How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage
Affair-proofing your marriage—sounds like an audacious undertaking, does it not? The audacity is in the idea that I am offering a guarantee against spousal cheating. This would be overstating the case. I cannot offer such a guarantee; in fact, it is impossible to absolutely “affair-proof” any marriage. Why? It is simply because every husband and wife is a desperate sinner who is prone to outright rebellion against God’s law and who craves the pleasures of sin. The problem lies with the heart: Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”1 Let’s be honest; we are all capable of the most despicable acts. It should not shock us that history is strewn with the wreckage of believers who have miserably crashed and burned against the rock of immorality. It could be the person in your small group or someone like King David or someone just like you! So, I admit that the title to this brief paper is somewhat misleading.
On the other hand, every believing husband and wife has access to an amazing resource to counter default debaucheries. That resource is the Holy Spirit. He indwells believers so as to enable them to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13).2 This leads me to believe that the person who genuinely desires to be faithful to his or her spouse can do certain things to diminish the “odds” of cheating. Succumbing to an affair is not a foregone conclusion! I am operating on the assumption that you reject the cavalier attitude toward marital infidelity that is so prevalent in our modern national culture. I also assume that you are sickened over the widespread glamorization of illicit sexual conduct that is part of the current American fabric. If these assumptions are valid for you, here are some specific tips that might aid you in this struggle.
- Pray. Pray for the strengthening power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the wiles of the devil, who would like nothing more than to see another saint drown in the cesspool of immorality. Just admit your weakness and desperate need for strength you do not have. It is instructive that the great imperative to utilize the armor of God in our daily struggle against the enemy of our souls is wrapped in prayer: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil…with all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit…” (Ephesians 6:11,18).
- Brace yourself for temptation. You will see immodestly dressed people. You will hear dirty talk. You will encounter all kinds of sexual visual bombardment. You will stumble onto inappropriate sexual behavior. Flirtations will come your way. Routine interaction with the opposite sex will morph into opportunities for more. Each of these circumstances is a potential source of temptation to sin. But nothing is wrong at this point. The key is what comes next. At this point you have a choice. Do you give in? Do you take a second look? Do you fantasize? Do you open the next door? Or do you ruthlessly rid yourself of the temptation?
- Run. When confronted with immorality don’t even think twice—run as fast as you can.1 Corinthians 6:18is clear! “Flee immorality. Every othersin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” Joseph, the young Hebrew in Egypt, demonstrates this principle. After being propositioned by Mrs. Potiphar, he drops everything and bolts from the house (Genesis 39:6-12).
- Put blinders on your eyes. Job offers a good model: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). The eyes are the gatekeepers to the heart. What you look at soon influences how you think. And what you think becomes the seedbed for how you act. Proverbs 23:7 instructs us that “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Practice looking straight ahead. Practice looking at the other person’s eyes. “Gaze” at the glorious woodlands, but not at the gorgeous woman, unless she happens to be your wife.
- Harness your thoughts. Because you act out of the reservoir of your thoughts it is crucial that you control what you think. Indeed, it is “garbage in, garbage out.” Philippians 4:8 reinforces this truth: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Just how serious is lustful thinking? Apparently Jesus considered it a deadly habit. He warned his listeners with these words: “…but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Lustful thinking is really sexual fantasizing, as much a sinful behavior as undressing someone in your mind or ogling pornographic material.
- Get control of media. Change your homepage. Filter web surfing. Cancel subscriptions. Unplug the TV. Avoid most movies. Screen music. Throw out DVDs. Trash books. In short, take radical measures if necessary. Too much is at stake.
- Unleash the power of the Bible. Saturate your mind with Scripture. Read it. Study it. Meditate upon it. Memorize it. Teach it. Listen to it preached and taught. You can’t get too much of it. Why? Because it has an uncanny preventive quality expressed in Psalm 119:11: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.”
- Buy into a snowball concept. Why I am talking about your thoughts, your eyes, the media, and spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study? Simply because genuine believers normally don’t wake up one day and say to themselves, “I think this would be a good day to start an affair.” Rather, it starts will the small indiscretions or careless omissions and goes downhill from there: the snowball concept. Therefore, we need to be diligent about the foundational matters. As Barney Fife was fond of saying, “Nip in it the bud!”
- Look at the future as well as the present. This is a situation where being farsighted is helpful. The Bible does speak of the “pleasures” of sin (Hebrews 11:25), so we need to acknowledge that sin is attractive.Nonetheless, the pleasure is fleeting (“for a season,” KJV). The consequences of an affair can be staggering. In the moment of passion with Bathsheba, David could never have imagined the horrible lengths he would go to to cover his sin and the resulting pain he was piling upon himself (see Psalms 38 and 51). And some consequences are unmentioned. How about this: looking your wife in the eye every day knowing you killed her first husband! Before indulging your desire, a personal question is in order: how will this affair affect your kids, your career, your health, your grandkids, your reputation, your spiritual life, the family of Christ, and on and on?
If there is any doubt about this connection between immorality and misery, check out Proverbs 5:3-5: “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey and smoother than oil is her speech; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold of Sheol.”And there is more bad news: you will never finally cheat the hangman. Galatians 6:7 makes this clear: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Here is the bottom line: affairs are stupid.
- Remember how Christ loves you. Mull over the fact that Christ loves you unconditionally. You were not attractive to him. Nothing about you caused him to jump for joy. But he loved you anyway (Romans 5:8). And he still does. Think about this when you entertain thoughts that your mate doesn’t quite meet your expectations or doesn’t repay your love as you wish, or has gained a few wrinkles, or whatever. In light of Christ’s love for you, how dare you do anything but be faithful to your mate?
- Build a strong marriage. If your relationship with your mate is strong, chances are that the prospect of an affair won’t be so attractive. So work on becoming soul mates, learn to communicate, solve problems biblically, do things together—but don’t suffocate one another, plan your future, don’t build your entire relationship around your children, manage money wisely, have fun together, serve together, speak well of one another publicly. In this case, the best defense is a good offense.
- Make intimacy with your mate a top priority. You should be sexually smitten with your mate. Re-read the Song of Songs if you need reminding of what this entails. Consider the frank advice of Solomon in Proverbs 5:15-19: “Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. Asa loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love.” In a tasteful sense, I see a general principle: if you have a hot bedroom, why would you seek warmth elsewhere?
- Recertify that you and your body belong to God. 1 Corinthians 6: 15, 19-20 is clear: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” Understanding God’s ownership should cause the genuine believer to think twice about how he uses his body. This has far reaching implications in nearly every area of life.
- Know where you are vulnerable. Each of us has differing areas of weakness. For some it might be pornographic images; for others, pornographic verbiage; for others, most anything else. Whatever your weakness might be, adopt a plan of action to attack it. For instance, you may need to alter your route home from work because of the signs, or change the venue of your lunch because of the servers, or tighten your schedule so as not to arrive at the airport too soon because of the magazine shops, or whatever.
- Be accountable to someone. I am not sure I can explain why, but I know that most of us do better if we have to give an account to someone else for our behavior. The accountability arrangement that the elders have with one another requires that we address matters of purity and faithfulness to our wives. It works. Is there any reason we shouldn’t get used to someone else looking over our shoulder? After all, the big inspection is coming: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
- Flirting is out. A dictionary definition of a flirt is “somebody behaving in a playfully alluring way.”3 A definition of the verb form is “to play at love.”4 Innocent playful interchanges are fun. Alluring ones are not. The smart person will learn to discern the difference. Enjoy the former; avoid the latter.
- Avoid being alone with the opposite sex. Sometimes it cannot be helped.For instance,certain business and professional structures require it. However, the wise person will do all he or she can within reason to minimize these private encounters. I am grateful that my wife has unwavering trust in me. But still, I am capable of the worst crimes. So I would be a fool to put myself at risk needlessly. I must also practice the sage directive of 1 Thessalonians 5:22: “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (KJV).
- Adopt a command orientation to life. Being feeling driven is much easier! But it also leads to disaster. You may feel like taking up with someone else because he or she respects you, makes you feel valued, gives you goose bumps, or whatever.Listen friends, that reasoning is just plain stupid. It is also highly self-centered. Do the right thing whether you feel like it or not.
- Keep your word. Do you understand that marriage is a covenant between two parties? Further, did your ceremony include a solemn declaration? Perhaps it was something like “for better or for worse; for richer or for poorer; in sickness and in health; till death us do part.” If so, what did you mean when you gleefully repeated those words? Did it ever occur to you that what you said was not merely a ceremony, but a promise?
- Choose a spouse wisely. Perhaps this should have been tip #1. So much pain can be avoided by simply making a well thought-out decision. However, my focus has been on those who are already married—they do not have biblical warrant for a do-over. If you are not yet married, I beg you to pick a mate very carefully. Consider meticulously the question, “Does God have anything to say about this?” And then seek wisdom for your decision. Do not hesitate to solicit advice from spiritually mature individuals. If you are planning marriage, enroll in intensive Bible-based premarital counseling.
1Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the New American Standard Updated Edition (Anaheim, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1999).
2See the entire argument of Romans 8. Without the Holy Spirit, not only is it impossible to be one of Christ’s children, it is impossible to live the Christian life. The indwelling Spirit provides the strength needed to overcome the flesh and walk rightly.
3Microsoft Word for Mac, 2008 edition.
4Webster’s New World Dictionary (Nashville, Tennessee: Southwestern Co., 1965), 287.
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2014. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.
Posted on Wed, April 23, 2014
by Joe Flatt filed under