I have never heard of a married person who woke up in the morning saying, “I want to ruin my life with an affair today.” 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, and is just one decision away from making a decision which could completely alter their lives and badly damage their families.
Common Reasons Individuals Consider Affairs:
· Unmet Needs: Every individual within a marriage has individual needs. Oftentimes, marriage partners fail to meet the emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical needs of their partner. When a marriage partner feels like their needs are not being met, they may justify their unmet needs by seeking to meet those needs with another person outside of their marriage.
· Spiritual Drift: When we slide away from our close connection with Jesus, we become more vulnerable for mistakes. When we are intentional to grow in our walk with Christ on a daily basis, we are less likely to wander away from the protection of his love and truth.
· Lack of Accountability: Living out a sexually pure marriage is a significant challenge apart from the help of those whom we know and trust. We need other people to help us stay on the moral and upright path in order to stay faithful to our partner.
· Addictions: Substance abuse (including alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography) are clear risk factors. Alcohol or drugs can dull our inhibitions so a person who would not normally cross the line when sober could cross the line when intoxicated.
· Previous Cheating: Once a person has already made the risk to cheat on their spouse in a previous affair, the uncertainty of having an affair is not holding them back from having another affair. Those who have had an affair tend to be three times more likely to repeat the behavior in their next relationship.
Common Reasons Couples Contemplate Affairs:
· Falling Out of Love: As life happens in a marriage relationship, couples often express that they have lost a loving feeling. Love is a choice as marriage vows a public demonstration of a couple’s committed love to each other. It is possible for couples to love each other while not liking each other due to relationship tension or life issues. Many couples justify affairs because they feel they are falling out of love with their spouse.
· Strained Communication: When couples are struggling to talk with each other, they will have the tendency to lean away from each other in marriage. It is difficult to have a fulfilling sexual relationship when partners are not connecting through conversational intimacy.
· Limited Connection: When couples are not intentional to spend time together to enjoy life together, it is a significant challenge to engage in a satisfying sexual relationship. If couples are not connected closely to each other, it is easier to wander away to look for connection with someone else.
· Underappreciation: Many marriage partners feel undervalued by the tremendous contributions they make in the workplace and at home. When both partners work, women often carry the bulk of the housework and childcare. People often feel justified to get their needs met elsewhere when their marriage partner does not appreciate what they do or who they are in the family.
· Lack of commitment: We live in a culture which does not promote commitment as we are taught to leave when times get tough. Many couples do not take their marriage commitment seriously, so they are less likely to remain loyal to their partner. Couples who do not cling to their vows are apt to carelessly wander.
· Boredom: People looking for the thrill of the chase and the excitement of newly discovered love may be more likely to cheat. Many people find it as a way to add variety to their sex life by engaging with someone different from their spouse.
It is important to understand the common causes for affairs to be able to deal with the issues which come up in marriage instead of trying to escape them through an affair. These issues can be processed and resolved through the help of a professional Christian counselor. Also, it is imperative to place key boundaries and safeguards in a marriage to protect the marriage and prevent affairs. For couples who have experienced an affair, there is hope not only to survive the affair but to actually grow in the marriage together.
*There will be more guidance and direction on how to escape, survive, and prevent extramarital affairs in the upcoming months, so be sure to come back for Part 2.