As Christian counselors who have worked with couples for 17 years, we frequently meet couples where one of the spouses just does not think what they are doing is an affair. “It doesn’t seem like an affair to me!” they say. So we thought we’d dedicate an entire episode to discuss some of the most common objections to why their “friendship” could not possibly be an affair.
If that friendship you have with someone at the office or at school is affecting your spouse, in what way is it showing your spouse love? After all:
“the essence of married love, to which each party pledges himself or herself, is to put the other first.” ~Jay Adams
1. “Well they need to get over it”
But that’s not how Scripture deals with those things. In I Corinthians 8:8-12 Paul writes: “But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. …When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” He’s talking about a big controversy they had in Corinth about whether a follower of Christ could eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. Further, Paul was Jewish and some in Corinth even said that Christians had to keep kosher! Paul answered all this by saying that there is only one God from whom all things come and for whom we live, thus “where a meat is cooked” does not make the meat sinful or non-sinful. BUT if eating that food causes a brother or sister in Christ to fall into sin, we not only sinned against a fellow Christian, but against Christ! And he goes on to say that if something he does causes someone to fall into sin, he would rather not do it AT ALL then to cause them to fall. This is the way of Christian maturity.
The mature Christian does not put a stumbling block in front of the baby christian, even if it is the baby Christian’s “weakness.” If you’re spouse is stumbling because of your actions, you are not loving them. And if you are not loving your spouse and loving someone else (a “friend” or someone “who needs you”) then that is the very definition of infidelity. You need to end that “friendship” and refocus on your marriage.
It may be it is a weakness, and they need to grow, and there are ways you can help your spouse do that that don’t involve hurting them or the marriage or the family. PUT OFF the sin of causing them to stumble because of your actions, and PUT ON the godly action of helping them to grow in Christ.
2. “Well I wouldn’t be friends with the Other Person if my spouse wasn’t such a grouch!”
Wait a minute! Let’s define right here and now who is responsible for what in your marriage.
Certainly it would be easier if to be faithful if your spouse was loving and pleasant … Certainly it would be easier if they were always what you wanted them to be! But God has told husbands to be loving PERIOD! Ephesians 5:25 and 28, Colossians 3:19, I Peter 3:7 And God has also clearly told us that wives are in submission to their husbands, whether their husband is loving or not! Ephesians . 5:22 and 24 and 33 and Colossians 3:18, I Peter 3:1 You don’t do it in hopes of getting your spouse to do what you want them to do -OR- “only on the condition that…” You do it because God expects you to and has given you the power to do so. PUT OFF the behavior of self-centeredness, and PUT ON the behavior of God-centered obedience.
3. “But this is just the way I am! I’m friendly!”
Doubtless that is the way you WERE as a non-Christian, and being friendly is not the problem. But allowing the guise of friendliness to corrupt your good character IS! It’s not the way God wants you to be and with His power it’s not the way you will be in the future, so continuing to use that as a reason to keep sinning is not valid–you’re still harming your spouse! Scripture is full of warnings to keep away from outside influences that lead to occasions to stumble. In I Corinthians 15:33 Paul writes: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.‘“Proverbs 12:26: “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 13:20 “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (There are so many in the book of Proverbs we could go on and on.) Psalm 1! Keep away from all whose lives are displeasing to God; otherwise, you are likely to be influenced by them…and being pleasing to God would be building your marriage relationship and honoring your commitment! PUT OFF the rationalizing of “that’s just the way I am” and PUT ON the confidence that in God you are a new creation, as promised in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
4. You may just be in outright denial that it’s an affair.
The examples above are ALL affairs, and I bet the disloyal spouse in those scenarios didn’t think they were! If you have convinced yourself that what you’re doing is justified even though you know it’s harming your marriage, in that case, you obviously need to stop. If you are the only person in the world Other Person has to lean on, then you have an inappropriate relationship–you’ve given a third person the support that’s due only to your spouse. If you have told yourself “I deserve better” or “Love shouldn’t be this hard” and crossed the line of honoring your vow to forsake all others, then you have been unfaithful. Stop using euphemisms! PUT OFF the denial and justification, and PUT ON admittance and repentance.
The end result is the same in all instance: the relationship outside the marriage needs to stop forever. There needs to be a rebuilding of your primary commitment–your marriage. Whether your spouse is weak, there’s a flaw in your spouse, you don’t want to change, or you are in denial, all of those instances indicate a deep issue in your marriage that needs to be addressed.