ADQ: In a relationship with someone of the opposite sex outside of our marriage, how close is too close?It isn’t always easy to determine the boundaries of communication you should have with someone who isn’t your spouse. Here are three very important factors to help you draw the line:
knowing your own feelings
- knowing the other person’s feelings
- knowing your spouse’s feelings.
- Knowing your own feelings
Be careful not to deceive yourself about how you feel about your friend. A man may never confess or try hard to repress his fondness for a female crony. But a man who maintains a regular (non-professional or non-familial) association with a woman probably possesses a degree of physical attraction towards her. A woman who feels the need to speak to a male friend all of the time has most likely developed an emotional attachment to that person. In either case, if marital difficulties should develop, they often turn to their companions of the opposite sex for comfort and advice. By drawing closer to their extramarital companions, they become vulnerable to Satan’s trap.
In a healthy Christian marriage, you should feel completely satisfied with the companionship you have with your spouse (Prov 5:15-19). If you often feel the need to have associations with those of the opposite sex, you should take time to examine the condition of your marriage, not run away from the issue. This desire for companions of the opposite sex likely stems from a void in your marriage. Recognize the warning signs and make a conscious effort to focus more, not less, of your attention on building your relationship with your spouse.
- Knowing the other person’s feelings
Satan wanders about looking for every opportunity to bring people down. You may see your friend as nothing more than a brother or sister, but do not assume they feel the same way about you. He or she may even be secretively in love with you. A sad illustration of this deception is Amnon’s rape of his sister Tamar (2 Sam 13). Amnon knew it was improper for him to have relations with his virgin sister. Nevertheless, the lustful desire Satan had planted in his heart overcame him. Tamar was unaware of her brother’s perverse feelings for her. Her good intentions and naïveté resulted in disaster, as Amnon had the opportunity to take her by force. You may believe that your friend would never have improper intentions, but Satan could work through your friend to ruin your holy matrimony. Be keen and use your God-given instinct to ward off other people’s amorous sentiments. Your first responsibility is to protect your marriage, even at the risk of hurting another person’s feelings.
- Knowing your spouse’s feelings
So what’s wrong with continuing the relationship when it’s certain that you and your friend do not have any attraction for each other? Even if your companionship may be innocent, your spouse may not be pleased. Every spouse desires their beloved to be a “garden enclosed,” a “spring shut up,” a “fountain sealed” (Song 4:12). Only your husband or wife should have access to your deepest thoughts and emotions—it’s what makes a spouse special. If it seems someone else is gaining that privilege, or if your spouse feels the need to compete for your attention, then jealousy will naturally arise. You need to respect and honor your spouse’s feelings. All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful (1 Cor 6:12) in building up your marriage. We refrain from doing certain things not because the Bible explicitly forbids it, but because we love God so much that we do not want to do anything that may displease Him. Because of your love for your spouse, carefully consider if your involvement with another might cause any displeasure. Note that your spouse may not plainly express disapproval, so take the time to hear him or her out. You may be so consumed with your friend that you don’t realize your spouse feels neglected.
To reiterate, discontinue any extramarital relationship if 1) you begin to have amorous feelings towards your friend, 2) you feel the other person has amorous feelings for you, or 3) if you know your spouse would be displeased.