When I was young, I never liked when my mom and dad would close the bedroom door at night after saying goodnight. Being all alone in a large bedroom provided the opportunity for my imagination to run wild, letting all those monsters and villains run wild in the privacy of my room. As I grew older though, a closed bedroom door at night provided me privacy to let my introverted self relax and decompress from the day’s stresses and demands.
We all have different privacy needs based on our personalities. However, I probably don’t have to tell you that too much can be dangerous—especially privacy with someone of the opposite sex.
Ask yourself: If you were at home and your spouse was not, would you invite over someone of the opposite sex, to have a conversation in the privacy of your bedroom? Especially in the privacy of your bedroom with the door locked and window shades drawn? Most likely—and hopefully—your answer is a firm, “No!”
But if I were to ask if you regularly texted with the opposite sex, the answer may not be the same.
Texting and the Doorway to Infidelity
Text messaging has become the social norm for communicating. Its ease of use with hardly any effort allows us to be in touch with anyone from anywhere at any time. We’re texting with our bosses about why we showed up to work late, sending messages to our co-workers about the next meeting and messaging with our friends about this weekend’s barbecue. We text without thinking. We text because the world we live in says text messaging with others, including the opposite sex, is perfectly acceptable communication.
Unfortunately, there is a false sense of security that exists in cell-phone text messaging: It almost always feels as though the words sent and received in a text will not venture into dangerous open waters. The reality is a text message is open water. There is no shallow end to stand on or wall to grab onto. What is sent and received in a text-based world can easily trigger our deepest, darkest feelings and desires, surfacing them in a conversation that began harmlessly.
We learn early on in Scripture that the heart is deceitful above all things. (Jeremiah 17:9) Too often in text messaging, particularly with the opposite sex, insignificant words are sent that are consciously and unconsciously linked to more significant emotional or sexual roots in the heart; roots that are intended to remain deeply rooted in a marriage instead outside of it.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard stories of married men and women texting outside their marriage with the opposite sex and it began innocently, discussing topics about their kids’ school or their spouse’s new job, and then all of a sudden finding themselves in a heated conversation about how their spouse doesn’t want to talk about their feelings or that they noticed the other at the gym, commenting on how they like their tight-fitting gym clothes.
Opening these conversation doors allows infidelity the opportunity to advertise itself.
Affairs Don’t Begin With Sex.
Men and women were designed physically and emotionally to have sex and talk about deep feelings. However, talking about sex and feelings with the opposite sex through texts can quickly detach a married person from his or her spouse emotionally and sexually in the real world. Let’s be honest: Many married men and married women text the opposite sex without ever falling into this trap. There are many who respect their spouses completely, stewarding well their texts, never venturing into discussing feelings or sex with the opposite sex in a text.
But I think the slope is too slippery to ignore; these individuals walk it like a tightrope, sometimes without even knowing it. Text messaging itself is not the culprit. The culprit is the heart of the person text messaging.
Here’s the important thing to realize: Safeguarding your marriage against infidelity should extend beyond the bedroom. Infidelity occurs well before having actual sex with someone, and in today’s culture, the smoke is usually fanned into fire during text messaging. We’ve all heard the saying, “The grass is greener on the other side.” This is saying that we sometimes want what someone else has because we assume it’s better than what we have.
Text messaging provides an opportunity for wandering hearts, hearts not fully committed to their spouses, to seek pleasure from someone other than their spouses when their relationship grass may be losing its color. More alarmingly though, text messaging provides an opportunity for even hearts most devoted to their marriages, to inadvertently seek pleasure from someone other than their spouse. Jeremiah communicated how deceitful the heart can be, even for one who thinks they have control of their heart.
It’s this truth we must listen to and, apply guidelines in our marriage for communicating with the opposite sex, in an effort fully to respect them and our Lord, Jesus Christ.
How to Handle It
I’ve put together some suggested guidelines you and your spouse can consider when it comes to texts and the opposite sex:
– Avoid giving your phone number to the opposite sex. If it is necessary to keep in touch with them, have your spouse give their number to them.
– If you already have someone of the opposite sex’s phone number, treat it as just that: a phone number (not a text number).
– If you receive a text message from someone of the opposite sex, choose to respond by calling them immediately instead of responding through text. Making a phone call communicates to them that you would prefer speaking over the phone instead of via text.
– Treat your private email like you would a ext message. It’s understandable that you might not be legally permitted to Cc your spouse on a work email to the opposite sex, but when you are communicating from your private email with the opposite sex, copy your spouse. This provides transparency between you and your spouse and also communicates to the opposite sex your desire to keep communication public.
– If you are feeling an emotional or sexual pull to a particular opposite sex member, especially during text messaging, immediately stop. In person, let this individual know your desire to respect your spouse, even with text messages. Confess this behavior to your spouse, repent and begin the healing process. If you don’t stop, the emotional and/or sexual detachment from your spouse will continue to broaden as you continue in communication with the opposite sex person. Please stop.
Our culture is progressive. It always will be. Culture tries to define what is appropriate when it pertains to being married and being in private with the opposite sex. The definition of privacy extends from actual private spaces, to social-digital-text messaging spaces as well. Our goal is to remain constant with living above reproach, living above what culture says is acceptable or unacceptable, especially in our marriages.
is an assistant professor of communication at Taylor University. His teaching and research efforts are conducted through the lens of social psychology. He focuses primarily on marriage fidelity, relationship development/management, the self, nonverbal communication, persuasion, social influence and social media. He lives in Indiana with his beautiful wife, Stacey.