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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Vaccine for Infidelity

No one steps into marriage intending to be unfaithful.

But about half of all marriages end in divorce, and infidelity - physical or emotional - plays a role in a significant number of these. It's hard to say how many - the numbers are obscured by a perverse combination of shame and boasting, but suffice to say - there's a lot of cheatin' goin' on.

And...please don't be offended...you are not immune.

During the course of your marriage you  will feel a powerful attraction to someone to whom you are not married. It's going to happen (and for churchgoers, ironically...partners in infidelity are most often met at church). Whether it passes, or whether it rises up to wreck your life, is up to you.

How? We'll take a page from Homer's Odyssey. When Odysseus passes the fatal shore inhabited by the sirens, whose beautiful singing lured mariners onto the rocks, he had his crew stop their ears, and lash him to the mast of his ship.

(What we won't do is lecture you on keeping a vow before God. You already know that.)

The first step is control of the past. Sever - completely - friendships with persons of the opposite sex that predate your marriage. These people may be wonderful and godly, but the problem is that they knew you 'first', and it's easy to turn to them when you feel misunderstood within your marriage (and you will). The 'remember when' factor can reignite an emotional intimacy that may have lain dormant, and just as one can't serve two masters, one can't be faithful to multiple emotional ties.

Next, control the present. There are a number of things you can - and should, if possible - do:

  • Don't be open to opposite-sex friendships. You can be courteous, warm, funny...whatever you want - but relationships with a person of the opposite sex should remain superficial. How? Don't allow things to 'develop'. No lunches together, no walks 'since you're both going in the same direction', no exchanging phone numbers or emails.
  • Apply a 'no lone zone' to your life - don't be alone with an acquaintance of the opposite sex. No 'twosome' carpools, no working together (just the two of you) on ministry work. This may sound harsh, and you may be thinking that "I'm not attracted to him (her) at all!" But the willingness to be alone with that person can be the indicator of an underground attraction that's just waiting for the chance to bloom.
  • Be accountable. If you feel attracted to someone, tell a same-sex friend (one whom you can trust with a confidence like that). Shining a light on the danger will remove some of the soft romantic lighing, and make the possibility of an affair the tawdry thing it really is.
  • Be transparent. If you Give your spouse access to your cell phone. Cells are the #1 way to stay in touch - so let your spouse know who you;re talking to, and when. And don't be tempted to edit your call or message history beforehand - a gap in the records is almost an admission of guilt.
There are potential difficulties. Your job may require you to work, and perhaps travel, with a person of the opposite sex. You can't very well quit, and not all employers are understanding if you ask to be paired with someone o the same gender (and employers can get into some degree of trouble if they adjust work assignments by gender).

The same rules apply, really.
  • Don't become closer than required by the job. We're a 'huggy' society, but this is time for a firm handshake. Don't share personal stories during breaks. Don't go out for dinner or coffee if you've had to work late.
  • When traveling, don't share an elevator when going to your rooms. Too many people get off on the same floor for a nightcap, and get back on in the cold light of dawn.
  • Also when traveling, build in accountability through scheduled phone calls to your spouse, especially ones close to bedtime. Nothing will kill a budding romance quicker than a call from a concerned spouse, wondering why you didn't call.
It's not a good idea to be cold and standoffish - that can backfire. In The Once and Future King, the novel on which Camelot was based, Lancelot is described as very skilled, but also surpassingly ugly. Very conscious of his appearance, he's rude to Queen Guinevere when they first meet, thinking that he can avoid the development of any feelings for her in his own heart.

But when he's cold and rude, he chances to look at the Queen, and realizes that she was hurt by his behavior. She was "merely pretty Jenny, who could think and feel."

And so began the affair that brought down the idyllic years of Camelot.

None of us are immune to the song of a new beauty that tells us it has the freshness that can revitalize our lives. But we can make ourselves immune, through habit, attitude, and accountability, to the actions which can destroy our marriages, and wreck our souls.

This post is linked to Beth Steffaniak's "Messy Marriage" blog - just click on the image below!


  1. Great wisdom, excellent advice, as usual.

    You should put these all in a book, ya know. ;)

    1. Thank you!

      Actually, a lot of it IS in a book..."Keep The Vow - A Guide to Keeping Your Marriage Alive". When I have a chance to design a cover it's going to come out on Kindle.

    2. I would buy that book in a second, Andrew. I really enjoy your blog.

    3. Wow, Nancy - thanks! You made my evening!

  2. This is great information, Andrew, and important boundaries that we need to have in place in marriage. Many people don't realize just how vulnerable they are to an "innocent attraction" turning into a not-so-innocent affair! I'm glad you've shared a link with the comment section of Wedded Wed! It's great to have you on board.

    By the way, I tried to add a link for your post in the thumbnail section of link ups and it only gave me the option of two pictures--one was a woman, one was a dog. But I could add your link without a photo, if you'd like. And if you want to add it all you have to do is paste in the direct link to your post and fill out the other fields on the link up form. Hope you make Wedded Wed a regular place to link up, my friend!

    1. Thanks, Beth! I appreciate your comment - you have a truly valuable forum, and I'm thrilled to be able to become a part of it.

      The dog picture is fine - she's Sylvia, one of my PTSD service dogs, and she's become kind of a trademark. We're pretty well associated with dogs anyway - we have a sanctuary for abandoned and abused pets.

      I'll definitely be there on Wedded Wednesday, every week.

      And I am wondering...the pic of the woman...who might she be?

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Shelli!

      I've seen what this can do to marriages, and I only pray that I can make a difference...to at least one.