How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage from the Start

I’m guessing that approximately zero percent of the Christians exposed in the Ashley Madison scandal planned on having affairs on their wedding days. And yet, startlingly, thousands of husbands and wives have succumbed to affairs. That’s why seasoned premarital counselors Dana and Philip McReady* spend a significant amount of time talking with engaged couples about affair-proofing their marriages from the get-go: they’ve been there. They know how easy it can be to get tangled.

The McReadys describe marriage as something like building a home. You buy your first starter home, and while it isn’t all you dreamed it might be, you nestle in. You tuck your dreams of granite counter tops and a raised-bed vegetable garden (or whatever) away, and start your day-to-day life in the little house with the chipped melamine counters.

Over time, the house fills up with memories, and more than a little clutter: arguments left unsolved, decisions deferred and disappointments unvoiced. Then, one day, you notice that the empty lot over the road is for sale. Your imagination wanders: imagine building your dream house there! One with trellised gardens and perfect, spacious counters! More and more, you notice the cramped space that is your house: a stark contrast with the dreamy lot over the way. Then, one day, in a fit of dissatisfaction, you torch your house, ready to step into your dreams.

Except for this: when the smoke dies down you realize there is no dream house. Just an empty lot in front of you, and a burnt home behind.

The business of “clearing up your clutter” and preventing yourself from building fantasy dream futures elsewhere are part of the foundational work of affair-proofing your marriage, say the McReadys.

Long, long before there are illicit looks and touches, there are dreams and disappointments that pave the way for affairs. As it turns out, newlyweds can do a lot to cultivate the habits of faithfulness from the very beginning. Here are some practical suggestions for affair-proofing your marriage:

  • Be an open (e)-book — My husband and I can pick up one another’s computers or phones at any time of the day and see what the other has been up to. Of course, this means we trust each other not to post humiliating Facebook statuses on one another’s profiles, but our message histories, internet searches, email and texts are open to one another. If we wanted to, we could see what the other was reading at any given time. Given how many secrets people try to keep in different online avenues, it seems increasingly important to have your online self be open to your spouse at any given point.
  • Bring your spouse to the office party — Building a relationship with your spouse’s closer friends and co workers can be a very healthy part of living an integrated, faithful life. Attending that work picnic or end-of-year holiday party and getting to know the people your spouse works with day-by-day by name can be a very healthy way to stay accountable.
  • Watch your small talk — There is a time and place for sharing some of the challenges that marriage bring, but sharing them with friends or co-workers of the opposite sex can be highly flammable ground. Making jokes or aside comments about your “nagging wife” or your husband who’s “married to his video game” create a gulf between you and your spouse; and by the time you have a friend expressing sympathy for your hard-knock-married-life and saying “I’ve always thought you were nice”, and “they should treat you better”, you might already be forming a dangerous alliance.
  • Own your responsibility — It is your responsibility to be faithful to your spouse, not your spouse’s responsibility to be so irresistible that you would never dream of unfaithfulness. Own your own stuff. It is not a wife’s job to be “so hot that he never looks elsewhere”, or a husband’s job to be “so attentive that she never dreams of confiding in someone else. Husbands: your eyes are your own responsibility. Wives: guard your heart. If you find yourself drawn to someone else emotionally, mentally or physically, this is a wake-up call for you to make yourself accountable and do some work in your marriage.
  • Stay spiritually connected to God – Both our sexuality and our spiritually reflect something profound about our human experience: a desire to be connected to others and to God respectively. Experiencing relational emptiness with God can sometimes leave us reaching for connection… in the wrong places. And conversely: those who are walking closely with God don’t go looking for fulfillment outside of their covenant relationships. Taking care of your soul, perhaps in the company of trusted mentor or spiritual director, can do a lot to encourage us in discipleship as well as protect our marriages.

Marriage is a long journey: full of surprisingly beautiful vistas and some alarmingly bumpy patches. Cultivating the habits of faithfulness can do a lot to make sure our marriages are road-worthy from the get-go, long before we find ourselves in a ditch.


Bronwyn Lea loves Jesus, writing, ice-cream and the sound of her children laughing. She writes about the holy and hilarious things in life at, where she also hosts a faith and relationship advice column. Find her there, or follow her on Facebook or on Twitter.

  • In Jen Hatfield’s new book she writes something to the effect of, (I’m paraphrasing because I’m too lazy to go find the passage) “Regarding marriage, there is no greener pasture.” Great article Bronwyn.

  • Debra Powers

    People have affairs to relieve their own past pain. You can do all of above and still have an affair. The root problem is that if one partner disconnects the other will feel rejected because we all want to be loved. That rejected partner is like a vacuum and another empty soul can say the right words and entice them. Address your own pain if you want to affair proof your marriage. Realize that you can’t address the pain of your spouse that is their garden to weed. You can love them unconditionally and pray for them so that if they have that pain, you are not a source of more pain.

    • “That rejected partner is like a vacuum and another empty soul can say the right words and entice them.” That is so true, and an important reminder to remember how vulnerable we are when we are hurting in our marriages.

    • Positivetrends

      Dear God, help me to do these things for myself and my spouse.

  • Grant Armbruster

    Find out your spouses needs and meet them. When you fail to meet them you will open a wedge for the enemy. And make it harder for your spouse to fight back or flee from the enemy. Respect your man and love your wife. Check out the Love and Respect series.

    • wildflower4me

      Women need respect and men need love, too.

      • Grant Armbruster

        If you expect a man to lead and then do not let him….good luck.

        • wildflower4me

          Scripture is clear about mutual submission, the series that you highly recommend tends to skim over that passage of Scripture. Each spouse is to serve one another. When Christ was on earth, He was more concerned about serving others. If men are more concerned about leading, then something is serious wrong and they need to go back to Scripture and the perfect example that was given to us. Christ put women on the same playing field as men. Thank God that God sees that women are valuable, even if men like you don’t.

          • Grant Armbruster

            The scripture is clear on the wife submitting to the husband. The series does not “skim” over the passage but you seem to skip totally the epistle written that the wife should submit to the husband. Why do you say that I do not value my wife. Do you even know me? How absurd to make such a comment. Rude Christians that want to pick and chose what epistles they want to follow are the reason for the destruction of the Church.

          • Sevansons


            see: 1 Peter 5:5-6 “Yea, all of you be subject “one to another”, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble…”

          • Sevansons

            James 4:6,10

            But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

          • Sevansons

            Matthew 23:12
            And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

          • Sevansons

            Finally, Grant, As for what you said about “Picking & choosing” verses, we would all do better to “pick & then choose” to follow “All” of the teachings & commandments of Jesus Christ, the son of God, before choosing to reinforce our own belief systems with a single statement by Paul…Because if you/we can do that, then that single statement by Paul would, more or less, not even be an issue of concern for any of us if you/we were humble & treated our neighbor, our sister, our wife as you/we would want to be treated…If you/we had a servants heart as Christ (see Mark 10:43-45) rather than choosing dominion over another; and if we could also remember, & take to heart, another statement by Paul (found in Galations 3:26-28) “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for “ye are all one” in Christ Jesus…”. Then their would be no lords”, no masters, no rich-no poor, no unrighteous dominion over the weak…. “but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve”… “For the last shall be first & the first shall be last”…
            (Luke & Matt 20:16).

          • Grant Armbruster

            I don’t think you bothered to look at the original word used to say a wife should obey the husband it is used as in the military submit and obey this is why the church is falling apart lack of order and discipline.

            You posted large blocks of texts which I very little to do with the relationship between man and wife.

            As it reflects the relationship between Christ and his church.

            Let me ask you this simple question who leads and commands the church is it Christ or is it the church.

          • Sevansons

            Matthew 18:4
            Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

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