Good Girl Book Club



Meet Authors

A Conversation with Shannon Ethridge
author of Every Woman’s Battle

GGBC: In the opening pages of your book, you reveal some very personal information about yourself. At one time, you were having affairs with five different men?

SE: Yes, I was. I was not having a physical affair with any of these men, but I was still having an affair with each of them—a mental and/or emotional affair.

GGBC: Explain what you mean by “mental and/or emotional affair.”

SE: I can answer that best by briefly explaining my relationship with each of these men.

First, there was Scott. I met him while volunteering at a summer camp. Scott was so outgoing and talkative. What initially attracted me to him was how he could have a conversation with anyone—not just a superficial one, but a deep, meaningful discussion. In comparison, however, my husband was a man of few words: the strong, silent type.

Then there was my scuba coach, Mark. With his distinguished, salt-and-pepper hair, he looked just like Lloyd Bridges. Mark’s maturity and love for diving intrigued me. He encouraged me to overcome my fears and helped me discover my underwater adventuresome side. I felt safe with him, like a daughter feels safe with her dad. My husband, on the other hand, was just a few years older that I. He didn’t evoke within me a feeling of being nurtured and safe as Mark did.

Tom was my accounting teacher at the university I attended. What struck me about Tom was his wit and intelligence. Tom had a way of making accounting the most fun and interesting part of my day. My husband was an intelligent accountant also, but his wit paled in comparison to Tom’s.

Then there was Ray. He had been my previous boyfriend before I married my husband, Greg. Ray was a die-hard romantic, heaping compliments on me and sweeping me off my feet with whirlwind passion. My relationship with my husband never seemed to have the magic spark that I felt when I was with Ray. Ray had set the romantic standard that my husband couldn’t live up to.

Finally, there was Clark. He was ruggedly handsome, suave and debonair. I looked forward to being with him every Friday night. As I approached the counter at the movie rental store, the owner automatically went to the classic section and pulled out any Clark Gable movie. It didn’t matter which one. I loved them all. Even standing tall at six foot seven inches, my husband just couldn’t measure up to Clark.

GGBC: How did these emotional affairs affect your relationship with your husband?

SE: These affairs in my heart and mind affected my marriage and my relationship with my husband, Greg, in a way just as damaging as a sexual affair would have. I was overlooking all of the many wonderful things about my husband because I was either focusing on the positive attributes of one of these other men or focusing on my husband’s negative attributes. Because I lived with Greg, I saw not just the good, but also the bad and the ugly. Sometimes I felt that Greg couldn’t do anything to suit me. I felt distanced and disillusioned. I wondered if he could ever excite me like the other men did. Was I still in love with him? Could he ever measure up? Could I ever learn to live with my less-than-perfect partner?

GGBC: Are you convinced that every woman could likely relate to your story in some way? Is this really every woman’s battle?

SE: During a decade of pursuing my own healing from these and other issues, as well as teaching on the topic of sexual purity and restoration, I have come to understand that in some way or another sexual and emotional integrity is a battle that every woman fights, whether she is single or married. However, many women are fighting this battle with their eyes closed because they don’t believe they are even engaged in the battle. Many believe that just because they are not involved in a physical, sexual affair they don’t have a problem with sexual and emotional integrity. Many believe that women just don’t struggle with sexual issues like men do. As a result, women engage in thoughts and behaviors that compromise their integrity and rob them of true sexual and emotional fulfillment.

GGBC: In your own story, your emotional affairs evolved out of the practice of comparing your husband to other men in your past and present. What caution can you offer women who also engage in making comparisons?

SE: While it is common knowledge that women often compare themselves to one another and compare their husbands to other men, one may ask, “What has that got to do with sexual and emotional integrity?” Here area few examples of statements I’ve heard from women who have obviously fallen into this trap:

“I wish my husband aged as well as Sean Connery!”

“My husband is far from being a rocket scientist or brain surgeon, you know!”

“My husband just doesn’t meet my emotional needs like my coworker does.”

“You are so lucky to have a husband who will go to church with you every Sunday.”

When women compare their husbands with other men, they are toying with a threat similar to the threat a man plays with when visually lusting after other women. Whether the comparison is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, we not only show disrespect for our husbands’ uniqueness, but we also undermine our marriages and our emotional integrity.

GGBC: What are some questions a woman can ask herself to determine if she is compromising her emotional and sexual integrity?

SE: I list 25 of these questions in the book, but there is no “magic number” that will determine your level of sexual or emotional integrity. However, if in reading through all 25 questions there are some that seem to awaken the reader to the fact that her sexual activity, romantic behavior, or emotional attachments are a hindrance to spiritual growth or intimacy in marriage, then this book is designed to help achieve victory in that area of struggle. Here are five of the 25 listed in Every Woman’s Battle:

  1. Do you feel secretly excited or powerful when you sense that a man finds you attractive?

  2. Do you often choose your attire based on the men you will encounter that day?

  3. Do you find yourself flirting or using sexual innuendos (even if you don’t intend to) when conversing with someone you find attractive?

  4. Do you spend more time or energy ministering to the needs of others through church or social activities than you do to your husband’s sexual needs?

  5. Do you fantasize about being intimate with someone other than your husband?

GGBC: If this is a battle for every woman, where is it being fought?

SE: There are four areas, our minds, our hearts, our mouths, and our bodies, that women need to guard if they want to win over sexual temptation.

GGBC: Proverbs says “above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” How to you counsel women in guarding their hearts?

SE: Your heart needs to be a primary concern if you hope to be a woman of sexual and emotional integrity. It’s one thing to determine how far is too far physically in a premarital or extramarital relationship but it is another to answer how far is too far emotionally. I dedicate a chapter in the book to exploring two models I’ve developed—one for single women and one for married women—which teach us how to understand and set emotional boundaries with the opposite sex. This training gives women knowledge and confidence in how to guard their hearts. But the secret to ultimate emotional satisfaction is to pursue a mad, passionate love relationship with the One who made our hearts, the One who purifies our hearts, the One who strengthens our hearts against worldly temptations. The secret of guarding your heart is to focus your heart on your First Love.

GGBC: Practically speaking, how does a woman guard her mind from sexual and emotional temptations?

SE: One of the ways women can avoid sexual misconduct is to resist inappropriate thoughts and images by limiting their access to their minds. There are three questions I ask myself and encourage women to ask themselves before allowing images and ideas in magazines, books, movies, television, radio and the Internet enter my mind.

  1. Does this glamorize ideas or situations that oppose my Christian values?

  2. Is it uplifting to my spirit, and does it make me grateful for what God has given me, or does it make me depressed and dissatisfied?

  3. Does this cause me to think about things that build my own character, or does it tear it down?

GGBC: If a woman applies those questions, it seems her choices of reading material will be rather limited! How do you choose books and magazines for yourself?

SE: I am very selective about the women’s magazines I pick up because so many of the messages aren’t helpful to me. When I read the pages and pages of advice on how to be skinnier, and I look at the pencil-thin models in their underwear, I can get pretty depressed looking at myself in the mirror. Additionally, I choose not to read romance novels. I consider steamy romance novels to be pornography for females. They often glamorize sex outside of marriage and can arouse us sexually. I am also careful about Christian romance novels if I find myself comparing my husband to the hero in the story and thinking about all the ways Greg doesn’t measure up.

GGBC: What kinds of questions do you receive from women when you are teaching them to guard their mouths as a means of protecting them from sexual compromise?

SE: Many women have asked me, “Is it okay to flirt if I’m single?” Still others ask me “Isn’t it okay for a married woman to flirt as long as she doesn’t behave amorously with anyone other that her husband?” Flirting is defined as a type of teasing, or behaving amorously without serious intent. Regardless of her marital status, should a woman stir up a man (emotionally or physically) when she has no intention of pursing a relationship with him? Is it loving to tease someone with your attentions and affections if you have no desire to fulfill any hopes you may arouse? In my opinion, showing a sincere love and respect for others allows no room for flirting or teasing.

In addition to the practice of flirting, I also address some specific guidelines for handling private conversations with men whether these conversations take place face-to-face, over the phone, or via computer. These men might be co-workers, men in your church, neighbors, doctors, workers who come into your home or anonymous men you might begin chatting with over the internet. We can learn to communicate with men in friendly but to-the-point ways that will not jeopardize our emotional integrity.

GGBC: In her journey to sexual and emotional fulfillment, what is one practical way a woman can guard her body against temptation?

SE: I have learned from my own experience and the experience of so many of the women I counsel, the importance of modesty in guarding against sexual temptation. The Bible does not specifically state how long a skirt should be or what sections of skin should always be covered, but we know men are visually stimulated at the sight of a woman’s body. One of the concepts I impress upon women is that we teach people how to treat us. With modest dress we teach them to treat us with respect and with immodest attire we teach them to treat us with disrespect.

GGBC: Where can a woman find support as she seeks to establish healthy emotional and sexual boundaries?

SE: If you are in a season of temptation, seek out a trusted friend or counselor. You may choose to confide in your husband. I always run to Greg when I’m facing sexual or emotional temptation because he has a vested interest in keeping me lifted up in prayer. I also have a few female accountability relationships. If you don’t have a husband or friend that you can lean on during this time of trial, it would be wise to seek professional counsel. Don’t assume that your problem isn’t big enough to warrant taking the time to do so. Talk about it before it gets any bigger. Whether it’s your husband or a friend or a counselor, if you know you are going to have to answer to someone else about your thoughts, words and actions, you’ll try harder to limit them to things you wouldn’t be embarrassed to admit. Getting real and honest with yourself and with someone who can keep you from falling into the pit of compromise is the best lifeline available.

GGBC: As women begin finding victory over old temptations, how can they begin to reconnect with their husbands and enjoy the sexual and emotional fulfillment God intends for marriage?

SE: I encourage women to ask themselves, “Do I consider my husband my friend?” I confess that I was guilty of not treating my husband respectfully as I would my best friend. I also encourage women and their husband’s to learn each other’s love languages as a way to nurture intimacy. And finally, there are some practical dos and don’ts for cultivating genuine intimacy in lovemaking that help in rebuilding the bond between husband and wife.

As women seek to build genuine intimacy with their husband, my prayer is that they will not only discover the thrill of the victory in this battle, but that they will also experience indescribable joy in the journey. I encourage all women to look directly to God to guide them there.

ON A LITERARY NOTE

Review: Emma Dash

Emma Dash
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