Conversation with Shannon Ethridge
author of Every Woman’s Battle
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.
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,
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
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.
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.
How did these emotional affairs affect your relationship with
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?
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.
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?
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:
my husband aged as well as Sean Connery!”
husband is far from being a rocket scientist or brain surgeon,
husband just doesn’t meet my emotional needs like my coworker
are so lucky to have a husband who will go to church with you
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
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:
feel secretly excited or powerful when you sense that a man
finds you attractive?
often choose your attire based on the men you will encounter
find yourself flirting or using sexual innuendos (even if you
don’t intend to) when conversing with someone you find
spend more time or energy ministering to the needs of others
through church or social activities than you do to your husband’s
fantasize about being intimate with someone other than your
If this is a battle for every woman, where is it being fought?
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
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.
glamorize ideas or situations that oppose my Christian values?
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?
cause me to think about things that build my own character,
or does it tear it down?
If a woman applies those questions, it seems her choices of reading
material will be rather limited! How do you choose books and magazines
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.