No one would ever wish an extramarital affair on their marriage, kids, or any other aspect of their life. I’m not sure there can be a more painful betrayal than that of being cheated on in such an intimate way.
And yet, sin beckons at our door constantly and though our spirit may be strong, our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Even within strong Christian communities, affairs happen. According to a 2014 survey, 35% of married Christian men and 17% of married Christian women have had an affair at one point in their marriage.
If having a strong spirit and being in a strong Christian community isn’t enough to protect us against an affair, what can we do?
I recently heard a life-changing sermon by Andy Stanley that answered this exact question in very practical detail. The sermon has been so meaningful to my marriage that I couldn’t help but to share his insights.
But, before jumping into the details, I want to help prepare you with a few initial thoughts. First, these guidelines can be tough to follow. If you are serious about implementing these ideas, I would suggest sitting down with your spouse and talking them over.
Second, while these guidelines are based in biblical truths, they were derived from Andy’s experience in counseling many, many couples that had experienced an extramarital affair. Thus, they are not commandments. If you choose not to implement any of the ideas, it does not mean you are doing something wrong or that you will have an affair. There are many situations where it is not feasible to implement some of the ideas below.
Finally, if you decide to implement these guidelines, remember that the overarching theme here is love, not perfection or legalism (Matthew 23:23-28). These ideas are meant to help guide and protect our love for our spouses and there are times where exceptions may need to be made.
So, without further ado, here are 5 ways you can help protect your marriage from an extramarital affair:
1. Avoid Traveling Alone With A Member Of The Opposite Sex
The idea here is simple. Time alone with a member of the opposite sex, especially on a recurring basis, can result in the development of an emotional connection. And an emotional connection always precedes a physical reaction.
There are times, particularly in work situations, where this may be awkward or difficult to implement. This is where conversations with your spouse are key. The more open and honest communication you have with your spouse – like implementing 5 Questions To Ask Your Spouse Every Week – the better.
2. Avoid Eating Alone With A Member Of The Opposite Sex
In Andy’s experience, this single activity was present in every affair he had ever counseled a couple through (except one, apparently). This is remarkable to me.
If there is one single guideline from this list you would want to implement into your marriage, this may be it. Again, I realize that this is not feasible in some work situations such as with a salesperson that conducts sales pitches over lunch. Again, the point here is to avoid making an emotional connection with a member of the opposite sex. Thus, to the extent you can limit recurring meals with the same person, the better.
3. Avoid Hiring An Attractive Member Of The Opposite Sex To “Help Them Out”
I would assume this guideline comes up less often than the others. Nevertheless, the point here is to refrain from hiring an attractive person if the reason you are hiring them is to, essentially, do them a favor. If you do this, they suddenly (at least in your mind) owe you something back and that “something” is not defined.
4. Avoid Confiding In Or Counseling A Member Of The Opposite Sex
This guideline makes a lot of sense to me. Confiding in someone about anything creates a deep emotional connection between the two people. While breaking some of these guidelines may seem unavoidable at times, like a salesperson having a once-a-year meeting with a member of the opposite sex over lunch, this guideline does not seem to share the same logistical difficulties (except perhaps meeting with a professional counselor).
5. If You Begin To Feel Desire Towards A Specific Person, Tell Someone
This is an interesting guideline to me but it does make sense. If you ever begin to feel the need to impress or flatter someone or you begin thinking about them often or in unhealthy ways, you need to tell someone. While this step would be a difficult thing to do, it ultimately would save you from someone far worse.
If you are interested in listening to Andy Stanley’s sermon that this post was derived from, see his “Guardrails” series here.