Emotional affairs don't happen overnight but result from several seemingly insignificant everyday decisions (and the belief in many subtle lies).
Ladies, you don't want to fall into this trap!
As someone who had an emotional infidelity, I want to share the warning signs of an emotional affair and share with you the lies that I (and many others) believe that lead to an emotional affair.
I want to break the silence around these issues and discuss practical ways to counteract these mistruths.
Most of all, I want you to know that you are not alone in these feelings and that there is help!
Each of these is a tiny-yet-dangerous seed that can bloom into a toxic plant that can destroy a marriage. It's so easy - and very common - for us to believe these lies and to fall into these unhealthy patterns!
Emotional affair warning sign #1: Unguarded thoughts
Do you daydream about an ex from the past?
Do you think of another person while you are having sex with your husband?
Do you compare other men to your husband?
These thoughts really do matter and it's the build-up of one seemingly insignificant thought to another which begins the snowball effect toward demise. Your thoughts become words, and your words become actions.
If we begin comparing our husband's lack of character to another or daydream about having an affair, we are creating that snowball effect towards destruction.
Remedy: Pray for new thought patterns and choose new thoughts
Pray against the enemy leading you toward temptation. Remember this passage of scripture: "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Then the next time you find yourself thinking those unhealthy thoughts, stop and choose to think of three things you love about your husband. If it helps, write these down on a piece of paper or as a note on your phone. Ask God to help you to remove those destructive thought patterns and build the habit of positive thoughts about your husband.
Emotional affair warning sign #2: Unguarded words
It's so tempting to tell our husbands everything that we think about him, especially in the middle of an argument. We (wrongly) think this will help him and build our relationship.
I'm not advocating that we be dishonest or hide our emotions from our husband, but obviously there are tactful (and not so tactful) ways to express a point.
If we aren't alert to the enemy's presence when we are arguing, lying and jabbing our husbands with disrespectful remarks, we are giving the enemy full reins to destroy our relationships. (John 10:10).
Remedy: Pray about what emotions to share and how to share them
Marriage really is a cord of three strands (Ecc 4:12). Before I open my mouth to share with my husband about something that's bothering me, I ask God, "Will it be helpful to our marriage if I tell him this? And if so, how can I best share this in a way that doesn't cause division and strife between us?"
Then I wait for God to let me know how to handle this. I've learned that sometimes it's best to only share my emotions with God; while other times, the Lord has told me that it's OK to express them to my husband too.
Emotional affair warning sign #3: Believing the lie "He'll never change."
Annoyed by the little things in your marriage and convinced that your man will "never change"? We've all felt that!
However, people can change and do every day through Christ! Second Corinthians 5:17 says "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
Remedy: Believe that change is possible, but also choose to accept him as-is
Begin by praying for your spouse to change. God promises that He has the power to change any heart and we see evidence of this throughout the Bible!
However, at the same time, pray for your heart to change.
Yes, your anger with him over these thoughts may be warranted. These actions may be ungodly or your marriage may have turned out differently that you'd hoped. But the thing is that we're all imperfect and that marriage isn't about changing another person into who we want them to be, but by being changed by God so that we can love our spouse unconditionally the way God loves them.
Oh my word, this takes patience and so much prayer (been there!), but if your heart is willing, God will guide you step by step to being able to love your husband right now where he's at. The Bible promises that this is the kind of love that transforms others (1 Peter 3:1-2, Ephesians 4:1-3)!
Physical or emotional abuse is never OK and should not be accepted and tolerated. I am not a professional counselor, but I would advise that if you are dealing with these situations in your marriage, remove yourself and your children from any harmful situations and seek immediate help.
Emotional affair warning sign #4: Believing the lie "I deserve an affair because I am not happy."
Oh yes, the "happiness" lie. The enemy uses this one all the time and in all kinds of situations, doesn't he?
Remedy: Understand that an affair won't bring the happiness you seek
I guarantee that having an affair will not bring you a more joy-filled abundance. Why? First of all, because God tells us to stay faithful to our spouse. We can trust Him here because He created us and he authored the concept of marriage to begin with (not to mention the stars, the plants and everything we see before us).
I know that temptation to feel loved and to believe that "I deserve to be happy because my husband isn't providing my needs." However, this is evidence of a deeper longing in your heart.
Do you struggle with feelings of insignificance? Have you felt unloved since you were a little girl by your family?
I am not a counselor, but I challenge you to look deeper into your heart to unpack what is really warring at your soul and consider finding a professional Christian counselor that can help you identify the core issues of your heart.
What is it that you truly long for? I can guarantee you won't satisfy this longing in another man, or another relationship.
Instead of looking for our husbands to "complete us," we must change our thinking as wives.
God is the only one who can complete us. Yes, husbands can be a wonderful encouragement and emotional support, but don't put your husband in the place where God was meant to reside in your heart.
By allowing God to fill the longings of your soul and by understanding your true identity in Christ, your heart will heal and you will discover true happiness. (Proverbs 20:5).
Emotional affair warning sign #5: Wondering about your ex
Do you find yourself searching Facebook for the name of an ex-boyfriend, coincidently after you and your spouse had a disagreement? This is a dangerous action that can easily lead to further intimacy and an emotional affair.
Why are you searching for this person on social media? Why are you messaging them (even though you justify in your head that it's harmless)? This is only going to lead to further emotional distance between you and your spouse, and further emotional intimacy towards this other person if they reciprocate your response.
Remedy: Don't do it. Period
I know it's tempting and you "just want to know where they're at." However, many emotional affairs have sprung from this simple curiosity about a former boyfriend or lover.
If you are tempted to look up that guy, tell someone about it. Delete your ex-boyfriends from your friend lists. And if you really don't trust yourself, delete Facebook altogether even if only for a time until you can get your heart right. Otherwise, the temptation may always be there to entice you. (Matthew 5:30).
Grace and healing are possible!
If you notice these warning signs in your life, take action today against them so that your marriage doesn't go through the pain of an emotional affair.
Let this be a wake-up call towards restoring healthy communication between you and your spouse, and seek help - from a professional marriage counselor or from a trusted friend.
Once upon a time you said your vows and said "I do" through the thick and thin. You were excited for this journey of love and companionship and pledged to stay faithful through every season.
Ask God to help you stay true to your promise and believe that a rich happy marriage is still possible (I can testify that it is)!
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Your Vibrant Family. It has been republished here with permission.