Disarming the Affair
About the Guest
Judy Starr's emotional affair was strong, but was her commitment to her husband stronger? Judy Starr tells listeners the steps she took to close the door on her emotional affair. Despite her deep connection to the sea captain, ultimately Judy found that her commitment to her husband and to her God was stronger.
Judy Starr’s emotional affair was strong, but was her commitment to her husband stronger?
Disarming the Affair
Bob: Is it possible that you could be pulled out of your marriage—that you would wind up unfaithful to your husband or to your wife? Judy Starr didn’t think that was possible until she found herself being tempted. Looking back, she thinks she sees at least one reason why she was vulnerable.
Judy: In this society, it's very easy for a friendship to grow quickly—beyond the bounds that God intends for a friendship with another man, for instance. If I find myself looking forward to sharing something with another man, rather than my husband, that's definitely a red flag. I need to focus on sharing all the things that are important in my life with my husband, first and foremost, so those needs for intimacy are met in that relationship.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 6th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Have you taken the steps you need to take to protect your marriage against possible infidelity? Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. It could happen to anyone; couldn't it?
Dennis: It could.
Bob: The temptation—the lure—to be unfaithful, to step away from your marriage vows, to sail off into the sunset, to visit Fantasy Island, to—
Dennis: —whether emotionally or sexually.
Bob: We are all vulnerable to that kind of temptation—the temptation to be unfaithful—again, whether it’s an emotional affair or a physical affair. If we are going to—well, once we realize that we're vulnerable, then, maybe, we can begin to take some steps to reduce our vulnerability.
Dennis: You know, I'm grateful for our guest on today's broadcast. She has shown tremendous courage in coming forth and telling this story. In fact, I have to tell you, Judy, when I first heard this story, I said, "She did what? She's a fellow Campus Crusade for Christ staff member.”
Bob: You've known her husband for years.
Dennis: I have, and I've known of Judy for a number of years. She's worked in The Jesus Film Project and has had a great ministry, in various locations around the world—more than 40 countries—showing the Jesus film. I just have to say to you, Judy, I really applaud your courage in writing this book, The Enticement of the Forbidden, because in it, you share the story of how—in the midst of a ministry project—of showing the Jesus film, throughout the Caribbean—you developed an emotional attraction for a sea captain of a small boat—a catamaran. How big was it? Like 30—
Dennis: Thirty-nine feet—a sailboat. You're sailing in that blue water of the Caribbean. There are sunsets, there are ocean breezes—
Bob: I can hear the steel drums in the background. It's the whole scene; isn't it?
Judy: It was a setup.
Dennis: And here she is—on a spiritual mission—falling for a sea captain. Puppy love is trampling all over your heart and your marriage to your husband, Stottler.
Bob: In fact, it came to a point where you actually confessed to the captain your feelings for him. You were seriously considering abandoning your marriage, your ministry, and remaining in the Caribbean and being with this man; right?
Judy: That's right. I had come to the point where I was considering giving up everything and staying in the Caribbean.
Bob: But a phone call to a friend kind of provided a spiritual shock treatment to reengage your hard heart. You hung up from that phone call with that friend after she'd reminded you of what the Scriptures say and what's true. What did you think, at that point?
Judy: Well, I call it a "transfusion of reality" because she hit me, broadside, with the truth. I really needed to hear it, at that point. When I hung up, I still wasn't sure what I was going to do; but by the time morning came around, I decided to get on a plane and head home. I had already told Stottler a little bit of my feelings, at that point; but when I arrived home—
Dennis: Now, wait a second—you told him a little bit of your feelings about what?
Judy: I had told him a little bit about feeling attracted to the captain, but he had no idea that I was considering possibly even leaving him and staying in the Caribbean.
Dennis: What did he say when you told him you were attracted to the sea captain?
Judy: I think—he, of course, was very surprised; but he trusted me so much that he assumed that I would handle it well and not do anything stupid!
Dennis: But you were in the process of doing something stupid.
Judy: I was very much in the process! I was galloping toward stupidity; absolutely.
Bob: You flew back to California. You arrived there. You sat down with your husband; and you told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Judy: I did. I decided that I needed to tell him everything that had transpired in my heart—all the things that I had been considering. He, of course, was upset, angry—a little bit. We cried a lot. We began to pray a lot and determined to work through the damage that I had so quickly done, in tearing down our marriage, in these four months in the Caribbean.
Dennis: Now, how many years had you been married, at this point?
Dennis: Five-and-a-half years, into your marriage, you confessed this.
Judy: I did.
Dennis: How did he process it?
Judy: Stottler is such a godly man. He was a little angry, of course; but he really worked through it well, and just said he would commit with me, to work through what I needed to do, and prayed with me, and helped me be honest about the things I needed to.
We cried a lot. I determined that I would not withhold anything from him—that I really needed our marriage based on honesty, on every level—committed to that, and worked through that. When things would come back up, I would talk with him again. He patiently would listen, and we just cried a lot.
Dennis: I need to ask you this question—this is backtracking, just a bit—but as this relationship with the sea captain unfolded, did you, at any point, reflect back on your marriage vows that you had made, before God, to Stottler?
Judy: That is such a great question. I didn't. In fact, the one question that Holly asked me—that got me the most—was when she reminded me of my vows. She saved that for the very last thing.
Dennis: Now, Holly is who you called—the accountability partner—who set you straight on that phone that day?
Judy: That’s correct. That's right. When she reminded me of my vows—to me, vows are very serious. I have always thought that, “If my word couldn’t be trusted, I couldn’t be trusted.” When she reminded me that I had a vow—a promise before the Lord and before Stottler—it was really, at that point, that I pretty much came to the decision, “This is a done deal.” The decision has already been made, five-and-a-half years ago; and I don't have a choice.
Bob: In your living room, in California, as you are unfolding this information to your husband, were you broken by the depth of what your heart had entertained? Did you see it for the sin it was?
Judy: I think that unfolded, a little bit at a time. I made a choice, by my will, to come back. It had nothing to do with my feelings. My heart was still in the Caribbean, with the captain, at that point. My emotions, towards my husband, were fairly dead, at that point.
But when I came back, by a choice of my will, to walk in obedience with the Lord—as we began working through this, over time—and I determined, every day, to come back, before the Lord, to restore that fellowship and to have God soften my hardened heart. Then, over time, He began revealing the depth of my fallen nature and showing me that I am capable of any sin in the Book. That's when it really hit me of how desperately I needed the Lord, every single day.
Bob: Did you have doubts about what you were doing, even as you were doing it? Was there a part of you going, “Go back to the Caribbean”?
Judy: Sure, there were times that I wondered if I’d made the right choice; but I think, bottom line, I knew I had because I knew God’s Word is always right. All that God wants for us is good and right, even though it might seem painful, at the time.
Bob: Did you ever call Eric again?
Judy: I called him one time to ask for his forgiveness and tell him I wouldn’t be contacting him again—so that that chapter would be closed, and would be dealt with correctly, and asking and receiving his forgiveness for what I had done.
Bob: So you began, at that point, a process of rebuilding a marriage that had gone into the ditch. That's how you like to describe it; isn't it?
Dennis: Right, all four wheels.
Judy: That's right.
Dennis: No, I'll correct that. She is describing a marriage where there are three wheels in the ditch. The final wheel is sexual. It's when that relationship moves from just being emotional to being consummated sexually—that's when all four wheels are in the ditch. Generally, you need a wrecker to pull you out.
Bob: I need to say something here, too, because, Judy, I think there are some people—that if it's only three wheels in the ditch—if nothing has happened, sexually—they'll pull back and go, "Well, okay, yes. It was bad; but, at least, we weren't physical." It's almost like, "I didn't really sin because we never were sexual together." You look back on this, and you say, "Oh, I sinned! I sinned, big time."
Judy: Oh, absolutely, because an emotional affair is as damaging to a marriage relationship as a physical one because it hits the core of the relationship—which is the soul and spirit of your marriage.
Dennis: You promised to be faithful to each other.
Judy: That's right.
Dennis: It wasn't just a physical faithfulness—it was an emotional faithfulness.
Judy: That's right.
Dennis: Now, I know there is something you believe in strongly, that I also—and so does Bob—so all three of us, here, are going to preach this for a few moments. People, who are listening, need to back up because you are about to hear something that you may not agree with. It's pretty controversial. You have actually had some people push back about your idea of having no secrets in a marriage relationship.
Judy: That's right. I have. The longer I think about this—and it's, actually, tested in my life—the more strongly I believe in it. I call it the "no secrets" policy. It's anything, in my marriage, that would affect that marriage—anything that my husband needs to know that would cause potential damage in the marriage—feelings toward somebody else, past sins with somebody else, past affairs, anything like that—because I believe that if the marriage is not based on honesty, even for situations in the past, then it won't be based on honesty, in the future.
God calls us to have truth, in the inmost being of our lives. I believe it’s essential for us to practice what God calls me, as an individual, to do and trust that He will take care of my mate’s response.
Bob: Now, let me say something—as you say that, and I agree with you—but let me say something to those people, anxious to tell the truth—those folks who want to unburden their own hearts or souls, at this point—those who might rush in and dump truth on their mate. You need to make sure that you’ve been prayerful before you go to speak to your husband—
Bob: —that you look for the right time, the right setting, the right words, the right occasion. It may take a process of time for all of this to happen. I just don’t want any of our listeners to think, “Boy, you’re right. Tonight, when my husband gets home, I’m calling him in the living room. I’m going to tell him every dark sin I’ve ever committed.” It may happen over a period of time. It may happen through a process of becoming known by another person.
Dennis: And you may need to have some spiritual protections built into your marriage— such as another couple, who might go through the process with you of processing what's been shared— because, as you just said, Bob, the person who shares the failure can feel relief—but what is now your relief from your shame becomes the other person's to forgive. You can turn your marriage into a toxic waste dump of sin, and of mistakes, and overwhelm the other person. I think you really need to seek godly, wise counsel before backing the dump truck up and unleashing a load of this stuff that could overwhelm your spouse.
Judy: I agree. It's also really important that, when we do share, we share from a heart of brokenness over our sin—that it's not just for my relief—but it's really for the purpose of protecting my marriage, as well, with a real sense of brokenness.
Bob: That's a great point. Once you'd come clean with your husband—you’d had that day where you'd told the truth about everything that had gone on—a lot of people will look at a time like that and say, "Well, that's good. We've taken care of that. We can move on." The process was just beginning. It wasn't over; right?
Judy: That's right. It really starts from there—in learning how to protect our marriage, from that point on—and how to build walls of protection around our marriage, for the rest of our married life.
Bob: So, what did you do after that? You began a process—what were the next steps in the process?
Judy: Well, the first thing was to cut off all contact with the captain. There couldn't be any continuing contact. Then, also, I began making our marriage the priority that God intended it to be, in the first place. I had allowed work to overshadow that. So, I really focused on our marriage.
Dennis: Even though it was Christian work?
Dennis: That's a real danger.
Judy: And it happens all the time.
Dennis: It does. What else did you do?
Judy: I also really worked on rebuilding trust. Anytime I felt like there was something that Stottler would want to know, or needed to know, or wanted to ask, I would give him that opportunity; or I would share with him things that I felt like were important for him to know so that he really sensed that I wasn't trying to hide anything—that I really wanted to rebuild trust in our relationship.
Bob: What would be an example of what you might have shared with him?
Judy: If he came in—for instance—and I had just hung up the phone, he might wonder who I was talking with. I would always be sure and tell him, "Oh, I was just talking with Holly," —for instance—so that he would know that there wasn't any continuing contact with the captain. I wasn't hiding anything.
Bob: That's good.
Dennis: Did he become overly suspicious or jealous after all this occurred?
Judy: He didn't. He's an amazing man, but I imagine that easily happens in a marriage.
Bob: And I'm sure—I don't want to interrupt what you were going through—but I'm sure he had his own process that he had to go through, in terms of pressing ahead for your marriage to be back where both of you wanted it to be; right?
Judy: He did. He's so committed to the marriage, though, that he did whatever it took, as well.
Bob: Okay, what other kinds of things were you doing? How could you really reestablish the trust with Stottler?
Judy: Well, there are basic things that I think any marriage needs to do to really build walls of protection around them—not only to reestablish trust—but for the future of that marriage. The very first thing is, of course, our times with the Lord, individually. I don't believe there is anything more important that protects our marriage than our individual time with the Lord—making sure that we're yielded to Him and willing to do anything that He tells us to, every day. That is absolutely the most important thing that we can daily do.
Then, also, is the whole issue of learning to protect our relationship with other men—how we respond to other men—because in this society, it's such a lax situation between men and women and the friendships that grow. It's very easy for a friendship to grow— quickly beyond the bounds that God intends for a friendship with another man, for instance.
Bob: How can you tell, now, as you look at friendships with men you know from church or men who are involved in ministry with you—where are the walls that keep it at an appropriate friendship versus an inappropriate friendship?
Judy: Well, I call it building an "invisible wall". Certainly, one of the first things is not sharing personal, private information—anything that should be exclusively for my husband and for that relationship. Also, if I find myself looking forward to sharing something with another man, rather than my husband, that's definitely a red flag. I need to focus on sharing all the things that are important in my life with my husband—first and foremost—so those needs for intimacy are met in that relationship.
Bob: If you had a situation where you were thinking, "I'm kind of looking forward to sharing this with somebody," and the red flag popped up, what would you do with that?
Judy: At this point—if it continued several times, and I'd dealt with it, but those emotions continued in my heart—I would pray about it, and wait for the right time, and then tell Stottler.
Dennis: You also believe that you have to build some protective walls in the workplace.
Judy: Absolutely. The workplace is one of the first places that women, now, are being drawn to men because there are so many women in the workforce these days. It's so easy for us, as women—now, we go to lunch with the men we work with. You're in contact with your boss. You're dressed your best. You're working with other men on the same important projects—the same driving kind-of-thing, all day.
By the time you come home, you've already shared your heart with everybody else. You have nothing that you need to share with your husband anymore. We need to be so careful, again, of saving—those kinds of intimacies and those things that are exciting in our lives—to be able to share with our husband.
Dennis: Judy, you seem like a very modest person; all right? This next protection says you should dress modestly, as you interact with the opposite sex. When you were in this relationship with the sea captain, did you begin to change the way you dressed?
Judy: Oh, I'm caught! I did! It's amazing because I never, ever in my life, dressed like I did on the boat. I bought blouses that were much lower, skirts that were much higher, solely with the intent of attracting the captain; and I never dress like that.
Dennis: Again, I have to wonder—where was Stottler in all this? Did he not see the transformation, before his very eyes?
Judy: I think he's so trusting and such a loving husband—and I've found, too, that husbands, a lot of times, don't want to admit that this is going on before them. I think that's another reason why it's so important for us to tell them our tendencies towards things like this so that they will realize this is a serious issue in my life. “I'm tempted this way,” and, “This happens sometimes.” So, “When these things happen, be aware. This is something you need to ask me about,” because I think, a lot of times, husbands are just very trusting.
Dennis: I think what you're uncovering here is that, at the core of an emotional affair, is the desire for attention. It meets a need in a woman's life, unlike anything else. Clothing is a way of getting attention toward you.
Judy: Absolutely. You bet. And, too, if we allow those needs to be met, outside our marriage, then, of course, we're going to be attracted to somebody. That's why it's so important for us to talk with our husbands about the needs that we have—for attention, for time with him, for making our marriage the priority it's supposed to be—because those needs need to be met, within the marriage.
Dennis: Judy, I really appreciate your willingness to be transparent. We really put you on the spot, not more than half a dozen times, [Laughter] this week, on FamilyLife Today.
Judy: That’s true.
Dennis: But I also really am encouraged by what you've written in your book, here. I just need to say to listeners—who are caught or who find themselves entertaining this idea—get a copy of Judy's book because you can't afford to play with the fire that can destroy your marriage, your family, and your life.
Judy, again, we introduced you by saying this—I just appreciate your transparency, your openness, and your courage in sharing your story with our listeners. I also appreciate your work with the Jesus film—you and Stottler.
Judy: Thank you, Dennis.
Bob: Now, you have to know that what you’ve shared with us this week is going to have an impact. It’s already had an impact in lives of couples who are there—they’re dangerously close—they’ve maybe walked over the edge on this one—or maybe, it’s just been a good warning for those who haven’t even thought that this could be possible in their relationship. This is something that could happen to anybody. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Every one of us is vulnerable in this area.
That’s why it’s important for us to have a strategy together, as a couple—the things we’ve been talking about here today. I’m thinking of the interview we did, a while back, with Jerry Jenkins, who wrote the Left Behind books. He wrote a book, where he outlined the hedges that he and his wife had put around their marriage relationship to protect themselves from this very thing because they both recognized that they were vulnerable. I’d encourage listeners, “Get a copy of that book. Read through it together, determine what your strategy is going to be, as a couple, so that this doesn’t happen to you—so that you don’t even get near the edge of temptation, like Judy did.”
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on some of the resources we have available. FamilyLifeToday.com is our website; or call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY: 1-800-358-6329. That’s1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”. Ask about the book, Hedges,when you call us; or if you’re on the website, look around for some of the articles we have available—some of the resources that we have that can help you in this important area in your marriage relationship.
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And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow when we’ll introduce you to Kelly Brown. She is a remarkable woman, who was married to a remarkable man, who gave his life, in defense of our country. We’ll hear her story tomorrow. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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