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A reader wrote me with this:

I just read your article on whether an emotional affair would be classified as an affair in the bible.  I was hoping to get your opinion on my situation.  I recently found some very sexual texts to and from my husband and a girl from school.  After seeing our phone records they have been texting each other over 30 times a day for a month, having an emotional affai.  He broke that off a day before I found the actual texts telling her that he wanted to work on his marriage.  He still sees and talks to her everyday at school which realistically is unavoidable I guess.  I was wondering if because of the sexually explisit content of the texts and them saying the wish they could be together if this would be considered sexual immortality.   A few of the texts from her also state that ” I am a Christian girl that is guided by my conscience” and “wouldn’t want to do anything to harm your marriage”.  Everything about this situation confuses me, and I feel so lost in what to do?  I would be so thank ful for any advice.

Brent responds:

Keep in mind my statements about “emotional affairs” were in the context of considering a legal divorce which is a physical act, not just an emotional consequence. An “emotional affair” is a betrayal, no doubt… is it grounds for divorce according to Jesus, No.

What your husband is doing is wrong and is the precursor to physical adultery or abandonment of your marriage. It is wrong on all accounts and no matter what he says, cannot for any reason, no matter HOW YOU ARE ACTING (in his opinion) be justified. It is a clear violation of his Ephesians 5 duty to nourish and cherish you*.

*Something we are all guilty of to a matter of degrees, the question is: do we recognize it, admit it and try to improve on it continuously.

If a sexual comment, conversation or thought outside of marriage was the “adultery” Jesus listed as grounds for divorce, then almost every man and woman alive would be guilty of it, and subject to divorce by their spouse. So obviously that is not what Jesus had in mind. God hates divorce. The “Christian girl” in question is either manipulating, being manipulated, immature or deceived. Even non-Christians often say “I wouldn’t want to hurt your marriage” when the context of that very statement is exactly that.

Your husband should know that you are aware of what is going on, and that it violates his vows and Christian duty. If he will not listen, your recourse is to seek the advice and help of your church leaders (Elders, Pastor).  Your husband in on dangerous ground and subject to Church discipline… not to mention he’s about lose his wife and kids.

If you are unsure what to say to your husband at this point, right it down and send it to me, and I’ll give you my advice.  Hopefully, he’ll respond with humility and repentance. If not, I can advise you on what is proper at that point.

Remember, God is concerned primarily about our obedience, not our superficial happiness. True happiness comes from a clear conscience before God (obedience), and knowing HE is pleased with you. THAT is the only true and lasting happiness.  Yes, we get “happiness” from our relationships including marriage, but the “lasting” part is subject to both sinful people.

Reader responded a few weeks later:

Until yesterday I thought that everything was going much better. He told me that all ties had been cut, and I believed him.  We were both seemingly trying to be better.  I found out yesterday he had a secret facebook and email account that he had continued contact with her on.  He emailed that he thought that he loved her. That was two months ago and he said that was what he needed to get closure from the situation and realize that it wasn’t love.  After his “closure”  they continued to have a secret facebook relationship, which was less intense then before, but they also secretly met for lunch a few times.   I am so lost on what to do, what is best for me and the kids in Gods eyes.

A little background on the situation is that I am 5 months pregnant. We just found out that I was pregnant  pretty much when the sexual texting started happening.  I am Christian and my husband isn’t.  My four year son is very smart and seems terrified that our family is breaking up.  My husband cried yesterday and seems genuinley interested in making the marriage work.  I know with Gods help I can get through anything, but I don’t know what he wants me to do.  And my husband being a non-christian I have makes it even more confusing as to whether God wants me to stay or not.  Please if you have any advice I will be very thankful for it.  I think I should stay. I think that is what the Bible teaches, I know God didn’t promise us a life with out suffering so I am prepared to do anything, I just need some guidance.

Brent responds:

One thing you can be sure about it this: God does want you to stay if there is hope. Assuming your husband’s contrition is genuine, then there is hope for your marriage and God would have put reconciliation over divorce EVERY time if possible. God hates divorce. And for good reason.  It has consequences that reverberate for generations.  There are times for divorce, no doubt… even Jesus recognized that and allows for it. But whenever any possibility exists of preserving the marriage, the long term benefits FAR outweigh any short term relief that a divorce would bring (and that’s not counting the next couple of decades of emotional fallout and hardship caused by the divorce).

If your husband is serious about the marriage, and given that he is the transgressor, then Christian or not, he needs to submit to some marital counseling and accountability from a spiritually mature and successfully married Christian couple. Though he is not a Christian, that doesn’t change the fact that 1) you are, and 2) only God’s plan for marriage can result in lifetime commitment and genuine fulfillment in marriage.

Since he lied about breaking off the relationship, he needs to understand you have no basis upon which to believe that he is truthful about breaking it off this time. In other words, it’s time for him to “put up or shut up” and “put his money where his mouth is”. What do I mean by that? I mean that it is time for him to do whatever  YOU think needs to be done, that will bring YOU a sense of security and trust. He had his chance, TWICE, and blew them both. If he genuinely wants the marriage to work his attitude now should be “honey, I blew. I know that. I will do whatever YOU need me to do to bring some security and trust back into our marriage”.

I don’t want to pour fire on the situation, but from my experience you should be on the lookout for pornography in your husband’s life too. I’ve attached my book about pornography, which will give you some ways to check the computer for it, and also, the same safeguards I teach about blocking and monitoring pornography, can help you monitor his computer activity regarding the other woman.  [Note: for readers of this blog post, I”m offering a free download of my book about Internet Pornography. Get it here… It’s my gift to you. I would appreciate you letting me know what you think of it after you read it.]

It’s pretty clear Biblically at this point that what is best for you and the kids is to seek the preservation of your marriage but that doesn’t imply blind or foolish trust in your husband’s word. He needs to do what is necessary to end this relationship both on the computer and in person. Sadly though, not being a Christian, he is not able to do this with God’s help, but only his own pure will power which is fragile at best. All Christians involved with this need to be praying for his salvation which is the only best and lasting hope for his fidelity and your marital happiness.

If your husband is unwilling to do what is necessary to safeguard your relationship and preserve your marriage, then your next step will sadly be to put some teeth into the consequences and pursue a legal separation with the motive and intent to show him this is serious business, and continued infidelity will cost him his wife and kids.  Should this step not prove enough to secure his faithfulness and cooperation, then I feel he has indeed abandoned the marriage, at which point you would be Biblically justified in a divorce (assuming adultery has not already occurred which, given his actions, is sadly likely).

However, I can tell you this: divorce will bring long term consequences and hardship. While it may seem like a relief now, it’s not. Even if you were not a Christian, you would want it to be a last resort for your sake, and your kids.  Regardless of what has occurred, even the worse, reconciliation will be preferable to divorce in the long run.

If I were in your shoes (and I was 20 years ago), I would:

  1. Require your husband allow you to set up software monitoring on the computer, and for you to be allowed to check his phone any time you feel the need (because any smart phone can do Facebook and email).
  2. Tell your husband that should any relationship surface again, it will result in an immediate 6 month legal separation during which a lot of marital counseling and accountability will be required if the marriage is still wanted
  3. Tell your husband that your continued effort in the marriage should not be mistaken as a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of mercy, and spiritual courage knowing that saving the marriage is best for both the kids, you and your husband.  However, you should have the courage to seek a divorce if the continued abandonment, adultery and lies continue (and I always make that statement with the greatest hesitation because it’s the last thing I hope happens).

Your husband is fooling himself if he thinks his current course STOPS at an “electronic affair”. The same mentality that allows him to cheat on you via keyboard will eventually lead to him cheating on you physically. Though I don’t want to discourage you, I’d put quite surprised if pornography is not already an issue and possibly adultery. You should read my book, then use that knowledge to check for pornography or other secret activity.

As a general Christian rule, as long as your husband sincerely wants reconciliation, you should give it a chance. The trick is to figure out whether he really wants it, or is he just using that as a manipulation to keep you around. Only God can help you know the difference.

I know this is VERY hard, and you have my heartfelt empathy. I wish I had a magic answer. The world would tell you the divorce is that magic answer. It’s not.

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