Emotional Affairs More Damaging Than Physical Ones, Say Experts

Trisha and Justin Davis had what on the surface appeared to be a “perfect” marriage.

Justin was the senior pastor at a growing church in Indiana and they had three small children. As a pastor’s wife, Trisha fulfilled all the typical duties at church and at home. Both worked 80-plus hours a week in their respective roles.

While everything appeared to be ideal on the surface, the couple began experiencing problems within their marriage. Communication decreased and the emotional attachment present in the early years of marriage began to fade. Although their church was growing, their marriage and relationship with God began to deteriorate.

It was during this vulnerable time that Justin began an affair with a fellow staff member, who also happened to be Trisha’s best friend.

“Anytime someone has an affair it’s a symptom of deeper issues that have not been addressed,” said Justin Davis, now an associate pastor at Cross Point Church in Nashville.

Justin and his wife Trisha were fortunate in that they were able to save their marriage after a period of separation and intensive Christian counseling. “Before you can be honest with anyone else, you’ve got to be honest with yourself,” Davis said.

They openly tell their story through speaking engagements and on their website,

“When you give a part of yourself, either physically or emotionally, to someone other than your spouse, you admit there is a part of you that God has not fulfilled. You always have to disconnect yourself emotionally so you can justify your actions,” said Davis.

"People who have affairs are wounded and hurting themselves."

Twitter, Facebook Affairs

Social Media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others make communicating easier and provide a level of privacy not available in times past. Moreover, they have opened the door to more virtual relationships – and though they may not be physical in nature, they’re just as damaging, if not more, as evidenced in Rep. Anthony Weiner’s recent Twitter scandal.

Weiner, who has been married less than a year, sent a photo of himself in his underwear to a woman in Seattle via Twitter. After days of being hounded by the media about it, the New York congressman finally confessed on Monday that it was indeed him who tweeted the photo. Weiner also revealed that he had been in contact with six women he met on Facebook.

He added that he never had physical relations with any of them.

Unfortunately, such scandals of high profile people are nothing new.

Former President Lyndon Johnson spoke openly of his affairs and mistresses, many times in front of reporters, but they never made the headlines or the worldwide Web. Yet in today’s world of instant news, the impact of people’s actions is felt on a much wider scale.

“The public holds elected and religious leaders to a higher standard and rightfully so,” said Rebeca Seitz of Glass Road Public Relations, a Christian PR firm in Nashville, Tenn.

Seitz referenced the fact that social media tools make it easier for high profile people to fall. “It’s not that more people are having inappropriate thoughts; social media just makes them easier to share,” said Seitz. “If Rep. Weiner had sent these messages through the U.S. Postal Service, I doubt we would be talking about him.”

Beverly McManus, a licensed professional counselor in Franklin, Tenn., agreed that Facebook certainly has had an impact on how accessible people are and our dependence on technology has lessened our need for intimate, personal relationships.

“Most people understand physical relationships are wrong, but don’t believe sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings with someone of the opposite sex is even more damaging,” commented McManus. “Affairs don’t have to start at a hotel bar – they can just as easily take place over the phone, via text or on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. I’m seeing more damage from emotional affairs than I am from physical ones.”

So are emotional affairs really as dangerous as physical affairs?

Without exception, every counselor interviewed by The Christian Post was in agreement – YES. The damage from an emotional affair is more difficult to get through when compared to the impact of a physical affair.

Dr. Floyd Covey has a doctorate in theology and counseling and sees the damage from both types of affairs in his Collierville, Tenn., practice.

“Lots of people minimize the impact of emotional affairs. There’s really not much difference as far as the damage they both evoke,” Covey remarked. “Many times it’s easier to move beyond the effect of a purely physical affair as long as there’s still an emotional tie.”

Dr. Covey pointed out Scripture he uses during counseling sessions.

“In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says if we we’re married and look lustfully at another person we’ve already committed adultery. Most people believe you have to engage in a sexual act. That’s just not the case and couples need to understand that.”

Michael Malone, a licensed family counselor in Tupelo, Miss., added, “Often times the element of fantasy from an emotional affair overrides the passion from a physical affair.

“Most affairs, especially emotional ones, start in the workplace and this is by far the most dangerous environment. Everyone is looking for a connection and if they cannot find it at home with their spouse, they’ll look for it elsewhere, and the workplace is the most convenient place.”

“No longer do people have to meet in the break room or find an out-of-the-way restaurant to communicate during business hours,” said Malone. “Chatting on social media sites or texting is easier and certainly more conducive for sending personal or intimate messages.”

Christian marriage counselors still remain hopeful relationships can be restored after one of two spouses have an inappropriate relationship.

“Affairs usually raise our awareness we are human, have a sinful nature and are saved by grace and not works. When we accept this fact, we put ourselves in a position to forgive and find a place for healing,” said McManus.

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