Does Sex in Marriage Keep You from Cheating?

Many contend that regular sex in marriage keeps a spouse from cheating. Is that true?

Can regular sex prevent an affair?

Some have gone so far as to say that regular sex “affair-proofs” a marriage. I don’t buy that.

We are responsible for ourselves. Day by day, we each decide to fulfill our vows or break them. Our spouse’s behavior can make that decision easier or harder, but they never make the decision for us, nor can we guarantee our mate’s fidelity.

In fact, if someone feels done with the marriage enough to be with someone else, they should be honest and first leave. Am I suggesting someone leave a marriage? No. The ideal is fixing the marriage you’re in, the one you chose and committed to. If you’re wanting to cheat, you need to rethink where your marriage is and get help.

NEED COUNSELING?

Check out our new podcast affiliate

However, if plan to be with someone else anyway, for heaven’s sake, don’t add a pack of lies to your choice! It won’t end well.

If you cheat on your spouse, that’s on you. It’s your sin, not theirs. Remember that as you read the rest of this post.

Can regular sex decrease temptation?

On the other hand, a satisfying sex life within the marriage can boost our resistance to temptation. Let’s look at the evidence—both biblical and physiological.

Biblical Viewpoint

1 Corinthians 7:5 is the famous Do Not Deprive verse, which wasn’t intended to convey what your spouse owes you as much as convincing married couples that sex should be happening and mutual. But the part we’re focusing on today is how sex and temptation interact:

Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

1 Corinthians 7:5, NIV

I don’t know how any Christian gets around the message in this scripture that we will be more tempted to sin sexually if we go too long without sex with our spouse.

Mind you, this is not to say that everyone who isn’t getting laid has a blank check to cheat. If that was true, singles would get a pass on premarital sex. However, in that same chapter, the apostle Paul suggests that single people stay unmarried and celibate, and many other verses indicate that God wants us to wait until marriage.

Yet Paul also includes this tidbit: “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (v. 8-9). Why does he anticipate widows burning with passion?

Well, for most people, once you’ve had sex, it’s harder to go back. You have “awakened love,” your body has acclimated, and your desire is stronger than before.

That struggle can be even truer in marriage, because you have access to someone who is supposed to be engaging in regular sex with you. Someone who promised—whether they fully realized it or not—to have regular sex with you. Going without in that situation doesn’t only involve abstinence but rejection and loneliness at a different level. The desire to reclaim that sense of intimacy can be particularly intense, challenging our self-control.

Now sex in marriage is beneficial for many reasons, but what these verses in 1 Corinthians affirm is that one benefit of regular sex in marriage is that it sates our desire and helps us resist temptation.

Physiological Case

God even infused this benefit into our physiology. Some research has shown how intimate sex in a sustained relationship helps to keep us faithful.

The primary catalyst is oxytocin, also know as the “love hormone.” When is oxytocin released? During affection and cuddling and other activities, but men also get a surge of oxytocin during sexual climax with a long-term partner.

In one interesting study, 57 male participants were given oxytocin or a placebo. Then they were approached by a very attractive female and asked to report when she was at an ideal distance and when they felt slightly uncomfortable with her nearness.

Men who were in long-term relationships and received oxytocin wanted that pretty lady 4-6 inches further away than other men did. Their monogamy and physiology combined to make them uncomfortable with other potential partners being too close.

In another study, 20 men were spritzed with oxytocin then shown photos of loved ones, attractive strangers, and their own romantic partner. Magnetic resonance imaging and a passion survey showed that they unwittingly fixated on their own partner. The researchers concluded, “Taken together, our findings suggest that [oxytocin] may contribute to romantic bonds by making men perceive their female partner as increasingly attractive and rewarding compared with other women.”

Both of these studies investigated men, and a good follow-up question is whether these findings apply to women as well. Given other studies, like one showing the scent of a woman’s partner lowered her stress level, I suspect they do. What’s different is what gets a woman’s oxytocin going! It’s not sexual climax as much as attention and affection. (Visit the post below for more info.)

Is regular sex enough to keep us faithful?

The Los Angeles Times summarizes the spritzed-oxytocin study this way: “So, a steady diet of sexual activity, hugs and other forms of physical contact may be enough to override the desire to spread genes, keeping a man at home.” The word may pulls a lot of weight in that sentence.

  • Some spouses will be unfaithful no matter what, because they lack the will and ethics to fully commit to another.
  • Some are steeped in wounds and baggage that make them ideal targets for Satan.
  • Some find themselves in a perfect storm of frustrating personal life, squishy marital commitment, and clear opportunity. (Often those are one-night stands.)
  • Some end up cheating when they never imagined they would, because they were in such an awful emotional state and just the right temptation came along.
  • And some would never cheat, no matter how lonely they felt and how easy the temptation was.

Again, the choice is ours. The sin belongs to the sinner.

But we should not deny that regular sex helps many spouses remain attached and faithful to their mate. Shouldn’t we all want to make it easier for our marriage bed to be committed and exclusive?

What that does not mean is one spouse demanding sex or the other giving duty sex! God’s design for sex in marriage is exclusivity, but also mutuality, pleasure, and intimacy.

God's design for sex in marriage is exclusivity, but also mutuality, pleasure, and intimacy. via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

What keeps you from having regular sex?

For some couples, it’s really a matter of not having the time or energy or focus to engage. You need to ask where you lost that lovin’ feelin’ and how to get it back. That may involve shifting priorities, saying no to what’s in the way, or just introducing more romance into your lives.

If you’re the holdout—that is, you’re gatekeeping in your marriage bed—you may have good reasons, but you should take that first step to address those challenges. Your journey may take days or months or even years, but most sexually rejected spouses tell me they long not for perfection but progress. Your spouse would probably appreciate you admitting things aren’t great and committing to making them better, for both of you.

If you’re feeling sexually neglected in your marriage, you may need to establish extra precautions to maintain fidelity. Recognize the signs of temptation and avoid them. Find ways to get your oxytocin flowing; if not sex, affection and quality time together. Never threaten that you’ll cheat if they don’t give you sex—that’s another kind of wrong—but be honest with your spouse about what sexual intimacy means to you; that is, feeling genuinely connected to the one you chose and love.

38 thoughts on “Does Sex in Marriage Keep You from Cheating?”

    1. I agree, but when you don’t feel loved, constantly trying very hard to meet his needs with nothing but roommate status, then “the right choice keeps you faithful” becomes more accurate.

      1. I totally get what you’re saying, Nancy, but I don’t see the two as exclusive. That is, sometimes love is a hard-fought decision.

  1. Anonymous for now

    Good post! I do want to comment on a scenario that can happen, it happened to me and during healing in support groups I found several women in the same spot. I was a high drive spouse married to someone who had not interest in sex. Tried to talk tried to get help and was met with resistance and refusal. According to most situations it was the perfect storm for an affair, I was sad, lonely, and frustrated. I wasn’t the one who cheated. He did. After years of denying me sex we literally never had a healthy sex life he had an affair where he had no problem finding time to meet 3-4 times a week for months. I found a support group pretty quick and was surprised to find several other women in my situation. Even years later after a lot of prayer and rebuilding we do not have a healthy sex life. Is it better? Sometimes. It has made the rebuilding impossible. It is the wound that will never go away because he won’t change his behavior.

    1. Wow. I’m so sorry. I can only imagine the emotional pain you felt. Adultery is never okay. It can be recovered from, the wound can heal, and the relationship can end up stronger, but there’s still sadness over time lost and scars from the wounds. HUGS.

    2. Wow…that just popped my preconceived bubble. I also am the high drive spouse with a husband who is not that interested in sex. I thought the once reassurance that I had was that at least I wouldn’t have to worry about him cheating on me.
      Did your husband ever give you an explanation of why he was actively interested in someone else, but not his own wife?

      1. Anonymous for now

        @Ann,
        No. It was very frustrating. The counselor couldn’t get answers out of him. I felt like there was something wrong with me. I still do some days. It made me feel better that most of the other women who were like me had the same experience. They could never get answers either And felt the betrayal deeper since they were willing and open to sex and were refused repeatedly. Once when he was pressed in counseling his argument was it was 2 different issues. He is someone who can’t handle a lot of things in his life. So, between work etc sex is not important to him. When he cheated he could pretend his responsibilities didn’t exist. Even now we could be considered to be living in a near sexless marriage. Really the only reason I haven’t left over the adultery is because of my kids. He is an awesome dad. The counselor and our church made it clear that I am not operating under a time limit. He is expected to do certain things and if he doesn’t I will leave. When and if I leave it will be because I went to the Lord and knew I couldn’t continue. My leaving with God’s blessing is not a big enough threat to have him make changes. It’s sad but at the end of the day I don’t think he really wanted a wife, not how most men view a wife anyways. He wanted someone he liked to give and raise his children.

  2. Very interesting article, and I really hope those who are not stepping up to the plate (other than illness, abuse, etc) will take it to heart. My low-drive husband has no idea how much he has helped to destroy our marriage. I’ve stayed in excellent shape, so I’ve always felt guilty about how much I enjoy the compliments from other men. I would give anything to get those from my husband. He is an “act of service” love language guy, so I make sure I am constantly trying to do for him. At least I get a thank you. He’s been too stubborn to address the probably hormone issue (even if it’s me, tell me so I can work on it.), and definitely doesn’t look at 1 Corinthians 7:5. At 50, I am now getting very angry. I am so ripe for Satan. Luckily, God is in more control and has not put me in a position to go outside my marriage by putting someone else to tempt me. Ok, I have to stop my complaining and just look for the good. I have told my daughter that before I help pay for anything wedding related, she and her future fiance will be given a lot of pre-marital counseling to make sure they really know each other. I just thought my husband was being a “good” guy before we got married. 24 years later, he is a good guy just never cared about sex or words of affirmation. God bless and stay safe everyone.

    1. Yeah, this line really struck me: “I am so ripe for Satan.” It’s what I’ve heard repeatedly from sexually deprived spouses. They long so much to be sexually desired, emotionally accepted, and intimately appreciated. They want that from their spouses, but when someone else shows interest, it’s harder to resist because their needs are being met, even in a small way, and that feels validating. Will they resist? That’s their decision, but too many spouses feel “ripe for Satan” because they ache for something they’re not getting in their marriage.

      Praying for you, Nancy. Praying for your husband too.

    2. ” 24 years later, he is a good guy just never cared about sex or words of affirmation.” “At 50, I am now getting very angry. I am so ripe for Satan. Luckily, God is in more control and has not put me in a position to go outside my marriage by putting someone else to tempt me.”
      Same

      1. I am so sorry to hear this. Refusers rarely understand the pain they are causing. And refused women have it worse because they hear from female friends how their husbands are always chasing them.

  3. My wife had a spinal injury when we were both 25, that injury led her to follow the path of celibacy. I have chaffed at that, and I have felt very hurt by it. We are now 61, and I have stayed the course, with her and supporting her. But, not one day has gone by that has not been a misery.

    I was fortunate, in that I worked in a careerfield that was 100% male-only. After I retired, we moved out very rural, where we now live on a farm. So I do not have daily exposure to other females. That has helped me, to control myself. I can’t imagine what life would have been like if I were exposed to females daily.

    1. Oh my goodness, Galen! I’m sad about what you went through. Certainly this life is not what you expected when you married. I wish you had been able to experience the intimacy you long for in your marriage, but I firmly believe your faithfulness will be rewarded.

      I don’t know enough about spinal injuries to know what if any hope there is, but I’m sure you’ve looked into it extensively. I pray that if any progress can be made, it will. Blessings!

      1. Thank you, may God bless and keep you.

        My wife was pregnant when she injured her spine. The injury severed communication with her cervix and ovaries, and caused her to go through menopause instantly [no more estrogen]. The pregnancy became a nightmare. She had watched her mother die from cervical cancer when she was 12, so she is extremely afraid of any estrogen therapies [including soy]. Her genitals atrophied and became very fragile and easy to tear. Within a year she came to hate and fear sex, because it hurt so much.

  4. I 100% agree that cheating is a choice. But, on the flip side, I can see how it happens. My husband’s lack of sexual interest in me leaves me feeling all of the terrible things…I feel ugly, unwanted, unloved. It makes me question his love for me when he lacks desire for me.
    And in that state, it scares me how vulnerable I would be to someone who would ever come along and make me feel beautiful, wanted, desired, and loved.
    I can’t imagine that I would ever cheat. I have no desire to cheat. But, I recognize that I also am “ripe for Satan”.
    My husband’s first wife was a serial cheater. I can’t imagine that I would ever do what she did, but I think now I understand WHY she did what she did.

  5. I’m the one who got cheated on. My husband traveled for work, he was home two days a week and we typically had sex twice during this two days, occasionally three times, if it happened to be that time of the month then not at all. Given the time we had together seems like that was a good amount. He didn’t complain about the frequency at the time. When his job transitioned and he wasn’t traveling regularly I found out he had been having multiple affairs while traveling. He had a girlfriend he basically lived with (his job took him to the same location for three years) and he had a few friends he would hook up with too.

    Lots of counseling and years later we still have so many problems. He pays no attention to me unless he wants sex. Looking back I should have left him then, he doesn’t love me, he loves the idea of me and being married. He’s an absentee husband and father. He’s a hard worker, great at supporting his family but beyond that nothing. Over the years he has gotten worse, he’s emotionally abusive but doesn’t see that. The kids are 15-20 years old and don’t want to be around him. Our friend circle has gotten smaller. I still keep my friendship with them up but they don’t want to be around him either.

    I’ve been a homeschool mom for the last 15 years. I’ve got one left to graduate and am back in school myself to become a nurse. He’s not been supportive of that either, my mom is paying my tuition. I think he’s afraid that once I don’t have to rely on him for financial support that I will leave. Honestly, I will. He makes no effort and I know it’s just a matter of time before he cheats again. His repeated behavior with it and unwillingness to get help have proved that to me. It’s not about how much or how little sex some husbands get from their wife, it’s about the husband and how he views himself and his desires. My husband wants variety, not just with me but with others as well. He’s got an addiction and won’t address it. Instead he’s rather let it destroy out marriage and blame it all on me. I won’t stand for it anymore and am working to get myself out of this marriage. I’ve prayed and worked on myself. While I don’t want my marriage to fail, barring divine intervention that is what is going to happen.

    1. I’m heartbroken that you’re in this awful situation. Ideally, your husband would have a turnaround, step up, and do what it takes to save your marriage. But if not, may God comfort you, strengthen your resolve, and give you wisdom to make the best choices for you and your family.

  6. This was a great post and a necessary post. I have read christian marriage blogs for a couple of years and I am glad that the interpretations of these have been questioned. As you mention it has sadly been used to demand sex from spouses and thats not right. So I understand those who have critized it, at the same time its important to not forget that the Bible mentions that a couple should have regular sex or else they can be tempted. Thats what the Bible says which means its true.

    I know I could become a cheater but for whole other reasons then sexual neglect. Sadly I am the one who have started to lose my desire for my wife. I cant even think about her in a sexual way. Because she is pregnant we havent even hugged in almost 3 months. I cant even be near her. I should have more desire for her but I dont even have that. Lately temptation has come up of having sex with someone else. I usually didnt have thoughts like that. I know one woman who has shown interest in me and even tried setting up a playdate just me and her and her kid and my kids. I dont want to be a cheater and this was before my sexual desire had declined but I refered her to my wife and told her to have playdates with her. During these times the temptations have come up but I never would want to waste my time on that woman but the temptation has come up.
    There has been another young woman who my wife told me not to have much contact with because she can easily interpret things wrong. We met her fairly often but I only say hi and goodbye. Never anything else. Today I met her on the street and just said hi. Then for some reason I asked her where she was going and she blushed, started to laugh nervously and so on. I felt guilty because my wife has told me to not have much contact with her. I didnt continue the conversation but my mind kept having inappropiate thoughts, I brushed them off but it shows that I could easily becoma cheater.

    I am doing what I can to respect the boundaries I have. I dont know what to do if my desire for my wife never comes back but I dont want to be a cheater. So I must keep my boundaries strong.

    1. It sounds like you need to explore why your desire for your wife has waned. You apparently desired her at one time, so you can likely rekindle your interest. You can work on your friendship, boosting your romantic chemistry (How to Boost Romantic Chemistry in Your Marriage), discussing sexual problems (How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse), or whatever else is going on. But if you’re tempted because your relationship with your wife isn’t what it should be, then addressing that issue is paramount. Blessings!

      1. He said in comment, I think, because she was now 3 months pregnant. Could this be some form of Madonna Syndrome I think it is called? I have also heard of some dudes getting weirded out by pregnant women because they have never been around a woman who was pregnant. Only child maybe? Have usually placed, or been told to place, wife on some form of pedestal and now “weird things (to him)” are starting to happen to his wife. I can well remember a dude I worked with, not the brightest bulb by a long, long shot, who’s wife was pregnant with their first came running up to me one day (lucky me) and said best I remember “Dude!, there was something moving around in there like the Alien!” A sad statement of Sex Education at the minimum I would think. I don’t know if he had been to any OB appointments either, but I would hope maybe something might have been said, some pamphlet for the dads. Something. I blame the Health Insurance companies and the minimum time per patient or whatever they call it for this one. But in all fairness, this gent probably had no idea what questions to ask even. But surely, if no one else, his own wife might have given him the head’s up that babies move around, kick, and do all sorts of acrobatics. Sometimes the ignorance and/or extreme naivete still surprises me.
        I have also heard of dudes who reject their wives for wanting to be pregnant immediately. And hound them incessantly after the wedding when they were perfectly fine to wait several years before the wedding. Or who unilaterally choose to stop birth control is a big one sometimes, too. Or stop years before they both agreed to start having children. I have seen where stopping birth control was used as refusal and manipulation too. We heard of a Wife told a “trusted couple” she quit taking pill to “Get him away from me”. Must not have had much contact with Catholic mothers before she made that decision. HA!

        And yeah, “stuff happens” that are out of our control, but what I am talking about here is everything from deliberate acts with questionable motives, to just “bad ideas maybe” like “I thought I would surprise you with another baby for our Anniversary.” And then God, in his wisdom, decides to “bless” them with twins right before the only source of jobs left in the County closes.
        Yes God tests us. And marriages. But does it always have to be to the breaking point? Over and over and over?! Who in their right mind would “welcome” this over and over and over again?

        1. Yes, some husbands are reluctant to be close to their pregnant wives, and some wives retreat during pregnancy. Both are bad ideas, and better understanding and communication can help resolve that issue. Though the “Madonna syndrome” could be a factor, it does seem that there’s more going on in this scenario.

          And, again, there are good, happy marriages out there, as well as marriages that turn around after a time of heartache and disappointment. I pray that you can find ways to work on your marriage and make it better.

    2. If you can’t work with her to figure out the “why’, then please leave before you cheat. Not easy, but the right thing to do if you aren’t willing to do the work to get back to her. The trust that is ruined when someone you are suppose to trust betrays you takes a life-time to recover from. That is not fair to her. I’ll keep you and your wife in my prayers.

  7. I definitely agree with this. Being in a nearly celibate marriage has absolutely put me in a place where temptation is often overwhelming. I have taken to avoiding any situation where I’m around other women. I avoid any form of touching anyone or being touched by anyone in any way. I don’t make much eye contact with restaurant servers. I isolate myself at work to avoid accidentally being too friendly with any women including eating lunch alone at my desk so I don’t have to interact with others and risk any of them picking up on my desperate feelings of loneliness. I won’t cheat, but it’s not easy to be rejected day after day knowing that nothing is going to change. I have had to turn down a couple serious advances from women in the past. I don’t know if I could do that again now, so I avoid women in general as a precaution.

    1. I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. I do believe many rejecting spouses have no idea how difficult it can be for their mates. Your determination to honor your wife and keep your vows is admirable.

      Still, praying something turns around for you both.

  8. Frustrated wife

    So from the other veiwpoint, I am the no desire spouse in our marriage. We have sex a couple times a week because he says he “needs” it and I can’t argue with that because I am not a man. I enjoyed intimacy at the beginning but after 3 years of emotional and verbal abuse (and 3 babies) I would be happy to never “do it” again. He says it does decrease temptation , so I try to make myself do it as often as possible but I loath being touched and kissed now. It makes me feel like a prostitute to have physical intimacy without any other kind.

    1. Under no circumstances is that ever what I encourage! “3 years of emotional and verbal abuse” – no, not acceptable. Please go read this post: Are You in an Abusive or Destructive Marriage? And know this: you are not your husband’s sex toy. That is not what God intends for you or your marriage, and you should never feel like a prostitute in your own bedroom. I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through. Please get help. Praying.

  9. My short answer is no. Most affairs are not about sex. I agree with an earlier comment…love will keep you faithful.

      1. Yes, long-term sexual refusal can certainly be unloving. But I don’t buy that refusal automatically equals unlove, any more than the spouse who doesn’t handle conversation or affection or financial responsibility is automatically unlove. It’s certainly a problem, and likely sin, but it’s also often a personal struggle that causes blindspots and withdrawal. My hope is to get spouses to see the blindspots, deal with the struggle, and move toward their spouse.

  10. Heavy comments on this post. I’m sad for the weight each of you have and continue to carry. Yet grateful J has given occasion for some to express their story, and see similarities with others’. The Christian documentary/movie “The Life of Man” and the book “Unwanted: How Sexual Brokeness Reveals our Way to Healing” by Jay Stringer have both been encouraging reminders of God’s availability and power to love us through our shame into wholeness.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.