The following is an edited excerpt from an email I received last week.
“I’m a single woman. I am in a difficult situation. I have been suffering from a lust-issue. I’ve had an emotional affair with one of my best friend’s husband. Kissing, some touching, but no sex. I never wanted this to happen, but it did.
I have felt terribly guilty about what happened. I’ve broken it off, but I still think of him often. My guilt at times is so strong that I can’t focus all day long. I have confessed my sin to God and to this man, but I feel terribly guilty towards his wife. Do I need to confess to her, or is that something he should do? Can I confess when he hasn’t? I feel so bad since I feel like such a hypocrite when I’m with her.
Her husband has had several adulterous affairs. She calls me because she suspects he’s seeing different women, not knowing I was one of them. Do I need to tell her? I’m scared it will tear her apart. I have called her husband to talk about the issue. He says, she’d rather not know and it will ruin our friendship if I would confess. I’m also afraid for the consequences in our small church we all attend. What should I do?”
So how would you advise Jane? Here’s what I wrote to her, but I’d be interested in your ideas or comments as well.
I’m honored that you’d trust me with your confession and seek my advice. I also want you to know that I’ve shared your email with my wife Susan as well as my response to you to guard my heart and life.
It appears to me you’ve taken a number of very important steps; you confessed your sin to God, ended your “emotional affair” with this man and are trying to be a good friend. Bless you!
First, you should confess to your pastor and the most godly Christian woman you know. Your confessing to another human face to face and hearing from them, “Your sins are forgiven,” will be a great comfort to you. He or she will also be able to help you with your continued longings for this man.
If your pastor is a godly man, he will confront the husband and deal with him. Your former “lover” has had several affairs (serious sin for a married man). That sin is hindering him spiritually. He needs a spiritual man to call him out and help him with his problem. Your pastor is the one best suited to guide the husband through the process of confessing and repenting of his adultery – emotional or physical. This includes the discussion whether or not to reveal the names of his lovers to his wife. Not all pastors see the value of naming names as part of this process, and I generally agree with that.
Second, I would not confess your affair to your friend. I cannot imagine any good thing that can come of it. It may make you feel better for a moment, but you will lose a friend. More importantly, your friend will lose your friendship, which she obviously needs and values right now. Just be a good friend to her, but follow the counsel of your pastor.
The third thing I’d recommend is removing from your home or office, anything he ever gave you, including any notes, gifts, emails, cards, books – anything! Those objects keep his memory alive. Delete all his contact information from your phone or computer as well. Do not accept phone calls or messages from him. It will be too great a temptation for you. And whatever you do, don’t try to counsel him or even be his friend until all feelings toward him are dead.
Fourth, you must do everything possible to never meet him again. I wouldn’t even go to his house to meet with your friend, if he’s there. His house is full of memories and photos of him. Try to meet his wife anywhere, other than places that remind you of him.
And lastly, but of primary value, begin reading the Bible daily for 15-20 minutes. Start with the book of Matthew and read right through the New Testament. Pay particular attention to passages that deal with how to resist temptation, such as James 1:13-15 and 4:7. And anytime you begin to think of him, say out loud Jesus’ name repeatedly or quote out loud an appropriate verse of scripture and try to think instead about something or someone good and noble. (Colossians 3:1-2) It’s important you redirect your mind anytime temptation begins.
I hope this counsel if helpful. May God bless you as you try to put this painful affair behind you. Jesus has forgiven you, so forgive yourself. But be careful about falling back into sin.
If you, or someone you know has had an affair, I’d recommend Harley’s book, His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. He has some great advise about what to do if you’ve had an affair to mitigate the consequences of it and to guard your heart against it in the future.
What do you think?
What else would you have written to Jane? What advice I’ve given her, do you not agree with? Please let me know so we can learn together.
Following Jesus in Real Life