Contrary to what some people believe, affairs never “just happen.” There is always a natural progression that leads to adultery. Couples need to be aware of the treacherous steps that lead to infidelity so they can better protect their marriages.
In their book, The Language of Sex, authors Dr. Gary Smalley and pastor Ted Cunningham identify five “sexual predators,” or stages, that people experience prior to having an affair. Though each stage is progressively more dangerous to the relationship, couples can prevent any of them from occurring, if they diligently work to avoid the first one, a vacuum of intimacy.
A Vacuum of Intimacy
Healthy marriages require several essential ingredients to create intimacy. This intimacy isn’t merely sexual, the authors say. It is a deep emotional connection between a husband and wife that is created when a relationship is built on honor, respect, and kindness.
Couples should constantly be showing each other that they are valued and appreciated, the authors say. When people don’t receive validation at home, problems will arise.
“Removing honor, security, and intimacy from your marriage creates this idea that I have to go out and find it somewhere else,” Cunningham says.
This is when spouses are more likely to fall into temptation. “If you aren’t satisfying your mate when it comes to intimacy, you can be assured that the devil has picked out someone right about the corner who will,” the authors write.
It is the attention and affirmation from this third party that leads one to the next stage, constructing a fantasy thought-life about that person.
“You start picturing yourself with another person,” the authors write. “You start thinking about how this other person responds to you, laughs at your jokes and recognizes little things about you that your spouse has either forgotten or has not mentioned.”
Though this stage may seem harmless, it isn’t. Even if no one knows the thoughts you are having, thoughts can easily lead to behaviors. If you realize that you have reached this point, the authors say, it is time to take action.
“When facing the fantasy predator, make sure that you take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. This is when you have to ask yourself, ”˜What can I do to make my relationship with my spouse better?'”
When spouses fail to do this, they often progress to the next step, creating an intentional encounter with the person they have fantasized about.
The Intentional Encounter
This happens when a husband or wife goes out of the way to come in contact with the person he or she is attracted to. For work-place attractions, this could mean taking your break at the same time as your co-worker or walking by his or her cubicle even though it is out of your way.
This stage too may seem harmless, but don’t be deceived the authors say. “Intentionally placing yourself in the path of the person who might fill your emotional vacuum is inviting a deadly predator into your marriage relationship.”
They point out in their book that the grass that looks greenest is usually on the side of the fence that you water the most. Spending time with someone who is not your spouse, and fantasizing about them, will only feed your attraction to that person.
The next step in the progression toward adultery happens when a spouse decides to openly share his or her feelings with the other person. If the other person is receptive, the spouse has entered very dangerous territory.
“When you start unloading your heart and get affirmation from the other person – your marriage relationship is almost over,” the authors warn.
Too many people who find themselves at this stage justify their actions because they are unhappy with their spouse. But unhappiness is not an excuse to search for love elsewhere. The best solution is to work on the marital relationship to make it better.
“You may be tempted to argue that the person makes you feel good or alive, or the person makes you feel like your spouse never did,” the authors say. “But you made a covenant with God Almighty, and God does not take lightly vows that are broken.”
The last stage occurs when fantasies and verbal expressions give way to physical actions and you have a sexual encounter with the person.
“The ramifications of this one decision – which may feel good at the time – are beyond your wildest comprehension,” the authors say.
Affairs do not just hurt your spouse. They also affect your children, your extended family, your friends, and in some cases, your co-workers. Affairs always result in the loss of trust, something that is difficult to earn back again.
“Always look past the pleasure to the pain,” the authors warn. “Sin is fun for a brief season, and then Satan runs off laughing when you fall.”
It is not impossible to repair a marriage relationship at this point, but it is much more difficult. That’s why it is so important to know the steps that lead to adultery and to work to build boundaries around your marriage to protect it.
From The Language of Sex, authors Dr. Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham. Copyright © By Belinda Elliott, CBN.com Sr. Internet Producer. Used with permission.