“Ask a Priest: Is It OK to Have a Close ‘Connection’ With a Non-Spouse?”

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Q: Can you advise whether it’s a mortal sin for a married woman to have an emotional and spiritual connection with a man friend who is not her husband? – E.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s hard to offer an answer that applies in every case.

It is one thing for a 23-year-old newlywed to have warm ties with a grandfatherly 70-year-old whom she sees twice a year. It’s another for a 35-year-old to have close ties with a 37-year-old single man at the office.

And an emotional and spiritual “connection” can mean a lot of different things. Emotional might mean their personalities complement each other. Spiritual could mean they share a love for Scripture or the writings of St. John of the Cross, or they share a deep devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

But if by emotional you mean the two are sharing deep secrets and becoming jealous about their time together — that could be a danger signal. If by spiritual you mean that they are becoming each other’s personal guru or seeing themselves as a righteous duo taking on the world – that could be a danger signal, too.

This is especially the case where someone feels a bit alienated from her spouse.

The fact that you are asking this question might be a sign that you perceive something amiss in a relationship.

Without knowing anything about the people involved, it might be good for someone in this position to have a solid, regular confessor or spiritual director. An objective third party could help the person navigate treacherous waters.

At one point or another we can fall into risky habits or relationships. We can have blind spots. And we have a tendency to rationalize things if we aren’t careful.

A married person who asks whether this or that relationship is sinful, is probably focused on the wrong question. The better question is: How can I go deeper in living my marriage vows? What can I do to help my spouse and myself grow in holiness? Married people’s friendships should contribute to the good of their marriage, not threaten or detract from it. That is the rule of thumb.

A married person who is uneasy about a relationship with a non-spouse might want to dedicate some to prayer and reading about the spiritual dimension of marriage. Book ideas could be found at this link. I hope some of this helps.

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