Julie Barnhill: I didn't run. There were little alarm bells, and I didn't run because I was in a certain rebellious place in my own life.
Roger Marsh: Welcome to Family Talk with your host, psychologist and author Dr. James Dobson. I'm Roger Marsh, and we're continuing our conversation with Julie Barnhill on the subject of women and emotional adultery. When you think about the subject of infidelity, it's always easy to think, "It'll never happen to me." That may be especially true for women, because men typically have more infidelity problems than women do. But our guest today shares candidly about her own emotional affair and the ways that women are particularly vulnerable to this danger. Now, on our last broadcast, Julie Barnhill pointed out the difference between men and women that's important for this subject. She noted that men are often lured into affairs with women on a physical basis, what the Scripture refers to as the lust of the flesh, but women are more commonly enticed by emotional factors that occur outside the marital relationship.
Roger Marsh: You often see this in many of the popular TV shows and movies, even romance novels. All of those stories can set up a pretty unrealistic picture of what a husband is supposed to be, and when he doesn't measure up, there's the danger that a woman will start looking to someone else to meet those expectations and those needs. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened to our guest, Julie Barnhill, who shared some of her personal story with us yesterday. It was not an easy story to tell, but thankfully it does have a happy ending. Just a quick note before we begin, this program features our former cohost Luanne Crane, so you'll hear from her throughout the program. Let's get to that right now, right here on Family Talk.
Dr. Dobson: Julie, I want to thank you for being so vulnerable with us. You shared some of the factors that led up to a period of dissatisfaction in your marriage. You indicated, in fact, that you were at one time involved in emotional adultery. Now, I'm not asking you for many of the details about that now, but tell us as much of that story as will be instructive to other people. How did you find yourself caught in such a snare?
Julie Barnhill: Well, I want to go back a little bit in probably in my 20s and 30s in marriage. There's just, you connect sometimes, you have a chemistry with a man, that it's a friendship. Church people. My story is coming out of a church place. It's not like I'm going to the bars and that type of thing. I'm not on chat rooms. I'm not trying to find somebody. It's right there in your living room.
Dr. Dobson: That's what makes it seductive.
Julie Barnhill: It is. It is. And there were a few times through our marriage that, Rick didn't know at the time, that I cut back on the time we spent with specific couples because there was a chemistry between me and one of the husbands, and it scared me. They weren't coming on to me, I wasn't dreaming of a life with them, but there was something there that was a lot more than these 10 other guys over here in this group.
Julie Barnhill: And so I saw that. And what I would do is I'd gain weight a lot of times. Because when I get chubby ... Not that everybody's looking at me all the time anyway, but I knew that. And then you get into marriage, you get into your teenage years, and I can tell you really the nail in the coffin in this topic for me. It's interesting that Krista and I have our story of her rebellion. We had the story of her saying, "I don't want to obey authority." Exactly. Well, I'll tell you what, it was during some of those years of hers that I was having this in my life. And I had checked out emotionally in my marriage. I was tired of having conversations with my husband. I was tired of not getting the response that I wanted. Was it what I should hear? I don't know. But it's sure what I wanted to hear and wanted to talk about.
Julie Barnhill: So I just shut myself off emotionally from him, just kind of go through the motions.
Dr. Dobson: I see, dangerous.
Julie Barnhill: It is.
Dr. Dobson: More women file for divorce than men.
Julie Barnhill: Really?
Dr. Dobson: And it's right at this point. Yeah. Let me tell you a relationship that Shirley and I had with a family that was interesting along this line. Because he was a very well-known author and still is, and a Christian leader. And we went to dinner one time together, it's the only time we've ever been to dinner. And we came home that night and Shirley said, "Let me tell you something about him." I said, "What?" And she said, "He is very hungry, he is very needy." And I said, "I didn't see it. How'd you know?" And she said, "Women know."
Julie Barnhill: You do.
Dr. Dobson: Women know. She picked it up. And he's been married three or four times now.
Julie Barnhill: That leads exactly, because there's something that, I don't know what it is, but I was putting out something. There's something in me that, at a right time, I shouldn't say the right time, but at the wrong time, another man in a similar situation, I guess, I don't know what all of his story was, but picked up on that need, that hunger, if you would say. And it was conversation, Dr. Dobson. Conversation, not dirty talk, not anything like that. Just conversation.
Dr. Dobson: There's an intensity in the relationship, and that communicates both ways, and we're made that way. And when it happens, run like crazy.
Julie Barnhill: And I didn't run. There were little alarm bells, and I didn't run, because I was in a certain rebellious place in my own life. And here's the thing though, Doctor. Rick encourages me. He's not distant like, "Oh, yeah, you do that little speaker/writer thing." He's all in with me. "You go do."
Dr. Dobson: I've met him, he's a neat guy.
Luanne Crane: He is.
Julie Barnhill: He is, he is. So I think part of maybe my nervousness has been, even over the past month, is that it's as if God's had a mirror an inch from my nose and has said, "Okay, you want to look at your marriage?" And there I am. And I have really been looking at some of those behaviors and decisions I made. And I also just wanted to say, I just chose to go forward with it.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah. And so what we're saying to our listeners out there who recognize themselves, the mirror is in front of their noses right now. And what we're saying to them, "When you see that you have that vulnerability, don't give place to it." Because it's Eve in the garden again. And the Lord said, "Don't do this." And she says, "I will do it anyway. I will have my way." And the end thereof is the way of death.
Julie Barnhill: It is. And there is no life. There is no life. And the decision to move forward in that emotional thought life and physical decisions, if one chooses to go all the way with it. I shared with you that there was lots of distance, so that helped a lot.
Dr. Dobson: To keep you from making a ...
Julie Barnhill: Absolutely, absolutely.
Dr. Dobson: ... More disastrous mistake. Luanne, so many people listening to us, I know, who have run past all the red flags. And it just seemed so right at the time, and it destroyed everything. It destroyed their kids, it destroyed their marriage, it destroyed their reputation. Some of the guys lost careers over it. Pastors have messed up their whole church there they were responsible for, the flock, and for their spiritual welfare. And for a little bit of pleasure like this they've done something unbelievably stupid. It didn't start by running to the bedroom. It started with this kind of emotional connection.
Luanne Crane: Absolutely.
Dr. Dobson: And of course for the man, the physical connection more commonly. Just yield to it and see whether you get what you want. You usually don't. And even if your marriage breaks up and then you marry this person ... I said in one of my writings that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but it still has to be mowed. And the next thing you know, you're back to an ordinary life again and those needs are still there. Don't go there, don't go there.
Julie Barnhill: I was at that place at some point and be like, "I can't imagine how you could do that." But that's what I want women to know, is that you go crazy. You don't think straight. Because it's sin, for one thing, and the other is that it's just a self-centeredness that you have to go to, because it becomes all about you and all about me. But it's so hard to pull yourself out of that.
Dr. Dobson: And there is a hormonal connection to it too. We were talking, Luanne, about Bringing Up Girls and about oxytocin. You just hug each other for 20 seconds and oxytocin is released. And within 20 seconds there is a sense of trust and wellbeing and rightness about what you're doing, and caution to the wind.
Julie Barnhill: Absolutely. Yeah. it's not good. And I tell you what, I played games with this, and I was speaking, and I felt lousy after I'd speak because I'd be talking about something and then I'm like, "Julie, this is what's in your life." The spiritual element of that, the enemy coming at you, and you're nothing, you're worthless. And I'll tell you, God will get your attention.
Dr. Dobson: He will.
Julie Barnhill: I have never had anything like this happen in my life ever. And by God's grace, Dr. Dobson, I'll be in your camp. It'll never happen again. I had talked to my husband, I talked to Rick about where I was just in our marriage and just loneliness in areas. I am a needy woman. I had a friend one time that said, "You're a Grand Canyon of need. There's no man that can possibly fill everything that you want." And so God was working in me. I'm trying to give those things over to Him without resenting it and being frustrated, but still had not closed the door, an email relationship with this person and some phone conversations. Had not shut that door completely.
Julie Barnhill: I woke up at 3:00 in the morning one morning, and it was Amos 3:5, Amos 3:5, Amos 3:5. It was just like a pounding in my, my chest. I felt it in my spirit. I woke up and I'm like, "Amos, is that even in the Bible? I think that's in the Bible." And I went downstairs, Rick's sleeping. I go downstairs, I get my Bible and I read this verse. And it says, "Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground where no snare has been set? Does a trap spring up from the earth when there is nothing to catch?" And I was like, "Huh? What does that mean?" So I go to my computer, I get on Matthew Henry commentary. I click on Amos 3:5, and the header said, "A stupid and senseless people refuse to hear His voice." And I began to read.
Julie Barnhill: And it was all about basically God saying, "You have set a trap for yourself. And if you don't think you're going to get caught in that trap, you're a fool." And then the next verses say, "When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it? Surely the sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plans to his servants and prophets." I was scared to death. I didn't know what it meant. I thought, "Is God saying that he's going to take me home to heaven? I pushed Him too far?" I didn't know what it meant. And so I just began to pray.
Julie Barnhill: And I've got written here, "Duplicity, duplicity, duplicity." So I couldn't go back to bed. And I called a friend that next morning and told her what happened. And she said, "I don't know. The word's the word, but to me He's definitely saying stop what you're doing. And maybe everything's going to come out, everything's going to be exposed, or maybe it's not, but you have to stop." And I can tell you it stopped. That day every door was shut, every single door. And ...
Dr. Dobson: Thank God.
Julie Barnhill: ... It was.
Luanne Crane: But what's interesting to me, Julie, is that you hadn't really crossed the lines of physical infidelity. So to most Christian women, they would say, "Well, you hadn't broken the law," and yet you were severely convicted of your heart.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah, but go back to Matthew 5 again. Jesus said adultery occurs in the heart. It doesn't have to occur physically.
Luanne Crane: But so often we're looking for that letter of the law, that one line. "Well, I didn't cross it."
Julie Barnhill: Technically.
Luanne Crane: Technicality.
Julie Barnhill: Yeah, exactly.
Dr. Dobson: You said that the Lord will get the message through to you. I mentioned in the last program about King David, then Bathsheba. Do you remember why that became such an important thing in his life? He got a visit from Nathan.
Julie Barnhill: Oh, that's right.
Dr. Dobson: And Nathan came in and told a little parable and then said, "Thou art the man," that he was really talking about David. And then in the 12th chapter, I believe, of First Samuel, Nathan says to him, "You have given great occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme." That's what's at stake here.
Julie Barnhill: Right.
Dr. Dobson: You are in effect allowing those that hate God to say, "See? It doesn't work. See, they're just as wicked as everybody else."
Julie Barnhill: You know, another thing that God allowed too was just truth. Here I had this 13-year-old girl mindset that I connected with this person and he connected with me, and I'm the only person that connected with him like this, even though he was married also. And God brought three women into my life who knew that person, and it was the same story. And you know what-
Dr. Dobson: So he was involved.
Julie Barnhill: It was a pattern.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah.
Julie Barnhill: It had been a pattern in the past for him.
Luanne Crane: So you weren't special like you were thinking.
Julie Barnhill: Exactly. And I can tell you, I had never done this before. I shared with you chemistry with people and stuff, but I had never ever done this before in my life. And what I felt, I think it was the Holy Spirit, was, "You think you're special? Take a number and get in line." And that sounds so harsh, but it's truth that I needed. It was just like, "Julia, you're not special. You're just one more person that came along, and after you there'll be somebody else." And it helped me again, and exposed my husband for the wonderful man that he is and who loves me and who I trust emphatically.
Dr. Dobson: Stated another way, you were in that relationship for the love and emotional connection. You realized he was in it for something else.
Julie Barnhill: Yeah. Yeah, thank you. Yeah, it made it dirty. It sullied it. It wasn't this meeting of the minds thing, but just a common thing like everybody else.
Dr. Dobson: All right, we're running out of time. In the second program I'd like you to explain how your relationship with your husband handled this. Did you ever come clean with him? Did you ever tell him?
Julie Barnhill: Oh, absolutely.
Dr. Dobson: And what was his reaction to it?
Julie Barnhill: I did. And I would give Rick little ... Women do this, I guess, but I would give him little bits of information even in the midst of that.
Dr. Dobson: Wanting him to figure it out.
Julie Barnhill: Wanting to ask questions, and he didn't. And I don't know, you'd have to ask him if he didn't do it because he didn't want to know, or he just trusted me. I think that was part of it, is just like, "Julie, if you're going on trips and all this, you're good. I trust you, sweetheart." So I did. We had to just sit down and I just had to say, "Look, this is where my heart has been." I started that way and allowed him to ask questions and gave information as he asked. I don't know if you'd agree, I had one counselor one time that said, "Allow him to know what he wants to know to a certain degree." So we did that. And I've been really honest about just that loneliness and conversation with him.
Julie Barnhill: For me it was books, talking books and writings. And I told him, I said, "The best foreplay in the world is if a man says, 'I just read in Ephesians 3:6-8 ..." So just really a deeper intimacy with my husband, because that was a hard conversation to have.
Dr. Dobson: I'm sure it was. Did he learn something about you through that? Did he learn something about your need that might relate to him?
Julie Barnhill: He did. And he has stepped up in that area. He has read two books in the past ... That's like, "Get them on tape." That's what he likes, "Just get them on tape, Julie, and I'm good to go." But yeah, we have picked out specific books. We have gone to a family therapist, family counselor, just for good reasons all around.
Dr. Dobson: You know, Julie, you were saying that you gave clues to your husband about what he needed to know that he didn't know, and he didn't get it. A woman would have caught it. A woman would have caught it. You would have caught it if those clues had been given to you.
Julie Barnhill: I agree. I agree.
Dr. Dobson: But a man for some reason doesn't typically see it.
Julie Barnhill: Let me ask you a question, and you could give me your doctored opinion here. Rick and I once had a conversation, and I let him know a specific area in our marriage that I was just really struggling with. And he didn't really have a response. He didn't have a response. And I was angry, I was just like, "How can you not have a response to that?" And then I closed off emotionally. Even now, what's the best way to talk to my husband, where you want him to know these needs that you need met, or loneliness, I don't know how we want to say it, without making it sound like, "you're not doing anything right"? Because that wasn't my tone or my heart at all.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah. The least threatening that that can be the better, the least criticism implied, even if you don't say it. The other thing is that a man often has to think about those things. A woman will get it instantly because she's got a connection between both sides of her brain through a superhighway that runs through, call it corpus callosum, it carries incredible amounts of emotional information from one side to the other. A man's got to think those things over. He may get it two weeks from now.
Julie Barnhill: That is so hard for me to hold onto, to grasp. And I've heard that, and it helps me have more grace with Rick, absolutely.
Luanne Crane: Well, so Doctor, so if a woman comes up to her husband and says, for instance, "I'm lonely," he doesn't hear, "Oh, you're lonely." He hears, "I'm not doing it right."
Dr. Dobson: Yeah. He takes it personally, and he does retreat. But if you give him time to think about it, and if it's done with a great deal of love, but more than that, for a man, if you give him a story, men respond to stories. If you illustrate it for him rather than an accusation or something that hits him between the eyes, if you can tell him something that you're feeling or some time when the two of you did it well. And if it connects with him emotionally, he will be able to let it in. But if it's coming across as anger or anything accusatory, he's likely to shut up altogether.
Dr. Dobson: Now, men are different like women are different. And we're talking in generalities here, but that's common.
Luanne Crane: Dr. Dobson, she mentioned reading Ephesians. I think that spiritual component is so key for a woman, especially if she has a husband who she doesn't think measures up spiritually to her. And I think, Julie, you've talked about this. We almost have this arrogance as women, and we think if our husbands aren't the spiritual leaders that we know they should be, then we are attracted to another man or spiritual authority in our life.
Julie Barnhill: The way they should be. But how crazy is that? It's like you despise your husband for this and then what, you go to another man? Another husband? That's that ...
Dr. Dobson: Yeah, who is, in a sense, cheating on his wife.
Julie Barnhill: Absolutely. That's that chaotic, it makes no sense thinking. I praise God for clarity of thought. I praise God for truth. And I've also told enough friends that I'm just like, "You watch me, and if you hear somebody's name coming up in conversation, call me on that. Because maybe there's something going on starting that I'm not really totally tuned into."
Luanne Crane: So really, Julie, you have built into your life now accountability and boundaries to prevent this from happening again.
Julie Barnhill: I really have, and I'm being extremely honest with two or three core girlfriends, and I'm being extremely honest with Rick.
Dr. Dobson: You, you have been extremely honest with a million people.
Luanne Crane: With the world.
Julie Barnhill: You know, just a little thing I do.
Luanne Crane: But there's freedom in that, isn't there? There's enormous freedom.
Julie Barnhill: There is. And you know what? If I can say it and it saves someone from going down the track, or you go down the track and you get there and then you're like, "Okay, Julie Barnhill, I can talk to her about this, because she knows what it's like."
Dr. Dobson: Well, Julie, I'm sure we'll never really know how many women are listening to us today, and they have heard your words and have also heard the voice of the Lord. And I'm talking particularly to the woman in our audience who has toyed with the possibility of a love affair with a man at church or a man at work or one in the neighborhood. And she's thought, "If I could just get out of this miserable marriage, I would be free to follow the longing of my heart with this guy, because he seems so perfectly suited for me." And that sets up an array of fantasies and dreams and longings.
Dr. Dobson: But I want to tell you, speaking to that person out there, I don't know your name and probably never will, but you know who I'm talking to. Those thoughts represent a trap. They are satanic lies. They will not provide the joy and the bliss it advertises. There's danger down that road, because the Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death. It will hurt your spouse, it'll hurt your Christian witness, and ultimately it will hurt you. Don't go there. And I pray. I pray earnestly that that woman and many more like her will look back on this conversation with Julie Barnhill that we have shared today and say, "That was a turning point for me."
Julie Barnhill: I certainly hope so. It's all worth it. It's all worth it.
Roger Marsh: We so appreciate Julie Barnhill's vulnerability today, and we pray that her story has helped rescue someone who is literally on the brink of making a huge mistake in their marriage. That's why Family Talk is here. We want to help you in a troubled marriage. We want to help you work your way through it. If what Julie has shared has hit close to home for you, give us a call. Find out how you can get a copy of Dr. James Dobson's book Love Must Be Tough, which covers a lot of the themes that we've talked about on today's program. Also online is a link to Julie Barnhill's website, and you can request all of her books, even find out about her next women's retreat. That's at drjamesdobson.org, or just give us a call at 877-732-6825. That's 877-732-6825. I'm Roger Marsh. Thanks for listening in, and make plans to be with us again next time right here for another edition of Family Talk.
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