I recently sat down with a young husband in my office and he began to tell me a story about how he had been caught by his wife after he’d had some very inappropriate and sexually explicit text message exchanges with a woman at his workplace. His wife had sensed something was going on because he has been subconsciously pulling away from his wife emotionally and physically as he was giving more and more thought to this other woman.
In this particular instance, no physical/sexual lines were crossed before the emotional affair came to light, but even still, great damage had already been done to the marriage. Like so many couples, they have found themselves in a place they never expected to be and now they’re starting the process of rebuilding trust and trying to restore their relationship.
My conversation with him got me thinking about the mistakes people commonly make which can often lead to adultery. Below I’m going to list out seven warning signs I’ve seen often. These aren’t specifically related to an inappropriate relationship with someone that could lead to adultery, but these actions seem to create a mindset in your marriage where adultery is much more likely to happen.
As a quick disclaimer, porn is not on this list below, because I consider pornography to be an act of mental infidelity in itself. I’ve also written extensively about porn (including my own story about my past struggles with it).
Here are the seven bad habits that can lead to infidelity (in no particular order)…
1. Criticizing your spouse in public, in private, or online.
The tone of your words will shape the tone of your marriage. Criticism, nagging, or constantly “correcting” your spouse can make both you and your spouse more vulnerable to an affair. When you look at your spouse with a critical eye, you’re more likely to have your eyes open to someone else and your spouse is more likely to be drawn in by someone who will complement them instead of criticizing. If there’s a climate of criticism in your marriage, take immediate action to change it. Be your spouse’s biggest encourager; not their biggest critic!
#2 reveals one of the most dangerous warning signs in a deteriorating marriage…
2. Lack of physical affection.
If you and your spouse aren’t hugging, kissing, holding hands, etc., that’s a big warning sign. Frequent sexual intimacy is obviously important as well, but these smaller acts of everyday physical touch are so important to the physical and emotional connectedness that keep a husband and wife bonded. If your marriage is lacking in this area, start initiating physical contact. If your spouse doesn’t receive your advances with warmth, start conversations about the reasons why there’s a disconnect. A marriage starved of sex and other forms of physical affection is in a dangerous and vulnerable place.
#3 might surprise you, but I’ve found it’s one of the biggest factors in the health of a marriage…
3. Surrounding yourself with friends who don’t know (or don’t like) your spouse.
I’m convinced that one of the biggest factors that lead people into affairs is the friends they choose to hang around. This might sound surprising to you, but I’ve seen it play out over and over. In most (not all) cases of adultery, the spouse who had the affair had also been spending time with friends or co-workers who don’t encourage marital faithfulness. Surround yourself with friends who strengthen your character and remove yourself from those who attempt to compromise your character.
#4 might be the number one cause of divorce…
4. Stubborn pride (believing your way is always the right way or the only way.)
When you start disrespecting your spouse by belittling his/her viewpoints, you’re opening the door for infidelity. Pride is that sinister little whisper in your ear making you feel entitled to do everything your way and in your preferred timing. Pride destroys relationships more than anything else. Show mutual respect at all times. Respect and thoughtfulness aren’t just good tools for preventing adultery; they vital to health in every part of your marriage. Just because your spouse does things differently than you doesn’t necessarily mean your way is better (or worse). Celebrate each others’ differences.
#5 is toxic to a marriage and is often the first big step towards an affair…
5. Keeping secrets from your spouse.
Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy. The moment you start deleting text messages, hiding things or doing anything you hope your spouse doesn’t find out about, you’re already way out of line! If you want your marriage to thrive and be protected from adultery, make the “Secret-Free Guarantee.” Never keep secrets and never tell lies to your spouse. Full and transparent honesty is the only way a marriage can work.
#6 reveals the one word that can instantly weaken your marriage…
6. Threatening divorce.
The “D-Word” in marriage can shatter the foundation of trust that every marriage should be built upon. Whenever we start creating exit strategies in our mind or whenever we threaten to leave, it creates an atmosphere where infidelity (and/or lots of other negative factors) can more easily happen. The strongest marriages remove all exit strategies and remove the word “divorce” from their vocabularies.
#7 might be the most important one on the list…
7. Going on “autopilot” (when you stop making efforts to strengthen your marriage.)
We’ve all been around couples where one or both spouses have “checked out” of the relationship. They still live in the same house and technically they are still married, but their thoughts and their hearts might as well be a thousand miles away. They’ve grown numb and they’ve silently given up even trying to make things better. If this, or any of the factors on this list, are happening in your marriage, please don’t lose hope and don’t fall for the toxic temptation of having an affair. There is help and hope available for your marriage. Get counseling. Get help. Don’t give up.