It is frequently said that if you fail to plan, you can plan to fail. That’s true in a number of areas, including your marriage. When you talk with most married couples they’ll tell you that their marriage is strong and that there is no chance of an affair. Yet, half of all first marriages in the US end in divorce and the percentage climbs after that. People think that they know how they will respond to an affair but unless they’ve talked with their spouse about it, they are woefully unprepared. When someone is attracted to you, it makes you feel great and, chances are, you are not really prepared for how you will react.
Although affairs are not the biggest reason for divorce in the US, they are the most obvious reason and a pitfall that you can avoid if you see it coming.
- Step 1: Be Available
- Some people are only as faithful as their opportunities. They’re not looking for an affair, but when one comes along they don’t really avoid it. Others leave some sort of opening, perhaps unintentionally, for a relationship to develop.
- Solution: Establish boundaries now, before you’re in a position where you’re being tested. Talk with your spouse about what is acceptable and what isn’t – trust their boundaries for you more than your own. Yes, it’ll be more limiting for you, but in marriage, your body is not your own. (1 Corinthians 7:4).
Here are a few things that you’ll want to talk about, especially pertaining to friends that you are attracted to or may be attracted to you:
- Is it okay to have attractive friends
- Is it okay to spend time alone with an attractive friend or colleague
- Can you have non-sexual physical contact with an attractive friend
- Can you share important parts of you day with the friend
- Can you confide in this friend
Don’t stick to this list; come up with your own as well.
- Step 2: Subtle changes
- At this stage it may be something as simple as flirtation or something a bit bigger like a restructuring of your time for communication. Perhaps it’s extra time on Facebook for “new connections,” frequent e-mails, going on walks to talk on your cell privately. It may seem like something you can control, but it likely still feels a bit sneaky.
- Solution:Adopt this idea:
You are being unfaithful if you are doing anything that you would have to stop if your spouse walked into the room. If you have to alter your behavior, you’re cheating.
- Step 3: Crossing the Line
- No, this isn’t the stage of physical contact….here’s the line:
You say something negative about your spouse and they respond with something negative about their spouse.
- Solution:Never say anything negative about your spouse.
It’s that easy – don’t give an opening.
- Step 4: Physical or Emotional Contact
- This is the step where most people think that an actual affair is taking place. There’s meetings, feelings, and all the other junk that goes into it. This is a full blown affair as everyone understands it.
- Solution:Perhaps “don’t” is to easy of an answer…If you’ve failed to work on the solutions for the first 3, this steps going to require a little more…you need to be having regular dates with your spouse.
- If people put as much time into their marriage as they have put into maintaining an affair they would have an incredible marriage. 
- Step 5: The End
- At some point, the affair will end. You’ll be caught, you’ll want out, your interest will want out, or any number of things. Going into it, you may feel that this new relationship will last forever, but, statistically, it is highly unlikely that you will marry the person with which you are having an affair.
- Solution:At this point, it’s no longer about avoiding the affair, it’s about saving your marriage. The good news is that most marriages can survive the affair. The bad news is that it’s up to the person that had the affair to do the hard part.
- If you had an affair and you want to save your marriage, you must fully cut off contact with the other person. The trust that your spouse had for you is gone and everything that you do will be looked at through a hyper-vigilant frame of mind. It’s no longer about making sure you can stay friends or don’t offend the person with which you had your affair.
- The thing that will be hardest on your spouse is an agonizing reliving of the affair with each contact you have with your old partner – you have to go “cold turkey” in order to show that you are willing to rebuild the trust that you violated.
- As you seek counseling (yes, you need to do that as well), you must also be willing to allow your spouse to hurt as much as they need. You must be willing to full respond to questions – even if you have already answered them. Your answer will not be worse than the answer they would otherwise imagine. They need information to heal.
My hope is that this will spark a desire in you to partner with your wife and set some boundaries in order to defend your marriage.
Revisited: This was originally written in April of 2009 for a different platform.