Sexual Temptation and Female Friends

January 23, 2013

in Seeing Clearly, Sexuality, The "D" word

Yesterday in Friends of the female persuasion I suggested “avoiding the appearance of evil” is not biblically valid, much less commanded. The comments, both on the blog and in my email, require a follow up, but today I want to look at the “female friends are an affair waiting to happen” line of thought.

Looking to cheat © Alexandre Miguel Da Silva Nunes | Dreamstime.com

Certainly being friends with a woman makes it easier to end up in bed with her, but I think cheating is more about our hearts than it is about circumstance and opportunity. If most men were the sex crazed monsters some think we are, then avoiding any hint of friendship with a woman might be a wise, but completely useless precaution. Let’s face it, if most men were given to sex with any woman, any time, there would be no need to form a friendship to end up in adultery!

Are there men who will have sex with just about any woman they can get? Yes. There are also men who are so afraid of germs they will not go outside their own homes. Neither group is the norm, and neither group should be used to decide how the majority should act. Despite the bad press the male sex drive has gotten the last few decades, most men do not think primarily with their penises! What’s more, despite the fact some men excuse their affair or porn use on a lack of sex with their wife, most men will not commit adultery simply because they are “not getting enough” at home. (They may well do it because of anger or frustration over a callous lack of caring for their sexual needs, which is about love and respect, not sex.)

My view, and some will argue with me strongly on this, is adultery is not something one “falls into”. It does not happen because of an unfortunate set of circumstances. Adultery is an action following a choice or series of choices made days, weeks, or months before the sex happens. Adultery is not about a sexual attraction to another person, but about trying desperately to fill a need that’s not being filled. While I cannot say the need is never sexual, I am confident it is rare for the real need to be sexual. Sure sex feels good, but most folks who cheat are looking for something other than an orgasm.

Yes, having a female friend might make it easier for some men to get up the courage to commit adultery, but the friendship is not what causes the affair. The reality is anyone who wants to cheat is going to find it sadly easy to do so. Thinking not having female friends keeps one safe from an affair is like thinking closing your home’s windows will prevent you from being robbed when your front door is standing ajar!

To me this is about knowing yourself and being wise. If you are sexually satisfied, you are not at risk. If you are sexually frustrated, then you need to be more careful, but the real issue is more about your relationship, why you are sexually frustrated, and how you feel about it. If your wife is chronically ill, or dealing with being molested as a child, you may not be having any sex, but you understand it and you are not mad at her about it. If she is just saying no, or a legitimate reason has gone on for a long time with her refusing to deal with it, then you are mad at her, and your anger can easily be used to justify adultery. Adultery is not a result of men not having sex, but it is often a result of men being angry about not having sex.

Another thing to consider is attraction – if you know you are attracted to a woman, then be wise and don’t give any opportunity for inappropriate feelings to grow. The tricky thing about this is it means we have to be honest with ourselves. If we just deny all our feelings about all women, then we are blind to potential problems. If we admit what we think and feel, then we can deal with those things in a wise and godly manner. While many men commit adultery with women they are not at all attracted to, there is certainly wisdom in not putting yourself where you are going to feel things you should not feel about a woman other than your wife.

The bottom line: Hungry people are far more likely to steal food than those who are well fed. Yes, the sexually starved are probably at a bit more risk, but what really drives adultery is being emotionally malnourished, relationally hungry, or starved for respect. These hungers are the hook that opens a man to adultery. If you have any of these, you are at risk, and you should know it and take precautions. If you’re not hungry in any of these ways, you really are not at risk unless your penis actually rules you.

Tomorrow: Dealing with sexual anger. (A post requested because I just reran Angry about sex?, and a great fit with where this post went).

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81 comments
__KWilson
__KWilson

Hi Paul, have you ever written an article about a wife that flirts with other men, especially right in front of their husband? It creates a whirlwind of emotions that can paralyze as to what to do and how to respond. I understand it may be the fruit of a deeper root especially when the wife seems very loving at home but seems to go into this trance when talking to a handsome salesmen or friend and I become invisible, and they start behaving in ways that they don't even direct toward me at home. I searched the Generous Husband site but did not find anything and I do not trust the worldly advice I'm seeing about it.

__KWilson
__KWilson

@TheGenerousHusband @__KWilson 

Yes sir, I prayed about it when we left a store one night cause I knew it would be bad timing to bring it up out of anger. It seemed like she was in a trance like she was not aware of her behavior but it is also not her norm, even around me and as a man the way the salesman looked at me was like "this guy's a chump" for my wife disrespecting me by flirting hard right in front of me and like you said making herself look bad sending a message of availability.

 I felt cheap cause she all of sudden wanted to have sex when we got home and I don't see that as being any different from a someone who gets stimulated looking at porn and then having sex with their spouse.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@__KWilson Don't think I've addressed it.

I'd start by asking her if she is aware of it. It might be habit with no real thought - I know men and women who are this way.

If she is aware, ask her why she does it. If she is not aware, see if you can find a female friend who has seen it who will back you up.

Aside from how it makes you feel, it's sending wrong messages to the men, which could end badly. Your wife could be seen in a poor light if she gets a reputation, or she might find herself approached by someone who takes her actions seriously. 

__KWilson
__KWilson

@TheGenerousHusband @__KWilson 

Thank you, I have made her aware that she has tendencies to do certain things to cause jealousy. She's not outgoing by nature unless she's with people she knows, that's what makes these situations seem bizarre. In this situation it was a stranger but it seemed like the atmosphere was sexually charged, I seemed to be invisible while it was happening and then we walk like nothing weird just happened. Thanks for your insight and I plan to find the deeper root of why this would happen in a loving and Christ like way.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@__KWilson @TheGenerousHusband Yeah, it could be she got turned on by him, but there are some other options too.

Her behaviour could be because she was horny, Could be hormones or something else, but both what she did with the other man and her desire for you when you got home could both be from something going on in her mind and body.

It could also be her actions got her in touch with her sexuality, and that made her want you. If her desire is for you, then anything that makes her horny, or makes her aware she is, will cause her to want you in bed.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@__KWilson @TheGenerousHusband So what is the deeper need driving her actions? Does she want something from you and does these things to get it? It might not even be about you, it could be from long ago.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@__KWilson @TheGenerousHusband What an interesting behaviour on her part! I suspect she is not alone in this. 

When I was in high school my girlfriend and I had a male friends who was openly homosexual. She treated him differently than she treated other guys, but I did not feel threatened because I knew he had no interest in her. As he was open, no one else would have thought there was anything between him and my girlfriend. 

Your points to your wife are dead on. If she assumes a man is gay and he is not, he could think she is coming on to him. She also makes herself and you look bad to others if she is not careful.

Glad you were able to talk with her, and thanks so much for sharing what you learned. 

__KWilson
__KWilson

@TheGenerousHusband @__KWilson Hi Paul, thank you for your input. I was able to talk to my wife openly about what happened and it turned out to be a process of self discovery for me. She told me that she acts more girly around men that she perceives to be homosexual and the behavior was no different than how she acts around gay co-workers but to her they are like girls. I explained to her that if she perceives wrong then it makes her look bad and makes me look like a chump and she apologized to me for the confusion and promised to practice more self awareness.

I realized that I was having a type of post traumatic stress because what I witnessed her do was bringing up old feeling of girls from the past who were in fact messing around on me. So to me what she was doing seemed very real even though it wasn't; now that I think about it, the guy was perfectly manicured and had a leopard print phone case. So we prayed about those old roots being broken in my life and probably would not have discovered it otherwise.  Thank you again sir!!

HugovanderKooij
HugovanderKooij

Hmmm. I think that wisdom means you stay onthesafe side of what is appropriate.

Where you need to draw YOUR line is something that needs wisdom.

But I would choose to be just a bit more cautious then this post seems to indicate.

Nothing wrong with good friends of the opposite sex.

But make sure you never end up in a situation where they get the attention you will not give your spouse.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@HugovanderKooij I agree, riding the line is asking for trouble.

Your final sentence is the key. If your spouse is not getting something they should, your marriage is in danger and you need to be exceedingly careful.


HMT
HMT

I did not post the following: HMT January 26, 2013 at 10:12 am I believe that any invested-in or pursued relationship with a member of the opposite-sex is an invitation to trouble and problematic (which I think we agree on). I do think that contact- such as in the workplace or at church- incidental or group contact with no such pursuit, investment, or personal attention involved- whatever you want to call it- is still viable.

HMT
HMT

Sorry to get in to the tail end of this: From a viewpoint of being married a long time: At some point, you don't see men as men and women as women, but if you are happy in your marriage, everyone else is just "people". If I can't have lunch with a guy, or with a woman, and talk "tech" with him or her, without ever thinking about having sex with them, there is something fundamentally wrong with my marriage. Well, there's not, and I have lots of female friends, who would be incredulous if they thought that I ever had a remotely sexually thought about them. And guess what? I don't. This is something that needs space. If you are happy, sexually well-adjusted, and you think that 51% of the population is off limits because you "might be tempted", your relationship with your spouse needs serious work.

The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

John Delcamp mentioned above that technology lacks the personal element of face to face communication. I appreciate that folks here are aware of this and doing well with it. I've been doing on-line message boards since '97, and I generally assume anything that sounds rude was not intended that way because I know how easy it is to mean one thing and have something else heard.

HMT
HMT

"I believe that any invested-in or pursued relationship with a member of the opposite-sex is an invitation to trouble and problematic (which I think we agree on). I do think that contact- such as in the workplace or at church- incidental or group contact with no such pursuit, investment, or personal attention involved- whatever you want to call it- is still viable." Andrew, when you've lived a bit longer, you'll realize that your wife is your wife; friends are friends. It has nothing to do with sex. I can have friends, men and women, and know where the boundaries are. Dude, the fact that you are so worried about scares me. You must really have some unresolved issues, if you think you can't be friends a with a female without having any possible temptation of sleeping with her. Like I say, Dude. Examine your life.

Gary
Gary

@Andrew-Yes I believe that clarifies it sufficiently. I think our main contention is caused by varying ideas in what constitutes a friendship. As I said I believe a relationship to be less than a friendship only when the purpose of interaction between the individuals is overwhelmingly utilitarian, with virtually or actually no colloquial exchanges. And I appologize for any past and subsequent responses that may seem "aggressive" in any way. I mean no offense and am neither offended by your disagreements, but sometimes my debating style unintentionally conveys the contrary (or so I'm told lol).

Gary
Gary

@Andrew-I also don't see why these incidental contacts could not be considered friendships. Levels of intimacy on an emotional level are variable in friendships. I have friends that I hang out with often and intentionally and others that I only talk to or participate in events with when they are incidentally involved. I don't see how both groups can't be considered as friendships simply because the desire to spend time in their company varies. I would say the only time such a relationship would not be considered a friendship as I define it is when the purpose of interaction is overwhelmingly utilitarian.

Gary
Gary

@Andrew- I'm not sure why you continue to argue against a proposition I never made. I explicitly said in both my posts that such friendships **should not** be pursued, simply not rejected by default. Go over and read them again carefully if you must.

John Delcamp
John Delcamp

I have found this amazing that this is such a hot issue. Several warnings with this type of emotionally charged discussion - 1) Be sure that we are looking at our circumstances through God's word and not the other way around. It makes a temendous difference in the interpretation of Scripture. 2) It is necessary to guard our lives from evil in every area, even in the good things because when good things take the place of God, they become sin. With that in mind, our relationships with the opposite - married or unmarried, must be protected and guarded from evil. 3) Just because you "minister" to the opposite as a couple, does not mean that you can leave your guard down. There are certain things that open the door to temptation that we must guard ourselves from whether we are with our spouse or not. 4) The next step into a "big" sin is only the same size as the step before it and the one before that, which moved us closer and closer to falling into the "big" sin. God extend us grace, mercy and forgiveness so that we would extend it to someone else. God adopted us into His family so we would show others they could be adopted into the family of God. Therefore, it does not matter the color, religion, sex, or lifestyle of a person, they need Jesus and we are to be that mirror that reflects an authentic image of Jesus to them. To do that, we must minister to the opposite sex, but we must do it in a manner that shows the purity and holiness of Jesus.

J (Hot, Holy & Humorous)
J (Hot, Holy & Humorous)

I have long been an advocate of not having close friends of the opposite gender once you are married. I have a personal rule that I do not spend time alone with a man who is not my husband or a relative. Because I know what I came from, who I was, and don't want to ever tempt that in any way. I have no attraction to others--just my husband--but I am careful nonetheless. I think it's a matter of where the line is drawn. What I find happening more often is spouses not able to draw a line and getting too close, too fast, and then if their marriage suffers difficulty, they are tempted to find comfort and ease with that "just a friend." So that's what I tend to warn against. All that said, I have male friends. We just don't hang out alone. There are a few men I would likely have lunch with (for instance, an old college friend I'd love to see sometime), in a very public setting. And OF COURSE I would stop to help someone I knew in an emergency--regardless of gender. There is a point where our hedge can indeed become less like a wall and more like a battering ram. Interesting give-and-take here, Paul.

Alecia
Alecia

I agree with Nate. I think you end up making the counter argument within your post. Also, have to say that Rosemary is spot on as well. Just because you believe all your needs are being met within your marriage and that you are completely satisfied with your spouse does NOT mean that having a friendship with the opposite sex comes risk free. My thoughts: I do agree that cheating is absolutely, foundationally, an issue of the heart. But, I respectfully disagree on your second point. It is also absolutely contingent on circumstance and opportunity. No, we don't just "fall" into adultery. It happens as a result of dozens of tiny, inconsequential choices we make along the way that (as I said in a past post that I'll link up) "They may seem small. They may seem like they don’t matter. But all they serve to do is bring you closer and closer to a line you thought you’d never cross. Until you do." Because it is the little choices that matter, we DO need to be extremely cautious about things like burgeoning friendships and forging connections with the opposite sex. Those are EXACTLY the steps that lead to an affair. Even if you believe you aren't at risk for one in your marriage. Someone once said that (might be Harley, author of "Surviving an Affair") given the right circumstances ANYONE could have an affair. So, again, it IS those little choices and those seemingly insignificant circumstances and opportunities that are what create an environment that make an affair possible. Your premise about attraction seems off (in my opinion) as well. If I'm reading it correctly it seems you are addressing physical attraction. So, basically "don't be friends with someone you think is hot." So let's be honest. We can think someone is hot. We can find someone attractive. But "attraction" isn't about looks when it comes down to it. It grows and happens over time as a result of getting to know someone, building a connection, creating little moments of intimacy. When you allow that to happen, you are already so invested in the friendship, already so close to that line you didn't think you'd ever cross, it can be incredibly difficult to not cross it and completely cut ties. It is not a matter of health in your marriage, needs being met, its a matter of being wise enough to know ahead of time what "could" happen as a result of the choices we are making today. I say, and will always say, better safe than sorry. No friendship is worth risking my marriage. Ever. If there is a friendship that I have that I deem worth the risk, then there is a good chance I'm getting a need met through that friendship that I should be attempting to get met through my marriage or through a same sex friendship. http://marriagelifeministries.org/?p=554

Gary
Gary

@Andrew- I agree and did say in my original response that such relationships should not be pursued, espescially since such intentional effort would be an indicator that your wife's friendship and/or emotional/physical relationship with you is unsatisfactory. Naturally that would present a great risk to your fidelity. Additionally, I agree it would be unfair to the wife regardless of motives or potentialities to expand this friendship past it's circumstantial necessity (such as inviting a female co-worker to your home, even if your wife is present). My main point is simply that opposite sex friendships are not *intrinsically* problematic. And in Paul's defense I do believe he was merely stating that insufficient emotional intimacy associated with sex was the primary cause not in the sense that it is always a factor but rather exists as the most significant one in a majority of cases.

Rosemary
Rosemary

Please read "Not Just Friends" by Shirley Glass. Her extensive research into infidelity dispels a lot of myths, including "If you are sexually satisfied, you are not at risk" and some of the other ideas you mentioned here. Yes, it is often about something that is missing in the relationship, but not always. I am not suggesting that we cannot have opposite-sex friends. Of course we can! But many married people - even some happily married people - do indeed drift into affairs because they gradually crossed friendship boundaries in small increments that they weren't consciously aware of at the time. Yes, at some point they made the decision to go forward with the affair, and there is absolutely no excuse for that. But getting to that point often was not something they intended or planned. Many people really don't understand the subtle danger signs of a friendship that is starting to take a wrong turn. This is especially true of emotional affairs, which can be just as devastating to a marriage as physical affairs.

Gary
Gary

@Andrew, It seems explicitly clear to me that the entire point of this post was that adultery is an issue of the heart, so I'm not sure why you are contending it as indicating the contrary. Regardless, I think it goes without saying that Paul recognizes that fact but was addressing particularly how adultery is roused and developed in the heart and subsequently manafested physically. I also must disagree with your assertion that mere prolonged proximity and platonic interaction to a person of the opposite sex is a problem in itself, and is actually sometimes necessary (such as in the workplace or ministry). Certainly friendships with the opposite sex should not be pursued or emotionally invested in (beyond what you would naturally have with a same sex friendship), but when circumstantially required they should not be reject as intrisically evil/problematic either. Ultimately I think the core of the problem with adultery is that, even for those who do not consciously perceive it as such, subconsciously (no matter how deeply burried therein) the door is being left open a crack to the idea of other women as potential sexual partners. A simple way to demonstrate this is to ask yourself how likely it would be for you to cheat on your wife with one of your sisters, or even your mother, given enough time and non-sexual interaction. I'm betting the very question repulses you, nevermind the idea or an actual occurence of such a thing. But why is that? Because you believe such a relationship to be highly inappropriate and quite simply and absolutely disgusting. If you genuinely recognize that God sees extra-marrital sexual relationships with non-familial women the same way, all you need to do is conform your mind to His and develop the same mindset you use to quite easily prevent any sexual feelings, thoughts or advances towards women who belong to your immediate family. Putting it in that perspective has allowed me personally to resist adulterous thoughts with much greater effectiveness. It's also a reminder that it is very much possible to restrain the growth of sexual desire for the opposite sex when such a relationship would be inappropriate and genuinely recognized as such.

Amy M.
Amy M.

Hey, Paul -- I had male friendships prior to meeting my husband. Every one of them teetered at some point -- hormones and small needs or fleshly desires can do all sorts of things to the mind, and Satan gets a step up through those avenues. In every male friendship I had, once that man found a girlfriend or wife, I found myself less one friend. When I was younger this did not compute. Now, I certainly understand it. We DO NOT KNOW the other person's heart deficiencies. We do not know unmet needs. We can only believe what we hear, see and experience. The heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) ... even if a man or woman has proper care and feeding of needs, temptation can invade. We are to not set ourselves up for temptation. My husband fell into an emotional affair -- we each left needs unmet for each other, but he's the one who fell away. He escaped from anything relating to God as quickly as he could manage it -- he knew his wrong deep down, but the surface showed vindication, pride, self-righteousness and blame. I don't think anyone can possibly justify opposite-sex friendship on a true, emotional level ... knowing that any small chink in the armor can allow The Tempter easy access. Affairs do not start quickly. They develop. The participants can be fully knowledgeable, or ... they can be tricked, misled, and creatively tempted. When you find a nice woman at work who suffers with a negligent husband, you feel sorry. You offer a listening ear. Satan begins to whisper. Godly men and women have fallen -- and admit they had not reason to do so. Temptation won, and they skipped the many safe zones and exits God provided because the call of The Wild spoke louder. I respectfully disagree, believe that many people are misled by these relationships, and in today's society, this kind of relationship provides more temptation than good.

Nate
Nate

I cannot agree either. In fact, you seem to make my point for me in your post. If adultery is not necessarily about sex but filling some other need, such as an emotional one, then a friendship with another woman that provides those emotional needs is a perfect breeding ground for at least an emotional affair (just as inappropriate in my mind), and perhaps a sexually affair to follow. I think a safer way of making your point is to say "if you have a secure, healthy, emotionally satisfying relationship with your wife, you are probably not at risk for having other female friends because there is less of a chance you will see them as a potential source to fill a need. If there are some unmet needs, unspoken issues, and especially if the female friend is becoming the safe place where these problems are being discussed, it does present an open door for boundaries to be crossed and perhaps sin to occur.

IMan
IMan

Paul, Great message today. You continue to grow in wisdom and thanks for sharing it here, (I hope) many will benefit from it and be blessed. Attention Ladies, his summary is spot-on correct. Years ago I too became "starved". It didn't happen overnight but aver a period of years. That frustration grew into anger and emotional disconnect. End result? One day I found myself wanting something with someone that, in a hundred years, I thought I'd never want. Disrespect is an important sign to watch for. Men want to be more than respected, they want to be revered. When I didn't feel that from my wife, I lost respect for myself. That leads to a host of other bad things, namely anger. I could go on and on but Paul said it best. MEN: If you love your bride, never give up serving her and taking your "issues" to the Lord. Ask Him to help clean out the things in your OWN life that are keeping you from experiencing the deep kind of marital intimacy He desires for you. Orgasm is OK.... but orgasm with love, trust, desire, intimacy, acceptance and guilt free love making is the best. Adultery IS a choice. No man (or woman) is forced into it. God gives us choices. Have a bless week-- IMAN

Andrew Gilbertson
Andrew Gilbertson

Wow. I can't even remotely agree. Perhaps this is the case when it comes to physically cheating on your wife- perhaps. But 'That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.' I think that there is far more to adultery than the physical act- and issues of emotional intimacy that belongs to your wife being mis-distributed, being put in an environment where those emotional bonds will be forged or lustful looks can be given, are absolutely a risk with close friends of the opposite sex. It is just unwise- and potentially unkind to your wife, even if you can 'handle it,' to put her in a place where she sees your time and affection (even if merely in a platonic manner) being given to another woman. Essentially, I don't think it's a matter of sexual hunger that would make such a friendship risky- it is the emotional bond, time, closeness, and yes, increased opportunity, that such a relationship would provide... causing the heart to drift, not the penis. And I think that the heart is the far riskier organ in terms of paving the way to adultery.

John Delcamp
John Delcamp

I agree 100% - we don't jump into sin, we move into sin one little decision at a time. We don't wake up in the morning and just say I think I will commit this sin today. We move closer to committing the sin every day over a period of time by the little decisions we make which them makes it only one little decision to set into the sin. Our heart moves away from God and closer to the sin by each little decision.

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