Affairs take two common forms: emotional and sexual. In either case, by the time an actual affair materializes, there have been latent and unaddressed problems for a long time.
“Affair proofing”, if we can call it that, includes proactively building systems and rhythms into your marriage that will make it much less likely that you’ll start down the subtle path toward an affair.
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6 Ways to Affair-Proof Your Marriage
There are more than a few posts online about “how to affair proof your marriage”, but I feel like many of them miss the core of the matter: secrecy vs. true honesty. Affairs take two common forms: emotional and sexual. In either case, by the time an actual affair materializes, there have been latent and unaddressed problems for a long time. Affairs are just the tip-of-the-iceberg where the matrimonial Titanic meets her match.
Couples must actively build trust and honesty. Affairs happen when secrecy is permitted in a marriage, and secrecy flourishes when sin festers and grows. In a recent post I discussed 3 poisons to guard against: pennies, perversion, and pride. I believe affairs start with pride; pride is what keeps us from admitting when we’re wrong and forgiving our spouse when we’re wronged against.
Conversely, trust and honesty are humble activities: they place the other person at the center instead of yourself.
This post is about how to affair-proof your marriage through building trust and honesty. Remember, this is a two-way street: you have to be trustworthy in that you won’t lie about your struggles, but you also must be trustworthy with your spouse’s heart, or they won’t open it to you. (Here’s one example of how Selena dealt with my failure)
1: Commit to honest, open communication: Be REAL
It’s no secret that transparency is a huge part of this blog; extramarital affairs are a major reason why.
In the affair stories we’ve heard, they always start small then grow into something truly damaging. Seemingly innocent banter can turn into flirting, and flirting turns into emotional involvement. Emotional involvement turns into an emotional affair well on it’s way toward sexual involvement. (Related: keeping your integrity while traveling)
It’s best to kill it early. Utter openness is the best way to nip affair weeds in the bud. Be honest about little struggles and you’ll protect yourself from big sins.
She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.
Joseph ran swiftly from immorality! Commit to “running away” into each others’ arms through utter transparency. Get it all out, expose your weaknesses and help your spouse with theirs. Doing so is liberating and empowering: “People who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.”
2: Check in often
Total openness does little good if you’re only open once every year or two. Selena constantly asks me if I’ve looked at pornography or let my mind wander too far. To be honest, it does get wearing, but it’s worth it and I want her to do it. I know she’s going to ask; no doubt about it. In fact, whenever we’re getting *ahem* ready for sex, that’s when she asks. It is a buzzkill at times! But it’s awesome to give a good report and reap my due reward… (high fives all around!).
In leadership, I’ve heard the saying, “Inspect what you expect, because people respect what you inspect.” If you’ve ever managed people you know what this means: if you don’t check up, it’s your fault as a manager. Your marriage is not a business, but you get the point…
Important note: This isn’t permission to nag or abuse each other emotionally. I mean this: you need to lovingly ask the hard questions and not casually sweep things under the rug. You each must make an effort to check in often; it won’t happen automatically.
3: Get accountable to godly people.
Men are often the targets of accountability talks, but women need it just as much. The famous verse, Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” We often gloss over the significance of “iron” doing the sharpening, but it’s worth exploring:
Typically, iron was sharpened with a whetstone. The whetstone would stay dull while one-side (the iron) was sharpened. In the verse, the author uses iron [possibly] as a means to indicate that people of similar priorities, values, and character have the power of sharpening each other in a way that is mutually advantageous; it’s not a one-way sharpening, both sides are sharpened simultaneously.
You need accountability just as badly as your godly friends do! Everyone benefits.
Blunt moment: get passed your shame. There’s too much on the line to hide behind pretenses and bashfulness. If you can’t be honest with your friends for fear of rejection, they’re not godly friends. You need to hold each other accountable so you can be sharper, better, more godly, and a better spouse. (blunt moment over)
4: Actively improve your sex life
We’ve all heard the axiom, “bored people are boring.” This is especially true with sex within marriage. Here’s what I mean: sex has the power to be wonderful, mysterious, and expansive in marriage, but it won’t get there if you don’t work at it. Don’t let sex get boring. Keep it lively and practice tons!
Think of sex as your thermometer for how your overall intimacy is doing – sex reveals the temperature of your marriage. If sex is consistently cold, your overall intimacy is probably cold as well (note the emphasis on consistently). I won’t get into details on ways to do this, as I’ve written a few posts that begin the discussion here and here.
If you’re satisfied drinking from the well of your marriage, you won’t go looking for water elsewhere.
5: Recalibrate your standard of beauty
I was extremely relieved and liberated once I set Selena as my ultimate standard of beauty. It’s a constant activity Set your spouse as the ultimate standard of your desire. In lieu of repeating myself, here’s the post I wrote a little while back.
6: Fight with Christ
As with everything we write, healthy marriage cannot be realized truly outside of Christ. If you’re not both on the same page with Jesus, what pages are you on? If one of us says gravity is up and the other says it’s to the left, how can we hope to agree on why things fall downward? Jesus must be the standard against which we measure ourselves, without him leading us, we’re utterly lost.
If you don’t know Christ, I implore you to ask him to reveal himself to you. He is truly amazing. I’d like to give lots of scientific, philosophical, and apologetical reasons why you should do this but this is neither the time nor place. The bottom line is this: Jesus wants to know you and has made himself available to you, but it will take faith to trust him with your life.
If your spouse is away from Jesus, pray hard. You are facing an uphill climb, but God is faithful to give you strength and work for your good the way He sees best. (Romans 8:28)
If you or your spouse is curious about Jesus, send us an email or talk to a friend who knows him. Our prayer is that through our marriages we can make Jesus famous and lead others toward him.