About the Author

Holley Gerth is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, counselor, and life coach. Her newest release is The Powerful Purpose of Introverts: Why the World Needs You to Be You. She's also wife to Mark, Mom to Lovelle, and Nana to Eula and Clem.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Thank you. I am happily single, your post spoke to me about an area where I know I struggle. So often I am tempted to share my heart with other women in a way that leads to dependency. I am just learning to share with God first, so my dependency on Him grows deeper and other women second, so my authenticity grows deeper.
    When I forget this I am lonely. Feelings of loneliness in me are my trigger to check how I’m sharing my heart.
    Bless you, bless you X

    • Holley, yes. Your transparency is beautiful and your words, so wise. Ruth, I second that. As a single woman, I continue to discover the art of confiding in Jesus as a husband and confidant before turning to other caring ones. I love what you said about recognizing your feelings of loneliness a trigger to see how you’re sharing your heart. I’m taking that with me today.

    • Hi Holley, A recent post I read you stated that you had suffered with anxiety and depression…Did you have to take medication? I have been trying to overcome this illness letting the Lord heal me without meds. I’m the Lord that heals thee. I have a very strong faith. Even Pastors tell me so. I’m 53-I read all my scriptures for healing and believe that Jesus can heal me of the anxiety and depression.
      Please email me. I don’t know how to do twitter or facebook. Thanks so much. Jackie

      • Jackie, yep, medication was part of my healing process. I still need to take a low dose for PMS (related to a medical condition I have–PCOS). As a counselor here’s what I told my clients considering this option: Medication will not do the work for you. You will still need to do the hard emotional and spiritual work that will help you heal. But medication, when there is a physical component in the depression and anxiety, can help you get to a place where you’re able to do the work you need to do. I believe medication is only detrimental when it lets people avoid dealing with things they really need to in order to be emotionally healthy long-term. The same way self-medicating with alcohol, shopping, food, or anything self would be. But within the right context under the watchful care of a professional counselor as well as a doctor, I do think medication can be a helpful tool. Our bodies are fallen and broken. And we often forget our brains are part of our bodies. I’d recommend talking with a counselor and physician you trust who know you well to get their thoughts on this for you. Thanks for your vulnerability!

        • I agree with you 100% Holley. Medication was needed to help me reason again. I found ~ and I believe with all my heart I was led by Him~ to a Christian counselor and a Christian psychiatrist. The difference? Hope! Both prayed for me as well as counseled me, and often prayed with me during our meetings. I cannot emphasize enough the difference in Christian counseling/psychiatry. And by the way, a Christian psychiatrist is extremely hard to find. I was blessed to find both.

          • Jackie, I hear your heart in your post and a true desire to know what’s best. I had a similar struggle when I hit a severe clinical depression episode at 30 years old. I too had great faith, that God would heal me without the need for medication. My entire focus was to NOT have to use medication because in my mind, if I took medication, then my faith was too weak. I could not have been further from the truth! I second what Holley and Becky stated, in that when one’s reasoning ability…and ability to function normally day-to-day gets less and less, it is often time to consider medicine to get your brain to a stable place. Then once the brain is healed with medicine and stability is regained, one can do the proper emotional and spiritual work. All the best to you in your journey.

  2. Holley,
    I am writing from the perspective of a wife of a man, with whom a single, attractive woman shared her heart. A co-worker of my husband’s shared her heart with my husband which eventually led to sharing her body and as a result tore apart a marriage and devastated two children. This is very hard to write, but I want your reader’s to know that sharing one’s heart with the wrong person can have a terrible ripple effect. Holley, your husband would be proud, you tackled a tough subject head on…and right on target!

    • It’s a tough topic, for sure. At the end of my marriage, I found myself guilty of doing this. I take 100% responsibility and do not seek to justify it in any way. It was the worst decision I could have made. And you are right, the effects spread far and wide beyond what we can imagine. Thank you for sharing from your perspective. It’s an invaluable one.

    • Bev, I truly feel I was never able to have true intimacy in my marriage because the man I was married to allowed space for so many other women to pour into him, there wasn’t room for me. The last one poured bitterness toward me into his heart which led to an affair (I don’t believe it was his first, though he says it was), him leaving and now teaching our children first hand about adultery and fornication. It’s a tough situation for sure, but know the Lord can and WILL redeem it. Be strong and know you are NOT alone!


  3. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and
    wanted to say that I have really enkoyed browsing
    your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to
    your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  4. What a wonderful post, thank you so much. In these days of being connected with just about everybody you ever knew, it could be all too easy to find yourself spending more time connecting with others than you do your partner. I agree with you that our marriages are to be guarded with as much effort as you would guard your child’s safety, say. I think I read somewhere that the biggest indicator for an affair is proximity… just that – who you’re spending lots of time with. And I think virtual time comes to play here too. Thank you for your brave words – I sense it wasn’t an easy post to write!

  5. You talking to me as well. I get along with guys better than women. Men are so easy to get along with and yes, dangerous ground. Even for myself. I enjoy male company.

    So, I stick close to my husband and well. We are good. Very good.

    Very good advise here. I tell my husband everything. Even of he does not agree with me. Marriage is hard work. All day and night.


  6. This is an important read… and honestly, we can over share even with our female friends. There are intimate parts of us that are meant to stay in our marriage. Guard your heart.

    • This is so true. Women sharing with each other instead of their husbands can really hurt marriages. A good rule is to think: how would my husband feel if he were here right now? Would you say what you are saying?

  7. Question – as a single woman, if I’m not supposed to overshare with a man, nor am I supposed to overshare with a woman, and God hasn’t seen fit to give me a spouse… well, that sounds like misery! we’re made for community, right? So who am I supposed to share my heart with? I love your heart for the marrieds out there but where does that leave me?

    • Laura. I have two best friends in the world. They are God’s gift to me. I can share everything with them without judgment, gossip or avoidance. Ask the Lord to send you a Friend for Life. It will make a big difference. I think this post is about discretionary sharing. There are many women out there needing a “good friend” and the hurts from sharing with the wrong person keep them frozen. They are lonely and hurting. By all means find the one friend who is a God send. I prayed for one – He sent me two. How cool is that?

      • Hi CArol, I agree with what you’ve posted. I think it is important to have a Godly girlfriend to share with. I have shared wit people who’s hearts were very hard and said not nice things to me. So I am believing God will send me the right people also. I also feel I’m at a point where I really want to share with others my sadness. This is huge for me because I have never ben one to really open up my heart. Anyways thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Laura, That’s an excellent question. I think what some of the ladies replying are addressing is that God wants us to come to HIm first. I was single for many many years and I remember how lonely that can be and how easy it was to take all my troubles to a trusted friend and by-pass God altogether. I remember shortly before meeting my husband I was going through a very difficult time and wanted to let God use it to draw me closer to Him. I asked him to do just that and for a time, it seemed that every time I was upset and needed to talk to someone, my closest friend was un-reachable for one reason or another. I learned to stop and take all my cares and sorrows to Him and then, once I had done so, my friend would usually re-appear and we could have a nice talk, but I was not depending on her for the answers that only the Father can give. Yes, she could often give me sound advice, but only He knew my heart and exactly what I needed to do (or not do) and could speak into my life perfectly, exactly what I needed to hear. By going to my friend first, I was often by-passing God because by the time I hashed it out with her, I no longer felt the “need” to discuss it with God. I was shortchanging myself and lessening the relationship with my Father. There was nothing wrong with sharing with my friend. He just desires that our relationship with Him come first and that the dependency that others mentioned be first and foremost on Him. Besides helping us grow a stronger bond with Christ, it also ensures we get exactly the direction or advise we need because His knowledge of us is perfect and he loves us perfectly. In my experience, this doesn’t entirely end at marriage. There are many times when a husband (or wife) doesn’t meet our emotional needs perfectly and having that close relationship with the Lord and being able to turn to Him can take a lot of unneeded pressure off of our spouse to be what they were never intended to be – a perfect counselor to us. I hope this helps you a little.

      • Thank you, Sandy. This is exactly what I needed to hear… And thank you, Holley for this post… You are all blessed…. *HUGS*

    • Laura, your question “we’re made for community, right?” was exactly the same thing on my mind! As the body of Christ, we ARE made for community, both male and female; the Bible tells us to “bear one another’s burdens”. How are we to do this if we don’t share our hearts?

      Being single, too, I understand where you are coming from. I am involved in an industry where there is an overwhelming preponderance of men and the vast majority of them are married. I have a healthy respect for marriage and other people’s time and energy and have no interest in oversharing with either male or female.

      We are spiritual and physical beings and both types of needs must be met; that is how God created us. He knows we are as the grass, which withers and dies and blows away in the wind, and He takes pity on us because of that. How deeply He cares for us! Yes, we are to lean into Him, tell Him our pains and longings; so much “stuff” can be gotten rid of through that. Another way I deal with my “stuff” is through writing–journaling, lyrics, music. What is your outlet? Gardening? Working out? Crafting? Building something? Whatever it is, use your passionate creativity combined with your eyes on the Lord as a vehicle to sort out your heart.

      Random Thoughts:
      1. What does it mean to guard your heart?
      2. What are some practical steps to guarding your heart?
      3. How do we balance that with the necessary sharing we all must do? Because people who do not share get sick! Also, when I know someone who doesn’t share with me (in an appropriate way, of course), then I do not feel safe to share with them.
      4. What is appropriate sharing? When is the right time to share? How long do we go on for (I have known women who “overshare” both on subject matter and time-wise and that gets really uncomfortable)?
      5. Who do we share with? There’s a time and a place.
      6. That “one” friend: some of us are lucky enough to have one or two people in our lives that we can say anything to…that “David and Jonathan” friendship.

      There is much more to be said about this topic. Holley hasn’t even scratched the surface of this sticky subject yet and I applaud her for opening it up. It would be a great book.

      • Hey Laura, this is all I said in this post…

        If a man is not your husband, do not share your heart with him.

        And if you are single, do not share your heart with a married man.

        When you’re single, you’re free to share your heart with single men and we’re always free to share our hearts with women. So date and share your heart, make friends and share your heart, get on the internet and share your heart. Even after you’re married I think it’s just fine to share your heart with other women. I just believe we’re only to share our hearts with a man after we’re married if he’s our husband. Be free, friend! 🙂

    • I agree, Laura and Chris. I’m single, and having one or two female best friends with whom I can share everything without judgement has been crucial as I’ve gone through loss of health, career, etc. I’ve grown much more intimate with God during this time, and a lot of that has been during times when it was just Him and me, but I don’t think it would have been possible for me to enter that deeply into His love without experiencing it “with skin on” through these two women with whom I have been deeply known and still loved. We’re made for deep relationship – and not just with God. It surprised me one day to realize how clear God makes that, so I blogged about it: http://hearingtheheartbeat.com/2012/08/13/when-god-says-hes-not-enough/

    • Laura,
      You ask something I have thought about a lot in the last year of falling into a loving community.

      I’m just going to say now that I disagree with the article. Not because I think emotionally affairs cannot happen and lead to physical affairs and divorce. They can and do and the stories are being told here.
      I disagree because I find setting up more rules for myself to follow hides an important part of me. That part that is open and vulnerable. Instead I find myself living in fear of being vulnerable, of making a man ‘fall for me’ or of falling for a man. I find myself living in shame that I (a married woman) am attracted to a married man. This shame leads me to hide, to not tell my husband or girlfriends or community what I am feeling.

      I began to ask myself what would happen if I trusted people. Yes, women. But also men. What if I was willing to risk being vulnerable to both men and women (in group and individual settings) and letting them see my heart? What happened has been amazing.

      There are no longer secrets in my life. There is no shame. No trying to protect myself. I don’t have to worry about people finding out anything.

      This does require that I am completely open and honest with my husband. He knows all my secrets – even those hard ones. I’m secure in his love and because of that emotional security I can be who God made me to be without hiding or feeling shame. Yes, meeting with men. Yes, sharing my heart. Yes, talking about the hard parts of my life. And women are a huge part of that. Talking over coffee, on the phone, lunch together and social media connections now happen with both men and women in my life.

      This has happened at the same time I’m healing emotionally and spiritually and learning that I’m loved (unconditionally. As I am.) and facing a lot of fears and learning to trust people.

      Of course there are things I’m careful about. These are not the same that you need to be careful of. May be you can (as a single woman) go to a bar alone with a man and get a drink. I (as a married woman) cannot. To set up rules for each other invalidates me an individual.

      To know myself and let my husband know the deepest parts of me, to seek God in everything I do, to trust people who have earned my trust, to love people with the love that God loves me with… These things allow me to live as God’s daughter. To let people speak into my life. And to not live in fear of any emotionally entanglements.

    • Laura, I see your phrase “and God hasn’t seen fit to give me a spouse…” and it’s loud and clear. I get it. Perhaps that is the deeper issue between you and God. But that deep-seeded resentment toward God can cause believers (both men and women) to NOT confide in Him first! Which is exactly what Holly, correctly, wrote we are to do. What so many of us know now-having been in your shoes back then- is that Satan uses our loneliness against us. Bitterness separates us from God. Satan will tell you that God isn’t physical and can’t fill that yearning in your heart and soul. Moreover, he’ll lie and tell you God can’t really love you as deeply as others say because He’s ignored your prayers for a husband… So why not share that yearning in your heart? -like with that handsome coworker down the hall who smiles at you? It’s just nice to be connecting to a man who seems to understand and empathize with you, right?… it’s safe because he’s married… Laura, trust what you can’t see right now: God created you and DOES know your longing and your loneliness. Satan is a deceiver and seeks to destroy as many lives as he can. God doesn’t want that for you and I KNOW unequivocably that you will have a new season in your life with love overflowing. There is a vulnerable, dangerous path one goes down when they don’t use emotional (and physical) guardrails. You are treasured, valuable and beautiful and a princess to the King! Share your heart, but be wise secondarily with how and to whom, that’s all. When you are single, be single with singles. When you are married, act married, and don’t mix the two!

  8. Holley,

    Thanks for stepping up to the plate and facing a topic that may not be pleasant but so worth sharing. I particularly related to the part about your husband being very practical and “head first” whereas you are more emotional and “heart first.” That’s me and my husband, and we are learning more and more everyday the importance of communication and the hard work it takes from both of us for our marriage to thrive. Thank you for the great post!

  9. I’m asking for prayers for my marriage, as we’re suffering through distrust from past actions. I ask our Lord for healing, forgiveness, and restoration in our God for our marriage. Demons continue to attack our marriage and we need a reprieve to begin to rebuild our marriage correctly, in Christ. Thank you for your prayers.

  10. Holly, you are so right on. We need to treasure our emotions. What looks innocent may not be. I found myself in that situation. I was in the military and training away from my husband for weeks on end. I worked around men all day – every day. One day I realized there was a little too much flirting between me and another guy. I ran – did not walk – to my barracks room and prayed. He gave me the scripture you wrote:“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” {Proverbs 4:23} I will never forget that situation, the emotions, but especially the rescue. God is most assuredly good. He treasures His treasure and His treasure we are. My husband and I just celebrated our 38th year together. Marriage is work, but the rewards are amazing.

  11. Holley,
    Thanks for addressing this issue. I’ve seen this happen several times. Even if those involved stop at the emotional affair, trust & marriages are broken.
    You truly write “spirit” lead. Happy Thanksgiving !

  12. Great post, need the reminder to go to Christ first and at times just leave it there just between me and Him! I too am single and notice when I am focusing on me, sharing about me, my hurts and issues instead of leaving those with Christ leaves me empty and lonely. Looking outside myself is sooo refreshing because honestly, I get sick and tired of me but I can see Jesus through others, in a smile, a comment, sharing their burdens….makes days, moments so much more filling, grace sufficient for the day as He promises. Thank you!

  13. Well said Holley. My husband isn’t a pastor (or counselor, or even anywhere near those realms) but people are drawn to him. He has told me somethings that have been shared with him that make NO sense and are just wrong. Because of my background, I think it is wisest for women to seek counseling from a woman counselor. If we have the chance to protect our marriage or someone else’s, DO IT. Thank you for addressing this topic. I think it’s one we need to talk about more because it is SO important.

  14. Holley, this post is amazing because this is a topic not always touched upon. My husband and I are both in ministry and we refer those of the opposite sex who want to confide in us to the other. Meaning: if a women goes to him with struggles he gently says, “Let me refer you to my wife.” and the other way around. Or we all talk together about the matter.
    I love this! Thank you for sharing.

  15. This is a really important post, Holley. THanks for your courage in sharing it. I think it can get a little tricky when a woman needs to counsel with a pastor. I haven’t gone often, but here’s what helped. My husband went with me. And in a few other instances, the pastor always left his door open. At first, that made me feel uncomfortable–first, because it didn’t feel as if I were being trusted, and second, because I thought counseling should be confidential. But in the end, I understood his wisdom. No one could hear what we were saying. I trusted his confidentiality completely. And finally, nothing was going on, so the door could remain open. Thanks for sharing and teaching us to guard our hearts. I have never thought of “emotional modesty,” and that’s a unique way of saying it. I think it also indicates we should not just let it all hang out emotionally either. There is a difference between dirty-laundry airing and genuine confession (ala James 5). Wonderful post! thanks, Holley.

  16. I like to call it ‘keeping your emotional clothes on.’ A hot topic for sure with my counseling clients …

    Thanks for putting this front and center on the table, Holley!


  17. This really hit home with me because I had an old flame pop up on facebook to chat, it started out basic. How are you etc. Then it became more frequent and got more personal as it went along.
    I began to look forward to the chats. But I still felt extremely guilty, making sure I deleted all conversations as soon as I was finished and I made sure to tell him to do the same thing.
    This went on for a couple of weeks or so, and the farther it went the more wrong it felt to me.
    Then it started getting really personal like asking questions about my husband and I that I was uncomfortable answering. Like how was my “love life”?
    I told him that I felt I had been very honest with him over things he asked, mainly about our past and I asked him if I asked him a question would he be honest with me. He said he would. So I just asked him if he thought his wife would be happy if she knew about our conversations.
    He admitted she wouldn’t and said that he knew my husband wouldn’t be either. So that ended that conversation and all of the chatting.
    I hold no grudges and I admit I enjoyed knowing the fact that he still thought about me from time to time and that maybe he still had some feelings for me. I had a little pitter patter in my heart when I thought about him. That is what scared me, I mean really scared me because I had not thought about him in a long time. A good friend told me that she thinks we always have a connection with someone we had in our hearts and I think she is right.
    I am so glad that ours went no further than a few late night chats because I realized then how easy things get fired up and how easy it could be to stray even though you do love your spouse.
    The best way to avoid temptation is to stay away from it all together.

  18. Amen! You are right on. Thank you for sharing that word of encouragement. That is one way women can be very tempted. I pray this post helps us all to move closer to our own husbands.

  19. Yes! I have a family member who connected with an old high school friend on Facebook just recently and it tore apart two families with young children. Unbelievable damage. My husband and I have very careful boundaries in place for one another and thankfully, we trust one another 100%.

  20. Thanks for this, Holley. So important. And I’ve been in a couple of situations where I’ve discovered how incredibly easy it is for even a very small amount of sharing with a married man to be misinterpreted, so I’ve learned that I have to be even more careful than I had dreamed.

    Any suggestions on how to handle this in the context of writing (i.e. blogging, books, etc)? I’ve felt like God is challenging me to be vulnerable in my writing. People definitely connect more with the posts where I share more personally. But I know that while a large percentage of my readership is female, there are also a number of men who read. I really struggle to know how to be obediently vulnerable without risking emotional immodesty. . . .

    • That’s a great question, Carolyn. When you’re blogging, etc. it’s to an audience–there’s always a lot of people in the room. So I think it’s fine. Where I would be careful is if male readers write private email or facebook messages to you that are personal as well and it’s clear they want to establish an ongoing personal relationship with you. I love all my readers but I believe it’s wisest if we only connect in deeper ways with those who are women. This isn’t about legalism–it’s about listening to the Holy Spirit. Use your gift, girl, and don’t hold back. The Lord will show you what to do with any specific responses you receive. I hope that helps!

      • I love Carolyn’s question as I’ve mulled over the same thing: I know that readers connect to “vulnerability,” but I’m also a naturally private person. I guess it’s sort of ironic that I’ve always felt called to writing. I think it’s through writing that, first and foremost, I’m able to connect my head to my heart. The connection happens in me first.

        Holley, thank you for sharing such beautiful wisdom in this article and in these responses to comments. I wholeheartedly embrace this idea of “emotional modesty.”

  21. Yes, sharing your heart with a member of the opposite sex, who is not your significant other, can be dangerous. Great advice, Holley. Please share with your heart with your significant other, and if it is is difficult, take Holley’s advice and work at it and find what works for the both of you.

  22. EXCELLENT post Holley! Might I add the same thing happens with teens? My husband used to be an assistant youth pastor and the teen girls would bare their souls to him, and unfortunately, it created an inappropriate emotional bond because he was married. In the case of teen girls, I think they were looking for a (missing) emotional bond with their fathers. One reason I am such an advocate for mentors! Thank you for your bravery in posting this much-needed reminder!

    • Caryn,
      What a valuable gift for your husband to be able to give those girls!! A father figure they can trust. You, being secure, in your husband have no fear of any emotionally attraction. Teenage girls will find a male to trust and how amazing is it that they chose a pastor who is married?

    • Yes, Caryn, one day I was sitting next to a young woman and man talking in a coffee shop. At first I thought they must be married because I couldn’t help overhearing part of their conversation and it seemed like they were close. Then one of her high school teachers walked in and asked why she wasn’t in class. He was her youth pastor. My heart sank and I texted a friend to tell her I was going to try to speak to the two of them. Just then they got up and left but that encounter has haunted me ever since–and is another reason I posted this article.

  23. I do think it is important that we all have boundaries that will serve to protect us and others, I find that I would rather err on the side of being under-friendly to men that are not my husband than over friendly, because I don’t want to unintentionally send the wrong signal!

  24. Carolyn: I do not believe that women should even *read* books or articles that are directed towards men and I don’t believe men should read anything directed towards women. What can we do about this anyway? If I read that a husband should behave a certain way or do a certain thing, am I able to make that happen? No! So it is a futile act on my part and leads to discontent and unfulfilled expectations. I believe that women should concentrate on refining themselves, not their husbands.

    What I am trying to say is that if The Lord leads you to write or blog for women and that is what you are doing, then when a man reads this information….. HE is the one who has overstepped his boundaries, not you.

    As long as you are doing what you believe God wants you to do, leave the outcome in His hands…. If your goal is to encourage and uplift women, He will bless this. If your goal is to try to reach a few men that may read your writings, then that is another matter altogether; but you really cannot control a man who is curious to know what goes on in a woman’s world. 🙂

  25. Boy, what a painful subject for me. My husband’s latest affair (5th one) has hit me very hard even though I found out in January of this year. My husband has told me he was “lonely”, we didn’t have enough sex or a number of other reasons. I kept believing that he would change even after three marriage counselors in two years (only two or three visits a piece because he wouldn’t tell the whole truth). We have been separated for just about a year now and I wonder what would have happened if he would have come to me to talk about what he was feeling instead of acting on them. He claims to have been a Christian throughout the twenty years but it gets harder and harder to believe that a Christian could continue to do this. I felt I was lacking in so many areas but I am realizing the problem is not me but him.

    He has told me he doesn’t want a divorce but doesn’t love me either even when we were going to the counselors plus he felt he didn’t have any problems.

    I just am not sure if God says it is o.k. to let go and move on but in reality it is very hard to do being so co-dependent on him and he knows it.

    Thank you for letting me share.

    • Susan,
      This may sound harsh – but as a woman who has been cheated on, I tell you let go. Let. Go. All he is doing is emotionally abusing you and hurting you even more. The longer you hold on, the longer you are disabled. I had an incredibly hard time with my ex leaving. Once I took the time to do the research and reading, I saw that him leaving was not my sin, his affair was not my sin, his continued fornication is NOT my sin. It’s his. I never EVER wanted to be where I am today – a single mom to two kids who are in a world of hurt and confusion (but learning to lean on the Lord – praise Him!), but here I am. I’m FREE!!! I’m more free than I have been since the day I met that man. The constant cheating accompanied by lies and subtle emotional abuse killed me inside. I was not the same person. People who have known me for years (pre-ex) say they are glad I’m back. People who have only known me with him say they like me better now – that I’m so much happier and overflowing with joy!

      Take time and pray – I’m not *for* divorce, but I am against abuse and adultery. Biblically – you have every right. Remember who you were (if you had Christ before you met your husband) and ask if you are still that woman… in a good way. My ex had emotionally beaten all joy out of me. I could pretend – oh I could pretend with the best of them! But I was miserable. Seek Christ and find your joy. Trust Him to guide you through this. Know I will pray for you.


  26. Holley,
    Thank you for such a timely post.It was also sensitive material but you handled it skilfully.Bev Duncan’s post correctly highlighted my experience I thought she was referring to me.It is easy to get caught in a trap my husband did.I am still praying for him and his single coworker who shared her heart then her bed, and desperately wants to marry my husband that God will save her soul and deliver her and my husband too.I am also careful of how I interact with men who are not my husband.

  27. I can’t read it. I gave up, at, “… baring our hearts makes us just as vulnerable as baring our bodies.”

    This is a form of emotional repression. There is no such thing as “emotional modesty”. I call BS.

    • Kyra, you are totally allowed to call “BS”. 🙂 I would just gently request that you read the rest of the post before you do so you can understand the context. My heart is not to repress women but rather to keep them from being entrapped. Sometimes setting healthy emotional boundaries is the only way we can experience true freedom.

      • As somebody with a history of no emotional boundaries, i think Holley is spot on. It may seem restrictive or repressive, but these types of boundaries can help women to not live with regrets like i have. I wish somebody had given me this advice years ago. As somebody who has been entrapped by this, and affected marriages and lives in the past 🙁 i see that Holley is promoting freedom. Thankfully i have learned better boundaries and share with my husband, two girlfriends and a counselor. It is very freeing.

  28. Holley-

    So very well said and a message that we so desperately need to hear today. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  29. As an extremely emotional, about-to-be-20-something, I’m very thankful for this post. Thank you for your wise words. Pray I live them out in guarding my heart in Christ. Thank you. 🙂

  30. Holley, I fear I am all too familiar with the concept of “emotional modesty”, as expressed in conservative evangelical circles. That is *precisely* why I can’t read the rest of your article… It triggers too many painful memories. I can say with confidence that, at the least, your intro is sorely lacking. Please rethink asking women to be “modest” as regards their emotional expression. At the very least, tone down the inflammatory verbiage.

    • I’m so sorry you’ve been hurt in the past, Kyra. If you lived in my town I’d invite you to have a long heart-to-heart chat about this over coffee. And you could express all the emotions you wanted in any way you wanted. In the meantime, know I am for you.

  31. Well done. Holley! Words of great wisdom and so honouring to GOD. Words which show us how to be the Proverbs 31 lady of “great virtue” and words which protect precious marriages, families and singles.

  32. I learned from my counselor/psychiatrist that being emotionally involved with a man outside of marriage is the equivalent of having an affair…It’s not physical, but emotional and just as damaging.

  33. Holly, thank you so much for your brave post! This speaks directly to my heart in so many ways. I am a wife and not to long ago the Lord spoke to me about getting off social media for this very reason not because I was engaging an reaching out to men but old friends or current friends were sending me inbox messages and my Abba Father did not want me to be the target of the enemies schemes so he removed me from there. Out of my own confessions many years ago I was that woman, you see I have been previously married and I did fall guilty and deceived to an emotional affair. And the Lord did show me all the hurt from it, I hurt myself and I hurt others. God does not want me to be apart of that sort of thing. Thank you for sharing your word and the truth behind it. Day to day I am praying that truth will be spoken into my heart and my husbands heart and that we would both keep our hearts, mind and spirit guarded. Lately my current marriage has been enduring some trying times and it so easy to think or believe that the grass is greener on the other side. What a lie!!!! And even though thru these times I feel disconnected with my husband I am clinging to my Heavenly Husband for my dear life so I do not fall guilty to my own sins of my past. And I am praying that thru theses tough times it will make my marriage stronger. I believe Gods word “what God joined together let no man separate” that includes myself and my spouse. Thank you for your love and care for marriages 🙂 I do ask for prayers for mine and I will lift up other marriages aswell.
    an aching heart <3 Pearl

  34. Thank you Holly for standing firmly in the truth. About time some body said something about this topic, I am so glad its you. You write with much love. Thank you and amen to this post

  35. Such a great message! Emotional Modesty!!! I love it. There really is a problem, I think these days, where we can reconnect or visit in a very discreet, private way…Facebook, texts, emails. Technology is wonderful, but it can also be a tool for the enemy. It is important to always dress with emotional modesty.

  36. Thank you so much for writing on what someone might consider a personal invasion of their rights but that is why it is so important to say something that is often neglected and leads to much pain and suffering for others! I have seen this often in different places, even churches, where I have belonged; and more than once have seen it lead to affairs and divorce!! I was taught early on in my faith by a wise pastor to be very careful in this area of communication and I am grateful for this!! Still, it seems to be something people ignore or are just ignorant about with great ramifications! Bravo for being willing to write this post!!

  37. Holley, I am with you on this topic. You tackled a tough-to-address area and very lovingly and specifically addressed the type of emotional immodesty that threatens marriages. Your vulnerability to share about some of the challenges your marriage has experienced is one reason that you are so effective in communicating with accuracy about this topic. Well Done! I believe you once again were able to simply and lovingly give some real-life practical insight by allowing God to use you and your heart-gifts.

  38. Perfect timing Holley. I so needed this today. My husband left me for someone else after 25 of marriage 8 years ago. I can honestly say that I would not have got through the aftermath, and a lot of other very traumatic events that have happened since, without a particular (married) male friend. He drove me 120 miles to my Dad the day Mum died, he sat with me while I had a beloved Golden Retriever put to sleep, he helped me get legal advice when I needed it, he poured wine down the sink and made me cups of tea when I hit a bad patch and drank too much. He has taught me to use a drill, look after my car, and just got me through some very bad times. His marriage is difficult so it was me that sat in a hospital waiting room when he had a biopsy for skin cancer, and it has been me that has encouraged him when his career took a down side. BUT we fell in love while all this was going on and we have crossed the boundaries. He will never leave his wife and I don’t want to break up a marriage – he has a child.
    So I have – today – made my mind up that we now have to do life apart. I have messed up, I never expected to fall in love with him and he me. But I now need prayers and God’s strength, to do life alone. He needs prayers to find a way to make his marriage work, and to open his wife’s heart to her rejection of him (in many ways), I don’t know what God has planned for all of us, but it isn’t as things are now. I know He forgives. And I hope, with his strength I can find a way forward alone.
    But thank you Holley for this today. It couldn’t have been more perfect in timing. God needed me to read this. x

  39. I thought this post was very very good. I had an experience of over sharing with a former friend of mine and it backfired on me. In reading this post today it reminded me that God has been teaching me the importance of guarding one’s heart. Other people are not equipped to handle other people’s emotional baggage-what I mean by that is you can cast your pearls before swine. Some information people can’t handle. U need to be careful. I am single but I’ve had to learn the importance of confiding in the Lord first. Believe me I’ve had my share of over sharing with people and its not been a pleasant experience. Rule of thumb: 1. Go to God first.

  40. When you are married and all cosy (giving a feeling of comfort, warmth, and relaxation – am putting this here for my US friends has your site doesn’t recognize cosy as a word) in with your spouse it is so easy to think that only single women can fall into the trap of being led a stray but it’s not so married women can to and so can married men. It is also easy to say don’t when you are married, but i wonder what you would be saying if you were not? I was married once, he was adulterer, he was an abuser and when i finally left him after 12 years he started on his children, especially one of his daughters, it was just a pity they couldn’t get enough evidence to lock him away. He no longer lives near us and he no longer goes to church and my children are all grown and gone. Life has left me so broken now that i no longer talk to anyone as no one really gets it, not even my church leader, who is all cosy with his lovely wife.

  41. Well there have it and why im not married, but who do i give my heart to? Im so lonely and my relationship with God doesnt really safe anymore bc of some hurts. I have so much to share and dont feel safe to share with anyone.

    • Alli, I’m so sorry you’re going through a season of loneliness. I’ve been there too, friend. We all need “Jesus with skin on” as my friend Deidra says and this post is not at all trying to say you shouldn’t share your heart as a single woman. You talked about past hurts so I’d recommend connecting with a counselor. Also, finding a group of women who are safe. Yes, this can take some time (and is scary!). You are made for fellowship and friendship. And as God brings men into your life, he can guide you about how to share your heart with them. We are made for community and connection. I’m glad you’re here on this online community as well. We want (in)courage to be a place where the hearts of women feel safe.

  42. You make a very great point about being true to and respecting your partner and the boundaries of your relationship. And I truly wish more couples would be emotionally modest. Especially with social media it becomes very easy to flirt and be disrespectful towards one another (liking someone’s picture on Facebook here or there, texted messages, twitter). I believe that social media blurs lines in relationships and is easy to hide behind and think/pretend something is innocent when you’re really dishonoring your relationship and your partner. So very well-written and wonderful point. However, this is terribly sexist and one-sided. Both men and women need to be weary of this. Every single well-worded point applies equally to both sexes.

    • (in)courage’s readership is pretty much 100% women so that’s who I spoke to here. But this absolutely applies to men as well. So if you’re a random guy who happens to be reading this, it’s all for you too! 🙂

  43. I have been drawn back to this post throughout the day Holley, thank-you for tackling this subject. It really is something for us all to think about.For me it helps to confirm what I already felt to be true.


  44. I had an emotional affair. Deeply wounding and scarring on so many levels. I highly recommend the book Not Just Friends. Trying to hold it together going into 20 years of marriage. It’s beyond difficult. It’s so easy to say “oh just ask yourself what is missing in my marriage and go ask your husband”…I tried for years to work in things with my husband and he stayed married to his job and emotionally abused me. I am not proud of what I did and I’m making peace with God over it but my husband is still married to his job and is still dealing with the anger issues. If I decide to leave people will say…oh she fell in love with another man so they got a divorce. I became a much less judgemental person once I realized how dark I could be and how far I could fall from God. I’m on my way back but trust is forever broken and I’m pretty sure this is beyond repair. God has been pretty silent and I can only take so much. My advice…this can happen to anyone if you are complacent in marriage. Yes guard it…the crack Satan needs to break you is teeny tiny

    • Hello Jillian,

      I’m sorry for what you have been through. My hope is that it gets better for you.


  45. Holley Gerth, your words have touched the hearts of many (as always). Thank you for being brave and obedient in putting this subject out there. It is obviously something driven by the Lord – just look at the cords you have struck among so many. Married and single, all women can relate to this subject.

  46. Holley – I feel like I know you! You are a sister of my heart and I am so grateful for every bit of your heart you share! While I have always been cautious of sharing my heart with men, I have had men try to open up to me – especially on facebook. One of the boundaries I set up for myself in that area is creating a “list” and if a man (especially married) tries to private message me just to chat, I add him to my list (titled “time out” hehe!!) and then he can’t see when I’m online. I have just that group customized so they can’t see the little green dot that shows when I am or am not online. That has prevented a LOT. I did have one man who was not yet on that list (right at the time my husband was leaving) actually try to proposition me so that he could “physically comfort” me!!! I unfriended and blocked him – right away! I was in an emotionally vulnerable position and had not yet fully understood what he was trying to offer – long story! Anywho, this is a fantastic reminder of boundaries we should all set for our own relationships and the relationships of those around us.


  47. What about sharing your heart with a male counsellor, even if they’re married? I assume that is ok, as they are trained to help? Totally agree with not sharing with any old male though…

    • Great question, Rachel. I would say to be sure the person is a licensed professional counselor. If they are, then they have been trained. Pastors and other male leaders aren’t intended to be substitutes for professional counselors. Then use discernment and If something feels “off” listen to that nudge and find a female counselor. Again, this isn’t about laying down the law but instead simply increasing awareness and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Every situation is different and every person is different. You’ll know what to do. And if you’re still not sure, ask some close friends that you trust for their wisdom too.

      • I am so glad this question was asked. I am currently pursuing more counseling and over and over one professional counselor has been recommended to me, who happens to be a man. He specializes in the issues I am dealing with. I have been wrestling with this, just wanting to dismiss the idea, but this gives me a little peace about it. I am going to pray about it some more and wait for God to give me a clear answer instead of just making the choice myself based on gender. The people who have recommended him are Godly, caring people, so there must be a reason.

  48. My husband and I just recently went through this ourselves. Many women at his workplace would share their hearts and want him to pray with him. Problem is, there is nothing wrong with praying for someone, but if you’re not praying with your wife at home, it’s wrong. It’s wrong if he’s helping out other women with their emotional problems and not helping you. I believe its wrong to hug members of the opposite sex in church, if you’re not hugging your spouse at home. Everything should all be done at home first. We got some counseling with our pastor and he told my husband that he is not their pastor. To tell them, I’m sorry I can’t help you and direct those women to talk to their pastor, pastor’s wife or to a girlfriend. Also, he said it is better to offend those that he worked with than his wife and family. If you are a single woman, I’m sure there are some single men that would like to talk with you and be willing to listen to your heart.

    We all definitely need to pray and ask God to guard our hearts and our spouses. The enemy wants to destroy marriages. We have to be on guard.

    Thanks for the message Holley, God Bless you.

  49. Thanks for this article. I’m wondering about it myself too. What about the fact that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ? Can’t I share some of my heart with my brother? I liked Michelle’s post, because we’re all supposed to be connected in Christ.
    Still, I also think that boundaries do exist… And I’ve felt times when I was crossing them and/or someone else was crossing them. The good thing is that you can adjust your behavior at a point like that. But I do think friendships between men and women can exist without there having to be a romantic element. I have a good fellow student who is male and also Christian and we’ve had a lot of good, deep conversations while he also has a girlfriend. Still, I think it’s also important to be careful in this. What I think really helps here is that he treats me in a brotherly way and he’s the kind of man that treats ladies with respect.
    But I’m still searching in this area… Like with another (single) guy I know, I’ve noticed if I spend more time with him, I start liking him more, but I’m not sure if he’d be the best guy for me to be in a relationship with. Maybe it’s different for every guy you relate to, and certain rules don’t necessarily exist and it’s more about the heart behind it.
    For married people I think a guideline might be that you don’t share anything with anyone else, including another man, that you wouldn’t share with your spouse. And if you have problems, you should tell them to your spouse first and not another man.
    Still find this a hard thing…

  50. I agree and I’m living proof. Many years ago a male co-worker shared his marital problems with me. I tried to encourage him and then left it alone. But he later came back with comments about how he thought my marriage wasn’t working. He was correct and we were having problems (who doesn’t when married more than 20 years with 4 children) but I had not shared anything with him or other co-workers about my private life. Something about the way he spoke to me caused me to bare my heart to him (I thought a married man could help me understand my husband). This led to an “emotional” affair between myself and this co-worker… then he and his wife patched things up.
    My husband, on the other hand, felt the emotional separation from me and he bared his heart to another married woman online. They had an actual physical affair. To end this long story, we divorced after 26 years of marriage… all because a married co-worker bared his heart to me and I didn’t have enough sense to put the practical advice in this article to work. 🙁
    The upside is that God is good and still working in our lives even though we hurt ourselves, our children, our families, and many other people.

  51. Great post! I know of people who have slipped into affairs due to over sharing. Boundaries are important and enable freedom. I’ve learned to rely mainly on God. I share my heart with Him. He will show you if you’re led by His Spirit who to share with and what to share. It’s true what was said…married women be careful sharing your heart with other men and single women be careful sharing your heart with married men. Choosing God’s Best is a great book about boundaries with the opposite sex. I’m single and careful with single men and women. Every person isn’t meant to have access to us. Danny Silks book Keep Your Love On has great insight on boundaries. I highly recommend his book. It will save you some heartache in relationships. 🙂

  52. I just want to say thanks to Holley, Michelle, Linda, Carole, Carolyn, and the rest of you who responded to my initial question of “where does that leave me?” – I wasn’t actually expecting a response and I’m really grateful for the food for thought you’ve given me – blessings! Laura

  53. First of all i would like to say facebook is really evil, it just provides a platform for people to start illicit affairs & hurt their own spouses.

    Then, i feel that sharing with nobody else but ur own husband can stifle the relationship & make u too dependent on him. Having a trusted friend to share yr heart takes the emotional pressure off from yr husband.

    • I absolutely agree with what you said about friendships, Peo. We all need friendships with other women where we can share our hearts as well. All I’m saying is that if you are married, share your heart with a man only if he’s your husband. I’d be lost without all my girlfriends I share my heart with too! 🙂

  54. Oh Holly that truly was a very very important post. I learned my lesson in this the hard way many years ago. So often I see other women starting to fall into the same trap and I share my experience and the error of my ways. Once they have already strated falling to it though there seems to be no turning back. When in the middle of it they seem to think – well that was YOU, that could never happen to ME. I think you are right in saying that talking about it NOW is important. I don’t have any daughters but I think that message is SO important. So many women still need to learn the joy of having a group of true women friends. I still know many women that say – ‘well most of my friends are guys…’ I’m not as comfortable talking with other women, guys understand me better etc. and what garbage THAT is. Guys act like they ‘get it’ or understand you better so that the manipulation can begin. I don’t mean that they intend it, it is just the way the whole man/woman thing so often plays out. I know guys that say the same thing when I suggest that they find more ‘guy’ friends. I hear things like, I really don’t have anything in common, I don’t care for sports and that is all guys talk about etc. Women understand me better etc. but when it comes to deep issues we really need to not complicate matters and women need to stick with women and men with men. When you don’t you often find yourself in a bigger predicament later without ever thinking it would ever come to that or that it could never happen that way.

  55. Thanks Holly, this sounds like something my mother would say. Thank God for a dose of good common-sense, practical wisdom. What a beautiful reminder to set wholesome boundaries and to guard my heart.

  56. Holley,

    My hubby is logical, slow and methodical about things while I am very emotional and hyperactive. I want to do things and now,

    Yes I must agree marriage–a good Godly marriage takes a ton of work & lots of forgiveness. My hubby and I have had our share of disagreements/fights–but it takes strong-willed Christians to forgive, forget and move forward.

    I believe that women can and should confide their hearts with their spouses, but can also do that with a good Godly friend. Good friends know how to be there for you and support you!

    Blessings Everyone!

  57. Oh how I long to confide and share my heart with my husband – but he’s not into that. Nothing concerns him less than how I feel about things. I’m clinging to the arms of God – the enemy tries to pull me to another man but I refuse! I won’t give my children that life and I’m clinging to the hope that my man will come around. Until then, I’ll cling to my God – he’s my strength.

  58. Wow…This is a powerful post and a difficult topic. I find that sometimes women also need to practice emotional modesty with their female friends. Women may too often and too quickly confide very intimate and possibly embarrassing details about their husbands and their marriage to girlfriends that border on betrayal. Often intimate personal marriage issues are treated to casually. I do not mean issues of abuse or unlawful behavior.

    Great job with the post!

  59. Thank you for having the courage to write this post. What an important topic and it’s unfortunate we “tip toe” around it. This topic hits way too close to home. I appreciate your writing and your obedience to The Lord’s leading. Thank you!

  60. Holley thank you so much. I have unfortunately made this compromise and it cost many people many things. I apologize to those of you who have suffered at the hands of this. I know there are not words.

  61. Thanks for sharing this Holley! I sent it to my sister who is my best friend (next to Jesus and my husband). She’s wonderful! I can share with her and know she won’t call the mental hospital on me :):) because she understands me from a woman’s perspective. Thanks Lynn, for sharing “There is a difference between dirty-laundry airing and genuine confession.” Amen to that! As daughters of the King, we have the privilege of sharing with dignity and self-respect, knowing our emotions belong to Him and that He will come to our rescue no matter what we’re going through. God’s blessings to you all!

  62. It’s too bad men can’t understand this as well. I remember my ex husband trying to explain one of his first affairs to me beginning and ending with “She was just a friend”.

  63. For those who think it wont hurt your marriage to share a few heartfelt words online or over coffee with a man other than your hubby, please remember that the serpent used only a few words to cause Eve to doubt and caused a rift between her & Adam and between them and God that has changed all things forever. Words and emotions are the heart of “relationship”!