Looking for Love: How to Overcome Emotional Affairs

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Looking for love in all the wrong places”? It’s a phrase we throw around to our peers when we casually talk about a hopeless romantic who may be searching for love in areas where they will not find true love, such as emotional affairs. This idea of true love is what many are searching for.

Think about the following: fame, fortune, popularity, success, power, family, and so forth. Why do we want all these things? We want them because we want to be loved. Maybe we won’t admit it but at the end of the day, we work hard because we are searching for that endless love. There are some interesting proverbs in the Bible that support this.

What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar. – Proverbs 19:22

Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find? – Proverbs 20:6

Unfailing love is what we all want right? That comfort of knowing that your partner or loved one wants to prioritize you and to hold you dearly. We look forward to that warmth and affection with our partners because it makes us feel so special. I remember the first few dates I went with my wife Nicole how easily I had butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t help it.

My emotions and thoughts just overwhelmed me with this notion that I wanted to be with Nicole and no one else. Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, vacations, holidays are all special because we cherish these moments with those we genuinely love.

The flip side to that coin also is that we want a partner who is willing to be tried and true with us. Forgiving one another, being patient, understanding, supplying encouragement and support are all aspects of when things aren’t as blissful. We prefer that our partners work with us during challenging times and not give up on us when we royally mess it up.

So good or bad, we want true love that overrides all situations. Those two proverbs aren’t there by accident. They are there to provide insight into how we think and to bring to the forefront what our mission is. Our mission isn’t to be right, or to amass wealth, or to be famous. The goal is to find the cherished love that is so evasive at times. The question is how are we searching for this love?

2021 will be a year of growth for many of us and I’d dare say that growing in our relationships is a very top priority for many of us. 2020 brought hurt and discouragement for many of us also. Addiction grew, domestic violence went up, many betrayals surfaced because the pandemic of COVID-19 exposed our true natures.

One of those exposures may have been emotional affairs. Some may have caught their partners watching pornography on the internet. Others could have wondered why their finances were disappearing and still others may have been that substance abuse was uncovered. However, emotional affairs may explain why you are reading this article.

Maybe you were the partner that was affected by a spouse who connected with someone online in an inappropriate way. Maybe your partner has a bad habit of being flirtatious with the opposite gender with certain staff at a certain establishment which pains you to see. Despite bringing it up you may get accused of overreacting.

Another possibility is that maybe you or someone who is in an emotional affair and you’re wondering if you’ve gone too far. This article interested you because you are at a crossroads in your relationship, and you may have ventured out of the boundaries in an emotional relationship and now you are contemplating on what you are going to do.

Lastly, you could be a friend of someone who is either a victim or a perpetrator and you want to help them out. I applaud you along with our readers for your noble heart to research and understand ways to help your friends potentially stay together for the long haul. Not sure where you are at in this, but you’ve come to the right place to get some extra resources that can help them lovingly and spiritually.

What’s Wrong with Emotional Affairs?

Why are emotional affairs wrong? I want to tackle this first because some may say “there’s nothing physical so what’s the issue?” Indeed, an emotional relationship may not include any physical involvement but there’s a reason it hurts our partners. When we enter a relationship, we may not show our deal-breakers upfront. So, some partners may think they can enjoy their relationship if there’s nothing physical with someone else.

It’s kind of a taboo thing but nothing that could have enough substance to become a deal-breaker. We may point out that the Bible says that the only three ways out of a marriage are death, adultery, or abandonment. As an evangelist in my church, I can agree with that. However, emotional affairs cause major disruption in your marriage.

Think about it this way, would you want someone to be with you at the altar ready to say, “I do” only to hear them state that they will only be faithful to you “99% of the time”? No one would accept that. We want our partners to genuinely love us 100% of the time. It would be insulting to have dinner with your spouse only for them to be daydreaming of some crush they have.

Emotional relationships are a matter of the heart and that’s what needs to be addressed. Jesus calls this out as “matters of the heart”:

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person. Mark 7:21-23

Jesus is calling out these physical issues, but he is addressing them from the perspective of the heart. Usually, perpetrators of emotional relationships state that they were reacting to someone else flirting or making advances. The perpetrator needs to understand that those boundaries aren’t to be crossed because something that has no strong boundary needs to be questioned.

We have doors in our home, locks on our windows, alarms for our cars, codes, and passwords to our computers for what reason? It’s to protect what we cherish. We protect what we love. If the boundaries are off, then we invite danger to our most intimate places and Jesus takes the ax to the root by saying that we need to look at our heart.

Adultery doesn’t just happen, it evolves, and these scriptures point out that it started within us. It could be why in the gospel it says that the most important commandment is to love our Lord with all our Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. God wants all of us. He doesn’t accept partial love.

That expectation makes sense to me because I don’t want my wife to be thinking of some guy who flirted with her at the supermarket earlier that day. If we are having dinner, I want her to be present with me. We all want that. Should that situation arise, my wife has some great women in her life with whom she can be open about that temptation. She can seek input from women who will follow up with her and pray to God for her to be victorious in that area of her life.

The same thing goes for me. If I am tempted, I can call a brother in Christ who can listen and provide me with input so that I can tackle this from the beginning instead of it running ramped in my heart. Remember that these expectations are supposed to be high because we are searching for unfailing love. Our partners deserve to have us be present with them in mind, body, and soul.

Tips for Overcoming Emotional Infidelity

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a solid approach for confronting emotional affairs. A foundational core principle of CBT is that it helps us understand the relationship between our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Anyone who is either a victim or perpetrator of emotional affairs should seek professional help to confront this at once to salvage their relationship.

A trained Cognitive Behavioral Therapist can validate your struggles from the start because they want to listen to your story without judgment. Does this mean that the perpetrator can be validated as well? Absolutely. As professionals, we are not here to take sides. Our goal is to provide you with tools to discover what is going on and work together to move forward in healthier ways.

Most Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are trained in some form or fashion to provide CBT because it is one of the most widely used approaches for therapy. One of the main reasons it is widely used and accepted is because it deals with problems from the inside and out. Adultery is physical which means in CBT language that it can be labeled as an action.

But how would you go about an emotional affair? Can people just sweep it under the rug? Not with CBT. It can be classified as an emotional issue. The therapist would not just focus on emotions but would help the client process their thoughts behind their emotions and what actions they took.

With CBT it all works together. Not one part is left out. Interestingly, the gospels say that if we are to love the Lord then we need to do it all with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is no shortcutting this process.

This approach is excellent for those who have been hurt by emotional infidelity because they feel the pain of being betrayed. They can explore those feelings and realize past trauma tied into the current hurt. The process continues as to what they are thinking and possible actions they can take to empower themselves. This is one of many possible approaches but in my work with hundreds of clients, I can’t think of a better approach.

Here are some tips to overcome emotional affairs based on the CBT approach that would include Thoughts, Emotions, Actions (T.E.A.) dialogue:

Thoughts

What thoughts are we processing? This is crucial to start with because so many times we rush to the evidence (phone, internet, talks, etc.) Once an emotional affair has been discovered, we need to ask both partners what they are thinking. One may think that the relationship is over. But is that true? Many people have different emotions, and they stem from what we think.

We don’t condone the affair, but we must try to listen to what our thought process was like to get to the root, recalling Jesus’ words to focus on the heart. The injured party should also voice insecurities, betrayal, shame, embarrassment, etc. The party who was emotionally unfaithful should be a great listener and confirm their partner’s thought process as well.

Remember this rule, if you do something or feel something, you must have thought of it beforehand. Unfaithfulness of any kind is not to be dismissed as a reaction incident. The mind played a role all along.

Emotions

What are we both feeling? What goes on inside of us internally is something to be appreciated. We love romance, zeal, and passion. Those same emotions can but in two ways because someone who is charismatic could also be a big-time flirt. So, we need to address our emotions and validate them further recognizing that emotions are tools and not weapons.

Validation by all parties, the partners, support, and the therapist are crucial. There is no such thing as crazy emotions. The betrayer should allow ample time for the hurting individual to gather their emotions and join in their mourning. This can be a painstaking process but one that leads to success more times than not.

Actions

The whole story must be told. This may sound unfair to the one who is betrayed but it is paramount that both spouses share their entire story of what happened without judgment. We don’t need to be sentimental with the party who committed the infidelity, but we need to understand what is going on in their hearts.

Sharing your story will cause discomfort but it will help the healing process the more times you share it. Get help and support. You don’t need to tell the world but view it as an opportunity to empower yourself. Recommit yourselves to one another, set up boundaries, and have weekly accountable times with your support system.

In conclusion, I want to say that no flaw is fatal. People who either commit emotional affairs or are betrayed by them can still recover and do well. We can make some terrible mistakes, but the grace of Jesus helps us during those crucial times. These are hurtful times but if we seek help and support there’s no telling of what incredible progress we can make as couples.

Photos:
“Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Paola Chaaya, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “God is Love”, Courtesy of Hassan Saleh, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Bay”, Courtesy of Charlie Foster, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Just Married”, Courtesy of Desiree Fawn, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Having an Affair? Here’s How and Why You Should Stop

Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks about ruining their marriage. So why is it that people have affairs? The underlying cause of infidelity often stems from the defensive structures people create as a reaction to trauma experienced in childhood.

To really understand what this means, picture a little girl whose father is not around most of the time, is authoritarian, doesn’t show any interest in her recitals, and whose mother is there but is always preoccupied with her own personal issues.

Although the father constantly tells her he loves her, deep down inside the girl has never believed him and though she knows that her mother loves her, it has never felt like enough.

As the girl reached her 20’s, she dated, fell in love, and got married to a man who had a similar personality to her father’s, and whenever he says he loves her, something inside her says it’s not real.

Several years go by and she is introduced to a man at work whose musical interests are the same as hers. She is even more tempted because she chooses not to tell her husband about it. Since the man doesn’t know her that well, his interest in her gets around the defensive I’m-not-lovable-structure, then she begins to crave his attention like an addiction. The affair has already started.

Sex by this point almost an afterthought. The attention of this not-loved-one comforts her hidden, desperate, ruined younger parts. Unfortunately, leaving her husband for this man means he will become a loved one and she will more likely have a relationship with another person again, and the cycle will go on.

This situation is just an example of the many defensive structures and narratives we all have.

The Power of Love

We are designed to bond with one another. When we experience attraction for someone, our bodies automatically respond as if there’s a possibility we might mate with them. Our pupils dilate, capillaries expand to increase blood flow, and our pulse moves quickly. It can make one breathless.

The reptilian brain is always trying to procreate. In Freudian terms, the id says, “I want that!” and the ego says, “I know how to get that!” The superego, on the other hand, says, “You can’t have that, because (insert moral reason here).”

If we live with an emotional lack such as in the above example, we can easily confuse lust for love. Actual love is a deeper connection formed by years of growing together with another person.

Erotic love plays a wonderful role in a marriage but erotic love by itself always makes a person even more lonely in every relationship. Once you jump from one intimate relationship to another, you won’t be able to receive true love from another, so you will automatically end up with what’s not real.

The Anatomy of Having an Affair

When motive fuels desire and opportunity leads to action, infidelity starts to happen. Just like any other sinful acts, people wouldn’t be interested in becoming unfaithful if they’re not getting anything in return.

To satisfy oneself sexually is not the only obvious payoff. Having an affair also tends to heal the wounded part of the self that encourages the behavior more than anything else. Another payoff is the thrill that comes with indulging in the forbidden actually building up the erotic energy in the relationship.

Sin is the opposite of good, and infidelity is the same. Similar to an addiction, for most people it only works for a while. As soon as it fails, the consequences come in the form of deep shame and guilt, hurting marriages, hurting children, and often the loss of jobs or homes.

Having an affair is a sin that can wreck whatever trust and happiness there is in a marriage. This is why it’s necessary to acknowledge infidelity before it spreads and causes any more harm.

Where Does Infidelity Start?

Flirting with someone else when you’re married is never harmless. More likely your sexuality is integrated into your personality making it safe for you to say, “It’s just how I am.” That doesn’t make it harmless.

Everything starts when you’re in a really difficult situation, emotionally vulnerable, feeling alone, and someone who looks attractive enters your life and makes you feel good, and you begin walking down the path. The best way to prevent infidelity is to stop it as soon as you start to realize that it’s happening.

Here’s another classic example of infidelity waiting to happen. A man works for an environmental company and has to drive for four hours to get to work and to meet up with his team. He’s already having trouble with his relationship with his wife and as if destiny tries to test him, there is a beautiful single woman on the team.

One afternoon, as they are having a great conversation, laughing at each other’s jokes, they look into each other’s eyes longer than usual. The man realizes that he’s attracted to the woman and he can tell she feels the same way.

That night the woman shows up at his hotel room door and asks the man to come to join her for a drink downstairs. At that moment he realizes he has to say NO right there and then, not when he’s already in the bar with her. There would be only one reason for that man to accept her invitation and that would be to dabble with adultery in the private hope of actually making it happen.

The man made up an excuse to avoid her and no longer communicated with her outside of work. Though the man thinks he will never be unfaithful, the chance of him engaging in adultery would have been exponentially higher had he gone with her. We are not just wired for bonding, we are also wired to want that bonding as much and as possible.

Our intelligence makes it possible for us to sidestep that wiring and avoid looking for something or someone beyond our marriage in order to meet our needs. Some suffer silently for many years while their relationship slowly declines and grows cold. Others cannot control themselves and end up finding comfort in other people’s arms.

Both of these results are terrible and God wants something much better for us. The traditional marriage vows that say “to have and to hold, to love, honor and cherish, forsaking all others.” is already a great reminder for us to keep. If you or your spouse doesn’t feel loved, honored, or cherished, it’s best to take action right away, probably through the help of a counselor.

How Do You Come Back After Having an Affair?

Infidelity is devastating to a marriage. If a spouse is not hurt by the infidelity then something is not right within the relationship and it could make a person think the marriage didn’t even matter in the first place. Since trust is a primary foundation of marriage, it’s extremely hard to restore once it has been broken by betrayal.

If the two of you chose to stay together after infidelity, a counselor is the best person to run to for help to find your way back together. Anger is a common and long-lasting emotion and while trust no longer seems possible, most of the time it will return, though it may take years.

There is no excuse for betrayal but understanding the emotional factors behind the action of the cheating spouse will help a lot – not in any way to cover up what was broken, but to be able to forgive an imperfect human being at the end of the day.

If you’re the spouse who cheated, it’s normal and proper for you to feel an overwhelming guilt for some time especially if you’re known to be a person whose values is big on faith. It’s going to be a painful recovery process and there is no way you can rush it.

It is unrealistic to expect your spouse to exhibit a desire for you, or to feel comfortable in your presence or to enjoy your company before they’re ready; there are some boundaries that you must not violate. They must decide when to restore you to fellowship.

This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you have no right to make choices or you don’t have a voice or can’t put in place your own healthy boundaries. It’s wrong to assume that it’s okay for us to be treated like a doormat and put up with whatever abuse our spouse inflicts on us. They have every right to display anger but not to become abusive.

As you navigate the process of recovery the following rules of engagement will probably benefit you:

  • Hold up a hand if either of you needs to pause the conversation.
  • Conversations that have been paused conversations must be rescheduled and pick up at the pause.
  • Counseling sessions are the best time to have most of your relationship conversations.
  • Each of us must be responsible for our own feelings.
  • It’s best to ask permission before talking using such questions as “Is this a good time to talk about _____?” “I wonder what would happen if _____?” “I’m detecting that you are (angry, distant, etc) and am wondering what that’s about,” or “Would you let me tell you my impression of it?”

It takes hard work to recover from infidelity but if both partners work at showing a great deal of compassion towards one another, learning to forgive, and holding on to each other to face a common enemy (rather than attacking each other), it can result in a much richer, deeper relationship than before.

How To Protect Your Marriage Against Infidelity

The truth is that no one is immune from committing a sin; we are flawed human beings. That being said, motives and opportunities can transform in many different ways thus, infidelity can happen in a marriage. However, there are a few steps you can take to strengthen your relationship and fight infidelity:

Keep God the Center of Your Marriage

Being married, whether you did it in a church or not, means you made a promise before God. He cares deeply about your relationship. Allow him to be in it. Ask for His help to love right, to be more forgiving, to fight your own selfishness, put up good boundaries, and be responsible for your own emotional struggles.

Take Infidelity Seriously

Pay attention to what your body does. If you stare at or talk to an attractive co-worker, or the spouse of your friend, or a single friend and notice your body is having a certain reaction to it (fluttering in the stomach, a catch in your voice, a desire to look more deeply into their eyes, or confide in them for connection), recognize that and admit it to yourself.

There’s nothing wrong in saying, “I think I’m really attracted to this person”; you don’t have to hide it from yourself. You can admit your attraction without feeling guilty. Remember, we are designed to be attracted to people and once you realize this, you will be able to respond by saying, “but I will not do anything about it.” Then correct your flirtatious behavior.

Have the Willingness to Set Boundaries

Setting up boundaries can be embarrassing but sometimes they’re a must. A professor once shared how a woman approached him after a presentation, gave him a hug, and pressed her whole body to his. He moved away from her and said: ”My wife is the only person who can hug me that way.” Now that may sound a little too forward for some, but it’s a great example of setting boundaries. It also inspires us to be more confident in defending the sanctity of our marriage.

Work On Your Emotions

Finding a therapist who can help you find an unprocessed emotional trauma in your past, identifying them, and finding out what you did to survive it is something you may want to consider doing. The more you understand your own emotional grid, the easier it is for you to change it, put up healthy boundaries, and build up firm, reciprocal bonds with the people you love.

Do The Work of Loving Your Spouse

One of the many great things about marriage is the sense of comfort we can get from the companionship of someone familiar. However, it becomes dangerous once familiarity transforms into complacency.

There was once a man who said that on his wedding day, he told his wife, “I love you. I’ll let you know if that ever changes.” Although what he said was meant to be a joke, it did, however, make a point. We find it easier to forget to do the little things that strengthen our love for the other person.

Recall the things that you both loved doing together and find out if it’s possible for you to do them again. Send cards, give flowers, and keep birthdays and anniversaries in mind just like the good ‘ol romantic days you both once had. Be thankful for the ones you love and remember the reasons why you feel in love with them. Rehearse the things that made you love them and rekindle them as best you can.

Learn to look at yourself and your spouse as an amazing, special reflection of God’s image here on earth. Value each other and the miracle of your relationship as well as keep each other while walking towards a future of growth and health.

Photos:
“Lonely”, Courtesy of Luis Galvez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Affair”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Drink After Work”, Courtesy of Sasint, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Fireworks”, Courtesy of Jared Sluyter, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

8 Reasons Why Having an Affair is a Terrible Idea

People don’t have affairs because cheating is a miserable experience. They commit adultery because it’s temporarily exciting and pleasurable. Maybe their marriage seems stale, or there are a lot of conflicts.

Perhaps they feel like their spouse doesn’t really know or love them. An affair offers the illusion of feeling desired, alive, and escaping from the mundane reality of everyday life.

The problem is that affairs don’t happen in a vacuum. There are considerable risks involved for disgrace and devastation. And in the end, the affair is almost always exposed somehow. This private disaster becomes public, and countless people are affected.

8 Reasons Why Having an Affair is a Terrible Idea

Often people find themselves entangled in an emotional affair that’s on the verge of becoming physical. You can still stop before you take it to that next step. If you’re already involved in an affair, the sooner you end it, the better. Here are eight things to think about before you let an affair wreak havoc in your life.

#1 – You Will Cause Enormous Pain

People who have been cheated on often say things like, “I feel like someone ripped out my heart and stomped on it.” There’s a reason for these colorful metaphors. Being betrayed by the one you love and thought you would spend the rest of your life with causes agonizing emotional pain.

People who have been betrayed by their spouse experience tormenting heartbreak. The emotional pain can be unfathomable. Causing someone that kind of pain shows true hardness of heart. It doesn’t matter if you blame it on alcohol or say that it didn’t mean anything. Thoughtlessness is just as cruel as deliberate malice.

Although you may be able to save your marriage, it will never be the same again. No matter how strongly you feel about this illicit connection, acting on those feelings demonstrates a brutal disregard for your vows and the person you promised to honor and cherish until death.

#2 – Your Children Will Suffer

An affair plants seeds in a family – seeds of anger, distrust, grief, and jealousy. Those seeds will grow and take a lot of work to root up.

Even if your children don’t know what’s happening, they’ll sense the shaky foundation of your marriage. Your marriage should be the solid rock on which you can build your family. An affair cracks the foundation of the family, no matter what excuse you make for it.

Your children may one day have difficulty trusting their own spouses. Or they might think adultery is justified in some situations. After all, children tend to normalize their parents’ behavior.

You might think that no one will know – that if you keep it a secret, no one will have to reap these consequences. But the bonds we have with our loved ones run deep. When you violate your marriage, you poison your soul because deep down inside, you think you deserve the affair. This poison will inevitably express itself in disdain, guilt, and words that even if they seem subtle to you, your children will be affected by it.

#3 – Your Extended Family Will Be Affected

When family members get divorced because of irreconcilable differences, it causes pain, but people do understand that some marriages are full of conflict and difficulty and don’t work out. Often, spouses can achieve a relatively amicable divorce that doesn’t cause huge rifts in the extended families.

But when adultery is involved, emotions run high and many relationships can be destroyed. If you value your relationship with your in-laws or even just their good opinion, know that you will probably be destroying both once your affair comes out.

#4 – Your Friendships Will Suffer

Friends often choose sides when adultery is involved, including mutual friends, coworkers, and church friends. Most will tend to gravitate toward the spouse who was betrayed, not the offender. Your social relationships and support system can be irrevocably damaged.

During the excitement of an affair, you’ll probably disregard this, but months and years down the line, isolation and rejection can have devastating effects on your mental and emotional well-being.

Anyone who finds out about your affair will probably wonder if they can trust you, and rightly so. If you demonstrate that you disregard your most sacred vow, how can anyone else trust you? People may understandably view your character as inherently flawed. You may lose friendships, ministry opportunities, and even opportunities at work if your boss knows what happened and has high moral standards.

#5 – Your Church Relationships Will Suffer

People at church will also tend to be polarized by your illicit relationship. If you are a ministry leader or participant, you may be asked to step down as you deal with the fallout of your decision to commit adultery. Most people will likely side with your spouse, not you.

Your reputation will be severely impacted, probably permanently. You’ll lose the trust and respect of people you value. Even people who love you unconditionally will be hurt by your behavior. Churches have also been known to split when a leader becomes involved in an affair.

#6 – Your Self-Respect Will Be Damaged

Before having an affair, you probably talked yourself into it using a series of excuses as to why it was okay. Maybe you thought, “If no one knows, it won’t hurt anyone,” or “I deserve to feel good about myself for a change.” Maybe you were bitter towards your spouse for things they’d done (or hadn’t done), so you considered your affair to be justified.

Underneath all the excuse-making, though, you know that adultery is wrong. If you’re a believer in Christ, you also know that it’s a very serious sin. You know you’ve broken your vows and devastated the one person on earth you vowed to honor and cherish.

No matter how you attempt to write the narrative, you are the antagonist in the story. Trying to justify your actions mentally will only create cognitive dissonance. Believing a lie can eventually lead to more delusional thinking, which damages your psyche over time.

#7 – Your Relationship with God Will Suffer

If you’re a believer, the Holy Spirit will convict you of the sin of your affair. Adultery is one of the sins most clearly condemned by Scripture. God hates sin because it goes against his holy nature.

When you choose to have an affair, you’re rejecting God’s commands in favor of your own selfish desires. Continuing down that road will provide you with fleeting pleasures, yes, but also with soul-crushing, long-term heartache. If you love the Lord and want to follow his plan for your life, why would you choose such a devastating path?

#8 – You Made a Covenant

It’s likely that your marriage took place in a church with witnesses present, such as your family and friends. You made a vow to love, honor, and cherish your spouse and forsake all others until death parts you. There’s a reason marriage vows are made in front of God and witnesses. They are profoundly significant and the most important promises we will ever make.

Breaking your marriage vows is violating the public, sacred covenant you made with your spouse. That’s why divorce has to take place through the court system. It’s not a trivial matter to betray your spouse. Your vows are meant to be guarded. There’s no such thing as a harmless affair.

The Reality of Adultery

No one just wakes up one morning and arbitrarily decides, “I’m going to have an affair.” Most of us have internal inhibitions against cheating. What happens is that we take one seemingly harmless step at a time, and before we know it, we’re entangled in adultery.

You start talking with an attractive coworker every day in the break room. You find out you have things in common. You begin to make extended eye contact and share your feelings and hopes and dreams. You find yourself thinking about them throughout the day, and hoping you’ll bump into them again. It becomes a growing attraction, and you can either cultivate it or shut it down.

Having struggled in your marriage is no excuse for cultivating an attraction to someone else. It may increase your temptation, but it doesn’t make it okay. No one can cause you to have an affair. It’s your own moral decision, no matter how unloving, unkind, or disengaged your spouse may be. There are other decisions you can make to handle problems in your marriage rather than committing adultery.

Even once you’re in the middle of a tempting situation, you can always make a decision to run away from it before the point of no return. Affairs are not accidental. Leading up to the temptation, you’re either cultivating loyalty to your spouse, or you’re stoking the fires of illicit desire.

If you have strong feelings for someone other than your spouse, now is the time to act. Don’t try to sweep it under the rug, think that’s it’s not a big deal, or that you can handle it on your own. Talk to a counselor, talk to your spouse if you need to, and most of all, stop the growing attraction by bringing it from darkness into light.

If you’ve already crossed the line and started an affair, confess it to your spouse and begin the arduous process of recovery. Bringing this sin into the light will be one of the most challenging things you’ve ever done but living a life of integrity and openness is far better than living one of secrecy and deceit.

Your spouse will be angry and devastated. This is normal. Don’t be defensive. Apologize, but know that that won’t be enough either. If your marriage can be saved, counseling will be absolutely crucial to the process.

If you believe that your marriage is over and you want to be with your affair partner instead of your spouse, at least have the decency and respect to put your affair on hold until you can end your marriage officially. You can’t keep your spouse and an affair partner happy while you secretly try to juggle both “relationships.”

Acknowledge your selfishness and sin and the pain that your choices have caused. Actions have consequences. Infidelity needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Acknowledge your personal feelings, and then consider the impact your actions are having on yourself and those around you. Find a therapist who can help you take the first step toward restoration.

Photos:
“Secrets,” courtesy of Ivan, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Dad’s Day Out,” courtesy of Public Affairs Office Fort Wainwright, Flickr Creative Commons; “Pray,” courtesy of pexels.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “The Waiting Game”, Courtesy of Louis Blythe, Unsplash.com; CC0 License