Who ever starts their day by thinking, “Hey, I’m going to have an affair today?” Doesn’t happen! But, how many people do you know – or maybe this has been you – that find themselves one day asking, “How did this affair ever happen to our marriage?”
Our prayer in writing this is that it makes someone who is reading, suck air and go “OH BOY – it’s time to make an about-turn because I’m headed for a serious marital train wreck!”
While we can never be “safe” from the risk of an affair, we can take measures to safeguard our marriages.
As the Bible says, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” We need to remember that none of us are invincible, but we also need to remember that some of us are at more risk than others. If any of the following points describe you, then you need to take extra precautions to guard your marriage against an affair.
The following risk factors are from a meta-analysis done in 2010 by Tsapelas, Fisher, and Aron. While this is quite a list, it is so important for each of us to be aware of the risks to our relationship.
1. Relationship satisfaction (how satisfied am I with our marriage?)
- Lack of emotional support
- Frequency and quality of sex
- Felt love
- Low agreeableness
- Low conscientiousness
2. Mental health or psychological issues
- Psychopathology (depression, anxiety, etc.)
- Narcissism (thinking high of self)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Childhood sexual abuse
- Role modeling by father (generational infidelity patterns)
- Attachment anxiety: spouses who are uncertain of the availability of spouse and cope by seeking reassurance from and clinging to their spouse
- Attachment avoidance: spouses who doubt the availability of close relationships with others and cope by avoiding behaviors that promote intimacy
- More socially desirable = more infidelity
- Women more motivated by the need for intimacy and self-esteem
- Women more motivated by dissatisfaction with marriage
- Men overall have a stronger desire to engage in sexual infidelity
4. Social factors
- Lack of religiosity
- Higher-income (opportunity, entitlement)
- Work that involves touching clients, discussing personal concerns with colleagues or clients, or working alone with co-workers
Moving onto more positive things! Here are three things that you can do to strengthen and maintain your marriage while decreasing the risk of an affair.
1. Keep Deepening Your Love
The best way to protect your marriage is to build a strong attachment bond. Sue Johnson (2004) puts it this way: “Become a source of security, protection and contact comfort for your spouse. Assist each other in difficult emotional circumstances and in developing a positive and potent sense of self.
In plain English, invest in your marriage!
- Show love and consideration to one another.
- Share the power in your relationship (listen to episode 003 – Receiving Influence, for more information on what this means).
- Learn to be there emotionally for each other, so neither spouse has a desire to look elsewhere for that emotional bond.
- And last but not least – be sexy! Date, flirt, wink, tease… the list could go on!
2. Own Your Stuff
Sometimes it is easier to bury our feelings or to blame others for them than it is to face the feelings directly. Oftentimes though, facing them is the only way we can find healing from them.
- Face any mental health issues – seek outside help.
- Face any past sexual abuse, poor role modeling, brokenness: seek healing
- 1 Corinthians 7 tells us no to withhold our bodies from our spouse. It is ok to be a low desire spouse if that’s all there is to it, but if you pull back from physical intimacy because of deeper issues, don’t let your history, your brokenness, your victimization become your dominant message. Face these things – seek healing.
- Watch for an entitlement from positions of power (e.g., pastor, business owner, teacher) or wealth
- Be aware of how you have been socialized about your sexuality
- Be aware of how your work situation creates vulnerability to affairs and take extra mental/emotional steps to protect your marriage (speak well of your spouse, keep in touch through the day, etc.)
3. Be Intentional About Your Well-Being
- Make good choices in your life with regards to finance, fitness and food.
- Dads: be(come) a spiritual leader in your home.
- Have some great same-sex friendships that will encourage you to grow (don’t just get together with the girlfriends to complain about your husbands…)
We do go into more detail of each point in our podcast, so go listen to that now. And if you’re someone whose marriage has been hi-jacked by an affair, we’d love to be in touch. Please reach out!