We started something new this semester in Merge called “Merge Late Night”. We decided to take on a few extra topics that don’t fit into the 8-week class and curriculum. The first Merge Late Night centered around affairs – what married couples who have walked through infidelity want premarried couples to know.
For 45 minutes, three happily married couples shared their stories of past infidelity and answered questions texted in by over 75 seriously dating and engaged couples.
The highlight of the night was one of the husband’s response to the question, “What mistakes or patterns did you have before marriage that may have, to the best of your knowledge, led to your infidelity?”. There were many reasons, but he quickly responded with four points worth sharing and applying, whether married or premarried.
1. He had No Intimacy with Christ
He was lacking in the most important relationship. Even though he was a Christian, he did not prioritize a daily, abiding relationship with Christ. He lacked the dependence on Christ described by Jesus in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” This husband did not abide, did not bear fruit, and apart from Christ, produced nothing significant. Without an intimate love for Jesus, he looked to others besides his spouse to fill the voids in his own life.
2. He had no accountability and lived in isolation.
While this couple had many friends, they lacked the accountability and authenticity needed and did not avail themselves to Christian couples in order to help them avoid making foolish decisions. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” We need great friends around us who help us become wise. Without wise friends around us, any one of us is capable of making foolish decisions that can harm our marriage.
3. He had no boundaries in place with members of the opposite sex.
This meant that he was free to eat, travel, and hang out with members of the opposite sex without accountability. This is one of the topics we talk about often in Merge. In 1 Corinthians 10:12, Paul says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” We need to be extremely careful in our relationships with men or women of the opposite sex. A lot more can be said on this topic, but please be cautious about your relationship with someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse.
4. They were stagnant and routine in their marriage.
Ecclesiastes 9:9a says, “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun…” Married couples often fall into patterns and routines that become mundane and routine. We must continue to pursue each intentionally and live with each other in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7).
The presence or absence of any of the above does not excuse or justify extramarital relationships. However, there are some decisions every couple can make to help safeguard their marriage and relationship from affairs. Whether you are seriously dating, engaged, or married, at a minimum, you need to fight against these four negative patterns. If you are married, take note. All of us are capable of falling into any of these patterns, and therefore capable of having an affair. If you are premarried, start incorporating these decisions into your individual walk with Christ and your relationship with your significant other now.
The good news is that this couple is doing great and they are among my closest friends. They are intimately connected with Christ, have others who love them and ask them the hard questions daily, have boundaries in place with members of the opposite sex, and their marriage is anything but stagnant and boring!
I hope hearing their story gives you a great opportunity and reminder to assess how you are doing:
- Do you have an abiding relationship with Christ? Are you intimately connected with Jesus?
- Do you have accountability and community? Are you walking with the wise or are you isolated or a companion of fools?
- Do you have boundaries in place for members of the opposite sex?
- Are you stuck in boring, stagnant patterns? Or, are you pursuing each other in a way that shows you prioritize your significant other?
If you are currently in the middle of an affair or if you are walking through the healing process of an affair in your relationship, we’d love for you to check out a ministry started at Watermark called re|engage. You can find all the details at marriagehelp.org.
See also: Seven Ways to Avoid (Sexual) Temptation
What other factors do you think can contribute to infidelity? What else can be done or would you recommend to others to help safeguard relationships from extramarital affairs?