Q: Should we terminate our friendship with another couple after the man and I became involved in an emotional affair? It’s over now, and our spouses have taken a firm but conciliatory attitude toward the whole thing. We’ve suspended our normal get-togethers for the time being. At some point, though, do you think it would be OK to resume our friendship?
Jim: As much as it’s hard to hear, I would say “no.” From our perspective, there’s simply no way around it. When marital unfaithfulness has occurred, perhaps the most important element of the reconciliation process is a willingness on the part of the offending spouse to take responsibility for his or her actions and accept the consequences. In your case, we’d have to include the loss of this friendship among the casualties.
Imagine if the man was a co-worker. Would it be possible, once the affair was over, to go back to life as usual in the office? We don’t think so. Our advice would be to give two weeks’ notice and find a new job.
What if he were your next-door neighbor? This is admittedly a more difficult and complicated scenario. Nevertheless, circumstances permitting and all other things being equal, we’d still recommend that you pack the house and relocate.
Why do we say this? Because it’s unwise to place yourself in temptation’s path. You may think you’ve got your emotions under control, but the affair can and often does recur if you’re not careful. A wise man once wrote, “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?” The answer, of course, is no. The best thing you can do is cut all ties with the other couple.
Q: How can I know if I need to seek professional help with my depression? I’ve felt sad and fatigued for a long time, but I’m hoping it’s just a phase.
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Because clinical or major depression is a serious problem, I’d encourage you to seek help right away. Clinical depression is more than a temporary emotional slump. It involves a persistent — lasting two weeks or longer — and usually disruptive disturbance of mood and often affects other bodily functions as well. Here’s a list of the most prominent characteristics:
— Persistent sadness and/or irritability. This may include depressive emotional reactions that seem out of proportion to the circumstances; episodes of moping and crying; withdrawal and isolation; fatigue and loss of enthusiasm or interest in favorite activities; poor school performance; and outbursts of anger and overt acting out.
— Painful thoughts that manifest themselves in relentless introspection, a negative self-concept, persistent anxiety and a sense of hopelessness.
— Physical symptoms such as insomnia, changes in appetite, headaches, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, abdominal cramps and episodes of shortness of breath.
— In rare cases, a severe case of depression may also involve delusional thinking, including visual and auditory hallucinations. This is not merely depression but a form of psychosis, a serious disorder of neurochemical functions in the brain.
While treatable, the causes of depression can be extremely complex, including a blend of genetic, biochemical, personal, family and spiritual factors. That’s why I’d encourage to you get a physician’s evaluation and seek professional counseling without delay. Focus on the Family’s Counseling Department would be happy to speak with you and provide you with a list of qualified therapists in your area. You can contact them Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. MST at 855-771-HELP (4357)
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.