Christian Living


Marriage 911 05/13/13

Dealing with an Emotional Affair

I watched the couple sitting in front of me, each talking carefully and with a bit of calculation. I couldn’t understand what was going on, but knew, having watched hundreds of couples interact, that there was something stilted and stiff about their interaction.

Jeff and Lori had come for a Marriage Intensive subsequent to him having ‘an emotional affair’ with a colleague.

Jeff was a handsome, 30-year-old man with a finely honed physique. “I enjoy working out,” he said.

“And the girls like to watch him work out,” Lori quipped. Jeff rolled his eyes at her sarcastic comment.

Lori was several years younger than Jeff, and was quite attractive herself. More light-hearted than Jeff, her sarcasm took me by surprise.

When I asked about the emotional affair, and the impact it had on them, both were quite non-descript and played it down.

“It wasn’t really anything,” Jeff said. “It’s over and done and I just want to move on.”

“How about you?” I asked Lori.

“Yeah, he tells me it was nothing and I think I believe him. We have a great relationship and we’re just here to make it stronger. When I ask him about it, he gets upset; so I don’t talk about it much.”

“I get upset,” Jeff jumped in. “I don’t get upset. I’ve answered all your questions haven’t I? I’ll answer any questions you have.”

Lori turned away, sighing deeply. Clearly this was still a raw spot that this couple had buried alive. Not only was it a raw spot because Jeff had engaged in an emotional affair, suggesting something was either wrong within him or between he and Lori, but their reaction to each other suggested more feelings were lurking below the surface.

I spent the next several minutes teaching Lori and Jeff about raw spots and the importance of attending to them in their marriage.

1. We all have raw spots.

Because we have all been wounded in various ways throughout our lives, and rarely are we completely healed from them, we can expect to have places of sensitivity. It is critical that we know where we are extra-sensitive, why we are especially sensitive and how we came to be that way.

2. We need extra care in our places of vulnerability—our raw spots. 

Knowing where we have been wounded in the past will help us talk about and navigate around those places in the future. For Lori and Jeff, it required that they recognize Jeff had a raw spot in talking about the emotional affair and perhaps even in the circumstances leading up to the affair. Lori had a raw spot in regards to his affair. Both required extra sensitivity in some of these issues.

3. Raw spots make us over-react.

Because we are overly sensitive, our reactions to comments or situations that come close to our raw spot will make us over-react. In fact, an over-reaction is often a sign that we have a raw spot hiding below the surface.

4. We can help each other heal.

When we share our raw spot with our mate, opening it up to the light, we open ourselves up for healing. Of course, to do this requires each making an agreement to treat the other carefully and caringly. As we do this, showing understanding, grace and sympathy, we heal.

Scripture has much to say on the topic of showing compassion for others. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

5. Appreciate your raw spots and those of your mate.

Our vulnerabilities, shared appropriately, bring us closer to one another. As we sympathize and honor our mate for where and how they’ve been hurt, we create a powerful bond. As we look to the interests of our mate, sharing compassion, we unite our hearts. 

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