Social Issues

why no one should talk about "emotional adultery" ever again

I’m shifting the schedule a little bit this week because today is Bisexual Visibility Day— and this week is the first-ever Bisexuality Awareness Week. This is the first year I’ve been out, and seeing communities come together like this– online and off–makes me incredibly happy. I came out to all of you as bi a little while ago, and so far, nothing has made me regret that decision.

I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to say today, especially since there’s so many awesome people talking about what it means and what it’s like to be bi, but I realized that until I met people like Eliel Cruz and Dianna Anderson, I had never really connected the idea that bi people could be Christians … which is extraordinarily awful, as one of my best friends from college flat-out told me he was bi but I decided I didn’t believe him when he proposed to his boyfriend. Nope, he’d been gay all along, I decided, and “bi” was just a transitory stage. I’m not the first or last person to think that, especially since “how does it feel not being able to act on your bisexuality, now that you’re married to a man?” is a question I get asked all of the time.

But, today, I’d like to talk about what it means to be bi and a Christian, since that’s not something you see all that often.

And, as a bi Christian, I need to ask all of us to stop talking about emotional adultery.

I ran into it yesterday when I was reading Real Marriage, as Grace and Mark reiterate several times how important it is for men and women to only have friendships with people of the opposite sex because the risk of “emotional adultery” is so great, and it makes me feel both anger and despair, because I’ve heard the same message preached from the pulpit less than six months ago, at a church that prides itself on its open-mindedness. It bothers me, deeply, how casual it’s usually presented, too– it’s just assumed by most Christians that this is just common sense. They say things like “be careful not to become close friends with a lady, guys,” as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and every time I hear it I want to cry because what they’re saying is:

Samantha, you cannot have any friends.

The reasoning behind “emotional adultery” is that it’s too dangerous for us to be close friends with someone we might possibly ever have pants-feelings for, but the problem is that, for me, that is everyone. I could possibly grow to have romantic feelings and sexual attraction for any person I happen to like being around. Hell, I was in love with my best friend growing up for years and I had no idea until recently– the intense jealousy I felt every time she had a crush on a boy should have told me something, but it didn’t.

Every time someone starts talking about “emotional adultery,” I feel pain because whoever is speaking doesn’t realize I exist. There’s this huge and amazing and beautiful part of me that they’re not just ignoring– they haven’t even stopped to take the time to think about what they’re saying. In my personal experience, every time I’ve stopped someone going off on a “guys and girls can’t be friends” tangent, their reaction has unanimously been stupefaction. Wait– what? is all their faces say and it’s clear that they don’t know what to do with the information they’ve just been handed.

If I can be just friends with women, then all ya’ll need to STFU about how guys and girls can’t be friends, and how risky close friendships are between people of the opposite sex. And I’ve been really close friends with some of the most amazing and beautiful women I’ve ever known, and yeah, on occasion wow she is so hot has interrupted my train of thought, but guess what? I’m a mature adult who values my relationships, and so far I’m the only woman in any of my communities who’s been out as queer. I respect my friends and their boundaries and the fact that they’re straight, and they will never be interested in me that way, which is fine.

It’s the same with all the guy friends I’ve had, too– and I’ve had a few really close friendships with guys. I don’t know what I would have done without those friendships, as they were the people who kept me going when I just wanted to give up, who showed me what love and acceptance looked like. But, even though we’ve spent a lot of time together– even alone– and even though they’ve been my emotional rocks through some pretty wild life seasons, it doesn’t mean that I was doing something “risky.” I was just being a friend.

And, honestly, this whole “emotional adultery” nonsense is just plain not biblical. I know, I know, this is me, trying to put the “biblical” label on something, but I think this interpretation is pretty safe, as “they shall know you by how you love one another” isn’t just about dudes loving dudes and gals loving gals, but everybody loving everybody, and “great each other with a holy kiss” is in there somewhere, and so is that whole bit about being sisters and brothers in Christ.

Being a Christian is about love and support and community, and nothing that I see anywhere in the Bible lends any support to the idea that men and women are supposed to have segregated friendships and segregated communities.

Photo by Mathias Klang
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  • It’s exactly the “girls and guys can’t be friends” teaching that made me terrified of boys. I’ve only started having guy friends in the last year because of a long time, I pretty much lost the ability to talk or listen to boys, due to my fear of them. Ick.

  • When I saw the title of your post, I thought this would be discussing the nuances of if it can possibly be cheating if you never do anything physical with the other person. 😛 I think that, too, is a very worthwhile discussion to be having, actually.

    But what you said is all so so important too, and from what I’ve heard from one of my bisexual online acquaintances, it is a common feeling. I’m asexual and can’t relate to finding someone attractive yet ignoring that and remaining their friend, but I have always loved fictional narratives with just that storyline. It seems abundantly clear that you won’t be attracted to every single person to meet, but even if you are attracted to them, you can respect boundaries and if they aren’t single, or if you aren’t single, then avoid flirting or asking them out or whatever.

  • Lis

    I’m not quite sure how to say this, and I am by no means trying to be offensive or argumentative here, so if Samantha or some of the fabulous people who comment here could help me think through this, I’d appreciate it: I think there can be such a thing as emotional adultery. I absolutely do NOT think that this means that people of whatever genders and orientations cannot be friends – that is silly and absurd, and as Samantha has so well pointed out from experience (and it is my personal experience as well), it’s just plain not true. We absolutely are capable of being friends, people who hold each other up in dark times, and celebrate each other’s victories and differences. We can be there for each other, have fun together, cry together, and love each other. The fundamentalist view that I was brought up in cannot imagine this because it takes such a pathetic and narrow view of love. Certainly there are some people (again, of whatever gender or orientation) who don’t seem to be able to separate physical attraction and friendship, but that certainly does not mean everyone is incapable.

    Now that said, I still think there is the possibility of cheating emotionally on your partner. I am thinking that this has less to do with a list of exact specific behaviours you engage in with another person, and more to do with the general tenor of your relationship with your partner. If you are sharing things with someone else *instead* of with your partner, things that need to be worked out with them, if you are failing to deal with issues in that relationship and instead spending time with a friend or friends because it’s just easier . . . ? That seems highly problematic to me, and again, it’s kind of difficult to pin down because each relationship functions differenty.

    Thoughts?

    • Ryan Robinson

      Thanks Lis. My reaction to the piece was very similar. It’s very possible – and in fact, very important – to have opposite-gender friendships. Real, deep, meaningful friendships. But there is definitely something to be said for paying attention to if you ever cross into the territory where the friend is replacing the partner, even if there’s nothing sexual.

      Back in university, I was arguably the other man in that situation. She disagreed, but I was starting to feel that way. She was in a long-term long-distance relationship and he wasn’t giving her everything she felt she needed from a relationship anymore – didn’t call very often, for example. She probably saw me 5 days a week and told me pretty much everything, including a lot of the problems with the relationship that she wasn’t telling him (in part because he wasn’t particularly interested in listening). Other friends of mine who didn’t know she had a boyfriend asked me if there was anything romantic going on. There was never any sexual attraction or much that could be misconstrued as particularly romantic, just the general sense that she was becoming more and more emotionally-invested in me the same time she was less and less in him. Maybe I overreacted – it’s true I didn’t handle it as well as I could have – but I definitely still think it was not a healthy situation.

    • I think a form of “emotional adultery” is possible, but I don’t think typical conversations about it in Christian circles have any idea what it could be, since any and all forms of communication with someone you might have pants-feelings for is demonized.

      I think it’s also possible to share things with someone that you wouldn’t necessarily share with your spouse, and just because your relationship with your spouse might not be the healthiest or the most amazing doesn’t make any relationship you have that is healthier automatically adultery.

      Emotional adultery, for me, would have to be deliberate and conscious, just like physical adultery would be. You’d have to indulge definite romantic feelings for a person that isn’t your spouse– without your spouse’s consent.

    • There is the possibility of cheating in every way imaginable. One thing that makes this tricky to teach in a normal church setting is that what constitutes cheating varies wildly from one couple to the next.

      For example, I had one girlfriend in college who, when I casually told her I was meeting a female friend for lunch, asked me why I would go on dates with other women when we were exclusive. To her, a lunch between friends constituted a date because our genders were opposite. To me, it was just lunch. Yet another girlfriend I had couldn’t care – I asked permission to go out to lunch with a female friend and she looked at me as if I’d grown three heads.

      This is a tame example, but it illustrates the point that all couples are different. What constitutes emotional adultery is different because, in my opinion, adultery is violating the covenant you’ve made with your partner. That requires that you make and define this covenant, and that you have the communication network set up so you can ask questions and negotiate without damaging the relationship. In the end, it’s an extension of Consent.

      And we all know how hard it is for pastors to preach consent from the pulpit…

      • I really like what you said about adultery a violation of the covenant you’ve made with your partner. I think that gives room for flexibility since every couple is different, but it also prevents any person from saying that “oh well, I didn’t do X, so I didn’t actually cheat, so your hurt feelings are illogical.”

        I think we should try our best to minimize harm to our spouse as long as that prevention of harm doesn’t extend to the point where we allow ourselves to be smothered. For example, I had a really good friend who was deployed, and he and his wife were going through some major problems. She was hanging out with a guy who was very openly into her (disrespectful much?), but when her husband asked her not to spend time with him, she blew him off as trying to interfere too much in her life. I think, considering the disrespectful nature of the friend and the fact that the husband was okay with her having other male friends and even a male housemate, he wasn’t trying to be controlling, and his request was reasonable.

        • Indigo

          I really like what you said about adultery a violation of the covenant you’ve made with your partner. I think that gives room for flexibility since every couple is different, but it also prevents any person from saying that “oh well, I didn’t do X, so I didn’t actually cheat, so your hurt feelings are illogical.”
          I’m in an open relationship, and that concept is just so bloody difficult to express to people sometimes. It drives me up a tree when people say, “So…your partner doesn’t mind if you cheat?” Of course he would mind if I was unfaithful, it’s just that that would be “having a partner you didn’t tell me about”. It’s especially frustrating when it comes from someone who I know doesn’t respect their partner at all, and does things their partner would not like in the slightest, and covers their tracks with “but that’s not CHEATING”. Buddy, if you can’t tell your partner because they would be mad, it may* be adultery. If you don’t know if it “counts” or not, then ask your partner before you do it!
          *”May” because sometimes partners get upset over things like hanging out with opposite-sex friends or looking at porn or masturbating.

          • Absolutely! I was always raised with the mentality, “if you have to hide it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it… and you know it.”

    • daydreamer42

      I agree with you, both in that there is a possibility of emotionally cheating on a significant other, and that the idea of completely dissociating with anyone I’m physically attracted to to avoid that is, well, stupid. I’m married, and throughout the next 50 or so years of my life, there’s a pretty good chance that I’m going to be attracted to at least one person other than my husband. The vow I made to my husband at our wedding was to be monogamous, and to not act on physical attraction to other people outside of our mutually agreed upon terms. I think that can extend to emotional behaviors as well, too.

      I think the idea that we can’t associate with anyone, theoretically, of the opposite gender is a terrible thing to teach. (And to be fair, with my straight privilege I didn’t even consider this implication for bi people, too, which is pretty awful.) For one thing, not everyone is attracted to everyone they see, and even if we are, we’re not animals who will indiscriminately tear each others’ clothes off. (Which also feeds into rape culture to some extent, in that men can’t be expected to control themselves alone around women, ‘boys will be boys’ and whatnot.)

      In short, I think you worded that well, in that I’m glad Samantha brought this up, as its another way that the church ostracizes people even if they are attempting to be inclusive (and I’m apart of that, I know, even unintentionally) and that also emotional cheating is a thing, although not the same as the emotional cheating issues outlined in the article.

  • Karen K

    Karen Kalweit here, from now on I will be posting as Karen K. It turns out I wasn’t ready to post all the personal stuff and give my full name.

    Somebody say amen, or my preference,”yeah, what she said!” When I was a kid my parents and my parents I mean my mom sexualized any interaction with boys. When I was four and went over to play with the four-year-old boy up the street she would say to all my relatives that Karen has a boyfriend. I’m old. We just played with kids back then. We didn’t have play dates and thank goodness. Can you imagine adding the word date to this?anyway, when I was young I found this terribly embarrassing but I didn’t understand my feelings beyond that. Looking back, I realized the rest of the family wasn’t nearly as amused by this is my mom was.

    The problems came when I was older.The same attitude became a form of slut shaming. I can’t drive because I’m visually impaired. When I was 19 I sought therapy to deal with sexual abuse that happened when I was 15. FYI, I was married and had a baby by then. A close male friend spent his summer home from college driving me to therapy and picking me up afterwards every Wednesday. He also took care of my little girl during that time. mom accused me of having an affair with him. That wonderful man has been one of my very best friends for over 30 years now.he lives on the West Coast and I live on the East Coast and he has invited me to fly me out for a visit so we can spend some time together and so I can meet his family. I plan to go. In fact I’m looking forward to it. This is going to cause raised eyebrows and gossiping among the people who already raise their eyebrows and gossip about me. I shouldn’t care and for the most part I don’t care. But there’s a little part of me that cringes when I think about this.

    It’s just one story out of many and it has nothing to do with bisexuality awareness week, but I just thought I’d share.

    This misguided idea that a man and woman can’t be friends has been used as a weapon to shame me throughout my life. It’s nonsense.

    Samantha, I must of been absent the day you came out as bI. It must be extremely frustrating to have people tell you you can’t be friends with anybody as of two adults can’t be in a room together without flinging themselves at each other. thanks for educating me about so many things and today especially, for teaching me a little bit more about what it’s like for someone who is bisexual.

  • A few years ago after my wife and I got married, we wanted to live in a better place than we could afford. As it turned out, another couple that happened to be very, very good friends with us had the same idea.

    So we moved into a farmhouse together.

    It was… difficult. Not living with them, because they’re lovely people who we’re close to. We get along well and still do.

    But, it was hard to find a place to rent, because all the owners frowned on the idea. Not because they were afraid of getting stuck with the lease violation once our household imploded via drama, but because they just assumed we’d all be screwing each other.

    But, it was hard to have a conversation with my mother and explain to her that nothing was happening between me and the other woman, and nothing was happening between my wife and the other man. In her world, she can’t imagine a man and a woman living together and not having sex, or at least REALLY WANTING TO have sex. She has a good male friend who, she has told me, she would NEVER go out to lunch with alone because people might talk.

    But, it was hard to move out after 3 happy years of shared life. Not because of hurt feelings (both couples wanted to own their own houses and sharing the expenses for 3 years got us to the place where we both could), but because everyone assumed Something Had Happened.

    TL;DR – Just because there’s sexual opportunities doesn’t require action. We’re not children.

  • As someone who was at the receiving end of catching a significant other in an emotional affair, I think that concept of emotional adultery really sells the whole thing short, honestly.

    You can engage with someone emotionally in a way that hurts your partner. That’s a reality I’ve experienced. But the idea of “just don’t have friends you can possibly be sexually attracted to” doesn’t really do it justice. My significant other didn’t have friends of the opposite sex, and yet, still made the mistakes that he did. Instead of focusing on the positives, or on the warning signs of what can be treading into dangerous waters, ideas like “emotional adultery” try to sum it up in an easy catchphrase, something that can be prescribed like an emotional vaccine, and it doesn’t work. It’s an easy way out of a complex situation that each couple has to approach differently, based on their unique relationship.

    But, I reckon that doesn’t sell books.

  • When I went to a baptist college in Oklahoma, the buckle of the Bible belt, I planned to live off campus my senior year. I drove there from VA, but when I got to the house, they told me they were selling it instead of renting it.

    What.

    So I had to get a place to live on very short notice, and a male friend was in the same position. We became housemates. I was shocked at how many people (some of whom didn’t even know my name) went out of their way to tell me how much they disapproved of my living situation. We weren’t dating. We weren’t touching. We were hardly even friends, but everyone assumed that because I have lady bits and he has gentlemanly bits, we were doing the sexing. I’m from a much less religious community, so I was really unprepared for what a big deal it apparently was.

  • “How does it feel not being able to act on your bisexuality, now that you’re married to a man?”

    Not the most fun, thanks.

  • Reblogged this on On Faith, Fishing and Feminism and commented:
    …everything she just said. If being bi and married looks like what the church preaches for straight married people, it is incredibly lonely.

  • Joy

    Oh, you so nailed it, not only the heteronormative assumptions behind the limitations on time spent with/friendships with the opposite sex, but also this ridiculous assumption that people cannot restrain themselves too much in the presence of a member of the appropriate sex (and doubly so for bisexuals). I consider myself bisexual (though in a monogamous heterosexual marriage), and I’m really *not* attracted to everyone I meet. I’m actually attracted to very *few* people, overall. And when it comes to emotional adultery, yes I think it’s possible to have a very close, very romantic relationship with someone not your spouse that isn’t yet explicitly sexual–but I don’t think that’s what these limitations are necessarily trying to prevent. I’m an adult and I’m quite capable of establishing and maintaining solid friendship boundaries despite spending time alone with friends of either sex!

  • YES. “Can guys and girls be just friends?” drives me insane for this exact reason. If you can’t be friends with anyone of a gender you might ever be attracted to, then I can’t have any friends. Plus, it’s just insulting to imply that even a straight person is attracted to EVERY member of the other gender, and is so overwhelmed by this attraction they can’t be friends.

  • I have seen a case when a same sex friendship become suspect. When I was growing up on the mission field single women often lived together. Two single teachers became very close and exchanged letters when they were in different locations. Somehow these letters were intercepted and much was made about whether they were “too close.” It was probably as devastating as some of the situations I’ve seen where “emotional adultery” has been dealt with very publicly in a Christian group.

    To me that’s part of the issue – when does an unhealthy emotional situation, or even a physical one – become everybody’s business? I really feel the church in general needs to work on defining what accountability means and how it works. I read a blog by a woman who’s husband cheated on her. She decided to stay with him but ended up leaving their church because of how it was handled. How is that a win? I don’t really have the “answers” about how we should be doing it – just differently.

  • I think terms like ‘Emotional Adultery’ are dangerous. Realistically anyone that is relied on emotionally in the way that your significant other ‘should’ be, could be considered the person you having your ‘affair’ with. based on that view of it I have known many who have had so called “emotional affairs” with their parents, siblings and/or best friends (same sex or not).
    I also think that assuming that we are all base animals driven by instinct that must desire having sex with anyone of the opposite sex we may find ourselves alone with, is downright insulting. We do have self control. No wonder rape culture is alive and kicking in North America. We are feeding it constantly.
    I think that deciding the only solution to preventing adultery is refraining from opposite sex friendships/relationships is ludicrous. In making such things taboo we are actually setting ourselves for temptation. Seriously if you have been taught your entire life that you should never be in a certain situation because it will lead to a specific result, then when you accidentally find yourself in that situation where are your thoughts going to go? To the place you’ve been trained to go…. it’s self fulfilling prophecy.

  • I’m commenting before I read anyone else’s comment, so if I repeat something someone else has said, then I apologize. Samantha, you and I have a different definition of “emotional adultery”. What you are describing in this post is NOT my definition. Having a sexual attraction isn’t the same thing as an emotional affair, IMHO. Being friends with someone you are sexually attracted to or occasionally have, as you say, “pants-feelings” for isn’t it either.

    In my definition, emotional adultery is when you establish such a close, confidant, intimate relationship with another person that you are also attracted to physically, and THEN you both begin a kind of flirting, suggestive, sensual relationship…but you haven’t acted on it physically! AND, one or both of you are already in a committed relationship with another person. So, essentially, you are transferring the kind of intimacy you are supposed to only share with your committed partner to another person. Even though there hasn’t been any physical manifestation of the relationship…all of the emotional ties are there.

    Its the stuff of all kinds of Rom Coms where the parties are each in long-term, boring relationships but they begin an emotional affair with some exciting new person they have just met, which eventually leads to them breaking off the old relationship with hardly any remorse and then actually consummating the new relationship at the end of the movie.

    I think emotional affairs, in the way I define them, are the death-nell of many marriages and committed relationships, and they are definitely real.

    • FN

      This is pretty close to my definition of emotional adultery — having an explicitly flirtatious/romantic relationship with someone else without your partner’s consent. Including stuff like sexting, romantic declarations & promises, actively dating with romantic/sexual intent, etc. etc. etc.

      If I find that my partner has has ongoing interactions with another person where they have been exchanging romantic & sexual words/actions without having sex, THAT is an “emotional affair”. Having a close or unique friendship with someone else is NOT.

      And I want to emphasize that, by this definition, you can’t “accidentally” have an emotional affair by having a friend that you suddenly realize you’re close to in ways you’re not close with your spouse (that may or may not be another issue). This is intentional and conscious infidelity, just like a sexual affair.

  • Tim

    I’m right there with you, Samantha. it’s certainly possible to be unfaithful to a spouse/significant other without having sex with someone else, but not every relationship is going to turn into to that type of unfaithfulness. I’m glad of my intimate relationship with my friend Dave, and I’m not the least afraid it will develop into something that threatens either my relationship with my wife or his relationship with his husband.

    Frankly, I’ve never bothered figuring out whether he might be attracted to me because it’s never even been hinted at. His husband did mention once that he thought I was cute, but A) It wasn’t said in a flirtatious setting, and B) I’m thinking he was just being polite because I’ve seen myself in a mirror.

  • Sarah S

    This Christian terror of opposite gender friendships certainly tainted my high school and young adult years. When, at 30, I became close friends with a guy who was like a big brother to me my mom was Still trying to warn me off.

    Thanks for starting this discussion Samantha!

  • Sarah S

    And also, as a recently-realized bi woman who cannot come out to her husband, I appreciate reading about both yours and others’ experiences here. It’s a kind of outlet for me.

    • Tim

      I appreciate your comments. I think the Christian terror of opposite gender friendships really is a bad thing. I like C.S. Lewis’s discussion of the four loves. I don’t think we can really mature as relational beings without deeply loving other humans in each of those ways, and only one of the four is romantic. I want my children to learn to love both boys and girls, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, in the non-romantic ways, and to see those loves as every bit as significant and valuable as romantic love. Non-romantic friendships can teach you things that you don’t learn any other way, and can be a relational reservoir to draw on when other loves dry up.

      Regarding coming out to your husband, what do you see as the pros and cons? Presumably he knows you’re attracted to men, and perhaps to a particular type of man. That’s probably thousands to millions of potential rivals in the world, maybe a dozen in your life. If you were to tell him that you’re attracted to women of a particular type as well, that would perhaps double that number? Why would it matter how large that number is? Even one would be too many if he doubted you, wouldn’t it? And no number would be too many if he trusted you. Or am I wrong about this?

  • I can still remember the day I remember I first heard about the very *concept* of “Emotional Adultery” and I thought it was absurd even then. I was sitting next to my husband at his office because he couldn’t go to work unless I was there to drive him to work and back home again and he couldn’t stand to be in the office without me beside him.

    The very idea that I would have to eliminate all *friendships* other than him, that I would be instructed to give him my passwords to all my accounts for “accountability monitoring” or what the hell ever just made me feel even more depressed and hemmed in.

    And this was five years ago.

    I will reluctantly admit that part of my depression was the nagging feeling that I *was*, in fact, emotionally involved with others across the Internet in a way that my husband wouldn’t approve. In my own defense, I couldn’t trust him to meet my emotional needs, then or now. My friends are my lifeline. Hell, even THEN they were telling me that I needed to leave.

    *sigh* It’s just one more tactic to control and isolate believers and keep them from the emotional support they might need to actually break free from abusive relationships. I don’t want to think what condition I’d be in without my friends, then and now.

    • Yes, your last paragraph is exactly what I’ve been thinking as I read this post and the comments. Another way to control and isolate people.

  • LJ

    What you said about your experience feels similar to a burden I see being placed on gay and lesbian people in conservative evangelical circles – albeit circles not so conservative that they force LGBT people into therapy to straighten them out.
    The parallel idea there is that we’re not allowed to have close friendship with the gender for which we get pants feelings (thank you, I love that term), because we might sexy time. We’re also denied close friendships with the opposite gender, because appearance of evil. Or maybe they’ll develop pants feelings for us, and the two of us will succumb to sexy time, because in the back of their minds, we’re still really just straight people with a homosexual problem. So in the end, we’re left, like people who are bi-, with the mandate that we must be cut off from friendship to please the happily married couples who are endowed with large groups of apparently acceptable friends.

  • (I haven’t read any of the comments, so please forgive me if this is redundant. Also I’m heterosexual). I recently have been wondering if it’s this teaching that makes us more vulnerable to affairs. I wonder if I was taught how to be friends with boys if I would be less vulnerable to having a deep crush on every boy that I find interesting. I lost all my male friends when I got married and I miss them. But I also know that they were only potential marriage material for me my whole life. I never really learned how to be “just friends” with boys. I only learned how to find out if they were a possible mate or not. Every boy I met I thought about whether or not he might be my future husband. This is pretty jacked up! What a horrible way to walk through the world. Now that I’m married, I still struggle with the same thing. “I like that boy, maybe I could marry him after my husband dies…” My point: I wish I had been taught how to be friends with boys instead of just seeing them as possible husbands.

    • I can relate to this. Thankfully, I got past the “thinking of them all has potential husbands” bit long before I had to really learn how to be in a serious relationship, but something about the religious culture I was brought up in made things seem that way. Now, I can relate to/be friends with men in the same way I’m friends with women – completely platonic, having fun and talking and just…being friends! A lot of my friends are mutual ones with my BF, but it doesn’t mean that he is jealous or nosy about what I talk to them about. It’s really a huge sign of distrust in your relationship if you are told not to have friends of the opposite sex, and trust is so huge.

    • Sarah S

      Larissa, I’ve wondered the same thing. The only boys I was friends with in high school were looked upon by my family (and thus by me) as possible marriage material. They were good guys, but it just got crazy when I *did* meet the guy I ended up marrying and everybody else (well, their parents anyway) were all offended and hurt feelings because they were “led on”. :/ Very unhealthy all around.

    • Divizna

      I don’t think you need to be taught anything special about being friends with boys. I know I haven’t: I was just lucky enough to never be told I can’t, and when I started to have guy friends, I felt and acted just the same as with girls. We talked as persons: about our interests, experiences, opinions… We did things together that we liked, and had fun.
      I’m not married, but I have a boyfriend that I hope to marry sometime in the hazy future, and I still treat my male friends the same as always, even make new… with no intention to marry any of them.
      So I don’t think it’s what you haven’t been taught, but rather what you have been taught that’s wrong and best to unlearn.

  • Random thoughts on the topic:
    The focus by preachers on the issue is Patriarchy where a wife is property and any man is a threat to steal her away, and a friendly woman is a Jezebel trying to seduce you away from your family. It’s like they’ve never heard of self-control.
    My wife has been and still is a huge Elvis fan. We have all his movies on DVD, over 50 LP’s, cassettes, and CD’s; paraphernalia all over the place. I think preachers would call this emotional adultery, but I find it hard to be jealous of someone who died before I even met her. She is just as crazy for Barbra Streisand.
    Somehow she was not as understanding when I enjoyed watching the original Dallas show too much with Morgan Fairchild, Victoria Principal, and Tina Louise.
    She’s worked at our denomination’s state convention for over thirty years and has spent her daytime hours with male supervisors. When she gets home and recounts her day most of it is what her boss did or didn’t do, that sort of stuff. Maybe this is why fundies are so dead set against women in the work place? A man could feel threatened. Her first boss was an elderly gentleman and a wonderful father figure. Her current boss has been a great inspiration overcoming a terrible tragedy with his first wife, who was in a vegetative state for years before she died and raising two daughters who are now through college, married and have children of their own. Neither of them have caused me concern.
    I worked for 27 as a teacher in a profession of mostly women and many of the administrators were women as well. Only once did this become and issue. The English dept was holding a picnic in the dept chair’s house. I asked if my wife was invited and she said her back yard wasn’t big enough for spouses. I was the only male teacher in the dept and declined telling her my wife would not understand me going to a party of women without her. When I told my wife she laughed and said she wouldn’t have minded. The other women were all my mother’s age.
    I did over the years become very friendly with a number of the women teachers in rooms next to mine and in the teacher’s lounge, and some were very good looking and single or divorced, but they always knew I was very very married.
    Too many people mistake Phileo for Eros.

  • Thank you Samantha for coming out. I totally agree with what you said. All through out my life I have had close female friends. I have been so blessed with their presence in my life. I have people come to me and tell me that this is not okay. However I think this is becoming more acceptable. I am look forward to the day when men can give each other big hugs and not fear that others will look upon them as too feminine. The world can be a much better place when people can build friendships with all people no matter what their sexual orientation or gender is.

  • I’m probably mostly going to reiterate what others have said here, but the term emotional adultery isn’t necessarily a great one. It’s certainly possible, but not universal. Like you said, it’s preposterous to think that men and women can’t just be friends, it perpetuates rape culture, etc. When things cross the line are different from couple to couple. I’ve gone to lunch or hung out with guy friends on my own before without BF around, but it’s not a big deal. I spend the majority of my time with BF anyway and taking a lunch or other short small outing shouldn’t be that big of a deal anyway. I do believe that if you’re telling your friend things you’re not telling your significant other in one way or another, it can start to lead down a bad road, but there’s no way to tell from the outside whether that’s happening or not. Which is why people should stop being so judgey and keep their nose in their own business.

  • Divizna

    Simplistic gender essentialism all over again, eh? When will they stop that.
    I’ve had a crush on a guy friend (twice at least). I have had a crush on a girl friend, too. I have had a guy friend have a crush on me. I might (not sure about that) have had a girl friend have a crush on me. None of that meant I had to lose anything. Sure, it’s a bit complicated and makes one feel awkward, but what kind of social interaction doesn’t. And of course, with most of my friends no crush was ever involved.
    And since a good portion of the traits that attract me in potential partners are the same that attract me in potential friends, befriending only people that I’m sure I can’t have a crush on would mean to reject most of the people I can be friends with. Kinda sad.
    I have seen friendships turn romance (and in all three cases, eventually marriage). Banning those friendships would have prevented these six people from finding a great partner!
    And this… “how does it feel not being able to act on your bisexuality, now that you’re married to a man?” What is that even supposed to mean? “Now that you’re married to a man, you can’t have a man or woman for a partner”, right? Except you do.
    I’m not sure I qualify as bi, I’d rather describe myself as mostly straight (but frankly, I think of my orientation rather as a statistic and as something that happens to me than a part of identity), but… No, I don’t think I need to regret not having dated a woman any more than I need to regret not having dated a musician, a mountain climber or an Irishman. “Wanna see my exclusive collection of partners?” Ugh. I’ll be happy with one partner to stay with, thanks.

  • Bisexual Christian

    I normally comment here under my real name, but I’m choosing to leave this one anonymously.
    It is exactly because of this idea of “emotional affairs” that my marriage of nearly a decade and a half is strained. Ever since I’ve come out to my spouse, they suspect every. single. one. of my relationships/friendships of having ulterior motives.
    I’m exactly the same person I’ve always been (loyal & monogamous), but in their mind, I’m now some sort of crazed sex fiend who can’t control sexual urges around either sex.
    It’s dehumanizing & frustrating.

  • Anonymous

    This is coming way late and you may not see it (I got a new job and have been off the internet for awhile), but thank you so much for writing this. I can relate so well to what you wrote, and in fact was thinking today that if I had to live by this argument, I could never have any peer relationships; they would all be with children or my cats, since those are the two groups of individuals that I’m not at all interested in (which I think is a good thing in both cases). I am also bi, and so there isn’t a group of adults that I’m certain I will not be physically attracted to. At the same time, I have several decades of close friendships with members of both genders where we managed NOT to do anything like have an affair (this included same-sex friendships with others who were also in the LGBT “camp”). It’s all about self-control, and honoring and respecting both your friends and their partners/spouses. I’m so glad someone else appreciates this!!