Infidelity on the Mission Field

by Editor on March 31, 2016

wedding-1149219_960_720a

Standing at the kitchen counter, drying dishes with a towel and wiping the sweat from my neck, I knew it was finally time to come clean to my husband.

“I have been attracted to him for months.”

And I wasn’t talking about my husband.

He looked at me, without much surprise, and said, “I think I knew.”

This conversation came after months of working closely with another man in Southeast Asia. We were part of a small close-knit team with daily interactions. And I had “fallen” for a coworker – developed a crush, felt a strong attraction, whatever you want to call it, they were feelings that a married woman should not have for another man.

For months, I suffocated under the weight of guilt and shame. My attraction magnified my husband’s flaws in my eyes, and I found myself seeking out this man’s time and attention in unhealthy ways that perhaps weren’t noticeable to anyone but my husband.

I was terrified to share my struggles with anyone. I labored under the idea that as a cross-cultural worker, it was unacceptable for me to admit my feelings. And I felt ashamed that I couldn’t control my desires.

Thankfully, God protected me from ever acting on those emotions. Eventually, the feelings faded in intensity and stopped occupying the forefront of my mind. God gave me the courage to admit it all to my spouse, even if it was after the worst of the struggle. Yet I wonder how many others have felt the same, and how many have given in and made decisions they deeply regret and have a terrible impact on their marriages and ministries.

There are so many things I wish we’d done differently about preparing our marriage for going overseas. I am sharing these in the hope that they will help you and your spouse strengthen your marriage, even if you never experience the same struggles.

TALK TO YOUR SPOUSE ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF AFFAIRS

Denying your own vulnerability to affairs is denying your own brokenness. If we cannot remain faithful to a perfect Savior at all times, how can we expect to remain faithful to an imperfect human partner?

It is an incredibly awkward conversation that no one in a healthy marriage wants to have or thinks is necessary. But cross-cultural work often puts us in close emotional and spiritual proximity with others. Emotional intimacy can slowly grow between people without notice. And we can often seek comfort and approval from the wrong places, if we are not aware of our tendency to drift from purity.

So talk about it with your spouse – what do we do if we feel attracted to someone else? How can we stay accountable to one another, pray for one another, and be honest with each other? Talking about it before it happens also releases the expectation (and accompanying shame if it happens) that we will never be attracted to another person.

RECOGNIZE SATAN WANTS TO STEAL, KILL, AND DESTROY

Satan wants to steal your joy in marriage, kill your intimacy in marriage, and destroy your witness in marriage. Our relationship with our spouse is the most intimate way God shows his relationship with the church to the outside world. If Satan can steal any of marriage’s power for displaying the Gospel, he will do it.

It’s only by God’s help we can keep our marriages strong. Pray for your spouse. Ask others close to you to pray for your marriage. Cherish your relationship, and look for ways to make it stronger.

GET SOME ACCOUNTABILITY

I wish I had had the courage to share what I was feeling with other women. But because our expat group was so small, and we worked and fellowshipped so closely together, I was terrified of how that disclosure would affect our relationships. And I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my struggle over Skype with friends back home.

Being proactive could have helped this, by asking my support group back home to ask me about my marriage and praying for my weakness. The Bible tells us to bear each other’s burdens, but we can only do that if we actually share them with others. Ask other same-gender friends if they are willing to carry the hard burdens with you.

SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES FOR MARRIAGE

This looks so different in everyone’s relationships. I can’t lay down the rule that you should never be alone with someone of the opposite sex, for example, because sometimes that just happens in work or travel situations. But you and your spouse need to talk about how to protect your marriage. Boundaries aren’t about making rules; they are about protecting what matters. I knew I couldn’t trust myself to be alone with that person, because my heart wanted to share things with him that were too intimate. You need to pray and talk with your spouse about how to protect your relationship.

KNOW THERE IS STILL LOVE AND GRACE WHEN YOU FAIL

Not “if” you fail – because we will all fail in marriage, whether through full-blown affairs or through our inability to love our partners well enough. We are broken, sinful people – and the sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can throw ourselves on Jesus. He is the only hope for marriage. He can give us the power to love our spouse selflessly and to say “no” when temptations come our way.

And when we mess up, he still loves and accepts us. Our value in the eyes of God is not found in our ability to love another person perfectly; it is found in Jesus’ perfect love for the Father and for us, and in his life given for ours on the cross. Knowing that gives us hope that, despite our sin and helplessness, we are still loved by him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This article was written by an anonymous worker. If your heart has been touched by this story and you (like the author) wish to remain anonymous, we invite you comment anonymously. The author will also be responding anonymously.

Print Friendly
  • felt-those-feelings-too

    I appreciate your thoughts on this difficult subject. Thanks for sharing! Just fyi, the site doesn’t allow posts without a valid email, at least.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Yeah, I’m not sure how to get around that requirement in Disqus, but the email address doesn’t show up publicly. Thank you for your concern here for the privacy of others, and also for showing support to our anonymous author.

  • Rostoff

    Thanks, anonymous author who might be feeling a real vulnerability hangover right now. What if she bared her soul and no one cared? I have been touched by this story — although I had to wonder if this were an April Fools joke. The photo that looked like a car ad fueled this suspicion. Although the photo can fit — married couple in background distracted by shiny red object in foreground

    When the uniquely fascinating colleague (UFC) was relocated to our town. I asked where is the way of escape God promised for this temptation? The way of escape proved to be the curious prayer experience I’d had about presenting my emotions to God even when I know they are wrong. And I do present my emotions to God and know peace. Not that the attraction for the UFC went away instantly, but I experience God’s peace with the tumult of emotion. An enduring spiritual lesson: present my emotions to God. The Psalms are great models of this.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      I’m so sorry about the April 1 date! April Fools’ is not something I ever think about, and April 1 was just the next opening in the guest post schedule where I could place this important piece. But thank you for drawing attention to the date problem; I will be more careful in the future!

  • Tati Cordeiro

    I attended a marriage and family counseling class recently and crushes after marriage was discussed. A scary thing, for sure! We did a whole section on “Hedges of Love” based on Job 1:10, 31:1-12. I guess we usually think we have set up enough safeguards but like you said–Satan wants to kill and destroy. Thanks for putting your voice out there to bring awareness of where our hearts can go.

Previous post:

Next post: