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.
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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.
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.
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.