Why Pastors Have Affairs
Intimacy has several facets, or doors. In every relationship, we open those doors a certain amount as we build trust with one another. We might think of four doors of intimacy, physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual, that are all connected. We continually open each one an appropriate amount, depending on the type of relationship. Chatting happily with a store clerk opens some doors just crack. At home, however, we strive to have these doors wide open so our marriages and families stay deeply invested with one another. Moreover, since each of these are connected to the others--being intellectually and spiritually intimite naturally invites more emotional or physical intimacy, and vice versa--we must work to open some and close others appropriately. .
Pastors, as an occupational group, can face unusual pressures in maintaining intimacy in the right places,
Intellectually, like many vocations, pastors can be very busy people, finding it difficult to find the time to invest at home or even just relax. That's a normal hazard of many professionals. But pastors may be told that meeting the needs of the church is God's work and his (or her) first calling in life, even before family. He may spend long hours discussing church work at the office and have limited time for intellectual intimacy at home, sharing common interests with his spouse and kids.
Emotionally, the minister often is the first person to hear about all the concerns and heartaches of his congregation. That requires an unusual amount of emotional investment on the job. Furthermore, because of confidentiality, he often cannot share those emotional burdens with his spouse. That rasies natural but definite barriers at home. The minister may also be emotionally fed and affirmed by people who share intimiate details and personal emotional concerns. He may begin to reciprocate the emotional investment. Barriers at home and affirmation on the job present a self-reinforcing danger to pastors. They must be very careful where they invest their emotional energy.
Spiritual intimacy happens when we pray together and look to each other's spiritual needs. Spiritual care for others is at the heart of the minister's role. Spending time with the spiritually fragile, praying over hurting or frightened parishioners, wresting through hardships or hard questions, these are all part of the job, and all push the doors of intimacy just a bit wider.
Physically, a pastoral role constantly calls for some level of physical presence. It might be a hand on shoulder during prayer, or a closed door for private confession and conversation, or even just being a leader who stands in front of people. Being physically present is an important part of spiritual care. Escalating physical privacy or finding excuses to spend time with someone who is already intellectually or emotionally close should be a major warning sign that a relationship is becoming inappropriately intimate.
While none of these aspects are exclusive to the ministry, being a spiritual caregiver requires particular levels of intimacy that can become dangerous if good boundaries and self-care are not observed. If a pastor has not been investing well at home, increasing emotional and spiritual intimacy may invite inappropriate physical intimacy with the wrong person. We might imagine a pastor, one who spiritually prays with his staff, intellectually discusses church matters, emotionally connects over hurts and trials, and spends time physically alone with staff members. Imagine that pastor being unhappy at home and finding deeply needed affirmation through a work relationship with someone equally lonely and with similar interests. Without good boundaries and self-care, that stage is set for trouble. They might find themselves creating reasons to do "the Lord's work" together more and more, until things spin out of control. None of this is an excuse, however. As professional caregivers, pastors should know the hazards and their own fallability.
The bigger quesiton is how ministers can avoid intimacy developing where it does not belong. Here are some suggestions for pastors.
- Stay strong in your relationship with God. A minister who is more focused on his own leadership rather than on God's glory is walking into temptation. A pastor should not be impressed with his own teaching and caregiving skills, but remember he is but a broken tool in God's toolbox.
- Cultivate a healthy relationship at home that allows for all the doors of intimacy to be open. Invest at home first. You can share the concerns on your heart without violating confidentiality. You can discuss feeling overwhelmed by the needs of the congregation without spelling out which each need is.
- If your marriage is unhappy, get help, and get it now. Seek counseling in another town if necessary. Your marriage is for life, and it comes before your ministry. If your marriage falters, your ministry will crash.
- Likewise, congregations should demand you take time for your family and time for your spouse. Your home is the foundation of your ministry--if it blows up, so does the witness of the church. The pastor should have support within his congregation to hold him accountable for preserving family time and avoiding burnout.
- Put safeguards on your interactions, especially with those of the opposite sex, Meet privately with a parishioner a limited number of times before refering to a counselor. Avoid working alone with someone of the opposite sex--it is better to have multiple members of a team work together if possible. Make sure your office door has a window to allow greater accountability while still allowing for confidential conversation.
- Find a mentor or counselor with whom you can debrief on a regular basis. This is good for not only your marriage, but your ministry as a whole.
- Avoid sharing your personal challenges about your spouse with coworkers. This is a red flag for any marriage, a sign that emotional investments are being made in the wrong place. Find a mentor or counselor instead.
- Be aware of your emotional state, and consider explicitly how you are being intimite with others. The doors of intimacy reinforce one another. With whom are you intellectually or emotionally close at work? How will you manage the other doors? There are natural pressures on intimacy for pastors, which makes it all the more crucial you intentionally cultivate and protect them.
http://glendora.patch.com/articles/your-marriage-is-a-gift Advice for weathering the storms of marriage from the Glendora Patch
"More importantly, if it is so difficult, why bother trying to make marriage work? For starters, it is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. Research consistently shows that children tend to fare better in married, two-parent households. The investment you make in your marriage not only rewards you and your spouse, the dividends spill over to your children as well"
The Raineys once again offer solid advice on stoking the Spirit's flame in your marriage. This book is designed to help you rediscover why you still love your spouse!