Matt and I see it all the time, a couple comes in for help after an emotional or physical affair and he/she says “I never thought it would go that far.” Protecting your marriage from an affair is crucial to having a long lasting relationship. I pulled from”Twelve Steps Towards having an Affair” by Brady Boyd because it is so well written and to the point. It is an excellent model showing just how slippery a slope it can be.
Protecting your marriage takes intentionality, work, and incredible boundaries. Affairs can happen to anyone, and don’t often start with the affair in mind. They begin with believing small lies about you, your spouse, or your marriage. If you have trouble finding them, they usually revolve around you and a disconnection within your marriage. They may sound like, “Another man will make me happy” or “I deserve to be happy.” In fact, our generation is divorcing more out of the idea that they can “be happier” than ever. Chances are, if you are human, you have been tempted by one of these thoughts. The first three steps leading to an affair are experienced by most people so if you want to affair-proof your marriage, you must be aware from step one.
Here are the steps:
- Something difficult happens that causes tension within you– an argument with your spouse, deployment, loss, or worse.
- You find yourself aware of another person and think he is attractive. This is normal! Yet, you are tempted to wonder what married life would be like with him, tempted to be closer friends, or jealous of his/her marriage.
- Innocent meetings (perhaps unplanned) happen and flirting occurs. Perhaps a joke is told and he laughs when no one has laughed at that joke in years! It feels good, and you notice.
- Meetings become intentional. Perhaps you know he is in Starbucks every morning at 8:30 or he’s in the office at a specific time- so you make effort to be there.
- While in a group setting, the two linger together in conversation. You find yourself wanting to have purposeful conversation with him more than anyone else.
- Conversation begins to shift to feelings. This is where things really start to slip. Discussions begin about how you feel including personal details, struggles you have, stress, etc. Sharing feelings leads to the building of intimacy. Women must be especially careful because sharing feelings comes so naturally.
- Intentional meetings occur under the disguise of a legitimate purpose because you really want to talk about more feelings.
- An isolated meeting happens for pleasure. This is where you can’t account for your time or what you were doing without lying. You are making excuses out of fear that you will be found out for what may be an emotional affair.
- Embraces become affectionate and playful touching begins. You are sold out and it is a matter of days or hours before the physical affair happens. You have turned away from your spouse and now you have in your mind said, “I deserve this, need this, and want this.”
- Embraces become passionate.
- Adultery happens.
- Affair becomes public.
The truth is, an affair will cost more than you think! You will eventually have to face the public and your friends. It will destroy you, your spouse, and your family. Each step, you choose to believe the lie that someone else can make you happier or the truth that you could lose everything. If you find yourself moving towards someone else… walk away. Most who are already at or past step 3 will struggle to find the strength to walk away. Remember, fulfillment and the “lover of your youth” is at home- nowhere else. What captivates you? “Captivate” is an emotional word, a romantic word. Do you notice your spouse when they walk in the room? Allow him to captivate you again.
So how can you affair-proof your home?
- Pray together. Talk openly about your beliefs in life, God, and growing with each other. This is the most intimate thing you can do!
- Date each other. Be date-able and you will be dated!
- Talk openly about sexual temptations. As hard as that sounds, he wants to know about it. There are NO SECRETS in marriage.
- Stay accountable by someone other than your spouse who is the same sex. Give them permission to ask you anything they may need to. It needs to be someone that knows you well enough to know if you are lying.
- Praise and compliment each other. Women and men need to hear it and thrive off it. When you praise your spouse, compliments from others won’t mean as much because they are getting it from you.
Note: If you are already on your way towards an emotional/physical affair, confess to someone more mature than you. This should be someone who loves you enough to say, “If you can’t tell your spouse, I will.” Next, tell your spouse and finally, tell someone who can actually help you. There are plenty of pastors and counselors that have the authority and ability to help you. Building trust back will take time, but if both of you are in to fight for your marriage, with the help of God and others, you can win it back.*
*Portions taken from “How Do Affairs Happen” by Brady Boyd, New Life Church