The most recent newsletter from Shepherd Press (ministry of Tedd Tripp) discusses this very helpfully. The newsletter takes up the point that Gov. Sanford mentions that this relationship began innocently as he counseled this woman regarding problems in her own marriage. Here then are some excerpts:
Talking with another person of the opposite sex who is not your spouse about intimate relational issues, without open and immediate accountability, is dangerous. It is not innocent; it is a high risk activity. When there is open discussion of intimate relational details with someone, there is always the possibility of things going horribly wrong. Christians have an enemy who is like a lion looking to devour the foolish of heart. The flesh is deceitful and it is at war with the Spirit. It cannot be trusted.
... Enjoying conversations about intimate relational struggles, with a woman who is not your wife, is not guarding your heart. Rather, it is the precursor to disaster. God has provided the family and the church for protection for God’s people. The marriage relationship must be guarded with relentless diligence. Don’t have conversations that you cannot speak openly and freely about with your spouse. As soon as intimate issues come to the surface in such conversations, be like Joseph—flee!! Urge the other person to speak with someone who can truly, objectively help him or her. Many relational failures in the church community happen simply because hearts are not being faithfully protected. Trying to help someone else’s marriage by talking privately with one of the spouses is asking for trouble.
Read the whole thing.
This is sound counsel and especially important for those of us in leadership who will have to counsel people in marital difficulty. Men, we must involve our wives at these points. Plus, this is another reminder of the great value of having other elders laboring alongside you.