “most” is not what we think it is)– then pastors, especially, need to stop and think.

          Also, I think this advice about “emotional affairs” is inherently problematic. I think it perpetuates heteronormativity (what if your female BFF is bi? Lesbian? what if you have no idea she is? what then?), and it also perpetuates the extremely harmful stereotype that all relationships can only be about The Sex. The typical advice about emotional affairs almost always fall into gendered traps.

          • I’m imagining the response we’d get if we told him about polyamory. Remember that numbers post you did a short while ago? What percentage of the church do you think is LGBT or poly or falls way outside the normative view this pastor seems to hold? And what bidniss is it of his anyway?

  • Don A in Pennsyltucky

    Men have this kind of relationship too. But there is no “logical conclusion” other than this one: The best outcome for a woman who has sex with a married man is that she can find herself married to a man that has been proven to cheat on his wife.

    • This is a blanket statement without regard to the complexities and nuance of individual situations that you know nothing about. It’s also slut-shaming. Please keep this to yourself in the future.

      • I hope you won’t hate me for responding to this, especially with my faux pas above, but… I admit I feel exactly this way about my ex and the woman he left me for, a kind of “well you get what you pay for” attitude. I don’t hate her or think she’s a “slut”, but… If a woman goes with a married man, she’s knowingly entering into a relationship with a man known to be a cheater…. Women (and men!!) who do find themselves in that kind of situation, for whatever reason, should seriously consider the ramifications and I would strongly recommend couples counseling before moving forward.

        • I can understand why this comment would resonate. My ex cheated on me, and when they ended up together my only thought at the time was a vindictive “good. They deserve each other.”

          However, in retrospect, I now feel nothing except sorrow for her, because I know more about her situation. She was manipulated by an incredibly charming man– probably raped, and now she’s married to an abuser.

          Just because she was manipulated by an abuser doesn’t mean she should be eternally barred from ANY relationship with a trustworthy man, which is what the original comment implied.

          Again. There are individual circumstances that you might know nothing about, and I think we should refrain from judging people.

          • Yes *we* should.

            In my case, my ex is a narcissist, but he is not abusive. If he were, I would’ve warned her, and probably felt far more empathy and compassion.

            I’m not saying we shouldn’t, however, I think it’s unrealistic to deny personal responsibility when someone knowingly enters an affair with a married person, and yes, I *will* be judgmental about that. It’s wrong, not to mention self-destructive.

            Obviously, in the case of an abuser/abused, personal responsibility falls on the abuser. That’s not the same thing, and I think it’s healthy to acknowledge that not all relationships are the same. Isn’t that kind of the point of the blog entry? That what’s good medicine for one relationship could be poisonous to another? That was pretty much the point of my first post…

            And with that, I think, I’ve come full circle, and this is why I habitually don’t follow the comments anymore… I’ve got 5 pages of Hamlet to write, and this isn’t getting it done.

            Apologies for engaging in a conversation that I can’t maintain, due to time constraints. 🙁

      • Thank you for saying this. You are seriously the Princess Amethyst to my Lady Turquoise.

        People do all kinds of stuff with each other, and love and relationships can get so complicated and complex. I’m not sure it’s a really great thing when someone rejoices in the hardship of another person. Like you, I feel a lot of nervousness and sorrow for the woman my Evil Ex pursued after I was finally out of his grasp.

    • Don, your comment has almost nothing to do with the original post. Why bring physical cheating up when the post was about emotional cheating? I am really confused as to what point you were trying to add to the conversation. Could you please explain?

  • Thanks for sharing your feelings with us. It gives me insight into what a victim of abuse suffers through and I hope I am more aware of what I say in order to avoid causing pain. Please, I hope you can share what you wrote (or what you feel) with your pastor. He will hopefully benefit from your insight. Personally, what you describe happening in therapy would not have been on my radar screen when talking about emotional adultery. I’m not exactly sure what specific kind of situation is being referred to, or even it it is appropriate to put out four statements like that and call it adultery.

    Does what the pastor said in his sermon have any validity outside of your experience? Jesus encouraged us to look beyond the letter of law “Look with lust in your heart…”. He let us know the sinful act started before the action ever took place. Do the statements of your pastor rise to the status of adultery along with Jesus’ statement? I think we might be hardpressed to prove that. The church and pastors it seems have always been guilty of saying more than God said…with the idea of protecting people from the tragedy of sin. But good intentions don’t excuse hurtful and unhelpful and ignorant words.

    Please, help your pastor, as you help me and many others, to greater understanding and empathy.

    • I agree with your point about the pastor’s statements giving an overly broad definition of non-sexual affairs, RevMarkW. However, I question whether the writer should be pressured to enlighten her pastor. Isn’t it the pastor’s job to think about issues like this in the first place? Doesn’t the responsibility of thinking through both the moral/ethical considerations and the potential personal impact of statements like this come with the territory for someone in such a role? I’m not saying I think religious leaders must be perfect at all times – I’m simply concerned about the notion that victims need to educate such leaders who speak thoughtlessly. That seems like a heavy weight for victims to bear.

  • That had to be just excruciating to have to sit through and listen to. I agree, it’s not Kay’s responsibility to educate this pastor any more than it’s her responsibility to educate “Nice Guys” in how to be decent human beings–pastors can be in a big position of power over their flock, and often assume a mantle of even more authority–especially the ones who need to drill down on how women “should” act. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I appreciate what she’s said, and hope she finds a way to get this worked out while she’s healing in therapy.

  • Excellent points, Kay. Thanks for sharing this. More awareness is a good thing; There is a reason why scripture admonishes us to be very careful with our tongues.

  • Rebekah

    Thanks for writing this Kay, it was very helpful.

    As a past conservative churchgoer I have also heard some variation of what your pastor said above, generally presented to me as good guidelines to follow but not hard and fast rules. Before reading this I would have pretty much agreed with your pastor while keeping in the back of my head that there are probably exceptions that I just couldn’t think of (that is what I think of as guidelines, good rules of thumb that apply to most people but not everyone). While I can still see why they would be generally good guidelines to follow in order to steer clear of adultery (emotional or otherwise), I can see now how many exceptions there probably are that your pastor and others should probably be thinking about.

    I also think you have great points about intimacy as well. When I had heard this kind of thinking in the past either my pastor didn’t emphasize your spouse being the only source you had of emotional support or I took it that way; it seemed kind of ridiculous to me that no one else in your life could ever give you emotional support (actually sounds kind of dangerous!) and doesn’t seem to match real life terribly well. I suppose I would hope that your spouse is your #1 emotional support (barring the exceptions (I’m sure there are many!)-guidelines again!) but to be 100% is a lot of pressure on a person!

    If you do decide to talk to your pastor I hope it goes well and doesn’t require more therapy (I suppose that would be ironic, huh?).

    • Rebekah

      I also meant to say thanks for mentioning transference, I had never heard of it and my first reaction to what you’re describing would have been to say something like ‘try a new therapist?’. Obviously that could still be an option, but not as good of one as I had previously thought.

  • Peggy Trivilino

    Kay, may I suggest that you don’t agonize for one more nanosecond over this situation. If this particular pastor’s mindset causes you to question continuing with therapy or to regard that therapy with doubt and negativity–RUN, DON’T WALK!!–until you find a church and a pastor that will support your journey towards full mental health. The last thing you need right now is anything or anyone who will foster in you the devastatingly destructive feeling of guilt.

  • Guess what, not all preachers are God and what they say you may agree with 80 or 90 percent of the time, but free will gives you the right to interpret those scriptures and thoughts if not backed up by scripture differently. Call what the man said B#$%#@#$ and hope next weeks sermon jives with you more. My parents always said “You have to take what a preacher says with a grain of salt, because they don’t live in the real world.”

    • William Grimmer

      Well I agree that Pastors are not God … but if you do not agree with 80 to 90% of what preachers say there is something seriously wrong. Either they (all of them) are not preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ or your heart is not right.
      As far as living in the real world, I am not really sure what that means? Although I would welcome being caught up to heaven and popping in to say hello and preach on Sundays, it just doesn’t work that way. We (Pastors) have personal and family struggles, good times and bad; we also have the responsibility to support the people God has entrusted to us when they go through these same struggles. We get corrected and are growing in the knowledge of Christ everyday. We make mistakes and are not awake so much before that first cup of coffee. We can be crabby when we only get a few hours of sleep and sad when we have to miss our son ball game or daughters dance recital.
      I sleep in a bed like you do, put my pants on one leg at a time and have to pay my bills like you do. I have been to christenings and weddings, birthdays, reunions, been a part of some of the happiest times of individuals and families. I also have had people kill themselves in front of me, found the bodies of those who had overdosed laying in an ally. I have been called to the homes of families who in the past 30 minutes had lost family after an illness or due accidents and had to find the strength and the words (or lack of) to comfort them. I have seen children standing over the body of their single mother because she died during the night while they slept on a sidewalk …. so I ask you, what real world are you talking about?
      I don’t know what your experiences have been with some ministers but I assure you, most of us live in the real world. We face it everyday and sometimes it is not pretty. I love what I do and do it with joy, a joy that doesn’t come easy all the time. It is a joy where all Christians can dwell. I am sorry if you and your parents suffered at the hands of someone who was unjust or abusive in action or word, but we are not all the same and we are not without fault.

      • Courtney

        So two people can’t disagree on 80 or 90 percent of their theology without one of them not having their heart in the right place? I think that could possibly be what he means when he says that pastors don’t live in the real world. Everything isn’t so black and white.

  • krwordgazer

    According to those definitions, I’m having emotional affairs with my sister and my best girlfriend. This is ridiculous. It gives abusive husbands an excuse to cut off all emotional ties a woman has with her friends, or possibly even her family members. It’s just plain unhealthy to expect one human being to meet all of one’s emotional needs. In fact, even the spiritually abusive church I used to be part of, taught that it puts too much strain on a marriage for the partners to expect one another to fulfill every human need.

    My husband knows I talk to my sister and my best friend about things I don’t share with him. So the only item I wouldn’t check off on that list would be the first one.

  • I agree with krwordgazer. I think it’s necessary for a spouse to have someone outside of the marriage that s/he can confide in. I don’t believe in “emotional” affairs. Being drawn to another person isn’t a sin. Period.

  • Thank you. Therapy is so important for those who have suffered abuse. With therapy comes exactly what you have described and the healing that follows. I hope you continue to find the support you need from a loving spouse and the healing you need from therapy. Perhaps speaking with your Pastor will open his eyes and his heart.

  • Colinde

    I like this piece very much. Nice twist… It points out in glaring clarity how bad these ‘blanket guidlines’ are for a congregation. Everyone has private struggles and a past, and people are more complex than these leaders often are willing to admit. That a thing that gets under my skin, seriously.

    As a side to that I’m just *now* learning (like, my head is seriously having a hard time understanding though I’m beginning to ‘know’ what’s right) how wrong the message of “emotional affairs” is coming from the Evangelical doctrine. My head was dunked in this message my whole life – even up to last year during a discussion with my mentor regarding my current partner/relationship. I love the idea that I now have permission to allow myself the draw and the closeness to other people aside from my partner. I have male friends who I’ve been closer with and known way longer than my partner – but how is that wrong? Fate just draws people together sometimes I think. I’m finally starting to understand that that’s natural and ok. The only problem I forsee, is having been taught the latter/strict monogomous type emotional attachment – I’m betting I will have significant problems if the situation is reversed with my partner! -.-

  • Bob n PA

    Kay, thanks for your post, I have to ask a question in regards to the following
    “The problem is, finding a new therapist won’t solve the problem of my ‘emotional adultery,’ even if the therapist were female. Such is the nature of therapy and the nature of my wound. The transference will just come up again. And again. Until it is fully dealt with. So if I follow my pastor’s teaching to its logical conclusion, I shouldn’t go to therapy at all. And I most certainly shouldn’t discuss these feelings with my therapist, even if it can aid in my healing. That’s, supposedly, wildly inappropriate.” The question is by not telling your therapist of the transference, you are grappling with, are you not exposing the therapist to professional misconduct, based on your Pastors sermon?, and are you hamstringing you therapist in helping you. Its a pretty hefty charge your Pastor has tied to your neck, you have enough to deal with, Don’t let your Pastor weigh you down anymore. Your Therapist should know of your feeling, and will make the appropriate solution to your situation, whether that includes a meeting with your Pastor, or including a second person (maybe your husband) in the room during your sessions. Take care of yourself first, then your family. May you find comfort and peace.

    • Bob, I think her original article made it pretty clear that she was discussing this with her therapist when she said:

      “The best way of dealing with the transference is, of course, to talk it out in therapy and use the feelings as a way to connect to and resolve past issues.”

      Thanks.

      • Bob n PA

        My apologies for mis-reading the post, I had read it as she was in therapy for the struggle with her father’s transgressions, and the transference was occurring during her therapy. I’m not in her shoes, but I’m in therapy for the loss of my son, and my own church has been unable to meet our own spiratual needs, but they haven’t crossed the line, as her preacher has done. Her Preacher needs to understand he is in over his head with his interpretation of scripture, and his cause of scandal and lack of compassion for his fellow human beings. I would refer her and her Preacher to The Pope’s Mass at Santa Marta – Consistency in the Christian life. For Kay, God never gets tired of forgiving, and to her preacher to be weary of the great mill stone he is tying around his neck. Please keep up the great posts. Again my apoligies . attched is a link to Pope Fransis’s Mass http://www.news.va/en/news/the-popes-mass-at-santa-marta-the-scandal-of-incon

  • WG, you had a misread. I didn’t say disagreeing 80 or 90 percent of the time. I said may agree. Anyone with free will should disagree ten or twenty percent with a preacher or anyone else for that matter.
    Boy did I stir up a hornets nest about the real world. Yes we are all human, and bi-vocational pastors have to change their focus from secular to sacred, but I’ve been to seminary and rubbed shoulders with pastors for over fifty years in our state convention. A pastor’s main focus is to be on the sacred and that sometimes has them come to conclusions that the laity can’t relate to.
    In the context of this post, the preacher in question doesn’t have a clue about friendships and what it takes to get along in the workplace, much less the need for a therapist. He doesn’t have the experience and is caught up in the ideal instead of the reality.

    • William Grimmer

      Ha, Patrick if I misread I am sorry. It wasn’t hornets nest really, I understand that ministers sometime over step the lines and yes we will not always agree on everything. We all must examine the world according to the word of God, but understand that just because I say something is wrong don’t think I can not possibly address the full topic based on every circumstance. In most cases regarding the article, this message would be addressing a willingness and pursuit of unrighteousness, which is what Christ also addressed in the scriptures. God never condemns nor chastises the victim. For instance, another sensitive topic. Abortion is wrong and sin, but that statement was totally black and white and would probably cause some offence or even may have hurt feelings. Is the statement true? well yes. Is it true for the lady who was raped and got pregnant and had an abortion? To me, not so much. How about the Husband who had to chose between saving the baby or his wife? You see the statement carries with it a truth but that truth does not apply to every circumstance. If someone hasn’t settled in their heart the event that happened in their life it could spark resentment or guilt. First off if you were an unwilling victim there is no guilt, but often the victim does feel guilty because they blame themselves or were told it was their fault. What I am simply saying is that I wasn’t there to hear this Pastor sermon and don’t know what was said, neither do any of you to be honest. I do know that when one is going through an traumatic emotional situation it can sometime cause us to misinterpret or even not understand that the sermon, though it parallels our situation, does not apply to us and our situation or experience. Is the lady mistaken? Again, I wasn’t there nor were any of you. To bring criticism about the Pastor based on a one sided article is not a proper approach nor is it right.

      Galatians 1:6 – Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

      Matthew 18:15 – Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother

      1 Timothy 5:19 – Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

      This is in no way a slight nor am I taking lightly what this lady has been through. Any attack against a person against their will is deplorable and inexcusable. However, if she has not gone to her Pastor FIRST with this (with her husband or friend) than that is what she should do. Give the pastor the opportunity to clarify his meaning or realize his fault and correct it. It will also let him know he needs to address it to the congregation and will help him be attentive in the future. If she doesn’t he will never know or grow …

  • Tony

    Jesus definition of adultery was just looking at someone in a lustful way. What this pastor said is for the most part correct (although I think the title affair proofing your marriage is silly and presumptuous.) and is directed to the person(s) who’s heart is going wayward and not keeping accountable with their issue of emotional dependency. I would suggest talking with your pastor before blowing him up in a blog post. His sermon most likely helped a few marriages.

  • Marsha Geller

    I need some advice. My best friend is a Christian – she is a good person who is making some wrong decisions. She is dating a married man with 3 children – he says his marriage is over and he has known this for a long time – that meeting her has given him the realization that he can love again.

    My friend has been divorced for 5 years and has called herself a “lapsed Christian” – she tends to live her life as she see’s fit and then, when things start going wrong, she starts reading her bible and going back to church – things sort themselves out and then she “lapses” again.

    We’ve grown up together – I’ve known her for over 20 years, so I’ve seen her go through these phases many, many times. Right now, she is in love, so all is right with her world. I just want to help her realize that what she is doing is wrong and she needs to stop seeing this man. And, I think what put me over the edge this time, is that she tells people what a good Christian she is, all the while she is committing adultery.

    I’ve tried telling her to seek counsel from her pastor, I’ve tried talking to her myself, but she truly believes that God brought this man into her life, so she is able to see him.

    Please help me to help her

    • Hello Marsha,

      I’m one of those people that is extremely hesitant to give advice, especially when I don’t have personal experience in a situation. I’ve never been in your shoes or your friend’s shoes.

      That being said, when some of my friends are doing things that I’m fearful might have negative long-term consequences for them, I have to ask myself a few questions.

      You seem to be concerned that what she’s doing is wrong. Whether or not it is wrong– is pointing that out to her and harping on it going to make a difference, or is it just going to drive a wedge and make her resent you? Will it help foster communication between the two of you? If not, then maybe you should keep your opinion about what she’s doing to yourself.

      Second, I don’t know if this is the case, but it seems like you’re making your relationship with her based on whether or not you can “fix” this about her. You’ve been friends for a long time. You know what she’s like. Does she need a friend, or someone who feels morally superior to her? As long as your focus on your friendship is about what she’s doing instead of about nurturing a healthy relationship with her, I don’t know how you’ll be able to help her at all.

      Lastly, she’s an adult. That means having the ability to make mistakes. I would be the person in her life that she knows she can turn to when things start falling apart. If you’re the friend that judged her the entire time and let her know in no uncertain terms that she was screwing up, you’re not going to be that person. You don’t need to be her mother.