Most extramarital affairs happen subtly over time as marriage partners lean away from each other in their relationship. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, national surveys indicate 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs.
The stats are about 20 percent higher when emotional and sexual relationships without intercourse are included. These are humbling statistics, and any married person is vulnerable to having an extramarital affair. They are just one decision away from making a decision that could potentially alter their and their family’s lives completely.
Steps Which Often Lead to Extramarital Affairs:
- Something makes you lean away from your spouse (argument, sickness, trauma, stress, or misfortune). It can take any negative experience related to a marriage partner to cause someone to lean away from their marriage. When these instances take place, it is important for spouses to talk through them together.
- Awareness of another person. Married people are still humans with hormones, and they will notice other attractive people around them. It is okay to notice other attractive people but imagining further contact with them moves people to dangerous places.
* This is the place to escape an extramarital affair. Prevent yourself from progressing to this stage.
- Entertaining lingering thoughts about another person. It becomes sinful and dangerous to imagine yourself with another person other than your spouse. Undressing another person in your mind can produce images which often draw you away from your spouse. Imagining yourself in intimate conversation with another person can draw your heart away from your spouse.
- Innocent meetings with the person open the door to flirting (or starting to text, Facebook or email with the person on a regular basis). It is important to not take the step to intentionally flirt with someone you notice. It is easy to get caught into the negative cascade of inappropriate extramarital behavior which leads to affairs.
- Meetings become intentional and planned by one of the people. This can happen in any environment, whether at work, gym, church, or neighborhood, so be careful not to plan intentional meetings alone with someone of the opposite gender for any purpose.
- Conversations shift to deeper feelings, complaints about spouse, or intimate topics. Emotional, spiritual, psychological, and personal conversations easily opens the door to intimacy. Many people vulnerable for affairs will often complain about their spouses to others of the opposite gender. This common ground connection often leads people toward affairs.
- The two people have isolated meetings under the cover of legitimate purposes. They make intentional arrangements to be alone for business, personal, or volunteer purposes as an excuse to be together. For instance, one business associate may invite the other to go to lunch with them alone to work on a business project as an excuse to be together.
- They have isolated meetings just for personal conversation or leisure activities. There is an intentional shift to get together for personal reasons and to enjoy each other’s company. It is a walk, sharing a meal, working out, or going to a movie together as a couple while often engaging in deeper personal and intimate conversation.
- They become affectionate and kissing and playful touching begins. They cross the obvious line to seek out physical activity with each other. They often feel they are not completely crossing the line as they are not engaging in sex yet.
- They participate in passionate groping and sexual foreplay. They move into physical activity which is very challenging to stop. They lose self-control and ready themselves to engage in sexual intercourse.
- They engage in sensual sexual intercourse. They completely blow their self-control and often feel deep regret. Many people feel their issue isn’t bad if they only engage in sex once as they had a one night stand. When two people get this close, it is almost impossible to keep it a secret.
- The affair is discovered and made public. Most extramarital affairs are found out. “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:2-3). A recent study by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy determined 83% of extramarital affairs are found out.
It is critical to understand the progression of steps which often take place to lead to an extramarital affair to be able to stop a potentially dangerous situation before it gets out of control. It is important for couples to place key boundaries and safeguards in your marriage to protect your marriage. Once you notice an attractive person, what happens from there matters most. The best thing you can do is not pursue the other person, in order to protect your marriage.
Watch for my next blog post which helps you take these steps to protect your marriage. For couples who have experienced an affair, there is hope to survive the affair and grow in your marriage together.