Question

My husband recently came back from a co-ed recovery retreat. He did a lot of emotional work in this group and a lot of healing and expression of repressed emotions. A few women in the group that are also going through the same kinds of therapy and working on the same kinds of issues are wanting to meet with my husband for dinner or coffee.

My husband and I are Christians and want to have appropriate boundaries between us and our opposite sex friends. Is it appropriate for husbands to meet with other unmarried women to talk about emotionally intimate things or married women to meet with unmarried men to discus intimate things? Where do the boundaries lie? What is God-honoring? I know emotional affairs begin this way and we want to avoid this at all costs.

Answer

Then do. Your instinct is right: For him to meet with other
women, whether married or not, to discuss “emotionally intimate
things” is not only inappropriate but unwise and dishonoring to
you, to God and your marriage vows. It’s never appropriate for a
married man to meet with a woman not his wife in a date-like
setting (e.g., dinner or coffee). The same would apply if it were
you wanting to meet with other men. The only proper place for
emotional intimacy across the sexes is within family
relationships, most obviously the marriage relationship.

Two further cautions. I think any future recovery retreats of
this nature would be best attended by both of you together.
What better way for him to heal than in the context of your
respect, support and involvement. How much better it would be
if the woman he’s bonding with during all this healing is not
some single stranger, but his wife.

I can’t help but wonder if the retreat was explicitly Christian
or biblical in its approach. That’s a must. It’s no good getting
counseling to heal in one damaged area if the format lacks
appropriate safeguards against other worse problems (like
creating opportunities that lead to the break-up of Christian
marriages).

Second, I believe this question, though asked by a married
reader, has implications for our single readers. It’s a reminder
that patterns of emotional intimacy that are set during dating or
courtship have important implications for life after the wedding.
Too much emotional intimacy too soon can be a red flag that the
person you’re considering as a future spouse lacks appropriate
personal boundaries.

Some things are meant for the marriage relationship alone.
Most obviously that includes sex. But that’s not all. True
emotional intimacy is only as intimate as it is limited to the two
people sharing it. Any man willing to bond too deeply with
women not his wife will be more likely to continue the pattern
after he’s married. After all, he’s developed a habit in that
direction.

Better a man who makes an effort not to do anything that
could be misinterpreted as inappropriate attention than one who
gushes over every new woman he meets.

Sincerely,

CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2006 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.