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7 Steps to an Affair

The last two weeks, I’ve been talking about the temptation of adultery: first with an admonition to protect your marriage with boundaries and then with the Bible’s answer to sexual temptation: flee. If you’ve ever witnessed someone in your Christian circle fall to sexual temptation and become entangled in an affair, the question that we all ask is how. How did this person go from being a spouse who promised to “keep myself only unto you” to the person sneaking around to cheat on their marriage partner?

Painting of King Solomon
Simeon Solomon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Proverbs 5 breaks it down. In this passage, King Solomon tells his son not only the importance of avoiding adultery, but how to keep from becoming entrapped. His words of warning show how this happens. Knowing the progression of an affair means that we can see the steps and stop the process anywhere along the way.

Step One: Don’t admit you need a plan.

My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
listen well to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.

That’s where this all starts — with a willingness to believe that you could fall if you don’t heed the warnings and encouragement of God.

Step Two: Start with words.

For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil; 

but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.

She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.

An affair starts with words. This woman’s words are described as being like “honey” and “smoother than oil.” The most reckless affairs can begin with seemingly harmless conversations in which someone makes you feel good about yourself. Maybe things aren’t going so well at home, and you don’t feel appreciated. And then your co-worker or friend compliments you, converses about interesting topics instead of how to juggle the family schedule, or even comments on how you are not being treated as well as you should be by your spouse.

According to that last line, she/he may not even know that they are on a crooked path. This person isn’t thinking clearly either about where it will all lead, how the destination is death . . . the death of your marriage. The conversations may not feel like betrayal to your spouse since it’s just words, right? You haven’t actually done anything.

And it’s true that you can stop it here. If you realize that you have become more comfortable talking or listening to a man other than your husband, you can back off and stop anything else from happening. If this is where you are, think right now about how this could be the beginning of the end for you and your marriage.

Step Three: Keep in touch.

Now then, my sons, listen to me;
do not turn aside from what I say.
Keep to a path far from her,
do not go near the door of her house,
lest you give your best strength to others
and your years to one who is cruel,
lest strangers feast on your wealth
and your toil enrich another man’s house. 

So far it’s just words, but Solomon is very clearly in his prescription: “do not go near.” Even if you think you’re strong enough to handle a close opposite-sex friendship, the wisest man ever is saying, “Don’t risk it. Stay away.” The Bible’s answer to sexual temptation is not to master your urges in the moment but to avoid being in a compromising position to begin with.

If you are starting to have feelings, ties, or sexual thoughts about someone outside your marriage, do not go near that person. Break off contact. Be bold about protecting your marriage.

Step Four: Ignore others.

At the end of your life you will groan,
when your flesh and body are spent.
You will say, “How I hated discipline!
How my heart spurned correction! 

I would not obey my teachers
or listen to my instructors.
I have come to the brink of utter ruin
in the midst of the whole assembly.”

The next step is not listening to others. This can be exhibited in different ways. You may have someone who actually speaks up and voices concern about your contact with this person, and you rationalize it and avoid further conversation. It could be that you simply don’t tell anyone. You know in your heart that others would have an issue with the close relationship you’re developing with someone other than your spouse, so you don’t tell anyone. You just don’t want to hear their correction. Whatever form this takes, you are listening to your own desires and your new found love interest.

You can stop now. Tell someone about your thoughts and feelings. Get discipline. Get correction. Avoid ruin.

Step Five: Let your spouse go.

Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 

A loving doe, a graceful deer —
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love.

An affair takes full force when one diverts emotional and sexual energy away from their spouse and gives it to another. You wanna have lots of great sex? Keep it in your marriage.

This may be a challenge for some. Perhaps the relationship or couple’s sex life isn’t flourishing. It needs work, commitment, and time to become a situation where you are “captivated” by your spouse’s love. Believe that God can re-energize your marriage if you will recommit to it. Drink water from your own cistern.

Step Six: Commit to the affair.

Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?

You’re full in now. You’re captivated by someone other than your spouse. You are embracing the affair partner in a sexual way. You have given your heart, your energy, and your body to another outside your marriage.

Is it too late? The message of the Bible is that it is never too late to do the right thing, to get on the right path, to repent and find forgiveness. If the Rahab can go from being a prostitute to a grandmother in Jesus’ bloodline; if King David can find favor in God’s eyes after adultery and murder; if the Apostle Paul can turn his life around from persecutor to proclaimer of the Gospel; then you can leave this affair, seek God with all of your heart (Jeremiah 29:13), and do everything within your power to restore your relationship with Him and your marriage.

Step Seven: Sow what you reap.

For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord,
and he examines all his paths. 

The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
the cords of his sin hold him fast. 

He will die for lack of discipline,
led astray by his own great folly.

The world around us is constantly teaching that you can get away with sexual relations outside marriage. Think of all of the books you’ve read or movies you’ve seen that get you rooting for an adulterous relationship. We may even know of someone who left a marriage, married their affair partner, and seems to be doing well.

However, I fully believe Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” And the passage above says that “a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord.” There are consequences to sin. Ask those who have been down this path and suffered the hardship of divorce and separation from their God, their church, the family, and their friends.

An affair leads to the shattering of expectations, promises, and lives. It is not a private choice between two consensual adults. It is sin.

If we can see how this could happen, we might see how to prevent it. Stop the progression at any point before the physical affair begins and damage can be mitigated. If you are on this path and are flirting with danger, stop, flee, heed the warnings. If you have gone too far, go back. You can turn your heart away from the affair partner. You can ask your spouse for forgiveness. You can recommit and do everything in your power to reclaim the love you had lost with your spouse.

There’s a fabulous song in Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie called “Second Chances.” In it are the lyrics:

You can be restored from your darkest circumstances.
Our God is a God of second chances.

Note: For those of you who track my blog, my apologies for missing Monday’s post. An unexpected visit from a friend and a funeral kept me offline. I’ll return with more Q&A on August 27.

19 thoughts on “7 Steps to an Affair”

  1. You nailed it J… these steps are exactly how it happens.

    Prayerfully someone who reads this today will wake up and “get it”… and STOP the slide NOW. Even if they’ve hit the 6th or 7th step, recovery is NOT impossible. That is a LIE! Don’t believe it! With Christ in the middle, you have ALL the hope in heaven.

    (Ask me how I know…)

    1. I can imagine how u know………was the reconciliation a very long & hard process. How did it began to work out….i mean of course i know it took God…..

    2. The two married people need to be wide-open with each other – NO more secrets of any kind. Secret email accounts, hidden social media accounts, hidden telephone numbers, etc… all that needs to GO, immediately. ZERO contact with the affair partner – for life. Absolutely NEVER AGAIN. If this happened at work, I would even go so far as to say GET ANOTHER JOB – potentially even consider moving the family away.

      And the married partners now need to start being for each other what they obviously weren’t being before. But if Christ is not at the center of your marriage, it’s time to make it so. Because without Him, your chances of making it through this are pretty non-existent. Jesus truly IS the answer to all of it. Get into the Word and study it. Find out what God has to say about marriage and begin to put those things into practice in your life.

      As far as how long? That’s completely up to you. There is no “one size fits all” plan. You have to be committed to reconciliation, and you CANNOT hang the sin over the spouse’s head. You must forgive, and leave it that way. Beating the spouse with the sin will not solve a thing. And it will create animosity and shame. God is completely able to work this through IF you let Him. Praying for you.

  2. Fabulously written!! One of the best series I have heard on affairs was by a guest on Focus on the Family or Family Life. His great advice was to make sure you bring reality into the situation when talking to a friend who is having an affair: ask them if they are okay with never seeing their kids again, what kind of example are they setting for them, their grandkids, dating, marriage, emotional damage they are creating in their spouse and kids, losing friends, social circles etc. because of their choices. As you so aptly put it, it is not two adults making a decision…the consequences go far deeper.

    Great article and thanks for calling sin a sin!! So many churches need to go back to this word they have been substituting with cheap grace. Blessings to you!!

  3. Once the spouse has cheated & u have forgiven them. Is it wrong to feel so hurt that u still want the divorce because its hard to move pass the thought of them forcefully leaving the marriage for someone else. Things didnt work out like they thought & now they want to come back home??????

    1. If you still want the divorce, you have not forgiven. I don’t know one church that will call divorce what it is, but it is a sin. Certificates of divorce were originally granted because of hardness of heart. It is adultery to get a divorce and move on to other relationships. When you make a promise to God in your marriage vows it is for life. God never turns us away no matter what we’ve done if we ask forgiveness. No matter how many times we disappoint him. Aren’t you glad? But don’t take my word for it. Look it up in the scriptures. We are to forgive as we want to be forgiven. I say this as someone who has been cheated on throughout my marriage multiple times. It is not easy but I am in spiritual battle for my husband’s salvation. You need to repent of your unforgiveness just as I had to learn to do. Peace be unto you.

    2. The bible says we are to be wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove. While I should forgive someone for driving my car into a wall, wisdom says I shouldn’t lend my car to them again. I believe you have to approach these situations with wisdom. I can have forgiven someone and pray for them and love them, but I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where it says I am required to trust them again or entrust my heart and life to them again. When I see a couple that has come back from infidelity, I am so impressed and happy for them, but I absolutely do not think the bible requires me to remain married to someone who cheated on me. If we say forgiveness requires us to give someone back the same place in our life that they inhabited before breaking our trust, then I think we are refusing to learn from the situation, meaning we aren’t being wise. Now, I do believe a relationship can be healed and restored. I just cannot see anything in the bible that states it is a necessity.

  4. Anonymous, this isn’t as rare of a scenario as you might think. Adultery rarely works out like the adulterers are imagining while they are still living in fantasy-land… as soon as that fantasy bubble bursts, and they find out that life is still REAL – with the same problems, issues, etc… often that is exactly what it takes for them to wake up and figure out that they REALLY SCREWED UP! They realize that the only thing that changed for them was the names and faces – the problems of life are STILL THERE.

    I would get on my face before the Lord, and ask Him to give me what I need to forgive the spouse, and to be able to live out the vow I took before Him, as far as my marriage was concerned. No, I am NOT saying it’s easy… it will not be. But Jesus went to the cross for us, knowing full well what it meant. The Lord is quite able to give you what you need. He did it for me – AND for my wife. I know beyond all doubt that He can and will do it for you.

    1. I will post anonymously as well (different person). My husband is a serial cheater and an abuser. The worst affair supposedly ended right around a year ago; culminating in the suicide death of my husband’s girlfriend’s husband. Yet, even though she claimed to love her husband dearly, she still continued with my husband after she burried her own. I wouldn’t find out about the continued betrayal until a few months later. We were going through couples’ counseling at the time as well. The relationship did eventually break up, and he realized the fantasy was not real; he swore he’d never do it again as it did not solve anything. Though I tried everything I could, he still left me and the children. He has moved on with another woman to the point of moving in with her and her children. She, too, is married. It kills me to think of the damage being done to the children in this situation. He continues to abuse me mentally, emotionally, and financially. He constantly threatens to cut one of our expenses or another. He punishes me when he’s angry by delaying our grocery money. As much as I hate it, divorce is my only option at this point. I cannot live month to month wondering if the electricity is going to get cut off, or whether we will have food money when we run out of milk. My children and I need some stability; and right now court-ordered alimony and child-support is the only way we will get out from under these threats. Yes, God hates divorce. Yes, divorce for divorce sake is a sin. However, Jesus did say that we are to follow the spirit of the law. Staying put does nothing for the Glory of God. It doesn’t produce any fruit. It does hurt the children involved; and confuse them. It teaches them a pattern of behavior that may manifest itself in their own relationships.

      It seems to me Solomon truly was the wisest man. If my husband had just known this and followed it… It happened just as J and Solomon have laid out – my husband followed all the steps. Following these steps led to the destruction of two marriages, one death, five broken children (and potentially two more when this relationship doesn’t work out either), a broken heart or two, devestated households, shattered plans/dreams, financial difficulties, and more. I don’t want to be a single parent; my husband made that choice for me. I didn’t get a choice…

    2. Your story breaks my heart, but that’s not important. What IS important is that your story breaks GOD’s heart. He weeps with you, and knows every tear. I recommend Psalm 56 to you, prayerfully to bring you some good news straight from the Lord. Pay special attention to verse 8.

      Your husband may have professed some form of Christianity at one time, but his lifestyle (as you have described it above) is that of an unbeliever. 1 Corinthians 7:15 says to the believer to “let the unbelieving one leave” (please study it for yourself and seek pastoral council too!) I know this situation wrenches your heart in every direction, but God is not surprised. Lay it all before God, and seek His direction for your next steps.


    3. I was going to answer, but I think Jason just did so better than I could. I agree with him, and I will pray for you.

  5. J I don’t think I’ve ever read it so clearly. Coming from someone you fell down all 7 steps…it’s easier than people think. I was told that during “sinning” you can become “stupid” you seem to push all prior knowledge out the door and now all you have is your fleshly knowledge to pull from. This wasn’t who I was/am, but it was who I became and that’s scary. I’ve had both emotional and a physical affair almost back to back…which taught me that you can’t just put a bandaid on your marriage, yes it helps keep things at bay for a while but eventually you have to take it off.
    The emotional affair I came clean on because I recognized what wa happening, I literally snapped back into reality and called my husband as soon as I could. Unfortunately I wasn’t so bold with the physical, my husband found me out. When you don’t build a wall (a hedge…I can mow over a darn “hedge”) then your gaurd is down and the enemy will strike. Even I you think your happy, the enemy will come and show you what he thinks your missing. Dot think your untouchable, because web you think that, you’ve let your wall go unguarded and the fall hurts so much worse.
    ALL THIS TO SAY….God certainly got the glory in the end. I am blessed to say I have a husband who has grace, mercy and forgiveness just like his heavenly father. Yes there were times of pain and untrust but we evaluated ALL things and have come out stronger, better, more loving, attracted but only because we fully surrendered our situation to god. I look back wishing this all could have happened without me falling down the stairs of affairs but the fact is it didn’t but now I know more about myself, my husband and our marriage. My husband showed me that he won’t let me go so easily and that he will fight for me even through his pain…he showed me a jealous love that has now encompassed me and I dwell in it now (thank the lord!)
    I’m still a work in progress, but don’t think just because you messed up that God still doesn’t have a plan for you or your marriage. I mean, I was shown what god looks like through my husband, and that your marriage can be restored and stronger but you have to humble yourself before the Lord.

  6. Um…so being friends with the opposite sex whilst married is inevitably going to result in you cheating on your spouse? I may have misunderstood and I appologise sincerely if I did, but…isn’t it possible to maintain a relationship with the opposite sex that isn’t intimate?

    1. No, I don’t believe that male-female friendships inevitably end in romantic entanglement. However, we need to be very careful because a lot of spouses think they can have a close friendship outside of marriage, and when the marriage struggles (and almost all marriages do at some point), it becomes tempting to do more with that friendship. It’s a scenario that has been played out so many times that we should heed the wise warnings of those who have been there, done that. Why tempt it? Why not put your marriage ahead of everything else?

      For myself, I do have male friends, but I am never alone with them. There are never communications with them that my husband is not privy to. I spend way more time with hubby than all of my male friends put together. And I believe that protects my marriage, and the marriages of my male friends.

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