Speaking of boundaries - what sort of boundaries would normally exist between priests/confessors and women laity, to maintain healthy relationships and to avoid such emotional traps?
Deborah, these are just my .2 cents, mere personal opinions, what I would say if a friend was to ask me, so take it with a grain of salt. I am definitly not qualified to offer indepth advise on the matter so ..
The person who is in the position to hear confessions is vulnerable on many levels. There are many temptations that sink spiritual direction into merely a spiritual discussion trapping both the penitent and the confessor in an illusion of various manifestations. There can be an emotional affinity that might be created as a result of opening up to another person. There might be aspects of the personality that are unequipped to deal with having certain leverage over another without abusing that leverage towards a personal gain of some sort. But that has to do with the confessor side of things, so without going too much into that, I think there are practical aspects to this women penitents of all walks of life, can follow:
Do not go to meet with a priest/monk all unaccompanied, I know this seems archaic butstill have someone else close by with you when arranging to do visit or are being visited. This will save not only the confessor/penitent temptation but others who might see or know of the meeting.
Do not go visiting after a certain hour of the day, namely after sundown. People are spiritually vulnerable when they think they have the cover of the night.
Do not go into too much intimate detail while confessing sexual related matters, precise but general terms are enough , and if you do not know of them ask around , the laity have their own slangs for these things they will update you. Going into too much detail on those matters can recreate the temptation for you as well as having the potential to lure the confessor into one. Although spiritual guidance has a psychological aspect to it, it is not all psychology it deals with a spiritual reality far deeper than psychology is able to address. So both confessor and penitent must take care not to be a temptation and not to allow a temptation to continue unresolved the right way.
Do not make a best friend out of your confessor, if you find that you are too close to your confessor on an intimate friendly terms like Nicholas said, then it’s time to move on to another. The authoritative distance must be there for the possible correction and guidance needed and for the spirit of obedience required.
At the time of confessing or while listening to the guidance, try to keep a penitential demeanor in regards to your body language, keep your eyes towards the icon or keep your head and eyes cast down. You are not having a friendly chit chat nor are you with a best friend where you get to gaze into the eyes of your friend and indulge in your emotional bond of intimacy and understanding. Don’t cross that boundary and don’t allow yours to be crossed either.
Now as a penitential woman if one does happen to feel one is crossing the boundary perhaps it might help one's perspective to think about :
1.The integrity of you and the person you love will not be there if that boundary was to be crossed by the person and your affection was returned.
2.The spiritual guidance , understanding and compassion you have seen is not exclusive to you, it is there to all others that come seeking help, you are not special in that sense to the confessor.
3.it is true that the Spiritually aware man has a depth that is beautiful and right beyond anything or any standard the world can offer in a man. Thus it is very easy to get attached to such a person for the spiritually inclined personalities. Often times when attachment still forms in impossible situations, it forms as a result of a deep unconscious attraction to the spiritual beauty there. However it is obvious that were they to act upon their feelings, the spiritual beauty they initially had and were attracted to will be lost. so in the light of that knowledge one must make the painful decision of terminating such relationships right away. What I am saying is, in the end the person one loves will no longer be that person when made to abandon everything that makes them who they are at the core level.
4.It is time to find another confessor and interact with stricter boundaries than before.
thats all I got for now..