by Dr. Randy Schroeder
My husband is a wonderful Christian man, caring and friendly with everyone. Frequently, he will have lunch with other women from work and our congregation to discuss “business” matters. He says men and women can be just friends. I am fearful of an affair, but he says not to worry. What do you think?
Thank you for your willingness to be open about a subject that is more common than many Christian spouses care to admit.
Your question speaks to the reality of sin in any relationship and the fact that every spouse is capable of unfaithfulness. Even King David, “a man after God’s own heart,” had an adulterous relationship, revealing the weakness of the flesh when tempted by sin.
Affairs are usually triggered by romantic thoughts and fantasies. For that reason, it is good to be reminded of the Bible’s admonition, “above all else, guard your heart [thoughts],” (Prov. 4:23 NIV). It may be that your husband’s friendships with other women are completely appropriate. It is also true that affairs frequently grow out of an innocent relationship with a neighbor, a person at work, even a fellow church member. Also, in the 21st century, affairs often commence through such online activities as e-mail, text messaging, and social-networking sites.
Without clear boundaries, opposite-sex friendships can quickly become entangling affairs. Frequent contact with a person who meets the emotional needs one’s spouse does not meet can lead to a powerful emotional connection that grows into a strong physical attraction. And the process often happens subtly. Think of a relationship like a bank account. A rich, rewarding marriage has a positive balance because the “deposits” (nurturing words and behaviors) exceed the “withdrawals” (hurtful actions and words).
In a budding relationship between non-married friends, however, there is often little to find fault with, or reasons to “make withdrawals.” When that balance exceeds the account balance between husband and wife, the marriage is in danger. To avoid this, clear boundaries are essential, such as restricting your individual friendships to those of the same sex, and relating to people of the opposite sex only as a couple. In the case of lunches, I would encourage three or more individuals at the noon meeting when discussing “business” matters.
A marriage cannot be successful unless it is based on giving through self-sacrificing love. Christ’s relationship with the Church is the perfect example. I pray that by the time this column appears your husband has been willing to set reasonable limits with other women out of respect for your concern. If differing opinions persist, however, I encourage you to speak with your pastor or a professional counselor about how best to proceed.
Questions for “Family Counselor” come from readers and, after steps are taken to assure confidentiality, from contacts made with Lutheran Hour Ministries. Send your questions to “Family Counselor,” The Lutheran Witness, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name and address.