Why do affairs happen? Do they come out of the blue or do they sneak up on us like a tiger stalking antelope in the African grasslands? Are they avoidable? What are some signs that tell us one is coming?
In my opinion, affairs happen because we think it would never happen to us. That is why I tell myself that I could have an affair or that my husband could have an affair. Now before you think I have trust issues, let me explain myself. My husband has never, ever, ever given me reason to think that he wanted out of our marriage, that he wished he were with anyone else, or that he preferred the presence of another female over mine. The only reason why I think he could have an affair is because he is a human being born in this sinful world. The reason why I could have an affair is because I am a woman born in this sinful world.
I think affairs often happen because partners take each other for granted. They assume that their marriage vows are powerful enough to overcome any hurdles that life throws at their marriage without much effort on their part. I believe that loyalty and commitment are foundation principles of every marriage, but most people will break at one point given the right negative or positive situations over a long period of time.
In the Bible there are two stories that illustrate my point exactly. The story of Samson and Delilah demonstrates that the more powerful and strong you think you are the greater your fall will be (Judges 16). The second story is found in Genesis 39. A young man named Joseph received a very enticing invitation from a beautiful woman. We often hear this story in the context of how strong Joseph was. Yes, he definitely had strength of character to resist, but I also believe this story portrays how humble and weak he was. This woman kept entreating Joseph and at one point he had to flee the premises. I think he fled because he had the humility to know that if he stayed in that room he would not have been able to resist her. He knew his weakness.
A friend once told me, “You can’t choose who you are attracted to, but you do choose who you love.” When I was in middle school our teacher read a book to us about a pastor couple in Romania back in the first half of the 1900s called “The Pastor’s Wife” by Sabina Wurmbrand. There was a short chapter in the book about how her husband was ministering to a group of young people not much younger than themselves. She could tell he was becoming attracted to another young lady. After the young people left their house one evening, her husband sat at the piano and began to weep. I can only imagine the guilt he felt and perhaps the hurt she felt. I don’t recall any fights happening in the book, but only understanding. Years later, when her husband was in prison for serving Christ, she found herself struggling with becoming emotionally attached to a man who was also becoming close to her son. As she struggled with the decision to ask him not to come to the house anymore, she remembered what her husband went through early on in their marriage. Treating each other with grace for these emotionally trying times is something that we should all strive for because how we react to these times can push our spouses away or draw them closer in. On a side note, in my young middle school mind I was so surprised to find that people could be attracted to other people even after marriage. I thought it was “happily ever after.”
I think every marriage starts out like the Titanic. Why would anyone vow to stay with one person for the rest of his /her life? The expectation of being someone’s best friend, lover, confidant, recreation partner, father/mother of their child for forever is enough pressure to make many people discount marriage altogether. That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone for the rest of his or her life. Why do we do it? Because we think it’s possible and that we will be able to weather everything as long as we have each other and, for Christians, God. Well, the Titanic started out like that too. There were such high expectations for this new cruise liner that every warning sign was ignored. A marriage built on a strong foundation is just as strong as the Titanic. But don’t ignore the warning signs.
What are some warning signs we can look out for? Job 31 talks about the steps it takes to have an affair.
- Seeing someone is the first step to having an affair. Obviously, we can’t help who we see with our eyes. It’s not unusual for affairs to happen with people we are close to. Job 31:1 says that we need to make a covenant with our eyes and not gaze on other women or men. It’s not who we casually see about our day, it’s the gazing. It’s the nurturing of an idea in our mind’s eye. Maybe we don’t look at another person and wish to be with them romantically, but maybe we wish our spouse were more like that person. Maybe we wish they were more attractive, more affectionate, more talented, more funny, etc. This also falls into this category where you look and desire another trait in another person.
- The second step is literally taking steps toward that person (Job 31:7). It might be walking to the same area of the room that that person is in. It might be a “harmless” text. It’s the seemingly innocent activities that we do with that person that no one would think anything of. Just trying to physically or emotionally be in their presence is taking “steps out of the way.”
- The third step is the actual meeting (Job 31:9). Suddenly, you find yourself at their house or another secret rendezvous point. Perhaps you yourself are amazed that things have gotten this far, but I believe it’s the little steps that you took beforehand that made you seem to take this lunge that can ruin your marriage, your reputation, your career, and even your life.
I have endeavored to make myself the master at understanding how my husband works and how his mind ticks. I do my best to make sure home and his wife is the place where he can look forward to coming to everyday. I don’t do this out of fear because he has never given me reason to fear of an affair. I do it because I want to be that source of happiness for him and I don’t want to give him a reason to look anywhere else. Because I believe that I am capable of having an affair, I also hold him accountable to how he treats me. Because we both are guardians of this home, we are open and honest with each other. We guard our hearts and our emotions from other people. We are lifelong accountability partners which means we sometimes might have difficult conversations. Of course, our marriage has its ups and downs and there will be plenty of downs in the future. That is when I will rely on the solid foundation of God, loyalty, and commitment that our marriage is built on.