ARForsaking All Others: Keeping Intruders out of Your MarriageToday, one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. What precautions must we take to keep intruders out of the picture?Marriage is not self-sustaining. We need to protect it from Satan’s many deceptions. Our marriage can only be successful if we continually nourish our marital relationship, stay alert to warning signs, and take active steps to keep intruders out. Most importantly, we need to ask God for His guidance and wisdom.
Today, one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. Still higher is
the rate of people who break their marriage vow to "forsake all
others," instead becoming unfaithful to their spouse. Some critics
blame these problems on the declining morality or values of this generation.
But even Christians who hold strong convictions against infidelity are part
of these appalling statistics. Living in a world where marital
unfaithfulness is becoming the norm, we as Christians need to take extra
caution to protect our marriages in these times. What are some ways that you
can keep intruders out of your marriage? Let's take a look at a few
Staying Alert: Paying Attention to Wake-up Calls
If you talk to people who have had extramarital affairs, most of them
will tell you that they did not look for opportunities to cheat on their
spouse. In fact, many share the experience of being surprised at their
attraction to someone who somehow made them "come alive" and get
in touch with emotions that they had not felt in years. Such magical
feelings of connection and affection made going forward with developing an
illicit relationship seem somehow right. What these individuals often do not
realize is that the beginning of their downfall usually lies in failing to
recognize their attraction to someone else as a danger signal. They do not
see it for what it is—a wake-up call that sounds an urgent and sober
warning to mend an emotional void in their marriage. This void may have gone
unnoticed and unattended to for many years, and it has made them vulnerable
When left unmet, our emotional needs pave the way to longings and
vulnerabilities. We are particularly susceptible to extramarital affairs
when we are dissatisfied with our own marriage. Such dissatisfaction often
develops as a result of unfulfilled needs and desires, which give way to an
emotional void that may grow undetected in our marriage. Over time, this
void makes us vulnerable to the attention and affection of others. Gestures
of concern, no matter how innocently extended by someone other than our
spouse, may happen to fulfill an emotional void within us, creating an
illusion of intimacy and stirring up feelings of attraction for that person.
A match may be made in heaven, but the ensuing marriage is built on
earth. Every marriage, even the best of them, has its shares of
"downs," emotional voids, and negative aspects that are vulnerable
to intruders. What separates the successful marriages from the doomed ones,
however, is how an attraction to a potential intruder is handled. Those who
go on to have affairs interpret the attraction they feel to an extramarital
other as a sign that they and their spouse have grown irreparably apart. In
contrast, those who hold steadfast to their marriage vows soberly heed this
kind of attraction as a wake-up call to do some mending to their marriage.
They recognize that an emotional void has budded in their marriage and needs
to be snipped before it can take root and destroy the marital blessings that
God has given them.
Communicating with Your Spouse and Regaining Sobriety
In a popular television sitcom, "Mad About You," a young wife
struggled to tell her husband after she had shared a kiss with a male
co-worker. She wanted to keep silent for many reasons: "Oh, it didn't
mean anything." "It won't happen again." "Why bring it
up and hurt him over nothing." The list goes on. Like her, most of us
would prefer to hide our feelings of attraction for someone else as a secret
from our spouse. As difficult as it may be to bring this subject to light
with our spouse, it is an essential first step if we truly wish to resolve
the marital issues that may lie beneath the red flag of the attraction.
The Bible teaches us to communicate honestly with our spouse.
Communication is a necessary weapon against illicit relationships, which can
only begin when a person deceives his or her spouse. Yet only when we
truthfully acknowledge our feelings to our spouse can we begin to address
any emotional voids that may be growing in our marriage. But first we need
to recognize these voids, before any mending can take place. As the wife in
"Mad About You" discovered, revealing the kiss to her husband did
create some unwelcome waves in their marriage, but it also helped bring into
focus important relationship problems that they had previously overlooked.
Another integral part of healing from extramarital temptation is
regaining a sense of sobriety. Whenever we begin to develop feelings of
attraction for someone other than our spouse, we need to take important
steps to regain a sober heart and mind. We can extinguish these
inappropriate feelings for someone only when we eliminate the conditions
that fostered the attraction in the first place. Besides communicating with
our spouse, this almost always means stopping further contact with the
potential intruder as much as possible. Equally important is letting go of
the enamored memories of and feelings and longings for that person. Even if
the intruder is no longer physically present, these memories and yearnings
may linger in our hearts. Unless we thoroughly snuff them out, with the help
of God, they could get in the way of our capacity to develop closeness with
Guarding What You Say
Couples who have a successful marriage usually have a healthy support
network of friends and family. Friendships and relationships with different
people are a necessary and natural part of life. Certainly, there is nothing
wrong at all with venting your frustrations to friends so that you need not
rely solely on your spouse for support. In our technologically advanced
world, communication with others knows no geographical bounds. With the
click of a few buttons you can easily reach someone across the globe, either
by telephone or on the internet. Pouring your heart out about a particular
philosophical issue or a specific struggle in your life can now be done
effortlessly. But as much as this technological convenience may be a
blessing, it can also be a curse. If you are not careful, you could easily
say too much for the good of your marriage.
An extramarital affair usually happens with someone you already know.
Often it is with a friend, a co-worker, or even a fellow churchgoer. Its
catalyst is usually a feeling of fondness for someone. Because affection
grows out of conversations shared by two people, we need to be especially
careful about what we disclose to those of opposite gender. We need to watch
out that we don't communicate with friends or others as closely as we do
with our spouse. A key to protecting our marriage is to not allow potential
intruders to gain access to our hearts. Protect your heart, the wellspring
of emotional closeness, because only your spouse should have access to your
innermost thoughts, yearnings, dreams, and despairs.
Guarding what we say means not complaining about our spouse to friends,
co-workers, or even clergy of opposite sex behind our spouse's back. Why?
Because in periods of heightened vulnerability, by complaining about our
spouse to members of the opposite gender we are revealing our unmet desires
and wishes to them. When this disclosure takes place behind our spouse's
back, we are in essence inviting this other person to meet our needs, and
trying to create an illusion of closeness that is missing from our marriage.
The other person may not even realize that he or she is creating feelings of
attachment or attraction in us. But once a channel of exclusive, intimate
communication is established, it opens the door wide open for Satan to tempt
us by distorting even the most innocent gestures or by creating
inappropriate thoughts and feelings where none existed in the first place.
This is why the most prudent advice is for us to pour out our hearts and
discuss our marital problems with our same-sex friends. We all need support
and comfort from others when we are in need. But we must be careful not to
invite Satan to take advantage of our vulnerabilities by tempting us to turn
to someone who could potentially be an intruder in our marriage.
Being a Prudent Helper
The converse is just as true. We need to be equally careful whenever we
lend a helping hand or a sympathetic ear to someone in need. Remember that
people in need feel vulnerable and have unsatisfied wants. When we offer
them support, we give ourselves the chance to meet their needs, and this
often elicits feelings of closeness in them toward us. Developing a bond
with same-sex friends and with church brothers and sisters is the stuff that
camaraderie and fellowships are made of. But fostering extramarital intimacy
with an opposite-sex individual simply creates temptations. Even if we are
happily married and have no intention of pursuing an illicit relationship,
it is irresponsible of us to allow ourselves to be viewed by an emotionally
vulnerable friend as his or her lone confidant. It's as if we are inviting
an intruder to look to us to fulfill their needs and to challenge our own
marriage in the process.
Therefore, we ought to be prudent helpers. We must take extra caution
particularly when we help those of the opposite gender. Our guiding goal
should be to help others get closer to their spouses and to God—but not to
us. That means that whenever we try to help, we should involve the other
person's spouse as well. It also means that we should avoid being alone when
we approach the needy recipient, so that an exclusive bond cannot develop.
We might need to bring a friend, a fellow churchgoer, or a family member,
but what is most important is that we remain vigilant when we extend our
support to a person of the opposite sex. By not allowing potential intruders
the opportunity to grow emotionally attached to us, we are protecting our
Praying for Divine Abidance
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the
rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put
on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able
to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand"
We are fighting a spiritual war. We should never think that we could
fight off Satan’s schemes and attacks against our marriage by ourselves,
without God's help. Sure, we need to be alert and do everything we can to
protect and nourish our marriage, but these precautions alone aren’t
enough. We also need to continually recognize the limits of our efforts. We
cannot fight and win a spiritual war by ourselves. With humility, we need to
come before God and continually ask that He protect, bless, and guide our
marriage. We need divine protection and wisdom to overcome the devil’s
temptations, which grow the strongest whenever jobs, family situations, or
missionary trips separate us from our spouse for a period of time. Even when
blatant challenges aren’t on the horizon, we still need to pray for power
to mend the many imperfections in our marriage, so that we don’t leave a
foothold for Satan to tempt us. We need to pray for meekness when we are too
stubborn to change our harmful ways. And we always need to pray for strength
from God to ward off intruders who entice us to be unfaithful to our spouse.
A marriage is not self-sustaining. "Be self-controlled and alert.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone
to devour" (1 Pet 5:8). Time and time again, we need to protect our
marriage from the various temptations put out by the devil. We can only be
successful if we continually nourish our marital relationship, stay alert to
warning signs, take steps to keep the intruders out, and do all these things
with help from God. Only God has the power to overcome the forces of evil.
And only with the Lord's abidance can we stay true to our spouse and
"forsake all others," never allowing them to intrude into the
union that God has blessed us with.