At work and church, in our neighbourhoods and during our daily activities, we all encounter people of the opposite sex who are attractive. That’s not the problem. Our selfish choices after the attraction create the problem. Adultery occurs progressively and most people (even Christians) take these steps before they slide down the slippery slope.
I know, because I chose this path when I left my husband for a coworker named Jake. I know the lies I told myself, the selfish decisions that broke my husband’s heart, and the sins I committed. I also know the healing and restoration that took place when I confessed, broke off the affair, and found forgiveness from my husband and God. Although I have healed, there are scars that remain, even 25 years later, so I pray you will learn from my mistakes as you consider these progressive steps towards adultery.
1. An Unguarded Mind
This is the “What if…” stage — where your thoughts begin to grow unchecked. You find yourself asking questions like, “I wonder if he thinks I’m attractive?” Or you think, “I hope she sits near me during the meeting.”
Perhaps you try to manipulate your schedule or activities to create more opportunities for contact. Nothing inappropriate has happened yet, but you think about the possibilities. If you allow this to continue, your emotions will grow, the fantasies will take root, and you’ll think about the other person in romantic or sexual situations.
Solution: If an inappropriate thought pops into your head, do NOT allow it to linger. Quickly remove yourself from any tempting situations. Follow the advice in Proverbs 7: 25: “Don’t let your desires get out of hand: don’t let yourself think about her.” Look up Philippians 4:8 and learn how God wants us to think.
2. An Unguarded Heart
This is the stage where your emotions run wild and you begin to lie to yourself. (In my case, I told myself I deserve to be happy.) You may start to build emotional bonds with the other person by creating excuses to spend time together. You may try to increase the positive contact and do things to please them. For example: If he mentions that he likes red, you may be tempted to wear a red dress or if she talks about a favourite flower, you may want to bring her one.
Solution: Ask the Lord to help you get control of your emotions and to give you a clean heart which seeks after him. Be deliberate in your walk with God. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).
Consider the negative consequences if this flirtation continues: your spouse’s pain, loss of respect from children, friends, and relatives, and financial losses. You may need to confess your temptation to your spouse or a trusted friend who will hold you accountable because dark secrets have less power when you bring them into the light.
3. An Unguarded Mouth
This step includes verbal flirtations and taking the relationship beyond theory into reality. Perhaps you begin by offering or responding to personal compliments such as, “You are the perfect match for me,” or “When I’m with you, the rest of my life fades away.”
Knowing that compliments are like magnets, you begin to form an attraction and create a verbal intimacy that includes whispers, code words, pet names, and intimate secrets. This can also include flirtatious or sensual/sexual email conversations and text messages.
The next verbal step is to talk about the “What if….” For example, “If I weren’t married, you’d be my soul mate,” or “I wish I’d met you before I got married.” Jake and I used to play this fantasy game: “If we could run away together, where would we go?”
Then the negative words about your current mate begin:
“My husband treats me like a maid and never compliments me.”
“My wife just treats me like a paycheque and I’m not attracted to her anymore.”
“My wife/husband and I are just roommates and if it weren’t for the kids, I’d have left years ago.”
Solution: Focus on the good things in your marriage and try to compliment your mate at least once a day. Be aware that any emails or texts you send are not really private. If you would be ashamed to have your pastor or mother read it, don’t type it. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Concentrate on building up your marriage with your words instead.
4. An Unguarded Body
This is the step where emotional adultery becomes physical. Some people think that only intercourse defines adultery, but I strongly disagree. If you have intimate, sensual contact with someone other than your spouse, it is a breach of your marriage vows. Ask yourself, “If my actions were photographed, would they condemn me?”
I know how exciting the forbidden kiss is and how electrifying the stolen, passionate caress is but I also know how costly they are because I almost lost everything including my marriage. I walked away from my relationship with Christ as I chose to follow my selfish heart into sin. But I, like the prodigal son, came to my senses as I ran back to the Lord and he welcomed me home. Then I begged my husband’s forgiveness, broke off all contact with Jake, and rebuilt my marriage. Ron and I now help couples se.e that no marriage is beyond God’s ability to heal.
Solution: If you’ve already crossed the line, stop all contact with the other person, confess your sin, ask for God’s forgiveness, and follow the instruction in Romans 12:1 to “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God.” Then read and comply with 2 Corinthians 7:1 which says, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
Bring your temptation and sin to God. Here is a suggested prayer:
Oh Lord, purify my mind, my heart, my mouth, and my body, I want to be a clean vessel, always ready for your use and available to serve your purposes. Deliver me from evil as I flee temptation and run to the shelter of your outstretched arms. I want to be holy and set apart for you, Lord. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit and empower me to stand strong and bring honour to you and my family. Through the power of Jesus’ name, I ask these things, Amen.