Marital Affairs: Causes and Solutions
by Wyatt Fisher Psy.D.
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18, NIV). The Bible is clear about the dangers of sexual sin yet all throughout history people have had marital affairs. Without question, one of the quickest ways to destroy a marriage is by having an affair. Also, the pain and rejection caused by an affair can often wound the faithful spouse lifelong. Therefore, those on Christian dating sites should consider affair proofing their potential future marital relationship.
One of the leading catalysts for affairs are unmet needs within marriage. All people have needs, such as emotional intimacy, physical closeness, quality time, etc. and when those needs are not being met within marriage, many become susceptible to getting them met elsewhere. Another possible reason for affairs is our overly “sex-saturated” culture. Music, TV shows, movies, advertisements, etc. continually encourage us view sex as easy, fun, and casual. Third, as stress levels rise, most people start looking for ways to escape or “numb out” and affairs tends to be a common outlet. A fourth possible cause is boredom. Some couples fall into mundane routines with little to no excitement or spark. When this occurs, affairs can become an exhilarating alternative.
God hardwired us to be sexual. When we are single, attraction towards others usually leads to dating and eventually marriage. However, just because a couple says “I do” and their sexual energy is focused on one another doesn’t mean they will necessarily stop feeling attracted towards others beyond their spouse. For example, a married woman may still find her dentist attractive or a married man may still find his secretary attractive. However, how people interpret these feelings of attraction towards others beyond their spouse is critical. Many mistakenly interpret these feelings as meaning they must not really love their spouse or perhaps they have married the wrong person, which is a lie. When people believe this lie it often leads them down the path to an affair. The truth is that feeling attracted occasionally towards others beyond our spouse is normal, it’s how God designed us, and it does not mean we do not love our spouse or that we have married the wrong person.
One of the most important strategies for avoiding affairs is to avoid spending regular alone time with someone of the opposite gender beyond your spouse. Our flesh is weak and it’s important to realize any one of us could fall if put in the right situation. Common examples could include a married woman commuting to work with her male colleague, praying together regularly with a male friend at church, having lunch weekly with a male associate, etc. Other common examples could include a married man spending regular time alone with his female secretary, being home with his female housekeeper every week, traveling on a business trip with his female colleague, etc. Unfortunately, these scenarios happen on a regular basis and people unknowingly are putting themselves in affair ripe situations. Billy Graham is known to have faithfully lived by this strategy and is one of the few well known ministry leaders who has led a life of sexual integrity.
The other important strategy for minimizing the risk of an affair is developing healthy emotional boundaries. Emotional boundaries, in this context, refer to what information we share and do not share with people of the opposite gender beyond our spouse. It’s perfectly fine to share external information, such as plans for the weekend, job related topics, current news, etc. However, it’s not wise to share internal information, such as our personal challenges, problems with our children, turmoil in our marriage, etc. Sharing internal feelings and struggles makes us feel close and bonded to the person we are sharing them with. Therefore, it’s easy for these intimate feelings to grow deeper and eventually lead to an affair.
In sum, be mindful of the common causes of affairs, interpret your feelings of attraction towards others correctly, and establish healthy physical and emotional boundaries to affair-proof your future marriage.